Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Frieda's soft breadsticks

Hubby and I were discussing my online friends a few days ago. I know some people think it's weird to consider people friends when you've never met them in real life, but...I do. It's just so nice to have people to talk to who understand a comment like, "I love this dough; it's so beautiful!" or who have answers to the question "I need to bake something fancy right now; what should I make?"

Besides, these days, I would bet that at least 50% of our meals come from my friends: either recipes they post or recipes they suggest. Case in point: Di's daughter was home sick the other day, and Di decided to make Farmhouse Chicken Chowder from Cook's Country. What?! A quick Cook's Country soup that I hadn't tried yet? I put it on the menu immediately.

Of course we needed bread to go with the soup, and I suddenly started thinking of soft, buttery, garlicy bread sticks. Yep, that's what I wanted. I looked everywhere; I scoured all of my cookbooks, all of my go-to cooking sites, but couldn't find anything that looked right, only crunchy grissini or pizza sticks.

And then this morning, I thought of Frieda. Sure enough, she had not one, but two soft bread stick recipes! I loved the look of the twisty ones, but the melt-in-your-mouth soft texture of the buttery bread sticks looked exactly like what I wanted. So I compromised...I used the buttery bread sticks ingredient list (with some white whole wheat flour) with the twisty technique.

The result? Unbelievably perfect. These were a hit with all four of us, and I loved that I started them at 3:30 and they were finished by 5:30; the only problem was that I only made a half-batch. ;o)

Hard to get a picture without this little hand in there!
Twisty buttery bread sticks
adapted slightly from Frieda Loves Bread
makes 12 bread sticks

292 g flour (I used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat)
5 g instant yeast
6 g vital wheat gluten
115 g 2% milk
36 g sugar
40 g unsalted butter
3 g salt
1 egg
melted butter for coating the bread sticks

1. Whisk half of the flour, the yeast, vital wheat gluten, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Combine milk, sugar, and butter, and melt on half-power in your microwave in 30 second increments until the butter is almost melted. Stir until the butter melts. Mix in the egg. (Double check that your liquid isn't too hot; you don't want it above 110º or it may kill your yeast.)
3. Stir the liquid into the flour mixture, and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Add the rest of the flour and mix well. Knead the dough for 3 minutes, or until the dough is soft, smooth, and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap (or just leave it on the counter and put the bowl on top of it) and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375º.
6. On a lightly oiled surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle. Use a pizza wheel to cut into 1" strips. Fold each strip in half and twist it, then place it on a lightly-greased pan. Brush the twists with melted butter and sprinkle them with garlic salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
7. Bake at 375º for 12 minutes or until golden (they should register nearly 200º internally). Brush with a little more melted butter because, well, why not! :)

Tomorrow's lunch!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"We bake cake and nothing's the matter!"

"Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake! And nothing's the matter!"
                                                        from In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, 1970

In September 2009, I decided I needed an official food blog to keep track of my progress in the BBA Challenge. I'd had a mommy blog for a while, and initially I thought I'd just post my baking adventures there, but after a few posts, I determined that I actually wanted a new space that was dedicated to talking and writing about food. At that point, my little guy was 2 1/2 and the baby was just over a year. My little guy had just started expressing an interest in helping me in the kitchen, and one of his favorite books at the time was one of my favorite books from childhood, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.

When Di invited me to participate in her newest seasonal blog event, cooking the books, I immediately knew what I wanted to do. While I do, in fact, read cookbooks like novels, which is what inspired Di for this blogging event, I thought I'd use this opportunity to talk about my blog's name...something I've never written about.

"He kneaded and punched it and pounded and pulled
Till it looked okay."
                                                            from In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, 1970

Choosing a blog name is such a big decision (at least for me). In many ways, the name becomes your identity online, and even though it's possible to change it, it's likely that the name you choose is the one you'll have forever. Hubby and I debated and brainstormed for days, but I couldn't commit to anything. Finally, as hubby was reading In the Night Kitchen to the little guy one night, he looked over and said, "What about something from here?"

We liked that the book was about bread baking (kneading and punching and pounding and pulling), that it talked about cake making (milk in the batter!), and most importantly, that it reminded us of baking with the little ones. I am known around these parts for always getting lines just a little bit wrong, and while the actual line in the book is, "Stir it! Scrape it! Make it! Bake it!" I always read it, "Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!" Mix it Bake it was born. :)

So what to make? Well, "we bake cake and nothing's the matter!" and this weekend was definitely cake-worthy in our world: after seven years of hard work, my hubby finally graduated with his Master's degree this weekend. (It's not entirely his fault that it took so long; we've had two babies and multiple job switches while he's been enrolled in school, and these life events forced him to take several extended breaks.)

I wanted to make something special, and remembered Kelly's post for chocolate chip cookie dough cake which I'd bookmarked way back in October 2011. What a fabulous idea! And chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is one of hubby's very favorite desserts. I was planning to make vanilla ice cream to accompany the cake, and then wondered if I could use ice cream to fill and frost the cake? Well, of course I could!

On Friday night, I made a batch of vanilla bean ice cream base from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I also mixed up some (no egg) chocolate chip cookie dough from my Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Book. Then Saturday morning, I made Nick Malgieri's yellow cake from The Modern Baker (a half-recipe made two 6" cakes). After the cake layers were cool, I stuck them in the freezer for a bit to firm them up. Meanwhile, I took the no-bake cookie dough and rolled them into little balls, which I also stuck in the freezer. And then I churned the ice cream.

Just after churning, while it was still the consistency of soft serve, I pulled the cake layers from the freezer and smoothed ice cream on top of both layers. On top of the middle layer, I buried pieces of the no-bake cookie dough. I sprinkled mini chips on the top of the top layer. Then I stuck the cakes back into the freezer to firm up again. (Of course I was doing this on a 90º day!)

Finally I mixed up a batch of our very favorite chocolate chip cookie dough (from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) and used a teaspoon to make tiny little chocolate chip cookies, which baked for about 10 minutes.

On Sunday morning, I finished assembly: using some softened ice cream to frost the sides and then sticking the mini chocolate chip cookies along the sides for decoration. Voila!

Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream celebration cake: One of our friends said it was everything you want in a cake: "You know how you're eating cake, and you really wish you had ice cream? And then a cookie just sounds really good?" And one of our other friends' little guy did a happy dance during all of dessert. Oh yeah, this one was a hit!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pecan sticky buns (TWD: BwJ)

Our second May recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is pecan sticky buns. I just knew these would be a hit in my family, and the recipe was perfectly timed for Mother's Day.

Unlike my usual cinnamon bun recipes which start with a sweet dough, these are made with brioche, an incredibly rich dough made with five eggs and a stick and a half of butter. The dough is mixed before the butter is added and it took forever for my butter to incorporate. But finally, using my mixer and a bit of hand kneading, the dough was ready to rise and then chill.

The next day, the dough is laminated, with another stick and a half of butter folded in. I actually only laminated half of the dough. I knew my kids wouldn't like the pecan sticky buns ("no nuts!"), so I used a quarter of the brioche dough to make plain ol' cinnamon buns for them (the other quarter is in the freezer to be used later).

The dough was really easy to handle. Once it was chilled, I rolled it out and then topped it with sugar, cinnamon, brushed egg, and pecans. I used a little less butter than called for (there was so much!!) and a little extra cinnamon and sugar. Then I rolled up the dough into a jelly roll. The recipe says to freeze it before cutting, but my dough was still quite cool from the fridge, so I just used my normal dental floss technique to cut it and it worked just fine.

My buns did not bake for as long as the recipe called for: the cinnamon buns were finished in 26 minutes and the sticky buns were finished in 30. I loved the look of the layers in the finished buns before I flipped them!

The texture of these was incredible: so light and fluffy. They weren't as sweet as our usual dough, and hubby and I didn't like them quite as much. Which is really quite a good thing, as they were a whole lot more work! Still, a delicious Mother's Day treat, enjoyed by all! :)

Check out the other TWDers' sticky buns here and check out the recipe in Baking with Julia, or on our hosts' blogs: Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Nicole of Cookies on Friday .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ciabatta rolls with Mother's Day jelly

When KAF posted this delicious-sounding recipe for ciabatta sandwich rolls, I immediately thought of my friend Di, who frequently bakes sandwich rolls from their site. Sure enough, the very next morning, I saw a tweet from Di, asking if anyone would be up for baking the rolls on Sunday. So Di, Kayte, and I planned a Twitter bake.

I knew it might be a little hectic to try to bake on Mother's Day, but hey, it's my day, right? And wouldn't it be wrong if I didn't bake on my day? :)

Late Saturday night when I got home from my bookclub, I quickly mixed up the starter; it couldn't have been easier. On Sunday morning, before we left for our trip to the Big Zoo, I mixed up the rest of the dough: all-purpose flour, instant yeast, salt, powdered milk, water, olive oil, and the starter. (I used my dough hook instead of my paddle attachment.) I let it rise for an hour on the counter, and then did a stretch and fold and stuck it in the fridge. When we got home from the zoo, the dough had clearly doubled in the fridge, so I pulled it out, divided it into 80 g portions and shaped them into flat rolls. And then I realized that I wouldn't have time to bake them before we left for dinner so...back into the fridge! When we got home, I pulled them out again. They puffed up in a few hours and I was able to dimple them and bake them before we went to bed.

This morning, my little guy was thrilled to see that we had bread! You see, at preschool, the kids made dandelion jelly, and he was really anxious for us to try it. (He goes to preschool at a nature center and one of his teachers, the same one who has chickens that occasionally give us eggs, is very interested in wild edibles.)

Recipe according to my little guy: "Here's how we make dandelion jelly. We picked dandelions and then we snipped them with scissors to get all the green stuff away. Then A [his teacher] boiled it to get light jelly. And then in the batch I was in, we putted it in. Then put in the jelly. Then put wrappers and stickers and labels on. I picked a Time to Relax hummingbird sticker. I wanted to give it sooner, but I decided to wait. So that's what we did."

So we enjoyed dandelion jelly on ciabatta rolls for breakfast, and then hubby used them for his lunch time sandwiches, and finally we used them as hamburger buns with dinner...quite a versatile roll! This is a make-again recipe for sure. I think Kayte and Di are both going to post their experiences with the ciabatta rolls later this week, so check them out!

Happy Mother's Day! :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cream puffs!

When King Arther Flour posted about cream puffs and éclairs a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't believe how easy the recipe seemed. And I just knew I had to try it.

So one night when dinner wasn't that exciting, I decided to make a fun dessert. And just as promised, the recipe for the choux paste was incredibly easy. I heated the water, butter, and salt in a saucepan, then added the flour, and let it all cool. Then I mixed in the eggs. That's it. Just as easy as promised.

I decided to experiment with a couple of different sizes, making both 1/4 cup large puffs and cookie-scoop mini puffs. The large puffs baked exactly as stated in the recipe; for the minis, I baked them for about 10 minutes at 425º and then another 15 minutes at 350º. For the large puffs, I filled them with whipped cream and covered them with chocolate sauce. For the minis, I made a small batch of pastry cream and used a piping bag to fill them.

This recipe was so easy, and it created such a decadent and delicious dessert!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Zest!

or You know you have a problem when you have to take a picture of citrus zest just because of the pretty colors.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hungarian shortbread (TWD: BwJ)

Our first May TWD recipe is Hungarian shortbread, a recipe from Gale Gand.

In general, I'm not interested in desserts (especially cookies) unless there is a strong chocolate presence. Every once in a while, an almond flavor will suffice. But a butter cookie with jam filling? Meh. So imagine my surprise when I absolutely 100% loved these cookies!!

I made a half-batch in an 8x8 pan. The shortbread itself was easy to throw together in the mixer: flour, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, egg yolks, and sugar. The dough is then wrapped in plastic and chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes before being shredded into the pan on the large holes of a box grater. I had a few questions as I got ready to assemble and bake the cookies: should I butter the pan? The recipe didn't call for it, but that seemed weird to me, and several of the places online where this recipe is printed call for buttering the pan. In the end, I did. And several of the people on the Ps&Qs for this recipe mentioned prebaking the bottom crust or it wouldn't fully bake; should I? I ended up putting the bottom part of the crust in the oven for about 5 minutes while I prepared the jam; and then I baked the cookies for 45 minutes to get the top golden. The bottom was much more done than the top; next time, I'd probably skip the prebaking stage altogether.

If I'd filled these with the rhubarb jam called for, it'd be a sure bet that no one would eat them, so I used the last bit from a jar of store-bought mixed berry preserves and part of last summer's strawberry jam. I first used the 1/2 cup of jam called for (I was making a half-recipe), but it didn't seem like nearly enough, so I ended up using quite a bit more (probably a cup total for the half-recipe).

As I said, I was shocked by how much I loved these: sweet, crunchy, buttery, with a bright hint from the jam. Delicious!

Check out all of the other TWDers' shortbreads here: and please visit our hosts' pages to see the recipe: Lynette of 1smallkitchen and Cher of The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler….