Friday, August 28, 2009


So, you've probably wondered why I haven't blogged in a long time.  Well, I have new photos and recipes to blog about from July, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.  I meant to, I really did! Except that life pretty much went to hell in the beginning of August, and I'm finally starting to get back on my feet again.

I put the BBA Challenge on hold for now, as the other challengers have already been informed from our groups forum.  I'm hoping to jump back in later, after life sort of settles down a little bit and I'm able to recoup a bit.

The short version of life in hell is as follows:

I rent a condo through a property management company.  This company does not have anyone onsite at the actual condo complex, since I think my condo is the only property they manage in the entire complex.  I paid my rent at the end of July, for the month of August.  

On August 8, I went home to get some music for my best friend and lo and behold, I am locked out of my own home and there are notices on my door of "abandoned property" and "notice of intent to lockout"!!! Oh but it gets so much better.  My blinds are pulled up and these notices are taped to the insides of the french patio doors that are my front doors.  I can clearly see into my house, and the lights are on and everything is completely ransacked and alot of things are missing or trashed.

What the hell is going on?! Well apparently, the old owner of the condo sold it and I was never told about the sale closing.  The new owner claimed he didn't know I lived there and had sent his representatives to clear it out: ie treat my home and property like their own personal homestore and take whatever they wanted before throwing out everything else.

All of my books, cds, sheet music, are still missing to this date.  I managed to recover some of my kitchen stuff (All-Clad, Calphalon, my KitchenAid stand mixer, baking sheets, etc) from the property manager's (new owner's representative) condo in the same complex.  I also found my clothing, makeup, office supplies, and more kitchen stuff in her closets and cabinets!

The loss of my entire music library and solo sheet music library is heartbreaking.  Many of the cds are discontinued and out of production, nearly impossible to find.  The sheet music contains markings from many teachers and masterclasses, plus those of my own make.  How can I possibly replace the work of over a decade?? I can't.  Short and simple, I can't.

So, I have a law firm (several, actually) willing to take my case on complete contingency, and I'll be going after some kind of restitution.  Life just sucks in the meantime.  I went through a week or two of not really sleeping or eating, so there was definitely no baking or cooking going on. I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I lived on half a can of Chef Boyardee and sometimes ramen, each day.  But it really was only because that was all I even wanted to eat, when I was ever even in the mood for food.

The unpacking and cleaning process, and documenting, continues.  I'm still missing loads of kitchen items that I don't know yet how to replace, or how I might possibly cover the prohibitive cost of replacing the items, not to mention all the other books, music, and clothing that are still missing! Alas, my entire Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series are completely gone.  And all my cookbooks.  No more Alton Brown or Julia Child.

I'll blog again once I calm my heart down.  I promise.  It's a work in progress.

Happily, DF made a lovely Chicken with Walnut Sauce recipe for dinner tonight.  If I remember to take a picture of it tomorrow, I'll try to blog about it :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chocolate Almond Braid

Ok this guy was amazing.  I started drooling when this came out of the oven, and had to remind myself to wait until DF got to the apt.  Chocolate and Almond Filling rolled inside a delicious, flaky, buttery crust?? The house smelled incredible.

Definitely use semisweet chocolate, as the bittersweet was actually a little too bitter? Strange, I know.  There's no sugar in the puff pastry, and only a little sprinkled on top.  I thought the sugar in the Almond Filling would balance it out, but I was also trying to not overwhelm the chocolate with the almond (the filling needed to be tweaked a little, it had too much extract in it) so I didn't put a super ton of filling in this.

Puff Pastry recipe is found under the Pinwheels post, as is the Almond Filling, and all I did was sprinkle about 1-1 1/2 c bittersweet chips underneath, and crumble the AF on top of that.

Roll half of the recipe of Puff into a rough rectangle about 10x12.  Spread the filling ingredients (you can use jam, make something savoury, cheesy, fruity, whatever you want) in the center of the rectangle, leaving a border about 2-3 inches along each long side, and 2 inches on each short side.  Cut diagonal strips (about 3/4 inch, doesn't have to be exact) from the corners of the short side in towards the filling, stopping at the edge of the filling, and keeping an even number of strips on each side.  You should have what looks like a trapezoid at the top and bottom of the rectangle (short sides), with the short side of the trapezoid bordered by the filling.

Brush the unfilled border with egg wash (or egg white wash) and fold the top trapezoid downa and the bottom trapezoid up, and tuck the corners down into the filling.  Fold the first strip (pick a side, say the right) down over the filling, slightly diagonal angling down (like a braid....) and then fold the opposite strip (on the left side) slightly diagonal angling down over that.  Continue alternating strips in this fashion until you run out of strips, and don't worry about that last strip hanging loose on top - no one will notice once it's baked.

Brush the entire braid with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar, or not, and/or sprinkle with nuts if you've used nuts inside the filling (so people know what is inside).  Bake about 20-25 mins at 375F or until the top and bottom are golden brown.

Pinwheel Pastries

I can't stop eating this.  It's ridiculous! While it's not nearly as bad as gnawing a stick of butter, sometimes I almost feel like I should just do exactly that :) Ok maybe not, but it'd be darned good!

King Arthur Flour came up with a really interesting recipe for Blitz Puff Pastry recently that I tried and really really enjoyed... Enough to make it twice in the past few days and eat it all!! It's again, just really pathetic, how little willpower I have against a puffy, flaky, buttery pastry.  You put it in your mouth and you just can't stop.  Especially with homemade jam, some almond cream (frangipane) and you're just in heaven!

Oh and genius tip from Cooks Illustrated that I carried over into this - If you hate scraping things like shortening out of a measuring cup, wrap the cup in a piece of plastic wrap, and then it just pops right out with no cleanup.  I tried this with the sour cream and it worked really nicely.

Blitz Puff Pastry
adapted from KAF

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cold butter, cut in chunks
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c. sour cream, cold

Oven: 400F, about 1hr to prepare
about 12-16 pastries, depending on size and shape

Put the flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor (you can do this in a stand mixer too) and pulse a couple times to aerate and combine.  Add the chunks of cold butter and pulse about 2-3 times, until some of the chunks have been broken up, but fairly large pieces remain.  Add the sour cream and pulse another 2-3 times until the dough looks like a bunch of curds that doesn't look like it will hold together - it will! Trust me on this.  Squeeze a handful (don't cut your finger - I already did that for you) and it should hold together.  If not, add a tablespoon of ice water, but again, you should not need this.

Dump the dough out onto a floured counter or board, and pat and press together into roughly an 8x11 rectangle - the size of a sheet of paper.  You can use a bench scraper to help you do this next part if you're worried about stickage or crumbling.

With a short end of the dough facing you, fold the top third down over the middle, brush the excess flour off of it, then fold the bottom third up so that it looks like a tri-fold letter.  This is Turn 1.  Roll the dough back out (keep scooting it around in the flour to make sure it doesn't stick) to the 8x10, and do Turn 2 in the same manner.  If your dough is still cool enough that it's still not sticking too much, quickly do Turn 3 - otherwise, refrigerate for about 10 mins, then do Turn 3.  I can generally do all 3 turns in one go, but I'm moving pretty quick about it.  Don't forget to brush off excess flour between the layers.

After 3 turns have been completed, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins while you prepare whatever filling you want to use - jam, chocolate, almond filling (recipe follows), etc.

After 30 mins, unwrap the dough and cut it in half so you have 2 pieces, roughly the shape of a square.  Rewrap one half and put it back in the fridge while you work with the other half.  Roll it to a rectangle about 10x14.  With a sharp knife or pizza cutter (it works surprisingly well and it's fast!), trim the edges so that they're straight.  Save the scraps for sprinkling with sugar and making sugar straws, or cheese for cheese straws.

Divide the dough into squares (generally 4" for me, and about 6 per sheet, for 12 total) and relocate onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Place a tablespoon of fruit filling in the center of a square, and a tablespoon of almond filling on top.  Make diagonal cuts from the corners into the edge of the filling in the center, and fold every other (alternating) corner into the center, pinching the ends in the center to form the pinwheel.  You can also use an egg wash (or egg white wash, whatever you have on hand) to seal the corners together.  Brush the tops of the pastries with the wash and sprinkle coarse sugar on top for some sparkle.  Bake about 15mins at 400F or until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

You can also make other shapes such as packets, turnovers, a simple open ended burrito style, or fold in the edges to make a square nest.  I've even rolled into croissants and filled with chocolate and almond.  It's rough puff pastry - easy, fast, and options are endless.  Works also very well for savoury fillings and topping a chicken pot pie or other dishes :)

Almond Cream Filling (Frangipane)
adapted from Baking with Julia

1 c sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 stick butter, soft
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tb cornstarch
1/2 tsp almond extract

Place the almonds, butter, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (you don't have to wash this out if you've just made the puff pastry inside it) and process until it forms a smooth paste. Add the cornstarch and extract, and pulse again to combine.  Use immediately if using for danishes (while it's still soft), or refrigerate until ready to mold for croissants or other filled pastries.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

BBA Challenge #7 Ciabatta

So for the purposes of this challenge, I'm doing everything by the book and as it's written.  I'm not tinkering, even when I really really want to fix something.  I did the poolish version out of the book, and I've made ciabattas before, so I knew pretty much what I was looking for. Having read several threads on TFL in the past when I was looking for recipes and research, I knew that this version was going to be tricky.

The poolish version has a very low hydration for a ciabatta, which usually has hydrations of at least 80% and upwards.  The last ciabatta I'd made used a 95% hydration which was crazy wet but also tasted and looked amazing.  PR's poolish ciabatta only has a hydration of 72% in comparison! It's more like a baguette dough than a ciabatta, in that sense. The biga version is a little better, but not by a whole lot (78-79%, I believe).  Why do we want high hydration? So we get those nice big holes inside that are the mark of a well handled dough.

Knowing all this, I was absurdly gentle when I handled the dough.  I made sure to flour the board (we don't have enough counter room) really really well, and then I lined my couche with parchment that I sprayed oil on and then floured so the flour would stick.  I didn't want to take any chances of stickage with this, and the parchment made transferring into the oven very easy: slide on peel, stretch a little, and slide right onto stone.

I did add a tiny bit of olive oil, as in the side notes, but not the full 1/4.  I think I only added about 1TB and when I cut it open to taste, it was awesome.  The crust had softened a bit so that it was still a little chewy, but not tough and leathery, and the crumb was again nice and chewy, but a little more tender from the touch of oil.  I really enjoyed the taste of this, but I'll continue pushing the hydration higher too.

BBA Challenge #6 Challah

Note to self: do NOT get distracted in the middle of braiding loaves! Hence the funny looking skinny spot in the middle of the 6-strand braid.  My bad.  I was juggling the Casatiello, Challah, and the Ciabattas at the same time and got lost in a blizzard of dough. That's how I'm justifying it.

I couldn't decide if I liked this one or not.  I gifted the 3-strand braid to a friend at the local dive shop, and she said she and her husband ate half of the loaf in one sitting! Everyone at the shop was shocked (and you have to wonder why!) that I made the loaf.  The dough did colour very nicely in the oven, with just the egg white wash.  I cheated and brushed the loaves with milk straight out of the oven to try to soften the crust.

It wasn't as light as my regular challah recipe, but it did have less oil in it.  What bothered me the most was the eggs.  If you know me, you know I hate wasting ingredients.  Recipes that call for adding just one yolk, and discarding the white, or using a cup of poolish and chucking the rest, it irritates me.  I invariably wind up saving whatever the thing is and trying to figure out a way to use it.  I hate waste.  So having to add 2 egg yolks, and knowing that 2 egg whites was going to be way too much for glazing, was irritating. (There's still a white floating around in the fridge)

Whenever I make braided loaves, I usually do at least one that is a 6-strand braid.  But I do this so infrequently that I always forget what the order of braiding is.  Strands are numbered 1-6 from Right to Left.  Pinch all the tops together, with #6 on the bottom, and tuck them underneath the bundle by folding under and pushing them up (let gravity help you here) so that they stretch up and pretending like you're trying to poke them through (but don't really).

The pattern is pretty easy: Cross #6 over #1 (so that it becomes #1).  **Cross #2 over #6 (so it becomes #6).  #1 over #3, then #5 over #1, then #6 over #4** Repeat everything between the ** until you run out of dough, and pinch the ends together and tuck underneath again, pushing them up into the braid to secure them.
6 - 1
2 - 6
1 - 3
5 - 1
6 - 4

Challah does make fabulous french toast, bread pudding, and is a nice all-around bread.  I do have to give this recipe points for browning up beautifully in the oven.  The loaves also had huge spring!

BBA Challenge #5 Casatiello

I LOVED this bread! I'd been waiting and waiting for this one to arrive in the lineup, and it lived up to the dream.  Light and fluffy, so buttery but packed with flavour.  I used pastrami and sharp cheddar (can we get a T for Tillamook!), and because I was only doing a half recipe, I baked it in a 6" cake round, and added a tall parchment collar.  Thank goodness I did, because this baby rose so high it was crazy!! The part of the crust that looks paler is because that's the part that was covered by the round :)

When I started the dough for this, it looked really dry to me, but I fought the urge to add water to it, knowing that the addition of the butter was going to loosen it way up.  The dough felt really wonderful, so velvety smooth and supple - I almost hated to add the mixin's into it! I'm betting this dough will work well with almost anything you can think of adding, sweet or savory.

It made awesome roast beef sandwiches and One-Eyed-Jack (Egg in a Basket or Nest, same thing).  I actually couldn't really stop myself from slicing and eating it while it was warm.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flaky Fudgy Cakey Brownies

These brownies are amazing.  I love them.  They're incredible! That flaky top that brownies should have, kinda fudgy and a little cakey with just a little chew to them even though your teeth sink right through them... How can they miss? 

Honestly, if I want to eat fudge, I'll make fudge! When I want a brownie, it needs to be more than just fudge.  Recipes that call for no baking powder, just don't do it for me.  This recipe is a one-bowl wonder, with no need to break out a mixer.  So when you need a quick fix (and even when you don't!), this is definitely the one to go to.

We tried this last night with Tollhouse chips and a little less sugar (I don't like my desserts uber sweet), but the texture is a little different. I find that Tollhouse has a little extra added stuff to help it keep the shape of the chip which is good for cookies, but not for melting applications, whereas Ghirardelli chips are easier to melt and come in bittersweet. The recipe below is not the Tollhouse version, but my favourite original version where I used the Ghirardelli chips (any other kind of nice melting chocolate, bar, or whatever, will work - I just don't like Tollhouse for things like brownies, ganache, or frosting).

I've made tons of brownie recipes, recipes people have been handed to them from their families, and just read too many recipes to count.  This is what I've ended up with, and with "the secret" to getting the elusive flaky top!

Flaky Fudgy Cakey Brownies

1 c butter (2 sticks)
2 c bittersweet chocolate chips
1 c white sugar
1 c light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso or coffee powder, or kahlua*
1 TB vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour

*optional, but darker, deeper flavour if added
Oven - 350F, greased and parchment lined 9x13 metal pan

In a large, microwaveable bowl, put the butter and chocolate chips.  Microwave on medium-high heat until melted, stirring frequently so the chocolate doesn't burn.  When completely melted, add the sugars to the bowl, and whisk in.  Microwave for another 30-45 seconds, stirring in between (melting more sugar into the mixture is what gets the flaky top).

Stir the cocoa powder into the mixture.  One at a time, slowly whisk in the eggs, and then stir in the vanilla and espresso powder.  Add the flour on top of the batter, followed by the salt and baking powder, and whisk everything in until smooth.  The batter will be really thick.

Pour into 9x13 greased, parchment lined baking pan and smooth the batter evenly around the edges of the pan.  Bake in 350F preheated oven for 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out with crumbs still clinging to it.  If the brownies are still very wet at 30 mins and you aren't sure, give them another 3 mins, but no more than that.  I almost never leave mine in for more than 30. Cool at least 30 mins before cutting and eating, otherwise the brownies will fall apart when you try to pick them up :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chocolate Almond Brioche Bread Pudding

After a weekend of open water diving, I'm sunburned to heck and back, and just wanting something light and sweet to celebrate the month of June! No more no-sweets May :) I had made the brioches a tete earlier in the week, and was surprised they hadn't molded yet, so I stuck them in the fridge over the weekend knowing I was going to make bread pudding.

I looked at a ton of recipes online, didn't see one that I liked, so I decided to make something up.  This happens fairly often (unfortunately) and hence is why I started just blogging it so I could refer back later.  This bread pudding will work with any kind of egg bread (challah, brioche, etc) and probably a white bread (cut off the crusts) but don't quote me on the white bread bit.  I haven't tried it yet, so I can't verify.

I don't particularly care for dense bread pudding that sits like a rock on the plate.  I also didn't want to add any butter to the custard (as apparently some people like) because the brioche was plenty rich enough!  I did want a really creamy custard, so I used whole eggs and cut the milk with some heavy cream.  Did I mention this was absolutely delicious?

Chocolate Almond Brioche Bread Pudding

12 oz brioche, cut in cubes
6 large eggs
3 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
3/4 c sliced almonds

Oven - 350F

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugars until there are no more lumps.  Slowly whisk in the milk and then the heavy cream.  Add the extracts and mix until well blended.  Add the bread cubes and let soak 20 mins, every so often stirring and pushing the cubes down so every piece is well-soaked in the custard.

At the end of 20 mins, add the chocolate and almonds and stir until everything is evenly mixed.  Don't worry - it's supposed to look lumpy.  Pour into a greased 9x13 or casserole of at least 3 quarts since the pudding will puff a little.  I used an oval casserole that was smaller than a 9x13 but was 3 inches deep.  Put into another baking pan that is slightly larger than your dish, either a roasting pan or deep baking sheet, and pour very hot or boiling water into the outer dish to make a water bath.  Put the whole thing into a preheated 350F oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1hr for a 9x13, more for a deeper pudding.  The top will be golden brown and puffed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BBA Challenge #4 Brioche (Brioches a Tete)

BBA Challenge #4 was Brioche, and we could choose any of the 3 classes (Rich, Middle, or Poor Man's) and since I had made the Poor Man's version before, I decided to go with the Rich Man's version this time.  I made just a half recipe, since I planned on making the Middle Man's version later in the week, but unfortunately ran out of time before scuba certification weekend took over!

I was using premium butter for this, since it's the main flavour ingredient in this brioche, and I absolutely loved it.  While I was mixing the dough, I really wasn't sure how it was going to come out with such a high percentage of butterfat in the formula.  I did the initial mix with the paddle, but switched to the dough hook when I saw the dough begin climbing the paddle and head towards the inner workings of the machine (gross).  It visually looked like a very high hydration dough, probably because PR calls for the butter to be at room temp.  The dough had really wonderful elasticity though, and once I put it on a baking sheet to retard overnight, it definitely firmed up.

Forming the Brioches a Tete was a little bit of a challenge, because even just rolling the divided pieces into balls melted some of the butter and caused the dough to turn super sticky again.  I guess you just need to work as quickly as possible!  I did the method where you form a ball and then pinch a small blob part-way off, and then smush it back down (yup, that's the technical term for it).  I also baked mine in muffin tins since I couldn't splurge on the traditional fluted molds, but they still turned out really well.

It was like eating a cloud of butter! So amazing.  I'll probably make the Middle Man's version soon, just for fun and for french toast since we didn't get to have that last week.  DF and I spent zero time in the kitchen over the weekend, since we were so worn out from the dive weekend.  I did make bread pudding yesterday... That post is coming up!

And for anyone wondering why I didn't post for BBA #3, it was because I really dislike PR's bagel recipe, and even though I did it by the book, it was still a fail.  It's not the first time this recipe has failed for me, but it will probably be the last time I make it! :)


Have I mentioned lately how much I love sourdough? Really sour sourdough, where it makes the back of your teeth tingle because you can taste the acid.  I'm also learning that I prefer my sourdough with a little bit of enrichment, so using milk instead of water, and adding a couple tablespoons of butter to this really does it for me.  It's quickly becoming my go-to recipe for sourdough and everyone who has tried it has loved it.  The crust isn't very thick, and it doesn't take all my jaw strength to bite through it, so I really dig it.
Sourdough (enriched)

3 1/2 c bread flour
1 1/4 c milk
2 TB butter
2 tsp salt
1 c starter (100%H)

Oven - 400F, about 2 loaves, 2 days

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix everything together until well hydrated.  You may need to add a little more milk to incorporate all the flour.  Mix with the dough hook on medium for about 6 mins until a smooth dough forms and cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 6-8 hours.  Lightly degas and retard the dough in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, divide and shape while still cold, and proof until the dough is almost doubled, about 4-6 hours.  Bake in preheated 400F oven for about 40-50 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 195F.  Cool before slicing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cuban Bread

I love this stuff.  Can't get enough of it :)  It is quickly becoming my go-to bread dough for making hoagie rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, everything under the sun.  It's really versatile, so soft and fluffy but still sturdy enough for angus hot dogs... And it has tremendous keeping power due to the addition of starter discard.  I keep starter discard in a container in the fridge, since I can't bear to throw away good KAF and beasties!  The trick is to not overbake these guys, since they'll dry out a lot faster than you think they will.

Good cuban bread uses lard, which I bought recently for making tortillas.  Then, I experimented with half lard half butter for those tortillas, and found that DF and I really loved them, so I thought I'd do the same thing here.  Success!  While it may not be "traditional" to use butter (you could certainly leave it out and use all lard), I really liked the hint of butter flavour it added.

Cuban Bread

21oz all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c warm water
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1TB sugar
5/8oz kosher salt (about 1TB)
3 oz sourdough starter (about 1/4 c), 100%H
1 oz lard (about 2 TB)
1 oz butter (2 TB)
milk, for brushing after the bake

Oven - 350F, 15 hamburger buns, about 6 large hoagie rolls

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar.  Let sit for about 10mins until foamy.  Dissolve the starter in the water, and then add the flour and salt.  Mix with a spatula until everything is well hydrated, and then insert the dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.  Once everything seems to be coming together into a cohesive dough, about 1-2 minutes, begin adding the butter and lard slowly, incorporating each addition completely before adding the next.  When all the fat is mixed in, turn the speed up to medium for about 4-6 minutes, kneading until the dough is smooth.  You may add a little extra flour if the dough is not cleaning the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hrs.  Divide into 6-8 pieces for hoagies, and about 15 pieces for burger buns (about 2.5-3oz each).  Shape into batards or rolls and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  If making burger buns, flatten each ball into a flat disc about the diameter of the desired bun.  Lightly mist with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and proof another 20-30 minutes, or until almost doubled.

Bake in preheated 350F oven for about 25 mins, rotating halfway through, until the middle of the breads reaches 200F.  Immediately brush with milk to soften the crust, then cool completely before eating.

Baguette and a Boule

The baguette was bred from roughly the same baguette dough as before, but without the addition of the starter and with a little extra rye flour.  I'll put the formula below, since it's pretty easy to remember.  I think we ate the entire first baguette before they finished cooling completely!  The crust was very thin and turned out kind of chewy but still a little crisp.  It was really interesting.

The boule beside it is my standard enriched sourdough recipe which uses milk and a little bit of butter.  Not sure if I've posted that yet or not, but I'll get around to it soon if I haven't :)  I was trying a different kind of slashing on it, trying to get it to rise taller instead of wider, but I think the dough was cold and it didn't open up as much as I'd have liked.  Oh well, it's always a work in progress :)


450g all-purpose flour
50g rye flour
350g water
4g instant yeast or 5g active dry
10g kosher salt

Method is the same as my other post on baguettes.  I did try giving it a 45min autolyse without the salt, but I find that adding the salt later- it never fully dissolves into the dough.  I think it's fine to go ahead and add it at the beginning.

All White Baguettes

I'm so proud of these baguettes.  I've discovered lately that while I previously thought that baking bread on a baking stone was just not worth the extra effort, it does tremendously improve the oven spring!  This is definitely the way to go for getting the nice round (tall!) baguette shape.  I also proofed these in my couche, instead of straight on the parchment paper as I had previously been doing.

The recipe came to me from a post on TFL where another poster had challenged us to try this recipe.  Making baguettes with good flavour in 1 day with no preferment is tough! These were made with plain flour, water, salt, and a touch of yeast, and no mixer.  I only used folds in the bowl for this one and it couldn't have been easier.  I've also found (lately) that even though so many people say to not flour the bench when final shaping, it's easier for me if I do because it ensures that the loaf will release from the couche (even after it's been well floured).  Regardless, I was really happy with these baguettes, especially as they were singing so loudly to me!

5 Hour Baguettes, 70%H dough

500g all-purpose flour
335g warm water
5g active dry yeast, or 4g instant
100g sourdough starter, 100%H
10g salt

Oven - 450F, 3 baguettes

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let proof for 10 mins until foamy and domed.  You can skip this if using instant yeast.  Dissolve the starter in the water, and then add the flour and salt.  Stir well until all the flour is hydrated.  Let rest, covered, for 20 mins.

Stretch and fold in the bowl for 30 strokes.  Repeat 2 more times at 20 min intervals.  Transfer to a lightly oiled, covered bowl and let rise for 45 minutes (1.5 times original size) before doing another stretch and fold.  Ferment for another 45 minutes before dividing into 3 equal pieces and preshaping into rounds.  Cover and let rest for 10 mins, then final shape into baguettes about 15" long.  Proof on canvas couche until 1.5 times original size.

Bake on preheated baking stone at 450F with steam for about 23 minutes.  Turn off oven, but leave loaves on baking stone for another 5 minutes.  Cool before eating.

BBA Challenges 1 and 2

I decided last month to join the BBA Challenge that has been going around TFL, mostly to make myself follow a recipe exactly since I'm guilty of tinkering where I think it could be better :) This has been especially hard for me, but it's interesting to hear about other people's thoughts on our forum.  That being said, I won't post the recipe because I don't think Reinhart would really appreciate that, and since I know I followed the recipe, I can just look it up in my own book.

May was a super busy month, hence the lack of posts.  It was also a month where DF and I decided to go on a no extra sugar and fat kind of restrictive diet- hence all the bread baking.  Between the audition trip from hell and getting scuba certified, there wasn't hardly time at all for blogging!

BBA Challenge #1 was the Anadama bread.  I'd never had this before and was curious to try it.  The molasses definitely gave it a nice dark sweetness, and the cornmeal I used was fine ground white cornmeal since it's what we had on hand.  It was kind of nice and nutty though, but not sure if I'd make this again since it's not so punch wow amazing that I have to have it all the time.  It was definitely soft and fluffy, which we both appreciated.  Having to remember to start the soaker the night before means it's harder to make in a pinch.
BBA Challenge #2 was the Greek Celebration Bread: Artos.  I chose to make mine without the dried fruits, but did add all the extracts (lemon and almond) and spices (everything under the sun) that the recipe called for.  It made an exceptionally fragrant bread that grew to ginormous proportions during the final proof!  I thought making just a boule was going to be a little too boring for me, so I shaped the small boule and overlaid the cross as directed for one of the alternate versions.  I also used some of my overzealous SD starter in place of the poolish (also an option - see, I can follow a recipe!).  The end result was this wonderful bread which was also very light and fluffy in texture.  It would've made fantastic french toast if I could have figured out the best way to slice the dratted thing.  While the shape is pleasing, it's definitely harder to figure a way to slice it into manageable pieces.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chicken and 40 Cloves

I've been talking about this dish for months - about how I wanted to make it, but 40 (FORTY!) cloves of garlic?? That sounded like overkill to me... However, I picked up 3lb of peeled garlic cloves from where else but my beloved Sam's Club, and thought to myself: what on earth are you going to do with all of that garlic?


So there it stood: me with company coming over and tons of garlic in my fridge that was begging to be used.  Didn't help that we had just purchased 7lb of fresh chicken breasts (whole, unbeknownst to me) at $.99/lb... It was easy after that.  The garlic ended up being so roasty soft and sweet; it was amazing.

I doctored the recipe because one of the dinner guests is pregnant, and apparently (according to AB) even if you cook with alcohol, not all of it cooks out! Who knew... Granted, the amount is negligible, but I wasn't sure how strict she was being, so here is the adapted recipe.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
adapted from Ina's Barefoot in Paris

3 heads of garlic, about 40 cloves
1 c chopped cremini or button mushrooms
6 boneless chicken breasts, 4 drumsticks
cornstarch, for dredging breasts
kosher salt and black pepper
1 TB butter
2 TB olive oil
1 1/2 c chicken stock
1 tsp dry thyme plus 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 TB fresh parsley, minced
3 TB all-purpose flour + 1/2 c extra stock or water
1/4 c heavy cream

If the garlic heads are whole, separate the cloves and drop them into boiling water for 1 minute.  Drain, peel, and trim the root end.  Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.  Dredge the breasts in cornstarch to help form a crust so the chicken doesn't try out.  Drumsticks shouldn't need this because they should have skin on.  Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  In batches, sear the chicken in the fat until nicely browned, about 3-5 mins per side.  Turn with tongs or a spatula so you don't pierce the skin, and remove to a plate once a batch is done.  When all the chicken has been moved to the plate, add all of the garlic to the pot.

Saute for 5-10 mins, turning often, until the garlic is evenly browned.  Add the stock to the pot and bring back to a boil, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add the dried thyme to the pot, and then return the chicken to the pot.  Cover and simmer over low for about 30 mins, until all the chicken is done.  20 mins into the simmer, add the mushrooms to the pot.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and cover with foil while you prepare the sauce.  In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 c of stock or water with the flour, then whisk it into the sauce in the pot.  Add the 1 TB fresh thyme to the sauce, along with the 1/4 c cream, and bring to a boil for 3 mins.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour sauce over all the chicken.  Finish with the fresh parsley.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mock Hostess Cupcakes

I randomly crave chocolate.  Given a choice of dessert, I'll generally go after the vanilla or fruity option simply because I feel like chocolate is so overpoweringly....chocolate.  It covers the taste of anything else that tries to play sidekick, and thus is pretty forgiving.  Vanilla or fruit has so much possibility, and so I feel it takes that much more talent and creativity (not to mention execution!) to accentuate and engage the flavours.

But, like any woman, I still crave chocolate sometimes.  So, in hopes of making something similar to the Hostess Cupcakes of childhood, I put these lovely little cakes together with a favored recipe (incredibly fluffy) and some help from Dorie Greenspan's Baking book that I got for my birthday.  The frosting is simply a chocolate ganache that was stirred a few times as it cooled in the fridge until it became spreadable.  YUM!  Make your cakes first, then the frosting, and then the filling, as the filling really needs to be used as soon as it is made.

Fluffy Chocolate Cake

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c butter, soft
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB cocoa, unsweetened
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c ice water

Oven - 350F
2 x 8" rounds, greased and parchment lined on the bottom, or 24 cupcakes

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.  Whip until very smooth and light, and the volume increases, about 3 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate and the cocoa, and mix until combined.  In three additions, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the iced water, mixing well between each addition.

Pour into pans or scoop into lined muffin tins and bake at 350F.  Approximately 25 minutes for rounds or 18 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick just comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

Marshmallow Creme Filling
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 large egg whites, about 1/4 c
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c water
1 tsp good vanilla extract (since this is the only flavouring)

Note: You will need a candy thermometer for this, as the syrup must be boiled to a high enough temperature.  Or you can do it old-school with ice water and cook the syrup to the beginnings of firm ball, but a thermometer is so much easier.

Put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (cold ones will not mount properly, so if you must warm them, place them in the bowl and put the bowl in a sink of warm water, and swirl them around).

Put the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a heavy bottomed pot.  Stir to combine, and then bring to a boil and slap a lid on the pot for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, take the lid off and clip on the candy thermometer (hopefully the probe reaches far enough down - if not, you'll have to tip the pot to the side - be careful! culinary napalm!).  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 242F.

While the syrup is cooking, monitor the temperature carefully.  When the syrup reaches about 225F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed.  If they reach firm peaks before the syrup is ready, keep them beating on low speed.  As soon as the syrup reaches 242F, turn the mixer to medium and slowly (carefully) pour the syrup into the whipping whites, between the beaters and the bowl.  Do not stop to scrape down the bowl or anything that touches the sides. Whip on high for 5 minutes.  The filling should be looking shiny and fluffy.  Continue beating for another 5-10 minutes, or until the filling reaches room temperature.  Use the filling immediately for best consistency.

Ready a piping bag (I used a Wilton #10 tip) and fill it with the frosting.  Punch the tip into the top center of the cupcake, and squeeze about a tablespoon of filling into it.  You will see the cupcake begin to expand, and as this happens, slowly pull the tip out as you lightly squeeze a little more to fill the hole.  Cover with frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together, stirring every 20-30 seconds depending on the strength of your microwave.  When it is smooth, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until the ganache is a spreadable consistency.  This makes enough for 24 cupcakes, or it multiplies easily to make more for a cake.

Should you desire to pipe the loop pattern on top (I was too lazy and I just wanted to eat them), you can make a simple icing of powdered sugar and milk, but make sure it is very thick so it pipes and holds its shape.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Turtle Brownies with Caramel Sauce

Kinda fudgy, a little cakey, dry flaky top with a moist center... sounds like the perfect brownie to me!  Adding some chopped pecans, chocolate chips, and caramel make these Turtle Brownies pure decadence.  I needed to satisfy a chocolate craving yesterday, and these sure did it!

Next time, I might try cutting down on the amount of actual solid chocolate or adding a touch more flour for structure.  I let these bake longer than normal because the center wouldn't set - possibly because of a little too much chocolate (did I really say that?).  The homemade caramel was (still is) wonderful.  Next time, I won't be afraid to let the sugar darken even more!

(I realize the picture would've turned out better if I'd taken the time to put the caramel in a squeeze bottle or plastic bag to drizzle it more professionally, but I just wanted to eat it!)

Turtle Brownies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. semisweet chips (reducing this to 1c next time)
2 TB unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. semisweet chips (additional to above)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/4 c. caramel, cold (recipe follows)

Oven - 350F
8x8 greased pan, one bowl wonder

In a large, microwaveable bowl, melt the butter and 1 1/2 c. chocolate chips together in the microwave - carefully! since chocolate burns fast. Add the sugar and whisk to combine, then microwave another 30 seconds more to dissolve more of the sugar (this is what gives the nice flaky top).  Add the cocoa and whisk in completely, then whisk in the vanilla and eggs.  Put the flour, salt, and baking powder on top of the mixture, in that order, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the pecans and 1/2 c. semisweet chips.

Pour half of the batter into the greased pan and smooth out to the sides.  Spoon the caramel over the batter (it doesn't have to be even).  Pour the other half of the batter over the caramel, trying to get even coverage, and smooth it out to the sides.  Bake in preheated 350F oven for 30-40 mins.  A toothpick inserted halfway to the center should come out clean.  You may sprinkle more nuts and chips on top of the brownies, and drizzle with caramel if you like.  Let cool before cutting.


3 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
2 c. heavy cream, at room temperature

Makes 3 1/2 cups, keeps 1 month in fridge

In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, stir the sugar and water together with a wooden spoon.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved (syrup will turn crystal clear), stirring occasionally.  When the syrup turns clear, stop stirring, and quickly dip a pastry brush in cold water and wash down the crystals from the sides of the pot - you'll dip and wash several times to get all of the sides clean.  As soon as this is done, put a lid on the pot and turn the heat up to high.  Keep the lid on for 3 minutes, so the steam can condense and wash down the sides of the pot to pick up anything you missed.

After 3 minutes, uncover the pot and continue to cook on med-high to high, until the syrup turns a deep amber colour, about 15 mins.  You may swirl the pot occasionally for even browning, if your pot doesn't cook evenly, but be careful not to splash yourself - this is culinary napalm!  When the syrup begins to colour, it goes pretty quickly after that so keep a close eye on it.

When the syrup is deep amber, remove from heat, and slowly pour in the cream while whisking constantly.  Be very careful as there will be a lot of steam and bubbling, and maybe some splattering.  Return to low heat and whisk until smooth, about 1 min.  Use immediately over ice cream, cakes, cobblers, etc, or cool to room temp. before refrigerating.


I've never made Baklava before.  Mamoun's baklava (when I was in New Haven) was the best I'd ever had and I still miss it.  DF had a recipe he'd used before and we gave it a shot, with minor adjustments.  We also cut the recipe down so that it fit in an 8x8 pan, and cut the stack of phyllo in half so we weren't trying to layer a long sheet.  We placed each sheet touching a different side of the pan so that the entire phyllo layer ended up covering the whole space, instead of stacking them all in the middle and none of them touching the sides!

Be careful not to grind the nuts too fine if you're using a food processor (new Cuisinart 14-c. is a dream!).  Next time, I think we're going to go a little bit coarser on the grind so it's not packed in so tight, though this baklava was definitely lighter than any DF had ever made.


Nut Filling

2½ c nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or a mix of any of the above)

1/3 c white sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Honey Syrup

1 c white sugar

½ c orange blossom honey

½ c water

Juice from ½ lemon, strained

Zest from ¼ lemon

2½ cinnamon sticks

1tbs orange flower water or rose water (different flavour)

Pastry Layers

½ lb Phyllo dough

1 stick unsalted butter


Dishes/Utensils Needed

Small microwave-safe bowl, 8x8 baking dish, Pastry brush, Moist kitchen towel, Medium saucepan, Blender/Food processor, Measuring cups, Measuring spoons, Strainer

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Chop the nuts finely using a blender or food processor.
  3. Add the sugar, and cinnamon to the nuts and process to blend.
  4. Put butter in a small bowl and microwave until melted.
  5. Brush some butter on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.
  6. Open the phyllo box and unroll the dough on the counter. Cut the phyllo in half to fit the baking dish.
  7. Place one half-sheet of phyllo in the baking dish and brush some butter over it. Repeat this process until there are 8 half-sheets laid upon the bottom of the dish.
  8. Sprinkle ½ c nut mixture evenly over the pastry layers. Cover with 4 half-sheets of phyllo, buttering each after placing it in the dish. Repeat this process until there is either no more nut mixture left or you only have 8 half-sheets of phyllo left.
  9. Top the dish with 8 half-sheets of phyllo, buttering each sheet as above.
  10. Roll any phyllo extending over the edges inwards onto the top of the baklava.
  11. Score the top few layers of phyllo in diamond or triangle pattern. Brush the top of the dish thoroughly butter.
  12. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden, about 45-50 minutes.
  13. Meanwhile, place all the honey syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Set aside until baklava is finished baking.
  14. When the pastry comes out of the oven, pour half the honey syrup over the dish very slowly. After letting stand for 20 minutes, pour the remainder of the syrup over the dish, again very slowly. Let cool completely, several hours, then cut along the scores completely through.



·      Phyllo comes in 1 lb. boxes. Athens brand includes two half-pound packages in the box, which is convenient for this recipe.

·      Keep the edges of the pastry buttered if necessary to keep them from drying out as you build it.

·      Work quickly but carefully; phyllo is very delicate and prone to drying out.  Keep the phyllo covered with a damp kitchen towel or paper towel.

·      Two people working together can make building this go much more quickly!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Buttermilk Cupcake and Chocolate Frosting

I'm still searching for the perfect chocolate frosting.  Chocolate frostings made with only powdered cocoa somehow taste a little....raw to me.  Using only solid chocolate makes it hard sometimes to get the right chocolate taste - it usually turns out sort of mocha to me.  Chocolate frosting just never tastes chocolate enough! I can't figure this out.

While pondering and studying a bunch of recipes I found, I happened across this lovely frosting on RecipeZaar that had really wonderful reviews.  I modified it a bit because I am not a fan of having to cut into a stick of butter for only 1-2 TB (or using only the egg yolk and ditching the white, etc except I do have a ton of frozen egg whites....).  The buttermilk cupcake was incredibly moist and light, for only having a half stick of butter in the entire batch!  And the combination together? Can't beat that with a stick!

Buttermilk Cake

1 1/4 c sugar
1/2 c butter
2 large eggs
1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk

Oven - 350F
18-20 cupcakes

In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and egg white one at a time, until combined.  Beat in vanilla.  Add APF, baking soda, and salt to the mixture, and slowly beat together while pouring in the buttermilk.  Stir until well combined.  Pour into tins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 18-20 mins.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate
6 oz unsalted butter
1 tsp espresso powder dissolved in 1 TB hot water
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
3 TB cocoa
4 oz unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 c heavy cream

Melt chocolate and 6 oz butter together, either in a microwave or double boiler (metal bowl over pot of simmering water).  Whisk together until combined.  Stir in espresso and vanilla. Cool to room temp.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or workbowl of food processor), cream the remaining 4 oz butter with half of the powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Scrape down the sides and add the rest of the sugar.  As the mixer starts, slowly pour in the cream.  With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the chocolate mixture and mix until it becomes shiny and smooth.  (It will look like it's coming together, then it will break down and look completely curdled and your heart will start to pound as you think you did something totally wrong, but have faith! It will become the most fluffy and luxurious frosting you've ever had)

Makes a ton of frosting - Plenty for a layer cake.  I frosted all 20 cupcakes and had a quart of frosting left for the freezer.  Frosting also freezes and thaws well.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sourdough French Bread

I love sourdough.  It is quickly becoming one of my favourite things to make because it DOES take a long time and it leaves me tons of time to practice in between ferments and folds.  This particular loaf of bread was intended to be plain old french bread, and I was going for a nice open crumb on it (see the big holes?).  The crust was a little lighter than I wanted it to, but it had already baked for 50 mins and I was worried it was going to start darkening too much on the bottom.

Unfortunately, I didn't jot the recipe down right after I made it, so I can't tell you exactly, but it all started with about 1c mature starter, 3 c bread flour, 1TB salt, and water (which I can't remember how much of!).  I remember it was a higher hydration dough than I had previously attempted, though.

If you're interested in the recipe, I could probably come up with one that was close....

Chicken and Biscuits

Sometime last week, I needed to make something for dinner and I just wasn't inspired to make anything.  I was in a rush, was prepping for an audition, and didn't want to have to waste time making something extravagant.  Told DF I was going to make some kind of chicken and biscuit bake thing so I could stick it in the oven and warm up for the audition, and I think he almost jumped up and down and clapped his hands like a little boy!  He had mentioned a few days prior to this that he really liked c&b, and I guess it stuck in my head.

Thawed some chicken, looked at what was in the fridge for veggies, and this is what we got.

Chicken and Biscuits

2 chicken breasts, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper
3 c milk, cold, or mix of milk and stock
3 TB butter
3 TB flour

Oven: 375F
Oval 10" casserole dish (some kind of 3qt casserole dish)

Place a 3-4qt pot over medium heat and heat 1-2 TB olive oil  with the garlic.  When it starts to sizzle a little, add the onions, carrots, and celery and cook until softened, about 5 mins.  Add some salt and pepper (you should s&p each step, so add a little at a time).  Add the diced chicken, s&p again, and cook until you can't see any more raw spots.   Transfer this to a bowl or plate and set aside for now.

In the same pan, add the 3 TB of butter and wait until it stops foaming.  Sprinkle the 3 TB flour over this and whisk until it is combined.  Let it cook for about 1 min to cook out the raw flour flavour, and then slowly begin pouring in the cold milk (rule: hot rue, cold liquid, stir continuously = no lumps).  Add the milk slowly while you whisk rapidly so your mixture stays smooth.  After everything is smooth and mixed in, you can turn the heat up to med-high and let it come to a simmer, where it will thicken into your sauce.  S&P this as well.

After it has thickened, add the chicken and vegetables back into the pot with the thyme.  Stir it all together and turn the heat down to low while you prepare the biscuit mix.  When biscuit mix is ready, taste the chicken mixture to test s&p seasoning, adjust if necessary, then pour into greased casserole.  Dish biscuit mixture over the top, and bake in 375F oven for about 25mins, or until the biscuit topping is golden brown.  (I would recommend putting the casserole dish on top of a sheet pan, in case it drips over the side)

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 c. cold buttermilk
1/4 c. shortening**

optional: 1/2 c. shredded cheese, or 1 TB dill, etc

**When measuring shortening, cover a dry measuring cup with plastic wrap and scoop it out.  Then just take the plastic wrap off and dump the shortening in the work bowl, and your measuring cup stays clean.  No more nasty greasy cup!

Oven: 375F
~8 ice cream scoop sized biscuits
1 bowl wonder

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.  Add the shortening and cut in with a fork until pea sized crumbs remain.  Add any optional add-ins (for chicken and biscuits, I like to add 1 TB dill) and stir them in.  Pour the cold buttermilk over the top and stir the dough together.  Scoop with a disher onto a parchment sheet and bake ~15-18 mins, or until golden brown.