Monday, February 27, 2012

February Daring Bakers' Challenge - Quick Breads

No snappy introduction today - I am so excited to share this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge! So without further ado...

The Daring Bakers' February 2012 host was - Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I am not sure if you have noticed, but we love quick breads around here. In case you didn't know, muffins count and quick breads. If you take a quick perusal through my posts, you'll probably notice quite a few muffin varieties. Little miss wants to make muffins darn near every day. So this challenge was so completely up our alley, we got started right away.

And, to be a bit extra daring, I let little miss take charge.

We chose to make muffins out of the fresh fruit that we had on hand at the time. So, while she started taking the ingredients out of the pantry, I did the mommy-tasks. Preheating the oven and cutting the fruit.

Strawberries and mangoes. Yum.

Then little miss got down to the nitty gritty.

She measured and whisked dry ingredients.

She measured and mixed wet ingredients.

She even cracked the eggs.

She mixed. She poured. She portioned the batter into the muffin tins.

She even sprinkled on the streussel topping.

Basically, she got them completely ready to go into the oven. And I think she did a really good job, if I do say so myself...

Then I did the oven part. And I did the dishes while they baked, but she actually would have done that too, if I'd let her.

Once they were done, we got a good look at little miss's handy work.

Umm... yeah. Pretty tasty looking.

As soon as they were cool enough, we tasted.

Oh yes. She is hired.

But I was not done. You see, there are are so many quick breads out there, I couldn't stop at just one. I decided to take the opportunity to make another kind of quick bread I have had my eye on for quite some time - beer bread. I have only made it once, and it was from a mix. So I decided to make one myself, no mix in sight.

Most of the recipes that I found (and all of the ones with the most tantalizing photos associated with them...) called for self rising flour. I have a ton of flours in the house, from whole wheat to high gluten, and several varieties in between. I do not, however, have self rising flour. Because, to be honest, you don't need it. Self rising flour is "regular" (all purpose, basically) flour with salt and a leavening agent already mixed in. So rather than storing another bag of flour in the pantry, I merely use this handy substitution whenever a recipe calls for self rising flour:

1 cup self rising flour = 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon salt

Easy enough to accomplish.

See? No problem. So I didn't worry about it, and picked out a basic but totally yummy looking recipe.

Next I just had to add a little sugar, whisk everything together, then add the magic ingredient.

I used a light lager, Yuengling light to be exact. We actually aren't really beer drinkers, so I had to check quickly before starting this to make sure I even had any... this was our only can... good thing it was the kind I was hoping we'd have...

The batter is then mixed together and spread into a loaf pan.

This batter is pretty dense, so the bread bakes for a long time - almost an hour.

A few minutes before the bread is fully cooked, it is pulled from the oven, brushed with melted butter, then returned to the oven for a few final minutes.

And then it cools, smelling delicious and begging us to cut into it.

Which we finally did at dinner time.

Yum. I actually prefer my beer this way - I like the way it tastes as bread better than as a beverage. Is that weird? Possibly. But I'm okay with that.

Were we done?

Not quite.

While other Daring Bakers began sharing their delicious and tempting flavor combinations and creations on the online forum, one Baker posted something that required my immediate attention. Heather from Apron Addict shared with us a family recipe for something called "pikelets." She referred to them as "quick bread crumpets." A quick glance at the recipe and I had to try them. A quick look at the pictures and I had two helpers ready to lend some little hands...

Little man still has a few more inches (and a whole lot of find motor skill development...) to go before he can actually help, but little miss was happy to show him the ropes.

Our first batch came out okay. I made the batter a little too thin, and I didn't have a good handle on the right temperature for the pan, but none of us complained.

And then we tried them again the following week.

And then again a week later, this time with homemade strawberry syrup.

Aaaannnd.... yeah, we actually had them another time or two, as well, but you probably don't need to see pictures of every single batch we made. Suffice it to say that little miss alternates, now, between asking for muffins and pikelets every morning for breakfast.

In addition to what you see here, I did also make a loaf of my favorite banana bread this month. Which, come to think of it, means it was a rather slow quick bread month here for us... I am thinking we may just have to make more muffins for breakfast in the next day or so to help make up for that!

Lis, thank you so much for being such an awesome, enthusiastic and creative host this month!! This challenge was super fun and amazingly inspiring!!

I highly recommend checking out some of the amazing quick breads baked up in the kitchen this month. I already have my eye on several of them to try myself.

Little Miss's Strawberry-Mango Muffins
(our own adaptation of our own recipe)

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 mango, diced
1 cup strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray the wells of a 12-well muffin tin.
Sift (whisk) together flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, egg, vanilla and butter.
Stir the wet ingredients carefully into the dry ingredients, stirring only until just combined. Fold in the diced fruit.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tin. We usually wind up with a bit of extra batter, so we use a small loaf pan or small cake pan to bake the extra.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the muffins test done.

(We added a simple crumb topping to our muffins - the crumb topping was made by combining 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, then pinching in 2-3 tablespoons of slightly softened butter until the mixture resembled coarse crumbs. We sprinkled the crumb topping liberally onto the top of each muffin before baking. It's not necessary, but it is really delicious!!)

Beer Bread

3 cups self rising flour (or 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 3/4 teaspoons baking powder and 3/8 teaspoon salt)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces beer (your choice)
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a loaf pan (I used non-stick cooking spray, you could use butter if you prefer).
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
Pour in beer and mix well. The mixture will be thick and sticky.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake 55 minutes.
About three minutes before it is done, remove the bread from the oven, brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter, then return it to the oven for the final three minutes.

(from Apron Addict - thank you so much for letting me share this!)

5 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (approximately... more or less to get the right consistency)

Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and crack the egg into the well. Whisk the egg into the flour mixture while pouring the milk into the bowl. Whisk until the batter is smooth - it will still be a bit thick. Once the mixture is smooth, though, stop whisking! Let the mixture sit while you preheat your pan. Heat a griddle/pan over medium/medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, wipe the pan with butter. Pour batter onto griddle as with pancakes. Cook until golden on each side, flipping just once.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chocolate Swirl Brioche Buns

Things are getting tough in the C family home.

Little man has hit a new and very active stage. And it looks like it is going to stick around for quite a while.

This is making it quite complicated for me to be productive in the kitchen. Especially when it comes to cooking. Anything that requires time, attention or keeping my hands occupied is dangerous. And the more messy my hands, the more dangerous it is. Little man will play all quiet and content while I pour cereal. But knead some bread? Try to prepare raw meat? He's up on the furniture quicker than you can blink.

I'm trying to work around this, but you may notice that there may be some gaps in the pictorial narration of the food preparation for a little while... as hard as it is to cook and bake with an active toddler in the house, it's even harder to photograph the process at the same time.

Will I let that stop me?

No way.

So my lovely friend Lisa over at Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives is hosting Bread Baking Day #47. Now, as you may quickly deduce, I have not participated in any of the previous 46 Bread Baking Day festivities... probably because I didn't know about them. But upon reading about this one, I knew I would be participating. You see, the theme that Lisa chose for this month's bread baking festivities was one that I could not resist. Chocolate.

The hardest part of this challenge was choosing what sort of chocolate bread I wanted to make. The only rules were that it must be a yeast (commercial or wild - sourdough totally permitted!) bread that somehow incorporates chocolate. That leaves a LOT of options. After much searching, I found my inspiration in these beautiful chocolate swirl brioches. The poster indicated that they were inspired by another blogger's matcha (green tea) brioches, which were equally as inspiring, but I knew I'd be going with chocolate on this one.

Notice I said that I used these as inspiration. I decided that I would use Peter Reinhart's Middle-Class Brioche recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice rather than the brioche recipe provided in the post. I've been wanting to try it for a while and decided to use this as my opportunity.

The Peter Reinhart recipe begins with a sponge - a mixture of flour, yeast and milk that is the base for the brioche dough.

To this sponge, the remaining ingredients are mixed in. Brioche is an enriched dough, so there are plenty of eggs and lots of butter.

The dough seemed very thick to me at first, but once the butter was added in, it became very smooth and soft.

The dough was then set to rest in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, the first thing I did (well, okay, after feeding the kiddos...) was prepare the chocolate filling that would make up the chocolate portion of this bread. I knew from reading through all of the recipes that the Peter Reinhart brioche recipe that I was following would produce more dough than the brioche recipe provided in the post that served as the inspiration for this endeavor. Rather than divide the dough, since I wasn't sure exactly how much more it would be, I doubled the chocolate filling. Just to be safe.

The filling came together easily. A couple of egg whites, some sugar, some flour and some cocoa powder were mixed together.

That mixture was super thick, but was thinned out with the addition of boiled milk.

That combination was further cooked, and then butter was mixed in. The resulting chocolate, nicely thickened and smooth, was poured into a pan and set in the refrigerator to chill.

Once both the dough and filling were chilled, it was time to put everything together. I waited until little miss was at school and little man was napping so that I could take my time and also take some pictures.

The dough was gently deflated and rolled out into a big rectangle, then the filling was placed into the center of the dough.

Then the dough was folded around the chocolate.

Once the seams were pinched, the resulting rectangle was rolled out to become, well, a much longer, thinner rectangle.

This longer rectangle was then folded in on itself, like so:

Then this was rolled out again, and folded again in the same manner.

I love how you can see all the layers from the various foldings.

I was trying to be careful with my dough, in the hopes that it would stretch nicely without tearing or having the chocolate ooze through. I was actually really pleased with how strong the dough was, standing up to all of the rolling. But see how thin it rolled? You can see the chocolate through the dough!

The dough was rolled out once again into a long rectangle, but this time, rather than being folded, the rectangle was rolled.

And finally, it was time to see how all of those folds and rolls worked. It was time to cut the log into pieces.

And this is what I saw when I made my first cut.

My first response was "wow." I was amazed.

The original recipe called for the slices to be laid into baking rings. Not having baking rings, I put each slice into a well-sprayed well of a muffin tin.

The pan was then covered in plastic wrap and set aside to rest while I picked little miss up from school.

When we came back, we were amazed by how well they'd risen again.

And then we baked them.

Seriously, it was like taking out a tray of huge chocolate flowers.

We loved how they looked from all angles.

Seriously, how fun do these look?

We couldn't wait to taste these.

Just look at those rich, flaky layers.

And, trust me. They taste as good as they look. Little miss said that they are her favorite thing I have ever made and wants me to make them all the time. The rest of us love them, too. They are beautiful, tasty little indulgences.

This is how I like to eat mine.

Layer by lovely layer. Makes it last longer, and I get to savor each and every bite.


For a roundup of all of the delicious chocolate breads that were submitted for BBD#47, take a look here.

I am submitting this post to YeastSpotting - a great source for some awesome bread ideas and recipes!!

Chocolate Swirl Brioche Buns
(inspired by foodography by Chelle)

"Middle Class" Brioche Dough
(from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice)

for the sponge:
1/2 cup bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (I used 1 tablespoon of active dry)
1/2 cup milk, lukewarm (around 90-100 degrees)

Stir together the flour and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl). Stir in the milk until all of the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 30-45 minutes.

for the dough:
all of the prepared sponge (above)
5 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Add the eggs to the prepared sponge and beat together on medium speed using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer (or whisk together, if doing this by hand).
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the combined dry ingredients to the sponge and eggs and continue to mix (or stir, if by hand) for about two minutes, until all of the ingredients are hydrated and evenly distributed.
Let the mixture rest for five minutes to allow the gluten to begin to develop.
With the mixer on medium speed (or mixing with a large spoon), gradually work in the butter, adding it a quarter at a time, waiting until each addition of butter assimilates before adding more. This will take a few minutes. Continue mixing for about six more minutes once all of the butter has been incorporated until the dough is very well mixed. You will have to scrape down the bowl a few times as it mixes. The dough will be very smooth and soft.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly mist the paper with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the sheet pan and spread it to form a large, thick rectangle, measuring about 6" x 8". Mist the top of the dough with more cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the dough for at least four hours or overnight.

Chocolate Filling
(adapted from foodbeam)

2/3 cup milk
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter

Bring the milk to a boil. While it is heating, mix the egg whites and sugar in a bowl until combined. Mix the flour and cocoa powder into the egg white/sugar mixture and beat until it is homogeneous. It will be very thick.
When the milk boils, slowly pour it over the cocoa mixture, whisking as you do (you do not want to wind up with scrambled egg-whites!). Transfer the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat until it is thick. Mix in the butter until it is melted and well incorporated.
Spread the mixture onto a baking tray that has been lined with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.

To prepare the buns:
(from foodbeam)

Remove the brioche dough from the refrigerator. Gently pat it down to degas the dough, then, on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle (roughly twice the size of the rectangle of filling that you prepared) (see the photos above for a better idea of how it will look).
Remove the chocolate filling from the refrigerator and place the filling in the middle of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges.
Roll the filled-dough into a long rectangle, then each edge into the middle, then fold the dough in half, so you will see four edges on the folded side. This is called a tour double.
Repeat this procedure again, rolling the folded dough into a long rectangle once again, then folding another tour double.
Roll the re-folded dough once again into a long rectangle (about 12" x 8").
Starting from a long side, roll the dough up onto itself to form a log.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into about 1-inch slices.
Spray all 12 wells of a standard muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray, or use butter to grease them.
Place each cut section into a well of the muffin tin, cut side up.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then allow the buns to rise for 30 - 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake buns for 15-20 minutes.
Remove buns to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Note: The Peter Reinhart brioche dough recipe makes more dough than the brioche dough recipe used to make the buns that inspired this endeavor, which is where the shaping instructions come from. Knowing this going in, I doubled her filling recipe, and what I have posted here is for the doubled recipe. I followed her methodology to try to obtain results anywhere near as beautiful as hers. My buns wound up much bigger. You could probably divide the brioche dough into portions in order to obtain smaller buns, closer to the ones produced by the original poster, if you would like to do so.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheesesteak Buns

We've been trying to be better about meal planning recently. It helps with the food shopping (as in, knowing what we need to buy at the beginning of each week rather than needing to run to the food store every couple of days hoping something will be on sale or speak to me...) and it makes me feel a bit more organized during the day, knowing what I'll need to prepare when.

We are better at planning some weeks than others... this week was a less good week, and, as of yesterday, the "Wednesday" spot on the meal plan was empty. Uh oh.

But a quick look in the freezer yielded instant inspiration. We had a box of cheese-steak meat. You know, that thinly sliced minute steak used to make cheese-steaks.

And I remembered something I'd had on my to-make wish-list for a couple of months.

Remember the December Daring Cooks' Challenge? We made pork buns. Which, upon eating, daddy and I determined would be delicious with a variety of fillings. Such as... cheese-steak. Yup. Wednesday's spot on the meal plan was no longer empty.

During little man's nap, I prepared the dough. Same dough I used for the pork buns. Then once little miss came home from school, I prepared the filling.

Yummy, yummy cheesey steaky goodness.

Filling slightly cooled, dough risen, it was time to make some buns.

I divided the dough into 16 pieces.

I then rolled each piece into a ball, which was subsequently flattened into a disk and filled with that yummy filling.

The dough was then wrapped around the filling to create the buns, and then they were baked. They actually come together pretty quickly, once you get started.

And they come out looking pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

Yummy deliciousness melting right out of them!

So how were they?

Fantastic. Little miss ate three of them for dinner. Three. As many as I did. As many as daddy did. She ate three. Oh yes, these will be made again.

Baked Cheese-Steak Buns

for the dough:
1 cup milk, scalded
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon oil (I used canola, but the recipe didn't specify)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast (I used active dry)
3 cups plain flour (I used all purpose)

Scald the milk, then stir in the sugar, oil and salt. Leave this mixture to cool until it is lukewarm. Once the temperature is right (around 105-110 degrees), add the yeast, then let it sit until the yeast is activated and the mixture becomes frothy, about 10-15 minutes.
Sift the flour into a large bowl.
Add the milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands, then knead on a lightly floured surface for approximately ten minutes. (I sifted the flour into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer, then used the dough hook and incorporated the milk/yeast and did the kneading all in the machine, which worked out great.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I kept it in the KitchenAid's bowl, just gave it a little spray of oil on top) and cover with a damp cloth. Leave it to rise until it doubles in size, 1 - 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

for the filling:
1 medium onion, chopped (I only had very small ones, so I used two)
1 7-ounce box minute-steak
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onions. Cook the onions until starting to caramelize. Break the meat into small pieces and add to the pan. Keep the meat moving, and cook until it is no longer pink. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the cooked meat, cover the pan and remove it from the heat.

To prepare the buns:
Once the dough has doubled in size, gently deflate it and divide it into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a round ball.
Use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a circle approximately two inches in diameter. Using your hands, gently pull the edges out to enlarge the circle to about three inches in diameter (mine were a little bigger) (this makes the edges thinner than the center, keeping the center of the bun stronger for the filling, and keeping it from cracking).
Place a good sized tablespoon of filling into the middle of the circle of dough.
Gather the edges of the dough and seal the bun.
Place the bun on a parchment covered baking sheet, seam side down.
Preheat your oven to 392 degrees F (200 degrees C, converted exactly, is 392. Close to 400 on your dial, for those of us whose ovens aren't quite that precise...).
Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sourdough Crescents

About a week or so ago, I was talking with my sister. And, as usually happens with the two of us, we started talking about food. And then we started talking about our sourdough starters. It was time for her to feed hers, and she wasn't sure what she should make with the "discard" portion. We were both talking about the things we've tried, things we wanted to try... and we both wound up doing various online searches for inspiration.

And then she found this site, chock full of tasty ideas. Well, what she told me was that she found a recipe for sourdough crescents that looked good and simple, and when I asked for the url, I wound up oooh-ing and aaah-ing over most of the recipes listed.

But she was right - the crescents looked good and simple, and I just couldn't resist. So of course I had to try them, too.

The dough is actually quite similar to the biscuit dough that I had so much practice with recently.

The dry ingredients are whisked together, and then chunks of butter are added.

The butter is cut or rubbed in, making the flour resemble a coarse meal.

Then the liquid is added. Now here's the difference - with biscuits, the liquid is usually some kind of milk or cream. Here, the liquid is sourdough starter.

The recipe calls for two thirds of a cup of starter to be mixed in, which should yield a nice dough. For my dough, two thirds of a cup was not enough, and I wound up adding almost an entire third of a cup more. But the resulting dough was beautiful and smooth, and rolled out beautifully.

Oh, yeah, it's no longer similar to biscuits, preparation wise. The dough was divided in half, and each half was rolled into a circle.

Each circle was then cut into six wedges.

To make the crescents, each wedge was simply rolled up, wide end to tip!

Easy enough!

I decided to play a bit, as well. I made half of my crescents plain, and for the other circle of dough, I decided to add some pepperoni and cheddar.

Next time I do this, I'll grate the cheddar rather than just cutting pieces, as it did make it a little harder to roll the crescents up...

But they still came together very quickly.

And baked up beautifully (and quickly! only 12 minutes!). The cheese did a little bit of oozing out, but I never really view that as a problem.

They looked and smelled beautiful right out of the oven.

As for the taste? Both little miss and I liked them, as did little man. Daddy didn't get to taste them until the next day, and he said they were okay. I didn't quite understand until I took a bite, too. They definitely taste better fresh out of the oven (okay, slightly cooled...). But to remedy that, I reheated the next one in the toaster for a few minutes, and it tasted delicious again. So I highly recommend reheating any leftovers rather than eating them cold.

These were definitely fun, and were quick and easy to make, so I can see more of these in our future!

And, in case you are curious, they were a hit in my sister's house, too! You can check her's out here.

Sourdough Crescent Rolls
(from Smart Mama)

1 cup flour (I used all purpose, the recipe called for whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 (give or take) sourdough starter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and sugar.
Cut or rub in the butter.
Mix in the sourdough starter and stir together to make a soft dough.
Gently knead the dough for about one minute (I used my KitchenAid, but this would be easy to do by hand).
Divide the dough into two and, on a floured surface, roll each half into a nine-inch circle.
Cute each circle into six wedges and roll to shape each wedge into a crescent shape.
Bake for 12 minutes.


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