Monday, January 18, 2016

The Bread Bible: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sweet Potato BiscuitsWith a little more baked sweet potato around after baking the Sweet Potato Bread, I moved over in Beranbaum's The Bread Bible to the quick breads section to try these Sweet Potato Biscuits. The recipe is actually an angel biscuit variation--angel biscuits add yeast to the usual baking powder leavening of biscuits, for more rise and a texture that's usually in between a dinner roll and a typical American biscuit. (More towards the dinner roll end, to me.) We have a family favorite whole-wheat angel biscuit recipe that appears on many of our holiday menus, so it's a style I'm pretty familiar with.

The baked sweet potato had already been pushed through the fine screen of a ricer, so was ready to go. I used White Lily all-purpose flour, not wanting to go buy the self-rising, and added the necessary salt and baking powder (had to borrow a little from my sister-in-law, who had (gasp) the kind with aluminum in it...though I suspect I'll never taste it). I grated the butter in frozen, then crumbled and squished the bits by hand to get a more uniform mixture. Next time, I think a food processor would do this better, as the goal does not seem to be to retain any butter flakes like many biscuit recipes do.

Next to go in are yolks from hardboiled eggs, and I bought the prepackaged "small" eggs from the deli department and found that 3 of these gave just a bit over the specified 37 grams that 2 large eggs are supposed to produce. The yolks are pressed through a strainer into the flour-butter mixture, and whisked to blend.

The wet ingredients of sweet potato and either heavy cream or buttermilk (I had whole-milk buttermilk) are beaten together, then added to the dry and stirred around to get a sticky dough. The dough is covered and let rise until puffy, about 1-1/2 hours. That's a difference from my whole-wheat angel biscuit recipe, which don't get any rising time for the yeast to work, and I may have to try this technique on the whole-wheat version--or alternatively, try baking the sweet potato biscuits with no rising time. Once puffy, the dough is patted down in its container and moved to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days. I made the dough on Sunday night before a work trip on Monday, so mine got to wait 4 days, until Thursday night. But I forgot about them, so it was actually Friday afternoon, and the dough had a nice tangy smell.

As I've been doing with several quick breads recently, I rolled the dough out to the right thickness (after a quick kneading), then just cut it into squares being careful to use a straight cut and not seal the edges. I like this because it avoid any re-rolling and scraps...but it didn't work well here as the biscuit edges that weren't cut kept those sides from rising well. Next time I'll use a biscuit cutter, or maybe trim the edges before cutting out my squares if I think I can have fewer scraps that way.

The biscuits rise after being cut out, then finally get that baking. The results are very nice and fluffy rolls with a strong orange color, but I didn't get much if any flavor from the sweet potato. These would make a nice dinner roll when you want to add color to the table, perhaps for Thanksgiving when sweet potatoes are a traditional part of the meal.

Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sunday, January 10, 2016

BB: White Christmas Peppermint Cake

White Christmas Peppermint CakeAs I probably mentioned in some of the other food posts this holiday season, we postponed the Christmas stockings-open presents-holiday dinner stuff until January 3 this year. Although I knew the cake wouldn't be a style likely to appeal to either me or the folks next door, I decided to go ahead and bake the White Christmas Peppermint Cake for that meal--I at least like peppermint in pies and cakes, though white cakes generally aren't my thing. We still had a considerable collection of other holiday sweets around, so I figured we'd get along OK regardless. I did stick to my usual half recipe, using 6" cake pans and the jury-rigged arrangement to use Rose's silicon cake strips (which fit 9" pans well) on the smaller pan size.

The cake is a white butter cake, with peppermint extract added to the batter for the holiday flavor (but the cake can be made with vanilla if desired). I had egg whites in the freezer from some previous bake-along recipe, in just the right amount for my half recipe. The cakes baked up very tall and somewhat domed.

The frosting is a "white white chocolate" buttercream--you make a custard by melting white chocolate with butter and adding eggs, then cooking to 160 degrees. That is cooled down, then more butter is beaten until creamy and the custard is beaten in, then vanilla. Perhaps because of my white chocolate bars, mine resulting frosting was a bit off-white. OK, more a pale yellow.

White Christmas Peppermint CakeThe cake is assembled by splitting the layers, applying a layer of frosting then a sprinkle of crushed peppermint candies. More crushed peppermint candy goes on top for a festive look, though in the humidity of Atlanta the peppermint bits stuck together and formed a sort of lace topper that obstructed the slicing of the cake.

We all did have a piece after our holiday dinner, though several people didn't finish theirs. I heard the usual comment that cake is dry--many of Rose's cakes are not as rich as the pound cake style we seem to eat more often, and so if you try the cake alone (without some of the frosting), it does indeed seem a bit dry. Peppermint in general is not a favorite with the folks next door and I probably should have skipped it, but then it would be a plain vanilla white cake with white chocolate (the horror!) buttercream. In this family of chocoholics, white chocolate is evil incarnate. Or something.

We ate less than half of the 6" cake, and the rest went to the office and again apparently wasn't attractive, though by the end of the day I only had to scrape about a half a piece into the trash. Maybe it the January diet thing....

White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake White Christmas Peppermint Cake

BB: My (Rose's, that is) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rose's Chocolate Chip CookiesI'm not much of a chocolate-chip cookie baker, though I've no objections at all to eating one, crispy-chewy with melty chocolate. There are a few bakery-type places where I know I'll get the style cookie I like, but I've never tried to find the recipe and technique that produces it. My attempt at this week's bake-along recipe for Beranbaum's The Baking Bible, alas, isn't it. It might be my execution, or the recipe style, but the results were a fairly tall cookie that was certainly crisp-chewy, but without that buttery mouthfeel I really like. My niece liked the flavor and that these were more crisp than many, so there's one more positive opinion on them. Maybe it's just me!

The main feature of the recipe is using browned butter to add flavor, your choice of whether to include the browned milk-solid bits (I did). As per my usual, I substituted pecans for the specified walnuts and thus could skip the step of trying to remove the skins. For my chocolate, I used the readily available Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips, which are larger than the classic variety.

Once the butter is browned and cooled, this becomes a really quick-and-easy recipe: mix wet ingredients, add dry ingredients, stir in nuts and chocolate. The dough then got an overnight rest, wrapped up in plastic wrap. At baking time, I portioned out blobs of about 28-29 grams each, a bit smaller than called for, and got 24 cookies instead of the 20 Rose aims for. The blobs are rolled into a ball then flattened a bit into a 2" circle, then baked. The large chips I used made this flattening step a bit difficult, but mine did end up about 2" in diameter when headed into the oven.

As I said up top, these didn't turn out to be the chocolate-chip cookies I was looking for, but if it's the style you prefer, this is a recipe with one extra step (the browned butter) that added flavor to a very quick recipe.

Rose's Chocolate Chip Cookies Rose's Chocolate Chip Cookies Rose's Chocolate Chip Cookies Rose's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Bread Bible: Sweet Potato Loaf

Sweet Potato LoafNext up from the bake-along of Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible is the Sweet Potato Loaf, a yeast bread with mashed sweet potato added to the dough. I baked a small sweet potato a few days ago and popped it into the fridge for later use. Later turned out to be today's bread. I was tripped up again by the design of The Bread Bible instructions, where the first sentence in each section is a sort of summary subhead, not really the step-by-step instructions. Step 1, the making the sponge, also covered baking and mashing one's sweet potato. I conflated the step 1 items and put my mashed and measured potato into the sponge...then looked further along and had to figure out what had happened to the potato that was to be added when actually mixing the dough. I decided to move ahead with my sweet-potato sponge, and indeed don't see any reason why this couldn't have been the intended method.

Sweet Potato LoafSponge made and covered with the blanket of the remaining flour and yeast, I let it sit for an hour at room temperature then refrigerated it overnight. I brought it out the next day and let it sit at room temp again while the butter softened, then mixed the dough, let it rest to hydrolyze, then kneaded it with the KitchenAid until I had a lovely, slightly sticky, pale orange dough.

It rose quite enthusiastically, with the first rise taking under an hour and the second more than doubled in 45 minutes. Then I shaped a loaf, going back to Rose's instructional pictures because my last few loafs have all had large air pockets toward the top of the loaf. Again the rising was very quick, and I put the loaf in, as instructed, with the pan on a pre-heated stone and with steam added via ice cubes in a heated skillet. This bread was in a hurry all the way through, as it browned early, then was done (with the internal temp a bit high) in the minimum baking time.

My finished loaf looks a bit crumpled as I brushed it well with melted butter, softening the crust. And again I had an air pocket or two, though smaller--I'm not sure why my bread baking has recently developed this issue, as I can't think of anything I've changed in my supplies or habits. (I've been googling, and my current theory is that my breads are getting over-proofed. Sweet Potato LoafWill try to correct this on the next loaf bread.) Oh, well, the bread tastes fine regardless.

I had my first piece as an accompaniment to a bowl of black-eyed pea stew with andouille and collards, hitting as many of the Southern New Year's Day good luck foods as I could. It was wonderful as toast and just plain, and kept well too.
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Monday, January 4, 2016

BB: Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart

Lemon and Cranberry Tart TartI'm posting along with the Baking Bible Alpha Bakers this week, at least if I get this post done tonight. The week's recipe is a "tart tart"--two mouth-puckering ingredients (lemon and cranberries) together in a tart, baked in a cookie crust made with almonds. I baked this for the actual Christmas Day supper, though we postponed the stockings-and-presents bit until my sister-in-law could be with us. (That turned out to be yesterday, January 3.)
With lots of other holiday sweets around and a small crowd, I made a half recipe, using a 6" tart pan. The dough for the tart shell was pretty well behaved although it softens fast...aided by the unseasonable Christmas temps of mid-to-high 70's (F). The half-shaped shell made several trips into the fridge to firm back up, as it seemed likely to slump into the bottom of the tart pan after only a bit of handling to shape the crust. I overbaked it a bit in the stage with the pie weights in, as I was simultaneously making cranberry-pecan Christmas bread and white bean, pancetta, and kale pot pies. By the time I checked on the par-baking crust, the bottom had browned even with the weights in and I declared it done without further baking.
Then I turned to the filling, which is lemon curd with dollops of a cranberry sauce. With my half recipe, I needed to end up with about 3 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, and I didn't want to start from scratch for that small an amount. In my freezer, though, was the leftovers of the family favorite cranberry relish from Thanksgiving, an uncooked mixture of fresh cranberries, whole orange, whole lemon (both peel and all), apple, ground together and mixed with sugar and raspberry jam. I took about 1/3 cup, microwaved for a minute or two stirring every 30 seconds, and let it cool. Later I added a bit of hot water since the mixture got a bit thick.
On to the lemon curd, and again I'm afraid I ducked some of the effort. Instead of 4-6 egg yolks for a very rich curd, I used 1 whole egg, 1 yolk, and filled the rest of the weight with a bit more white. The curd set up nicely, aided by the optional gelatin added to make the tart a bit firmer. To assemble the tart, half of that hot lemon curd went into the baked tart shell, then dollops of the cranberry sauce, a swipe of an offset spatula to spread it a bit, then the rest of the curd. The whole thing baked about 15 minutes to reach the target temperature of 160 F.
As I mentioned, this was our Christmas Day dessert, but for an informal meal of roasted butternut squash soup, some fancy French onion puffs, challah, and the tart. Consensus was that the tart was fine, but not outstanding--no one found it really great, and no one asked for more than the small pieces I'd cut, maybe half of a normal serving. Maybe my less-rich lemon curd was the culprit.
Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart Lemon and Cranberry Tart Tart

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Bread Bible: Classic Challah, or A Tale of Four Challahs

I've been baking challah every week for a number of years, since the frozen-dough challahs that my sister-in-law was baking every Friday for Shabbat (she and the kids are Jewish, I'm not) declined in quality and I started experimenting with recipes. One of the first I tried was Rose's Traditional Challah from The Bread Bible, back in 2007. My blog about it (on LiveJournal at the time) notes that I belatedly found the errata on Rose's blog, and also that this is a very large challah using 5 eggs. Perhaps because of the size, perhaps because we didn't find the results particularly great, I tried other recipes and eventually evolved my own Whole-Wheat Challah with Dried Cherries primarily from the base of this Grandma Rosie's Fabulous Challah recipe that I found by a general Internet search. Note that's Rosie, not Rose.... :)

Classic ChallahAlong came the assignment of Traditional Challah for the Bread Bible Bake-along, which I'm participating in as an ad-hoc member when time allows. The posting was due December 2 (amended to the 4th), and I jumped on things and baked it November 21 ...before I saw Rose's suggestion on our internal Facebook page suggesting we do the improved version on her blog instead. Due to the number of folks currently eating that weekly challah (the nieces are in college, my brother generally works late and isn't around for dinner...and frequently avoids carbs, so it's 3 of us: me, the nephew, and sister-in-law), a 1-egg challah is the preferred size, so I did the math and cut down the Traditional Challah to a 1-egg version. Classic ChallahI did a 6-strand braid per my usual habits, and the loaf looked very pretty. Classic Challah
Alas, just as in 2007, it was not a big hit--just didn't have any special character either judged on its own or compared to the whole-wheat and dried cherry version. This recipe uses an overnight or half-day starter for a flavor boost, but we still found it rather meh.

Fig, olive oil, and sea salt challahChallah over Thanksgiving weekend, with the nieces home, was Smitten Kitchen's Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah, because we didn't manage anything special for Rosh Hashanah. (I was at Walt Disney World, and didn't leave a frozen challah for the occasion.) Because older niece had had one of these delivered to her at college a couple of years ago, when younger niece jokingly suggested I could bake another one for her to take back to college, I did it. Therefore it's a tradition: nephew has been informed that he's entitled to one Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah during his college years. (He's a high school junior.)

Rose's Favorite ChallahFinally we're at the week when the bake-along challah post is due, and I decided to give Rose's improved recipe a chance. This version uses a bigs, aged for 3 days in the fridge, for extra flavor and to make it keep better. Well, a biga or a chunk of firm sourdough starter, which I don't keep. Biga it was, so I made the biga on Sunday, and refrigerated it until Thursday night. I made the dough using butter instead of oil for a little more taste enhancement, let it rise, then split it in half and kneaded in plumped dried cherries. Half went into the fridge for the family Friday challah, and the other half had its second rise, got its 6-strand braid, then was baked for sister-in-law's Tickling Tech train-the-teachers session Friday morning. The braiding was a bit difficult--the dried cherries are a little large in the half recipe and with 6 ropes and want to pop out of the dough, but if you cut the cherries in half the cherry juices will stain the dough. I'm blaming the rather erratic look of the baked loaf on the cherries.

I baked the half-sized challah 15 minutes then turned it around, then another 20 min or so covered with foil for the last 10 to keep it from browning excessively. It smelled heavenly, one plumped cherry had artistically trickled some juice down the side....and I delivered it warm next door so s-i-l could take it to school the next day, where at least one teacher gave it thumbs up by asking for seconds. (No other comments were relayed.) My house was left with this heavenly smell of fresh-baked challah at 10:30 at night. Friday night I was finally able to taste it after baking the second half, and it's indeed a better tasting version than the Bread Bible recipe. The bread was moister, and a bit of tang from the bigs comes through. I'll keep baking my whole-wheat version weekly, but if I need a white challah this is a recipe I would turn to.

Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah Rose's Favorite Challah

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BB: Fudgy-Pudgy Brownie Tart

BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie TartI managed to bake along with Rose's Alpha Bakers this week as they tackled the Fudgy-Pudgy Brownie Tart. This is a shallow (1" deep) tart using a chocolate cookie crust and filled with a brownie. The recipe calls for good-quality chocolate in addition to good cocoa powder and some white chocolate. I had 'good' white chocolate and cocoa, but my stash of unsweetened baking chocolate was depleted, and I had to fall back on supermarket Bakers unsweetened chocolate. BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart The chocolate cookie crust was pretty easy to work with, though that perfect temperature for it to be pliable for the rolling and shaping tin a tart shell eluded me. I used the full procedure used throughout the book of cutting a 12" circle, placing the crust over a smaller cake pan and trying to smooth it into a bowl shape--but here the crust cracked a good bit, requiring patching lest it fall apart before I could invert it. Then the tart pan goes on the assembly, and it is inverted to get that bowl-ish shape into the pan for the finishing work of pushing it into the sides, patching other cracks then folding, trimming, and decorating the edge. And yay! the tart crust doesn't need to be blind-baked before the brownie batter is added. I baked my tart for the maximum time as it didn't get to the stated temperature until then. Repeated checking also accounts for that largish hole in the center of my crust, where I angled in my instant-read thermometer multiple times. I think perhaps I would have done better to pull it out a bit earlier and kept the tart more towards the fudge side than it ended up. The results went next door to sister-in-law so she could take it to school for Tickling Tech, her regular Friday morning teach-the-teachers-technology session...but she'd forgotten to tell me that it was a teacher work day, and thus no regular Tickling Tech. Instead she gave a short talk to the full assembly of teachers (on copyright law), then gave a promo for TT using the brownie tart as an example treat. She then sliced it thin and put it in the library for teachers to come by for as they wanted around lunchtime. She said people seemed to like it, with a few comments on the crust as a different element. Didn't sound like there were any exceptional reviews, though. That's my personal feeling too--the crust is an interesting difference, but my piece, eaten cold from the fridge, didn't seem unusually fudgy. It was nicely chocolatey, but perhaps because of the thin layer of real brownie, I would opt for a classic brownie in the fudge, not cake, category. Maybe a higher-quality baking chocolate would have helped. I do have a bit of chocolate crust left over to experiment with. Some sort of tartlet, definitely...
BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart BB: Fudgy Pudgy Brownie Tart