Archive for the ‘Baking’ category

Porridge bread (oat bread)

March 16, 2020

This is the best oat bread I have ever tasted. It makes marvelous toast and great sandwiches. I will warn you, it is not a bread for novices as it requires some judgement based on experience.

bread

2 c porridge (oatmeal) – see note below
5 c all-purpose flour + extra if needed
1 envelope yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
2 tsp salt
3 TB maple syrup or dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 c plain mashed potatoes
½ stick butter cut in pieces and softened
1 c warmed milk

Note: Put 1 cup oats and 2-1/4 c water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until almost tender. This will take maybe 12 min for steel-cut oats and less time for rolled oats. I don’t recommend the instant kind. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for at least 10 min. Let cool before using.

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed for a few minutes. If the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl, which it probably will, add more flour until the dough clears the sides but still sticks to the bottom. Make sure the bits of butter are being incorporated.

After 5-6 min, turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead by hand briefly to form a compact ball. Put in a greased bowl and let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk.

Turn the dough out onto the counter again and divide in 2 equal parts. Knead each part and form into a log about 8 inches long. Place each log in a greased loaf pan (I use the standard 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch size) and let rise until the dough is above the lip of the pan by about ½ inch. Bake at 350o for 30-35 min. Take out of oven and brush the top with oil or melted butter. Let the bread cool in the pans for 10-15 min and then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

 

Best scones

August 12, 2017

I got this recipe from my DIL who learned it while taking the pastry chef course at the French Culinary Institute. Currants are traditional but you can use pretty much any dried fruit, chopped if necessary. Note that the recipe uses weights, not volumes – important for this kind of baking. Makes 12-15 scones.

Scones1

325 grams (11.5 oz) all-purpose flour
20 g (2/3 oz) baking powder
45 g (1.5 oz) table sugar
Pinch salt
100 g (3.5 oz) dried currants
110 g (4 oz or 1 stick) unsalted butter
2 eggs
Heavy cream, about 2/3 cup

Oven at 350 degrees f.

If the currants are really dry and hard, plump in warm water for 5-10 minutes then drain well before weighing.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and keep chilled.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Stir in the currants.

Cut in the butter until the butter bits are about the size of a dried lentil. Do not overwork or the scones will be tough.

Put one egg and the yolk from the 2nd egg in a measuring cup (discard the white from the 2nd egg). Add cream to come up to 200 ml (6.75 fluid ounces). Beat lightly together and add to the dry mixture. Mix together (fingers are great for this) until the dough comes together. It will be on the dry side and a bit shaggy. At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a while, up to overnight. Or, simply continue.

Roll or pat out to about 3/4 inch thickness. Do not overwork! Cut into the desired shapes and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Brush the tops with cream and bake for 12-15 min. There should be some browning around the edges and only the slightest hint of browning, if any, on the top. Serve warm, if possible. Can be frozen.

 

Simple yet delicious sour cream coffee cake

April 15, 2017

This is basic, traditional coffee cake at its best. Nothing fancy, just the basics well-executed. The key to a great coffee cake is (duh) the cake, and this gives you just the moist, tender, and light – yet flavorful – cake you want. The specific instructions and measurements are important – don’t try throwing it all together at once.

Streusel:

1/2c pecans
1/2c white sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

The Cake:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1c granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1c sour cream (NOT low fat, please!)
2c cake flour (see note below)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350

Put the pecans in a small dry skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking, until lightly browned and fragrant. Cool, chop, and mix with the other streusel ingredients. Set aside.

Using a separate scoop, overfill a 1 c dry measure cup with flour and level the top with the back of a knife. Put in sifter. Repeat for second cup of flour. Add baking powder and salt and sift into a bowl.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until well-creamed, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well.

Mix the sour cream and baking powder and let it foam for a few minutes.

With the mixer on low, add 1/3 the flour mixture to the butter/eggs, then 1/2 the sour cream, then 1/3 the flour, etc. Mix for 10 sec or so between additions to incorporate each addition. Add the vanilla.

Grease a Bundt pan. Spread not-quite-half the batter in an even layer, then sprinkle on 1/2 the streusel. Spread remaining batter over the streusel, making a nice even layer while doing your best not to disturb the streusel. Finish off with the remaining streusel.

Bake for about 40 minutes until a wood skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for about 20 minutes then invert onto a plate to finish cooling.

Flour note: Cake flour has lower gluten than all-purpose or bread flour. It is not good for raising bread well, but the lower gluten results in a more tender crumb – just what we want here. You can buy specially packaged cake flour, at a premium, but I find that a “soft” (low gluten) all-purpose flour, such as White Lily, works just as well.

English muffins

September 7, 2015

I love English muffins. but the commercially available ones seem to have gone downhill and I rarely buy them. Then I watched an Alton Brown rerun where he made muffins and I thought I’d give it a try. Well, it worked great and I think this will become one of my regulars. They freeze perfectly well, too. Here’s with minor modifications, is Alton’s recipe. The yield is 8-12 muffins depending on the size of your rings. Note: you must start preparation the day before you will be baking.

EM

You’ll need muffin rings for this recipe.

EMR

They are available for purchase and can also be improvised by cutting both ends off an appropriately sized can (e.g., tuna), removing the label, and washing well.

12 oz all purpose flour (3 c less a couple of TB)
1-1/2 oz powdered milk (about 1/3 c, or use liquid milk, see below)
1 TB sugar
1/4 oz instant yeast (1 scant TB)
1 tsp salt
10 oz water (or use milk and omit the powdered milk)
1 TB vegetable shortening
Coarse cornmeal, about 1/3 c

Put the flour, powdered milk (if using), sugar, yeast, and salt in the bowl of your mixer and mix for 5-10 seconds to combine. Heat the water or milk and the shortening in the microwave until lukewarm, then stir to melt the shortening. Add to the mixer bowl and mix for about 3 minutes using the paddle on medium speed, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Detach the paddle from the mixer and leave in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight.

The next day, return the bowl to the mixer, reattach the paddle, and mix on medium low speed for 3 minutes. You should have a thick batter rather than a stiff dough.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange your rings on a half-sheet pan. You can put a sheet of parchment paper under them if desired. It is not necessary for the recipe, but it makes clean-up easier. Give the rings and pan a good shot of non-stick spray. Sprinkle a couple of large pinches of cornmeal into each ring. Spoon the batter equally into the rings, filling them a little less than halfway–perhaps 1/4 c per ring. Sprinkle more cornmeal on the top of each muffin.Cover and let rise until the batter is almost at the top of the rings.

Now you have two choices. If you want muffins that are flat on both sides, put a sheet of parchment paper over the rings and put a second half sheet pan on top of that. Otherwise leave them uncovered. They will “bulge up” on the top, but might be a bit lighter textured. Your choice.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for ~18 minutes. If you have put a sheet pan on top, remove it (and the parchment paper). Bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and set the pan on a rack to cool for a while. Remove the muffins from the rings, using a dull knife to loosen them if needed, and finish cooling.

Almond cake

December 14, 2013

I have always loved almonds and enjoy them in almost every possible way they are prepared, from fresh-roasted to Amaretto. I particularly like almond cake and would be thrilled to find it on the dessert menu of a good restaurant now and then. But, I never could make one at home that I really liked, so I gave up long ago. But, my interest was again piqued by a recipe I saw recently in a magazine, so I did some experimenting and came up with something that I really like. I hope you will, too.

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So, what makes a great almond cake? The flavor of almonds, of course, must be paramount, but not overwhelming. Sweet but not too sweet. The texture will not be dense and chewy, but neither will it be light and fluffy–you need just the right balance! Here’s how I do it.

2 c blanched, sliced or slivered almonds (see note)
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1-1/2 c granulated sugar
zest of 2 large or 3 small lemons
1 tsp almond extract
6 TB unsalted butter
1/4 c vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in the middle.

Put the almonds in a non-stick saute pan that will hold them in a thin layer. Cook over medium heat, shaking frequently, until the almonds are lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Put 1-1/c of the almonds and the other dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Remove to a bowl. Put the eggs, 1-1/4 c of the sugar, about three-quarters of the zest, and the extract in the processor and let it run for a minute or more, until fully combined and pale yellow. Melt the butter, combine with the oil, and add to the processor while it is running until all is mixed well. Add the almond/flour mixture and pulse to combine.

Grease a 9 inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Scrape the batter into the pan and level the top.

Combine the remaining 1/2 c almonds, 1/4 c sugar, and zest in a small bowl and mix with your fingers until combined. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, not quite to the edge. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan half a turn, then bake or another 25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center–if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Place pan on wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Invert cake onto a plate, remove pan and parchment paper, and re-invert back onto the wire rack. Serve when cool.

Note: In my experience, blanched almonds are never labeled “blanched” but you can identify them because the skin is off (the skin is bitter and you do not want it in the cake). I usually find them in the baking section of the market.

Pullman bread

August 12, 2013

Pullman bread is a close-grained white bread with a slightly sweet and buttery taste. It makes terrific toast and sandwiches. While “white bread” has gotten a bad rep, largely thanks to Wonder bread and other similar garbage, good white bread can be a real treat – after all, a French baguette is white bread!

Pullman-1

What sets Pullman bread apart is its shape, an even loaf with a perfectly square cross-section. This is achieved by baking in a special pan that has a lid which prevents the bread from rising above the rim of the pan. See the photo – which shows the pan but not the lid. History tells us that this bread was used in railroad dining cars during the era of the famous Pullman sleepers because a square loaf took up less storage space than the more common domed loaf. In any case, it’s a very tasty bread. This recipe is for a pan that is 3-1/2 inches square by 12 inches long.

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small dice
2/3 c milk (about)
6 TB butter (3/4 of a stick), melted and cooled
2 TB sugar
2-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
4-1/2 c all purpose flour

Put the diced potato in a small sauce pan and add just enough water to barely cover. Simmer until very soft. Mash potato and liquid to a fine paste and put in a 2 cup measuring cup. Add milk to make a total of 1-2/3 c.

Preheat oven to 350f.

Put the potato/milk mixture and all other ingredients in your mixer bowl. Using the dough hook, knead for 5-6 minutes, adding a bit more flour or milk if the dough is too wet or dry. Turn the dough out onto your floured counter and form into a ball. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in volume, a hour or two. Grease the pan (no need to grease the lid). Turn the risen dough out onto the counter and form into a log the same length as the pan. Put in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until the dough is about an inch below the rim of the pan – an hour, perhaps. Put the lid on the pan and put in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes then remove the lid from the pan. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 195f when inserted into the center of the loaf. Turn loaf onto a rack to cool.

Jerry’s bread

January 18, 2013

This is a long loaf of Italian bread that is stuffed with salami, cheese, and other goodies.  The name comes from Jerry’s Italian market in Englewood, NJ, where they sell a similar bread – absolutely delicious! Unfortunately I live in North Carolina, so I can’t visit Jerry’s as often as I would like. Here’s my take on this treat.

2 lbs pizza dough (use store-bought or make the recipe below)

8 oz sopressata or other Italian style salami, thinly sliced.
8 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
1/2 c black olives, pitted and halved
1/2 c roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips
1 egg beaten with 1 TB water
sesame seeds
coarse salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface, roll each piece into a rectangle about 10 x 12 inches. Position the dough with the long edge facing you and arrange the fillings over the surface, dividing equally between the two loaves, being sure to leave a 1 inch border at the sides and top. Brush the borders of the dough with water and roll into a cylinder, starting at the edge nearest you. Pinch the seam and ends to seal, then place, seam down, in a baguette pan or on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt. Bake for about 40 minutes. If the top is browning too much, cover loosely with foil. Let cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Pizza dough:

4 c all purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 envelope (2 tsp) instant yeast
2 TB olive oil
1-1/2 c warm water (barely warm to the touch)

Place the first 3 ingredients in your food processor and zap to combine. Let the machine run and add the oil and almost all of the water through the feed tube. Process for 40 seconds and check the dough. It should have formed into a slightly shaggy ball that’s a bit sticky. If it’s too wet, add a couple of TB flour; if too dry, add the rest of the water. Process for another 30 sec, then turn out onto a floured counter. Use your hands to form the dough into a smooth ball, then place in an oiled bowl to rise.  When it has doubled in size, perhaps 90 minutes, continue with the recipe above.

 


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