Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BAKED Explorations

You know how I've baked (and blogged about) altogether too many (and yet, not nearly enough) utterly, fantastically, delicious recipes from this book:

And remember how you still haven't bought your own copy?

Well, they're coming out with a new book this October. And you can pre-order it now:

I did! And when we both get our new cookbooks, we can make things together! Virtual baking parties! Won't that be fun?!

Almost as fun as this:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Croissants and Danish

You should know, first off, that I didn't make this dough myself. I went to a class at Les Madeleines in which I learned how to make these laminated doughs, and at the end of the class, dear Romina gave each of us a big piece of each: danish dough and croissant dough. This was in February. I put them in my freezer. Possibly for too long.

At any rate, the cutting and shaping and rising and baking of these kinds of pastries is all new to me, so that's what this project was all about.

I learned that I get very frustrated with yeast doughs. The rising is so finicky. It seems like the air has to be just the right temperature and have just the right level of humidity for it to work out right. Putting it in the warming drawer of your oven is not a great idea because that just makes the butter melt. In the future, I will have to have a day full of plans that will keep me busy while the dough rises, so I won't fret over it.

I also learned that I need to just attempt to make this dough from scratch. The frozen and thawed dough didn't rise quite as much as it should have and didn't have the highly anticipated tender flakiness.

The cutting and shaping itself was not as difficult as I thought it would be.

And if I hadn't messed up by adding an extra egg (please don't ask) into the almond cream for the danish, all of the pastries would have been beautiful to look at. They all tasted delicious, just weren't quite as flaky and puffy as they should have been.

TGIP Rating--Croissant and Danish--KEEPER. Next time (sometime when I'm feeling exceptionally brave) I'll make the dough myself.

Next up: Fresh cherries are one of my favorite foods in the world. And I want to use them in a delicious dessert. So, I'm making smitten kitchen's Cherry Brown Butter Bars. And I may add my own little tweak to the recipe. Maybe.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Midweek Recipes 3: KAF Rustic Sourdough Bread

Highly recommended.

Over a year ago, when we moved and transferred items from fridge to fridge to fridge, my sourdough starter that I had been given by The Pie King kicked the bucket. I don't know that I had ever taken proper care of it. But we did use it almost once a week for sourdough pizza crust, before its untimely demise. And it was delicious. I never tried making regular loaves with it because I couldn't find a recipe that seemed right without being overbearing, if you know what I mean. I've been missing it (and I need it if I'm ever to make Bread and Puppet Theater bread). So, I ordered some from King Arthur Flour a while back. It's highly active. Or hyperactive. I'm not sure which.

And then I used their recipe for Rustic Sourdough Bread. So easy. So good. Next time I'm going to try their Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Obviously, sourdough is perfect for sandwiches or to serve with soups. But, how do I like to eat mine? Toasted. With butter. Also highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Having never made biscotti before, I certainly have no business altering the recipe of the BAKED boys, who apparently both have Italian grandmothers who are opinionated on the subject. But I did. Their recipe is for "Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip Biscotti", and honestly, I'm not a big hazelnut fan. I know. So I reverted to a more traditional version: Almond. All I did was replace the hazelnuts in their recipe with toasted almonds. And yet. FAIL. Witness:

Turns out gooey chocolate and not-all-the-way-cooked dough are not very easy to slice through, as a combination. In fact, in the process, I destroyed the Silpat I've used (and loved) forever. *cry* Never daunted, I decided to try again, making two smaller logs of dough for the first bake and leaving the chocolate chips out (they come into the picture later).

That plan worked out much better. The baked dough was easy to slice through and the individual biscotti crisped up so nicely during the second baking. Once cool, I dipped one long side in melted semi-sweet chocolate. Just a thin coating, but perfect.

And the whole experiment worked out so well, I decided to try the BAKED boys' own variation of Pistachio Cherry Biscotti. I'm partial to those two things: pistachios and dried cherries. And those also worked out beautifully. The cookies are actually incredibly easy to make. You just have to be willing to keep an eye on turning, etc. during the second bake to make sure that all sides get to the level of crispy you like. And whatever recipe you use, you probably shouldn't be married to the baking times that are suggested. Feel for firmness to know the first bake is done. Look for golden brownness and feel for crispiness to know the second bake is done.

Here's the thing about biscotti: they're pretty crispy. They're supposed to be. So you can dunk them in your espresso, or tea, or whatever (Grand Marnier, maybe?!) and they'll take a little liquid, but not get soggy. The concept doesn't work quite as well if you're dunking them in gelato. Unless the gelato is melted. Just a little something to keep in mind when you make these guys yourself. And that was a public service announcement from me--trying to save you tooth breakage.

TGIP Rating--Chocolate-dipped Almond Biscotti AND Pistachio Cherry Biscotti--KEEPER

Next up: I'm finally using the dough that the fabulous Romina of Les Madeleines gave me at the croissant/danish class I took from her in February. (And when I clicked on that link myself I discovered that once again they will be closed for almost the whole month of July--my birthday month. Romina what are you doing to me?! I know you need a vacation. You deserve it more than almost anyone I know. But how will I ever have one of your treats for my birthday?!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Midweek Kitchen Recommendations 3: Leftovers

So, a while back, I had a little bit of leftover coconut pastry cream from the Toasted Coconut Cake. I put it in the freezer for a month (or so) and then last weekend decided to use it in a tart. I made a basic tart shell (which, incidentally, was kind of a FAIL--I need to figure out my own tart crust recipe),

filled it with the leftover pastry cream, put cut fruit on top, glazed with an easy glaze (apricot preserves, plus a little booze--you could even use coconut rum! (or you could use water)--cook until melted, strain, brush over fruit). Voila! Easy dessert. And yummy, to boot!

All this to say: even 3/4 cup of leftover pastry cream can come in handy for a delicious dessert at a later date. Your freezer and freezer bags (plus a Sharpie to mark the date) should be your best friends, if they aren't already.