Hazelnut Biscotti {TWD-BWJ}

The first July recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie — Baking with Julia is one of my favorites: biscotti. I’ve made, and eaten, a lot of biscotti. There’s just something about dunking a crunchy biscuit into a steaming cup of coffee.

I used to think biscotti must be difficult to make, but they are actually quite simple. You mix up a quick dough, press it into a log shape on a pan, bake it, slice it, and bake again to crisp them up.

Since I discovered how simple they are to make, I’ve made many different biscotti, including several original biscotti recipes. So, I was really happy about this month’s first recipe — Hazelnut Biscotti.

I decided to make the biscotti on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I didn’t feel like running to the store. I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I decided to use a snack mix from Trader Joe’s with macadamia nuts, almonds, dried cranberries, and candied ginger.

The first thing I noticed about this recipe was how wet the dough was. Biscotti dough is usually the consistency of biscuit or cookie dough — soft, but mailable, and easy to shape. The recipe said the dough would be stiff and sticky, but it was downright gloppy. I had a heck of a time shaping the dough into logs on the baking tray.

I knew it would bake up OK, but it was really an unpleasant dough to work with.

It wasn’t pretty after the first bake, but I knew it would slice up fine. I let the logs cool, then sliced them into individual biscotti.

I put the slices on a cooling rack, which I put in the oven to crisp up the biscotti. I liked the idea of baking the biscotti on a rack so the heat can circulate evenly around them to crisp them up.

The best part about these biscotti was the Trader Joe’s snack mix. The nuts, cranberries, and candied ginger gave the biscotti the only discernible flavor. Otherwise, they were quite bland.

Between the unworkably wet dough and the lack of flavor in the finished biscotti, this recipe is definetly not one that I will make again.

Our hosts this week are Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of Baking and Boys.

Brioche {BWJ}

Our next Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Pecan Sticky Buns, which is due to be posted May 15, 2012. The first “ingredient” listed in the recipe is one batch of brioche dough. Since the brioche is a separate recipe and is used as a base for various other recipes in Baking with Julia, I decided it deserved its own post.

Brioche dough is loaded with butter and eggs, so you know whatever you make with it is going to be good. Brioche is known for its richness and fine texture. It can be tricky to work with, and it is definitely best made using a heavy-duty stand mixer.

Now, I’m no stranger to brioche. I made three versions of it during the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Bubble-top brioche was one of the first recipes I made from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (AMFT). And Nick Malgieri has a quick and easy brioche recipe in The Modern Baker, which I used to make a quick brioche braid and marbled chocolate brioche loaf.

The recipe in BWJ was contributed by Nancy Silverton and begins with a sponge. Milk, yeast, one egg, and a bit of flour are mixed just until the flour is blended in.

More flour is sprinkled on top, and the sponge is allowed to rest until the yeast begins working. You know it’s ready when the flour starts to crack.

Once the sponge was ready, I added sugar, salt (not enough, in my opinion; next time I’ll increase the salt by about half), and more eggs and flour. I mixed the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook for about 15 minutes, until I had a shaggy dough that clung to the dough hook and slapped against the side of the bowl.

The next step called for incorporating lots of butter into the dough. In order to do this, the directions said the butter should be roughly the same texture and consistency as the dough. The recipe recommended beating the butter with a rolling pin or smearing it on the work surface with a dough scraper. I decided to use the smear method, but I found the dough scraper awkward to work with. I had much better luck with an offset spatula.

I incorporated the butter a bit at a time. Thanks to the instructions, I didn’t worry when the dough separated, as I knew with continued mixing it would come back together. Once all the butter had been added, I continued to mix the dough for about 5 more minutes. The dough was soft, sticky, and warm from all the mixing. I put it into a large buttered bowl and set it aside to rise.

After about 2 hours, the dough had doubled in size.

I deflated the dough and put it in the fridge for its second rise.

After an overnight rest in the refrigerator, the dough was ready to be made into sticky buns. Check out the sticky buns post to see how they came out.

As for the brioche dough itself, I would have to say it was my least favorite of all the variations I’ve tried. It was extremely labor intensive, and the final product didn’t have a payoff in line with the amount of work involved. I suspect Dorie wouldn’t be too surprised to hear this. After all, she developed a much easier and more straightforward recipe for brioche for AMFT.

Chocolate Nut Dough {ModBak}

The last of the dough recipes in the Sweet Tarts & Pies section of The Modern Baker is only used in one recipe in the section — chocolate caramel pecan tartlets — although Nick Malgieri notes in the recipe that it would be good with any tart featuring chocolate. After my successes with sweet tart dough, nut tart dough, and press-in cookie dough, I knew this one would be great, too.

This recipe is similar to the nut tart dough, and even though it was my first time making it, I felt like I had done it before. I began by pulsing sugar and almonds in the food processor until the nuts were powdery.

Then I added flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, and pulsed to mix. Next, I put in cold butter that I had cut into small pieces, and pulsed the mixture until the butter was finely mixed in. Finally, the recipe called for an egg, egg yolk, and water. After adding the liquid ingredients, I mixed the dough until it came together in a ball.

I was making a half recipe and had to improvise on the liquids a bit (have you ever tried to mix in half an egg or half an egg yolk?) I used a whole egg, no yolk, and a very small amount of water. Nonetheless, my dough seemed a bit wet after it was mixed up. I thought about adding more flour, but decided just to chill it well and use plenty of flour when I rolled it out.

The dough firmed up nicely in the fridge, and with generous dusting, rolled out well, too. I was using the dough for tartlets, so I cut the rolled dough with a round scalloped cutter and pressed the circles into a mini muffin pan.

I chilled the dough in the pan for a few hours and baked it at 350°F for about 12 minutes. Despite having pricked the dough with a fork prior to baking, it rose up in the pan as it baked. I pressed the center of each tart down with a small ladle as soon as they came out of the oven, which worked well to get the tartlets in shape for filling.

The dough tasted great, almost like a chocolate cookie. As for the tartlets, well, you’ll just have to wait for my next post to see how they came out.

Simple Milk Loaf {Recipe} {BOM}

The January BOM (bread-of-the-month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers Group is a recipe that many of my baking acquaintances make on a regular basis. In fact, several of them bake this bread weekly as their everyday sandwich bread. I was excited to try this recipe and actually  made it twice — once in a regular loaf pan and a second time as a double recipe in a pain de mie pan.

Milk Loaf Proofed in Pan

 

Pain de Mie Milk Loaf

 This is a delicious bread that’s great for toast, sandwiches, grilled cheese, and French toast. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s perfect for a daily bread.

Simple Milk Loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp instant yeast
12 oz whole milk, at room temperature, plus extra for brushing
3/4 oz golden or maple syrup, or honey
9 oz plain white (all-purpose) flour
9 oz strong white (bread) flour
1 ¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
olive oil, for greasing
flour, for dusting

Method:

1. Simple mixing method: place all ingredients in bowl of mixer. Mix with dough hook until it comes together in a shaggy mass. Cover the bowl and allow dough to rest for ten minutes. Mix on low for ten seconds. Cover bowl and allow to rest for ten minutes. Continue with step 6.

2. Traditional mixing method: Place the yeast, milk and syrup into a large bowl and whisk together.

3. Add the flour and salt and mix with your hands to bring together as a soft, sticky dough.

4. Pour over the warm melted butter and mix this into the dough with your hands, then cover the bowl and leave to stand for ten minutes.

5. Grease your hands and a flat clean surface with olive oil. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for ten seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and rest for a further ten minutes.

6. Repeat this ten-second kneading and resting process every ten minutes twice, then allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

7. Grease a deep 5×8-inch loaf tin and dust with flour. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into two balls and place side-by-side into the loaf tin. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for one and a half hours, or until almost doubled in height. About 20 minutes before the bread has finished rising, preaheat the oven to 410°F.

8. Brush the top of the loaf with a little milk and place into the preheated oven to bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is a shiny dark brown and the loaf has come away from the sides of the tin.

9. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Gnocchi à la Parisienne {FFwD}

I wasn’t looking forward to this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It wasn’t one I suggested, and I certainly didn’t vote for it. In fact, I was for the first time thinking of skipping a recipe. You see, I don’t like gnocchi. As many times as I’ve tried it, I’ve always found it to be heavy and gummy, like pasta that has been overcooked to the point of sticking together in a big glob.

So, I wasn’t sure I would make this dish. In fact, I hadn’t even looked at the recipe. A few weeks ago, though, I was looking through Around My French Table when I came across the recipe for gnocchi à la parisienne. I was surprised to find out that, unlike Italian gnocchi, which is made from a potato dough, the French version is made with pâte à choux dough. This is the same basic dough used to make Dorie’s delicious Gougères. It’s also the same dough used for cream puffs.

My passion for choux dough matches — perhaps exceeds — my disdain for gnocchi, so I thought about giving this recipe a try. What finally tipped the scale was the fact that this dish also calls for béchamel, or white sauce. This is one of the mother sauces of French cooking, so I was looking forward to trying Dorie’s version.

After making the choux dough, I put a pot of water on to boil. The dough is much stickier than Italian gnocchi dough, and rather than rolling out the dough (which would be impossible) the gnocchi are formed by dropping the dough by teaspoonfuls into boiling, salted water.

After boiling the gnocchi, I let it cool while I made the béchamel.

To make the béchamel, I began by heating milk in one pan while I made a butter and flour roux in another. When the flour was cooked, I combined the roux with the scalded milk, added salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then cooked it all for a few minutes. I let the béchamel cool while I grated Gruyère cheese.

I assembled the gnocchi à la parisienne by layering parmesan cheese, gnocchi, béchamel, and Gruyère cheese in a buttered baking dish. I dotted the cheese with butter, then slid the whole thing into a 350°F oven.

I baked the gnocchi for 10 minutes, then increased the oven temperature to 400° and baked it for an additional 15 minutes, until the dish was bubbly and the cheese just beginning to brown.

I was surprised by how much this dish puffed up in the oven. Choux dough tends to do that, but since it hadn’t risen much when I boiled it, I wasn’t sure what to expect when it baked. It looked good and smelled great, so I was ready to set aside my feelings about gnocchi and give this dish a try.

Dorie compares this dish to macaroni and cheese in that it is best brought to the table and eaten immediately. It reminded me of mac and cheese in flavor, too, which may be why the kids liked it so well. It wasn’t as gummy as other gnocchi that I’ve eaten. It was still heavy, but the choux dough puffed up nicely and didn’t remind me of overcooked pasta.

My wife and I liked it — and I certainly enjoyed it much more than Italian gnocchi — but it wasn’t my favorite dish that I’ve made from this book. It was worth making, both to try the French version of gnocchi and to practice making béchamel. And I might even make it again as a side dish. But unlike most of the recipes we’ve made from Dorie’s book so far, this isn’t one that will become a regular on my table.

Dough for Thick-Crusted Pizza & for Focaccia {ModBak}

The next recipe in The Modern Baker isn’t actually one of the assigned recipes in the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge. The Pizza/Focaccia Dough on page 114 is used as the base for the next four recipes in the book:  Sfincione; Focaccia alla Barese; Nonna’s Pizza; and Filled Ham & Cheese Focaccia. For this reason, no one was assigned to post about this recipe, as each of the official bloggers for the four other recipes would be making it and could write about it.

That said, having made this dough several times, I decided to write a post about it. It is by far the easiest focaccia dough I’ve ever made, and the results are consistently terrific.

The dough is simplicity itself, consisting of flour, salt, yeast, water, and olive oil. The flour and salt are mixed in a bowl, and the remaining ingredients are stirred together in another bowl. I made a well in the center of the flour mixture, poured the liquid into the well, then began stirring with a rubber spatula. I stirred from the center, incorporating a bit more flour as I went, until all the flour was moistened and the dough was soft and shaggy.

I covered the dough with plastic wrap and let it ferment for two hours, until it had doubled. Then I pressed the dough into an oiled pan, covered it again, and let it rest for another hour while I prepared the topping ingredients.

And that’s all there is to it. No long mixing. No kneading. Just a couple ingredients, a few quick folds with a rubber spatula, and some time. That’s all it takes to create one of the simplest, most consistent, and delicious focaccia or pizza doughs you’ve ever tasted.

Chocolate Babka Loaf {ModBak}

The first of my two “official” blog posts for the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is a delicious recipe, Chocolate Babka. This bread is Eastern European in origin, most likely Russian. The dough is enriched with milk, butter, egg yolks, and sugar, and filled with bittersweet chocolate and nuts.

I began by heating the milk, then mixing in the yeast, butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, and vanilla. I stirred in half the flour with a rubber spatula, then mixed in the rest, one-half cup at a time, with the electric mixer. After all the flour had been added, I mixed the dough for two minutes, rested it for 10 minutes, then mixed for another two minutes.

I scraped the dough, which was very slack, into a buttered bowl, then put it in the refrigerator. It was supposed to chill for an hour and a half, but I had some errands to run, so it stayed in the fridge for about three hours. I don’t think the long, cold fermentation hurt the dough, but when I scraped it out onto the bench, it was still very slack.

I sprinkled the board with flour, but should have floured it more heavily. I should also have floured the top of the dough a bit. I patted out the dough, but it was so sticky, it was hard to manage. After pressing it out into a rough rectangle, I sprinkled the dough with the bittersweet chocolate mixture (chocolate, dark cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon) and chopped nuts.

I had quite a time rolling the dough, as it wanted to stick to the mat, my hands, and itself. It wasn’t pretty, but I finally got the dough rolled into a rough loaf shape, which I cut in half, then wrestled into two loaf pans.

The loaves proofed for about two hours, until the dough crested the tops of the pans. I baked the loaves for 45 minutes at 350°.

I took the bread out of the oven, cooled it in the pan for 10 minutes, then removed the loaves and finished cooling them on their sides so the loaves wouldn’t collapse.

What this bread lacked in appearance and manageability, it more than made up for in taste. The bittersweet chocolate was delicious, and the cinnamon gave it an additional depth of flavor.

The next time I make this bread — and there will certainly be a next time — I’ll flour the board and dough more heavily to make it easier to handle. But even with the difficulties I had, this bread was definitely worth the effort.

Rosemary Olive Knots {ModBak}

Rosemary Olive Knots is the next to last recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge. The individually knotted rolls are stuffed with a savory mixture of olives, rosemary, and olive oil. So these rolls are not a side dish, complement your meal kind of bread; they stand on their own and are best served with a strong, hearty dish or on their own, split and filled with strong flavored cheese or meat.

As with many of the recipes in this section, this one calls for mixing the dough in the food processor. And as with the past few recipes, I ignored this part of the instructions and mixed it in my Kitchen Aid mixer.

The dough was fairly slack, but it rose well and developed some body as it fermented.

After the initial rise, I pressed the dough out into a square and put it in the fridge to chill for about an hour.

While the dough was chilling, I mixed the filling, which consisted of olives, rosemary, olive oil, and cracked black pepper. If you’ve ever tried to chop olives on a cutting board, you know what a challenge it can be. I always end up with as many on the counter and floor as on the board, so I came up with a better idea — chopping them directly in the bowl with kitchen shears.

The recipe calls for Gaeta or Kalamata olives. I used Kalamatas, but I was a little concerned as they can be a bit on the tart side, and these particular olives were. Given the strong, pungent flavor of rosemary, I worried that the rolls might come out bitter-tasting.

In order to strip the leaves off the rosemary, I held the stem with one hand and ran my thumb and finger from top to bottom, which caused the tender leaves to fall off the stem.

After mixing the filling ingredients, I retrieved the dough from the refrigerator.

I spread the olive mixture over the lower half of the dough.

Then I folded the dough in half.

The recipe makes 12 rolls, and I scored the dough to create a guide for cutting even strips.

Now came the fun part. As I read the recipe, I couldn’t imagine how it was possible to tie the strips into knots without spilling much of the filling out onto the board. In the end, I lost less filling than I thought I might, but I still left a good bit of it on the board.

I set the rolls aside to proof for an hour. While the rolls rose, I preheated the oven to 400° F.

I baked the proofed rolls for about 25 minutes, until they were golden brown and firm to the touch.

The rolls smelled amazing — in addition to the normal, fresh-baked bread smell, the rosemary and olives gave the rolls an irresistible aroma. I couldn’t wait to try them and wondered if my concern about the strong, bitter flavor of the olives and rosemary had been overblown.

I served the rolls with a dinner of chicken and forbidden rice. We all enjoyed them, but I found that, as I had feared, the filling was a tad on the bitter side. I think a milder olive would have been a better choice. But overall, these rolls were very good and would make an impressive dinner roll to serve to company.

Recipe: Maple Oatmeal Bread — September BOM

The September BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group is Maple Oatmeal Bread, a recipe posted by Floyd at The Fresh Loaf. This is an easy and delicious recipe. It comes together quickly with ingredients you most likely have on hand.

 

Maple Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
1 package dry yeast
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil
5 cups flour

  1. Put the oats into a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oats and set aside for an hour.
  2. Mix the yeast, syrup, salt, and oil into the oats. Mix in 3 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for an hour.
  3. Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is the correct consistency. Knead for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into two pieces, then shape it into loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes.
  4. Bake at 350 for 40 – 50 minutes.

While the oats soaked in the water, I assembled the remaining ingredients. I substituted instant yeast for the active dry yeast. Referring to my yeast conversion chart, I knew I needed just shy of two teaspoons of instant yeast. I mixed the dough, which was very wet, as it initially had only three of the five cups of flour in it.

I set the dough aside to rise for an hour. I was surprised that it didn’t rise very much, maybe by about 40-50%, but I decided to move forward with the recipe as written.

After the dough rested for an hour, I mixed in the remaining flour, one-half cup at a time. However, after mixing in the remaining two cups of flour, the dough was still quite wet. I decided to add extra flour as I kneaded the bread. I kneaded in flour — a lot of flour. I didn’t measure it, but I would guess I kneaded in at least an additional two cups of flour. I reread the recipe several times to try to figure out what happened, but I’m sure I followed the recipe to the letter.

Even after adding so much flour, the dough was quite wet. I was able to shape it into loose loaves and transfer them to the pans before they spread too much.

After 45 minutes proofing time, the loaves hadn’t risen much, so I expected quite a bit of oven spring. I might have let them proof longer, but it was late, and I wanted to bake the dough and get to bed.

As you can see from the picture at the top of the post, the loaves rose quite a bit in the oven, which indicates to me that they were underproofed going in. The next time I bake this bread, in addition to cutting back the water by 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup, I will allow the dough to ferment and proof until it nearly doubles.

Despite the issues I had with this recipe, the result was worth the effort. As you might imagine, the maple smell while the bread baked was amazing. It even drew my 13-year-old out of her “cave”! The bread was delicious fresh from the oven, the crumb was soft and slightly sweet, and the crust had just a bit of crunch to it.

But it was the next morning when this bread really started to shine. It made the most amazing toast. Slathered in butter and smelling of warm maple syrup, it was all I could do not to eat an entire loaf for breakfast.

This is definitely a recipe worth making again, even if it might take a little experimentation to get it just right.

Pain de Seigle (French Rye Bread) {ModBak}

The 10th recipe in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge, Pain de Seigle — or French Rye Bread — is the only bread in the book that calls for a preferment. The sponge, which consists of AP flour, yeast, and water, is mixed up at least a day before you plan to bake the bread. In my case, I made the sponge two days prior to baking. After fermenting it in a bowl on the counter for two hours, I covered the bowl and put it in the refrigerator.

Since I wasn’t going to use it for a few days, I stirred down the sponge a few times to keep it from overproofing. On baking day, I mixed the sponge with the yeast and warm water in the mixing bowl. The recipe says to mix it with a rubber spatula until smooth. I mixed it for a while, but the sponge never fully incorporated.

I switched to a dough whisk, which did a better job but still didn’t get the sponge mixed in all the way.

I continued to use the dough whisk to mix in the flours and salt, until I had a shaggy dough.

As with the other recipes in this section, Nick Malgieri utilizes brief periods of mixing and an autolyse. The dough is mixed for three minutes, rested for 10, and mixed again for another three minutes. Then I put the dough into an oiled bowl to ferment.

The recipe says to let the dough ferment until it doubles in volume, which can take anywhere from one to two hours. In my case, I fermented the dough for one hour and 20 minutes.

Most of the doughs in Nick’s book have been quite slack. I have gotten used to this and deal with it during shaping by generously flouring the work surface and top of the dough. This dough was no exception.

After dividing the dough, I pressed each half out into a square, then rolled it into a batard.

I then stretched each batard into a baguette. The recipe calls for each baguette to be about 12 inches in length; I stretched mine to the length of my baguette pan — about 18 inches.

I proofed the loaves for 45 minutes, until they were puffed but not necessarily doubled in bulk.

I baked the loaves on the baguette pan in a 375° oven for 30 minutes, until the crust was nicely browned and the internal temperature of the loaves reached 190°.

The bread looked and smelled great coming out of the oven. I reluctantly let the loaves cool before slicing into them.

The prefermented sponge and rye flour combined to give this bread a complex flavor that was still mild enough to be a hit with the whole family. I enjoyed this bread plain, and with cultured butter, regular butter, and honey. The kids kept coming back for more, and the first loaf was gone in no time.

I wasn’t sure if I would like this recipe, as rye breads tend to be hit-or-miss for me. But I really enjoyed this bread and will definitely put it on my repeat list.

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