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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fluffy Sandwich Buns

This recipe is a favorite of mine and I pull it out whenever I need fluffy buns that will stand up to the test.  What could that test possibly be?  Hamburgers, for one.  There is nothing worse than having a hamburger bun fall apart, disintegrate into pieces as you eat it; condiments and components falling onto the plate...Fear not, these buns will hold their own and remain intact until the last bite.

Mixing the dough is a quick process, and can be done by machine or hand-you choose.  You can make them with just plain flour or add some whole wheat as I have in this batch.  To shape them, it is best if they are all about the size of a lemon, roughly 3-4 ounces each.  Gently place your open palm on top and close your fingers around them so that your fingertips rest on the work surface.  Slowly roll the dough in a circular motion until the ball of dough tightens and forms an evenly round ball.

Place the prepared buns onto a baking tray that is liberally sprinkled with cornmeal.  Allow them to rise until doubled in size.

Doubled in size and ready to bake.

nice buns
by Michael McLaughlin

makes about 14 buns


1 1/2 cup buttermilk(or regular milk)
1 cup slightly warm water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
about 5-6 cups unbleached all purpose flour or up to 2 cups whole wheat flour and 3-4 cups all purpose flour

In a mixing bowl, mix the buttermilk, water, butter, sugar, salt and yeast.  Allow it to stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the whole wheat flour and 2 cups of the all purpose flour and mix to form a somewhat sticky dough.  You can turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead this by hand or use a stand mixer, either way, continue to add flour as needed to form a soft dough.  Continue mixing until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, coating it completely with oil, cover it and allow it to rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

To make buns, divide the dough into 3-4 ounce pieces or for those without scales, cut it in half, then in half again and continue this until you have about 14 even pieces.  Shape them by rolling into tight buns by placing the dough in your hands and moving in a circular motion on the table/counter top until the bun is smooth and no visible seams show.  Place the buns on pans that have been generously sprinkled with cornmeal.  Allow to rise until double and bake in a 400 degree preheated oven until golden all over.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

puff pastry pizzettes; a tuesdays with dorie post

How can you not love a recipe that isn't actually a recipe?  These little pastries were simply a quickly thrown together snack to use up homemade puff pastry scraps; it is a crime to waste something that you put so much effort into preparing.  That said, I am afraid I just did not care for them.

The recipe is from Baking with Julia and was contributed by Michel Richard and it truly does call for the use of scraps from previously prepared puff pastry recipes.  The recipe, which really isn't much more than a guidline, instructs you to place cherry tomatoes halves onto two inch rounds of dough and to top it with a little goat cheese before popping it into the oven to bake.  Honestly, as soon as I saw cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, I knew I was in trouble!

Sad but true fact, this Italian girl only likes cooked tomatoes if they are in the form of tomato sauce, otherwise, I avoid it like the plague.  Yes, I am that person who will pick the tomato chunks out of soup, don't get me started on goat cheese, I have never been able to eat it!   However, in the spirit of following the "recipe" as it is written, I topped my little squares with a rosette of goat milk cream cheese from Trader Joe's. If you shop there, they sell it with the cream cheese and it tastes just like regular cream cheese, at least pretty close to it.  With the cherry tomato halves in place, into the oven they went.

But that was just too simple.  Out of curiosity, I cut up some curried roasted vegetables and made a few squares.  Brussels sprout halves and thick slabs of kabocha squash were pressed into the cheese and baked along side of the tomato bites.  All in all, about 15 minutes of work for a few quick bites to give my husband a treat-he works so many hours that I really have become a kitchen widow.

Well, all is not lost, I have a lot more puff pastry dough in the freezer which means I will have scraps to work with again at some point and next time, I'm going with chocolate, or caramel, or maybe chocolate and caramel...

What I had to do to get that shot.  Yes, on the landing in the middle of the stairs but look at that window!  It let's in the most amazing morning light and none of it was direct.  It is taking time to figure it all out but I have a feeling that I will be spending a lot of time on the stairs with my camera and a plate of food!

To see what the other bakers came up with, be sure to visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and if you have a copy of the book, Baking with Julia, bake along with us as we bake our way through the book.  If that isn't enough for you, we will also be baking from Dorie Greenspans new book, Baking Chez Moi starting in November.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

chocolate peanut butter cake; another birthday, another version



Yes, I've posted this cake before so why post it again?  Because this time, it's different; the cake is a vertically positioned roll rather than the standard stacked layers.

Every year, I bake cakes for my girls on their birthdays or as close as I can get to the actual day.  Last year, I made this cake for Alix but made the traditional stacked layer version and the link to that post with the complete recipe is here.  For this version, the only thing I changed was the cake.  Because I was planning on rolling the cake up, I chose to make a sponge-like cake so that it would be easier to work with.

For those of you who are interested, please visit the link to read the full history on this cake.  It is one that I am proud of and probably the best cake in my first book, Sky High.

The cake recipe worked out fairly well.  It was not hard to roll but I do think that because I made this in stages, the cake dried out a little and some cracking occurred.  In the future, I will make my frosting ahead of time so that the cake can be rolled up while it is still fresh.

So the shape was not perfectly round, but most of that was hidden in the frosting/glazing.

 This version made a 6 inch round cake and would easily have served 8 people.  We snacked on that cake all week by slicing little slivers at a time.  Don't worry, even though the slices were thin, this cake packed quite the punch in flavor and it was so rich that we didn't attempt thick slices.

 Don't you just love the vertical stripes?  This was so much fun that I will try this again with other cake recipes.  It looked like a regular cake on the outside, my daughter expected stacked layers and surprise, surprise!

 Honestly, with this configuration, the ratio of frosting to cake is very different.  With this method you get more frosting which is great for frosting lovers.

 Creamy peanut butter frosting and dark chocolate ganache-heavenly!

To make the stacked layer cake, visit the original post.  To make this version, the adjusted recipes follow.

Chocolate-Peanut Sponge Roll Cake
Cake recipe is adapted from Chocolate Cloud Roll recipe in The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, frosting and glaze recipes are from Sky High

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
peanut butter frosting, recipe follows
chocolate glaze, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a half sheet pan (17 inches x 12 inches) with parchment and spray grease, set aside.  Melt the chocolate and set aside.

To grind the peanuts, place them in a food processor with a tablespoon of sugar and pulse until finely ground.  Do this carefully so that you do not make peanut butter.  Whisk the yolks with 3 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Fold the chocolate and peanuts into the egg yolks.  Sift the cocoa over the top of the batter and gently fold in, set aside while you prepare the whites.

Whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until peaks start to form.  Gradually add the sugar as you continue to whip and whip until the peaks are almost completely stiff.  Do not take them as far as they will go, they need to be just a little soft at the bottom of the bowl.  This will allow the air bubbles to expand in the oven; taking the mixture to the stiffest point will not allow for the bubbles to expand and can actually make the cake collapse.

To finish mixing the batter, fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter to lighten it and then gently fold the remaining whites in.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.  Allow the cake to cool and use immediately.

Cut the cake into three equal strips, lengthwise.  Spread 1/2 cup of frosting over one strip and begin rolling it up from one short side.  Spread another 1/2 cup of frosting over the second strip and place the rolled cake on top of the layer at one short side and roll it up.  Repeat this with the last strip.  Place the cake onto a flat plate and freeze until very firm.  Ice the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting and freeze it to firm up the frosting.

Decorate the cake by spreading small amounts of glaze over the top so that it slides down the side of the cake in large drips.  Chill to firm the ganache.  Keep cake refrigerated but do set it out at least 30 minutes before serving for the best flavor.  To get neat slices, dip the knife in hot water, wipe it dry and slice it with the hot knife, clean the knife between slices.  Top with mini peanut butter cups just before serving, if desired.

Peanut Butter Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp 
3 ounces unsalted butter, at room temp 
4 cups confectioners sugar, sift after measuring if lumpy 
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter 

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the confectioners sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often.  Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate Glaze
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup half-and-half


In the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter and corn syrup.  Heat, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth.  Use while still warm.