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.

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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....

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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.

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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