Friday, December 14, 2012

Selling my goods to a local cafe...

I've always had a dream of opening up my own cafe.  It would be in Woodside, CA tucked into one of the spaces somewhere within the 4 corners (for those of you who know the area, you know where I mean).  It's cycling central due to being at the base of the best climbs on the peninsula and just far enough away from home where most cyclists end up stopping for one reason or another.  The cafe would be cycling related in that I'd have cycling gear on the walls, bicycle parking outside or an attendant to watch your bike, cycling videos playing non-stop, and of course if any bike races are being broadcast, you know they'd be on!  I'd have kick ass coffee, because that's how Tim and I roll.  I'd also have an array of delicious baked goods, but always on rotation and would be whatever I felt like baking that day. 
Upon thinking how I'd make that dream a reality, I did kickstart a small organic cupcake business out of my home when I was living in CA.  For various reasons, I didn't love that experience.  My oven ran hot, the cakes were all of various types and folks never seemed 100% satisfied with them.  I grew frustrated pretty quickly and decided that perhaps selling my baked goodies wasn't the best idea afterall.
Fast forward to life in London, and every week the mums from nursery to do a coffee morning where usually folks bring something to contribute.  Of course I enjoy this immensely and always bake whatever I feel like that day and something that I know is a crowd pleaser.  My goodies received such rave reviews that a dear friend of mine decided to take it upon herself to become my personal PR spokesperson.  She recently moved a town away and has had difficulty finding a coffee shop with decent baked goods.  So much so that she entered the cafe on the corner of her road, said in so many words that their baked goods were crap and told the owner that he had to try mine and sell them in his shop.  To which the owner replied, 'ok'. 
Alas, here I am...a cafe is interested in meeting with me, sampling my goodies and giving them a whirl at selling them in his shop. 
Of course the big question I'm in the throws of answering is, what baked goods should I bring to him to taste?
I figured about 3-5 different items would be a good start.  In the running are my scones, and cranberry swirl coffee cake (because that cake is my PR friend's favorite and she wants it locally!).  I'm now deciding what the remaining items should be.  Ideas on the list include the morning buns (croissant cinnamon buns: received rave rave reviews, though they are hard work to make), blueberry muffins, double chocolate almond biscotti and buttermilk cinnamon buns.  Out of those items, what 1-3 items would you add to the scones and coffee cake?  Or do you have better ideas that I can try out?  The plan is to present him the items next Friday, so I have a week to prepare.
Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
Thanks!

Follow up: Nutter Butters

I'm learning that I'm terrible at documenting as I go.  Thus, I did make the Nutter Butters shortly after the last post, and they were delicious and received RAVE reviews.  The dough was incredibly sticky and therefore had to be very cold to work with and you had to work quickly.  After doing a handful of cutouts, the dough had to be returned to the refrigerator to be chilled again before continuing.  The dough was simple to make, but just forming the dough into cookies was very time consuming.  I'm also not sure about the cookies being frozen before baking.  I tried both ways - popping them directly into the oven after cutting the dough, and freezing then popping into the oven and didn't notice a difference.  Due to the rave reviews, I think i'll make a few batches of these cookies again and follow the recipe to a T.  I'll also take notes and pictures of the progress and then post it for you to see :).  I'll also post the recipe.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To chill or not to chill...that is the question.

I recently purchased Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookbook, and it is To.Die.For.  Rarely do I open a cookbook and IMMEDIATELY want to make EVERY item in it!  Alas, this one does just that.  And to my surprise (it has a big section dedicated to bread making - a new arena for me), I'm VERY interested in trying some of the breads!  This most likely has to do with the fact that i'm very much in love with a French Brioche bread that costs a small fortune, and i've been thinking about trying to make one myself.  Alas, there is a very lovely recipe for Brioche that i'm going to try shortly.

The common theme in many of his recipes, no matter what type (cookies, doughs, etc.), is refrigerating the dough either for a couple of hours or overnight.  I'm discovering that the 'serious' pastry chefs plan their items very much in advance (taking into account chilling times, etc.) and allot the appropriate time for chilling.  The recipes themselves aren't that different from others that i've seen, what's different is the chilling time.  'They' say that allowing doughs (of any kind) to chill and 'relax' allows the dough to absorb the ingredients to their fullest, which then, in turn, makes the flavors in the dough more intense.  I don't doubt this for a second.  Even your traditional chocolate chip cookie dough, if you allow the dough to chill overnight, will produce a tastier cookie - go ahead, give it a whirl ;).

Next on my agenda is to try a peanut butter cookie in said above cookbook called 'Better Nutters'.  The recipe is modeled after Nutter Butters (an old favorite cookie of mine).  It calls for roasting peanuts, beating and mixing butters of sorts along with dry ingredients, and then, of course, chilling the dough (for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days).  You then cut rounds from the chilled dough, freeze the rounds for 2 hours, bake them (frozen), and then make a peanut buttercream where you sandwich two cookies together filled with the buttercream.  YUM!

I'll keep you updated on the progress and, of course, post the recipe.  So far i've only roasted the peanuts (but the house already smells delish!).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The cinnamon buns...

I'm not sure what I was thinking, but after rolling out the dough, putting the sugar mixture on the dough, rolling it into a cylinder and cutting the dough into buns, I neglected to take any pictures!  And once they were proofed, baked and out of the oven, I neglected then, too, to take pictures (I'm pretty useless, aren't I?).  My excuse?  I was hosting a breakfast morning at mine and was literally incredibly eager to make these suckers that I forgot all about telling you wonderful folks about it! 

So then, you'll have to trust me when I say that they came out AMAZING!  They flew off the table and were gone before I could blink.  Everyone did compare them to Gail's bakery cinnamon buns and said mine were better!  I think they were being nice, but they insisted they weren't.  I did like them and thought they came out quite well, but I thought they needed a bit more cinnamon.  No one else agreed!

So then, here's the 'Morning Bun' recipe (from the Art & Soul of Baking - Sur La Table) that I then used following Bo Friberg's croissant dough recipe:

1 recipe of croissant dough (see prior posts for this)
1 large egg
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 18 X 11 X 1/4 inch rectangle.  Position the dough with a long side parallel to the edge of your work surface.  Brush any flour from the surface of the dough.  Whisk the egg in the small bowl just to break it up, then brush the entire surface of the dough lightly with the egg. 

In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon until thoroughly blended.  Sprinkle evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the long edge of the dough farthest from you.

SHAPE THE DOUGH: Beginning with the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder, gently tucking and tightening as you roll.  Finish rolling the dough onto the border.  Roll the dough cylinder backward so that the seam is facing upward and pinch all along it to seal the dough.  It should be 18 inches long.  If not, roll it gently back and forth until it lengthens.  Cut the cylinder into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide.  Generously butter the muffin pan and place each piece cut side up in a muffin cup.

PROOF THE DOUGH: Cover the pan loosely wiht plastic wrap and allow the buns to rise in a cool room-temperature spot until they have almost doubled in size (they will be slightly higher than the top of the muffin tin), 45 to 60 minutes. Don't try to rush the rise by warming the croissants - you don't want the butter to melt.

BAKE THE BUNS: Preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the center.  Chill the buns in the freezer for 10 minutes or in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.  This will firm the butter and create a flakier texture.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the buns are deep golden brown.  Place the granulated sugar in a medium bowl.  Remove the tin from the oven and set it on a towel next to the bowl. Gently remove each bun with the tongs and drop it in the sugar, turning it to coat all sides.  Then transfer each bun to the silicone mat or parchment paper to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

DELICIOUS!!!! 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The journey of the croissant...or whatever i'm baking...

Should I mention now that I'm not going to actually be making croissants?  The recipe I REALLY want to make utilizes croissant dough.  You see, we have a bakery in town (Gail's) that makes killer cinnamon buns, but they're nothing like american cinnamon buns.  They literally look like croissants rolled into a cinnamon bun and are super flaky, not doughy.  My husband and children adore these and eat them regularly.  I've thought about figuring out how to make them, and recently my good friend and I swapped cook books and I found a recipe for 'morning buns' that mirrored the cinnamon buns I see at Gail's.

The first item in the recipe was croissant dough - big surprise - and it was here that my journey for croissant dough began, especially since my friend mentioned that the croissant recipe in the 'morning bun' cookbook was 'ok', but didn't yield the best croissant she'd ever tasted.

Following Bo Friberg's recipe for croissant dough (see previous post titled, 'the croissant recipe'), I'll take you on my journey for making the perfect 'morning bun' via croissant dough.

Here the tools and key ingredients I used to make the croissant dough:
A scale, plastic wrap, parchment paper, a rolling pin, a ruler, Lurpak unsalted butter (minimum fat content 82%), and organic strong white bread flour. 








Making the 'croissant' dough:

The few drops of lemon juice, 1 ounce (30 g) of flour, and chilled butter cut into pieces prior to kneading it in a mixing bowl. 















Step 1:  Work the lemon juice and 1 ounce (30 g) of flour into the chilled butter by kneading it in a bowl.


















Step2: Shape the butter into a 5-inch square/12.5cm.  Place the butter on a piece of baking paper and set aside.  If the room is warm, place it in the refrigerator, but do not let it get too firm.  If this happens, rework and reshape the butter back to the original consistency.












Step 3: Put the following ingredients into a mixing bowl: cold milk, yeast (I used rapid rise yeast as I couldn't locate fresh yeast and have had issues in the past reconstituting dried yeast in warm liquids; NOTE: you will have to proof your yeast first if using dried yeast, and follow the original recipe posted in the prior post if using fresh yeast), granulated sugar, honey, and the salt.  Mix the ingredients together with a fork, then place the bowl on stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and begin to mix it on the stir speed.  Add the remaining 11 ounces of bread flour gradually into the mixing bowl.  Once it is all added, mix the dough on speed 2 for about 1 1/2 minutes until the dough is formed, but is very elastic.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 7-inch square.



Step 4: Place the butter square on the dough diagonally so that there are 4 triangles on the sides, fold in the sides, and seal in the butter.










Dough with butter block folded and sealed.















Step 5: Give the dough 3 single turns, with 30-60 minutes of rest in the refrigerator between each turn, dough covered.  After the third turn, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Turning the dough: Roll the dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch (1.2cm) thick, as carefully and evenly as possible.  Divide the rectangle crosswise into thirds by sight alone or mark the dough lightly with the edge of your hand.  Fold one-third of the dough over the middle section, then fold the remaining one-third over both of them, brushing away the excess flour from the inside as you fold.  The dough now has one single turn. 


First fold of first turn of dough.  Dough was 12 inches long, so broke the folds into 4 inch sections.















The first turn completed.

I then covered the dough and plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 1 hr.  I did a second turn, then covered the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for another hour.  Completed the last turn, then covered the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight (completed last turn at 4pm, will take the dough out of the refrigerator around 7am and continue on with the cinnamon bun recipe to make cinnamon buns).

My experience: Surprisingly, forming the dough and butter block was very straightforward and dare I say quite easy?!  I'm pretty sure this means i've done something terribly wrong.  We shall see, won't we?  All in all, I'd say a relatively easy recipe, just a bit time consuming based on the turns needed and time required in between each turn.  Can't wait to make the cinnamon buns!

The croissant recipe...

I kept asking myself, if baking really is a science, why is the science among the 'same' recipes so different?  I narrowed down my recipe to that of 3, they were all incredibly similar and in the end I used just one, but two of the three recipes called for butter in the dough (separate from the butter block that you mix into the dough) whilst the third did not.  Also, one recipe called for letting the dough rise before incorporating the butter block, whilst the others did not.

I can't tell you whether or not there should be butter in the dough.  I decided to trust my source and omit it and just rely on the butter block (after all, my recipe has a ratio of 84% butter to flour - maybe that's the answer?).

I researched the rising bit and discovered that a traditional Austrian croissant (you read that right, croissants originated in Austria, not France like you might have thought) does NOT let the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  You may have experienced a croissant that tasted almost 'breadier' than a traditional flaky croissant.  This most likely has to do with letting the dough rise.  To obtain a truly flaky, buttery, melt in your mouth croissant, do NOT allow your dough to rise prior to incorporating the butter block, and be careful not to overwork your pastry dough while rolling out into a rectangle prior to incorporating the butter block and while doing the 3 turns of the dough.  Overworking the dough will lead to a 'tougher' pastry.  You do not want to create a strong gluten structure in your dough.  The type of flour you use isn't going to dictate the strength of the gluten structure in your croissant dough - the amount of handling of the dough that you do will dictate it.  Clear?

Now on to the recipe...
Background: I chose Bo Friberg's recipe in his 4th edition of The Professional Pastry Chef, the fundamentals of baking and pastry.  I met Bo at the Professional Culinary Institute down in Campbell, CA where I was desperate to obtain my baking and pastry degree.  However, my career, our mortgage, and my desire to start a family all got in the way of that dream.  Nevertheless, I did take a few classes and was very impressed with him and his products.
After reading Bo's croissant recipe, it just made sense compared to the others recipes.  Of course Bo's recipe had the ratio of 84% butter to flour (good man!).  He also did not incorporate butter into his dough mixture, nor did he recommend that the dough rise prior to incorporating the butter block.  He did, however, have some unique ingredients in his recipe that I thought were interesting: lemon juice and malt extract or honey.  I didn't have any malt extract, so I used honey.  The lemon juice was used to make the butter block.  It is said that lemon juice helps make the butter block more elastic.  The main purpose of malt extract in a yeast bread recipe is to aid in fermentation by converting starch to sugar, which provides food for the yeast. It also helps retain moisture in baked goods.  Honey is said to retain moisture in baked goods.  Thus, I can only derive that the main purpose of the honey in this recipe is to retain moisture, though perhaps it too can aid in the fermentation process (it is a sugar, afterall).

Right, the recipe...

Ingredients

Few drops of lemon juice
12 ounces (340 g) bread flour
10 ounces (285 g) chilled unsalted butter
1 ounce (30 g) fresh compressed yeast
1 cup (240 mL) cold whole milk
4 tsp (20 g) granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (7 g) granulated malt extract or 1 tbsp (15 mL) honey
2 tsp (10 g) salt
Egg wash or whole milk

Directions

  1. Work the lemon juice and 1 ounce (30 g) of flour into the chilled butter by kneading it against the table or in a bowl with your hand.  Do not use a mixer.
  2. Shape the butter into a 5-inch square/12.5cm.  Place the butter on a piece of baking paper and set aside.  If the room is warm, place it in the refrigerator, but do not let it get too firm.  If this happens, rework and reshape the butter back to the original consistency.
  3. Dissolve the yeast in the cold milk. Add the granulated sugar, malt extract or honey, and the salt.  Mix for a few seconds, using the dough hook, then start adding the remaining flour. Mix in enough flour to make a dough that is slightly firm but not rubbery.  Take care not to mix any longer than necessary (1 1/2 to 2 minutes).
  4. Place the dough on a table dusted lightly with flour; roll it out to a 7-inch/17.5cm square.
  5. Check the butter to be sure that it is smooth and at the same consistency as the dough; adjust if necessary. Place the butter square on the dough diagonally so that there are 4 triangles on the sides, fold in the sides, and seal in the butter.
  6. Give the dough 3 single turns, with 30 minutes of rest in the refrigerator between each turn, dough covered.  After the third turn, refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring 18 X 31 1/2 inches and 1/8inch (3 mm) thick.  Let the dough relax for a few minutes, then cut in half lengthwise to make 2 strips, 9 inches wide.
  8. On the bottom edge of the strip closest to you, start at the left corner, measure 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm), and make a mark in the dough.  Continue making marks every 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) from that point.  Do the same on the top edge of the top strip.
  9. Place a ruler from the lower left corner up to the first mark on the top strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) and cut the dough, using a knife or pastry wheel, following the ruler through the top strip.  Then cut from the first mark on the bottom strip (4 1/2 inches/11.2cm from the left edge) to the second mark (9inches/22.5cm form the left edge) on the top strip.  Repeat, cutting evry 4 1/2 inches (11.2cm) for the length of the dough.
  10. Beginning at the opposite end, follow the same pattern and cut from right to left.  Form 2 or 3 croissants from the scrap dough.
  11. Make a 1/2 inch (1.2cm) cut in the center of the short side on each croissant.  Pull the cuts apart a little, then form the croissants by rolling the triangles toward you.  Roll them up tightly, but do not stretch the dough too much.
  12. Form each croissant into a crescent shape as you place it on a sheet pan lined with baking paper or silpat.  The tip of the croissant should be inside the center curve and tucked underneath so that it does not unroll.  Do not put more than 16 to 18 on a full-sized pan, to ensure that they bake evenly.  If too crowded, they will get overdone on the ends before they are fully baked in the middle.
  13. Let the croissants rise until slightly less than doubled in volume in a  proof box at 78-82F (25 to 27C) with 80% humidity.  If the proof box gets too hot, the butter will start to leak out.  This can also happen while the croissants are baking if they have not proofed enough.
  14. Brush the croissants with egg wash (or milk, which is typical in France).
  15. Bake at 425F (219C) until golden and baked through, about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The ultimate butter loving baked good...The CROISSANT!

As the butter obsessed baker, I've spent years contemplating baking the beloved butter baked good that is feared in many kitchens: THE CROISSANT!  I knew I'd want to embark on this feat sooner vs. later, and, alas, here I am. 

Undertaking this task was not a quick decision.  I've spent the last week or so researching croissant recipes, and learned a ton about croissant dough, specifically:
  • the importance of which flours to use - there isn't one; 
  • the quantity of butter to use as it relates to the amount of flour specified - the higher the butter to flour ratio the better (in my head, anyway); 
  • eggs - there shouldn't be any in the recipe; 
  • croissants are all about temperature (cold) and 'resting' the dough (leaving it alone in a cold environment) 
Since this baked good really and truly is 'all about the butter' (the quantity of butter required in a recipe can be anywhere from 42% to 84% of the recipe as a ratio to flour), i've chosen the recipe that calls for 84% of butter as a ratio to the flour (huge surprise, I know).  I sincerely doubt I'll be disappointed in the final product provided I heed all of the instructions properly!

The croissant baking journey commences tomorrow, wish me luck!

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's all about air...and Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Frosting

I decided that during my 'offseason' of cycling, I would put my 'free' time to good use and do things that I enjoy the most, one of them being baking.  I was asked by my girlfriends if I would mind showing them how to bake.  After some thought, I decided to hold a baking demonstration in my kitchen.  I inquired as to which recipes would like to be demonstrated, and to my chagrin, one was Red Velvet Cupcakes - my absolute favorite cupcake recipe that I shamelessly stole from Magnolia Bakery :).

Seven friends showed up yesterday morning to make Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcakes with a Creamy Vanilla Frosting.  What a recipe to demonstrate!  Not only can you touch upon most of the science in baking when making this recipe, but can these cupcakes be any prettier?  I ask you.

So that you can follow along on the 'science' of this recipe, here's the recipe:

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Icing

Epicurious  | February 2008
by Allysa Torey
More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia's Home Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 recipe Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting .
Epicurious Test-Kitchen Tip: This recipe also makes 2 dozen cupcakes. Use 2 muffin pans, each with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups, and line each cup with a paper liner. (There's no need to grease the cups.) Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

Epicurious  | February 2008
by Allysa Torey
More From Magnolia: Recipes From The World-Famous Bakery and Magnolia's Home Kitchen

yield: Makes enough for one 3-layer 9-inch cake
This recipe originally accompanied Red Velvet Cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting .


Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). Use immediately.

The question that entered everyone's mind yesterday while making these cupcakes was, 'why the heck do you put cyder vinegar in cupcakes'?  Ahhh yes, the science.

What is the purpose of vinegar in Red Velvet Cupcakes, you ask?  Great question.  The short answer is that vinegar -- an acid -- reacts with the baking soda -- an alkaline -- to release carbon dioxide gas in the form of bubbles that expand and cause the batter to rise in the pan while baking (the comprehensive answer can be found here - http://www.ehow.com/info_8668886_purpose-vinegar-red-velvet-cake.html).  Worth noting is that buttermilk (an acid) is also used in the recipe, but so is cocoa (an alkaline) - you see where i'm going with this?

But what is this REALLY about?  The answer is air.  Air is your friend when baking items that you want to rise (sounds obvious, doesn't it?).  But do you know HOW to incorporate air into your batters? Sure, mixing alkaline chemical leaveners with acids helps a bunch, but there are many batters out there that are too thick to be leavened solely by chemical leaveners (baking soda, baking powder).  So how else can you incorporate air?

The answer, of course, has to do with my favorite ingredient: BUTTER (well, partially, anyway, but I get excited when I'm able to talk about butter :))What's not obvious to a lot of peeps, and isn't discussed enough if you ask me, is that the 'creaming' of butter and sugar is the start of the leavening process. Poorly creamed butter can result in cakes and cookies that are disappointingly dense and coarse. Thick batters get their rising power from the air that's incorporated into butter as the butter is combined with sugar.  Creaming butter and sugar together incorporates air, both through the action of the beaters, and because jagged sugar crystals “grab” air as they come to the surface.  The temperature of the butter that is about to be creamed is also very important.  Butter that is too cold won't blend with sugar, and butter that is too warm won't hold air. So what is the correct temperature for butter when it is to be creamed?  65-68F (this is commonly referred to as 'room' temperature (which is only accurate if your room temp is indeed between 65-68F) or softened butter).  If you don't have time to soften your butter, simply beat it for a longer period of time to get it to it's desired temperature and state (do NOT microwave butter to warm it as some recipes suggest). 

Eggs are also incredibly interesting to me.  In the cupcake recipe, they too are to be at 'room temperature' and are added to the creamed butter and sugar mixture one at a time until well combined. Interestingly, but not surprising, is that creaming eggs and butter produces an emulsion that can hold more air than either alone.  However, if eggs are too cold, they won't incorporate into the butter and sugar easily (you'll have to beat them for a longer period of time, but this could lead to overbeating the butter and sugar mixture - gasp!). 

Something else I do automatically when a recipe asks me to combine my dry ingredients is to whisk them together.  My friends too asked me why I did this while making the cupcakes.  Need I tell you why I do this?  To incorporate air, of course.  Aerated flour mixtures will get whatever you’re baking off to a much lighter start.

And why should my butter and eggs be at room temperature (65-68F) for baking, but my liquids remain cold?  Cool liquids have more oxygen than warm ones, of course!

So then, it really is all about air (and temperature of refrigerated goods), isn't it?  Indeed it is.

Me with the final product.  LOVE the color!  So very pretty indeed (the cupcake, that is).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Buttermilk Cinnamon Bun Result = To.Die.For

After the disappointment of my first cinnamon bun attempt, I was determined to try again.  A dear girlfriend was having a 'coffee morning' at her place this past Tuesday and I decided to give the buttermilk cinnamon bun recipe a go.  Result: FANTASTIC!  They received absolute rave reviews! 

I followed the recipe to a T (almost, anyway) and used the instructions (again) on how to form the rolls (see the 'PHOTOS' comment in step 4 in the recipe below for the link to the instructions).  The dough was to die for...super smooth, almost silky.  The cinnamon mix was the same as I used last time (fabulous), and the topping was similar (I liked the one listed in this recipe better and is what I used this time).  I found that the serrated knife works perfectly and haven't had to bother with using floss yet.  All in all, a wonderful, wonderful, highly recommended recipe!

The slight changes I made intentionally or otherwise:
  • I forgot to warm the buttermilk before mixing w/the butter and the eggs (DOH!).  I mixed the melted butter, eggs, and buttermilk together in a glass mixing jug and put in the microwave in 15 second intervals stirring well in between each interval to ensure the mixture wasn't 'cooking' the eggs.  I think I did about 3 or 4 intervals until 110 degrees was reached.  No issue with this method, though I'm going to try and remember to heat the buttermilk on its own next time ;).
  • I used 4 1/8 c of flour (didn't need the last 2 Tbsp)
  • I used 2Tbsp of Cinnamon in the roll mixture instead of 2 tsp
  • I omitted the cloves from the roll mixture
  • I used 1 tsp of vanilla in the glaze instead of 1/2 tsp 
  • I did refrigerate the dough overnight per the note at the end of the recipe, and let them rise an hour and a half the following morning before baking them.  I love the tip on heating your oven and then shutting it off to allow the buns to rise in a 'warm place'.  Worked like a charm!

Here it is again, just in case ;).

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls

Uncoil the tight swirls and dig in.

cinnamonbuns
Makes 12 rolls
These soft rolls bake into each other, but can be pulled apart easily before serving or at the table.

DOUGH
¾ cup buttermilk, warm (110 degrees)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4¼ cups (21¼ ounces) all-purpose flour (ended up needing 4 1/8
cups)
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt


ROLLS
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I use 2 Tbsp)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (I omit this)
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled

GLAZE
1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I use 1 tsp)


1. For the Dough: Whisk the warmed buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 2 to 2½ hours.
4. For the Rolls: Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Following the photos, turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over it, leaving a ¾-inch border along the top edge. Press on the filling to adhere it to the dough.
5. Loosen the dough from the counter using a bench scraper (or metal spatula), and roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll the log seam side down. Gently stretch the log to be 18 inches in length with an even diameter and pat the ends to even them.
6. Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls (about 1½ inches wide) using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls cut side down in the prepared baking pan and wrap tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size and are pressed against one another, 1 to 1½ hours.
7. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes.
8. For the Glaze: Flip the rolls out onto a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment paper (for easy cleanup) and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, softened cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until smooth. Flip the rolls upright, drizzle with the glaze, and serve.
To Make Ahead: In step 6, do not let the rolls rise, but refrigerate them overnight or up to 16 hours. Let the rolls sit at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, then bake as directed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Result

I really, really wanted to follow the buttermilk cinnamon bun recipe, but to my horror I realized last night at 9pm that I did not have any buttermilk in my refrigerator (gasp!).  So then I went back to the drawing boards (slightly) to see how to alter the recipe.  I also realized that I only had 2 eggs, instead of the required 3.  Oi.  However, I muddled onwards.

My recipe turned out to basically mirror that of the buttermilk cinnamon bun with the exception of the buttermilk and 2 eggs instead of 3.  Here's what I used:

Ingredients:
For the Dough:
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
  • 1 envelope (2 1/4 teas) rapid-rise yeast or instant yeast
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 7-8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the filling: 
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
For the Glaze:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbs whole milk
  • 1 teas vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) confectioners sugar

For the dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 100 degrees C. When oven reaches 100 degrees C, shut off. Line 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. 

Whisk milk and yeast in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs and melted butter (I did this, but since the yeast is rapid rise, it doesn't require to be reconstituted in a warm liquid.  Next time I'll mix the yeast in with the dry ingredients and just whisk the milk, eggs and melted butter). 

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, sugar and salt until combined (again, will add yeast here next time). With mixer on low, add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium* and continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form smooth, round ball. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

*NOTE: I have a kitchen aid mixer - 6qt bowl, 475 watts, epicurean model; the user manual clearly states that the ONLY speed the dough hook should be used on is 2.  I blew the gear previously when I tried making dough and was using a speed greater than 2.  This time I disregarded the manual (again!) and turned the speed up to 4.  I'm pretty sure I wore the gear considerably as I noticed some metal shavings on the top of the dough hook where the hook attaches.  I will NEVER again put the mixer on a speed higher than 2 with the bread hook.  So then, when directions say 'medium' speed for using a dough hook, and you have a kitchen aid, I highly suggest you disregard this instruction and stick with speed 2 if you don't want to have to replace your gear.

For the Filling: Melt 1-2 tbsp of butter.  Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.

Forming the cinnamon buns: (shamelessly stolen from http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/bake-it-better/2012/04/secrets-to-beautiful-cinnamon-rolls/)


STEP #1 Form the risen dough into a rectangle: Working on a lightly floured counter, press the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle with the long side facing you. Be sure to use a ruler as it is important to get the rectangle the right size or you will not end up with the right number of rolls or rolls that are the right size. Brush the dough with melted butter.



STEP #2 Add the filling and leave a border: Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough leaving a ¾-inch border along the top edge. If you don’t leave a border, it will be harder to get the dough to stick together when you form a cylinder and it may unroll. Press the filling to adhere it to the dough.



STEP #3 Form a tidy, even cylinder: Form a tidy, even cylinder: Carefully roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Do this slowly and with great care since an uneven cylinder will yield squat, misshapen rolls.



STEP #4 Seal the dough cylinder tightly: Once the dough is rolled tightly, pinch the dough together to close the cylinder and create a secure seam. Roll the cylinder over so that it is seam-side down.



STEP #5 Stretch and measure: Gently stretch the cylinder until it is 18 inches long with an even diameter. You may have to work with the cylinder a few times, stretching and patting the ends until it is exactly the right length. Pat the ends of the cylinder when you are done to even them.



STEP #6 Slice and arrange: Use a serrated knife to slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls. If you try to use any other sort of knife you will mash the soft dough. The rolls are fragile, so use a light hand and arrange them cut-side down in a greased 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan (I used baking parchment paper in place of greasing the pan).

What mine looked like after being cut:
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour (I covered these w/plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator overnight.  I took them out in the morning and put them inside a warmed oven and let them rise for 1 1/2 hours).

What mine looked like just prior to baking (after letting them rise for 1 1/2 hrs).   


For the Glaze and to Bake: Heat oven to 350 F/175C degrees.
Beat cream cheese, milk vanilla and confectioners’ sugar in medium bowl until smooth.
Bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 25 to 30 minutes.

Mine, just out of the oven:
Transfer pan to wire rack and top buns with 1/2 cup glaze (used a pastry brush to glaze the buns); cool 30 minutes.

Mine, just out of the oven and immediately brushed w/ 1/2 c glaze:

Using paper overhang, lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze. Serve.

The remnants:



THOUGHTS: 
The dough:  The dough for these buns was easy to make and came out beautiful!  What a joy to finally make a good dough :).  I definitely prefer rapid rise yeast to that of regular yeast, thus omitting the water step. 

The buns:  Preparing the buns was also quite simple and the instructions I found on americastestkitchenfeed.com were incredibly helpful.  These would be quite easy and quick to make if it weren't for all the time required for the dough to rise (obviously).  I did come across some non yeast cinnamon bun recipes and am curious to give those a whirl, solely in an effort to reduce the overall time to make buns.  We shall see ;).

The final product: In the end I thought the buns were a little dry.  I can't tell if it's because I mistakenly may have dried them out prior to baking (I removed the plastic wrap after taking the buns out of the refrigerator prior to warming them in the oven for their final rise before baking), if the oven was a bit too hot (175C, but it is a fan oven, so maybe I should have dropped it to 150-160), or that 3rd egg really would have made a difference ;).  I don't think they were baked too long, but that's also a possibility.  Nevertheless, they were delicious and I'm not all that disappointed with this experience given that the overall prep time wasn't long at all. 

I think the next batch will be made with the buttermilk cinnamon bun recipe (i.e. I will have buttermilk on hand and will have the required 3 eggs ;).  I will most likely refrigerate the dough overnight again solely based on time, and I will remember to keep the plastic wrap on for the final rise prior to baking.  I will also reduce the oven temp slightly to around 155C-160C and check on them around 20 minutes. 

Enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

I have had a craving for cinnamon rolls for the past few days, but know the time allowance required for making them and also wanted to find a 'To. Die. For' recipe.  After much research, I found two recipes.  One is for a buttermilk cinnamon roll and the other is with regular milk.

Which one will I try first?  The buttermilk one, of course ;).

The recipes are quite similar with a few alterations - the buttermilk recipe uses rapid rise yeast thus eliminating the step for dissolving yeast in warm/hot water, it uses a 1/4c more of buttermilk (3/4C vs. 1/2C) and 3 eggs vs 1 egg and 2 egg yolks. 

The filling in the regular milk recipe received rave reviews and will be using that in place of the buttermilk cinnamon roll recipe - essentially it calls for 2Tbsp of cinnamon vs 2 tsp and does not require cloves.

The topping's are similar, so no comment there.

I'll be making these tonight, letting them sit overnight in the fridge, taking them out in the morning to proof for an hour or so, and then bake them for 30 minutes.  

I'll let you know how they turn out :).

P.S. I found the majority of the comments on these recipes to be about which utensil to use to cut the rolls (serrated knife, electric knife, dental floss, etc.).  Universally dental floss was recommended!  I'll be giving it a whirl. 

Enjoy!

Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls

Uncoil the tight swirls and dig in.

cinnamonbuns
Makes 12 rolls
These soft rolls bake into each other, but can be pulled apart easily before serving or at the table.

DOUGH
¾ cup buttermilk, warm (110 degrees)
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
4¼ cups (21¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt


ROLLS
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (i'll be using 2 Tbsp)
¼ teaspoon ground cloves (i'll be eliminating this)
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled

GLAZE
1½ cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. For the Dough: Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup. Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
2. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 2 to 2½ hours.
4. For the Rolls: Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Following the photos, turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over it, leaving a ¾-inch border along the top edge. Press on the filling to adhere it to the dough.
5. Loosen the dough from the counter using a bench scraper (or metal spatula), and roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll the log seam side down. Gently stretch the log to be 18 inches in length with an even diameter and pat the ends to even them.
6. Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls (about 1½ inches wide) using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls cut side down in the prepared baking pan and wrap tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size and are pressed against one another, 1 to 1½ hours.
7. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden and puffed, 25 to 30 minutes.
8. For the Glaze: Flip the rolls out onto a wire rack set over a sheet of parchment paper (for easy cleanup) and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, softened cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until smooth. Flip the rolls upright, drizzle with the glaze, and serve.
To Make Ahead: In step 6, do not let the rolls rise, but refrigerate them overnight or up to 16 hours. Let the rolls sit at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour, then bake as directed.

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe - http://www.crumblycookie.net/2008/04/07/cinnamon-rolls/)

This was the first time I’ve used dental floss to cut the rolled and filled dough into rolls. It worked wonderfully, but a serrated knife will get the job done as well.
The pictures are showing a half recipe.

Dough:
½ cup milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) yeast
¼ cup (1¾ ounce) sugar
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons salt
4-4 ½ cups (20 to 21¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

Filling:
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed. Add the salt, warm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding up to ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth and freely clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a round, place it in a very lightly oiled large bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

4. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll. Lightly dust the roll with flour and press on it ends if necessary to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder. Cut the roll in 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

5. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My favorite baking utensils

The importance of my baking utensils can be compared to that of my husband's cycling and automotive tools.  They all have their special place, and they ALL serve a purpose.  Granted my utensils 'special' place is one gigantic kitchen drawer, but hey, I know where everything is ;).  And like my husband's tools, they are very near and dear to my heart.

My favorite ones, and I do have my favorites, are as follows and are in no particular order:
The Scooper: a handy little device that 'scoops' batter.  I have 3 different sized scoopers: the smallest I use to make tiny cookie dough balls for my chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (non-baked, put into ice cream as is); the next is used to scoop cookie batter into balls to be baked; the largest is used to to dish out batter into cupcake and muffin pans.








The Zester:  I saw the difference zest makes in cookie and scone recipes, and, ever since, have become a HUGE fan of the zester.  Super simple to use and boy does it 'zest' lemons and oranges quickly! Sidenote: i'm a huge fan of the brand zyliss.
 





Rubber Spatulas (in a variety of sizes/shapes):  Probably the single most important utensil in baking after measuring cups and spoons.  I really don't know what I'd do without my rubber spatulas.  I'm pretty certain I use at least one every time I bake anything.  They are particularly useful in scraping the sides and bottoms of mixing bowls.  Not to mention gathering the remains left in the mixing bowl.  A true gem.



Pastry Brush:  Perhaps not used incredibly often, but a very handy item that I find myself constantly in search of when I cook in someone else's kitchen (and rarely find).  I bake scones very frequently and use this item to brush the tops and sides of my scones with a buttermilk/cinnamon sugar mixture.  When I don't have a pastry brush handy, I pour the topping over the scones and massage into the scones with my hands, but the excess pours out all along the scone dough and just makes clean up that much more exciting. 



The Whisk:  What recipe doesn't require a whisk?  Most things I bake I use the whisk to mix together the dry ingredients.  Any recipe requiring an egg I almost always whisk it before adding it to the other ingredients (unless i'm using my mixer).  And then any liquids that need to be mixed together, get, you guessed it, whisked together.  The Whisk really is a baker's best friend.

Spelt flour...for the gluten intolerant

My mom, the one who taught me most about baking, has recently been diagnosed with a gluten allergy, or intolerance if you will.  She's not a celiac, so spelt flour in place of all purpose or other wheat flours is acceptable.  Note: spelt flour DOES contain gluten, but it's amounts are almost insignificant in comparison to today's wheat flours.  True celiacs, however, can not have any gluten, so spelt flour is unsuitable for them. 

I've been dabbling with spelt flour in my baking recipes (thanks to the recommendation from my dear friend Betsy) as spelt flour is easier to digest.  It yields a noticeably denser, though moister, product.  I've found a very useful website that focuses on baking with spelt flour and how to alter recipes to use spelt flour in place of wheat based flours.  Go on, have a peek: http://bake-with-spelt.com/ (download the .pdf). 

In my coffee chocolate chip cookie recipe, I have used 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 Spelt flour with fantastic results.  Give spelt flour a whirl and let me know how you like it in your recipes. 

Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

THE Scones

My most beloved baked good from around the globe is my scone.  I have tried almost every scone recipe out there and perfected it according to my tastes.  I know it by heart and can recite it or jot it down on the spot when it's requested (and it's requested a lot...not that i'm bragging ;)).

Buttermilk, lack of egg, and chilled butter are the key ingredients (or non ingredient, as the case may be).  The scones come out of the oven fluffy, and just beautiful.  Give my recipe a whirl and let me know how you like 'em.

Julie's Fabulous Scones 
Ingredients:
3 C Flour
1/3 C Sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp zest* (optional; lemon, orange, etc. can use fresh peel, or buy the dried peel in the spice aisle)
3/4 C Butter (12 Tbsp) - chilled, unsalted, cut into 1 in. cubes
1 C Buttermilk
1 C Currants or Cranberries, or whatever dried fruit of choice (note: i've had zero luck w/fresh fruit...my batter is always way too mushy; if others have please let me know how you do it)
1/2 - 3/4 C Nuts* (optional)
 

Topping:
1 Tbsp Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp Sugar


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.


Have the following ready: mixing bowl, cookie sheet, a cookie sheet size of parchment paper.


1) Whisk the following together in large mixing bowl until blended:
3 C Flour
1/3 C Sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp zest

2) Add in butter and mix with a pastry blender/fork or hands until mixture is crumbly, but don't overmix

3) Add in dried fruit and/or nuts now and then add in Buttermilk.  Mix with your hands until the mixture is barely holding itself together.  It's important to not overmix (should NOT look like cookie dough...should look more like pie dough). 

4) When dough is crumbly, but keeping itself together when you make a fist of dough, place dough onto parchment paper.  Form dough into a ball and pat down into a decent sized circle (whatever preference here for size of scone).  If small scones are desired, form dough into 2 balls and pat down into small circles.

5) Combine the 1 Tbsp Cream or Buttermilk, 1/4 tsp Cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp Sugar together and using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of dough.

6) Cut dough into 8 triangular scones (slice like a pizza).  Arrange on parchment paper and brush remaining sides w/topping as desired.

7) Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes

Enjoy!

The BEST chocolate chip cookies...

I've come to the conclusion that no matter the recipe for chocolate chip cookies (mostly), the biggest difference amongst the cookie recipes isn't the ingredients, but the temperature and time they are baked. 

In my experience, the cookie recipes that state 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes (though check at 13) are going to be bricks.  Not that I mind hard cookies one bit, but most of my guests and my main taste testers (i.e. hubby & kids) prefer them soft and chewy.  Any recipe that calls for the above temp and time, change the temp to 375 and yank them out at 9 minutes and tell me what you think.  I bet you'll be more pleased with the texture of your cookie, assuming you like them soft & chewy.

I have two favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes at the moment, one is for simple chocolate chip cookies from Cooks Illustrated, and the other is a coffee chocolate chip cookie from Southern Living.  The recipes are almost exactly the same (probably why I like them). Note that both recipes call for 325 with longer bake times.  Just trust me and turn up the temp to 375 and yank 'em out at 9 minutes (maybe even 8...set the timer for 8 and you be the judge ;)). 

Besides the temperature and baking time called for in the recipes, the only other modifications I made were swapping pecans for walnuts in the coffee chocolate chip cookie recipe, and using 2 tsp of vanilla and 2 Cups of chips in both recipes.  I also use a scooper(?) to scoop my batter into equal sized cookie balls.  I don't bother doing step 3 in the Cooks Illustrated recipe (too much work and not much benefit if you ask me).  I like my cookies relatively uniform in size.

Give 'em a whirl..and even dabble in the temperature/baking time and see what you prefer. 

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Cook's Illustrated) 

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Either by hand or with electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
  3. Form scant 1/4 cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month—shaped or not.).
  4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.) Cool cookies on cookie sheets. Serve or store in airtight container.

Heavenly Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 (11.5-ounce) package semisweet chocolate mega-morsels
  • 1 cup walnut halves, toasted

Preparation

  1. Combine first 3 ingredients; stir well.
  2. Combine butter and coffee granules in a small saucepan or skillet. Cook over medium-low heat until butter melts and coffee granules dissolve, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature (don't let butter resolidify).
  3. Combine butter mixture, sugars, egg, and egg yolk in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in mega-morsels and walnuts.
  4. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2" apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 325° for 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool slightly on cookie sheets. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Christmas with Southern Living 1997, Oxmoor House
1997


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baking Project #1 - Baby Dragon Cupcakes

I'm not sure that I want to kickstart another in-house baking business here in the UK, but I did accept a cupcake project for a baby shower.  The customer wanted vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and a baby dragon design on top.  I finally concocted a pretty darn good vanilla cupcake recipe with vanilla frosting (see previous post) and found an adorable photo of dragon cupcakes that I attempted to emulate (though clearly more practice is needed):

I baked the vanilla cupcakes (recipe #3 in previous post) and frosted them with the creamy vanilla frosting using a 12" pastry bag with a wilton #12 round tip doing a swirl design:
Using regular buttercream frosting (1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp, 6-8 cups icing/powdered sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tsp vanilla), I divided the frosting into 3 portions and dyed two portions: 1 green using wilton's green leaf icing color, and 1 yellow using wilton's lemon yellow icing color.  The other portion I kept white. 

With a 12" pastry bag and a wilton #12 round tip, I then piped a dragon body, feet, and face using the green frosting:
Swapping a #5 tip for the #12 tip on the pastry bag with green frosting, I made the dragons ears.

Using the yellow frosting in a 12" pastry bag with a #3 tip, I made two lines on the mouth portion of the dragon, three horns next to the ears, 'spikes' down the dragons back and tail, 3 toes on each of the four feet, and made a triangular/heart shaped piece at the end of the dragon's tail.

Next I used an 8" pastry bag with a #5 tip and piped white dots for the eyes and placed a chocolate chip in the center (really needed mini chocolate chips, but didn't have any!).

Using rolled white fondant, I cut out ovals, then cut the ovals in half, and using a scalloped shaped round cutter, cut out a section of the half oval, then cut the half oval in half to use as a pair of wings (did you catch all that?).  I then brushed the wings with a mixture of wilton's orchid pink pearl dust and almond extract to make them pink and shiny.  I bent a tiny section of the wing so that it would insert into the cupcake.  Alas, the final result:
And here's a look at how all 16 of them turned out:
Not quite as cute as the dragon design I was trying to emulate, but not too shabby for a first attempt.  I need more practice in 'free hand' frosting, but I'm encouraged to do more fun designs!


The Almost Perfect Vanilla Cupcake & Frosting Recipe

I landed my first baking order here in the UK:  Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and a dragon design for a baby shower (see next post for photos of these cupcakes and more about this project).

Now, perhaps you might think vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting is boring, but I beg to differ.  I had yet to find a GOOD vanilla cupcake recipe, and trust me, I've been looking.

I've experimented with recipes over the years and, this past week, narrowed down my pile of recipes to three versions in which I hoped one would become my Perfect Vanilla Cupcake.

The first recipe claimed to be 'The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe' (shamelessly stolen from Cupcake Project - http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2011/09/ultimate-vanilla-cupcake-test-baked-by.html#ixzz22ElbYXbm).  It had a very lovely vanilla flavor, was very moist, but a bit too 'airy' and slightly greasy for my liking (recipe called for oil, and that's in direct conflict with my butter addiction ;)).  I tend to prefer a more dense cupcake, though moist. 

The second recipe was a creation of my own with the help of a compilation of recipes.  I really wanted to give buttermilk a whirl in a cupcake recipe to see how the flavor and texture was affected.  The result?  Pretty darn good.  Though you can definitely taste the buttermilk/tanginess in the cupcake.  I personally quite like it, but wasn't sure from a business perspective how the customers would enjoy it (it is quite different from a traditional vanilla cupcake recipe).  So far the reviews have been good.

The third recipe was a combination of the first recipe and my addiction to butter.  Essentially I swapped butter for the oil and eliminated the baking soda (someone who tasted the first recipe said they could taste the baking soda - all dry ingredients were sifted and mixed well, so not sure why this was, but thought i'd experiment without the baking soda).  The result?  A GREAT cupcake, almost perfect.  They looked absolutely spectacular when taking them out of the oven (were even, slightly puffed, just gorgeous!), but a few minutes later while they were cooling they deflated a little bit. I'm wondering if that has anything to do with the lack of baking soda, so my next batch of Vanilla Cupcakes will be this recipe WITH the baking soda to see if there is any effect.  If they still deflate, I'll have to do more research and understand why that is happening (there is a lot of liquid in this recipe compared with other recipes, as you'll see).

Let's talk frosting.  I'm just not a huge fan of your typical Butter Cream Frosting.  The icing sugar/powdered sugar is just a bit too much for my palette.  I love the french and italian butter creams, though they are a bit time consuming and might not be the best choice for decorating and/or a quick frosting.  I think my favorite vanilla frosting is one I found a while back that was initially paired with a red velvet cupcake recipe called 'Creamy Vanilla Frosting' (found on Epicurious - http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Creamy-Vanilla-Frosting-241564).  It's an 'old' recipe, from what I gather, in that you mix milk with flour and then boil it and use it as your base for the frosting (almost a roux, if you like).  However, this bit of the recipe is what makes the frosting SO GOOD!  Your initial reaction to this frosting is that it's whipped cream.  That's the texture of it, but the flavor is beyond words, and so much more than just whipped cream. 

So what's the bottomline, you ask?  Though I've yet to perfect my vanilla cupcake recipe, I at least feel that I have a go to recipe (#3) when I receive an order (just needs minor tweaking to correct the deflation issue) along with the perfect 'Creamy Vanilla Frosting'.  Give it a whirl and let me know your thoughts!

VANILLA CUPCAKE RECIPE #1

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Yield: 16 cupcakes
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (60 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. (For those of you who are new to using vanilla beans, check out this video to learn how to get the seeds out of the bean.)
  3. Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.
  6. Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because there is so little butter, you'll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
  7. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  8. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
  9. Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid.  (Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong.  It's supposed to be that way.)
  10. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  11. Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
  12. When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.
Tips:  Because everyone's oven is just a bit different and your liners may be a slightly different size than mine,  I highly recommend that if you have time, you bake a test cupcake before baking your whole batch of vanilla cupcakes.  Read my FAQ on filling cupcake liners to learn how to do a test cupcake and why it's useful.

VANILLA CUPCAKE RECIPE #2
  
Buttermilk Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Yield: 15-16 cupcakes
  • 1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy (about 2-3 minutes).
  4. Add the sugar and cream with the butter on medium speed for 7 minutes, scraping the bowl when needed (batter should be nearly white and fluffy).
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Turn the speed to stir/low and alternately, add the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with flour until just mixed.
  7. Add vanilla until just mixed. 
  8. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  9. Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white (also with specks of vanilla bean if you used vanilla bean paste). They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
  10. When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.

VANILLA CUPCAKE RECIPE #3

Butter Obsessed's Almost Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Yield: 16-18 cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • (1/2 teaspoon baking soda) - I omitted this, but will reintroduce it the next time I bake this recipe (see notes above re: issue w/this recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl sift together cake flour, baking powder, (baking soda, if using) and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large glass measuring cup, add 2/3 cup of whole milk and the 1/3 cup of sour cream and whisk together until well incorporated.  Set aside.
  4. Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Add the sugar and beat with the butter on medium speed for 7 minutes, scraping the bowl when needed (batter should be nearly white and fluffy).
  6. Add the vanilla bean paste and mix until well combined.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  8. Turn the speed to stir/low and alternately, add the flour mixture and milk mixture, starting and ending with flour until just mixed.
  9. Add vanilla until just mixed. 
  10. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  11. Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
  12. When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.
CREAMY VANILLA FROSTING
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. 
  2. Place saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Remove saucepan from heat, cover with waxed paper and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. 
  5. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. 
  6. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  7. Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. 
  8. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). 
  9. Use immediately. 
  10. NOTE:  If you do store the remaining frosting in the refrigerator and/or refrigerate it for too long, just put the frosting back in the mixing bowl and beat it again for 5 minutes or so until it's back to it's original consistency (and if it looks runny and not so appealing, just ignore it and leaving it mixing in the mixer. I promise it will come back to life ;)).