{Tuesdays With Dorie} Baking With Julia Pecan Sticky Buns (Whew)

Whew!  I have to say I feel like I just ran a marathon after making these Pecan Sticky Buns.  It’s a good thing though, that these take so much time and effort to make because if it were easier I might be tempted to make them more often and that would not be good for my thighs.

The recipe for these buns (which was contributed by Nancy Silverton – love her) begins with making a brioche dough, which in itself is a fairly complicated and time consuming process with lots of rising and chilling and rolling.  Then once the dough is made, it is made into buns with a lot more rolling and chilling and rising.  And a lot of butter.

Even though there were a ton of steps in the recipe, they were all very easy to follow and really caused me no problems.  And the end result was the best sticky bun I have ever put in my mouth, with super flaky layers of dough and a nutty caramel topping.  Definitely worth the extra effort.

If you are tempted to try your hand at making this recipe you can visit this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie/Baking with Julia hostesses, Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Nicole of Cookies on Friday.

{Tuesdays With Dorie} Baking With Julia White Loaves

I’ve had the lovely book Baking with Julia in my cookbook collection for a while and have made some very successful and delicious recipes from it, but it had somehow gotten buried under the ever-growing pile of newer cookbooks over time. When I discovered that the Tuesdays with Dorie group had chosen this book, which Dorie Greenspan put together from Julia Child’s PBS series of the same name, I dug it out and flipped through the pages thinking all the time “Man, I forgot how good this book is!”

I know the brioche and sticky bun recipes are fabulous, and I love the idea of baking my way through the book in order to try all the other recipes.  So, here goes!

The first recipe chosen for the month of February was White Loaves, contributed by Craig Kominiak, which begins a chapter titled “Daily Loaves”.  Regular Shortbread readers will know that I have made quite a few loaves of bread in my time, and it was difficult for me to keep from straying from the recipe and doing my own thing.  But I tried to use the techniques it called for, and the only substitution I made was using instant yeast instead of active dry because it was all I had in the pantry.  (If you find yourself in the same situation, skip the first step of mixing the yeast, sugar, and water together and just stir the yeast and sugar into the first half of the flour before adding the water.)

This dough was definitely on the wet side for me, but the loaves rose quickly and baked up tall and fragrant.  It sliced easily and made tasty sandwiches, toast, and was even better with a layer of Nutella.

This week’s TWD/BWJ hostesses are Laurie of slush and Jules of Someone’s in the Kitchen, and on their websites you’ll find this recipe.  Visit the Tuesdays with Dorie blog for more information!

 

 

In Your Dreams Whole Wheat Chocolate Croissants

 

How do you know when your kids are watching too much Disney Channel?  That would be when you have a dream you’re a teenager and friends with the Jonas brothers, at a party at their house, and the girl who plays London on The Suite Life (Brenda Song) is trying to pick up your boyfriend.

I would probably be a little more worried about my mental state if I wasn’t going through a period in my life where I dream crazy dreams all night (or at least it seems like it).  So, sadly enough, this isn’t the most disturbing dream I’ve had lately, but at least I can laugh about this one.

I’m sure I’ve dreamed about Chocolate Croissants before, because I LOVE THEM.  I know I’ve daydreamed about them.  In the past I’ve made chocolate croissants with store-bought puff pastry and later with homemade puff pastry.  But this time I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Classic Whole Wheat Puff Pastry, from their giant tome, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.

Their recipe uses a combination of whole wheat pastry flour (usually found at a natural food store like Whole Foods or Earth Fare), and bread flour and is then made in a similar way as traditional puff pastry.  The result is a dough that bakes up flaky and flavorful, with almost as much flakiness as that made from all regular flour (and perhaps a little less guilt?).

One batch makes enough for 24 croissants, but I divided mine into fourths and froze three parts for later.  It’s a very nice thing to have in the freezer when you feel the craving for some pastry coming on, or if you start dreaming about them.

Chocolate Croissants

from Shortbread

makes 9

Ingredients

  • 1/2 recipe Whole Wheat Puff Pastry (see below for recipe)
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips, chocolate pieces or 9 chocolate batons
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut into thirds lengthwise, and then into thirds across to make nine 4 x 6 inch rectangles.
  3. Place about 2 tablespoons of chocolate or one chocolate baton in the center of each rectangle. Fold the rectangles like a letter and place seam side down on the baking sheet, pressing gently to seal.
  4. Cover the croissants with plastic wrap or a towel and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Uncover and brush the tops of the croissants with the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until the dough is deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

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Whole Wheat Puff Pastry

adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

makes 3 3/4 lbs dough, enough for 24 croissants

Making the Dough

  • 3 cups (10 1/8 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) nonfat dry milk
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (13 ounces) water, room temperature
  1. Whisk together both flours and the dry milk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and mix with the paddle attachment until the mixture resembles oatmeal (or cut in with a pastry blender). Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved, then pour into the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together into a rough ball and pulls away from the sides. Add more water a tablespoon at a time if there is still flour at the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead using a dough scraper to help lift it until it becomes smooth, about 2 or 3 minutes, trying not to add too much more flour (the dough needs a little extra moisture for the wheat to absorb).
  3. Pat the dough into a square about 1 inch thick and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preparing the Butter

  • 2 cups (4 sticks, 1 pound) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
  • 1/3 cup ( 1 1/8 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
  • all-purpose flour for dusting

In a mixer or food processor, or with a spoon, combine the butter and pastry flour until smooth. Lightly flour a piece of plastic wrap and place the butter/flour mixture on it and pat it into an 8 inch square. Wrap the butter completely with the plastic and refrigerate on a flat surface for at least 30 minutes.

Rolling and Folding

You will need:

  • all-purpose flour for dusting
  • rolling pin
  • ruler or yardstick
  • pastry brush
  • small bowl of water
  1. Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll it into a 12 inch square.  Unwrap the butter and place it in the center of the square at a 45 degree angle. (with corners pointing up and down and side to side).
  2. Moisten around the edges of the dough with a pastry brush dipped in water. Pull the corner flaps of the dough over the straight edges of the butter until they meet in the middle, and press to seal the edges together, smoothing out any air pockets before sealing the last seam. Dust the top with flour, then turn it over and gently tap it with the rolling pin into a rectangle, adding more flour underneath if the dough starts to stick.
  3. Continue to roll the dough into a 20 x 10 inch rectangle. Turn the dough so the short edges are at the top and  bottom and brush off any excess flour from the top of the dough. Lightly wet the edges. Fold the bottom short end of the dough up 1/3 to the middle of the rectangle, and then fold the top short end down to line up with the bottom edge of the dough, like a business letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees to the right, so it looks like a book = First Turn.
  4. If the dough feels warm or springs back when you roll it, cover it and return it to the refrigerator for 20 minutes. If the dough is still fairly cool and relaxed, repeat the previous step of rolling and folding = Second Turn.
  5. Make two dents in the dough with your knuckle to record how many turns you have completed, then wrap and return it to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (if resting more than an hour, let dough sit out 10 minutes before rolling again).
  6. After an hour, roll and fold dough twice more = Third Turn & Fourth Turn. Rest dough in refrigerator another hour or more, then roll and fold two more times = Fifth Turn & Sixth Turn.
  7. At this point you can use the dough to make any type of pastry you wish, or divide it into portions, wrap it tightly, and freeze.

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Ray Of Sunshine Kaiser Rolls {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

I dreamed last night that I woke up and it was snowing.  The schools were on a two hour delay and my kids were getting their clothes and boots on to go outside.  When I finally woke up, I realized it was just a dream, remembering that instead it was going to be sunny and in the 60’s.  You know that grateful feeling you get – ‘thank goodness, it was only a dream’ –  that’s what I felt.

How ’bout these Kaiser Rolls?  They’re like a ray of sunshine, a light from above.  The best thing about them is that they start out as a humble dough of just a few ingredients, and then somehow miraculously turn into gorgeous rolls with an intense depth of flavor.

Turkey, Havarti, Red Onion, Romaine and Lite Mayo

If you want to make a batch of these fantastic rolls, or any other recipe from Peter Reinhart’s terrific baking handbook, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, you can preview or buy the book here.

 

Super Bowl Subs Italian Bread Rolls {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

Rain, rain, go away . . . and don’t come again for a long time.  It seems to be feast or famine with the weather here.  Floods or drought.  I vote for a little more balance, before we all just float away.

If there is an upside to all the rain, it gives me more time inside to bake.  These Italian Bread rolls were the next recipe in my bake through of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  The dough takes two days to make, mixing up half of it the first day, and the rest on day two.  A little time consuming, but if you can work it into your day, so worth it.  The bread rose and baked up beautifully, and the taste is fantastic.

Planning to serve sub sandwiches for your Super Bowl celebration?  These would be perfect for them!

If you don’t have this book by Peter Reinhart, be sure to check it out here.

I’ll Be In Australia French Bread {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  My son woke up sick, my dog got off her leash, my oatmeal was runny, I put yeast in the flour canister instead of the mixing bowl, and my washing machine detergent dispenser is clogged.

I think I’m going to Australia.

I’ve hit a snag in my bake-through of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, too.  Peter Reinhart’s French Bread really gave me pause.  I have made most of the recipes with relative ease, but this bread proved to be a little more ‘sensitive’.  Making the dough was not difficult, but when it came to baking the loaves I couldn’t seem to get it right.

I started baking the loaves with my baking stone on the bottom rack of my oven.  When I checked them, they had gotten way too brown and the tops were still white.  So I moved the stone to the middle, but by the end of the recommended baking time they were still not brown on top.  I turned off the oven and left them in until they were brown enough.

The result?  Very tender with lovely holes on the inside, but a little too tough on the outside.  But I’ll keep working on it.

Just not today.

Interested in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice?  Preview it here.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Wetter Is Better Focaccia And Ciabatta {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

As 2009 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the successes and challenges I’ve had in the kitchen this year.  One of the greatest successes – this Focaccia.  One the biggest challenges – this Ciabatta.  But a challenge can sometimes teach you the greatest lesson of all.

Not ever being satisfied with just so-so, I decided to give the ciabatta another try.  Even though I thought my dough had been wet enough the first time, the bread lacked the large holes that earn ciabatta its self-respect.  So this time I made sure to keep the dough as wet as possible making sure it just came together but was still very sticky.  The result?  A dough that bubbled and rose, and baked into a glorious hole-y ciabatta (pictured below) that didn’t have to hide.

The lesson?  Wetter is better.

I applied this same lesson to my focaccia with equally grand results, and it garnered the most raves of any bread I have made so far.  It could most likely be applied to all yeast recipes to insure you a greater chance for success.

These two particular recipes can be found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  If you don’t have it, you can preview the book here.

 

Don’t Go Down The Drain English Muffins {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

Today’s question to ponder . . . Why is it always the good spoons that accidentally drop into the disposal?  Never the old hand-me-down silverware that you use for cooking, but the shiny new (-ish) stuff you got for wedding gifts.  Hmmm.

I can tell you that if you like to bake at home and you need one more reason to get The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, here it is.  These English Muffins are so over and above anything you have ever bought, and I don’t say that lightly.  These are so delicious they will even convert those who don’t usually care for English Muffins (i.e., the husband).

I really never even thought is was possible to make English Muffins at home until I got to this recipe in the book.  And still, I had a few reservations about getting that cornmeal crusted top and bottom and the ‘nooks and crannies’, but I was not disappointed.  The recipe consists of a yeast dough that has risen and is cooked in a skillet and finished in the oven.  Much easier than I had expected and with terrific results.

Later this week I’ll have a few recipes for things to do with these.  In the mean time, you can take a look at the book here.

 

An Easy Answer Napoletana Pizza Dough {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

Today’s question to ponder . . . Why does the clicking sound your car makes never happen when you’re at the mechanic’s?  Hmmm.   If only I knew the answer.  But I can answer the question of how to make the BEST pizza dough ever.  Two words – Peter Reinhart.

I have made quite a few pizza dough recipes in the past and none ever hit the mark.  I wanted a thin crust that wouldn’t be too bread-y, and that would bake up with some crunch on the edges.  I had seen the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for Napoletana Pizza Dough before, but since the dough required an overnight rest, I passed it over.  Finally, when I got my own copy of the cookbook and started slowly baking my way through, I realized how successful the recipes are.  So I gave in and mixed up a batch of the dough.

This dough was so soft and silky, and was a dream to stretch out.  It could be made a little thicker, like the Barbecue Chicken Pizza at the top, or extra thin and crispy like the White Pizza With Arugula below.  I was really amazed that I was able to make a dough like this at home, and so was everyone else in my family.

Like I said, it does have to be started the day before, but it is SO WORTH IT.  However, you can keep it in the fridge for 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.  I guarantee you it won’t last that long, though.

101 Cookbooks is where I first saw the recipe in a post coincidentally titled Best Pizza Dough Ever (it says the olive oil is optional, but I used it also).  If you’re interested in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice take a look here.

Celebrate Fall Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

It’s November, and now that Halloween is over, get ready to brace yourself for the full onslaught of the commercial holiday season.  Christmas items are already filling the shelves and Santa Claus is showing up on the television.  I really have to try not to get too carried away or fall and all its smells, sights, and sounds will pass by before I can enjoy them.

I believe in buying my Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, and waiting until December to start the Christmas holiday baking, which includes Fruitcake.  Yes, that’s what I said.  I am a fruitcake fan, but not the prepackaged kind that’s shaped like a brick, but real homemade more-fruit-and-nuts-than-cake fruitcake.  And I will share my favorite fruitcake recipe for my fellow fruitcake fans in December.

Even though I will sneak a few Christmas songs onto my iPod this month and definitely start my shopping, I plan to bake a lot of pumpkin-y, cinnamon-y, nutty things that remind me that it is still fall.  And if I start to feel a little wistful for some of that fruitcake, this Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread will surely tide me over until December.

This loaf from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice combines the flavors of cranberry and walnut with a touch of citrus flavor that reminds me a little of my favorite fruitcake, but can still be very fitting for the fall.  So, celebrate by baking some great bread filled with delicious fall ingredients and enjoy the season.

Interested?  Preview and purchase the book here.

Celebrate Fall Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread

bba cranberry-walnut bread

It’s November, and now that Halloween is over, get ready to brace yourself for the full onslaught of the commercial holiday season.  Christmas items are already filling the shelves and Santa Claus is showing up on the television.  I really have to try not to get too carried away or fall and all its smells, sights, and sounds will pass by before I can enjoy them.

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Doubting Thomas Corn Bread

bba cornbread

Being of the Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread as a side for all types of Southern food.  And also because of said Southern persuasion, I grew up eating cornbread made without sugar.  But I did grow up in the generation of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (notice they call it corn ‘muffin’, not corn ‘bread’ – I don’t think that was unintentional).  So it’s not like I was never exposed to the sweet style of cornbread more popular in the North, I just prefer the Southern-style.

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Bread Baking Blitz Ciabatta, Cinnamon Buns And Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

BBA cinnamon bun 2

Okay, so after browsing through my food photos I realized that I had a serious back-log of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice recipe pictures.  And since the back-to-school chaos has slowed my blogging pace down to a SLOW CRAWL leaving me like six months behind the other “Slow-and-Steady” bakers who post every two weeks, I decided to just throw them all out here in one fun bread baking blitz.

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Don’t Let The Dogs Eat The Bagels

bagels

One of our dogs loves to ‘counter-cruise’.  When no one is looking, she puts her paws up on the kitchen counter and grabs whatever has been carelessly left too close to the edge.  Once we opened a Krispy Kreme doughnut box and found it empty.  Somehow she had lifted up the top and eaten the doughnuts without even knocking it off, and carefully closed the box when she was finished.  Sneaky.

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Do Believe The Hype Bread

anadama bread 3 BBA

Peter Reinhart’s book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has been around for a while and has certainly made the rounds in the food blogging world.  After seeing a few of the recipes on various blogs my interest was piqued, but being a little bit of a skeptic, I told myself this book couldn’t be all that.  I had other baking books that I was sure were just as good, and do I really want to spend two, three, or more days working on a single bread recipe? Continue reading

Ham-burg-er Bun-s

homemade-burger-buns

I really like knowing exactly what’s in my food.  I’m like one of those kids in the Breyer’s ice cream commercial where they’re reading the ingredients on the carton of the ‘other brand’ saying “polyphenolari-wha?”.  Whenever I can make something myself that is just as good or better than store-bought, I’m all for it.

Lately I’ve been put off by the long list of ingredients in hamburger and hot dog buns.  Even those in the bakery section of the grocery store include things I’ve never heard of.  So, I started searching for a recipe for buns that I could make at home and keep in the freezer.

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Don’t Get Them Started Brioche French Toast

brioche-french-toast1

At the grocery store the other day I was in dire need of some windshield washer fluid, and the only kind they had said it was ‘scented’.  I wasn’t really sure how much you would be able to smell something that’s sprayed on the outside of the car, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.  Much to my amazement, I could actually smell the scent of the fluid after I used it the first time.  It was sort of nice.

Fast forward to about a month later, with the family in the car on the way home from dinner.  After hearing many large insects splatting on my windshield (you know it’s spring in the South), and having just had my car washed that day, I suggested to the husband that he spray some cleaner on it.  This is the conversation that followed:

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The Great Biscuit Debate #3 The Whole Hog

biscuits-3

The biscuits are back.  This time they are made with White Lily flour and half butter, half shortening.  I’ve actually made these a few times, but was just too lazy/busy/forgetful to take a picture.  We’ve been having country ham a lot with the biscuits, my personal favorite biscuit accompaniment.  I’m thinking I must do some research on buying whole country hams, so we can have it more often, but I digress.

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The Great Biscuit Debate #2 No Laziness Allowed

biscuits 2

Okay, are y’all ready for some more biscuits?

This is the second batch I made in my ongoing quest for the perfect buttermilk biscuit.  You can find Batch Number One, made with unbleached all-purpose flour and shortening here.  Batch Number Two was made with bleached, enriched flour and shortening, and actually turned into sub-batch a & b (how disturbingly obsessive is this?).

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The Great Biscuit Debate (and the search for the perfect buttermilk biscuit)

biscuits-1

I don’t know what food embodies the South more than the Buttermilk Biscuit.  And just like most other foods of the South, the biscuit recipe is one that is handed down through generations and every family has their own way of making them.  A marriage in the South often leads to a little (or a lot) of argument discussion over what makes a good biscuit.

My mom’s mother could throw together a batch of biscuits in a matter of minutes, cutting hers out with a can and baking the scraps into little pieces for us to snack on.  My dad’s mother would use what I’ve seen referred to as the pinch method – she would pinch off pieces of dough, roll them up and flatten them in the pan with her knuckles.  My mother, a terrific cook and baker, was surprisingly not much of a biscuit maker, preferring the yeast roll or sometimes (gasp) biscuits that came from a can. Continue reading

World Tour Day Six Cranberry Pecan Scones

cranberry scones

World Tour Day Six:  Great Britain.

The first time I had scones with real clotted cream and jam was in London at the hotel where we were staying.  I was very excited to sit for a proper afternoon tea and enjoy the formality of the tradition.  Even though I had eaten a nice lunch not long before, I was determined to have a pot of tea and scones while I was there, hungry or not!

I like a little tradition and I like a little formality now and then, too.  I have to say, I get a little frustrated with how casual and informal things have become.  I swear I was sitting beside a woman at the movies last night who was wearing her pajamas and bedroom slippers!  It just makes me a little uncomfortable.  I mean, if you want to watch a movie in your pj’s, get something from the movie store and stay home!  I’m really not interested in what you wear to bed.

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World Tour Day One Tattie Scones

tattie scones 2

I’ve been on a little bit of a cooking world tour lately.  Kind of like my rockin’ Rock Band 2 band, Crash Warning, with whom I’ve been traveling around the world on tour this weekend (I’m just a little bit addicted to this game, okay maybe a lot).  Probably it just has to do with the fact that I enjoy experimenting with different flavors from different cultures.  So this week I am going to write about some of the recipes from around the world that have made it onto my table recently.

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What’s The Deal? Weekend Harvest Grain Wheat Baguette

whole-grain-baguette1

What is the deal with this cold weather??  “Arctic air mass drives through the south” says one TV station.  Wrap water pipes, leave faucets dripping, cover outside plants?  What?  It’s not very often that my part of the south hears things like this and that’s one of the reasons I like it here so much.  Long summers and mild winters are right up my alley.  But I guess we need some below freezing weather every once in a while to kill all the mosquitoes. Continue reading