In my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances, I don’t know a whole lot of people who love to bake, knit, or craft as much as I do. So, I spend a lot of time on Ravelry, a knitting facebook kind of group, I bake along with Tuesdays with Dorie, and I joined a do.good.stitches, a charity quilting group. In some groups, we do swaps to try to get to know other members better. It’s a great way to make friends who have common
obsessions interests. Plus, who doesn’t love to shop for crafty supplies or get some unique yarn or a handmade gift?
My sewing group organized a secret swap recently, and we were each tasked to make something for our partner. I was a little apprehensive about this, since I am not as experienced a sewist as many others in the group, but I decided to dive in any way. The project I chose to make was a tote bag. I used the market tote pattern from a book called Patchwork Please . This one appealed to me because of the two large pockets on either side. I am a sucker for pockets and I often wonder why bags don’t have more of them.
To make the bag more interesting, I made patchwork panels on the outside instead of just using a large piece of fabric. I have to say, my favorite part of the bag are the handles. Aren’t they great?
And there’s another little pocket on the inside, too. Also, to make the bag sturdier, i used interfacing in the lining as well as the exterior. It was a challenging project for me, but I am pretty happy with the results, and I hope my partner likes it, too!
Yesterday, I received a package from my secret swap partner. This little quilt is fabulous, don’t you think? I love the way the colors interact with each other and make different designs, depending on the way you look at it.
I am going to hang this in my sewing corner so that it can in inspire me when I am in there. There were some extra goodies, too: a cute little bag (perfect for notions and things), cool fabric and a great quilt pattern that I am excited to make.
On the knitting side of things, I received a swap package from a fellow knitspot club member this week.
It was a fun box of goodies that has brightened up my very busy week. I especially love the indigo dyed yarn and the cute sheep ornament.
In our house recently, we have been talking a lot about the nature of giving and why we give gifts. As we enter into this gift giving season, it is too easy to get distracted by the gifts themselves rather than the reason behind them. We give gifts to show others that we care about their interests, their welfare, and we want to brighten their day. Without the love behind a gift, a gift becomes just an object without meaning, but with love, any gift, no matter the size or monetary value, can have immeasurable worth.
Sure, I can go out to the store and buy stuff that I want or need, but to get a gift, especially a handmade one, makes me feel loved and cared for. It is just one of the many ways we can show our love for each other, so I don’t advocate it as a substitute for love or concern. But, no matter what the gift, it is always a reminder that one is loved.
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.