Rugelach

Rugelach was a featured recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie in March 2012.  The recipe is courtesy of Lauren Groveman, whose bagels we made in October.  In March I was lucky enough to be working on a commercial out near the Salton Sea, southeast of Palm Springs.  Little did I know it would be over six months before I made Rugelach of my own.  Jessica of My Baking Heart and Margaret of The Urban Hiker hosted for Rugelach in March.  The full recipe can be found in their posts here and here.  Of course all the recipes can be found in the pages of the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Rugelach are apparently a pastry of Eastern European origin, consisting of a flaky dough wrapped around a filling usually consisting of a fruit spread — apricot and prune are traditional — along with assorted nuts, dried fruit, and a significant amount of sugar and spice.   The pastry contains both butter and cream cheese, the latter contributing a slight tangyness to the finished product.

    Much of the preparation can be done in advance.  In addition to the pastry dough, I made up the required Apricot filling, a mixture of coarse brown sugar and cinnamon, and a third mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and finely chopped nuts.  Several days later, I brought the components together.

In making, filling, and rolling the Rugelach, I found this dough to be a little hard to work with.  Perhaps unwisely, I rolled out the dough on plastic coated freezer paper.  The dough enjoyed sticking to the paper, which made rolling the filling logs difficult.  Additionally, I found the 5″ wide sheets too short to roll up into clean pinwheels.  Luckily this didn’t matter for the final result.

After brushing with an egg wash, each roll was sliced, the pieces rolled in the coarse sugar-spice mixture, and finally placed on a parchment lined baking sheet .  In the oven the sugar carmelizes; on removal from the oven each piece must be pried from the parchment within a few minutes lest the Rugelach become welded to the sheet as the sugar cools.

Overall the resulting Rugelach were quite good.  They were a little sweet for my taste, though I’m sure they could be tamed with a thinner layer of jam and a lighter touch with the sugar-nut mixture.  Even with the excess sweetness, I found myself eating way too many of these.  For that reason alone, I probably wouldn’t repeat these until I had the occasion to bring them to a gathering.

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Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

This weeks’ regularly schedule recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is Buttermilk Crumb Muffins.  Though I’m not certain, I believe I baked Marion Cunningham’s muffins once as many as eight or ten years ago, well prior to joining the blog group.  Although I baked this on Monday, a busy week-and-half of baking has me posting a day late.  Thankfully, this muffins are fairly quick and simple to make.  Professional baker and birthday girl Alisa of Easier Than Pie hosts this week; On her blog post, you will find the recipe, not too mention a professional’s perspective on baking and various ingredient substitutions.  Other bakers’ efforts are found here.

Speaking of ingredient substitutions, I was one of several people to use butter in place of shortening in this recipe.  It’s hard to say what the effect was on the finished muffins.  Flavor would seem to benefit from butter.  Anecdotal evidence from other bloggers indicates these muffins don’t quite rise as high as those made with shortening.  In my case I prepared a half recipe and ended up with 8 muffins — on the high end of what the recipe yields.  My muffins didn’t dome, though had I portioned the batter into 7, the extra bit of batter per muffin might have produced more traditional-looking muffin tops.

Looks aside, this muffins are decent, though not great.  They are a little sweet as muffins go.  And they lack a certain something that might knock them out of the park.  Small chunks of fruit might improve them.  Apples come to mind, although I’d want to cut back the sugar with such an addition.  Unless I had a specific request though, I’m much more likely to make banana bread or muffin before baking these again.

In keeping with these muffins simple preparation, I took fewer photos; all I really have to show is a plate full of finished muffins.

Posted in BakingWithJulia, Breakfast, TuesdaysWithDorie | 1 Comment

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaf

I missed the opportunity to bake Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves at the beginning of October.  At the time, I was in the LA area without a stand mixer and fresh cranberries were not yet  in the grocery stores.  Knowing we had a make up baking day at the end of the month, I resolved to make these pumpkin loaves then.  Rebecca of This Bountiful  Backyard hosted this recipe on the first week of October.  Those interested in the recipe can find it in her post here, or in the pages of Baking With Julia.  The efforts of orther TWD participants can be found here.

The recipe for Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaves comes courtesy of Steve Sullivan, founder of the famed Acme Bakery in Berkeley, California.  Other pumpkin breads I’ve encountered are quick breads — more like a muffin or banana bread.  Steve’s pumpkin loaf relies on yeast to achieve its rise and texture; it is most certainly not a “quick” bread.  Requiring extensive kneading time and an overnight nap in the fridge, the result is light and airy, resembling brioche, only without as much butter.

The dough is mixed in two stages.  First wet ingredients are combined with a paddle attachment.  Dry ingredients are then slowly added until the mixture begins to form a soft batter.  The paddle is then swapped out for a dough hook.  I switched to the hook before adding all the flour; it makes cleaning all the precious pumpkin batter from the paddle much easier.  As with brioche, the dough is kneaded extensively, in this case 10-15 minutes.  Fruit and nuts are then added to the dough.  Fresh cranberries are incoporated last and mixed only slightly so as not to pop too many of them.  In the written recipe, Dorie embraces a bit of zen should a few errant cranberries stain the dough.

   

The dough gets one rise at room temperature for around 2 hours, followed by the aforementioned overnight nap in the refrigerator.  After coming up to cool room temperature, the dough is flattened into sheets and then rolled up and placed in butter loaf pans.  After a third rise, the bread baked for a little over 30 minutes, though I adjusted the time upwards since I made a single loaf roughly 11″ x 4″ x 6″

The finished bread does not have a strong pumpkin flavor.  Roasted fresh pumpkin would probably yield a more pronounced flavor.  Still, the pumpkin and butter help create a wonderfully textured loaf.  The next morning this bread made for fantastic french toast.  Additionally, both the consistency of the dough and texture of the finished bread reminds of cinnamon rolls.  I was not alone in this thought, as baker Katrina used this dough to create Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Rolls.

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Bagels

Lauren Groveman’s Bagels mark my return to the TWD fold, having had to skip out on Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves two weeks ago.  I’ll be getting to that recipe in two weeks, taking advantage of the catch-up post on October 31.  I’ve never made bagels before, and I had never really thought of making them before.  Bagels are fine by me, yet I don’t have the occasion to eat enough of them to justify making ten at a stretch.  Still I was excited to try them, as Bagels involved some new techniques to shaping the dough.  It would also be my first time boiling dough.  Hosting Bagels this week is Heather of Heather’s Bytes.  Readers interested in the full recipe can find it at her blog, or in the pages of Baking With Julia.  I would also highly recommend watching the video on the PBS website.

Mixing up the dough began uneventfully.  I had earlier purchased a new bag of King Arthur bread flour, having exhausted my prior bag for Whole Wheat Loaves.  Fellow baker Jill points out the recipe as aired includes both sugar and barley malt syrup, unlike the cookbook version, where Dorie Greenspan includes only sugar.  Since the wheat bread included that as a preferred ingredient, I decided to seek out a bottle of the brown liquid.  Likewise, I substituted an equal amount of softened butter for the 3 Tbs of vegetable shortening, since I didn’t have any Crisco on hand, and didn’t want to buy an entire can of something I rarely use.

I also decided to mix the dough by hand, mostly because I like kneading.  I went light on the photos taking this round, as I’ve taken plenty of photos of dough on the rise these past few months.  The dough came together with relative ease — too much ease as it turns out.  I felt I had a good dough after having added just over 5 cups of flour, plus a little more as I kneaded it.  After a 2 hour rise in a warm oven, and a second rise overnight in the fridge, I was ready to shape, boil, and bake some bagels.

 

Shaping the dough was kind of fun.  I watched the video several times to see how Mrs. Groveman does it.  I ended up with a hybrid approach, forming and stretching the gluten cloak all at once rather like rounding a ball of just kneaded dough, though keeping at it until I had very smooth exterior.  I then did all manner of pinching to keep the ball tight.  Thereafter I followed Lauren’s technique to form the rings: poke a hole with one finger, elongating that hole, and then rolling one and then two fingers of each hand to form a rather silly shaped ring.

Boiling turned out to be a mitigated disaster.  Coming out of the water bath, my proto-bagels had softened up, as if they had begun to melt into the boiling water.  Both were so wet as to stick both to the draining towel, as well as the peel I was using to transfer them to my stone.  The first of the soggy rings was a complete loss, earning a spot in the trash can.  With a great measure of frustration, I threw the second onto the hot baking stone for it’s defiance.  No egg white wash, no toppings, not even a puff of steam.

Luckily, I was only boiling one bagel at a time, so I was able to rescue this batch.  Figuring the dough needed more flour,  I combined the three remaining rings of dough, added as much as 1/3 cup additional bread flour, and proceeded to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes to incorporate the flour.  After a short rise, I was ready to try again.

With improved dough, the second batch turned out better.  While shaping them was the same, on splash down the proto-bagels firmed up a bit like you might expect of dumplings or spaetzle.  I used a different towel with less texture and the bagels released easily.  Not wanting to risk sticking on the peel, I covered it with a sheet of parchment paper.  I did three variations, one with poppy seeds, one with caraway seed, and a third with a little of both.

The parchment and all three went onto the stone.  I attempted to steam the oven, though 5 small ice cubes and some water evaporated instantly in a cast iron skillet I’d placed on the oven floor.  I baked the bagels according to the recipe, concluding with the oven off, and door open.  I must have stretched my bagels a bit too far.  After baking, the center holes were still quite large.

While the bagels cooled, I mixed some finely chopped shallot and chives with cream cheese.  I could have added a few flakes of smoked salmon top the cream cheese; instead I gilded the lily by laying on whole slices.  The combination of cream cheese, bagel, smoked salmon, and two member of the onion family hit the spot, especially after all the work required.

The outside of bagel itself was a bit tougher than what I’m used.  In the P & Q for this recipe, fellow baker LovesAndStitches offers up several tips including a shorter boil time.  I went with about a minute per side.  I’ll try a minute total with the other half of the dough.  I’ll also try baking them on a sheet pan, hoping I won’t end up with such a crispy bottom.

If I regularly ate lots of bagels, I’d probably be tempted to try this again.  They had good flavor, and I’m anticipating the second batch to remedy both the tough exteriors as well as too-crispy bottoms.  Unless I’m hosting plenty of bagel eating guests, I’ll stick to buying the occasional bagel over rolling my own.

Posted in BakingWithJulia, Bread, Breakfast, TuesdaysWithDorie | 8 Comments

Whole Wheat Loaves

For Craig Kominiak’s Whole Wheat Loaves, I was again splitting time between Marin and Southern California.  Though I actually made the dough and baked the bread on time, travel and a full calendar delayed my write-up until Thursday.  Yet a Thursday With Dorie is still TWD!  You can see the other bakers’ whole wheat bread efforts here.  This week’s recipe is hosted by Michele from Veggie Num Nums and Teresa  of The Family That Bakes Together.  Visit either or both of their blogs for the full recipe.

This is my first attempt making a whole wheat bread.  As I suspect is true for many, whole wheat bread was not my favorite growing up; all the same I didn’t enjoy super-soft and nearly flavorless WonderBread either.  As a foundation of a good sandwich, I prefer bread with a good chew and enough structure to stand up to whatever Dagwoodian assortment of ingredients can be piled on top.  I’ve also come to prefer the flavor of a good wheat or partially wheat bread in many instances.

Ingredient-wise I was helped out this week via a gift of flour from two friends, Chris and Traci.  They’ve helped me out immensely by taking portions of my desserts and baked goods off my hands this year.  Chris dropped off a small bag of King Arthur Wheat Flour last month.  Early on I decided not to purchase Barley Malt syrup.  It seems a 8 oz bottle is about the smallest quantity available.  At 1 tablespoon for two loaves of bread, I decided to pass.  Instead I substituted 1 tablespoon of Steen’s Cane Syrup, a product similar to dark corn syrup, though with some of the complex flavor of molasses.  Incidentally, Steen’s makes for a very traditional Pecan Pie, albeit a darker, stronger tasting pie than one made with corn syrup.

Mixing the dough was fairly routine.  In addition to King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, I used up the remainder of a bag of KA Bread flour, needing an additional cup of all-purpose flour to reach the required 3 1/2 cups white flour.  Since making Oasis Naan earlier this year, I’ve taken to kneading bread dough by hand .  The experience is a good stress reliever as well as a relaxing bit of therapy for hands and wrists.  After 4 or 5 minutes in a stand mixer, I pulled the dough from the mixer bowl and gave it an additional 8-10 minutes of hand work.  Then it was into a buttered bowl and off to rise in a 80-ish oven, while I took in a Friday night restorative yoga class.

  
After nearly three hours, the dough had risen nicely; the extended rising time contributed a slight beery smell.  As it was getting late, I deflated the dough and threw it in the fridge overnight.  The next morning I took the dough out to warm to room temperature before shaping the dough and placing it in two loaf pans.

I baked the bread for about 25 minutes before removing the loaves from their pans and given them for an additional 10 minutes of oven time.  I took them out to cool, however my moment-read thermometer — it can 20-30 seconds to settle on a temperature — was only reading around 180 degrees, so both loaves went back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

One loaf got wrapped in foil and frozen; the second loaf traveled with me to Southern California on Monday.  I used the first slices for toasted cheese slices that night, followed by Tuna sandwiches: for my parents on Tuesday, for myself on Wednesday.  In both cases the bread was toasted or warmed which helps bring back some of the bread’s moisture.

Flavor was decent; the texture was a bit drier than I’d like, though I’d attribute some of that to not eating the bread until 2 days after baking it.  Still, I can’t say for sure when I’ll make this bread again.  I have a hard enough time finishing one loaf of bread, much less two.  While this loaf was good for a sandwich, it wouldn’t fit my bill for something sweet in the morning like French toast, or even a simple spread of jam or preserves.

Posted in BakingWithJulia, Bread, TuesdaysWithDorie | 9 Comments

Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon Cake

With life intervening a bit, I was unable to bake and photograph this week’s recipe on time.  I ended up baking on Wednesday and writing on Friday.  Hopefully, that’s not going too rogue for the group :P.  You can see plenty more bakers’ cakes who were prompt [and a few who were late like me] here.  As always, the full recipe is available on the blogs of this week’s hosts, Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen, and Susan of The Little French Bakery.

This recipe is the second to feature nectarines in as many months.  The first was Leslie Mackie’s Blueberry-Nectarine pie, which was a real winner, due in no small part to the choice fruit I was able to find.  I tried likewise for this cake, buying some ripe fruit at Whole Foods last Friday with a gift card from my sister-in-law.  That may have been perfect had I made the cake in Marin on Saturday.  Alas I was driving on Sunday and by the time I could start the cake in Long Beach, my fruit has started to rot.  I had to replace it with this somewhat sad fruit from the local Ralphs.  In fact my desire to let these nectarines ripen led me to delay the baking cake.

I also had to substitute equipment as I do not have a 10″x3″ springform pan.  I briefly (very briefly) considered buying a 10″ pan, but balked when I learned I’d have to buy a set.  Instead I settled on a 7″ springform and an 8″x3″ removable bottom cake pan.  Together they would have about the same volume as a 10″ spring form; I’d get two cakes instead of one.  So I experimented a little, using all dark brown sugar for the 7″ pan, and a mix of light and dark in the 8″.  I likewise used a mix of dark and light in the streusel, though made only one version.

 

   

Whether by design or accident, I ended up using a bit less butter and sugar on the smaller 7″ cake, and probably proportionately a bit less streusel as well.  With both cakes layered and smoothed, the went into the oven.  Both cakes browned very quickly, so much so that I reduced the oven temperature considerable after only 20 minutes or so.  I expected a baking time of around 40 minutes total given the cakes’ smaller sizes.

When removed from the oven each cake had risen to the top of their pans.  After 10 minutes cooling, both began to fall.  As seen below the 7-inch cake was a little more photogenic, owing both to a neater arrangement of fruit and less fruit/butter/sugar syrup on the plate.

        
7″ cake                                                                              8″cake

In terms of taste, the cakes were similar.  Both were very sweet; too sweet even.  There also wasn’t much of a difference between the cake made with all-dark brown sugar.  The cakes were also somewhat mushy on upper half next to the fruit.  This seemed to affect the 8″ cake more so than the 7″.  Partly I would attribute that to the extra butter and sugar; the nectarines also played a part.  Substituting a drier fruit like apples or bananas would probably lessen the mush.  Were I to go with a “wet” fruit again, I would give the cake two trips to the oven.  The first time I’d omit the second half of the batter, allowing that layer a chance to bake up/ dry out a bit more before adding the remaining batter.


A slice of the 8″ cake, illustrating “the mush”

All in all this cake was decent, just not enough so that I’d revisit it anytime soon.  When nectarine seasons rolls around next summer, I’ll return to the Blueberry-Nectarine pie instead.  In that respect, I guess I’m like our president, I’ll take a good pie over cake almost any day.

Posted in BakingWithJulia, Cake, Dessert, TuesdaysWithDorie | 2 Comments

Popovers

Even before moving to the Northern California Bay Area, one of my favorite areas of San Francisco has been the Sea Cliff neighborhood.  Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the ruins of Sutro Baths is the famed Cliff House.  The restaurant is a magnificent setting for breakfast and brunch.  Along with the view, the Popovers they serve with breakfast/brunch are a major draw for me.

Popovers are thus another “Baking With Julia” recipe I’ve been meaning to bake for some time.  Upon learning of Marion Cunningham’s passing, I felt baking them with the group would be a fitting tribute to a woman who did much to champion classic American cooking.  Our hosts for this week are Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes and Amy of Bake With Amy.   The recipe for Popovers can be found at either of their blogs or in the pages of “Baking With Julia”.  On a hunch, I would suspect the recipe might be found in the pages of Marion Cunningham’s “The Breakfast Book” (Knopf, 1987).

Preparing the popovers is very simple: mix a few ingredients in a blender, food processor, or bowl with a whisk; pour the batter into prepared tin; and bake.  The only time-consuming step is the two part baking process: first at a high temperature to get them to puff up; a second time at a lower temperature to help dry out the interiors.  Having eating the Cliff House’s version many times, I’m okay with slightly doughy centers, I might be tempted to skip or shorten the second baking step.


Half a dozen buttered custard cups, brushed with melted butter

I have neither a special Popover pan, nor enough muffin tins to only fill alternate cups.  Instead I did as Marion does in the televised episode and baked them in small Pyrex(tm) custard cups on a sheet pan.  Figuring the bowls would slide, I took the additional step of lining the sheet pan with a silicon mat.


The popovers after their first baking period

After the first baking period the popovers at the back of the oven had browned a bit more, so I rotated the pan for the drying step.  Ten minutes later a few of the popovers were on the verge of burning in spots, so I turned off the oven and left the door ajar.

 
Finished Popovers, just before serving

After cooling slightly, the pan of popovers made for a nice little picture.  This is as perfect as they would look.  When it came time to remove the popovers, they stuck to the custard cups.  More butter, or perhaps cooking spray might helped.  Individual loose cups also worked against me as well as I could not simple tilt the pan and shake as one would with a muffin pan.

 
Though deflated somewhat, the Popovers were still delicious

On a plate with some scrambled eggs, these were no picturesque popovers.  However the taste and texture more than made up for their deflated appearance.  Dry crisp exteriors with a slightly doughy center, in many ways these Popovers remind me of my favorite part of a Dutch Baby.  One of my favorite brunch dishes, the ingredients and quantities in a Dutch Baby is very similar — whole eggs, milk, flour — although the recipe I use also has a slight amount of sugar and vanilla extract, and the butter is melted in a heated cast iron skillet, rather than incorporated into the batter.  Unlike the Dutch Baby, the Popovers develop the hollow interior, likely a result of being confined in a muffin tin.

I will definitely make these Popovers again.  Next time I might try them in a muffin tin for comparison.  Perhaps if I had five barns like Martha Stewart in which to store my wares, I could consider obtaining a special popover pan.

Posted in BakingWithJulia, Breakfast, TuesdaysWithDorie | 4 Comments