Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fruit Focaccia - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 82nd installment. The recipe is Fruit Focaccia.

I loved this bread, and will definitely want to make it again.  It also got rave reviews from family members who like dried fruit (the chocolate crowd didn't even try it :-)

The first step was to start the fruit soaking in hot water, for three hours, or longer if you like.  The suggested mixture is a total of 3 2/3 cups (wow!), two parts dried cranberries to one part golden raisins.  I used a mix of jumbo raisins in different colors (golden, red, purple). Then, the fruit soaking liquid is used to make the simple dough - yeast, fruit "juice" from soaking, flour, salt, orange rind, and honey.  After kneading the dough ingredients in the power mixer, you add a couple of tablespoons of butter, keep mixing, and then add the soaked fruit.  What a mess it was...I wish I had photographed it at its most unattractive.  But somehow, the fruit was eventually incorporated, and then the dough rises in a bowl for three hours.

After deflating the dough, the next step is chilling for 24 hours in the fridge.  After that, you press the dough out into a jelly roll pan, and let ir rise for three hours (long enough to come to room temperature and start to rise).  Brush with egg glaze so it will be shiny, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (I got this at the grocery store, labelled "Sugar in the Raw").

Here's the finished bread - enormous!  Good thing it keeps well - it is still good two days later.  If there's still some left in another day, I'll try toasting it. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cardinal Slice - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 81st installment. The recipe is Cardinal Slice.

Apparently I am teetering on the edge of baking burnout, because I was kind of dreading the complexity of this one.  I am happy to say that I really enjoyed it, and it WASN'T THAT DIFFICULT!  This is a traditional Austrian pastry ("Kardinalschnitten").  I followed the directions, and it was relatively straightforward.

First - make an "Espresso Couleur" - an espresso carmelized sugar syrup.  The method for this was really quite amazing - warming and melting sugar in a large skillet, very slowly, until very darkly carmelized, followed by adding espresso to that and boiling again.  I used a non-stick skillet, and all went fine - glad I had the time to focus on this, since it's not something to do while multi-tasking.
Meringue stripes

Next - the cake layers.  You're making three layers of cake, 3" by 15" or so - you're going to end up with a long, high, not very wide cake.  Parchment and a pastry bag were essential for this.  You make meringue, and pipe out thin stripes of that onto three pieces of parchment.   

There is a lot of meringue left, which becomes the basis for a sponge cake batter, which is then piped in between the meringue stripes, to make a layer with alternating stripes of meringue and sponge.    
Meringue and sponge stripes - there are three layers here
These are baked for a long time (recipe called for 40 minutes, but I did about 30), at a very low temperatue with the oven door propped open with a wooden spoon.  
Layers after baking

Last element: whipped cream, flavored with Espresso Couleur.  Mmmm...this would be good on just about anything ;-)  The recipe just used a little bit of this - I have some left over, so it should be fun to figure out how to use it.

The cake was slightly challenging to assemble - the recipe suggests trimming the sides and ends in order to make the layers even, but I think my knife wasn't quite sharp enough, because it seemed to tear the layers more than cut them. I did a bit of work on the ends, but skipped the sides.  
Bottom layer before assembly
Then you spread the cream on top of cake layer one, add cake layer two, more cream, and then cake layer three, which you leave unfrosted. Use the rest of the cream to lightly frost the sides and ends.  I covered a piece of cardboard with foil to hold it - I can see that I "need" (ha!) some kind of couleur-sized plate for serving this shape of cake....
Assembled Kardinal Schnitte (Schnitten? is it one slice or plural at this point?)

Nutella Buttons - TWD: Baking Chez Moi

Another in my sporadic installments of Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking Chez Moi. The recipe is Nutella Buttons.

These are mini cupcakes with a dollop of Nutella in the middle - a simple concept, and very easy to do.   Everyone really enjoyed them!

The method to prepare the batter was rather different from what I've done before -  interesting to try a different method, after all the various ones I've already seen. It seems like there are an infinite number of ways to make a cake batter.

You whisk the egg yolks, and then add the mixture of dry ingredients to that, to form a kind of paste.  This recipe calls for confectioners sugar - I'm wondering if that helps to make the grain of the cake finer.  The next step is to add melted butter to the paste, and then beat it.  Next you beat the egg whites until they hold peaks, and fold a small quantity of that into the batter to loosen it, followed by folding the rest of the beaten whites in.

I baked them in foil mini-muffin cups.  You put a small quantity of batter in each one, followed by a 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella, topped with additional batter.  Bake them on a baking sheet, and that's it.  Time to pop them addictively into your mouth ;-)  We were so busy eating, I neglected to take a photo of what they look like on the inside.

I find Nutella a bit too sweet, so I used a chocolate/hazelnut spread from our local health food store - slightly thicker and less sweet.   I also dipped the top in chocolate ganache (one of Dorie's "Bonne Idée" sidebar suggestions) and that made them extra yummy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ka'kat - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 80th installment. The recipe is Ka'kat.
Another flatbread recipe from Baking with Julia - so easy, and very good!  It's billed in the cookbook as 'Middle Eastern street food".  The recipe is a basic white bread, with a little bit of mahleb for seasoning.  Mahleb is a spice made from the ground stones of a cherry.  Sadly, I couldn't find it in my nearby stores (and with no time to spare, no time to search high and low), so based on a suggestion I found on the web, I substituted a combination of ground fennel seed and cardamom.  It's only a quarter teaspoon, but I think it helped the flavor.

First, make a sponge with yeast, sugar, flour and water, which you allow to rise briefly: 
Before rising
After rising - the spoon is diappearing...

Next, you mix in salt, seasoning (in my case, mahleb substitute) and then the rest of the flour, making a rather soft dough, which you knead for 10 minutes.  Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours, and then cut it into 32 pieces, roll each piece out into a long "snake", and then form rings on the oiled baking sheets.  These rise for 30 minutes, covered in plastic wrap. It's hard to tell from the photo, but these are just about 3 inches across.

 I should have oiled the plastic wrap - this was a little sticky, and I lost some "rise" when I pulled the stuck wrap off the rolls.

Coat with egg wash, sprinkle with sesame seets and bake.  They are kind of like mini bagels, although not as dense as that (no boiling step).  

These were very good warm, and kept well - I reheated them, uncovered, in the oven the next day, and the surfaces got crisp, which was very good.  I would definitely consider making this one again - I thought the recipe's comparison to soft pretzels was true (although they are sprinkled with seeds instead of salt!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Matzos - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 79th installment. The recipe is Matzos.
Another flatbread - although familiar with matzos from the supermarket, it didn't occur to me as something one could prepare at home, so this was an interesting one to try.
This has, of course, a super simple ingredient list - flour, water, salt, and pepper.  I also included the optional sesame seeds, to make it a bit more interesting.
You mix up the dough, which is a little on the dry side, and then just divide up the dough and roll it out very thinly.  I can see that evenness is key to getting it to bake evenly (hence the slighly charred edges and light middle sections on my pile of matzos :-). You prick the dough sheet with a fork, and sprinkle with salt.
The baking method is to pre-heat a baking sheet with the oven up high (500 degrees or more), and then place the dough sheet on that hot metal baking sheet.  Bake for a minute, turn it over, and bake for another minute.  Mine took slighly longer, since I suspect I hadn't rolled it out as thinly as I might.
I like the simplicity of this recipe, and the result was good (better than the supermarket variety!).

Sweet Ricotta Pie - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 78th installment. The recipe is Sweet Ricotta Pie.
It was great to bake something "homey" after the last couple of recipes, and I really liked this recipe.  This recipe is another one from Nick Malgieri, and relatively uncomplicated.
The crust is a rich one with eggs in it, and was easy to handle.  You mix it, chill it, and then roll it out.    Two thirds of the crust is used for the bottom, and the last third for the lattice top.
The filling is a mix of ricotta, eggs, sugar and flavoring.  I did not have anisette, but as suggested in the recipe, substituted vanilla and Grand Marnier as the flavoring. I only had part-skim ricotta, which seemed wrong ;-) so I made some additional homemade whole milk ricotta:
(Side note: If you haven't tried making cheese, and want to try, check out Urban Cheescraft - I received a DIY cheese kit as a gift, and it has been fun and so easy to use.)
I think the richer whole milk ricotta helped make the flavor and texture better.
Pour the filling into the crust, sprinkle with cinnamon, and then put on the lattice - one set of strips across, and then the other at an angle.
Here's the pie before baking:
It baked up perfectly, and then you let it cool before serving.  Here's a photo of how the filling and crust look when you cut into it:
I think it's delicious! Kind of like a cross between cheesecake and custard pie - what could be bad about that?  :-)  

Pebble Bread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 77th installment. The recipe is Pebble Bread.

Talk about whiplash - from the ultra-complicated previous recipe to this very simple Moroccan flatbread...
Sponge before rising
Sponge after rising
This one starts with a "sponge" (starter) of flour, yeast, and water that sits for 24 hours.  It's smooth when you mix it up initially, and then the liquid separates out so during the rising: 
You stir the liquid in, and then mix in barley flour, wheat flour and salt to make the dough.   Knead the dough until smooth, and then rise for three hours.  At that point, it's time to shape it.   You split the dough up into eight pieces, and for each one, roll it out, dip in breifly in water, and then put it out and use your fingers to make the dimples (traditionally resulting from baking it on hot pebbles!).  
Dough in the skillet
This dimpled dough is cooked on one side in a hot skillet for a few minutes, followed by broiling until golden on top.  
The bread was very good, and went well as an accompaniment to our curry for dinner.  It made a lot, so we had some left for the next day.  It didn't really stay moist, but I toasted it, and it was OK that way.  I think I would prepare this again if making a Moroccan meal, although definitely for a crowd, so you would eat it all up on the day it is baked, as suggested in the recipe.