Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Casatiello is an Italian Brioche - in other words, rich dough enriched further with meat and cheese:

This bread begins with a sponge composed primarily of warm milk, flour and yeast. When it is mixed it has the consistency of pancake batter, though it significantly thickens after standing:

The sponge is mixed with more flour, water and salt, but no more yeast. All of the yeast in this recipe is contained in the sponge. Once this is fully mixed, soft butter is incorporated into the dough:

Once the dough is almost fully kneaded, the meat and then the cheese is folded in:

Here is the dough after a first rise, in a cake pan, the closest to a traditional pan I own (sometimes this bread is baked in coffee cans!):

I pulled the towel off of the dough mid-rise for a progress check:

And here is the dough ready to bake:

Still warm, a slice of this bread is a sandwich fresh from the oven!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

Sometimes the only cookie that will do, for me, is a peanut butter cookie:
It helps that I can convince myself that it is healthy.

There are a ton of recipes out there, but I used this one that appeared in Bon Appétit in 1998. It follows the basic cookie formula. First, you cream together your peanut butter and butter:

You cream in sugars and add eggs and vanilla, and then add in the flour and leavening:

Using wet hands to keep them a bit cleaner, roll the dough into balls. Then, one of my favorite parts - smushing the dough down with a fork to create the classic criss-cross pattern:

I baked these on parchment-lined sheets:

The best way to tell if a cookie is finished baking is to peek at the bottom of one with your spatula. Here are two finished cookies, one upside-down. You can see that the top of the cookie is just beginning to get golden brown, and the bottom is even and golden:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Potato Rosemary Bread

Sometimes, I just eat my leftover mashed potatoes. But this time I decided to turn some into potato bread:

The process for these loaves actually began the night before, as the base of the dough is a Biga. A Biga is a sponge made of flour, yeast and water that is kneaded and left to rise, then chilled overnight. This allows more flavor to develop from the wheat. Here is the Biga before is chilled:

In the morning I assembled my ingredients ahead of time while the Biga, sliced into chunks, warmed to room temperature:

Here is the dough once it was mixed:

And after kneading:

After this very soft dough had risen, the loaves were rolled into shape and left to rise again:

After a quick coating of olive oil for color and flavor, the loaves were ready for the oven:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rye Bread - with Raisins?

So, I was going to make some bread for a friend, and he asked for Rye bread, golden raisins. I wasn't so sure about how tasty that might be, but started mixing. This bread started like the light portion of the Marbled Rye Bread - Rye flour, bread flour, molasses, shortening, salt, yeast and water:

Then, as soon as the dough came together, I started adding raisins. For a regular bread with raisins, I would wait until the very end of kneading, but since rye bread becomes sticky if it is kneaded too long, I added the raisins as I began:

I decided that this was less of a sandwich bread so I made it into a boule - you have your dough in a ball, and you stretch it around to the bottom from all angles to create enough surface tension at the top of the loaf. Here it is before the second rise:

And after:

After baking, you can see how the dough was gathered at the bottom:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brioche Loaves

I am not one to turn down sweet, delicious pastry. Having it in the form of a sandwich is even better:
A friend had turned me on to brioche as a sandwich bread when he brought it to me from a wonderful bakery in Prospect Heights about a year ago. Making something like it on my own has been on my mind since I started baking bread again.

The trick to brioche? Butter. It is the last thing mixed in before you knead your bread and set it to rise:
For a really rich pastry instead of sandwich and toasting bread, about four times the above amount of butter would be used.

You can see the dough after kneading below. I had to use more flour than usual because the butter made this dough so soft, but once the consistency was right it didn't stick to the counter at all:

The loaves are coated with an egg wash for a shiny finish before a final rise:

And let the toasting begin!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

I knew I had to make coconut cupcakes sometime this spring:

This recipe, from Bon Appétit, gets all of the coconut flavor from reduced coconut milk. Here is the coconut milk as it began to bubble:

And once it hit a boil - this is why you trust recipes when they say to use a tall pot!

The cake itself is pretty standard: dry ingredients, wet ingredients (the reduced and chilled coconut milk) and the butter, creamed with sugar:

Blend it all together and fill your muffin tins:

The frosting portion of the recipe itself is fairly straightforward - just blend together softened butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla and more reduced coconut milk. I decided, though, to attempt a fancier topping. Here, the cupcakes have a thin layer of frosting and have been dipped in lavender sanding sugar:

I then added a bit more frosting and dipped into flaked coconut to finish:
...and the true measure of a good recipe? Almost everyone came back for seconds.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lemon Chess Pie

I know, it doesn't look like much:
But I was so delighted with my chocolate chess pie that when I had to make a spring dessert, my thoughts when straight to a lighter version.

The biggest surprise when I make pie seems to be that I make my own dough. Here is my biggest trick - wax paper. I've scrubbed a counter covered with flour and dough remnants before, and it isn't pretty. This makes the process easy:

For a chess pie or other custard pie, your filling it when when you pour it into your shell, so you have to pre-bake it. Here is the dough partway through baking. You can see the fork holes I poked in it to eliminate air bubbles:

When the dough was almost done, I took it out and brushed it with an egg wash, because my last chess pie had dough that seemed a tiny bit underdone, and this sealed the holes nicely:

Then, on to the filling: sugar, milk, butter, lemon juice and a LOT of lemon zest:

Pour straight into the crust and bake into the oven:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Easter: a time for chocolate bunnies, cadbury creme eggs and spring desserts:
I decided that I would make these carrot cake cupcakes to bring to a gathering because I wanted an easy Easter treat to serve to a crowd.

The recipe is a fairly basic quickbread style one, though with a bit less flour than average. The result is almost chewy and has a bit of a cookie feel to it. Here are the wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and a few essentials: grated carrot, nuts and raisins:

and a close up of the almost finished batter, a quick stir away from the finish:

Mix it all up and portion it out into cupcake tins:
and then beware: if you follow the linked recipe, the baking time and temperature has some inconsistencies. I agree with the reviewers of this recipe that the instructions must be for some sort of cake. Just lower the oven temperature and check these at about 20 minutes, and proceed cautiously.

Now, the part where everyone wants to lick the mixing bowl: frosting. This is a mixture of butter, cream cheese, vanilla and a little lemon juice, to which I added some of the confectioner's sugar to the right of the bowl. I like my frosting a little less sweet so I used less than the full pound:

Then I loaded the finished frosting onto my cupcakes!