Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Keep Stickin' With It!!

I had no clue that when Madam Chow picked Dorie's Pecan Honey Sticky Buns that I was preparing to have the toughest, most grueling arm workout I'd ever experienced. You see I own a Kitchen Aid, but I don't have the dough hook for it, but my parents own one too and they have do have a dough hook. Ding--light bulb! When I had last visited them I made sure to grab the dough hook so that I could participate in this week's TWD bake-off. Problem solved right...wrong!!

I was very excited and nervous to start my Sticky Bins, because one, I've tried yeast baked goods before and they came out like crap and two, well who doesn't get nervous when working with yeast? Putting all that aside I cut open my two yeast packets, dumped them into my mixing bowl and started to dump in the other dough ingredients. With fingers crossed and a deep breath I turned on my mixer only to find that my parents dough hook wasn't long enough for my mixing bowl. That dam thing only scraped the top of my flour mixture!

This can't be happening, I was ready to give it up right then and there. I had no idea what I was going to do. Then I looked back at the recipe and saw that Dorie had actually done it by hand before. "Well I'm already screwed, so I might as well just try it by hand and see what happens". I was shocked and proud of myself that I was actually going to give it a go. I pulled out my wooden spoon and began stirring away, things looked good so far.

It was the adding of the butter that really got me! There was no way that I could get all the butter mixed in with my rinky-dink wooden spoon. I threw it on the counter and plunged my hands into the bowl. Kneading two tablespoons of butter in with one hand, then switching to the next to knead in another two tablespoons of butter. I did this for 25 minutes! Each minute that passed I just kept thinking that this was totally not gonna work. I was going through all of this manual labor for nothing. But, after the 25 minutes I had a dough that looked and felt like a batter...which is exactly what Dorie had said the end product would be. A little glimmer of hoped filled my heart.

Next I let my dough rise, coming every 30 minutes to deflate the air. This process really started to build up my confidence, because my dough was actually rising...something that I have never had happen before! after the two hour time period the dough went into the fridge and I gave it a good night kiss, tucking it in with it's plastic wrap blanky and slowly closing the door.

Half asleep at 5:30 in the morning I suddenly remembered my little dough baby sleeping in the fridge. I hopped out of bed quickly getting the dough out of the fridge and plopping it out on the counter. OMG!! This can't be happening! I don't have a rolling pin! Somehow that small detail slipped my mind, but I didn't get discouraged! I was going to find a way to get this damn dough rolled out. With some quick think I found a can of refrigerated pizza dough, which very much resembled a rolling pin...and worked a lot like a rolling pin!

With one more prayer I stuck my buns in the oven watching the clock tick down the 30 minutes. Beep-beep, beep-beep...moment of truth. I slowly pulled down the oven door and ---Aaaawww--- I had Sticky Buns! They were the most gorgeous buns I had ever laid eyes on! I was almost in tears because they were so beautiful and I had made them completely by hand! I scooped one off of the baking sheet and took my first bite and I nearly melted. The bun was so light and flaky, with a wonderful buttery taste. I had finally done it! I conquered my yeast fears and I did it all on my own with no fancy machinery to help me! This will be a day I will never forget! Thank you Tuesdays With Dorie and thank you Madam Chow for making this one of the best baking days I've had!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

For The Glaze:

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For The Filling:

1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.
To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.
To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (This is where you start up on the Sticky Bun Recipe).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Blast from the Past

For this week's TWD our lovely hostess Tara of Smells Like Home chose a recipe that I wish I could've participated in, which was the Traditional Madeleine's...however I don't yet have a Madeleine pan :( So I was able to choose a past TWD recipe and bake that instead. And I have to say I believe I picked a winner. I have been wanting to make Snickery Squares forever now, so I decided this was the best time to do it.

For my squares I wanted to make a different base than shortbread, so I decided to make a peanut butter cookie base...which OMG was so yummy! How can you go wrong with PB, dulce de leche and chocolate? Oh duh, you can't!! I was actually mad at myself that I had waited so long to make this recipe, because it was soo easy, and soo good!

Seeing as how I had already changed the base of the cookie, I decided to fore go the caramelized peanuts, thinking that plain dry-roasted might be a little bit better, and wouldn't be too overwhelming. Not to mention that I cannot make caramel to save my life. I don't know what it is but every time I try, I fail. So to keep from getting disappointed I took the easy route :)

Happy Tuesday Everybody!

Snickery Squares
(This is the original recipe, to make the PB Base just use a any PB cookie recipe and bake accordingly)

For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar
2 TBSP powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
½ cup sugar

3 TBSP water
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
About 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche

For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet(I used semi since hubby doesn’t like bittersweet), coarsely chopped½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Crust:
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping(I kept mine whole).Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.Cut into 16 bars.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Good Luck Gift

Andy, my boyfriend, is a golf-aholic...he manages a golf store, he plays golf (and is trying to go pro), his idol is Tiger Woods, and he drives a VW Bug that is painted to look like a golf ball with a big red tee on the top of it. Ok, stop laughing! He's also not a very "well-balanced meal" type of guy. His daily eating routine is a Mountain Dew and a bowl of Fruity Pebbles for breakfast, two Mountain Dews for a snack, a Whopper Value Meal from Burger King (with a large Sprite) for lunch, a Mountain Dew and Tiger-ade (Tiger's Gatorade) for an afternoon snack, a healthy dinner prepared by me with a Mountain Dew, and ice cream with five Oreos, 1/2 a bag of Sour Patch Kids and a Coke for dessert. Then he stays up until 2 in the morning and will have some scrambled eggs and cereal for a midnight snack! Surprisingly, and frustratingly, he doesn't gain a pound! He is a little stick figure, which is totally not fair...but that's a whole other story.

So, when he told me that he was playing in a golf tourney this weekend I decided that I would make him a healthy, filling, portable snack for him to take to the course. The first thing that popped into mind was scones, especially since he was teeing off at 7:30 am. Scones are also easy to transport in a golf bag, unlike big muffins. My Honey Oatmeal Scones would be sure to give him the boost that he needed, and would also last in his tummy for a few hours, thanks to the hearty oatmeal.

When he called me to tell me that he had made it on to the next round I secretly told myself that it was due in part to my special good luck gift! Hey I have to get credit somehow!!

Honey Oatmeal Scones
1 egg
1/2 c cold buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
1 2/3 c flour
1 1/3 c old-fashioned oats
1/3 c sugar, plus some for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir eggs, buttermilk and honey together, set aside.
Whisk flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and working with your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.
Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with fork until the dough just starts to come together, it'll be sticky so don't get scared, and don't over work the dough. Still in the bowl gently turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time pat the dough into a rough circle that's about 5 inches in diameter, cut into 6 wedges and place on the baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with remaining sugar. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before serving, and serve plain or with jam, honey, peanut butter, yada-yada!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Trip to Florida for Tuesdays with Dorie!

It's my first Tuesday as a
TWD member and I couldn't have been more happier with the choice! Dianne of Dianne's Dishes was the lucky picker of the week and chose Florida Pie. At first, when reading the recipe it sound like it was going to be reminiscent of Key Lime Pie, but with a hint of coconut, and I must say I was wrong. While the pie does have a lime cream center, the most amazing, and my most favorite, part of the pie was the coconut cream base. I reminded me a lot, which is also Dorie's description, of the filling in an Almond Joy or Mounds candy bar...can you say YUM!

Seeing as how I am still adjusting to my new apartment I have not yet been able to invest in a food processor (hopefully next week) so I used a store bought graham cracker pie crust. I was surprised at how quickly this pie comes together and how quickly it made me want to get in my bathing suit and eat it while lounging in a beach chair.

Some people really believe that food can take you places, and I am one of those people. A few years ago I went to Jamaica, and this pie totally took me back! Back to the smoldering, sweaty heat, but the refreshing taste of something like Florida Pie quickly cooling down your body. I hear the little Jamaican girls surrounding me in the shallow, lapping waves, asking me why my hair is so different than theirs. Following me around the beach just in awe of my nationality and differences.

When food can give you that kind of feeling, you know it's a keeper. I can't wait to share this pie with my family and see where it takes them!

P.S. - I was super stoked to be able to use my little blow torch for the first time :)

Florida Pie
1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, separated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:
Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Somedays You Feel Like a Nut...and Chocolate

My life seems to be a little nutty right now. I'm in the "growing up" phase of trying to decide what I wanna do with my life...and what I don't. I know that I want to travel too, but where, and how do I afford it? I want to start reading more and spending more "me" time, but when will I do that? I want to buy new things for my apartment, but how do I pay for it? I want to get caught up on my Realty TV shows, but when will I find the time?

Its funny...I always thought that being a grown up meant freedom, whew was I wrong! I feel so constricted and tied down right now. I always imagined my twenties as being the most care-free time in the world! But I've got bills to pay, mouths to feed (Mine and Andy's, no babies here...yet), a house to clean, a job to attend, workouts that must be done and sleep that MUST be slept. So how do you do it? How do grown ups find time to fulfill their dreams, travel to far off places, read a good book, bake some great cakes?

My mind has been running in so many directions that i feel like an absolute nut case! I feel like I should sit down and make a to-do list or have some priority...but I don't want to live my life that way. I want some spontaneity, but it just seems impossible. Hopefully the shell to this nut will break soon, and hopefully it'll be for the better :)

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars
Baking from Home to Yours ~ Dorie Greenspan

Oatmeal Layer
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted, room temp, butter
2 c packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 c old-fashioned oats
1 c salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Chocolate Layer
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 c (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c moist, plump raisins
3/4 c coarsely chopped peanuts

Getting Ready: Center a rack in oven & preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Oatmeal Layer: Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Beat butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear. Still on low speed stir in oats and nuts. Set aside 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the mixture, then turn the remaining dough into the buttered pan. Gently and evenly press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside and prepare the next layer.

Chocolate Layer: Set heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and stir in the vanilla, raisins and peanuts.
Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the oatmeal crust, then scatter the remaining oatmeal mixture over top. Bake 25-30 minutes until topping is golden brown and the chocolate is dull. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for 2 hours. Run a blunt knife between the edges of the cake and pan, and carefully turn the cake onto a rack. Turn right side up, then refrigerate at least an hour before cutting. Cut into rectangles.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Heavenly Goo!

I am a huge fan of Dorie's Blondie recipe, in her book Baking From My Home to Yours. But I wanted to put a new spin on it and see if I could create my own special blondie recipe, and Bloggers, I did it! My recipe is a Caramel Apple Pecan Blondie, and it will knock your socks off! I am a caramel apple addict and have been craving something caramely for a while, so I figured I'd give my theory a whirl.

I must say that I was getting a little nervous when I was pouring the caramel into the batter, because I was so afraid that it wasn't going to work and that I was gonna have this awful glob of dough...but NO! My caramel beat in perfectly with the butter and brown sugar. After I had the dry ingredients mixed in, I folded my chopped Granny Smith Apple and the pecans. Let me tell you guys, this was probably the best dough I HAVE EVER had! I could not put my spoon down, so that gave me much hope that my blondies were going to turn out great.

After letting them cool, I made the first nail biting slice and was greeted with a smile on my face. The caramel apple blondies looked like real blondies! I must admit that they were a little gooey-er than a regular blondie, but who doesn't like goo? My first blondie creation...a winner! (If only we still had our Browniebabe Contests)