Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lemon-scented pull-apart loaf

This morning my sister Rebe and I made this loaf instead of getting out of the house and going to a "real" bakery. And I will say I never thought homemade bread could make me feel so happy/jolly. As we sat at the table, pulling apart piece after piece of yum, we concluded that we couldn't have gotten a better breakfast at a bakery. "We're going to Broma Bakery today," said Rebe. I mean, the bread in itself is out-of-this-world-good. It's light and airy and has a lemon-y tang. Then the lemon cream cheese icing builds on the tang, and also balances the doughiness of the bread, making it moist and sweet. And who can resist ripping apart a perfect square of sweet bread? It's like a gimmick to eat more. Rebe and I certainly couldn't stop ourselves.

For the dough:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature

For the filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
Zest of 1 orange
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

For the icing: 

1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a medium bowl, mix 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt using a rubber spatula. Meanwhile, melt the milk and butter until the butter is melted. Then, add the vanilla and the water and let sit until mixture is lukewarm. Once the dry ingredients are moistened, pour in the warm milk/butter mixture. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed while adding the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixing, add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and turn the mixer on low again for about 30 seconds. Add two more tablespoons of flour, and mix for another 30-45 seconds. At this point the dough will be very sticky, but don't worry!

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough gently until it is no longer sticky. If needed, add another 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm, dry place for 45-60 minutes, until the dough nearly doubles in size. The dough is ready when you poke it and your finger print stays indented.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon and orange zest with the sugar. Set aside.

Once the dough is risen, pat it down and roll it out into a 20"x12" rectangle (do measure this out, because it is important for all your dough pieces to be the same size). If your dough isn't even, use a pizza cutter to cut a perfect rectangle. Spread the melted butter (set aside for the filling) onto the dough, and make sure to use it all! Next sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the dough, rubbing the sugar mixture into the dough. Then, cut the dough into five equal 4"x12" strips. Set each strip on top of each other, so you end up with five stacked 4"x12" strips. Cut the strips into six 2"x4" rectangles. 

Transfer the rectangles to the dough pan so they stand up with the cut end face up, side by side. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for an additional 30-50 minutes. 

Bake the loaf in a greased 9"x5" bread pan in a 350°F oven for 40 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown. Once baked, transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

While the loaf is baking, combine the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, lemon juice, and milk until smooth in consistency. Pour over the warm loaf and fill in the cracks with icing. Mangia!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Noni's biscotti (Chocolate-dipped, orange-scented biscotti)

Heh heh. It's like bis-cat-ti. I made this biscotti as a gift to my grandmother, Noni (pronounced Noh-nee). It's quite comical because my sister and I call this recipe Noni's biscotti after our Noni, not to be confused with the very popular Nonni's Biscotti (pronounced Nah-nee). Wow, writing out that explanation kind of killed the story. Anyways. My Noni is a huge fan of biscotti because it brings her back to her Italian childhood. So to honor her, I made these. And on the way I shared them with you all. Even the cat. Yes, the cat.

For the biscotti:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup light olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
Zest from 1 orange
Juice from 1/2 orange

For the glaze:

5 ounces semisweet chocolate
1-2 tablespoons whole milk

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a medium bowl mix together olive oil, vanilla and almond extracts, eggs, and orange juice and zest. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix just until dough forms (it will be sticky). Roll the dough out into one 4"x12" log, or into two smaller 2"x12" logs, depending on if you want finger-cookies or bigger cookies. Place log(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes.

After 35 minutes, take out logs and let cool for 10 minutes. Then, cut the dough into 3/4 inch slices. Lay each slice on its side on another parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 275°F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the biscotti is hard and free of moisture. Let cool completely.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate and milk until it turns into a glaze. Dip the biscotti in the glaze and let cool on a piece of parchment paper. Yeeeee!

Recipe adapted from here.

Holiday yule log

My family has been making this cake for years around the holidays. It's probably the most festive cake I've ever eaten, let alone seen. What's great about it is, even though it looks heavy, both the cake and the filling are very light and airy, making this a great recipe for the days proceeding holiday munching! Enjoy.

For the log:

1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons water

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

For the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a jelly-roll pan, then line it with parchment paper and grease again. Set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla and water and mix well.

In a separate bowl, with CLEAN beaters, beat the egg whites until fluffy. Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture in batches, folding in between. Then, very carefully fold in the egg whites until blended. Pour the batter onto the jelly-roll pan and spread evenly to the edges. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Be careful not to overbake this cake!

While the cake is baking, lay a clean dish towel on a flat surface and dust it with the 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar. When the cake is done, loosen the edges of the cake and quickly turn it over onto the towel. Remove the parchment paper. To keep the cake from setting into a flat shape, roll up the cake in the towel starting on the long ends and place on cooling rack until cooled.

For the filling, beat the heavy cream, vanilla, and confectioner's sugar together until a thick whipped cream forms. When the cake is cooled, carefully unroll it and spread the whipped filling evenly over one side of the cake (the side that curls inwards), spreading to the edges. Roll the cake up again to form a log, this time without the towel!

For the frosting, beat the butter, confectioner's sugar, cream, and melted chocolate until well-blended, adding more cream if necessary to thin the consistency. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut through the cake on an angle to form the second log piece. Attach to the main log using frosting. Cut off the remaining angled piece from the main log and do what you like with it (snack, anyone?). Frost the entire rolled cake with the frosting, using a fork to create shallow bark-like grooves.

At this point I went outside into the frigid cold and found a holly bush, where I hastily picked out holly leaves to decorate with. Then I went to a pine tree. Then I ran back inside and finished my decorations in the warm kitchen. Jolly!

Recipe from the December/January 1995 issue of Parenting.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gingersnap cookie dough truffles

Mmmm, 3 days until Christmas! That means more holiday baked goods for the Fennel family YAAY. Yesterday my mom, sister, and I went over to our family friends' house and had ourselves a little sweets-making party (we also made this Peppermint Bark and these Salted Chocolate Caramels!). It was so nice to spend the afternoon baking with 4 girlies, listening to Akon and Moby (great combo, eh?) while little Maeve showed us her hip hop moves. Great success.

For the truffles:

1 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup very finely chopped walnuts
2 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs, pulsed in food processor until crumbly*
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips in 20 second intervals, stirring between each heating as to not burn the chocolate. Once melted, whisk in the corn syrup, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a second bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs, powdered sugar, spices, and salt. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl and stir until combined. Lastly, add the chopped nuts.

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the mixture and pat down to remove air. Refrigerate for 1 hour, until the dough is nearly hard when you touch it. Roll the dough out into teaspoon-sized balls and dip into the granulated sugar to coat them. Place on wax paper and refrigerate for another 30 minutes. Voilà!

*I chose Whole Foods brand gingersnaps because they are super spiced and I figured it would counter the sweetness from so many of the other ingredients. But if you're making these truffles for kids, or you don't like spiced things, don't use this brand! It's super spicy! In that case, any old brand of gingersnaps will do.

Original recipe can be found here.

Salted chocolate caramels

Ohmuhgah look the fudge looks like it has snowflakes on top of it. SoOo cute!

Great. Let's get down to buisiness. I'm a huge fan of fudge. And soft caramels. And things that are slightly salted (if you haven't ever done this, try putting sea salt on your fruit next time. Just a pinch. I promise you won't be disappointed). So. Salted caramel fudge is like my new favorite thing. And unlike plain fudge, this isn't so sickly sweet that you can only indulge in one bite. This is like a brownie-sized dessert (YUSS!). So get your candy thermometers out, turn up the burners, and start cookin'!

For the fudge:

10 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon regular, iodized salt
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Candy thermometer

Line a 8"x8" baking dish with parchment paper (make sure to line the sides!). Set aside.

In a large saucepan on high heat, bring the cream to a slight boil. Then add the chocolate, stirring until it melts. Turn heat to low and stir until mixture thickens. Turn off heat, set aside.

In another large saucepan, bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil. Keep at a boil, swirling occasionally, until sugar turns dark brown, about 10 minutes.

Next, insert a candy thermometer into pan. Pour in the chocolate mixture. Continue to boil for about 15 minutes, until the thermometer registers 255°F. It must reach this heat before being taken out, or your candies will come out fudge-y and not caramel-y. Add the butter, stirring until melted. Immediately pour into the glass baking dish. Let the caramel cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle on salt. Cool in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Cut and serve. Nom nom nom.

Recipe from Epicurious!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Applesauce spice cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

Hello, cake of my dreams. You are, like, the most fabulous, flavorful, superb, moist cake out there. I have to say, before meeting you I was a chocolate girl all the way. But after seeing your work, I think I have a new love. Oh, you want me to share you with the world? Well, OK, I guess I can do that. You're kind of the messiah of cakes, so I think it's only necessary that I pass on your righteousness.

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups  unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup chopped and toasted walnuts

For the frosting:

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Thickly butter a 9"x9" pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating in between each addition. Then beat in applesauce. Turning the beater to low, pour in dry ingredients until homogenous. Last, fold in walnuts.  The batter may look curdled, but this is OK!

Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until knife come out clean when inserted into the middle. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooking: In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In batches of 3, beat in confectioner's sugar and cinnamon, beating until incorporated. Cool frosting in refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. Once cooled, frost cake! Sho gooood.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen and can be found here!

Candied pecans with a twist

Candied pecans are actually one of the most addicting foods out there. In my mind the best candied nuts are those found on the streets of New York at the Hot Nut carts. They're crunchy and sweet, with a hint of saltiness. And oh-so addicting. So I put together a recipes that tastes exactly like the ones you get on the streets of New York. And look how awesome they look. Really. Look at them. Yum.

So What's so special about this recipe? Instead of making the pecans with sugar, I use maple syrup! It makes the pecans taste extra flavorful. It also allows you to skip the caramelization process (which is hard to do perfectly), and go straight to the eating step. WOOHOO! So, without further adieu, my special candied pecans! Oh, lastly: know that you can substitute any nut into this recipe. I'm a huge fan of almonds, so I may make them too this weekend...

For the pecans:

2 cups roasted, salted pecans
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

In a large skillet on medium-high heat, toast the pecans until hot (this allows them to lose any excess steam, making the final product more crunchy), 4-5 minutes. Once toasted, turn the heat down to medium and add the butter, letting it mix throughout. Once the butter is incorporated, add the maple syrup and the salt. If you are comfortable, toss-mix the pecans in the pan. If not, simply stir the pecans with a wooden spoon to help the absorption process. This should take another 5 minutes. At first it will look like there's too much liquid in the pan, but as the maple syrup gets hot it will subsume into the pecans. Once it looks like the liquid is nearly gone and the pecans are shiny, take the mixture off the heat and immediately pour onto a wax-lined sheet of parchment paper, or a greased piece of aluminum foil (whichever is handy!).  Let cool before eating, as the pecans will be super hot. Bon appétit!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Caroline's train cake

I made a cake. And a train. It's kind of a train cake. I used this basic pound cake recipe, and a store-bought buttercream (dis one!), and some food coloring. The "C-E-A" is a take on the A-C-E trains on the NYC subway system, only C-E-A are the initials of my friend Caroline. Though Caroline is a now 20 year old girl, this cake is perfect for 6 year old boys. Or girls. Whatever floats your boat. Regardless, it's really adorable and I'm proud of the result :)

For the train:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup canola or safflower oil
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Pour into a standard-sized loaf pan and bake for ~35 minutes, or until knife comes out clean when inserted into pan. Let cool completely.

While the cake is baking, separate frosting into two parts (one should be 1 cup, the other should be 3 cups). One will be fore the main layer of the cake and the rest will be used for piping later on. Dye the larger 3 cups the color of your choice for the outside color of the train. Set aside.

On a cutting board, using a serrated knife, skim off the sides of the pound cake so the sides form a 90° angle with the board. Then, slowly frost each side, being careful to keep the buttercream even. Once the cake is frosted, put into a fridge for 30 minutes so the buttercream can harden (this will make it easier to pipe later on).

Use the remaining 1 cup of frosting to decorate the cake as you please. Obviously, I separated that 1 cup into 3 colors and did my piping thang. I used a 3 mm piping tip.

The rest of the cake is really open to creativity! So do what you'd like and happy trails!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Apple cinnamon coffee cake

My mom has been baking this coffee cake for years, and each time it's like a new experience in your mouth. It's dense and caky at the same time, and the cinnamon adds a smidgen of autumn-ness. It's a simple recipe that begs to be made over and over throughout the cold months!

For the batter:

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups plain yogurt
1 stick butter
2 green apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (~1/4 centimeter thick)

For the swirlies: 

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, mix together with a fork the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large microwavable bowl, melt the butter until soft. Add sugar first, then eggs, vanilla, baking powder and soda, yogurt, and salt. Once mixed, add the flour in batches, making sure to stir between additions.

Butter and flour a large bundt pan. Pour in half of the batter and sprinkle half of the swirlies mixture over it. Using a fork, push in swirlies to integrate them into the batter. Place half of the apple slices over the batter. Repeat with the second half of the batter, sprinkling almost all of the swirlies (leave ~2 tablespoons) over the top and then place the remaining apple slices on top. Sprinkle the remaining swirlies over the apple slices. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until knife comes out clean when inserted into cake. Eat it right out of the oven, or let cool and refrigerate for days!

Double chocolate brownies

I'm a huge brownie connoisseur. When I lived at home we went through a period where we made at least 2 boxed brownies a week. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we had 9 people in the house... Regardless. My mom and I would take them out of the oven way sooner than the directions told us to, because we looooved gooey brownies. I was skeptical to make a brownie recipe with just cocoa and no chocolate bar base, but I have to say these are damn good. Definitely reminiscent of those boxed brownies you used to enjoy as a kid, only these are homemade, so they're like twelve times better. My biggest piece of advice with these babies is: don't overcook them. Take them out as soon as a knife comes out clean when you insert it into the brownies. Enjoyski! 

For the brownies:

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso (or coffee) powder
2 eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together both sugars, salt, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and flour. Then, add eggs, the melted butter, oil, and water. Finally mix in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Grease a 9'X13" pan. Pour mixture in and bake for roughly 25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into brownies.

Recipe adapted from Babble. Original recipe can be found here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Katharine Canfield cookies

These are them. These are the cookies of my childhood. I can't even begin to describe them. When made correctly, they are the best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever eat. When I was little my mom would pack them for me for lunch nearly every day. And nearly every day I'd end up with only one or two bites, thanks to my lunch pal's beg "pleeeease can I have a little?" In middle school I learned to savor them after lunch, carefully hiding the cookies at the bottom of my lunch pack so my friends wouldn't pester me for a bite. By high school they became known as "Katharine Canfield cookies," after my mom, Katharine Canfield. As in: "Ohmygod. Are those cookies Katharine Canfield cookies?" So, yeah. Among my friends they're kind of legendary.

For the cookies:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed) medium brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, softened or melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Secret ingredient*

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and vanilla together. Next, stir in the egg. Then, stir in flour. Last, add the chocolate chips and stir until well-incorporated.

On an un-greased baking sheet, dollop ping-pong-ball-sized bits of batter, leaving 1.5"-2" between each cookie. Bake for 8-12 minutes. What's more important, however, is that you take out the cookies a liiiiittle too soon, so they continue to bake once out of the oven and onto the cookie sheet.

With this recipe, make sure the measurements are exact. Especially on the flour. Too much flour will make the cookies puffy and they'll loose their moist gooeyness.

*Muh mom's love. I swear when she makes them they come out 3 times better. She's got some golden touch or something... However if you don't happen to have a Katharine Canfield lying around in your cupboard, then you can skip this step ;)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marble cupcakes with mocha icing

This week I made these cupcakes with the kids I babysit for. We had a lot of fun swirling the chocolate and vanilla, talking about the difference between baking soda and baking powder (fail.), and eating copious amounts of batter. That being said, these cupcakes are a really fun recipe to bake with kids, as they are quick and easy and jazz up otherwise normal chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. It's like having your chocolate cake... and eating your vanilla cake too... hehe.

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 bars semisweet chocolate, melted

For the frosting:

3 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1-2 tablespoons brewed espresso
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and stir until mixed.

Separate the mixture in half. Add the melted chocolate to half of the mixture and stir until incorporated.

Line a cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers. Using an ice cream scoop, spoon the plain (not chocolate-y) half of the mixture into the cupcake molds. Then, over that batter, add the chocolate batter. Take a knife and stab it through each individual mold so that the mixture becomes swirly. Don't be afraid to really move the knife around-- it's harder than you'd think to overmix the two batters.

Cook for ~20 minutes, until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the cupcakes.

Meanwhile, in another large bowl, using a mixer, combine butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Once cupcakes are cool, frost! 

Basic vanilla cake recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Chocolate croissants

Yumsauce. These croissants come to you via Julia Child, the mother of French-American cooking and an all-around unbelievable baker. If you can make them right, which trust me is harder than you'd think, these criossants will come out light and airy and perfectly delicious! My friend Mallory and I nearly went insane trying to roll out the dough without the butter spewing out (let's just say we ended up with a dough that visually left something to be desired...) Because this is such a long process, I copied the directions from blogger Cenk, so thank you, Cenk, for the fabulous directions. The only difference is that I rolled my croissants into rectangles, first placing two chocolate pieces in the middle and then sealing the dough with a fork. Ok So enjoyyyyyy!

For the croissants:

1/4 oz (1 package) active dry yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Put the yeast, flour sugar, salt and 1 cup of milk into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the machine on its lowest speed, mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until a soft, moist dough forms on the hook. If the dough is to dry, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. In most cases if the dough does need more liquid, it won’t need more than about 3 tablespoons, but check carefully as you want all the flour to be moistened. Stop the mixer and look into the bowl. If the hook has not picked up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl, add a few more drops of milk.

Set the mixer to its highest speed and work the dough until it is smooth and elastic, no longer sticky and close to the consistency of soft butter, about 4 minutes. To make certain that all the ingredients are perfectly blended you can remove the dough from the mixer after 3 minutes, and then with the mixer on high speed, return plum size pieces to the bowl. The pieces will remain separate for a short while, then come together, at which time the dough is ready.

Remove the dough from the mixer, wrap it in plastic and put it in a plastic bag, leaving a little room for expansion. Keep the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the gluten time to relax; then refrigerate the dough for 8 hours or overnight.

Attach the paddle to your mixer and beat the butter and flour on the highest speed until smooth and the same consistency as the croissant dough, about 2 minutes. Reach into the bowl and poke around in the butter to make sure that its evenly blended – if you find any lumps, just squeeze them between your fingers. Scrape the butter onto a large piece of plastic wrap and give it a few slaps to knock the air out of it. Mold it into an oval 5 to 6 inches long and 1 inch thick. Wrap it tightly and refrigerate until needed. At this point the dough and the butter can be frozen; defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

Place the croissant dough on a generously floured large work surface (marble is ideal) and sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour. Using a long rolling pin, roll the dough into an oval approximately 10 inches wide and 17 inches long. Brush the excess flour from the dough. Center the oval of chilled butter across the oval of dough and fold the top and bottom of the dough over the butter to make a tidy package. Gently and evenly stretch the folded layers of dough out to the sides and press the edges down firmly with your fingertips to create a neatly sealed rectangle.

If you own a French rolling pin (one without handles) now is the time to use it. Hold one side of the dough steady with your hand and strike the other side gently but firmly with the rolling pin to distribute the butter evenly. As you hit the dough you will see the butter moving out into the crevices. Strike the other side of the dough the same way. After pounding you should have a 1 inch thick rectangle about about 14 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured, roll out the dough. If this your first time working with croissant dough, you may want to roll out the dough just a little to distribute the butter, put it on a baking sheet lined with flour-dusted parchment paper, cover it with plastic and chill it for 1 to 2 hours first; this way you wont risk having the dough go soft or the butter seep out. (Each time you wrap the dough, make sure its well covered – even a little air will cause the dough to form an unwanted skin.) If you are experienced, feeling courageous or have dough that is still well chilled, go on to make your first turn.

Roll the dough into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long and about 14 inches wide, with the long side facing you. (You may feel as though your rolling the dough sideways-and you are.) Brush off the excess flour and, working from the left and right sides, fold the dough inward into thirds, as you would a brochure, so that you have a package thats about 8 inches wide by 14 inches long.

Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment- lined baking sheet, mark the parchment “1 turn” so you’ll know what you’ve done, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. You can freeze the dough after this or any other turn. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.

Place the dough so that the 14 inch side runs left to right. (The dough needs 2 more turns; you’ve given it one quarter-turn already.) Making sure the work surface is well floured at all times, roll the dough as you did before into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long by about 14 inches wide . (When doing the second and third turns, you may find that the dough has cracked a little. That’s natural; its a result of the yeast. Don’t worry, just flour the dough and work surface and keep going.)

As you did before, fold the dough in thirds. Place it on the parchment, mark the paper “2 turns”, cover and refrigerate continued in part 2 for at least 2 hours.

Start again with a 14 inch side running from your left side to your right. Roll the dough into a rectangle 24 to 26 inches long by 14 inches wide. Fold the left and right sides of the dough into the center, leaving a little space in the center, and then fold one side over the other as though you were closing a book. This is the famous double turn, also known as “the wallet”.

Brush off the flour, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours. At this point the dough is ready to be rolled, cut and shaped into croissants. Storing: The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.

Generously flour a work surface. Position the dough so that it resembles a book, with the spine to your left and the opening to your right. For easy handling, cut the dough in half horizontally so that you have two pieces about 7 inches long and about 6 1/2 inches wide: wrap and chill one half while you work with the other half.

Flour the dough and roll it into a rectangle thats 24 to 26 inches long and 15 to 18 inches wide. This takes a lot of rolling. Keep the work surface and the dough well floured and have patience. If necessary turn the dough so that the long side runs from left to right along the counter. Carefully fold the top half of the dough down to the bottom. The dough is now ready for cutting.

Working with a pizza cutter or a large, very sharp knife, cut triangles from the dough. This is done most easily by making a diagonal cut on the left hand side to get the pattern started; save the uneven piece of dough. Measure off a 3 to 4 inch base and begin cutting the triangles, always cutting from bottom to top. You’ll have another scrap when you reach the other end-you’ll use these scraps when you shape the croissants. Unfold each pair of triangles and cut them in half to separate. You should have 10 to 12 maybe 14 triangles; set them aside while you clear the work surface of all flour. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Moisten your hands with a wet towel. Working with one triangle at a time, gently stretch the base to widen it slightly, then, holding the base of the triangle in one hand, run the fingers of the other hand down to the point of the triangle. Use your thumb to pull and stretch the dough until its almost twice the original length-have courage and tug; the extra length is what allows you to make a large croissant with sufficient rolls to show off its layers of dough.

Place the triangle, point toward you, at arm distance on the work table this will give enough space to roll the croissant into shape with-out having to lift it in mid-roll) Pull off a little piece of the reserved scrap dough, mold it into a small football shape and center it on the wide top part of the triangle-this will help make the “belly” of the croissant plump. Fold about 1/2 inch of this wide end over itself and press the ends down once to secure. With you palms and fingers positioned over the flattened ends of the croissant and the heels of your hands on the flat work surface, roll the croissant toward you-try to keep your hands moving down and out to the sides as you roll- ending with the point of the triangle tucked under the croissant. A well shaped croissant-and it takes practice to achieve one-will sport at least six clearly accountable sections, or ridges, from rolling. Place the croissants on one of the baking sheets, leaving room for them to triple in size without touching one another. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Give the croissants a last gentle plumping, carefully turning the ends down and toward the center to produce the classic croissant shape. Brush the croissants with egg wash and allow them to rise, uncovered, at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until tripled in size and spongy. (Reserve egg wash, covered in the refrigerator.) The ideal place for rising is a turned off oven (one with a pilot light is fine) containing a pan of hot steamy water. To test that they are properly risen, wet your fingers and squeeze the end of a croissant:It should offer no resistance and feel almost hollow.

Arrange the oven racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat the oven to 350 f. Brush the croissants once again with egg wash and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate front to back and bake another 4 to 6 minutes, until the croissants are deeply bronzed. Cool on racks. As tempting as they are croissants should not be eaten as soon as they come from the oven. The dough-and the layers within need time to set.

The croissants are best eaten the day they are made. If you must keep them, freeze them, wrapped airtight. Thaw the croissants overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature and reheat in a 350F oven for about 8 minutes.

Recipe from Baking With Julia and directions from Cafe Fernando

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wintery white chocolate cranberry popcorn

When I was a kid, whenever I went to the movies with my family, my sister would order a large popcorn and I, nothing. I was never a fan of popcorn on its own. But a couple years ago my aunt Daisy made this sweet popcorn snack for Thanksgiving second dessert (because there are numerous desserts on Thanksgiving, obviously). And every time since when I go to the movies and my sister orders popcorn, I always think about how there's nothing I want more than that white chocolate popcorn. There's something about sweet and salty together that makes your taste buds go "ooh-ee!" And the punch from the cinnamon is the perfect wintry addition to this dessert (/snack? dinner? hehe).

For the popcorn:

2 bags popcorn (any kind will do as long as it is salted and buttered)
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
3/4 cups dried cranberries
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Cook the popcorn according to package directions. Pour onto a sheet pan and mix in the dried cranberry.

Then, in a double broiler, melt the butter and chips together until smooth. Pour melted chocolate over the popcorn and cranberries, and toss until popcorn is well-coated. Dust the salt and cinnamon over the mixture and toss again. Let chocolate harden, then store in an airtight container for up to three days. Happy popcorn trails!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nourishing conversations

If you're reading this, chances are you're interested in food. I am thankful to have this blog as my outlet to talk about food. For others, a conversation with a friend over what to make for dinner is sufficient enough. Some write books, some blog, some advocate. But whatever medium people talk about food through, the bigger point is that they are talking in the first place. They share ideas and have meaningful conversations in order to better their understanding of food and the world we eat in.

The Public Conversation Project works to provide structured, interpersonal dialogues in order to address conflicts and relate ideas to one another. They recently held a dialogue on Food Politics, which was very well received. If you're at all interested in food, you should check it out. They're doing a great thing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bread pudding

Ok. So I know this is not the most beautiful dessert I've ever featured, but it tastes incredible. It's hard to describe what a fabulous job eggs, cream, and sugar can do to some day-old bread, but let me give it a go: It's creamy and sweet, and lacks that heavy starch taste. It's like you're eating real pudding, only the consistency is more solid and not gelatinous like its normal pudding cousin.  It's filling to the point where you feel satisfied but not stuffed. It's sweet for dessert but also tasty for breakfast with coffee. It's simply spiced and the vanilla carries the flavor throughout the bite. It's kiiiiiinda awesome.

For the pudding:

6-7 slices day-old bread*
1/2 cup medium brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins
pinch nutmeg
1 cup whole (or 2%) milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large bowl, mix together cream, nutmeg, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. 

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and raisins until the milk is too hot to touch. Whisk into cream mixture. Set aside.

Cut slices into 1-inch squares. Add to the liquid mixture and let absorb, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a casserole dish and pour pudding in. Bake for 25 minutes, until crust is golden and crispy on top. Serve warm or cold. Happy feasting!

*if you don't have day-old bread lying around, heat your oven to 350°F and toast the slices on each side until crispy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rainbow cake

With the weather so chilly and all, I’ve been looking for a little warmth and brightness in my life. So imagine my delight when I remembered I had once seen the most happy-making cake ever: a rainbow cake. It is the first Broma recipe I have not wanted to eat due to its sheer beautiful-ness. Yeee! I can’t get over it. It’s so pretty.

For the cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
red, yellow, green, and blue dye

For the frosting:

6 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and stir only until mixed (There will be lumps, but you’ll stir more later on). Using a 3/4 cup measuring cup, separate the mixture into 7 small bowls. To make each color, use the following table:

Red: 12 drops red
Pink: 2 drops red
Yellow: 5 drops yellow
Green: 3 drops green ,1 drops yellow
Light Blue: 2 drops blue
Dark Blue: 6 drops blue
Purple: 5 drops red, 2 drops blue

Grease 2 8 inch diameter cake pans, the line them with parchment paper. Pour the two colors into the pans, respectively. Place in oven for roughly 10 minutes, until knife comes out clean when inserted into pan. Let cake cool completely before removing from pan. Repeat 3 more times until all mixtures get baked.

In another large bowl, using a mixer, combine butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Once everything is cooled, place purple cake right side up on a cake plate. Lightly frost the top, then add the dark blue layer. Frost, then add the light blue layer. Continue process until all layers are frosted. Finally, frost the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting. At last, cut a slice and see the wonder that is rainbow cake.

Basic vanilla cake recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Half-way to heaven peanut butter cookies

This recipes is nearly all in halves, which makes it super easy to remember. It's brought to you by my friend Mallory's childhood nanny, who would make these for her growing up. I have to say, I've never been a fan of peanut butter cookies because they are too heavy-tasting for my palate, but the oatmeal in this recipe balances the strong peanut flavor to make it enjoyable for even the most un-peanut-buttery people out there. Good stuff.

For the cookies:

1 1/2 cups quick oats

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup honey roasted peanut butter (you can find it freshly ground at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

For the filling:

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup smooth peanut butter*

Preheat an oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix butter, both sugars, egg, peanut butter, and vanilla. Pour oat mixture into peanut butter mixture, stirring until just mixed. Place rounded teaspoonfuls of batter on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving 2 centimeters between each one. Using your finger, pat dough down so they form small flattened circles. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely on cookie sheet.

While the cookies are baking, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and peanut butter until light and airy, about 5 minutes.

On a work surface, place half of the cookies upside down. Whisk the filling to lighten it. Dollop 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each upside down cookie.  Place second cookie on top of filling and press together until filling just comes to the edges. Ta-da!

*do not use natural p.b. for this part- the frosting will come out thick and heavy

PS-- check out Mallory's blog, Savings and Cravings!

Fudgies with marshmallows and graham crackers

Oh, God, do you judge people like me? People who eat massive amounts of fudge for breakfast? It just looked so mouthwatering, so delectable, so sumptuous. And the chocolate! The rich, creamy chocolate! Coupled with the airy marshmallows and crunchy graham crackers, I couldn’t help myself. It started out with just one, but another fudge square called my name. So I answered. And it was delicious. Do you forgive me?

For the fudgies:

1 bag marshmallows, cut in half around the circumference
6 graham cracker squares, crushed
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, espresso powder, and salt over low heat. Remove from the heat and Pour 1/2 of the fudge sauce into an 8"x8" parchment-lined baking pan. Evenly place marshmallows on top of sauce so the circular side faces up. Next, sprinkle graham crackers over marshmallows and fudge sauce so the grahams are distributed within the spaces between the marshmallows. Pour the remaining fudge sauce mixture over the entire thing, spreading evenly. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, cut, and serve! But make sure you have friends to serve to… otherwise you’ll end up like me, eating fudge for breakfast.