Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

After my long hiatus, I’m back with an awesome (and tasty) experiment of mine, Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

My basic thought process was that I wanted to try making brioche, and I needed to use the hazelnuts in my pantry. To finish, I just added chocolate (for obvious reasons), and this post’s bake was born!

First, I made the brioche recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything. Brioche, an enriched French bread, was pretty easy to make. Basically, I combined all of my ingredients (by hand, since I have a permanent grudge against my food processor) and proved the dough. The one notable difference from other breads I’ve made, though, was the presence of three (three!) eggs and almost one whole stick of butter!

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My brioche dough, dotted with butter!

Next, I chopped and toasted my hazelnuts and mixed them with chocolate chips to create the center of my buns. Then, after my dough proved for about three hours, I shaped the dough into 12 rolls. (In hindsight, I should have made 16, as directed, but I really didn’t want to clean the other muffin pan, so I just made 12 really large buns.) Flattening the dough, I filled the centers with hazelnuts and chocolate, folded the edges over, and pinched the seams closed. Then I let my brioche rise for another hour!

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One of my rolls right before I finished shaping them. My dough was wet, so I had to use a lot of flour to handle it!

The one step I almost forgot was egg-washing the buns. (Egg washes give bread a nice, shiny crust.) I remembered, though (thank goodness for reading the directions!), and separated an egg before mixing the yolk with some milk. Next, I brushed my buns with the mixture before baking for about 25 minutes.

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My buns REALLY rose right before I baked them!

Half-way through the bake, the kitchen already smelled AMAZING (which, as all bakers know, is a really good sign). I couldn’t wait to try one! After ensuring that my brioche was baked by tapping the bottom, I took them out of the muffin pan and let them cool for about 10 minutes before cutting one open.

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My middle held together! I was really happy about it, because I wasn’t really sure it would work!

My brioche had wonderful air holes, a rich taste, and (shockingly) a center that held together! There were no gaps in the crumb structure, and the chocolate tasted magical in the middle of the delicious bread. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch, but probably should have been toasted for longer than two minutes!

Overall, this bake was successful! I will definitely make brioche again in the future (but perhaps not with semi-raw hazelnuts)!

 

New Arrival: Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads!

I absolutely love bookstores, but one thing I love more is a good book sale! I picked up Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads at a wonderful used book sale and I’m so excited to make something from it!

This cookbook is huge, which is promising because it’s full of bread recipes! I chose it because it had a lot of recipes and because each recipe states how long each step should take the baker. In my opinion, that’s an amazing feature because it not only allows for one to start their bread at a convenient time, but it also helps with knowing what the dough should look like at the end of each step. For example, books that just say something along the lines of, “Knead until smooth” don’t help the reader (or me, at least) know how long they should be kneading their bread. However, Clayton states exactly how long kneading should take you! (Which is extremely convenient and important.)

The book also has a wide variety of recipes – from brown bread to potato bread to tea loaves to kulich, a Russian Easter loaf! The variety will definitely make this cookbook an interesting read!

My one disappointment with this book is that it has almost no photographs. There are a few illustrations, but that’s it. However, the instructions are detailed, so I’ll probably be fine when I bake with this new book!

Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

On Thursday I made another foray into the world of bread-making when I baked the baguette recipe from How to Bake Everything!

Baguette is one of my favorite breads. If I’m honest, I could probably devour an entire baguette by myself – I just love the soft crumb and the crunchy crust. So I really wanted this bake to taste good, because nothing is better than a great loaf of bread.

First, I combined my yeast, salt, flour, and water to make the dough before letting the mixture rise. After a three-hour-long first prove, I shaped the dough into two baguettes, slashed them, and formed a makeshift couche for the baguettes to rest upon.

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My dough as it proved

(Couche is a French word that means “bed”. In baking, it refers to a cloth that’s shaped in such a way that allows baguettes to hold their long, skinny shape as they prove.)

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My shaped and slashed baguettes rising inside my makeshift couche (also known as an apron!)

Forty minutes later, I preheated my oven to 465 (!!!) degrees Fahrenheit. (Why the exclamation points? Because 465 degrees is unusually and extremely hot for an oven!) Then I carefully transferred my baguettes onto a pan and baked them (with steam, of course) for 20 minutes.

When I took the baguettes out, they were a beautiful golden brown color, but the color on the bottom was a bit pale. The thermometer, however, declared them finished when it read their internal temperature as 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and after letting them cool, I tried a piece.

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My baked baguettes, fresh out of the oven. The stick inside the far baguette is my thermometer 🙂

The bread was wonderfully soft inside, with a strong, crunchy crust. There were beautiful air holes and a good crumb structure. The only problem was the taste – for me, it was a bit too bland (I think I didn’t add enough salt). I made an herb butter to go with it, which made the baguette taste sublime, but I really wish I’d added dried rosemary or basil into the bread itself. I will definitely make baguettes again, though, so next time I’ll experiment with flavors!

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

This recipe comes courtesy of the King Arthur Flour website (if you want to make this recipe, click here) and my desperate need to make something that used four egg whites! My basic thought process was that making meringues was an easy way to dispose of the egg whites before they went bad, and then I’d make chocolate meringues because, well, everything’s better with chocolate!

(Logic?)

First, I whipped my egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they reached soft peaks. Then I dumped in my sugar (I figured that the instruction to add it gradually was really more of a suggestion) and whipped the meringues until stiff peaks formed.

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My meringue formed stiff peaks after approximately 7-8 minutes of whipping.

(A note on baking vocabulary (for those of you who don’t know): “soft peaks” means that you whip the egg whites until they contain just enough air to hold their shape when you pull the mixing attachment out. “Stiff peaks” means that when the mixing attachment is pulled out, the egg whites defy gravity (yay science!) and stick to the mixing attachment in a stiff peak, as pictured above.)

Next came the trickiest part: I had to fold cocoa powder into the meringues. The reason why you have to “fold” ingredients into a meringue is because the meringue is full of air (the air that you just whipped into it) and if you mix vigorously, it will deflate. Deflated meringue is not good, because a deflated meringue won’t develop the same melt-in-the-mouth texture that a normal (inflated?) meringue has after baking.

So folding is a pretty high-pressure experience. It also takes forever (I think it took me five to ten minutes to incorporate the cocoa powder). Finally, though, I was done mixing the batter!

Meringues are often piped, so I asked my sister to make me a piping bag (mainly because the last time I made a piping bag, I accidentally sprayed creme patisserie onto the carpet). I messily piped the meringues, popped them into the oven to bake, and then turned the oven off.

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I can honestly say that this is probably one of my best piping jobs…My worst was probably when I squirted pastry cream all over the carpet!

Yes, off. Meringues generally need a long bake – in fact, most people will stick them in the oven, turn the oven off, and then let them sit there overnight. My patience didn’t last that long, however; I took the meringues out of the oven two hours later and popped one into my mouth.

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My baked meringues!

The texture was amazing – in my opinion, it’s the real reason why people make meringues. It’s a beautiful crunch as you bite into it, and then the insides dissolve into sweet, chocolate bliss inside your mouth. Even when frozen, meringues still melt on your tongue.

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The inside of a meringue!

So I’d call this adventure a success! I will definitely end up making meringues in the future (because I really don’t know how else to use those leftover egg whites)!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

In my house, there is one dessert so revered that it is the standard by which all other baked goods are measured. It is a level of deliciousness that I constantly strive towards.

What’s the standard? A slice of bakery Birthday Cake.

And yesterday, I baked something that my family rated as the standard’s equal. So thank you, Tessa Arias, for another delicious ice cream sandwich recipe!

I decided to bake Cookies and Cream‘s vanilla ice cream recipe and the chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I wanted to recreate those awesome ice cream sandwiches from a nearby grocery store.

First, I made the vanilla ice cream. The recipe called for a vanilla bean, but since I didn’t have any vanilla beans, I used vanilla bean paste (which made the ice cream look amazing because it gave it a flecked appearance). I mixed together my milk, cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla bean paste, then I heated the mixture while I combined my egg yolks and the rest of the sugar. Next, I ladled the hot milk into the eggs while whisking constantly, and then I dumped the eggs into the hot pan with the rest of the milk to finish making the custard. After the temperature reached 175 degrees Fahrenheit, I took the custard off of the heat and strained it into a pre-made ice bath. Finally, I refrigerated the cooled base after it had spent 15 minutes in the ice bath.

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My custard as it cooled in an ice-water bath (which really turned out to be more of a cool-water bath, if I’m honest). Look at all the flecks and the beautiful color! I credit the vanilla bean paste.

Two hours later, I churned my custard in my ice cream maker. Straight out of the bowl, I tried a spoonful, and the ice cream was delicious. I couldn’t savor it, however, because it needed to freeze before I made the sandwiches, so into the freezer it went!

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My churned ice cream!

(I know I say that things are delicious a lot, and that’s because I love dessert, but this vanilla ice cream was truly magnificent. I dislike vanilla ice cream in general (because, honestly, it could have been chocolate ice cream), but I loved this. The vanilla flavor was strong and really came through – definitely better than bland store-bought vanilla ice cream. If you haven’t ever made home-made vanilla ice cream, try it! It’s totally worth the stress of making custard.)

Next, I made the chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was straight-forward and what I expected, except for one little twist: Arias calls for 1 tablespoon of milk. I’ve never made a chocolate chip cookie recipe with milk, so I was excited to see what would happen. (Generally, my chocolate chip cookies use vinegar (thanks, King Arthur Flour!).)

After I finished the dough, I made 18 (ginormous) cookies and pressed them flat with my fingers.

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My cookies right before I popped them into the oven. The uneven ridges are because I stopped pressing them flat with my palm and instead used my fingers. Whoops!

Then I baked the cookies for 10 minutes or so before taking them out of the oven and transferring them to a cooling rack. Once they had cooled, I froze the cookies for an hour so that they would be solid when I assembled the sandwiches.

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My baked cookies – they were huge!

50 minutes later (I was impatient), I laid out my cookies and dolloped ice cream onto each pair to make 9 ice cream sandwiches. Then I wrapped each sandwich in plastic wrap and froze them for another 90 minutes before trying them.

The sandwiches were fabulous. There’s no other word, really. The vanilla ice cream really shone through, and the cookies added a nice bit of buttery crunch. I will definitely make this recipe again, but with one revision: chocolate chips on the edges of the ice cream!

 

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Why snack on popcorn when you can bake yourself cookies? Neither Sophronia nor I could think of a good answer to that question, and so we decided to bake chocolate chip shortbread to eat during our Kim Possible Marathon!

Our (fantastic, life-changing) shortbread came courtesy of the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, also known as my family’s go-to cookie-and-brownie cookbook. The recipe was simple, and there were only 6 ingredients: butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, and chocolate chips! Basically, you creamed together the butter and sugar, then dumped in all of the other ingredients, and voila! Shortbread dough!

For the first batch (that we made for our first marathon), we used the full amount of flour and pressed the cookies into 9-inch cake pans, as instructed. However, for our second batch, we omitted 1/4 cup of flour (the first batch was a little dry) and pressed the dough onto a greased cookie sheet in a haphazard pattern (I really didn’t feel like making a neat square). Then we just baked the cookies for a little over half an hour, and they were done! Instant snack!

The cookies were amazing. I mean, I have hated shortbread for my entire life, mainly because I’ve only ever had store-bought shortbread, but this shortbread….It was crunchy yet melt-in-the-mouth, flecked with chocolate, and beautifully buttery. In short, I loved it! I will definitely make this recipe again!

(P. S. There’s a reason there aren’t that many pictures for this bake – the shortbread disappeared that fast!)

Adventures in Baking No. 20: Blueberry Sorbet!

Adventures in Baking No. 20: Blueberry Sorbet!

Yesterday I made a blueberry sorbet using the simple syrup recipe from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbet (thanks, local library!) and an improvised amount of blueberry and lemon juice puree. I’ve never had sorbet, so I was excited to see what the difference was between my creation and ice cream!

First, I made the simple syrup, which is the base for many fruit-based sorbets. Basically, you dissolve sugar in water by boiling the mixture and then letting it simmer before allowing the mixture to cool. (I think boiling the water allows for more sugar to dissolve, but don’t quote me on it.) Then I refrigerated my syrup for about an hour.

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My finished simple syrup

Next, I pureed about 4 cups of defrosted blueberries with some water and some lemon juice. This was much harder than it sounds, because the blueberries kept getting stuck under the blender’s blades, preventing the blades from actually pureeing anything. I ended up mashing the berries with a spoon before pouring them back into the blender a little at a time. This whole process took about 30 minutes (way too long for a step that was supposed to consist of chucking fruit in a blender and pushing a button).

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An action shot of my blender difficulties! Oh, the suspense!

Finally, however, I ended up with a blueberry puree that was smooth and reasonably liquid-y. Then I just mixed my puree with the simple syrup and churned the mixture in my ice cream maker. 20 minutes later, I had a sorbet!

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My sorbet at the beginning of the churning process
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My churned sorbet!

The sorbet was a beautiful purple color, with a clean, refreshing blueberry flavor. The texture was icy and smooth – definitely less fatty than an ice cream! I loved the sorbet and I was really happy that my minor improvisation worked! (No, the cookbook did not have a recipe for blueberry sorbet, but it did say that many fruit purees could be added to the simple syrup to successfully make a sorbet. So, I kind of used a recipe?)

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My sorbet, with its beautiful purple (pink? magenta?) color

I will definitely make another sorbet in the future (probably lemon, because I love lemons). For now, I’ll enjoy (and eat) my successful frozen dessert!