Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daring Bakers (somewhat unenthusiastically) - "Beautiful Bread"

Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Welp. I want to start off by apologizing for not posting for like three weeks. I sort of have an excuse for part of it. I was planning on doing a post about something Valentinesy/be romantic on all the days, not just one, but I awoke at 3:45 AM on February 15th, violently, violently ill. TMI, I vomited six times that night. I was totally wiped out for the next few days, and I am so glad my parents were around to take care of me so I didn't wither away and die. Thanks, parents. So I was kind of not in the mood for eating for a bit after that. I'm completely better now (though many of my friends are becoming ill... >__>) so I'll be posting more. 

Okay, so...this month's Daring Bakers had a lot of potential in my mind. The challenge was just to make some kind of beautiful bread. I made a nutella swirl bread that kind of looked like it had unicorn horns in it. The recipe made two breads and the first one was a DISASTER. I didn't realize the top layer needed to be wrapped around the other layers, so I kind of just ended up with this burnt, ugly stack of pancake bread. The second one was better, but in my opinion...not worth the effort. It didn't taste like anything special I used the extra dough to make some killer cinnamon rolls, and they were way better than the pretty breads. Oh well, live and learn, right? 

Also, the reason I don't have pictures is because they mysteriously disappeared. Figures. All I have as proof is this crappy iPhone picture. Sorry : / 

I guess it's kinda cool. 

Swirly Bread (If you want step by step photo help, go here)

1 can (400 gm) (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
3 teaspoons (15 ml) (12 gm) yeast
7 cups (1 kg) (2.2 lbs) all-purpose (plain) flour, approximately
Pinch of salt
Instead of the eggwash use
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) milk powder
3 tablespoons (45 ml) lukewarm water
1teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) instant coffee
For the filling
½ jar (200 gm) (7 oz) of nutella (or similar)

Mix the condensed milk, yeast, oil, water, and eggs in the bowl of your mixer
Add the flour one cup at a time and knead using the kneading attachment or by hand till you get a soft dough. The dough will be slightly sticky due to the sweetened condensed milk, don’t worry once the dough rests it will have a wonderful consistency.
 Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rest till it doubles in size
 Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 parts. Wrap one part in a plastic bag and work with the other. Divide the dough ball into 4 parts. Roll each part into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter (you can use a plate or any other round item as a template if you want your layers to be identical and uniform). Spread the Nutella (or similar filling) on the first layer. Place the second layer on top of the first and repeat. Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.

NOTE: to help with the slippery Nutella, you can place the filled layers before cutting into the fridge for 20-30 minutes, this will help the nutella to firm up. That will make the cuts and twists easier.

Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles starting at the center but don’t go all the way to the outer edge.I find that using a ruler to mark the dough makes the cuts easier and more uniform.
You can also dip your knife in flour before cutting, that helps to prevent the layers from sticking together. I have also found that a pizza cutter works well because it is extra sharp (I used a bench scraper).
Then divide each triangle into two. That gives you a total of 16 triangles. Gently lift the triangles one at a time and twist them. Brush the dough with egg wash replacement.
Bake at moderately hot 390°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and for 20-25 minutes. The original instructions say to put it under the broiler for five minutes, but I had bad luck with that.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Raspberry and Cream Macarons

I'm sleepy and want to take a nap, but I promised myself I would post today. So I will. I was home, which means I made macarons. Naturally. I've had a bag of freeze dried raspberries hanging around for a while, and so I ground them up and mixed them into the batter. It wasn't my most beautiful batch (they had little peaks from being undermixed) but they were successful in my eyes. 

I did some creative writing in January and wrote a short piece about macarons. Sort of. It's more like a daydream that drifts...but it starts with macarons. I'll share an excerpt with you, yeah? Hope you like it. 

"You cannot make macarons if you are upset. You’ve tried, usually in the midst of some form of lovesickness. Your emotions are somehow infused into the meringue and the cookies fall, flat and cracked. You might cry a little bit out of frustration. Almond flour is expensive and macarons take time. Some say too much time. That it’s not worth the effort. Think of how many cupcakes you could make in the time it takes to bake and assemble twenty fussy macarons. Sometimes you’re inclined to agree. Especially when you’re sitting in front of the oven door, heart sinking when the shells collapse into ugly piles. But when they turn out–oh, how they shine like jewels! Ephemera. A bite of air, the sensation of something, there, melting on the tongue. Then gone". 

Raspberry and Cream Macarons
125 g almond flour
125 g confectioner's sugar
20 g freeze-dried raspberries, ground to a powder
3 egg whites
75 g granulated sugar

Sift almond flour, confectioner's sugar, and raspberry powder together. Set aside. 
Beat egg whites until foamy, then gradually add granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. 
Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. It should take 35-40 strokes to reach the desired consistency. It should be almost like lava, holding its form if you put a little on a plate, but melting down after 20-30 seconds. 
Pipe batter onto parchment or Silpat lined baking sheets in 1 1/2 inch circles. Leave enough space between them so they don't melt together. Let them rest for 30-60 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 300F. Bake macarons for about 15 minutes. The shells are done when you can peel them away from the parchment without anything sticking. If you try and pick one up and the top rips off...cook them more. Cool completely and then put filling between two shells. 

Cream Filling
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add cream and sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in vanilla bean seeds. Refrigerate until using.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Kouign Amann

Blogging with a dog on my lap is difficult, but I will try my best. I'm at home for a bit before my next (and final) semester begins. Gah. Last semester. I won't lie to you. I'm scared. It's the biggest unknown yet. What does it mean to be part of the real, adult world? What does success even look like? Different things for different people. I need to spend some time thinking long and hard about what brings me joy, and not what I'm expected to do. I'll let you know if I figure that one out. 


Right now...yeah, I know I need to figure my life out, but I'm also trying to take advantage of the fact that I am currently surrounded by friends. Everyone will scatter soon, opportunities drawing them to all corners of the country. Is real life lonely? I don't want to spend my days working, then going back to an empty house, eating alone, then reading or watching tv until it's an acceptable hour to go to bed. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ah. No. Okay. 

We're going to talk about nice things now. Kouign Amann is nice (pronounce it like queen ahmon. I love saying it). It literally means butter cake in Breton, which is basically what it is. Flaky, croissant like dough, with tons of crunchy sugar on top. It is pretty ugly (rustic!), but it's easier than something like croissants or danish. A good gateway to the pastry world. Make a ton of dough and freeze some for later, to pull out when friends are visiting. Or eat it all if you don't have friends, like me in the future (just kidding! I hope.) 

Kouign Amann 
from Joe Pastry
(This makes about four, nine inch pastries)

1 lb. 12 ounces all-purpose flour
1 ounce melted butter
14 ounces water
1 tablespoon, two teaspoons instant yeast
1 lb. lightly salted butter
egg wash (2 beaten eggs plus two teaspoons water)
1 cup granulated sugar for topping (this is the amount of sugar you need to top FOUR of them. Keep it in mind). 

Combine the flour, melted butter, water and yeast in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle. Stir until all ingredients are moistened and switch to the dough hook. Knead for 1-2 minutes, until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, apply cooking spray or a small amount of oil, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to sit for 1/2 an hour, until about doubled. 

About ten minutes before the dough is ready, make your butter block. (If you're unfamiliar with laminating dough, go here). Make your dough packet, roll it out and give it two turns, resting the dough for 20 minutes in the refrigerator after each turn, covered with plastic wrap. The dough will rest happily in your refrigerator for 2-3 days days at this point, or it can be frozen for three months. 

When ready to make your pastries do a final turn, this time sprinkling sugar over the dough before you fold it. Cut the dough into four pieces (just under 16 ounces each) and roll them out to 8″ to 9″ circles. (alternately, you can roll the dough out flat, cut it into small square and shape the squares as you would cheese Danishes). Place the circles into parchment-lined pans, cover with plastic wrap and let them rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until puffy. 

While the kouigns are proofing, preheat your oven to 400. When they’re fully proofed, paint them with egg wash, sprinkle them liberally with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes until browned. Serve warm.