Neapolitan Easter Pie {ModBak}

After the simple and stunning chocolate orange hazelnut tart, the next recipe I made from the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge was Neapolitan Easter pie. I really wasn’t all that excited to make this one, and Margaret’s lack of enthusiasm when she made it didn’t help matters any.

The recipe called for white wheat berries, which is an ingredient I don’t keep in my panty and didn’t want to buy just for this pie. The instructions give several substitutions for the wheat berries, one of which is rice. I happened to be making basmati rice for dinner the night before I made the pie, so I made some extra rice to use in the pie.

The recipe also calls for pastry cream and provides instructions to make it. Given my lack of enthusiasm for this recipe, I decided to take a shortcut and use pastry cream mix from King Arthur Flour. Although, truth be told, I almost always use the King Arthur mix when a recipe calls for pastry cream. It’s quick and easy to mix up, and it’s absolutely delicious.

After making the pasty cream, I whisked in ricotta cheese, sugar, and eggs, then stirred in orange flower water, candied orange peel, and the rice. I scraped the filling into a crust made with sweet tart dough.

I topped the pie with strips of dough arranged in a lattice pattern.

Yeah, that cinnamon was supposed to go on top of the pie before the crust

 I baked the pie at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until the crust was baked through and the filling set and slightly puffed up.

It smelled good coming out of the oven and reminded me of a custard pie my mom used to make when I was younger.

I enjoyed the pie more than I thought I might. The flavor was similar to custard pie, and the orange peel and flower water added a bright, citrus note. The rice gave it a texture similar to rice pudding and helped the filling hold up well to the crust. It was especially good served just a little on the warm side (the same way I like my pudding).

So, overall, this pie was a pleasant surprise. That said, I doubt that I’ll make it again. Unless, perhaps, one of my daughters dates an Italian guy. And I’ve got a few years before I need to worry about that. Not enough. But a few.

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Ginger-Scented Panettone {ModBak}

My second assigned blog post for the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Ginger-Scented Panettone. I’m not sure why I picked this recipe, as I don’t have much experience with panettone. In fact, until I made Peter Reinhart’s Panettone recipe for the BBA Challenge, I had never even tasted panettone. But I really liked PR’s recipe, and since we would be baking from this section during the holiday season, Ginger-Scented Panettone seemed like a festive choice.

In the introduction to this recipe, Nick Malgieri notes that in Italy panettone is generally made with sourdough starter, although his recipe calls for a yeast-based sponge. One advantage to using sourdough is that the bread stays fresh longer and won’t get moldy as quickly. Since I keep two sourdough starters in the refrigerator and it was time to get them out to feed them anyway, I decided to make my panettone with a mixed method, using sourdough starter and some yeast.

Using baker’s math, I calculated the hydration of the sponge and fed my sourdough starter accordingly. I let the sponge ferment for about eight hours, until it was nice and bubbly. Rather than using yeast in the sponge, I added it to the dough. Since I was using instant yeast instead of active dry yeast, I added the yeast along with the flour.

After the sponge was ready, I gathered my ingredients. I was feeling a bit lazy, so I cheated on the minced ginger.

As you might guess from the name, I picked this jar of ginger up at an Indian grocery. I really like this stuff and use it just about anytime a recipe calls for freshly-grated ginger. It comes in a two-pound jar, so it lasts forever, and it stays fresh in the fridge. And speaking of ginger, I found this candied ginger at World Market. It’s fresh and chewy, not all hard and dried out like the stuff you get in the grocery store. And it’s a lot less expensive, too.

I mixed up the dough, which, in addition to the ginger, is flavored with lemon zest and vanilla. Unlike a traditional panettone, this dough isn’t loaded with fruit, containing only golden raisins and no candied fruit or peel. After the dough was mixed up, I put it into a buttered bowl and let it ferment.

The dough rose for about two hours, until it had doubled in volume.

By using a combination of sourdough starter and commercial yeast, I got the advantages of each. The starter enabled me to achieve a longer lasting, more flavorful dough, while the commercial yeast made the dough rise on a more predictable schedule.

After the dough had fermented, I put it in my panettone mold. Based on my previous panettone misadventure, I decided to put the dough into two molds. However, as soon as I had shaped and panned the dough, I could tell that two molds were too many, so I took the dough from one mold and plopped it on top of the dough in the other mold.

I was a bit concerned that the dough might outgrow the paper mold, but I decided to try it anyway, as I didn’t want squat little boules like I had the first time I made panettone. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried, as the dough didn’t quite fill the mold when it proofed, and it baked up perfectly.

Before I baked the loaf, I brushed the top with a little egg wash and sprinkled it with finishing sugar. I liked the way it looked, and it gave the bread just a hint of extra sweetness, along with a nice crunch.

This was a really nice bread. The ginger flavor was definitely in the forefront, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And I liked the fact that it had the golden raisins in it but wasn’t overloaded with candied citrus peel or unnaturally-colored fruit.

Anyone who grew up eating panettone during the holiday season will probably find this a nice diversion from the standard loaf. And if you’ve never been a panettone fan, or perhaps have never even tried it, this would be a nice introduction to this Italian holiday tradition.

Buon Natale!

Triple-Citrus Cupcakes {MSC}

This evening, in the time it took for the rest of the family to decide what they wanted for dinner, I mixed up these wonderful cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes.

The batter consisted of butter, sugar, lemon, orange, and lime zest, eggs, flour, and salt. The butter and sugar whipped up really light and fluffy, and the batter ended up having the consistency of fresh whipped cream. By the time I put the batter in the pan, we had decided on dinner and called in our order.

The cupcakes were finished in 20 minutes, just in time for me to go pick up our dinner. By the time we were done eating, the cupcakes had cooled and were ready to be glazed.

I mixed up the glaze, which consisted of powdered sugar, lime zest, and fresh lime juice. I dipped the cupcakes in the glaze, then sprinkled them with lime zest.

These cupcakes were really delicious. They weren’t overly sweet, and the citrus gave them a nice depth of flavor. Although I’ve only baked a few recipes out of this book, so far I’m impressed with what I’ve tasted.

Stolen Stollen

The 36th recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is Stollen, a German holiday bread. Never was a bread so aptly named. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Stollen is traditionally made at Christmastime. The shape of the bread is meant to resemble a blanket in a manger. And the color (studded with candied fruit) is supposed to remind us of the gifts brought to the baby Jesus by the Magi.

Before I started this bread, I made a quick trip to the store to stock up on ingredients: candied fruit, almonds, candied citrus peel, and golden raisins. I decided to take PR’s recommendation and soak the fruit for several days before making the bread. I measure out the dried fruit, raisins, and peel (I decided to add some citrus peel); added lemon, lime, and orange oils; and then reached for the brandy.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there was no brandy in the house. And no rum, either. It was a dark and stormy night, and I didn’t feel like running back to the store, so I decided to use something I had on hand. And the something I reached for? Scotch. Single malt scotch. Expensive single malt scotch. It’s not that I mind using expensive ingredients when I bake. I just wasn’t sure how fruit soaked in scotch would taste. But, it was what I had, so I decided to use it. After adding the whisky to the fruit mixture, I stirred it up and covered the bowl. I stirred the mixture several times a day for the next few days.

On baking day, I made the sponge. Since I don’t bake with milk, I mixed the sponge with warm water, flour, and yeast.

After an hour, it looked like this:

I mixed the dough and sponge for a few minutes in the Kitchen Aid (substituting buttermilk powder for the milk), let it rest for about 10 minutes, then added the fruit a little bit at a time. After kneading the dough for another 4 minutes, I put it in an oiled bowl to ferment for 45 minutes.

I patted the dough into a rectangle and sprinkled it with almonds, raisins, and dried fruit.

Then I rolled it into a batard and placed it on a baking sheet, curving the ends slightly.

I let the dough rise for about an hour-and-a-half, then baked it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. I removed the loaf from the oven, turned it for even baking, then inserted a probe thermometer into the dough and let it bake for about another 25 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 190 degrees.

Then I removed the bread from the oven and immediately brushed it with vegetable oil.

And finally sprinkled it liberally with two layers of powdered sugar.

I went off to do something else for an hour or so while the bread cooled. After about half an hour, I heard my daughters laughing and yelling at the dog (never a good sign), and I walked into the dining room to see Bailey standing on the table, licking all the powdered sugar off the bread. Here’s what it looked like when he was done:

I will say that dog saliva gives the bread a nice shine. Unfortunately, it’s not too appetizing. My mom and I were the only ones brave enough to try it (without the top crust). It had a really good flavor from the spices and nuts. And the fruit in whisky wa s interesting combination. The scotch mellowed a bit with the soaking and baking, but it still had the distinct taste of the bog where it was produced and the peat harvested there.

It really was a beautiful bread, and had it not been a sugar lick for the dog, I think it might have made an excellent bread pudding.

Fruitcake Biscotti

I was looking for something original to take for this year’s cookie exchange at work. A friend of mine suggested biscotti, which reminded me of the pumpkin and gingerbread biscotti recipes I made a while back and took into work. Granted, people will eat nearly anything you take to the office; but these really were a big hit.

So, I would make biscotti for the cookie exchange. But I needed something original and holiday-oriented. Then I got to thinking: does anything say Christmas more than fruitcake? I did a Google search for “fruitcake biscotti”, and I found some recipes. But nothing that really impressed me. So I decided to invent my own recipe.

I had a few goals in mind. I knew I wanted to use candied citrus peel, dried mixed fruit, and fiori di sicilia. And bourbon. (I know rum would have been more traditional, but I’m partial to bourbon.) Finally, and most importantly, I wanted it to have the essence of fruitcake but not to taste like a dried-out fruitcake. In fact, I hesitated to use the word “fruitcake”, as so many people have negative associations with it. In the end, I stuck with the name, because it was descriptive and, I hoped, might change some opinions about this wonderful holiday treat.

And I think I got it right. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Fruitcake Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit
  • 1/2 cup candied mixed citrus peel
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup raw whole almonds
  •  1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon fiori di sicilia
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put fruit and citrus peel in small bowl. Add bourbon and soak for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, shaking pan often, until lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool, then coarsely chop almonds.
  4. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed in electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add fiori di sicilia and almond extract and mix well.
  5. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat well. Add fruit and almonds and mix well.
  6. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll/pat each half into a log, the length of a cookie sheet and about 2-inches in diameter.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Place both dough logs on the baking sheet and flatten slightly.                                                    
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until baked through and lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.                                                    
  9. Slice each log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Use a good, serrated bread knife, and allow the knife to do the cutting.
  10. Place the slices on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes. Turn slices over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen biscotti

These go great with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. The fruit is delicious without being overpowering. Same with the bourbon. And the almonds give it a nice crunch.

King Cake {Recipe}

King Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or extract 
  • 1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange oil or extract 
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Directions

Combine the yeast, flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind in mixer bowl and add water, warm milk, butter,  egg yolks, and orange and lemon oils. Beat with dough hook on speed 1 for 2 minutes until smooth. Increase speed to 2 and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Deflate the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Whoever gets the baby is the Mardi Gras King or Queen and has to bring the King Cake next year.

Check out my Bavarian Cream Cheese King Cake recipe, too.