Sunday, April 13, 2014

Playing Around With Apricots And Pecan


One of the many things I love about Dorie Greenspan's recipes is that she often includes a sidebar with suggestions for changes one can make to the recipe. My favorites are the ones she calls 'Playing Around' because it resembles what I often do with recipes, which is to substitute out ingredients to give a whole new flavor blend to the recipe.

I recently baked up one of her quick breads, the Date-Nut Loaf found in Baking: from my home to yours. In the Playing Around section she suggests that the dates can be exchanged for other dried fruits, including apricots. Sweetie loves apricots, plus the dates I thought I could use turned out to be too old, so I used a cup of diced dried apricots (which are actually moist and sticky, so they were also dusted with some flour before being added to the batter) instead of the dates. Because I like apricots and pecans, the nuts used were pecans instead of walnuts. I also left out the almond extract so that the apricot and pecan flavors would shine. They did! The crumb on this is moist and fairly light. Some quick breads have a dense texture, but not this one. This was one of four recipes I made for a meeting of our regional scholarship group. The others might show up here later: Bran Muffins with Walnuts and Raisins baked in mini-muffin pans, Cranberry Orange Yeast Braid, and Rosemary Focaccia Bread, which I've made before, but this time I baked it in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead of two cake pans. Still very yummy!

Did I mention that I also baked the Apricot Pecan batter in four mini-loaves? So cute and perfect for the meeting where I was serving them! The only difficult thing about these is remembering to set out the butter and cream cheese to allow them to come to room temperature and then to let the loaves cool before slicing. They smell so good that it is cruel to have to wait, but they need the time to be firm enough to slice. Give this a try with apricots and pecans, or go with the original combo of dates and walnuts. Both are sure to put a smile on your face.


Apricot Pecan Loaf
a variation of a recipe in Dorie Greenspan's marvelous Baking: From my home to yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried apricots, diced and dusted with a bit of flour
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or two regular sheets stacked on on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer and paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes.You can do the same thing using a hand mixer and a large bowl.

Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, another 3 minutes or so. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. The batter may look curdled (mine did), but don't worry, it will come together after you add the flour mixture.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the flour mixture, mixing only until they are incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apricots and pecans. (This step is important. Folding in the fruit and nuts makes for a lighter loaf than adding them with the mixer would.) Turn the batter into the pan.

Bake for 40 minutes. Cover the top of the loaf loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 40 minutes or so (total baking time about 1 hour, 20 minutes), until the top is honey brown, bumpy and cracked and a thin knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Since I used the four small pans, it took about 40 minutes total.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool about 10 minutes before turning the loaf out of the pan, then cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.


Monday, April 07, 2014

One For Sweetie

The tulips are blooming, the apple trees are in bloom, and Sweetie did a lot of grass mowing today. It had gotten remarkably long. He deserved something good to eat! As you may have guessed if you've read this blog for a while, I'm blessed with a wonderful partner, Sweetie, and he enjoys eating what I cook and bake. One of his favorite breads to bring home from Berkeley when he visits Acme Bread there is the Cranberry Walnut loaf.


I decided to try my hand at that kind of bread. My version is not as dense or dark, so I probably should have added more rye flour, but he loves it and I enjoyed making it.

I looked at quite a few recipes before throwing this one together. The cocoa and molasses add color and flavor and go well with the rye and whole wheat flours. I added the cooked mixed grains because I love the texture that they add, as well as nutrition. The walnut oil is a luxury and can be replaced with regular veggie oil or olive oil, but it goes so well with the walnuts.

I made this in a heavy duty stand mixer, using the dough hook, but ended up kneading it for about 5 additional minutes on a board to make sure there was plenty of gluten development. I kneaded in the walnuts and cranberries after the first rise. I shaped the nut and cranberry laden dough into two football shaped loaves, but they would bake up nice in loaf pans, too.


Cranberry Walnut Bread Elle's Way
makes 2 smallish loaves

1 packet (2.xx oz.) dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup mixed whole grains (rye berries, barley, wheat berries, rolled oats, etc.), cooked in 1 cup water, drained and cooled
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus another 1/2 cup for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped walnuts per loaf (2/3 - 1 cup total)
1/3 - 1/2 cup dried cranberries per loaf (2/3 - 1 cup total)

In a small bowl re-hydrate the yeast in the 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Let sit at least 5 minutes until yeast is foamy.

After yeast is ready, add to the cooled cooked grains in a stand mixer bowl and stir. Let sit 5 minutes.
While yeast mixture is sitting, in a large bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, rye flour, whole wheat flour, bread flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and the salt. Set aside.

To the yeast mixture, add the 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, molasses and walnut oil. Stir to combine. Set the stand mixer bowl with the yeast mixture on the stand mixer. Using the dough hook, on low speed, add the flour mixture, one cup at a time, to create a shaggy dough. With the mixer running still, add the remaining 1/2 cup all purpose flour a tablespoon at a time. Continue kneading with the machine about 5 minutes, then transfer to a floured board. Using the final 1/2 cup flour, if needed, knead an additional 5 minutes until dough is relatively smooth and silky.

Turn dough in an oiled bowl to coat with oil, then cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Turn out onto lightly floured board, knock down, and divide in half. Return half the dough to the bowl.

Knead the walnuts and cranberries into the dough and form into a loaf. Repeat with the other half the dough.
Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Slash top and bake in preheated 375 degree F oven until loaf is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 45 minutes.

Let loaf cool before slicing. Will keep on counter, wrapped in a tea towel, a couple of days.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Ta-DA! Bundles of Bread Baking Babes Buddies

Trepidation does not begin to describe how I was feeling when I submitted the Water Proofed Bread recipe to be the one we would bake in March. Who ever heard of proofing dough in water, wrapped in a towel? Would it work? Usually I try the recipe out first, but this time I wanted to experience the newness along with my bread baking sisters. I always like to try new things and I was pretty sure that the Babes would, too. Any group that is willing to take on everything from the Asparagus Bread to Sprouted Bricks, er Bread, to Rewena Paraoa (Maori Bread) and more is an adventuresome group for sure. What has surprised and delighted me is how many wonderful, talented bakers we have as Buddies for this unusual proofing technique...and they all seemed to have fun with it.

Our March Buddies, listed, pretty much, in the order that they e-mailed me are:

Kelly from A Messy Kitchen baked awesome (as attested to by her daughter) golden loaves and had a "stellar outcome from a rather unique method."



Paola from Le Mi e Ricette Con e Senza baked a lovely loaf. "The result is a delicate and very soft bread, great for breakfast. I loved it with jam and a hot coffee."



Carola of Sweet and That's It liked this bread so much she baked it more than once. After her initial reluctance, too. She listened to that little voice: “Bake it! You won’t be disappointed! You’ve always loved the Babes’ recipes! You’ll learn something new (to add to your curriculum..ahahah)."



Sandie of Crumbs of Love read on into James Beard's book and found the Egg Twists next, and they used the same water proofing technique. Her twists look awesome. I want some for breakfast.



Louise posts on the Bread Baking Babes Face book page since she doesn't have a blog. It was not an epic fail, but a beautiful round loaf with a lovely crumb.



Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories had beautiful golden loaves with excellent oven spring and she noted that the water proofing made for a fast rising time.



Gabi of The Feast Within had the best post title; "Water-Proofed Bread, Who Knew?" which was why I chose this recipe. It was an adventure, but the results were great. "This bread is delicious and light yet rich and buttery like a brioche. I think it’s brilliant and is a keeper."



Claire of Claire's Baking Journey baked it, too, and liked the results; "The end result was beyond expectation! A very soft, open crumb, slightly sweet but not too sweet to have with cheese."



Thank you Buddies for baking with the Babes. Please check out all of these fine posts and blogs. Be sure to check in with us mid-April for the next bread. It is unusual, too.  XO, Elle

Friday, March 28, 2014

What A Way To Stuff Mushrooms

Longer ago that I would like I had a visit from my older sister. I miss seeing her, but she has a wedding to help plan and produce, so this dish she inspired will have to hold me.

She is a vegan and makes the most delicious meals. She created a great stuffed mushroom dish using a Trader Joes product that combines quinoa, rice, veggies and spices and is found in the frozen food section. We had friends over for dinner last week and I decided to make the stuffing from scratch...well, almost from scratch since I used a packet of precooked quinoa...but the rest was cooked and chopped by me.

First of all, I like to use Portobello mushrooms for this. They shrink a bit during grilling, so get large ones. Remove the stems and keep those for the filling. Scrape out the gills (the dark shards under the cap). Give them a quick rinse then put them into a zip closing plastic bag with the marinade. The balsamic vinegar in the marinade is one of the crucial elements of this dish, so be sure to use decent balsamic.

The stuffing can be made while the mushrooms are marinating. It can also sit for a while at room temperature without harm while you grill the mushrooms. Sweetie grilled the mushrooms about 15 minutes before our guests arrived, I stuffed them and put them in a lightly oiled baking pan, then put the whole thing into a low oven to keep warm.

That worked very well and allowed me to enjoy some conversation and nibbles with our guests before putting the finishing touches on a broccoli, kale, brussel sprout, cabbage and red cabbage salad which was enhanced with pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and dressed with a raspberry poppy seed dressing. Steamed asparagus, drizzled with a bit of Meyer lemon infused olive oil was our other side dish and a basket of house made focaccia bread rounded out the meal. The salad was a mix that came from Costco, but I made the bread using this recipe.

You might want to try this meal, or at least these delicious mushrooms, next time you entertain. Everyone loved all the dishes served and I had fun figuring out how to create a stuffing better than the Trader Joe version. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. This is really some chopped veggies sauteed with some spices and herbs and a little wine, then mixed with quinoa and brown rice, and the whole thing stuffed into marinated grilled mushrooms. Worth the chopping and marinating. Most of the ingredients are probably things you already have in your pantry. So live a little! Have fun with this. You'll be glad you did.

I only got one photo of the mushrooms, but I do have a nice photo of a winter sunset taken the day before the party.


Quinoa and Rice Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
makes 6 large stuffed mushrooms

1 medium to large Portobello mushroom per person (I made 6)
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
3-4 springs each fresh thyme and oregano
1 onion, peeled and chopped medium fine
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
 mushroom stems, cut in small dice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
 1/4 cup dry red wine
 2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup water
1 package precooked quinoa (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1-2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Prepare mushrooms by removing stems and scraping out gills. Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth. In a gallon size zip closing plastic bag place the wine, olive oil, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs. Seal and shake to mix contents. Add mushrooms in a single layer. Seal and shake bag to coat. Let mushrooms marinate for at least two hours, up to 10 hours, turning bag over every hour so that mushrooms sit on the top of the cap one hour and on the gill side the next hour. Set aside.

In a heavy skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and bell peppers and mushroom stems. Continue to sauté 5 minutes.

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice and zest, dried thyme, cayenne pepper, red wine, and tomato paste. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the water and pour over onion mixture. Stir to combine. Add the quinoa mixture and the brown rice and stir to combine well.

Drain the marinated Portobello mushrooms. Grill them on a preheated gas grill or a charcoal grill where the coals are very hot. Grill with the cap side down for 3-4 minutes. Mushrooms should still retain their shape. Sit grilled mushrooms on their caps, gills side up, on a work surface. Stuff with the quinoa mixture, mounding the filling. Place each filled mushroom in an oiled 9" x 13" baking pan. Sprinkle with Italian parsley and pine nuts.

Bake in a 300 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes to heat through. Serve hot with additional parsley and with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Making A Baby for Breakfast


It's probably not what you think. This baby is an apple rich eggy pancake, baked in the oven, where it puffs up dramatically, and then deflates once removed from the oven. My River City sis has been talking about these babies for years, so it was nice to finally enjoy some for breakfast.

As your oven preheats you caramelize peeled and sliced apples in butter and sugar. You also mix up a batter similar to a crepe batter. They used to use a blender but now mix the batter in a high sided bowl with a stick blender. It all goes together pretty quickly.

The fun begins when the batter hits the hot oven. Poof...the batter puffs up and almost overflows the pan. The bottom and sides brown up while the middle, full of apple slices, stays pale.

Serve the deflated baby in wedges, with powdered sugar like snow over the top. It is a sublime dish, buttery and not too sweet, with the mellow taste of cooked apples, too.


Apple Pancakes
from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
makes one puffy 10-inch pancake

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (McIntoshes are good)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

About 5 tablespoons confectioners sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apples)

Preheat the oven to 435 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet or shallow pan and take off heat. If the handle of the skillet is not ovenproof, wrap it with several layers of foil. Remove 2 tablespoons melted butter and set aside in a small bowl.

Put the prepared apple slices in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Stir the cinnamon into the sugar and sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apples slices. Toss to mix. Put the skillet back on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Add the apples and cook, stirring often, for about 3 - 4 minutes, or until the apples are tender but still hold their shape.

In a separate bowl (or blender, or food processor) combine the eggs, salt, mil, and the reserved two tablespoons melted butter. Blend thoroughly. We find that a stick blender used in a bowl with high sides works really well. Once the mixture is blended, add the flour and blend/beat until smooth.

Spread the apples evenly over the bottom of the skillet and pour the batter on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and puffy.


Turn immediately onto a warm platter so the apples are on top. Dust with a little confectioners sugar and serve at once.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sticky Buns - Now In Lemon


Well, the roller coaster ride is almost over. It's been fun and thrilling, but it's impossible to blog when you are up in the air and down. Besides, when you are thrilled but also a bit scared and waving your hands at the top, but gripping hard to the grab bar on the way down and in the curves, a girl gets preoccupied.

Over a week ago I ended a post with a photo of the lemon sticky buns I made. At last I'm going to be able to share the recipe with you. Why lemon? Well, spring always makes me want to cook and bake with lemon for some reason. Probably it the zing of lemon. Spring is a kind of zingy season. Another reason is my usual thinking...if cinnamon and brown sugar and cream make awesome sticky buns, what else could you substitute for at least some of those ingredients that would also make awesome, but really different, buns? So my lemon sticky buns are about as far away from cinnamon ones as you can get.

I started with my favorite sticky bun dough, which is the one I use for the awesome sticky buns. When I rolled out half the dough I spread on some softened cream cheese because lemon and dairy are a great combo. Then I spread on some lemon curd. I like buns with lots of filling. Then I sprinkled on some coconut. It's another end of winter/early spring flavor to my mind and goes great with lemon. The dough was then rolled up in the usual fashion and cut into buns, which I froze on a parchment lined baking sheet.

The recipe for the sticky part was trickier. I started with some melted butter, just like the awesome cinnamon recipe, then added both lemon juice and lemon zest. Regular sugar instead of brown seemed right, but I kept it to a smaller amount so that the sauce would be tart. Finally, after I put the buns on top of the sauce, I poured on some heavy cream and then let it all sit overnight in the fridge, so all the ingredients could get to know each other and the dough.

These were not quite as awesome as the cinnamon ones...it's pretty hard to beat good cinnamon sticky buns...but they were delicious and the sauce was really, really good. Sweetie licked his fingers to get every bit of it.

This would make a welcome addition to your Easter breakfast or Spring morning feast.The recipe makes a pan of 10-12 buns, plus 10-12 more buns for the freezer. When you are ready to bake them, just make up another batch of the sauce and be sure to let the pan sit until the buns both thaw and puff up a bit. When you bake them it will be hard to tell that you were using frozen buns. Need Lemon Sticky Buns for a crowd? Make up another batch of the sauce and bake two pans with 10-12 buns in each. You will be the hit of the party!


Lemon Sticky Buns
makes 20-24 rolls

1 package yeast (1/4 oz / 7 grams)
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 108-110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar
Place yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes to proof the yeast.

1 cup all-purpose flour, whisked with 1 cup water until smooth
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
Add the yeast mixture to the flour/water mixture. Mix in the melted butter, sugar, eggs and salt.

6-8 cups all-purpose flour
Add enough flour to make a soft dough (6 - 8 cups). Oil a large bowl or rising container. Add the dough and turn to coat, cover and let rise until doubled.

Divide the dough in half. Work with each piece separately.

Roll the first piece of dough to a 12" x 10" rectangle.

4 oz. softened cream cheese
Spread dough with 4 oz. softened cream cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edges plain.

1/2 cup prepared lemon curd (recipe can be found here or purchase good quality lemon curd)
Spread the lemon curd evenly over the cream cheese on the dough rectangle.

1/4 cup shredded coconut (or to taste)
Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the lemon curd.

Roll up from the long side and cut into 1" to 1 1/2" slices (cut 10-12). I used dental floss to cut them, which works well. Just slip a length of clean dental floss under the roll, cross the ends and pull quickly. One bun cut and ready to be laid on the parchment paper (for freezing) or the pan.

Repeat  with the second piece of dough, with the rolling out, spreading with cream cheese, lemon curd, coconut, rolling and cutting into buns.

If making buns right away, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2 sticks melted butter
8 lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups heavy cream

In a 9" x 13" pan, place 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter.
In a small bowl combine 1 cup granulated sugar, the zest from one lemon and the juice from four lemons. Whisk to combine, then pour over the melted butter in the pan, pouring in a thin stream all over the pan.
Place 10-12 of the buns, cut side down, over the lemon butter mixture, leaving space between the buns. Pour 2/3 cup heavy cream over and around the buns. Repeat with the second set of buns, using another stick of butter, more lemon zest and juice and sugar and heavy cream. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft free place for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the buns fill the pan and puff up a bit. 

Bake in preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Tops will be golden brown and the sauce will be bubbly. Let pan rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides by running a knife around the sides. Taking extreme care not to touch the hot buns or sauce (which can burn you), turn the pan over a sheet pan with sides, so the bottom is on top. Scrape off any of the sauce that sticks to the baking pan. Let cool until just warm before serving. Serve with the sticky side up, with a bit of sauce.

Want to do the frozen buns? Place freshly cut buns, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, then put frozen buns in a zip closing sealed freezer bag. I usually make up the frozen buns by starting the night before so that they can thaw in the fridge overnight. Put the melted butter into the baking pan, mix up and pour on the lemon mixture, put in the frozen buns, being sure to leave lots of room around them in the pan, pour on the heavy cream, then put plastic wrap over the pan and put in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning take the baking pan out of the fridge and let it sit to warm up while you preheat the oven. Bake in the usual way. You may need to allow another five minutes for the buns that were frozen, but they should be ready for breakfast and you will be the clever one who didn't have to get up at 4 in the morning to start them!





Sunday, March 16, 2014

Waterproofed and Delicious


I've always been a water baby. I love baths, swimming, walking in the rain. I'm also an Aquarian for my horoscope...a water sign. Perhaps that's why this month's recipe caught my interest. I was reading bread recipes in Beard on Bread. James Beard was the American chef who was most instrumental in having Americans take pride in American food in the 50's, 60's and 70's when gourmet food was always food from another, country, especially France. It's a great book. 

The Water-Proofed Bread uses a rising process I'd never heard of. 
Here is what he writes about his Water-Proofed Bread: "Although the dough in this recipe is fairly difficult to handle, it makes a very delicate, brioche-like bread with a rich, buttery, eggy taste. It is extraordinarily good, ideal for tea or for eating with butter, jam and marmalade, and toasts extremely well. It can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for 3-4 weeks. The bread is called "water-proofed" because the dough is submerged in a bath of water for the first rising." 

In searching the internet I only found one place where someone had tried this and they liked it but moaned about a ruined tea towel, then went on the make the next water-proofed dough in the book without water-proofing it. I guess I want to see if it is worth a soiled tea towel. I've never seen this method anywhere else and am a sucker for different methods, so I chose it for this month for the Bread Baking Babes since I'm Kitchen of the Month.

See, it floats!
The theory is that the dough, being delicate, will benefit from rising in water where the water barrier will keep the yeast produced gases inside the dough, for a better first rise. Having it wrapped in a tea towel is probably necessary since Beard says this is a sticky dough, even when the first kneading is done.

 I also like the description of the finished bread. Since I'm restricted in how much bread I can eat, it is nice to choose one that I can enjoy with tea and enjoy toasted! Hope you enjoy it, too. Knowing the creativity and boldness of the Babes, we might end up with some whole grain flours or herbs or cardamom...who knows? Let's get watery! 
PLEASE VISIT the OTHER BREAD BAKING BABES sites, too. Links are at the bottom of this post.

I particularly want to introduce our two newest Babes, Aparna and Cathy. They are both awesome bread bakers and delightful bloggers.

Water-Proofed Bread
from Beard on Bread, 1973
makes two loaves

2 packages active dry yeast 
1/2 cup warm water (100 - 115 degrees F, approximately) 
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 
1/2 cup warm milk 
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter 
2 teaspoons salt 
3 eggs 
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour More flour for the tea towel 

Rinse a 4-quart mixing bowl with warm water. Dry thoroughly. Put in the yeast, the 1/2 cup warm water, and the teaspoon of sugar, and stir until the yeast dissolves. Allow to proof for 5 minutes. 

Heat the milk with the butter and 1/4 cup sugar until lukewarm, then add to the yeast mixture. Add the salt and stir to blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, and again blend thoroughly.(Note from Elle: I actually added 1 cup of flour after the salt and before the eggs, just to give the mixture a little body. That seemed to work well. I added the rest of the flour after the eggs had been stirred in one at a time until well blended.) 

Then stir in 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, to make what will probably be a very wet and sticky dough. Stir quite vigorously. 

Spread out the dough on a working surface - a table, a piece of marble, or a board - sprinkled with the additional 1/2 cup flour. Use a baker's scraper or large spatula to work in this last portion of flour and make the dough firmer. Scrape under the flour and the dough, lifting and folding inward. Repeat until the flour is well incorporated. When the dough is easy to handle, begin kneading by hand. (Note from Elle: I worked in another 1/2 cup flour here.) 

Continue until the dough can be shaped. (The process of kneading first with the scraper and then by hand if very effective for delicate dough. In this case the dough will remain rather sticky, but don't worry about it.)

 Lift the dough, pat with flour, and place on a clean kitchen towel also sprinkled with flour. Wrap it and tie it in the towel, just as you would a package, but very loosely. Submerge this packet in a large bowl filled with warm water (about 100 - 115 degrees F, approximately). It will sink. Let sit for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until it rises sufficiently to float on top of the water. (Note from Elle: Took mine closer to an hour). Lift the dough from the water and let the excess water drip off.

Un-wrap and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Again it will be quite sticky, so scrape off any dough that adheres to the towel. Knead and shape into two loaves, using both dough scraper and your hands. Thoroughly butter two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and place one loaf in each pan. Cover, put in a warm, draft-free place, and let the dough rise slightly above the tops of the pans, or until almost doubled in bulk. 

 Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the dough with cold water, and, if you like, make a slash in each loaf with a sharp knife. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when rapped with the knuckles, top and bottom. When done, place the loaves directly on the oven rack, without their pans, to brown the bottom a little more and crisp the crusts. Cool on racks. 


 Well, that was fun! The water proofed dough is in the pans doing the final rise, and it worked...the dough packet floated to the top. I did find that the dough around the towel was a bit wetter than the dough further into the dough ball, so I made sure to really do a thorough knead with the bench scraper once I turned it all out onto the floured board. That also worked in the wetter bits I scraped off the tea towel.The tea towel rinsed out pretty well with cold water, and I ran it through the washer to finish the job.

 Since I did all that kneading, the dough was really knocked down. It took a while for it to rise in the pan, but after it baked it was be a lovely, light, luscious bread! I was delicate, rich and had a nice moist crumb. Very tasty! Makes excellent toast, too.

 Here are the links for the wonderful, talented, and inventive Bread Baking Babes (I know, no 'B' adjectives, but I had too much Scotch last night when we celebrated Sweetie's birthday, so lets roll with what words I can dredge up, OK?). Do visit their sites and see how this turned out for them.

Katie of Thyme for Cooking, our Fabulous Round-Up Babe

Bake My Day - Karen

Blog from Our Kitchen - Elizabeth

Bread Experience - Cathy

Girlichef - Heather

Life's a Feast - Jamie

Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya

Lucullian Delights - Ilva

My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna

My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna

Notitie van Lien - Lien



Not Waterproof...Water Proofed

Very sorry that the post will be delayed, but do check out the posts by the Bread Baking Babes today. We are baking a very unusual bread, proofed in water.  Post coming soon!  XO, Elle

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Irish/British Dessert You May Not Know


Please welcome NoHandle again, with a wonderful, seasonal guest post:

About 25 years ago, in March, I had occasion to travel to Britain and Norway, and back to Britain before heading home. It was not a holiday, but the launch of my company's new computer product, and the Norwegians were one of our "beta" customers. I was taken care of in Britain by a local employee of the company Stuart P. (and a long overdue Thank-You to Stuart and family) and in the first few hours I learned that there were things in Britain that were unknown in the U.S. Among these were "work to rule" which delayed my departure from the airport by a few hours, halogen stovetops, Comic Relief red noses on cars, which was in only it's second year, the driver's seat being on the other side of the car, and a desert called Banofee Pie. The name is a portmanteau of Banana and Toffee. Now this is not the crunchy candy you may know as Almond Toffee, but something closer to soft caramel. While I did not sample this desert at the time, I was introduced to it by Stuart's charming son and daughter, who were quite enthusiastic about it. I reciprocated by describing Pecan Pie, which you can find in the cookbook Elle, the keeper of this blog, has published. (It's still in print.) The desert has been wildly popular in both Britain and Ireland since its creation in about 1970. Being close to St. Patrick's Day lets me talk about it as an Irish dessert. As I said it is wildly popular there too.

There is an element of danger in preparing this desert. Most recipes call for boiling a sealed can of condensed (not evaporated) milk for a few hours.

If you don't keep it completely covered in water it may redecorate your kitchen! What can be more fun than the chance, even a slight chance, of things exploding? There is also the danger that you will find it as popular as the English and Irish do, which could become a danger to your waistline. Aside from this element, the recipe is simple and quick. One of the online sources suggests boiling in the evening and letting it cool overnight. The milk can be prepared months in advance with no ill effect. If you are lazy, and your supply chain supports it, you can get pre-boiled caramelized condensed milk directly from Carnation under a couple of different names; Dulce de Leche is one. Another uniquely British ingredient is Digestive Biscuits, but you can substitute Graham Crackers with no harm to the taste. Over there biscuit can mean either cracker or cookie. There are one or two recipes that use chocolate biscuits (but not chocolate coated biscuits), but that seems to me to be gilding the lily.

The night (or several nights) before let one or more 14 oz. cans of condensed milk boil for three hours or so, and allow it to cool overnight. Removing the label first is a good idea.


In the morning, pulverize the biscuits or Graham crackers, melt butter, and combine to create the crust mixture. I used a rolling pin to get it started, and finished in the blender. Cover the bottom and sides (about 2 inches up the sides) of a Springform pan, or similar, to form the crust. As you may be able to tell from the pictures, I used an ordinary pie pan, which results in having more ingredient than place to put them. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. While the crust is cooling, open one can of the cooled caramelized condensed milk


and warm it some, cut the bananas into thin slices enough to build a dense layer in the pan, and whip the cream. An egg slicer makes a great banana slicer.

You may want to combine instant coffee crystals into the cream, or you may not. Other options are shaved chocolate or candied pecans as toppings. There seems to be no agreement on which is more authentic, but most do not talk about the nuts.

When the crust is ready, fill the bottom with the toffee (caramelized milk), smooth out the layer, add a layer of sliced bananas


 (actually about three layers), and then top with a layer of whipped cream. Add any garnish that suits your fancy (I shaved dark chocolate with a microplane, and garnished with a few stray banana slices), release from the pan, slice and serve. The pie can be kept in the refrigerator for several hours before serving, and any leftovers for a couple of days after. It may not last that long, as it is said to make a great guilty late-night snack.

Banofee Pie
Serves 8, generously

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE PIE CRUST:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 10-oz. package of digestive biscuits, such as McVities brand [or a similar quantity (two of the three internal packages) of Graham crackers, any brand]

FOR THE FILLING:
1 stick of unsalted butter (optional; I don't think you would notice if it were salted)
½ cup (4 oz) packed dark brown sugar (optional)
1 14-oz. can condensed milk, such as Carnation brand, boiled
4 bananas, sliced into discs 


1 pint heavy whipping cream (double cream in the UK) [three quarters of a pint was enough]
1 tsp. instant coffee crystals (optional)
Grated chocolate, any style

If you include butter and brown sugar, melt the butter, add the sugar, then add the milk, and heat before pouring into the crust, then refrigerate to cool before adding the other layers. I didn't use sugar or butter, and find that the dessert is plenty sweet, and with all the other milk and butter fat present, don't miss the milk or butter either.


Enjoy, NoHandle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Honestly These Are The BEST Sticky Buns


Recently some friends and I had another fun Baking Day. We made scones from scratch...no mixes allowed... then made a nice no knead bread, but the best bread of the day was the sticky buns. Sticky Buns were the most requested recipe the last time we baked together and I happen to have an awesome one. It started life as a Sourdough Sticky Bun recipe. In truth the sourdough tang cuts the sweetness in a very nice way, but since my sourdough starter has been gone for a year, pretty much, I altered the master recipe to use sweet dough.

This is about as far from diet food as you can get. The recipe also makes a lot of buns, so I also figured out how to make them so that you could finish off the buns using frozen dough rolls. That means you can bake just a few or the whole shebang. Just don't crowd them when you put them in the pan. It also means that you don't have to get up at 4 am to start the rolls in order to have baked buns by breakfast. That's got my vote!

Now, let me tell you about these. They are very buttery, soft in the middle and coated with a sticky sauce that is really a brown sugar caramel. When eaten just a little warm they are one of the best breakfast treats you can imagine. Leftovers (if there are any), warmed a little, make a great midnight snack or tea time treat. Basically, they are excellent and decadent and soooo delicious whenever you have them.

Think of the recipe as a multi-part exercise in kitchen fun. As with most yeast doughs, you start out proofing the yeast, letting it re-hydrate and bloom in barely warm water. Then you make a rich dough and let it rise. Now for the fun part; rolling out the dough, spreading it with lots and lots of melted butter, then sprinkling on a generous amount of cinnamon, then even more brown sugar and rolling the whole thing up into a log.


You can cut the log into rolls with a sharp knife, but do try the cool trick of sliding a length of dental floss (any kind will do) under the roll, bringing an end up on either side of the roll, crossing the ends and pulling quickly. Presto!


The floss cuts the roll without squashing it and the roll is ready to be laid, cut side down, on parchment paper. Once all the rolls have made it to the parchment paper, they go into the freezer, right on a baking sheet. When frozen solid, you can put them into a seal-able freezer bag to wait until you are ready to bake.

If I know I'll be baking the buns in the morning, I will prepare the pans with melted butter and brown sugar the night before, take the buns out of the freezer bag and put them over the butter mixture, still frozen, then pour on the heavy cream. (I told you this isn't diet food, didn't I?) The pan goes into the fridge overnight. That lets the buns thaw so that in the morning they rise more quickly.

In the morning take the pan out of the fridge, let the buns rise while you preheat the oven, then put the pan in the oven to bake. Even if the rolls still look unrisen and frozen, they still bake up to be lovely, golden brown buns, filling the pan and surrounded with bubbling caramel topping. Well, it becomes topping when you take the pan out of the oven, let it cool slightly, then flip the pan over, with the rolls then coated with the gooey, decadent caramel topping. (See photo at top of post.) Serve and enjoy while they are still warm, but give 'em a few minutes because very hot sugar can burn. While they cool that little bit, just take in that amazing cinnamon-sugar-yeast bread aroma like in the mall, only better. If you make these, let me know how you like them. And give thanks that DeeDee let me have this recipe for the best sticky buns ever, so I can share it with you. Aren't you glad I did?

Unforgettable Cinnamon Sticky Buns from DeeDee 
Frozen slices version
Makes 20 - 24 rolls

1) 1 Pkg yeast
    1 1/2 cups warm water (about 108-110 degrees F)
    1 teaspoon sugar
Place yeast, water and sugar in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes to proof the yeast.


2) 1 cup all-purpose flour, whisked with 1 cup water until smooth
    1/2 cup melted butter, cooled (1 stick)
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 eggs, beaten
    2 teaspoons salt
Add the yeast mixture to the the flour/water mixture. Mix in the melted butter, sugar, eggs and salt.

3) 6-8 cups all-purpose flour
Add enough flour to make a soft dough (6 - 8 cups). Oil a large bowl or rising container, Add the dough, turn to coat, cover and let rise until doubled.

4) Divide dough in half. Work with each piece separately.

Roll the first piece of dough to a 12" x 10" rectangle.

5) 1/2  stick butter (1/4 cup), melted
Spread dough liberally with melted butter, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edges unbuttered

6) 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon

7) 1/3 pound brown sugar
Cover with the brown sugar, leaving a 1/2 inch rim around the edges without brown sugar
(Optional - sprinkle with 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans for Pecan Sticky Buns)


8) Roll up from the long side and cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch slices (cut 10-12). I used dental floss to cut them and they turned out great that way. Here the first batch is laid out for the freezer, but to bake right away, go to step 11.

9) Repeat from step #4 with the other half of dough. You will have a total of 20-24 slices.

10) (OPTIONAL): Place slices, cut side down, on a parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm. Remove from sheet and seal airtight in a zip closed gallon bag. (I put a small piece of waxed paper between the slices to make them easy to remove when I was ready for them.) Return to freezer until ready to bake.

11) When ready to bake, remove frozen slices from freezer (if you froze them). Cover bottom of two 9 x 13 inch pans well with 1/2 cup melted butter each (which means you will use 4 sticks or 2 cups butter for the recipe). 

12) Sprinkle with about 1/3 pound brown sugar in each pan (which means you will use a full pound plus 1/3 of a pound of brown sugar for the whole recipe). 

13) Add the freshly cut or frozen rolls, cut side down. Pour about 2/3 cup heavy cream around the rolls in one pan and 2/3 cup heavy cream around the rolls in the other pan (for a total of 1 1/3 cups heavy cream). Let rise until doubled.

14) Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven for 25 - 30 minutes until brown.
Let rolls cool slightly before serving so no one gets burnt with the hot sugar. Serve with the bottom, sticky, side up. Suggest that ones taken home be reheated in microwave at half power for 1 minute.

I also figured out a lemon version, but that will be in another post.



Saturday, March 08, 2014

Hutch


This post isn't really about cooking or baking, but it is about a new piece of the coming kitchen remodel. I've been looking for a hutch or cabinet with some history and character to hold my dishes and silverware. Yesterday I found the perfect piece on Craigslist and today we went and picked it up. Right not it is living in my future baking center, but eventually will be in the main part of the new kitchen, right near the dining area.


Isn't it pretty? I was made 65 years ago in Louisville, Kentucky of Lancaster maple. The fellow I bought it from grew up with it, but it is in such great condition that it looks almost brand new. The logo on the back says "Willett Lancaster maple". I think it is solid wood (weighs enough!) and it is really beautiful.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Science!


Growing up we were actively discourage from playing with our food. Eating was a serious business. Conversation was encouraged. Spilling milk, which seemed a daily occurrence when there were a lot of little kids, was discouraged. Cleaning your plate was encouraged. You get the idea.

Now that I'm not only a grown up but an elder it seems, playing with food is a blast. This past weekend it was fascinating, too. Warrior woman and I used a kit she found online to have some fun with food science. We made molecular mixology cocktails. Whah? What's that? Well, in this case we used some cool chemicals to create two liquids. When you dropped drops of one of the liquids into the other, it created little liquid filled balls, sort of like caviar. These went into Cosmopolitan cocktails. Frosty! 



Here is the kit from R-EVOLUTION. It's for Cosmopolitans, but they also have other kits for Mojitos and more.

The contents:

You even get pipettes. And recipes. 




You start with cranberry juice, add sugar, then put together a mixture with citrus liquor and lime juice, and some red food coloring, too. This will be the liquid that turns into little globes with a thin skin, the 'caviar'. 


One of the cool chemicals is sodium alginate. It gets added to the cranberry mixture. 


It gets thoroughly mixed in with a stick blender, then sits to let the air bubbles pop. We had to scoop off some of the remaining bubbles, too.




Next you make a bath with water and another of the chemicals, calcium lactate. Science! 

When the cranberry liquid, with it's sodium alginate mixed in, meets this chemical bath, a thin skin forms around the liquid through a chemical reaction. Over time the reaction continues, which leaves you with no liquid inside but a ball more like the tapioca balls in Vietnamese coffee. Either way, the different mouth feel of the spheres swimming in the cocktail is excellent and fun. 



This cute pipette lets you drip the mixture in little drops to create the 'caviar' effect. 



Once you have made enough 'caviar', 


you scoop it out and drain it, then rinse with water. After trying different tools, we found that clean hands were the best thing for scooping the spheres into the sieve. 


They felt weird, too. Weird science!

The Cosmopolitan mixture is pretty normal, vodka, lime juice, triple sec, plus we think you need to add some white cranberry juice. Without it the mixture is pretty strong. We had to use red since we didn't have any white...it makes it harder to photograph, but the last photo shows the drink that way.



Then comes the fun part, adding the 'caviar' to the drink. We didn't have a regular blender, so couldn't blend in ice, which was recommended. Without that blended ice the juice balls sank to the bottom. 


Next time we'll get a blender and blend the drink with ice to allow those cool little spheres to be throughout the drink. Even so, it was excellent to take a gulp of the drink and have tiny little juice spheres floating around in your mouth.


So this was a fun evening and I would recommend the kit, but be sure to get both red and white cranberry juice and make sure you have a blender, too. For more impact, add at least 6 drops red food coloring, but then be sure to work on a non-staining surface, because, like cooking, this can get messy. 

The bottom line is that in the end you have a delicious cocktail unlike any you've likely had outside of a trendy bar. Yay for science!