Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cannoli Heaven

If there is such a place as cannoli heaven, it would certainly be in Boston, nestled inside a magnificent Italian Bakery called Mike's Pastry. They have roughly a dozen different types of cannoli, each as delicious as the last. My ultimate favorite though is the Florentine Cannolo. For those of you who don't know, and most ignorant Italian restaurants, one pastry is called a cannolo which is singular, and multiple are called cannoli.

Glenn and I first set foot into Mike's a little over a year ago on our honeymoon. We only had mere hours to spend in the wonderful city of Boston, but one of our top priorities was to visit Mike's. Jetlagged and tired from our red-eye flight we set out to find the bakery and proceeded to get lost a few times, sorta, and then in a roundabout way, we finally arrived in heaven. This is certainly a must visit if you ever get the chance to visit Boston, I promise you won't be sorry.

Scotchie Scotchie Scotch

No, not the drink, but butterscotch. Yum. I actually made these cookies before we left for Boston, but I haven't gotten around to uploading the photos and actually making this post. June has been a busy month for me, a couple trips, a one year anniversary, and let's not forget a grueling Daring Bakers challenge. It may have been a busy month, but it has been a fun month for sure.

Along with the Blondies I attempted to make earlier this month, I was in a butterscotch mood and wanted some cookies to eat at the baseball game so I made some Oatmeal Scotchies. This recipe came from my best friend's mother and it is very tasty. If you like your oatmeal cookies chewy I suggest you bake these at the minimum time and take them out despite what they look like. They last a little longer that way anyway. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Scotchies

1 1/4 cup unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup softened butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
2/3 cup coconut
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

Cream butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Mix flour mixture into creamed mixture gradually.

Stir in oatmeal, coconut, and chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 7-10 minutes and let cool.

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

Well the time has finally come to post my very first Daring Bakers challenge! A little background in case you didn't already know, but Daring Bakers is an awesome online community where a lucky blogger member of the community hosts a challenge. This challenge can pretty much be anything in the realm of baking, but it is intended to push bakers out of their comfort zone and to try something new and exciting, something you probably wouldn't randomly select out of a cookbook. Everyone then posts their results on a specific day. The back story is really cool, I suggest heading over to the website to read up on it and maybe join. It's a wonderful concept that brings bakers and bloggers all around the world together, and I am really excited that I am now part of this group.

Anyway... courtesy of Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? this month's challenge was a Danish Braid. A DB is actually a laminated dough (sounds really scary) that involves folding butter into dough, turning it, and refrigerating it multiple times. I found an awesome explanation on Joe Pastry about what laminated dough is, so instead of me rambling, I suggest you go there to check it out. To keep a long story short, you make the dough, fill it with yummy goodness, braid it up, bake it up, then eat. It sounds scary but it is actually pretty easy once you get it all figured out. It is a time consumer though, I used about three days total to make it all. If you are a fan of pastries, then I suggest venturing out and trying this recipe, it makes a fabulous treat and I am so glad I tried it.

My filling choices were blueberries, raspberry jam, and sweetened cream cheese in one, and turkey & havarti in the other, and both were fabulous. I baked the berry one first, obviously, and found a better braiding technique the second time around. While the berry one seems to be a cracked open ribcage, I can't say I have ever tasted better ribcages.

Tips: If you make this dough and you cannot seem to get the same rolled out measurements as the recipe calls for, don't worry and just use your best judgement. Improvising works here. Also, don't be silly like me and assemble your braid on the counter. Do it directly on the pan it will be baking on, it's ridiculously hard to move it from counter to pan in any sort of graceful movement.

Danish Dough (makes 2 1/2 pounds)

Ingredients 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
Ingredients 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.

Note: The challenge was to use the apple filling recipe as provided or make one of your own as long as it is from scratch. I chose not to because I really don't like apples, but here is the recipe anyway. I have heard it is amazing, so maybe I will try it in a pie sometime.

Apple Filling (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.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sad Sad Sunday

I've been lusting after a particular recipe for a week or so now, but I have been holding back from making it because it is really something that Glenn won't eat. Blondies... they have both white "chocolate" and butterscotch, neither of which Glenn ever eats. In a compromise though, I made him some mint chip ice cream, because I won't eat it, and in exchange I got to make stuff he won't eat. The picture that got me lusting after these beautiful blondes was on South in Your Mouth's blog. Unfortunately though, something didn't go my way today and they just wouldn't bake all the way through. They browned WAY too quickly and the inside was still goo. It was very tasty goo, but it was still goo. Anyway, next time I am just spreading it out in a 13 x 9 pan instead of a 9 x 9. I never have luck with squares anyway. I am almost positive they will come out perfect next time. There WILL be a next time. The flavor of these blondies was way too delicious to not put the effort into perfecting.

And then...

Next sad story is about my love of Flax Seeds. They are super healthy little buggers and 3 Tablespoon of them gives you a ridiculous amount of nutrients and they taste great mixed in with yogurt. I found a recipe a while back for Flax Seed Wheat Bread that looked and sounded particularly tasty. I even got a cute little kitchen scale so I could follow this recipe exactly. I made it today, and well, it wasn't. Entirely too crusty. Maybe it is supposed to be that way, but it seemed too hard and dense for it to have turned out properly. I don't know what I did. I think I will just find a recipe for some tasty wheat sandwich bread and throw some flax seeds in there next time. Oh well, we cannot all be perfect and I only learn from my mistakes. After a considerable amount of pouting to myself at least.

P.S. Forgive me for the crappy pictures, but I wasn't going to bother taking good photos of my disappointments.

Update: Glenn is eating the Blondies as much as I am! Silly boy, pretends he doesn't like white "chocolate" and butterscotch. I can't complain too much though because at least I feel better knowing that I did not devour the pan all by my lonesome.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Anniversary!!!

Unhinge that jaw...

Happy Anniversary to me and Glenn. This post isn't entirely unrelated, because it does deal with a certain baked good that we fed each other one year ago on this day. I can't believe a whole year has passed since I have been married, but I have to say that it has been the happiest most blessed year I have ever had. I have the most wonderful husband that a girl could dream of, and I couldn't get any luckier.

This is what our cake looked like last year, when it was fresh and tasty.

This is what our cake looks like now, cold and slightly freezerburnt but surprisingly still somewhat tasty. One bite was enough. See what happens to black food coloring after a year?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My First...

Well, it sure has been a while, or it at least feels that way. We left for Seattle at the end of May so I didn't make anything the couple days prior because I didn't want anything to go bad while we were gone. When we got back I was exhausted and preparing for this month's DB challenge, so I didn't do much else in the kitchen. I didn't do much except for make my very first cake, a layer cake. Woohoo!

I saw the post on Bakerella's blog, showed it to Glenn through GTalk and he said "Yes Please" so we went to the store after work and picked up what I didn't have. I proceed to make it, a pain in the butt I decide, and then we taste it. It needs more oil. Maybe a little less baking time too. It wasn't bad, the flavor is fantastic, but it's just a bit dry for our taste, although it did moisten up a good bit after sitting in the fridge overnight. A good cake that I suggest trying out.

I Got Your Crazy