Tag Archives: TWD

Rash promises and kitchen derring-do: turkish coffee brownie layer cake

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This is a cake of two tales. And the tale of two cakes.

Story the first.

Once upon a Saturday night, there was a Pimms cocktail-addled promise to make a layered birthday cake. Which I promptly forgot about until Sunday evening (the birthday was on Monday).

It was the prettiest Pimms cocktail I had ever seen, with three different types of citrus, strawberries, mint, a dash of this and a splash of that. An English-summer-meets-tropical sunset mash of colours and flavours.

But if I have to bake a cake every time I have that cocktail, I may just switch to a martini.

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Story the second.

Once upon a Sunday evening. With a sense of wild, reckless adventure, and no little trepidation, I poured cake batter into teacups and put it into the oven.

Wild recklessness, because I picked up the teacups from an op shop, with no knowledge of whether they were oven safe. Trepidation, because We could have had a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion in the oven.

(But, looking on the bright side of life, a Turkish coffee brownie flavoured explosion might have led to a new oven. One with an accurate temperature gauge, a working oven light, and a steam function for baking bread.)

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Cakes I & II

We didn’t get a new oven.

Instead, we got brownie cakes. I inverted the teacup cakes so they became domed-shaped single-serve mini layer cakes. With just enough space for one candle on top.

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Gussied up elevenses: Marion Cunningham’s scones

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Elevenses. The meal eaten by hobbits between the second breakfast and luncheon (J. R. R. Tolkien). A second breakfast – those hobbits are wise creatures.

For me, elevenses isn’t elevenses unless scones are involved. But whose scones?

The American scones have changed from the classic Britisher. No longer are they round, primly delicate, glazed with milk, eaten with clotted cream and jam. The transtlantic type can be stuffed with fresh pears, berries, nuts, chocolate, and did I hear mention of jalapeno? Made with wholemeal (whole wheat), ricotta, cream. Sugar coated, maple syruped, and glazed.

In a word, gussied-up. (ok, two words)

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Bialys, and a cow-herding robot called Shrimp

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I have something that I want to tell you about: a robot herding cows.

I knew some engineering students at uni, and one of them has been telling me about our university’s robotics research. Basically they are making robots that – one day – will be able to do all kinds of clever things by remote control or (gasp!) autonomously.

One of their experiments is cow herding with a robot called Shrimp. And it was picked up on Canadian TV, the BBC and lots of other media sites! I think Shrimp is kinda adorable, in the Wall-E style, and it looks like the cows just accepted that there’s a robot ushering them around – !!

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Bialys, the stories

I digress from bialys. This bread seems about as far removed from cow herding robots as you can get. The stories about bialys are a little sad yet appealing to the romantic imagination. They look into the past, not into a robotics future.

Bialys, or bialystoker kuchen, comes from the city of Bialystok, Poland; it was part of Czarist Russia at one stage. Bialys look similar to the bagel, except it has an indent and not a hole, the indent is traditionally filled with an onion and poppyseed mixture, and it is baked without being boiled first.

Bialys seems to have been eaten at all meals by the Jewish people in Bialystok, but now is much less commonly found. Some stories from people who have migrated to the US are here. Mimi Sheraton also wrote a book, The Bialy Eaters, The Story of a Bread and a Lost World.

(Mimi Sheraton’s book title made me think of the Lotus Eaters from Ulysses, except eating bialys in other parts of the world probably reminded people of home and Bialystok, not forgetful of it.)

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Tuesdays with…Peter? Making Peter Reinhart’s challah

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When I bake with a recipe, I like to think about little ways to tweak it, play with it, personalise it. But today, I’ve gone completely rogue on the TWD group. Sorry guys.

Instead of Julia Child / Lauren Groveman’s challah, I made Peter Reinhart’s challah recipe instead.

You see, I was planning to share it with a Jewish friend. Since I didn’t know if he observed dietary laws about separating meat and dairy, I didn’t want to give him challah made with butter. Instead, I made a non-dairy challah.

Reinhart’s challah uses egg yolks to add richness. Lots of yolks. (Apparently egg is neutral under dietary laws) Kneading by hand took longer, but on a leisurely evening, I hand kneaded, and watched the dough change from a sloppy, wet mess to a soft, malleable ball.

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The dough proofed in the fridge for 3-4 days, to develop flavour and shape, and become silky to the touch. Then, I learned to braid challah, with 6 braids. (I may have got a little confused in the beginning, and un-braided once, but thanks to clear instructions from Smitten Kitchen, by the end of the first loaf of challah, I was braiding like a pro.)

And the dough became two loaves of lovely, gorgeous-smelling bread. Richly yellow, with a dark lacquered crust. I used ironbark honey from around the Blue Mountains, which has such an alluring smell that permeates the room. The challah also became imbued with the smell and loveliness of the honey. Fresh from the oven, the challah was soft, a little sweet, pulled into strands, and made me want to dive into its sunny yellow depths.

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Is it a cookie? brownie? double chocolate dog bones?

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I have been on a roll with this oversized cookie thing. First there was a giant cookie, now we have a cookie slab. A double chocolate cookie-brownie slab. Come to think of it, a gluten-free double chocolate cookie-brownie slab.

Half of the slab became brownie-like slices, and the other half – I had  a dog bone-shaped cookie cutter, so there were double chocolate dog bones.

Woof.

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In the evening, Mr Gander and I had this exchange:

Mr Gander: what’s this?

Me: A giant cookie slab. Or cookie slab. As a cookie, it’s giant; but as a slab, it’s merely normal sized.

Mr Gander: and these?

Me: Dog bone cookie cut-out things.

Mr Gander: … …

(ps, he ate them anyway)

These were made from the recipe for double chocolate cookies, as part of this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD) assignment. I made this recipe using a mix of gluten free flours, following the ratio of 60% starch (I used potato starch and white rice flour), 40% whole grain (I used quinoa, brown rice and corn flour) from Gluten Free Girl. I also used more 85% chocolate, because I like my chocolate dark and cookies giant. 

The resulting cookie slab was a super-intense chocolate hit, dense, almost toothsome, not unlike drinking a doppio (double shot espresso) from the original Campos cafe. Best enjoyed in small bites with equally strong tea or coffee, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If made with more milk chocolate, it would become a perfect companion to a glass of cold milk too. The recipe only uses a small amount of flour, with a huge quantity of chocolate, so I don’t think the GF flours affected the texture much, unless it made the cookies slab a little bit more crumbly.

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Pumpernickel, poems and party season

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Pumpernickel. The stuff of life and the stuff of dreams.

Philip Schulz wrote a poem about it. Please have a read, if only for the image of the steam curling off the black crust like a strip of pure sunlight, and of holding up a slice of bread in all its absurd splendour:

Monday mornings Grandma rose an hour early to make rye,
onion & challah, but it was pumpernickel she broke her hands for,
pumpernickel that demanded cornmeal, ripe caraway, mashed potatoes
& several Old Testament stories about patience & fortitude & for
which she cursed in five languages if it didn’t pop out fat
as an apple-cheeked peasant bride. But bread, after all,
is only bread & who has time to fuss all day & end up
with a dead heart if it flops? Why bother? I’ll tell you why.
For the moment when the steam curls off the black crust like a strip
of pure sunlight & the hard oily flesh breaks open like a poem
pulling out of its own stubborn complexity a single glistening truth
& who can help but wonder at the mystery of the human heart when you
hold a slice up to the light in all its absurd splendor & I tell you
we must risk everything for the raw recipe of our passion.

With this encouragement and warning, I pulled pumpernickel out of the oven on Sunday afternoon.

The recipe didn’t require several Old Testament stories about patience and fortitude, for which I was thankful. Sadly, it didn’t quite have the ‘absurd splendour’ of Schultz’s idealised pumpernickel. But then, can any pumpernickel be better than Grandma’s, especially a Grandma that can talk bread in five languages?

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Don’t get me wrong. The loaves had the dense, even crumb, and rye and caraway flavour, and was a good rye bread. The dough was fine to knead by hand, and everything went smoothly (almost exactly) according to the recipe. The finished loaves formed a good foil for a slather of fresh ricotta, crumbled goat’s milk fetta, walnuts, and honey. The goat cheese and walnut strong enough to stand up to the rye and caraway, while the milder ricotta and honey helped to turn it into an easy crowd pleaser.

In fact, I’ve learned this bread just in time for party season in Australia, with Melbourne Cup Day or the race that stops the nation (first Tuesday of November), summer afternoon picnics, summer evening parties, and never ending Christmas get-togethers.

It’s just … I like the pumpernickel that can break the baker’s hands, is black from up to 24 hours of slow baking, barely risen, and heavy with whole rye berries. In other words, the romantic idea of Grandma’s black pumpernickel.

Wordsworth and Coleridge would be proud.

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In the meantime, here is a good loaf of rye bread or modern pumpernickel. Don’t be put off by my impractical ramblings, it’s a tasty loaf. As for the long list of slightly strange ingredients, they look pretty similar to the ingredients for Russian black bread and other rye breads. And it’s a handy bread for dinner party canapes.

Too much bread? Rye bread crumbs make an interesting change from white bread crumbs. And, old rye bread can be used to make altus – old bread soaked in water and added to dough, to intensify the flavour, though not sure if wheat-rye bread can be used?

Changes from the recipe: I could only find fine rye flour, not medium or coarse rye flour. Also, instead of the novel method of proofing the dough inside hanging tea towels, I used a couple of baskets. Lastly, I ran out of eggs (what kind of baker runs out of eggs?), so instead of an egg white glaze I artistically sprinkled flour onto the loaves.

Lastly, I found the video of the episode useful.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pumpernickel is this week’s TWD assignment. We are baking from the book, Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. Please go to the TWD blog and see what other TWD bakers have done.

Pumpernickel

(Available in Baking with Julia. Also available on contributing baker Lauren Groveman’s website. The version that appears on Lauren’s website is reproduced below.)

Special Equipment

8-quart mixing bowl, to rise dough
Wooden surface for kneading
Pastry scraper
Quarry tiles or a pizza stone (use dark steel shallow baking sheet as a substitute)
Baker’s peel, to transfer loaves to oven (use a flat cookie sheet as a substitute)
Oven sweep, to brush meal off tiles after baking, optional

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing
2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature or, as a substitute, use tepid water (warm to the touch)
1 stick (approx 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup prune lekvar (also called prune butter. See here for a prune lekvar recipe)
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 squares (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, broken (note I used 85% cocoa chocolate and only used a tiny, tiny pinch of sugar to compensate)
2 tablespoons ground caraway seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
1 tablespoon fine table salt
2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
Pinch of sugar
3 1/2 cups coarse rye meal (if unavailable, substitute medium rye flour)
Up to 6 cups (approx 800 grams) high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting and shaping
Glaze: 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Topping: sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds (optional)
Cornmeal (medium ground), for bakers peel

Method

1. To set up: Brush an 8-quart bowl (I used a large mixing bowl) with melted butter and set aside to rise dough. Take out your pastry scraper, another large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.

2. To assemble dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, cubed butter, shortening, lekvar and molasses. Dissolve instant espresso in 1 cup boiling water and pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add broken chocolate and melt chocolate in espresso over very low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Add to mixing bowl with powdered and whole caraway seeds and salt.

3. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar until creamy and pour into mixing bowl along with the rye meal. Stir to combine well. Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir in enough bread flour, 1/2 to 1 cup (up to approx 130 grams) at a time, until you create a mass that’s not easily stirred, but not dry.

4. Turn the mass out onto a floured wooden board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface and hands. In the beginning of the kneading process, this dough will feel quite “pasty” because of the rye flour. As always, use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off the board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

5. To rise dough twice: When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in the buttered rising bowl. Cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. Punch down dough with several swift swats from the back of your hand to deflate dough totally. Turn over dough, cover and let rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

6. To shape oblong loaves: Turn out fully risen dough onto a lightly floured board and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the other half covered.

7. Lay two clean kitchen towels on your counter and sprinkle them with bread flour. Roll dough half into a 7×10-inch rectangle. Starting at the short end farthest from you, roll dough toward you, pinching to seal as you go. Pinch to seal the ends and tuck under to attach to the bottom seam. Rotate and plump dough to finish shaping and place shaped loaf (seam side up) diagonally on a prepared towel. Form a sling by joining the corners of the towel farthest from the loaf. Secure the joined towel points within a closed drawer (in a quiet area) so the loaves hang undisturbed in their slings for 45 minutes.

8. To set up for baking loaves: While bread is rising, position the rack in the second or third lowest shelf in the oven and, if using a sheet of quarry tiles or a pizza stone, place it on the rack. On the rack below this, place a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan, which will preheat along with the tiles. Sprinkle a baker’s peel or a flat cookie sheet with cornmeal. Thirty minutes before the end of the rise, preheat oven to 450F / about 230C.

9. If not using tiles or a stone, brush or spray 1 or 2 large (preferably dark steel) shallow baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle interior with cornmeal. After mixing egg white and water, pour into a small medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove excess coagulation and any bubbles created while mixing. Place glaze next to your work surface.

10. To slash and glaze loaves: Working with one loaf at a time, carefully release slings and gently turn out loaves from towels (smooth side up) onto the prepared baker’s peel or baking sheet at least 3 inches apart. Use your hands gently to plump loaf into a neat shape. Using a sharp serrated knife or a razor, slash tops of each loaf three times horizontally, going 1/3 inch deep into the dough. Using a pastry brush, paint tops and sides of loaves (excluding slashes) generously with glaze.

11. To bake loaves: Just before inserting the dough into the hot oven, carefully pour ¾ cup warm water into the pan beneath the rack used to bake the loaves, then shut the door while you go get the loaves. If baking with tiles, insert the peel all the way to the back of the oven and with one swift jerk pull out the peel, leaving loaves on the hot tiles (preferably with three inches between them). If not using tiles or a stone, place loaves into the hot oven on their baking sheets as directed.

12. Bake loaves at 450o F / 230C for 10 minutes.

13. Reduce heat to 350F / 175C and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool thoroughly before slicing, 2 to 3 hours.

Almost Dorie: lemon-glazed berry almond Danish, and a quick laminated dough

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24 October (October 24, if you’re in America) is Dorie Greenspan’s birthday. I only became interested in baking and cooking in the last few years, and only began to do things properly in the last year or so, but during this time I’ve come to love Dorie’s recipes and her writing. Besides, Dorie was described by someone as “five foot nothing” – being a short person, I heartily approve of the saying that the best things come in small packages.

Around the world, food bloggers, especially those in the French Fridays with Dorie and Tuesdays with Dorie groups, have been posting to celebrate Dorie’s birthday. It’s a giant virtual party that will go for at least a couple of days as we work our way around global timezones.

Birthday parties deserve the best cake and champers, mini kievs (like the ones Johnny might make) and crabapple hooch like Liz made. And, the best parties have a gate crasher or three. This post is a kind of gatecrasher to the Dorie virtual party. It’s not a recipe created by Dorie, but it does come from a book that she penned, collecting recipes that others had baked with Julia Child.

(Sheepishly, this was also the recipe for last week’s Tuesdays with Dorie group assignment. What can I say, non-blogging life got in the way. Sorry TWD-ers all)

The recipe is a Danish braid made with a quick laminated dough. Mine was filled with almond cream and raspberry jam, topped with slivered almonds, and covered in a tangy, puckery lemon-yoghurt glaze. The lemon glaze really completed the pastry, it somehow softened the filling and brought them together in a refreshing, spritzy kind of bear hug.

To make things pretty, I also sprinkled roughly crushed dried strawberries over the top. They added more intense bursts of sweet-tart, and flecks of colour.

Mr Gander took half of the Danish braid to work, as a way of getting to know people in a new-ish area where he’d recently started working. The Danish braid was wolfed down, and I think he’s now known as the guy who brings Danish braids to work.

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Quick laminated dough and fraisage

Rather than talk about all of the components of the braid, this post will focus on the quick laminated dough used in the braid. The recipe for the Danish braid has been published by the contributing baker Beatrice Ojakangas and is reproduced below.

Laminated dough – for croissants – was one of the more challenging recipes I’ve made as part of the TWD group. Making the laminated dough for the croissants took up most of a day, so I was pretty happy to see a recipe for a ‘quick’ laminated dough.

The quick recipe takes short cuts when putting the dough together. It didn’t require the baker to make detrempe (the yeasted dough used in lamination), beurrage (the block of butter used in lamination), and all that. Instead, it was a relatively quick process in the food processor, or even by hand. Basically, you cut butter into flour and sugar until the butter is still in visible, small chunks. Then, you roll out and fold the dough a few times – even this might be a shortcut as real Danish doughs should have 243 layers, and the quick dough didn’t seem to have as many layers.

After chilling and resting, it’s ready to be used to make Danish braids.

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