TWD BWJ Rewind: Challah

December 31, 2013 at 11:06 am | Posted in groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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challah bread

Happy New Year!  Have you made any resolutions for 2014?  Normally I wouldn’t, but I have a couple of “situations” that I should get under control STAT.  Resolving to use up my current kitchen cupboard and my bathroom beauty products before buying more is something that has to happen.  I do not need four eye creams or six bottles of hot sauce open at once.  I don’t have the storage space for that, and the clutter on my counters is driving me bananas!

What does Lauren Groveman’s Challah have to do with this?  It’s going to help jam population control (five jars open in the fridge, with four more in the cupboard…sheesh).  The group made this bread in early December, but I didn’t have my act together that week.  I’m glad I got it together, though, because it’s delish.  I just made one loaf, which was a half-recipe, and it’s a huge beauty!  A three-strand braid is so simple to do and it really looks great, but maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to try my hand at five or six.  Maybe.  Even though I’m notoriously stingy with egg wash (I never want to use  up a whole egg for it, and unless I have a bit of extra egg left over from something else, I usually pilfer a tiny bit from the eggs in the recipe),  it still came out with a gorgeous crust.   And the insides are perfectly soft and slightly sweet.  I’m looking forward to challah French toast in a couple of days…topped with jam sauce, of course.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Note that this challah recipe uses melted butter, if that’s a concern for you (although I suspect it could be replaced with oil).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll to see if anyone else did a rewind this week, and see the links page from challah week at the beginning of December!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Gingersnaps

December 17, 2013 at 10:58 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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gingersnaps

Last week I was in paradise, now I’m back to reality.  I’m trying to brighten up the Brooklyn dreariness with a tree and some holiday-spiced cookies.  How convenient that David Blom’s Gingersnaps are up for TWD this week.  Cutout cookies are fun, I think.  Sticky doughs can be tricky to work with and get soft quickly, but I’ve found that rolling out dough on parchment and then chilling the rolled sheet for 10 or so minutes before punching out shapes makes the process a lot easier.

I heard that these cookies tasted more like molasses than ginger, so I doubled the spices in my batch.  I also reduced the water called for in the recipe to just 1 tablespoon, as I didn’t think the dough needed so much extra moisture.  Since I was trying to boost the spiciness, I skipped the molasses glaze and sprinkled my stars with sanding sugar instead.  While I baked these a few minutes longer than the recipe called for, they were still a little more chewy than snappy.  They never quite dried out in the center.

These may not be my ideal gingersnaps (those are from Miette, although I’ve only had them in the shop and have not tried their recipe in my own kitchen), but they were tasty enough and the recipe was small enough that I don’t mind too much.  They were good with tea.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Sweet Potato Ginger Pie

November 25, 2013 at 11:39 am | Posted in pies & tarts, sweet things | 14 Comments
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sweet potato ginger pie

I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner myself this year.  You never know what you’re gonna get when you’re not in charge, so I had to make a pre-Thanksgiving pie for the two of us here at home.

I mixed things up from the typical pumpkin pie by making a sweet potato one.  To tell you the truth, I think that pumpkins and sweet potatoes can make pretty interchangeable pie fillings in terms of taste, because they’re often identically spiced.  This pie, though, mixes it up a bit in the spice department.  It’s a little more ginger-heavy than most– a little more zippy– and leaves out the traditional cloves entirely.  When I make a pumpkin pie I normally reach for a can-opener, but this filling uses a fresh-roasted sweet potato.  If you have a big potato left over from last night’s dinner, you can use that, no problem.  Using a fresh sweet potato for a custard pie gives a slightly different texture than canned pumpkin does.  The sweet potato filling is not quite as velvety smooth as pumpkin filling– it’s a little more dense and substantial.

Happy Thanksgiving!

sweet potato ginger pie

Sweet Potato Ginger Pie- makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from the wonderfully reliable Melissa Clark

Steph’s Note: To speed things along, you can cook the sweet potato in advance or use a leftover one for this pie.  Just bring it to room temperature before processing the filling.

single-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough, well-chilled
1 c cooked sweet potato

3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
3 eggs
2/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt

-To make the filling, cut a slit into one large sweet potato and wrap tightly in foil.  Bake at 400°F until sweet potato is very soft, about an hour.  Let cool.

-Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle.  Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate.  Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.

-Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for at least 15 minutes.  Cover the pie with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with pie weights.  Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes (you can do this while the sweet potato is also in the oven).  Remove the foil or parchment and weights and bake until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes more.  Cool on a rack until needed.

-Scoop 1 cup of cooked, cooled sweet potato into food processor, discarding skin.  Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.  Add all remaining filling ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth.  You can skip this, but if you want to smooth the filling out a bit more, strain it by pressing through a fine sieve.

-Spoon filling into pie crust and spread until flat and even.  Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is mostly firm and set but jiggles slightly when moved, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Double Chocolate Cookies

November 19, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 18 Comments
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double chocolate cookies

Rick Katz’s Double Chocolate Cookies came along at just the right time…I have been majorly craving chocolate lately.  I’ve hardly touched the stuff in the last six months, and that’s just plain unnatural!

I knew exactly what these cookies would be like.  I’ve worked in two places where we made cookies very similar to this, method and everything (just in way bigger batches).  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if my two former chefs started with this recipe originally.  These are rich– a dark chocolate batter with extra chocolate bits mixed in (preferably a high percentage bittersweet)– and exactly the fix I was looking for.  The recipe intro calls them something like “half cookie, half brownie,” and that about sums it up.  You have to whip the heck out of the eggs and sugar when you make these, so they get that awesome brownie-like crackle shell, but they’re really soft inside.  As soon as they cool from baking, they’re pretty gooey.  But give them the better part of a day, or even overnight, and they become chewy.  So good.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also all over the Interwebs) Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

October 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in cupcakes, sweet things | 14 Comments
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pumpkin cupcakes

Some days I do not know what the heck I’m doing.  I put toothpaste on my Clarisonic.  I almost forget the pumpkin in my pumpkin cupcakes.  Luckily, I usually realize something’s amiss before it’s too late, so both my face and my cupcakes wound up alright…this time.

Speaking of forgetting the pumpkin, I once had a British guy point out to me that all this “American baked pumpkin stuff” just tastes like spices, so why bother with the pumpkin at all?  I’d never really thought about that before, and I guess he was almost right about the taste, but I certainly do think there’s reason to bother.  Not only does pumpkin puree make quickbreads and cakes nice and moist, (and orange, of course), but I think that pumpkin has a bit of earthiness to it, keeping them from being just sweet spice cakes.  Also squash makes cupcakes healthier??  Maybe I’m kidding myself there.  I do happen to love the fall spices, though, and these cupcakes have just the right amount.  And what do I need to say about cream cheese frosting, except for “yes please”?

These are a great treat anytime in the cooler weather, but add a few black and orange sprinkles and they turn into Halloween cupcakesHappy Halloween!

Pumpkin Cupcakes- makes 18-20 cupcakes
from Leite’s Culinaria, but seen all over the interwebs in both cupcake and layer cake form

Steph’s Note:  Don’t need that many cupcakes?  Make a half-batch to get 9-10, and halve the frosting as well.

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

-Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C) and prepare your cupcake tins with paper liners.

-In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.

-Add the eggs to the mixer, one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the lined cups–they should be about 3/4 full.

-Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 to 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes.  Remove them from the tins and onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
by me

Steph’s Note:  You can see from my photo that this frosting is soft…the kind to spoon on instead of pipe.  Using a small amount of natural maple flavor instead the larger amount of maple syrup helps, as does preparing the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and then refrigerating it until the cakes are cool.  Cutting back on the powdered sugar (oddly) also helps stiffen up a cream cheese frosting if that’s what you prefer..

1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese (full-fat or reduced-fat Neufchâtel), at cool room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup or 1 tsp natural maple flavor
pinch of salt

-In a food processor, zip the confectioner’s sugar first to break up any lumps.  Add the other ingredients and process until smooth, scraping as needed.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Danish Braid (& Pinwheel)

October 15, 2013 at 9:32 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 18 Comments
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danish braid

I’ve just started working out with a trainer to get my sorry self in shape.  Let’s celebrate that with a big slice of Beatrice Ojakangas’s Danish!  This may not go so well…

I made a Danish braid here once before.  That recipe used what I think is a more traditional method for making Danish dough…there was a separate butter block and lots of chilling between folds (like when we made our croissants).  This one uses a “quick” method, employing the food processor to break down the butter into chunks in the flour.  The rough dough does need to rest in the fridge overnight, but after that, all of the lamination work is done at once, without any waiting in between the turns and folds.  Pretty easy.  I was surprised at how good the results were– crisp and flaky.  If you are wondering how the dough becomes a braid, this video explains all very clearly.

I don’t like to ask too much of myself on a weekend morning, so I cheated a little on the fillings.  Rather than fiddle with homemade pastry cream and fruit spreads, I just whizzed up a quickie sweetened cream cheese filling and combined it with some store-bought apricot jam.  I was pretty jazzed to have a use for the pearl sugar I found at an IKEA ages ago.

When we do a recipe that has several variations, I’m never quite sure if we’ll revisit it later to try out those variations, so I took this opportunity to make my favorite Danish shape with some extra dough–the pinwheel!  This one had the same cream cheese filling as the braid, but with blueberry jam instead of apricot.

danish pinwheel

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  It’s also here, and there’s even a video of Beatrice and Julia making Danish together. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: X Cookies

October 1, 2013 at 12:26 am | Posted in cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 9 Comments
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X cookies

Finally–Nick Malgieri’s X Cookies!  I’ve had a little hunk of pasta frolla in the freezer waiting for these guys ever since we made pizza rustica.  What’s that you say?  That means it’s been in the freezer for almost a year and a half?  Details, details…

X cookies are a take on a traditional Sicilian cookie called cucidati…a sweet dough filled with a paste of dried figs, raisins, orange, nuts, rum, spices, etc. Think of a more grown-up Fig Newton and you’re on the right track.  Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan of darkly flavored dried fruit and spice stuff like this.  I probably would have skipped this recipe, but the process looked fun, and my husband’s half Sicilian, so I thought he might like them.  Of course I tried them, too.  And while they aren’t my favorite (although, as predicted, my husband likes them quite a lot), I can see their appeal when dunked in hot coffee or eaten with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The instructions for forming the Xs were very clear.  It could have been a long process if I’d made a full batch, but I sure don’t need five dozen of them hanging around.  I did just a quarter batch for fifteen cookies.  I didn’t have any dried orange peel, so I improvised by using Grand Marnier instead of rum.

X cookies

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  It’s also here, and there’s even a video of Nick and Julia making the cookies together. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Espresso Profiteroles

September 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Posted in general pastry, groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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espresso profiteroles

Choux paste treats have been well-covered here.  Gougères, éclairs, cream puffs and even crullers–wait, something’s missing.  How could I forget profiteroles, one of my most favorite desserts?   I’ll take care of that one now with Norman Love’s Espresso Profiteroles.

Despite my love of profiteroles, I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for these.  Quite frankly, I thought the picture in the book looked terrible (the choux looked bready, not light).  I’m happy to report that they turned out better than expected.  I’m not sure how much flavor was really contributed by adding coffee to the choux puffs themselves, but they puffed and hollowed nicely.  I used espresso ice cream (instead of cinnamon) and boozed up the chocolate sauce with Kahlua (instead of Grand Marnier), so that took care of the missing coffee flavors.

These are best cut and filled right before serving, when the puffs are crisp and the ice cream is just beginning to soften.  Pre-scooped and frozen is a profiterole no-no for me.  And the sauce should be warm.  Mmmmm…sauce…

espresso profiteroles

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Stonefruit and Almond Upside-Down Cake

September 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, simple cakes, sweet things | 7 Comments
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stonefruit upside-down cake

Fall is in the air and I couldn’t be more excited!  I like summer in theory (long days, trips to the beach, bottles of chilled rosé), but in practice, we don’t have A/C, so I just feel uncomfortable and lazy most of the time.  Not to mention sweaty.  I will miss the summer fruit for sure, but luckily I can still get peaches and plums for another couple of weeks.  Even though I have avoided turning on the oven for most of the past two months, now is a great time to get baking.

I’m quite fond of upside-down cakes, and don’t mind experimenting with them.  Fruit cooked in caramel goo…ain’t nothing wrong with that.  And they’re pretty, too.  We know an upside-down cake is really all about the caramelized fruit, but the cakey part shouldn’t be neglected either (trust me).  This cake has the right balance of sturdiness and softness.  Almond meal and a bit of barley flour help with that texture, and also give it some real flavor (as in we’re not just relying on the fruit).  It’s equally delicious made with peaches, nectarines or plums.  I’ve had it all three ways…maybe next summer I’ll do a combo?  Unless we have company, it takes the two of us four nights to go through an 8-inch cake, and I didn’t feel like this one suffered at all.  (I stored the cakes wrapped in the fridge and brought slices to room temperature as we wanted them).

Don’t you just love how plum skins look like jewels when cooked down?

stonefruit upside-down cake

Stonefruit and Almond Upside-Down Cake– makes an 8-inch cake

Steph’s Notes:  If you don’t have pre-ground almond meal, grind an equal amount of whole almonds, along with 2 tablespoons of the all-purpose flour, in the food processor until fine.  You can replace the barley flour with an equal amount of all-purpose flour, if you wish.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
1 cup sugar
3-4 medium peaches, plums or nectarines, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup barley flour
1/3 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

-Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly butter an 8-inch round cake pan (preferably not a springform one).

-To make the topping, put 1/2 cup of the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium skillet over medium heat. It should look like wet sand. Wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the skillet with a wet pastry brush.  Cook the sugar until it becomes a deep golden brown caramel. This will happen quickly, so don’t walk away. Add 1 tablespoon butter and whisk it in until smooth. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble a bit when the butter goes in.

-Pour the caramel into the bottom of the prepared cake pan and tilt to coat. Arrange the fruit wedges snugly in the bottom of the pan in a single layer, cutting to fit if needed.  It doesn’t matter if the caramel sets up while you are doing this.

-Combine the flours, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.

-Beat the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar (a scant 1/2 cup if you like it less sweet, like I do) in a large bowl with a mixer (or in a stand mixer with the paddle) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just incorporated.

-Spread the batter evenly over the fruit and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

-Transfer to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert onto a plate and let cool completely before serving.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Johnnycake Cobbler

August 20, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 24 Comments
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johnnycake cobbler

I made Johanne Killeen’s Johnnycake Cobbler twice, both times with peaches and red currants.  The first time, I thought the biscuit layer was too thick and the fruit was getting lost underneath all that cornmeal topping.  So I tried again, reducing the topping ingredients by a third.  Now the cobbler to fruit ratio was in much better proportion.  Even with less biscuit on top, in order to get it cooked through, I still had to bake the cobbler for several minutes longer than the recipe stated.

I should warn you that the johnnycake topping uses lots of cream.  Like lots.  I just couldn’t do it– both times, I used a combo of milk and sour cream to replace it (essentially making a higher fat buttermilk-type liquid).  I’m sure it was less rich than the original, but at least I could justify having a little scoop of ice cream alongside.

I’ve been seeing plums at the market, so I’ll probably be giving this a third try soon!

peaches and red currants, about to be cobbled

We’re going without hosts now for TWD, so for the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Nancy and Johanne making the cobbler together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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