Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 66th installment. The recipe is Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries.
I enjoyed this puff pastry adventure.  The pastry itself was fairly easy - few ingredients, and since it's cool right now, I didn't struggle with the butter or rolling.  You make a simple dough, as the recipe says, like Play Doh, in the food processor.  You pound out the cold butter into a one inch thick slab. 
I got the "European-style" butter, hoping that it would make the pastry extra yummy, although it came in 8 ounce slabs, so I had two chunks instead of one.  You roll out the (play) doh/dough, put the butter on the center, and then fold the dough around the butter like an envelope.

At this point you start the serious rolling and folding.  I did not watch the video from the episode, so was just following the written instructions.  My rolling surface (a silicon sheet) has inch markings, so I was able to tell when I had rolled it out to the correct length (24 inches!).  You roll to 24 inches long, and then fold in three layers, like a letter.  You do the roll/fold cycle once or twice, and then chill.  You repeat these steps until it has been rolled and folded a total of six times.
Here's the dough when it had been through all the rolling and folding, with a million (OK, not a million) tiny layers of butter and dough rolled together.

At this point the dough is ready to roll and cut.  I cut out the circles using a bowl as a guide.  I bet a really sharp cutter works well for this, as it would cut through the layers cleanly - I think my tracing around the bowl with a knife made the edge a little squished.
There were no apricots to be had in my store, so I used local prune plums instead.  You poach the fruit and make a vanilla cream - mine was a little bit "tough", as I think I should have cooked it more gently, but it tasted good anyway.  
Here are the pastries before baking:

The pastries were delicious!  I would defintely prepare this again.  And I put the remaining puff pastry in the freezer for the next installment of puff pastry, later this month (to be continued... :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classic French Bread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 65th installment. The recipe is Classic French Bread.
This recipe made everyone in the household say "oooooh, you're making baguettes....." :-)  Talk about an easy way to get popular....

This recipe was fairly straightforward and we liked the bread a lot.  I'm still not sure if making one's own baguettes is worth the work, since it's so easy to buy great baguettes.  On the other hand, French bread is good when it's very fresh, and baking at home gets it to you as fresh as possible.

The dough has very few ingredients, and doesn't even take too long to rise - one rise, shape the dough, rise again, and bake.  The recipe called for cake yeast, which I did not have (and also did not have time to obtain - where does one even get it? :-) so I used active dry yeast dissolved in water.   I had a time crunch on the day I was baking, so I even stuck the dough in the fridge for the first rise, and it still worked out great.  It kind of blew the lid off the bowl in the fridge, but that didn't seem to hurt anything.

I kneaded it by hand, rather than machine, because I was in the mood for that.  Long ago (back when I only worked four days per week - woohoo!) I used to bake bread every Friday, and taught myself a lot using the New Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, so kneading and shaping is familiar to me.

I watched the video, and found myself kind of thinking about the "original" Julia child recipe that I have used in the past.  I really like Julia's explanations in general, and actually found the description in the book of how to shape the loaves rather inscrutable - a diagram in there might have helped.  The video was more illuminating, but I still kind of fudged the shaping process - something to perfect in the future.  Here's the dough after shaping, ready for its second rise:

I have a perforated metal pan for baguette baking (talk about specialty bakeware - got this as a gift), so I used that, rather than the baking stone.  It allows plenty of heat to circulate and keeps the bottom of the bread rounded rather than flat.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting on my blog - I enjoy the company of other bakers and always want to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 64th installment. The recipe is Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes.

This is a delicious recipe, and was fun to bake, despite the temperature in the kitchen being 90 degrees with very high humidity :-)   It's a great use of summer fruit, and we ate ours with ice cream.  I bet it would be good with other fruit as well.  I am curious about the recommendation in the book to use bittersweet chocolate sauce instead - maybe next time. 

The basic method is to make a brown-sugary butter cake batter and then put a surprisingly small amount of batter (2 heaping tablespoons!) into a dish, put a plum half cut-side up on top, and then sprinkle with more brown sugar before baking.  They are served face up, so you can see the carmelized plum.

I was initially a little intimidated by the amount of effort required (it was Labor Day holiday, and consequently, I felt lazy :-), but once I watched the video, it seemed easier than I had initially thought by reading the recipe in the book.  

This recipe makes 12 cakes - I had a patchwork of 10 little pans, so I made due with what I had.  My mini square pans only hold 4 ounces volume, which is half that of the recipe's recommendation of 8-9 ounce custard cups.  For those, I used a plum quarter instead of a half, and baked them for only about 12 minutes.   Here are the pans with batter and plums, and before brown sugar sprinkling:

I put a bit more than the recommended amount of batter in the half-size pans, because I didn't have enough pans, and the batter rose up and covered the plum, which wasn't as pretty (but still delicious).  Here is the result after baking. 

 They were slightly tricky to get out of the pan, as the fruit made them sticky, but since you serve them top side up, it was pretty easy to scoop out the remaining scraps from the pan and tuck them under the mini cake on the plate. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baking Powder Biscuits: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 63rd installment. The recipe is Baking Powder Biscuits.

Well, it's hard to go wrong with a Marion Cunningham recipe for a quick bread (although I still question the sunken muffins from a previous installment :-).  Her Breakfast Book is one of my staple cookbooks.
This recipe was quite easy, and the results were great.  It seemed to be a traditional method of rubbing in the butter, and then adding the liquid. Butter and gentle handling really make the biscuits better.  I don't usually put them next to each other, but it makes the sides softer, which was nice. 
Forget the artistic photos - here's what really happens to baked goods around here....

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Poppy Seed Torte: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 62nd installment. The recipe is Poppy Seed Torte.
This was an unusual recipe, so it was a fun change of pace.  It was quite different from any typical "American" style cake that I've baked - including:
  • 2 cups of poppy seeds ground in the coffee grinder
  • 1.5 cups of cake crumbs (and no other flour - it's a cake made from cake!)
  • 7 eggs
  • flavorings of cinnamon, lemon, and espresso
Here's what the poppy seeds plus cake crumbs looked like (I used pound cake from the grocery store....)

Butter, some sugar, and egg yolks get mixed, and then you alternate adding the mix of poppy seeds and cake crumbs with the seven (!!) stiffly beaten egg whites.  Here it is in the middle of that process:

It looked like a mess, but eventually came together.  After putting the batter in the pan, you top it with poached apricots, and then bake.  Once it comes out of the pan, you top the (now kind of shrunken) apricots with additional poached apricots that look nice and pretty.

Before baking
After baking, and before re-apricotting
The recipe was a bit fussy (lots of dirty bowls!) but we really liked the result.  It was great with coffee.  After the first taste, when we did find it not quite sweet enough, I put on the optional apricot jam glaze, and that was perfect. I bet it would be good with other fruit as well.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vanilla Pound Cake: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 61st installment. The recipe is Vanilla Pound Cake.
This recipe was quite straightforward, and turned out well.  I had just attended a cake baking class at Flour bakery in Boston, so was inspired to add some vanilla seeds from a vanilla bean - I think it made the flavor a little better, but it would be good with an even more intense vanilla flavor next time. This is a large recipe and the dough gets very fluffy as you beat it:
 I think of pound cake as rather solid, but this dough was definitely full of air. 
 It mixed and baked exactly as described, and I was very happy when I got it out of the pan successfully (always a bit apprehensive of those ridges in the Bundt pan...).
It looks a little plain on the cake plate, but we ate it with tropical fruit on top (star fruit, mango, pineapple) during our World Cup viewing party, and then again the next day plain and with ice cream (yummy!)

Leaf-Shaped Fougasse: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 60th installment. The recipe is Leaf-Shaped Fougasse.
Another try at the Foccacia , this time with a fancier shape.  This was yummy, although, again, not as puffy and dimpled as I expected. I liked the fresh herbs and olive oil (no surprise), and it was useful to have a single edge razor tool (which I got from King Arthur Flour) for making the slashes.  This recipe also has you spray the inside of the oven - it wasn't clear that increased the humidity much.  In the past, I've used ice cubes in order to make moisture inside the oven (I think I got that from an older Julia Child book somewhere or other....). 

Before baking