Well, it seems like every time I blink, two weeks passes by. How does this happen? I don’t know, but I hear it happens to everyone, so I am trying not to let it get to me. There’s a lot happening around here and most of it is good, I think. Here are some things I have been working on, in no particular order.
First: Knitting. The last time I talked knitting, I was trying to decide what to knit while watching the Olympics. I ended up deciding on a sport weight pullover called Polwarth by Ysolda Teague. Out of my stash, I dug out some sport weight yarn called Brigantia by Spirit Trail Fiberworks that is a polwarth and silk blend.
After doing a quick gauge swatch, I cast on during the opening ceremonies and attempted to do brioche stitch for the first time while watching. For the most part, I did not find the brioche stitch all that challenging, but the little triangle gave me some trouble. The shaping directions for the triangle were a bit confusing, but I muddled through. I think it looks pretty good, but not perfect.
The rest of the sweater is mostly stockinette stitch, which is great for watching sports. Unfortunately, by the time the second week came around, I was growing bored with it and for some reason, the track and field events were not holding my attention as well as the swimming in the first week. Despite my ennui, I plodded ahead and by the end of the closing ceremonies last night, I had finished all but half of a sleeve.
Even though I did not finish, I am pretty happy with how much I got done, considering I really only knit while watching the olympics. The last half sleeve should only take another night or two of knitting and then I’ll have a new sweater!
Second: Baking. Blueberry season is pretty much over (sad face) and peach season never arrived up here in New England. A couple of frosty days in February and March killed almost all of the peach crop in the New England states. We’ve had to rely on the grocery stores for our peaches (another sad face). Last week, I was able to score a bunch of organic peaches that were pretty good and was really happy to make these peach buns.
These are my version of the traditional Baltimore Peach Cake and to say that we love them would be an understatement. Since I posted this picture on Instagram, I’ve had a few requests for a recipe. It’s really something that I have cobbled together over the years by combining a brioche recipe and a crumb topping recipe. All you need is a good brioche recipe (here’s one if you don’t have one) and your favorite crumb topping recipe. Combine those with peaches and you have a wonderful fruity breakfast or afternoon snack bun. I froze a bunch of blueberry ones, which I think will be good. The peach ones do not freeze well and are best eaten within 24 hours, just so you know.
Third: Sewing/Quilting. Gift quilts are so tricky to sew because I can’t show any photos anywhere until the recipient receives it and then sometimes I just forget. So here are two small ones I have finished in the past year. The first is a baby quilt for a dear friend.
If the fabrics looks odd, it’s because 13 different people went out and picked a fabric to represent themselves and sent them to me to put together a quilt. It was really fun to see what everyone picked and a fun challenge to figure out how to put them together in a quilt. I just realized I don’t have a photo of the whole quilt, but that’s ok. I love that it is being used by that cutie pie!
The second quilt is for my dad that will go well with in his log cabin in the woods.
He picked out the fabric a couple of years ago and I finally got it finished (almost-I was a week or so late) in time for his birthday last month.
I made the front and back different so that it could be displayed in two different ways. It was more work that way, but I like the way it turned out. Hopefully, he does, too!
I’ve also finished another couple of blocks from my craftsy block of the month class. Sewing progress was minimal the last couple of weeks because of the heat and all the knitting I was doing. I’d like to get back to that and finish off the blocks for the class and then get back to sewing the Splendid Sampler blocks.
Fourth: I have a bad case of wanting to start lots of new projects.
Today, I plan to cast on a mystery knit along shawl by SusannaIC using the yarn above, and I want to join in on the Fringe Association’s Top-down sweater knitalong. That last one might just take more brain energy than I have right now. There are about five other sweaters I would like to start as well as a couple of other little things. Oh, if only there was more time in the day!
What do you want to work on today?
During last week’s heat wave, I wondered what in the world people did/do with no air conditioning. Air conditioning is truly a wonderful thing, and I am ever so thankful to live in a house that has it. The air conditioning enables me to turn on the oven, even when it is over 100 degrees outside and still stay relatively comfy.
One day, I made brioche buns with raisins and candied citron. I love making little buns like this. They are just the right size to have with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast. They are not too sweet and wonderfully soft and fluffy. They also make a pretty good base for peanut butter and jelly.
I used the recipe for brioche from Nick Malgieri’s book, Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking, but you can use any brioche recipe, including the one I posted a little while back.
The next day, I had to feed my sourdough starters, and was looking for something new to try with them. While perusing through my copy of The Bouchon Bakery, I found a recipe for english muffins that used a sourdough starter and a baking method instead of a cooking on a griddle method. That seemed like a good recipe to try.
Unlike some other english muffin recipes, this one makes a super soft, almost batter like dough. It has to be scooped into the rings with an ice cream scoop.
They rise for a bit and then go in the oven.
These are the highest/biggest english muffins I have ever made. They looked fantastic coming out of the oven.
These are easily an inch high and are surprisingly easy to split with a fork.
There are lots of nooks and crannies to soak up butter and jam. Our only complaint with these is that there is not enough salt in the batter. They taste rather bland without anything on top. They have a slightly different texture than english muffins you buy in the store. They are kind of a cross between an english muffin and a crumpet. When toasted, they get wonderfully crispy on the outside, but are still moist on the inside, which is nice because some english muffins out there turn into hard crackers when toasted. These have a nice springy texture. They are great as a breakfast sandwich, albeit a bit high.
From start to finish, I made 22 english muffins in about 3 hours. It could have been shorter if I had another set of rings, which I am definitely going to get for next time. Most of that time is just waiting time, so it doesn’t feel too taxing. I will most certainly be making these again, but with more salt and maybe a helping of whole wheat flour to replace some of the white flour.
Also known now in our house as Fussy Pockets. Yes. Fussy. But, they are so, so good and worth the trouble.
The last time we did brioche for Tuesdays with Dorie, we made amazing Pecan Sticky Buns. The base dough is the same brioche dough and just like before, it was a very soft and super active dough.
Because of scheduling constraints, I decided to do this recipe all on one day, which is not necessarily something I would recommend. It was a lot of work and my dough never fully chilled, which made it more difficult to work with.
This is not a recipe that you can really make without a stand mixer. Mine worked for about half an hour before the dough was done. Of course, I did double the recipe because if I am going to all this work, I’d rather have more for my investment of time and energy.
Just like before, my dough rose in about half the time stated in the recipe. If you want a slower rise, you might consider putting it in the fridge from the start. Mine just about tripled in an hour.
While the dough is rising and chilling, there are fillings to be made. I did the recipe in the book and a variation that used cheddar cheese instead of goat cheese. I also added ham because the boys all wanted it.
After all the filling ingredients were prepped and cooled, I started working on assembly. Here is where I fell down on the picture taking because my hands became floury and sticky with dough. It was not an easy process with all the rolling out and the dough kept getting soft and misshapen. Here is where using your freezer can really help a lot. I ended up rolling out each piece of dough, transferring it to a piece of parchment, sticking it on a baking sheet and popping it in the freezer. After about 15-20 minutes, the dough was nice and firm, and much easier to roll out to the proper final thickness and cut into shapes. I put all the rounds onto sheets of parchment stacked on top of each other, and stored them in the freezer until I was ready to do the final assembly.
Assembly is pretty easy and straightforward. After a short rising time and a nice egg yolk glaze, the pockets are ready to bake.
After all that work (probably 6 hours from beginning to end, about half of which is waiting around time), the rewards are these beautiful savory/fussy pockets. Of course, you can spread out the work by making the dough ahead of time and storing it in the fridge for a day or two or freeze it for up to a month.
Some extra asparagus on the side is all you need to round out your dinner or lunch. Eaten warm, they are heavenly. Every one of us loved them. The brioche is soft, tender, and luxuriously buttery. The filling is hearty and flavorful. I was glad I added the ham because the filling might have been a tad bland without it.
Out of my doubled recipe, I was able to get 18 small pockets and two larger ones that I made when I got tired of re-rolling the scraps. I baked up 12 of the small ones, and froze everything else. They will come in handy this week when I have several days that are super busy.
Aren’t they just beautiful? They are fussy and I won’t pretend that I wasn’t muttering a lot while working with that soft dough, but the results are really worth it.
The ones with poppy seeds have goat cheese and the sesame seed topped ones have cheddar. There is one person in my family that is not a fan of goat cheese, and he was happy I made some without. Incidentally, I had some leftover filling ingredients, but that turned out to be fine because the potatoes are just really cheesy mashed potatoes and were great as a side dish later on in the week.
These would look very beautiful in a bakery case display, don’t you think?
Oh, and guess what! Today is my turn to host Tuesdays with Dorie, so I get to post the recipe for you! Here it is. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
1/3 cup warm whole milk (100° F to 110° F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 large egg
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Put the milk, yeast, egg, and 1 cup of the flour in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula, mixing just until everything is blended. Sprinkle over the remaining cup of flour to cover the sponge.
Set the sponge aside to rest uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. After this resting time, the flour coating will crack, your indication that everything is moving along properly.
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups (approximately) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Add the sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer, attach the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute or two, just until the ingredients look as if they’re about to come together. Still mixing, sprinkle in 1/2 cup more flour. When the flour is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 15 minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed. During this mixing period, the dough should come together, wrap itself around the hook, and slap the sides of the bowl. If, after 7 to 10 minutes, you don’t have a cohesive, slapping dough, add up to 3 tablespoons more flour. Continue to beat, giving the dough a full 15 minutes in the mixer-don’t skimp on the time; this is what will give the brioche its distinctive texture.
Be warned-your mixer will become extremely hot. Most heavy-duty mixers designed for making bread can handle this long beating, although if you plan to make successive batches of dough, you’ll have to let your machine cool down completely between batches. If you have questions about your mixer’s capacity in this regard, call the manufacturer before you start.
Incorporating the Butter
In order to incorporate the butter into the dough, you must work the butter until it is the same consistency as the dough. You can bash the butter into submission with a rolling pin or give it kinder and gentler handling by using a dough scraper to smear it bit by bit across a smooth work surface. When it’s ready, the butter will be smooth, soft, and still cool-not warm, oily, or greasy.
With the mixer on medium-low, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. This is the point at which you’ll think you’ve made a huge mistake, because the dough that you worked so hard to make smooth will fall apart-carry on. When all of the butter has been added, raise the mixer speed to medium-high for a minute, then reduce the speed to medium and beat the dough for about 5 minutes, or until you once again hear the dough slapping against the sides of the bowl. Clean the sides of the bowl frequently as you work; if it looks as though the dough is not coming together after 2 to 3 minutes, add up to 1 tablespoon more flour. When you’re finished, the dough should still feel somewhat cool. It will be soft and still sticky and may cling slightly to the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a very large buttered bowl, cover tightly with rlastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Second Rise and Chilling
Deflate the dough by placing your fingers under it, lifting a section of dough, and then letting it fall back into the bowl. Work your way around the circumference of the dough, lifting and releasing. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight, or for at least 4 to 6 hours, during which time it will continue to rise and may double in size again.
After this long chill, the dough is ready to use in any brioche recipe.
If you are not going to use the dough after the second rise, deflate it, Wrap it airtight, and store it in the freezer. The dough can remain frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight and use it directly from the refrigerator.
SAVORY BRIOCHE POCKETS
makes 12-15 pockets
4 small red potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
24 to 30 asparagus tips, 2 to 3 inches long
Steam the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with the point of a knife. Drain the potatoes well, put them in a large bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the goat cheese, stir to mix, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. Set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature, or cover and chill it for a few hours. When the mixture is cool-everything must be cool before going into the pockets-stir in the chopped chives.
Cook the chopped onions in the butter, in a small skillet over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the onions turn a caramel color. Set aside to cool.
Drop the asparagus tips into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook until tender, or until a knife point meets just a little resistance when piercing the asparagus. Drain and then plunge the asparagus into ice water. Drain again and dry before tucking into the pockets.
1 recipe Brioche dough, chilled
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup poppy seeds
12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
Divide the brioche in half; keep one half covered in the refrigerator while you work with the other. Working on a lightly floured cool surface, roll the brioche out to a thickness of 1/8 inch-don’t worry about the shape of the dough; you’ll be cutting rounds from it. Place the rolled-out dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and chill while you roll out the other half of the dough.
Again, work with half of the dough at time. Using a 4- or 4 1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles of dough as you can from the brioche. You should be able to get a total of 24 to 30 circles from the entire batch of dough. Scraps of dough can be chilled and, once firm, rerolled and cut. If the circles are very soft, chill them again before filling.
Place 1 tablespoon of the caramelized onions on each of half of the circles. Top with 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture and finish with 2 asparagus tips. One at a time, take an unfilled circle and dimple it with your fingertips to stretch it a little. Place the circle, dimpled side down, over a circle with the filling, using your fingertips to press the dough down around the mounded filling; or seal the mound of filling by pressing the back of a biscuit cutter against the dough, positioning it so that it encircles the mound of filling and delineates it. Pick up the edges of both layers of dough and roll them in toward the mound of filling, folding them over so that they form a rim around the filling; press the rim down gently to seal. At this point the filled pockets can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month. Thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator before proceeding. Place the pockets on two parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with the beaten egg yolks.
Set the pockets aside to rise, uncovered, at room temperature until puffy and spongy to the touch, about 20 minutes.
Baking the Pockets
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F Give the pockets another coat of egg wash, sprinkle some poppy seeds on each one, and top with a sage leaf. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are beautifully browned, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Once baked, the pockets should be enjoyed the day they are made.
More and more people that I know are developing food sensitivies or intolerances. I can certainly relate, being lactose and tomato intolerant. It can be difficult to go out to eat or to eat in other people’s homes. This is why I always like to ask about any food issues when I invite people over to eat. I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble making something and then serve it to a person who really shouldn’t eat it. This is a dilemma that you never want your guests to have, right? To be polite, they might eat it, but they can’t enjoy it fully because they know they will suffer for it later. Wouldn’t you rather know ahead of time and make necessary adjustments so that everyone can enjoy the food and be happy?
Yes, I know, it can be hard and sometimes it means going out on a limb and cooking in a way that is unfamiliar, but isn’t it worth it for our friends and family? Yes, it is. Fortunately, there are more resources out there to make cooking for food sensitivities easier, especially for those sensitive to gluten. This year, for Easter dinner, I decided to try a new GF flour mix and make some Hot Cross Buns for our GF guests.
The recipe is adapted from the GF brioche recipe that I found in The Bouchon Bakery. The Cup 4 Cup flour mix was developed by Thomas Keller’s staff and claims to be a good cup for cup substitute for regular flour. I have not yet tested this claim, but may in the near future. For now, I contented myself with adapting his brioche recipe to make, I hoped, a wonderful Easter treat for my friends.
The recipe, like most GF bread recipes, is easy enough. Since there is no gluten to develop, you basically just want to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. One thing I noticed right away about the Cup4Cup flour is that it already has xanthum gum incorporated into the mix, so there are no other specially GF ingredients to buy or measure out. That’s a great convenience, especially if you only bake GF occasionally. The C4C flour is expensive, but at least you don’t have to buy 5 other things to go with it.
The recipe has three rises, with a rest in the fridge during the second rise. My dough took twice as long to rise as the original recipe stated, but the extra ingredients and the temperature of my house could account for some of that difference. As with all yeast breads, you must be patient and wait for the dough to tell you when it is ready.
Was it worth the wait? I must admit to being a little nervous. I once made some GF muffins that looked beautiful and puffy when they came out of the oven, but deflated to about half their size after a few minutes on the counter.
I need not have worried, though. They puffed up beautifully in the oven and kept their structure after they had cooled. After I brushed on the glaze, I could not resist trying one. After all, I had to make sure they would be ok, right?
First, I cut it open to see the structure.
I was impressed with the springiness of the bread. It was soft and fluffy on the inside, not dry at all. But, you ask, how did it taste? Well, I took a bite, and then another, and then another. Pretty soon, half of it was gone and I had to stop myself from eating the rest because I wanted the husband to try it to see what he thought. He said that it was quite good and difficult to tell that it was GF, which always a good thing.
My first reaction was that it could use a little less salt and a bit more sugar. The sugar part will probably be resolved once I put on the frosting crosses, though next time I would probably try adding a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dough anyway. Aside from this issue, I thought that they were very good indeed. They were soft, but not pasty, like some GF foods can be. They also had very little grittiness. It’s still detectable, but not enough to get in the way. I was really amazed at the springiness of the dough. It was not as fluffy and light as regular brioche, but if I didn’t know it was GF, I might not have guessed that it was. In fact, it was tempting to eat them all up, but I behaved myself. I wrapped them up and froze them to await their Easter dinner debut on Sunday. I can’t wait to see what my GF friends think.
I am curious, now, to try the C4C in some of my favorite regular flour recipes, especially cakes and cookies and also to see how it compares to my other favorite GF mix from King Arthur Flour. Anyone want to come over and be a taste tester?
GF Hot Cross Buns
Adapted from The Bouchon Bakery
Do you want your GF friends to feel comfy eating these? Of course you do! I cannot stress enough the importance of working with scrupulously clean equipment and ingredients when making GF foods, especially if your friends have Celiacs. Dedicated GF baking pans are best. Clean everything you plan to use, even if they are already clean, and use new packages of dried fruits or sugar or other ingredients if you are not absolutely sure that they have not had contact with gluten.
Also, the original recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt. I have cut this back by a third here. If you are using regular table salt, use just 1 teaspoon.
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup currants
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 teaspoons instant yeast
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water at room temperature
3 3/4 cup Cup4Cup flour (535 grams)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey (80g)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (100g)
Egg Wash: 1 egg, well beaten and strained through a sieve
1 Tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine fruit with rum in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute. Then, stir well and let stand until completely cooled and the rum has been absorbed.
Combine yeast, granulated sugar, and water in a medium bowl and whisk together. Let stand until the yeast has bloomed and the top is foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the flour, salt, and spices into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk to combine.
To the yeast mixture, add the eggs, orange extract, honey, and butter. Whisk until all is combined.
Place the mixer bowl in the mixer and turn it on to medium low. Add the liquid in a steady stream. Once all the liquid is added, increase the speed to medium and mix for several minutes until it is nice and smooth. Turn the mixer off and, using a spatula, scrape the bowl thoroughly. Replace the bowl and mix for another 5-6 minutes on medium speed. Total mixing time will be ten minutes. The dough will be very loose, somewhere in between a pancake batter and a bread dough. It should be free of lumps.
Turn down the mixer to low and add the fruit mixture. Mix until the fruit looks evenly distributed, about a minute. Scrape the bowl down again and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled. depending on the temperature of the dough and your house, this can be between 1-2 hours.
Scrape the dough down again. Cover tightly and place in the fridge for two hours.
Prepare your pan: Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Do Not use a pan that you would normally use for regular flour muffins. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough into the wells of the muffin pan. I wanted to make at least one extra, so I also sprayed a ramekin and made 13.
Brush the dough with the egg wash, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise just until puffy, not doubled. This can take between 45-90 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, bake for 18-21 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
While they are baking, make the glaze. Combine all the glaze ingredients in a microwavable bowl and heat until just beginning to bubble. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
Brush the buns with glaze as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool in the pan on a rack until completely cool.
At this point, they can be wrapped and frozen. Or, if you plan to serve them within a few hours, you can go ahead and ice them. If they have been previously frozen, make sure that you thaw them before proceeding with the icing.
To make the icing, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. It should not be runny. If it is, add a little more powdered sugar until it will hold its shape without dripping. Scrape the icing into a plastic bag or disposable icing bag. Snip a 1/4 hole in the tip or corner and pipe crosses onto the buns. Let stand to set for at least on hour or up to four before serving. If you have other foods that are not GF, makes sure to keep these separated from them. The last thing you want is to go to all this trouble to make something special for your friends and then have it cross-contaminated. Enjoy!