Friday, April 29, 2011

Flaky Scones


Like many women in North America, I woke up extra early this morning to watch the Prince William and Kate Middleton get married. My daughter woke up even earlier to watch the BBC "pre-game" coverage. We sprawled on the sofa in our pajamas and breakfasted on scones. Since it was a special occasion, we pronounced the word scones properly, to rhyme with "gone" rather then "bone". Promptly at 6:30, Charlie changed for school and headed off for another long day of classes, while I stayed in my pajamas and watched all of the post-game analysis.

I was going to make traditional English scones from Delia Smith or Rachel Allen, but then I saw this recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (RLB) and I just had to try it. The directions are lengthy, but don't let that put you off, these scones are not difficult. These scones have a beautiful flaky texture, caused by rolling and turning the dough. While I'm not an expert at rolling dough, I'm not afraid of it either, so I just followed the excellent directions and flaky, buttery scones were my reward.

I did make a couple of adjustments. Since I was planning to serve them before dawn, I decided to make the dough the night before, and freeze the unbaked scones on the baking sheets. I'd done this with other scones recipes, some actually call for freezing the dough before baking, as it relaxes the gluten. My finished scones were a bit doughy in the center, as I didn't add enough extra baking time to compensate. However, the flavor and texture was otherwise scrumptious, and didn't slow their consumption one bit. I also left out the currants this time, as Charlie doesn't care for them. Instead, I spread my warm scone with my favorite apricot jam, sat back with my darling girl, and marveled at the pomp and pageantry of the royals.

Baker's Notes: I will try this recipe again, increasing the salt, using the currants, and baking the dough without freezing it first, to see if there's a difference in flavor or texture. RLB strongly suggests using Hecker's flour, which is also called Ceresota, available at supermarkets. I didn't want to cut the dough in triangles, so I just used a bench knife to cut 2" squares, no scraps to mess about with.

Flaky Scones
adapted from The Bread Bible

  • 1 cup (8 ounces/ 227 grams) unsalted butter, cold
  • 4 ¼ cups (21.25 ounces/608 grams) unbleached all purpose flour, preferably Hecker’s
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces/100 grams) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (9.6 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.7 grams) salt
  • 2 liquid cups (16.3 ounces/464 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (4.5 ounces/131 grams) currants

Equipment:

  • 2 half sheet pans lined with nonstick liners such as Silpat or parchment
  • A baking stone OR baking sheet

Preheat the oven to 400°F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven rack at the middle level and set a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and with your fingertips, press the cubes into large flakes. (Or use an electric mixer, mixing until the butter is the size of small walnuts.) Stir in the cream just until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to come together in large clumps. Stir in the currants. Knead the dough in the bowl just until it holds together, and turn it out onto a lightly floured board.

Lightly flour the top of the dough (or use a floured pastry sleeve), and roll it out into a long rectangle 1 inch thick and about 8 inches by 12 inches; use a bench scraper to keep the edges even by smacking it up against the sides of the dough. Fold the dough in thirds, lightly flour the boards again, and rotate the dough so that the closed side faces to the left. Roll it out again and repeat the “turn” 3 more times, refrigerating the dough, covered with plastic wrap, for about 15 minutes as necessary only if it begins to soften and stick.

Roll out the dough once more. Trim the edges so that it will rise evenly. (To use the scraps, press them together and roll out, giving them 2 turns, then roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick square and cut it into 2 triangles.)

Cut the dough in half lengthwise so you have 2 pieces, each about 4 inches by 12 inches. Cut each piece of dough into triangles with about a 3-inch-wide base and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. (The dough will rise but not expand sideways.) If the dough is soft, cover it well with plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour before baking. (At this point, I froze the wrapped baking sheets overnight)

Bake the scones one sheet at a time: cover the second sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you bake the first one, then bake the second pan directly from the refrigerator. Place the pan on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet and bake the scones for about 15 to 20 minutes (if dough is frozen, it will take at least 20-25 minutes) or until the edges begin to brown and the tops are golden brown and firm enough so that they barely give when pressed lightly with a finger (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a scone will read about 200°F). Check the scones after 10 minutes of baking, and if they are not browning evenly, rotate the baking sheet from front to back. Do not over bake, as they continue baking slightly on removal from the oven and are best when slightly moist and soft inside.

Cool the scones, placing two linen or cotton towels on two large racks and, using a pancake turner, lift the scones from the baking sheets and set them on top. Fold the towels over loosely and allow the scones to cool until warm or at room temperature. (Since linen or cotton “breathes,” the scones will have enough protection to keep from becoming dry and hard on the surface but will not become soggy.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oatmeal Bread #1


You may be surprised to know I'd never made oatmeal bread before. How could I have missed this? Brown, sweet, nutty bread just begging for butter and jam. Lovely toasted for breakfast, delicious with my favorite tuna salad, where have you been all my life? Charlie, who would no sooner eat a bowl of oatmeal than a tarantula, practically inhaled it for breakfast.

The other morning, I noticed we were running low on sandwich bread, so I pulled out this recipe. The bread was easy to make, and even though I may have rushed the second rising a bit, it still turned out great. Kinda sweet, as you might expect from a recipe containing a whole cup of sugar, but yummy nonetheless. For me this may be a entry point to a whole new world of oatmeal bread, there are so many recipes out there, I plan to try a few of them soon.

Baker's Notes: I did make the recipe as written, using a full cup of brown sugar, but I also feel guilty about it, and would cut back next time. I don't own 9"x 5" bread pans, this worked fine in my 8 ½' x 4 ½" pans. The rising times are approximate, and for me, rising usually takes longer. As you can see in the photo, the crust got a bit too brown, I should have moved the oven rack to the lower third from the center. You could also check the bread toward the end, and slide a piece of foil over the top for the last ten minutes of baking.

No-Knead Oatmeal Bread

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 ¾ cups old fashioned rolled oats
3 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1 (¼ ounce) package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or use more all purpose)

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, salt and oats. Stir in boiling water and butter; let stand until lukewarm.

Sprinkle yeast into ¼ cup warm water and stir until dissolved. Add yeast mixture to oat mixture and mix. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time. The dough will be sticky.

Transfer dough to a large, clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk. This could take from 1 ½ to 3 hours, depending on your conditions. Here's the no-knead part: take a large silicone spatula or wooden spoon and lift and drop the dough back into the bowl three to four times.

Grease or spray two 9"x 5" loaf pans and divide dough into equally between the pans. Spray two pieces of plastic wrap, and place them, sprayed side down, over each pan. Let dough rise again, until doubled in bulk. The dough should crest one inch over the edge of the pan.

Meanwhile, set the oven rack to lower third, and preheat the oven to 450°F. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F. and bake for another 45 minutes.

Remove bread immediately from pans and cool on wire racks. Keeps, wrapped in aluminum foil, for at least two days.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hot Cross Buns With Currants, Apricots, and Cranberries


Easter is nearly here, and this year, I actually have time to do a bit of holiday baking! Usually, I work on tax returns all Easter weekend, my family is lucky to get a ham dinner. This year, the holiday is so late in the season, I finally have time to bake hot cross buns, my favorite Easter treat. I usually buy them at my local bakery, but they're never quite what I hope they'll be.

I had several recipes to choose from, but this one, based on Sara Foster's from her first cookbook, The Foster's Market Cookbook, won out for its flavor combinations. Sara based her recipe on her grandmother's dinner roll recipe, then updated the fruit and spices for a brighter version. So first I'll give you the master dough recipe, then the bun recipe. Apparently, you can leave the master dough in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, so really, there's no excuse for not treating yourself. We'll make the rolls another day, very soon.

I loved the flavor of these rolls, just as gingersnaps mean Christmas or peach pie means summer, the fruit and spice blend of these buns mean spring is near, even if Chicago weather disagrees. I didn't use the lemon zest, nor a lemon glaze, because I didn't want them to be too citrusy. Nutmeg is the traditional spice I believe, or at least its the one I'm used to, but I really preferred the mace and cardamom here. My buns did come out a little denser than I'd hoped, I think I over-kneaded them a bit. Still delicious, and definitely worth making again.


Baker's Notes: Next time, I might experiment with the recipe by mixing in the fruit before the first rise, so the dough has a chance to more easily integrate the fruit and spices. I made a simple milk/confectioner's sugar glaze for the crosses, but mine needed to be thicker. I think apricots are the secret flavor weapon here, but use whatever dried fruit you like, if raisins are all you have, use them and enjoy.

Granny Foster's Refrigerator Rolls
adapted from The Foster's Market Cookbook, which I own and love

  •    ½ cup warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
  •     1 quarter-ounce package active dry yeast
  •     8    tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  •     2    cups    milk
  •     1    teaspoon    salt
  •     6 to 6 ½    cups    all-purpose flour
 
Place the warm water, yeast, and about 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl; stir once or twice just to mix. Let stand in a warm place for 5 or 7 minutes, until small bubbles form on top.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the butter, milk, salt, and remaining sugar and cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Do not let the mixture go over 115 degrees or it will kill the yeast; it should be just warm enough for the sugar to dissolve. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture and stir until combined. Stir in about 6 cups of the flour and mix until the mixture forms a soft dough. Add the remaining flour if the dough is still sticky.

Remove the mixture from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured work surface 5 to 8 times, until dough forms a ball or comes together.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl; cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Divide in half, use one part for hot cross buns, store the other in the refrigerator for up to two weeks for rolls, or more hot cross buns.



Hot Cross Buns With Raisins, Apricots, And Cranberries
adapted from The Foster's Market Cookbook

  •     ½   recipe  Granny Foster’s Refrigerator Rolls dough
  •     1    teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •     ½   teaspoon ground mace or ground nutmeg (I used mace)
  •     ½   teaspoon ground cardamom
  •     ¼   teaspoon ground allspice
  •     Grated zest of 1 lemon (I omitted this time)
  •     Grated zest of 1 orange
  •     ⅓    cup    currants or dark raisins
  •     ⅓    cup    chopped dried apricots
  •     ⅓    cup    dried cranberries
  •     ⅓    cup    golden raisins
  •     Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  •     Milk Glaze: 1-2 tablespoons milk or crea, mixed with 1 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a baking sheet and set aside.

Remove the refrigerator roll dough from the refrigerator and punch it down. Cover and set aside to rest at room temperature at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

Combine the cinnamon, mace, cardamom, allspice, lemon zest, orange zest, currants, apricots, cranberries, and raisins in a bowl and stir to mix.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead the fruit-and-spice mixture into the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is evenly distributed.

Divide the mixture into 12 pieces, each one about the size of a small orange. Roll and knead each piece of dough into a round by pressing down lightly and cupping the dough as you roll.

Place the shaped rolls on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart and allow them to rise, loosely covered, about 30-60 minutes in a warm place, until the dough has almost doubled in size. Brush the rolls with the egg wash and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown and firm to the touch.

Remove the rolls from the oven and allow to cool. Drizzle or pipe a crisscross shape across the top of the rolls with the glaze and allow to dry before serving.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Matzoh Buttercrunch


We don't celebrate Passover at my house, we're on the Easter team. But since I was little, I've associated the Passover holiday with unusual treats. Egg and Onion matzoh and those sticky candy fruit slices appeared as after-school snacks. Later, when Charlie was in elementary school, she looked forward to the school's seder just so she could enjoy some matzoh.

I've been a subscriber of betterbaking.com for years, so I'd read about Marcy's famous buttercrunch recipe ages ago. I rediscovered it on David Lebovitz's blog more recently, and it's his recipe I've used here. I love buttercrunch, I make pounds of it at Christmas for gifts, but I love the matzoh version too. It's quick and easy, doesn't require a candy thermometer, and the matzoh adds a nice texture. Some would call it matzoh crack, it's that addictive. Don't worry, a box of matzoh will make 2-3 batches of crunch, so plan ahead and make enough to share.

Baker's Notes: This is a great recipe for novice candymakers, since it relies on time and not temperature to make the caramel. It's important to pick a time when they're are no other distractions in the kitchen, both for success and safety. The pan preparation seems like overkill, but trust me, that prep prevents a big mess.


Matzoh Buttercrunch
adapted from David Lebovitz, he got it from Marcy Goldman

  •     4-6    sheets    unsalted matzohs
  •     1    cup    unsalted butter -- cut into chunks
  •     1    cup    firmly-packed light brown sugar
  •     big    pinch sea salt (I used kosher)
  •     ½    teaspoon    vanilla extract
  •     1    cup    semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet, semisweet, or milk chocolate)
  •     1    cup    toasted sliced almonds (optional)

Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11" x 17″) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges. Cover the foil with a sheet of parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.

In a 3-4 quart heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add the salt and vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.

Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350F degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325F, then replace the pan.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.

Let cool completely, the break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week.

David Lebovitz's Note: If making for passover, omit the vanilla extract or find a kosher brand.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Baked" Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

 


I can't believe it took so long to try this recipe, after all, it comes from the Baked boy's latest cookbook, and it contains two of my favorite ingredients - oatmeal and chocolate. Now that I've finally made, and eaten it, I'm really ticked that I waited so long. It's super easy, no mixer required, and it has a nice buttery oatmeal flavor, punctuated by cinnamon and chocolate. Keep a copy of this recipe in your weekend bag, it makes the perfect contribution to a dinner or brunch.

 If it sounds familiar, it's because I made a different version last month. This one is much better.

Baker's Notes: While the tiny amount of liquor seems odd, this method of coating the chocolate chips does work, so I will use it again. I wonder if vanilla extract would be as effective? The original recipe calls for a 45 minute bake time, which seemed long for a fairly shallow cake. Try testing it at the 30 minute mark. I have an old 8" x 11" pan, I may try it next time, so the cake would be a bit thicker. I opted out of the original recipe's cream cheese frosting, as I thought it would distract from the oatmeal/chocolate/cinnamon flavors.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake                                                                     adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
  • 8 ounces chocolate chips (about 1½  cups)
  • ½  teaspoon bourbon, Scotch, or your favorite liquor
  • 1½  cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 generous teaspoon cinnamon
Heat 1¼ cups water to boiling. Place the oats and cubed butter in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oat mixture, wait 30 seconds, and stir to moisten all the oats and melt the butter. Set the mixture aside for 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F and position the rack in the center of the oven. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan.

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and toss them with the bourbon until covered. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the flour over the chips and toss until coated. This will keep them from settling at the bottom during baking. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, both sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon until combined. Fold in the cooled oatmeal and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the remaining flour and then chocolate chips. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake or 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Keeps well, covered, for at least 2 days.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spekkuk, an Indonesian Spice Cake


It was damp and gloomy in Chicago over the weekend, but since I was working, I didn't mind too much. Sunday afternoon we toured the Museum of Contemporary Art, it was just the break I needed.

When we came home, I was in the mood for cake, or at least for baking one. I'd clipped this recipe long ago,  I love simple pound-type cakes, I love warm spices, and here they are together. It's a cake version of those delicious dutch cookies my mother used to buy, the ones shaped like windmills. Warm and spicy, but not gingery. It looks plain jane, but the fragile, crisp crust yields a velvety interior, and the flavor is wonderful.

Baker's Notes: The original recipe called for kosher salt, I substituted and increased table salt, since kosher won't go through my sifter. I used a 10-inch tube pan, and baked it for 50 minutes. It was just a wee bit dry, so next time I'll test it at 45 minutes. A 9-inch tube pan would take longer, as the writer suggests.

Spekkuk
adapted from Cradle of Flavor, I found it at Leite's Culinaria

  •     2    cups sifted cake flour -- plus more for dusting
  •     ½    teaspoon  baking powder
  •     1    teaspoon  freshly grated nutmeg
  •     ½    teaspoon  ground cloves
  •     4   teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  •     ¼ teaspoon table salt
  •     1 ½   cups  unsalted butter -- at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  •     1 ⅔  cups  granulated sugar
  •     4    large  eggs -- at room temperature
  •     3    large  egg yolks -- at room temperature, lightly beaten
  •     2    teaspoons  vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
  •     2    tablespoons  powdered sugar (optional)


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch tube pan with 3 1/2-inch sides, or use a nonstick pan of the same size but don’t grease and flour it.

Resift the sifted flour along with the baking powder, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl. Now, resift the flour mixture and then set it aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the butter until it’s soft and very pliant, about 1 minute (or 4 to 6 minutes by hand with a wooden spoon). Gradually add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes (or 6 to 8 minutes by hand).

One at time, add the 4 whole eggs and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (or 5 minutes by hand).

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 equal parts, beating on low speed or stirring with the wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and the flour is well combined with the butter mixture. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and continue to beat or stir until they’re well mixed into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Place on the middle oven rack and bake until a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour (though I’d strongly recommend checking it after 40-45 minutes).

Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. If necessary, carefully run a thin knife around the perimeter and the inner rim of the cake to help loosen it from the pan. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift it off of the cake. Turn the cake right side up and let it cool on the rack.

Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with the powdered sugar, if desired.

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