Recommended Baking Adventures June 2015!

June was a month of applications, travel, and more baking! Here are some of the top experiments: Moving along in my James Beard bread book, I decided to attempt Myrtle Allen’s Brown Bread. The resulting bread was dense, a little sweet, and completely delicious! I used regular whole wheat flour. IMG_4921

Ease was a theme this month. I wanted to make bread, but didn’t want to go shopping for interesting ingredients and didn’t want anything too complex. After searching various “easy bread” related terms in Google, I ended up with a very basic one. (I can’t find the exact recipe, but suggest kneading the bread for a solid 8-12 minutes always, and letting it rise for more like an hour each go.) One thing I’ve worked on with bread is shaping and being aggressive with showing the seams who’s boss!

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The prospect of making bagels at home is a little stressful. People, especially New Yorkers, are very particular about the quality of their bagels, and they seem fairly complicated with a two-step cooking process. My native New Yorker swears by this recipe. If you follow the straightforward directions, you’ll be fine! And everyone will be very impressed at the taste and texture. It works well to invite friends over before baking the bagels so they can help shape and top them before digging in!

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My dad loves rhubarb, so a rhubarb dessert for his birthday seemed perfect! I went with this rhubarb cobbler recipe, following the steps from the video over the recipe, except for adding the oats to the crumble topping. Yum! (Go lighter on the orange juice and zest than recommended.)

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Two Bittman recipes to finish it off! I hosted a tea party on short notice and these basic buttermilk biscuits were simple and came off beautifully! I’ve recently discovered powdered buttermilk, which can be stored pretty indefinitely in your fridge and used for baking. It’s brilliant! It’s good to make sure it’s actually blended in to your dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients as it clumps a little.

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The basic brownie recipe from How To Cook Everything has a typo in my edition (discovered too late), asking for 2oz of chocolate rather than 3oz. I’ve noted it in my cookbook for the future. As a result, my brownies were kind of meh. My reason for including it is to encourage you to go to great lengths to rescue underdone baked goods. I baked the brownies for more than double the recommended time and they still seemed underdone, but I figured it was just how they were supposed to be. Wrong! As noted in the image below, the top completely came off when I tried to extract the brownies from their pan. I scraped the top back into the pan and continued cooking until done. Yes, they looked a little crinkley, but no one knew anything had been amiss when I served them later.

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Happy adventuring!

Recommended Baking Adventures April-May 2015

This year has been very intense so far– and one of the more intense events was being let go from my amazing job. This has given me the time to challenge myself in many ways, and to bake more! Some favorites are listed below.

We hosted our first Passover Seder this year, which gave me the opportunity to try some delicious recipes. During the week of Passover, observers refrain from consuming leavened bread, and many other items. For dessert, I made a dairy-free, flourless chocolate torte. It was delicious and beautiful.

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We went traditional for the main course, selecting a brisket recipe from the New York Times. It was a ton of fun to use our gorgeous brazier, and the meat turned out splendidly! The photo is from about half way through the five hour bake time. By the end, the plums were completely disintegrated. We went ahead and made it the day before, warming it during the service. The timing worked out very well!

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For Christmas this year, I received a bundt pan. I rarely make cake, but have been looking for an opportunity to use the bundt pan all year. Birthday season did the trick! My first bundt was a Lemon Ginger version from Martha Stewart– yum! I increased the amount of ginger again by half, added a few drops of lemon oil, and was pleased with the flavor. I also made a small, round version of it with part of the batter, as I’d read that the batter makes a little too much and overflows pans. It was a good idea. I have a 12 cup bundt pan and it would have overflowed.

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Last, but not least, I received two banneton baskets for shaping bread for my birthday. I had a ton of fun trying it out! I used the basic loaf recipe from James Beard, using half bread flour and half whole wheat flour for the dough. After the first rising, I kneaded and then placed the dough in the banneton:

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After the second rising (brushed with cold water, sprinkled with salt, and cut):

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I hope to start my next professional adventure soon, but have enjoyed the opportunity to play in the kitchen!

 

Catching Up on Baking (October – Present)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted Recommended Baking Adventures, so it’s time to catch up!

Most recently, I’ve fallen in love with a braised cabbage recipe from an article on braising. The cabbage gets silky and smooth, and we’ve been eating it with a little feta crumbled on top– best warm or at room temperature!

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I’ve also been baking bread and experimenting with sourdough. My family took a bread baking class together, where we each got a bit of starter at the end to take home and play with. I’ve made sourdough several times since then and have enjoyed the results!

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Part 1: Mix 2T ripe, stiff, culture, 1 3/8 cups water, and 3 cups whole wheat flour. Let ripen for 14-18 hours.

Part 2: Combine mixture from Part 1, 3 5/8 cups bread flour, 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, 1-2t instant dry yeast until shaggy and let stand one hour. Add 1T salt and knead for 8-10 (or longer) minutes until moderately elastic. Let stand in a covered bowl for ~1 hour to double. Divide and shape into two loaves, and let rise again for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Bake at 460 for 15 minutes, then at 440 for additional 20-25 minutes.

Cool and enjoy!

Another fun bread adventure has been bagels! Who knew you could make delicious bagels at home? We use this recipe and have always had success. Even if it looks a little scary, it’s totally easy and they are actually delicious.

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Last and not least, who doesn’t love a good excuse to get the tube pan out? This Sally Lunn bread from our dear James Beard is easy, delicious, and versatile. It’s slightly sweet and rich, but can be served alongside any meal or for breakfast as toast. And it’s really pretty.

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Honorable mentions:

Recommended Baking Adventures: September 2014

This past month I’ve found myself in full pantry stocking mode, moving toward canning and big batches of soups. It must be fall! It continues to be difficult to find the time to make bread, but I have high hopes for this weekend!

We were lucky enough to have a ton of fresh fall vegetables from our CSA box from Driftless Organics! We ordered an extra box of tomatoes and roasted them!

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We cut them in half, and placed them cut side up in the oven for about 8 hours at 325 degrees. Before putting them in the oven, we sprinkled them with roughly chopped garlic, salt, and olive oil. Most went into the freezer for treats this winter! SO. GOOD.

Onto the bread! We had farm fresh potatoes, so I went for this potato bread.

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While I really wanted to break out my good friend James Beard, I couldn’t find a version of his potato bread that didn’t involve refrigeration, so went with this recipe, which was quick and easy. The dough was easy to work with and the bread was delicious! It didn’t rise a ton in the first or second rising, but made up for it once it got into the oven! Either my house was too cold or the dough was heavier with the potato. Or both.

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Because I can’t bear to be separated from James Beard for long, I tried his Parker House Rolls next.Rolls

The shape is a little awkward (baker error), but the fold made them easy to tear open and fill with jam and butter. I found them best when fresh out of the oven. The Parker House also apparently invented the Boston Cream Pie!

An early morning walk in support of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) was a great excuse for scones!

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This Mark Bittman recipe was my inspiration, but I used all whole wheat flour, substituted sour cream for the heavy cream, and added raisins. These were also mini scones, so needed a little less time to bake through. I also skipped the topping step. I’d definitely recommend baking with sugar on top though, it would have made them feel more special. The substitutions worked well!

p.s. September was ovarian cancer awareness month. It’s a pretty scary cancer, and there aren’t any great diagnostic tests. The disease is often diagnosed late and is difficult to treat at that stage. Unexplained bloating, weight loss, feeling full quickly, frequent urination, and/or constipation? Check into it. More information.

A couple of quickies:

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Baked brie! One with jam, one with honey and sliced almonds, and one with caramelized onions and garlic. Impressive and easy. Great for entertaining. Don’t forget to take the phyllo dough out of the freezer in advance!

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Mark Bittman’s oatmeal cookies from How To Cook Everything. I upped the cinnamon and added chocolate and butterscotch chips. A solid winter treat!

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Rosh hashanah was a great excuse to try out the tube pan! A silpat underneath guarded against leaks, and the honey cake recipe was very good. Not too sweet, but that may have been a product of too much coffee and not quite enough honey.

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A fun weekend breakfast treat: Baked eggs! Surprisingly easy and healthy for how decadent they feel. They’re a perfect platform for fresh herbs, which we’re trying to use up before they freeze out in the garden!

BONUS: Refrigerator Pickles!

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We started with this recipe and used mustard seed, fennel seed, juniper berries, and peppercorns for the brine. We stuck with thinly sliced cucumber for the veg. They have been great on sandwiches, in salads, and on relish trays!

Recommended Baking Adventures January 2014

Oofda! It’s been a busy busy winter, but it’s high time I posted again. Stay tuned for a design-related post later this weekend. For now, an update on baking adventures!

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One of my best Christmas presents this year was a vintage copy of “Beard on Bread.” James Beard leads the willing cook through a variety of bread recipes– mostly yeasted breads, but others as well. I started out with the basic white bread. I’ve determined that the liquid to flour ratio that he recommends is far too dry, and have ended up adding almost a quarter cup of additional water whenever I make it. Outside of that issue, the bread crusts nicely and makes delicious toast with a consistent interior.

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Voila! The final time I made this recipe, I added about 2T of herbs de Provence and about 1T of garlic powder. The flavored bread went excellently with jam.

This might not count as baking, but we had a ton of fun ringing in the new year with paella!

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We used this recipe, and swapped out some of the fresh seafood for the pack of frozen seafood from Trader Joe’s. The dish was somewhat time intensive, but not technically difficult. It was delicious at dinner, but the leftovers (there wasn’t much, unfortunately) were even more delicious the next day. Highly, highly recommended.

Some amazing recipes that I didn’t take photos of, but highly recommend from this month: