Monthly Archives: May 2010

What’s for Dessert?

The answer should be “ice cream,” because our high today was around 90℉, but the choices today are blueberry tart or peach Melba jellyroll. I’ve never made a jellyroll, so that has a special attraction, but I also have a work deadline, and the tart would be easier, so the tart wins. I’ll do the jellyroll next, though.

For the tart, because I’m starting to feel like it’s too predictable and easy, I’m ready to do a little tweaking. Cinnamon and lemon are classic with blueberry, so my strategy today was to add some cinnamon and lemon peel to the crust and to use lemon extract (instead of vanilla) in the pastry cream.

Pate Sablée with Cinnamon and Lemon Zest
(adapted from Julia’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
7 oz all-purpose flour
3 T sugar
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
5 T butter
2 T shortening
1 egg
1 tsp water
1 tsp lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients. Add the fat and pulse until the fat is in pea-sized pieces (or smaller). Add the liquid ingredients and lemon zest and process until the dough begins to form lumps. Press the dough into a 9-inch square or 10-inch round tart pan and chill for at least 1 hour. Line the tart shell with foil and weight it with pie weights or beans, then bake at 375℉ for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake another 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the crust on a rack; when the crust is cool, remove it from the tart pan.

Lemon Pastry Cream
(Adapted from Chef Bo’s recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef)
2 cups milk
4 oz sugar
1 oz cornstarch
a few grinds of sea salt
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon extract

Put the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Keeping an eye on the milk, whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl; add the eggs and whisk until smooth. When the milk comes to the boil, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and slowly bring it back to the boil, stirring constantly. Allow the pastry cream to boil for 10 seconds, then remove it from the heat and stir in the extract. Cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it cools.

For the tart:
1 pint of blueberries
2 T apricot jam mixed with enough water to make a brushable glaze

To assemble the tart, turn the pastry cream into the tart shell, smoothing it with a spatula. Arrange blueberries over the surface. Brush the berries with apricot glaze.

Blueberry tart with lemon and cinnamon

Blueberry tart with lemon and cinnamon


Also, at the request of Dr. Science, I’m making chocolate chip cookies. I thought I’d try a recipe from King Arthur, but I ended up being too lazy to carry the computer to the kitchen and just followed the recipe that’s on the back of the chocolate chip bag. I got Ghirardelli chips on sale awhile ago, so that’s what I’m using. Here’s their recipe:

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Yield: 4 dozen cookies)
2¼ cups all-purpose flour (who knows how much that is? I used 9 oz)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, packed (I used light brown sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (that’s the 12-oz bag)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (I didn’t add nuts)

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugars, then add the vanilla and eggs and beat until creamy. Stir in the dry ingredients, then stir in the chocolate chips.

They tell you to drop by tablespoons, but I use a scoop.

Chocolate chip cookie dough, ready to bake into cookies

Chocolate chip cookie dough, ready to bake into cookies


I can also tell you the trick to getting crisp or chewy cookies. If you want the cookies to be flat and crisp, use room-temperature dough. If you want the cookies to be chewy, refrigerate (or freeze) the dough. Actually, the dough keeps well in the refrigerator for quite a while — certainly a week — and you can form the dough into balls and store those in a covered container, then just bake a few at a time. Of course, that means heating up the oven for a few cookies, which isn’t very energy efficient, so that’s the tradeoff.

The other trick is to bake at the correct temperature. At 375℉, these got a little too done for my taste; I’ll do the next batch at 325℉.

Chocolate chip cookies, baked a little to hot

Chocolate chip cookies, baked a little to hot


I also made another loaf of sourdough; this one has some whole wheat flour in it. It doesn’t look as pretty as the first one. I’ll just have to keep practicing. I’ll have to keep practicing my slashing, too; this is supposed to be an octothorp, but I think I made a hash of it.
Sourdough boule slashed with a hashed hash mark

Sourdough boule slashed with a hashed hash mark

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Utility Baking

The 1847 sourdough bread is gone. It lasted longer than Dr. Science predicted, but not by much. It wasn’t very sour, so I liked it. The crumb looked okay—maybe a little tight:

1847 Oregon Trail sourdough bread: Crumb view

1847 Oregon Trail sourdough bread: Crumb view


Yesterday I made a loaf of the default whole wheat. Today I tried another loaf of sourdough from a radically different recipe, and the dough was very wet. Cibatta dough isn’t this wet. I did bake it, but I’m not calling it bread. I’m trying another of Jeff Hamelman’s recipes tonight; that’ll have its bulk ferment overnight in the fridge.

Last week I suggested sending in a cake with Dr. Science one day for a treat, and he suggested today because they were having a lunch meeting and it would make a good dessert. I made the King Arthur Flour Kitchen Sink carrot cake, which is turning into my favorite carrot cake recipe, and decorated it with marzipan carrots, just for fun:

Kitchen Sink carrot cake with marzipan carrots

Kitchen Sink carrot cake with marzipan carrots


I followed the directions in The Professional Pastry Chef, and it was pretty easy. For 12 carrots, you weigh out 2½ oz of marzipan and dye ½ oz green and the other 2 oz orange:
Marzipan: Some dyed green and some dyed orange

Marzipan: Some dyed green and some dyed orange


You roll those into ropes and cut the ropes into 12 pieces, then you roll the pieces into balls. Then you roll the balls into cones:
Marzipan morphing into carrots

Marzipan morphing into carrots


You use the back of a knife to make the little indentations in the carrots and use a skewer or similar to poke a hole in the ends of the carrots:
Marzipan carrots ready for assembly

Marzipan carrots ready for assembly


Then you stick the green pieces into the carrots and cut them to resemble the carrot greens. The marzipan is sticky at first, but after awhile it gets a little drier and easier to work with.

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1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Bread

It’s a starter!

1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough starter, ready to raise a loaf

1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough starter, ready to raise a loaf


The 1847 Oregon Trail starter is growing well and smelling good, so this morning I fed it and got ready to bake. Okay, more accurately, I fed it and got ready to spend the day turning flour, water, salt, and starter into a loaf of bread.

I’ve made sourdough bread before, but I don’t love it, myself, and I find all the care and feeding of the starter tedious and annoying, and eventually I neglect the starter until there’s nothing left to do but toss is on the compost. I suspect that if I keep the starter in the fridge and have a schedule for feeding it and baking with it, that won’t happen again. Today, because I’m sort of starting from scratch, I made the most basic dough from Jeff Hamelman’s book Bread. His formula scales down to two loaves, and I halved that.

Vermont Sourdough
(amounts are half given for the “home” version)
5.9 oz of sourdough starter
12 oz bread flour
1.6 oz whole rye flour
7.4 oz water
½ T salt (I used 1 T Diamond Crystal kosher salt)

Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook. Put everything but the salt in the stand mixer and mix on the first speed for a minute or two, just until the dough comes together. It should be shaggy and dry.

Shaggy sourdough

Shaggy sourdough


Cover the bowl and leave the dough to autolyse for 20 to 60 minutes; I gave it about 45 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough
Salted autolysed shaggy sourdough

Salted autolysed shaggy sourdough


and mix the dough on the second speed for 4 or 5 minutes, until you get a good gluten window. (You’ll have to take my word for it that I got a good gluten window; I couldn’t figure out how to hold the camera in one hand and show the gluten window with the other.) Form the dough into a ball and let it ferment for 2½ hours, folding twice (after about 50 minutes and again after about another 50 minutes). My dough felt like Silly Putty at the first fold, but it felt a lot more like bread dough at the second fold. After the bulk ferment, I formed the dough into a ball and left it to rise in a 10-inch springform pan. I use a round pan to proof round loaves because I find they have a tendency to spread, and I’m trying to control that a little. After the 2½-hour proof, the dough had spread just about out to the limits of the pan:
Risen boule of 1847 sourdough

Risen boule of 1847 sourdough


While I waited for the oven to preheat, I looked for something interesting to do with the slashing, but I couldn’t find anything other than the usual crosses, hash marks (“octothorps,” says Dr. Science), or circles, so I defaulted to the big X on top:
Boule with boring but functional slashes

Boule with boring but functional slashes


I gave it 35 minutes at 375℉. Sourdough bread is done at an internal temperature of 200℉ to 205℉, which I’ve exceeded a little:
Definitely done at 207.5℉

Definitely done at 207.5℉


You can see how the sides of the bread are straight because the spread was checked by the sides of the pan:
1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Bread

1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Bread


Dr. Science wonders what we’re going to eat for bread tomorrow. I’m thinking it’ll be whole wheat sandwich bread, which is quick and easy.

Reference
Jeffrey Hamelman, Vermont Sourdough. In Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2004, p 153.

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Sticky Toffee Pudding, or What is a Tin?

Sticky toffee pudding is a cold-weather treat, but we haven’t had cold weather for awhile (and I’m not complaining). Last year we had March for about 4 months; this year we pretty much skipped March and a lot of April, too. The highs this weekend and through Monday will be hovering around 70℉, and that’s going to count as cool weather because beginning Tuesday, we’re looking at highs in the mid 80s to around 90. So tonight I made sticky toffee pudding.

A couple of months ago, our friend Michele, who’s temporarily living in England, had sticky toffee pudding at a pub and then tried making it at home. It didn’t work well for her, but she wasn’t using the right flour, if I remember correctly. I thought it would be fun to try, so I bookmarked the recipe and I’ve been threatening to make it ever since.

This afternoon I soaked the dates in hot water with coffee powder, vanilla, and baking soda. I have no idea why the baking soda is in there, but it foams up and looks less than appetizing:

Date mixture with baking soda foam

Date mixture with baking soda foam


After it had cooled for a couple of hours, the mixture looked better:
Date mixture, cooled

Date mixture, cooled


The batter itself is pretty straightforward. You leave a stick of butter out all day, and you toss that in the mixing bowl with brown sugar and beat them together:
Sticky toffee pudding battter, step 1

Sticky toffee pudding battter, step 1


Then you add the self-rising flour and the date mixture:
Sticky toffee pudding batter, finished

Sticky toffee pudding batter, finished


I don’t have self-rising flour; apparently it’s popular in England. You can make your own by adding baking powder and salt to regular flour, which I did. The general formula is 1½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt per cup of flour. This recipe calls for 9 oz of flour, which is about 2 cups, so I put the bowl on the scale, tared the scale, measured in 1 T of baking powder and 1 tsp of salt, and then added flour to make 9 oz. The baking powder and salt came out to ½ oz, for what it’s worth.

The recipe also specifies a 7-inch square tin. I interpreted “tin” to mean “baking pan,” and I don’t have a square one that size but I thought an 8-inch round ramekin would do:

7 x 7 = 49
3.14 x 16 = 50.24

Well, the areas are similar, but what about the volume? Apparently a “7-inch tin” has more volume than my ramekin, because the recipe says to “cook until well risen,” and unless this is rising like a soufflé, I’m out of room at the start:

Sticky toffee pudding batter in an 8-inch ramekin

Sticky toffee pudding batter in an 8-inch ramekin


I figured I would just follow the directions and see what happened. After about 10 minutes, what had happened was this:
Sticky toffee pudding disaster

Sticky toffee pudding disaster


I pulled the ramekin out of the oven and transferred the batter to a 10-cup Bundt pan:
Sticky toffee pudding batter in a larger "tin"
After about another half hour of baking, it turned out pretty well:
Sticky toffee pudding, done

Sticky toffee pudding, done


Meanwhile, I had not been idle; I’d been making the toffee. You toss another stick of butter and some more brown sugar (do we see a theme here?) into a saucepan:
Toffee, step 1

Toffee, step 1


and cook that until the sugar melts:
Toffee, step 2

Toffee, step 2


Then you add the cream:
Toffee with cream; isn't that pretty?

Toffee with cream; isn't that pretty?


And slowly bring that to the boil, at which point apparently it’s toffee:
Toffee

Toffee


I realized (too late) that I hadn’t sprayed the Bundt pan and that the pudding might not come out without a fight. The pan is theoretically nonstick, but we all know better than that. However, as you can see in the photo, the baked pudding pulled away from the sides of the pan, so that was a good sign, and it came out just fine. We each had a small serving topped with toffee:
A serving of sticky toffee pudding

A serving of sticky toffee pudding


It was pretty good, and I’m glad I made it.

But what is a tin? The British appear to use the word tin pretty generically to mean “metal container.” What Americans call a “can” the British call a “tin.” (Here’s a story I’m told is true: Some English tourists in the United States visited a small family farm. They asked the farmer if the family could eat all the produce from the farm before it spoiled. The farmer replied, “We eat what we can, and what we can’t we can.” The tourists thought this was an amusing way to put it, and when they got back to England they told the story to their friends with the punch line, “And the farmer said, ‘We eat what we can, and what we can’t we do up into tins.'”) Americans sometimes use “tin” for a metal baking container: We can bake a pie in a “pie pan” or “pie tin.” I’ve heard “cake pan” and “cake tin” used interchangeably. So when I read “7 inch square tin,” it didn’t occur to me that I needed something deep. That bit about “well risen” should’ve tipped me off, though. The name “pudding” should’ve tipped me off, too.

The English have steamed puddings, which are quick breads steamed in pudding tins. A pudding tin is typically a metal mold with a lid, and it holds a lot more than my 8-inch ramekin does. In fact, I’ve looked up some information about pudding tins, and a 7-inch square one probably holds about 9 cups. If I’d realized that earlier, I would’ve just used the Bundt pan to begin with. Well, now I know. If an English recipe for “pudding” specifies a “tin” of a particular size, I’ll find out the intended volume, not just the area.

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Fruit Curd as a Learning Experience

We’re out of pie, but what to make? It’s too warm for sticky toffee pudding, and I have too much work to do to make anything really interesting. So I defaulted to lime curd tart. It’s quick and easy, I love it, and it won’t last long.

Lime curd tart, but not for long

Lime curd tart, but not for long

I’m also beginning to accept the fact that fruit curd is a learning experience. I thought I had this nailed down a long time ago, but the more I make (the more versions I try), the more I realize I don’t have a definitive recipe. I’ll just have to practice systematically until I come up with one. It’s a dirty, rotten job, but someone has to do it.

This weekend the weather will be in the 70s, so that might count as cool enough for sticky toffee pudding, so I might be making that tomorrow.

The 1847 sourdough starter is bubbling but not growing very much. I fed it today and tonight. We’ll see how that’s doing tomorrow.

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Carl Griffith’s 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter

Carl’s sourdough starter is here! I have a snack-size baggie with 1 teaspoon of dried starter granules:

Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter

Carl Griffith's 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter


It’s dried and has to be revived. The directions say to mix 1 tablespoon of water with 1 teaspoon of dried starter:
1847 Sourdough Starter soaking in lukewarm water

1847 Sourdough Starter soaking in lukewarm water


let that sit for a few minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of flour:
1847 Sourdough Starter with 1 T water and 1 T flour

1847 Sourdough Starter with 1 T water and 1 T flour


Theoretically, this makes a very small amount of 100% hydration starter, but this mixture is very dry, and the directions say it should have the consistency of “thin pancake batter,” which this obviously does not. So I added a little more water:
1847 Sourdough Starter with more water

1847 Sourdough Starter with more water


That looks more like it. This sits overnight, and then I’ll feed it again.

You can get Carl’s starter free by sending a self-addressed stamped #10 envelope to the address on the Carl’s Friends Web page.

Right now, I’m following directions. Beginning tomorrow morning, I’ll feed the starter with equal weights of water and flour.

Meanwhile, on the dessert front, our weather has been cooler than normal, and i was thinking of making sticky toffee pudding, but tomorrow’s high will be near 80, so now I’ll have to think of something else.

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More Flaky Pie Crust?

Finally, we’re nearly out of carrot cake. The next time I make a sheet cake, I’m sending it in with Dr. Science. If the products don’t get eaten, I don’t get to bake.

Here’s my opportunity to see if the extra-flaky pie crust I made last time was a fluke, or if the things I did differently contributed to the effect. The three different things were chilling the shortening in the freezer, cutting the butter into random-sized chunks instead of into small cubes, and rubbing in the fat with my fingers instead of cutting it in with the pastry blender. Tonight I did all three. If the crust is extra flaky, that’s probably a result of one or more of these differences. Then I can experiment with trying just one thing, like chilling the shortening, and gauge the effect. If the crust is not extra flaky, then the last time was a fluke.

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