Thursday, August 25, 2011

Best. Buns. Ever.

holy buns.

Man, I gotta start making more Cook's Illustrated recipes...

Makes twelve 3 1/2-inch buns.

For the dough:

3 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
4 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm

For the caramel glaze:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
3 tablespoons corn syrup, light or dark
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch table salt

For the cinnamon sugar filling: 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the pecan topping:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
3 tablespoons corn syrup , light or dark
Pinch table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecans (3 ounces), toasted in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes, then cooled and coarsely chopped

In bowl of standing mixer, whisk eggs to combine; add buttermilk and whisk to combine. Whisk in sugar, salt, and yeast. Add about 2 cups flour and butter; stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until evenly moistened and combined. Add all but about 1/4 cup remaining flour and knead with dough hook at low speed 5 minutes. Check consistency of dough (dough should feel soft and moist but should not be wet and sticky; add more flour, if necessary); knead at low speed 5 minutes longer (dough should clear sides of bowl but stick to bottom). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 1 minute to ensure that dough is uniform (dough should not stick to work surface during hand kneading; if it does stick, knead in additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time).

Lightly spray large bowl or plastic container with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, spray dough lightly with cooking spray, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in warm, draftfree spot until doubled in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for glaze in small saucepan; cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture is thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into nonstick metal 13- by 9-inch baking dish; using rubber spatula, spread mixture to cover surface of baking dish. Set baking dish aside.

To assemble, store, and reheat buns: For filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in small bowl and mix until thoroughly combined, using fingers to break up sugar lumps; set aside. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Gently shape dough into rough rectangle with long side nearest you. Lightly flour dough and roll to 16 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along top edge; with butter remaining on brush, brush sides of baking dish. Sprinkle filling mixture over dough, leaving 3/4-inch border along top edge; smooth filling in even layer with hand, then gently press mixture into dough to adhere. Beginning with long edge nearest you, roll dough into taut cylinder. Firmly pinch seam to seal and roll cylinder seam side down. Very gently stretch to cylinder of even diameter and 18-inch length; push ends in to create even thickness. Using serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, slice cylinder in half, then slice each half in half again to create evenly sized quarters. Slice each quarter evenly into thirds, yielding 12 buns (end pieces may be slightly smaller).

Arrange buns cut side down in prepared baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in warm, draft-free spot until puffy and pressed against one another, about 1 1/2 hours. Place baking dish in freezer; store for up to 1 month.

To bake, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove buns from freezer, remove plastic wrap, wrap dish tightly with foil, and set on baking sheet. Bake buns for 30 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown and center of dough registers about 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes longer. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert onto rimmed baking sheet, large rectangular platter, or cutting board. With rubber spatula, scrape any glaze remaining in baking dish onto buns; let cool while making pecan topping. For the topping: Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in small saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally to thoroughly combine. Off heat, stir in vanilla and pecans until pecans are evenly coated. Using soupspoon, spoon heaping tablespoon nuts and topping over center of each sticky bun. Continue to cool until sticky buns are warm, 15 to 20 minutes. Pull apart or use serrated knife to cut apart sticky buns; serve.

Published May 1, 2007 in Cook's Illustrated

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beaches, yoga, and cake pops

This week we're up at our family house in Nova Scotia, Canada. Our house is situated on a northward-facing cove on Bell's Island, one of the LaHave islands. It's my favorite place ever. And so far the weather couldn't be better, considering the islands have been getting a lot of bad weather prior to this week. We've been going to the beach every day, and the water is surprisingly warm for up here! The other day Rebe and I journeyed with our grandmother/Noni into town to do errands, and we stopped at a magical place called the Bulk Barn. It's a store full of every single food item you can think of in these bulk containers, making it easy to buy as little or as much of something as you'd like. Down the first aisle I found chocolate of every which sort. The second aisle, piping supplies. The third, cake mix (by this point my head was full of ideas for what I could bake with all this stuff). The last aisle was full of sprinkles in different colors and sizes. I looked to Rebe and said, "Wait, but... I'm in love with bulk barn."

We finally decided on cake pops on account of their general awesomeness. Everyone loves cake (or at least those who matter...). And everyone loves finger-food. Then what better way to enjoy cake than in a bite-sized morsel with sprinkles on top? So we gathered our supplies (lollipop sticks, cake mix, white chocolate wafers, $0.06 worth of pink, blue, yellow, and rainbow sprinkles), and headed for the checkout.

Now back on the island with Friend Simone, swapping music and going out to the wharf to do some sunset yoga.  Lovely, lovely day.

Makes 40-50 cakepops

For the cake bit:

1 box vanilla cake mix, prepared according to directions
1 16 ounce can of vanilla frosting

For the frosting:

1 pound white chocolate wafers


Lollipop sticks

After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (I use the back of a large spoon, but it may be easier to use fingers to mix together. But, be warned, it will get messy. Also, you may not need the entire can of frosting, so start out by using almost the entire can and add more if you need to.)
Roll mixture into quarter size balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet. 

Melt 90% of the chocolate in a double boiler on medium heat. Once melted, turn the heat down to low and add the other 10% of the chocolate. Using a whisk, stir until dissolved completely. Turn up the temperature to medium for about 2 minutes. The chocolate should now be tempered and ready to use! If it starts to harden, just turn on the heat for a minute until it re-melts.

Dip the tip of your lollipop stick in a little of the melted chocolate and insert into the cake balls. (Insert a little less than halfway.)

Place them in the freezer for no more than 10 minutes to firm up.

Once firm, carefully insert the cake ball into the chocolate coating by holding the lollipop stick and rotating until covered. Once covered remove and softly tap and rotate until the excess chocolate falls off.

Don’t tap too hard or the cake ball will fall off, too.

Place in a styrofoam block to dry.

Once chocolate is pretty much dry, decorate however you'd like with sprinkles!

Recipe adapted from Bakerella.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zucchini & parmesan focaccia

Bread. Parm. Zucchini.

For the dough:

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 3/4 cups bread flour
1 package instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons chia seeds (or any other small seed)
1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine flour and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the warm water and yeast. Add the olive oil. With machine on low and using a dough hook attachment, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. When the dough begins to come together, increase speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is shiny and smooth. If the dough is too wet and isn’t coming together, add 2 to 4 additional tablespoons of flour (stop the machine once to scrape sides if you need to). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and work with your hands a little bit to form a smooth, round ball. Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray. Place dough in the bowl and spray the top lightly with nonstick spray as well. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel. Turn your oven on 400°F and let it warm up for 1 minute. Turn it OFF. Turn ON the oven light. Place your covered bowl of dough into the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size- 50 to 60 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the dough onto a well-oiled cookie sheet with 1 inch sides. Using your fingers, dig into the dough, creating small dimples. Brush the dough with half of the olive oil mixture. Cut the zucchini into thin slices and place on top of the dough. Brush the rest of the olive oil mixture over the zucchini and dough, and sprinkle the entire thing with parmesan. Bake for ~10 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.

Recipe by me!