Monday, June 30, 2008

Double Daring Bakers Biscotti

Another "making up for lost time" recipe. A bunch of us Daring Bakers are doing the monthly recipes that occurred before we joined the group. We are on the second recipe: Chocolate Toffee Biscotti (and a cinnamon biscotti variation). The formulas were originally from a Dorie Greenspan book and have been modified (or not?). I find that there are many versions of recipes floating around in cyberspace regarding the past challenges. It's like a game of telephone- you pass the info from one to another and changes get made.

In any case, these are not my favorite biscotti. They are quite flavorful, though a bit sweet, and they don't store very well. Some of you are saying, what do you mean store? #1 They get eaten, and possibly #2 Aren't they hard to begin with? Well, yes they do get eaten, but not as rapidly in my house as some baked goods. I like to have them for an occasional treat with a cup of coffee. I know, I know, that's a shocking level of never before witnessed restraint on my part. More importantly to me, therefore, is the stale quality after just one day. These recipes, are in my opinion, more a dried out cookie posing as biscotti, than what I think of as biscotti. I could be completely out to lunch, so don't take my comments personally if you really love these cookies.

I much prefer a biscotti by Maida Heatter, in her Best Desserts Book Ever, published in 1990. The difference is the butter. Hers have none. They are a crisp biscotti, not a stale sweet cookie. I know for sure that I am in the minority on this. People like sweet, especially with coffee. In my opinion, if you need to add sugar and whipped cream and caramel and chocolate and vanilla syrup to your coffee, and choke it down with a frosted sugary treat, you don't actually like coffee. Don't get me started... hmmm, too late?

I am going to include both recipes so you can make your own decision, should you decide to make them. The biscotti cioccolato from Maida have a definite spice and incredible intensity. They are crisp and wonderful. If you are making some biscotti that will be stored, I highly recommend these. If you are interested in making sweet cookies with chocolate chips, nuts and toffee pieces to eat right away, the Daring Bakers' recipe is really good. It's quite flavorful, and straightforward to make.

Maybe in another installment I'll share my thoughts on the orange nut cinnamon biscotti. For now, here are the chocolate recipes.

Enjoy them both!

Chocolate Toffee Biscotti

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBS. instant espresso powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 stick (6 TBS.) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. chopped almonds, blanched or unblanched
1 c toffee peices
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 3/4 c. store-bought mini chocolate chips
Sugar for dusting

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes; the mixture may be crumbly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes; don't worry if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until a dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the chopped nuts and chocolate, then turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 12 inch long logs. Flatten both logs with the palm of your hand so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high, about 2 inches across and sort of rectangular, then carefully lift the logs onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle each log with a little sugar.

Bake the logs for about 25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm. The logs will spread and crack - and that's just fine. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, put it on a cooling rack and cool the logs for about 20 minutes. (Leave the oven on.)

Working with one log at a time, using a long serrated knife, cut each log into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet - you'll have an army of biscotti - and bake the cookies again, this time for just 10 minutes.

Transfer the biscotti to a rack to cool. Makes about 40 cookies.

Biscotti Cioccolato from Maida Heatter's Best Desserts Book Ever

7 oz. whole unblanched almonds, skins on
3 eggs
½ c light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
½ t almond extract or bitter almond extract
2 c sifted unbleached flour
1 ½ t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 ¼ t white pepper
1 ¼ t ginger
1/3 c Dutch-process cocoa
2 T instant espresso powder (Medaglia D’oro)
½ c sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, grated *

Toast the almonds at 375º for about 13 minutes. Cool. Turn oven down to 300º. Mix eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, ginger, cocoa, espresso and sugar. Put chocolate in food processor and add about ½ c of dry ingredients and process until the chocolate is fine and powdery. Add this chocolate mixture and eggs to dry ingredients in large mixer bowl. Mix, and add the nuts.

Form into loaves about 10“ long, 3“ wide, and ½ to ¾ “ high and bake on foil lined cookie sheets at 300º for about 50 minutes. Work on a floured surface and brush off any excess flour before baking. Reverse sheets top to bottom half way through.

Slice loaves into cookies about 2/3 to ¾” wide, can be as long as 8” if sharp enough angle. Good to start with serrated and finish with sharp straight edge. Bake again at 275º for 35 to 45 minutes.

* I like to use cocoa powder for the grated chocolate. Substitute 1T +1 ¾ t cocoa, 1 T + ½ t sugar, 1 ½ t unsalted butter for every ounce of semisweet chocolate.

Also, I like to cut the nuts instead of leaving them whole- much easier to slice the cookies.

And, leaving the sliced cookies in the oven over night works great. Turn oven off and there is enough heat left to crisp them without browning the sliced edges.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers June 2008 Challenge

This month's challenge was a bit different than previous challenges in that I handled the prep work. Usually J does the prepping and I waltz in like a Food Network chef and do the easy part. This time she's swamped with teaching an accelerated class in Summer Session. Prepping for this was the least I could do, really.

I loved this challenge. The recipe follows at the end of this post. It is a bit long, but boy is it worth it.

You make the dough and let it rest. According to everything I've read, the resting in important. I followed this recipe to the letter as it involves yeast and I have a bit of a yeast phobia. This came up for me when I realized that I had the stickiest dough on my hands -- literally. I kept adding flour in about 2 Tbls increments until it wasn't all stuck to me. I ended up adding about 3/4 of a cup more. It seemed like so much. I possibly worked it too much, but went ahead anyway.
After it rests, you slather butter on two thirds of it and fold, 4 X. After each fold, it rests and if you're like me, after each roll out you will spend a fair bit of time trying to stuff the butter mixture back in where it has leaked out. All this folding and rolling creates the flakiest layers. You can see them in the pics. Then you roll it out, fill it with something tasty, cut parallel lines, braid parallel lines over aforementioned tasty filling, egg wash, bake.
We made two of them -- the recipe makes two braids. The first we did was very similar to the one mentioned in the recipe, but we added, golden and dark, plumped raisins, plus almond paste. We did a pastry class a couple months ago and this was his filling for a similar pastry. This was so good, when J took a bite, she said, "It tastes like Entenmenn's. I mean that in a good way."
The second one we made was a savory version. Scrambled eggs, garlic and mushrooms with a bit of thyme and tomatoes. It was quite nice, although strange against the sweet orange and cardamom pastry.This pastry was light and flaky, soft and crisp. It melted in our mouths.
We would definitely do this one again. It's the sort of thing that you could make in stages and turn out at a party and everyone would go ooh and ahh.



Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Queen Mother v Bittersweet Genoise

We made the Bittersweet Cocoa Almond Genoise (RLB pg 134, pictured in front) and the Queen Mother's Cake from Maida Heatter (back). Rose says her genoise is based on Maida's so, knowing us, we had to compare and contrast.

At first, we weren't really too impressed with either one. It seems that the Queen Mother's Cake got a bit over cooked. Like a lot over cooked. Bottom too brown (really almost blackened) and the sides were way too dark and dry. We cooked it for the specified amount of time, even shaving off some time, and it still was too dark.

Since we cooked both of them at the same time, it wasn't because the temp was off as Rose's genoise came out perfectly.

The process for these two cakes was similar. Make the almonds into a flour -- they offer the only structure as these are flourless cakes. Then you combine the butter, sugar, egg yolks and then, after they are in add the chocolate or cocoa. Beat up the whites, till soft, add sugar and beat till stiff. Fold them together. Bake.

The difference between them is that Rose's genoise has cocoa powder and Maida's has semisweet chocolate. We expected more depth of flavor with the cocoa powder and we were right.

Rose's was by far the prettier one when finished. At the initial tasting, Rose's suffered because it was still warm. When it's 90 degrees outside, it can take a long, long time for cakes to cool off, even if you have an air conditioner in the kitchen!

After it cooled and hung out in the fridge, I found it to be quite nice. M liked it quite a bit too. I wasn't sure that I liked it enough to make it again, but it really grew on me. I might just have to try it again.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Triple Chocolate Cake

Triple Chocolate Cake (pg 201)
Contains: 1 recipe Light Whipped Ganache (pg 268), 1 recipe Moist Chocolate Genoise (pg 132), 1 recipe syrup flavored with Frangelico, 1 recipe chocolate praline sheets (pg 386)

The genoise came together fairly well. We did have a bit of trouble with flour clumping. I think it had something to do with the humidity. Or, it could be that it just wasn't stirred properly. Either way, the cake had white balls of flour along the bottom, not a tremendous amount, but even one is too many, right?

Actually the flavor and crumb of this cake was how I envisioned the previous cake (The Fudgy Genoise Jeffery) was supposed to be. Moist, crumbly, richly flavored. We really liked this cake, overall.

The whipped ganache was lovely. It's just cream, chocolate and vanilla, that you whip up. All around, a nice way to frost the cake. A chocolate frosting that's light. Who knew?

I conquered a fear this time. I made the caramel. I almost burned chocolate too, but we'll get to that. Caramel always seemed to be a scary venture to me. You put sugar on heat and wait for it to almost, but not quite, burn. Then you call it caramel. Well, lo and behold, magic can happen in a kitchen. You drizzle the caramel over the hazelnuts and let it harden. Then blend into a powder. We came as close as we could to fine powder, but the nuts were beginning to become a paste. So, we stopped grinding them. It left the chocolate praline sheets a bit grainy. The taste was exemplary, but the texture was a bit off with the smooth chocolate ganache and the moist chocolate genoise. We wondered if it would better to use a puree of praline rather than a crunchy caramelized sugar.

Yes, I almost burned the chocolate. In a fit of haste, read: in a hurry and clueless, I dropped chocolate into a pan to melt (notice I didn't say double boiler). J was working on the praline powder and she looks up and and says, "That chocolate smells hot". I lifted the pan off the stove and continued to stir, rapidly, just outside the kitchen. Luckily, I hadn't added all the chocolate and J has a superfine olfactory sense so the chocolate never burned!
You must cool the chocolate praline sheets before you put them around the cake. We ended up freezing them. But even that didn't help us on a fairly warm day in the kitchen. As we put the sheets around the cake, J could work with them for a fair amount of time. I, the guy who's usually a bit chilled, generated so much heat in my hands that I almost melted them on contact. I felt a bit like Heat Miser. "Every thing I touch, starts to melt in my clutch, I'm too much."

All in all we liked this one. The layers were moist and gently infused with the Frangelico and the whipped ganache was tremendous, the choclate sheets that wrapped the cake were tasty, and next time we'd use a paste of praline to have a smooth texture.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Hot Soft Pretzels!

A group of us daring bakers have decided to go back to the beginning of the DB recipes and try to make them all. This group began in November of 2006 and the first project was this recipe.
Some of us are recent members so many of the "old" challenges are new to us. We made these twice this month, they were really good! I first made them by myself, and that's when I discovered that I was all out of A.P. and bread flour. I figured cake flour wasn't ideal, so I used a mix of whole wheat, buckwheat and cake flours. I really liked them. Later in the month during one of my and Robb's baking Tuesdays, we squeezed in another batch using A.P. flour. They were just as fabulous. It takes almost no time to mix up the dough, and it needs to sit only about an hour. Hot fresh bread, yum. Give them a try! You might even dip them in cinnamon sugar or sprinkle them with grated cheese. The whole wheat version froze and defrosted perfectly.

For the dough:

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)

For the pretzel topping:

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  1. Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).
  3. Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.
  6. Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)
  7. Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.
  8. Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
  9. Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
  10. Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.
  11. Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.
  12. Serve the pretzels warm with plenty of mustard or another condiment of your choice.
The whole wheat flour pretzels are a little darker,
and both were delicious.