May 26, 2008

Check Out These Buns!

The Sweet and Savory kitchen has been dark more than not the past couple of weeks. Certainly not by choice. Trust me, I'd rather have been whipping up something tasty; however, my "real-life" schedule has been extremely demanding of late and kept me from blogging.

Things seems to be back on track now and commitments are at a manageable level now (well, less insane anyway).

This week, Tuesday passed me by like I was standing still and I neglected my weekly baking commitment to Dorie Greenspan and the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers. Madam Chow of Madam Chow's Kitchen hosted this week's recipe and selected Pecan Honey Sticky Buns.

I'm a little late to the party, but come bearing some yummy brioche dripping in honey loveliness to my readers. I ended up a little torn on whether or not I'd recommend these. Don't get me wrong. They are delicious! The name really says it all. But, I hold issue with the four sticks of butter. Yielding about 15 servings, it equates to about a quarter of a stick per roll. Zoinks! At the end of the day, this is a baking group, after all. And baking usually means butter. So, I guess I should consider the butter an blog-upational hazard and just get my buns to the gym more instead of belly-aching about it.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling:
Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns:
On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake:
When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What you'll need for the Golden Brioche dough:
2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm.

To Make The Brioche:
Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

More Dorie recipes I've made from Baking: From My Home to Yours
Florida Pie
Peanut Butter Torte
Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Fresh Tangelo Cream Tart
Gooey Chocolate Cakes
Perfect Party Cake
Brioche Raisin Snails
Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
Snickery Squares
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Almost-Fudge Gâteau

May 13, 2008

Have A Glass of Key Lime Pie

Here on the West Coast, temperatures are heating up. In fact, the forecast says the mercury is going to pass 100 degrees in the next couple of days. In my world, hot weather like that translates into margarita time!

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Florida Pie, selected by Dianne's Dishes. Never really one for meringue, I knew I wanted to modify this week's challenge a bit. What better way than to imbibe a perfectly good citrus dessert with my favorite summer libation. So, I ditched the pie pan for a springform pan, made a crust of crushed graham crackers and salty pretzels, added some tequila and triple sec to the filling, and finished off the pie with a Key lime glaze.

The finished product tasted exactly how I would expect. A margarita in a pie. The alcohol flavor was there just to make its presence known, whispering the margarita taste without overpowering the tart Key lime flavor. No disrespect to Dorie's original Florida Pie recipe, but I am very pleased with my modified version and definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good margarita just as much as they do baked goods.

I only included directions for my modified version. For Dorie's original Florida Pie recipe, visit Dianne's Dishes. Also, don't forget to check out Florida Pies as Dorie intended.

Margarita Pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Florida Pie

For the crust
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers
1 cup finely crushed pretzels
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
For the pie
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
4 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons good-quality tequila (I use Patrón Añejo)
2 teaspoons triple sec
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice, strained

For the lime glaze
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
7 tablespoons freshly squeezed Key lime juice, strained
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the crushed graham crackers and pretzels, sugar and butter. Spread the mixture into the prepared springform. Pack the mixture with the bottom of a drinking glass or flat potato masher. Bake for 7 minutes. Let cool until room temperature.
Put the cream and coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add the tequila, the triple sec and half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the remaining juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the crust, and pour over the lime filling.
Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons of the juice; let stand until soft, about 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring sugar and 4 tablespoons juice to a boil. Combine remaining tablespoon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir until dissolved; whisk into boiling lime juice. Remove from heat. Stir in softened gelatin. Cool to lukewarm, and pour over pie.

More Dorie recipes I've made from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Peanut Butter Torte
Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Fresh Tangelo Cream Tart
Gooey Chocolate Cakes
Perfect Party Cake
Brioche Raisin Snails
Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
Snickery Squares
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Almost-Fudge Gâteau

May 11, 2008

What's the Dill?

My latest kitchen obsession is with canning. I love the idea of preserving food when it's at its peak freshness or when I have an overabundance of produce that I know will otherwise go bad.

To test the canning waters, I wanted to start with something I felt to be fairly benign and thought pickles fit the bill. I turned to my copy of the classic Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. This was the first cookbook I got when I moved out on my own. With little money and even less cooking skills, this was the perfect catchall for keeping sustenance on my table. Today it sits on my bookshelf, only occasionally referenced, but still revered. With recipes like Spaghetti Pie and Breakfast Casserole, some consider this cookbook a little outdated and June Cleaver-ish. By all accounts, that is probably a little true, but I still find it a great resource for basic cooking needs, no matter how advanced my cooking skills.

Dill Pickles
from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 1/2 pounds pickling cucumbers
3 3/4 cups water
3 3/4 cups cider vinegar
6 tablespoons pickling salt
12 to 18 heads fresh dill, or 6 to 8 tablespoons dillseed
6 cloves garlic, halved
Thoroughly rinse cucumbers. In a large saucepan combine water, vinegar and pickling salt. Bring to a boil.

Pack cucumbers loosely into hot, sterilized pint jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Add 2 to 3 heads of dill and 2 garlic clove halves to each jar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids.

Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes. Let stand 1 week.
These were pretty good, but a little too tart for my taste. Even still, it was a good first attempt and I am more comfortable with the process now. My June 2008 issue of Bon Appétit arrived last week and it just so happens that the At the Market column was devoted to cucumbers and included a recipe Slightly Sweet Dill Refrigerator Pickles. As the recipe suggests, you can use rice vinegar in place of cider vinegar for a pickle that is less tart. Who knew? So, I will probably give pickles one more try using the BA recipe and then I'll branch out my canning from there.

Stay tuned for more canning adventures.

May 6, 2008

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss

Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food is my new BFF. Okay, ya. I only know her virtually. But she knows what makes me tick.


Peanut butter.

That's about all it takes to get me jazzed about a recipe.

Elizabeth had the daunting responsibility of selecting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, where members bake a recipe from Baking: From My Home to Yours. A girl after my own heart, she chose the Peanut Butter Torte. This thing is seriously like a giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. If you have even a remote aversion to either chocolate or peanuts, this is not the recipe for you. But, if you have ever been so desperate for a chocolate-peanut butter "fix" (like me) that you have dipped chocolate bars straight into the peanut butter jar (also like me), you need to rock this recipe.

I tried the mousse with a spoon before assembling and I wasn't impressed. I was a little dissappointed, but I tried to reserve judgment. Once assembled, the flavors blended beautifully. The textures also balanced each other well. Lots of crunchiness and smoothness throughout.

You need to plan with this one because it does require a significant amount of refrigeration, but the actual labor of putting it together is pretty minimal.

I would probably use about six more Oreos than what is called for in the recipe. I had enough for the crust, but it wasn't as forgiving as I need.

I noticed when making the ganache, it took a few moments for the chocolate and the cream to blend. At first I thought I messed up, but it just took a little longer than I expected. Be patient—it will come together.

Check out some more chocolate-peanut butter eye candy.

Peanut Butter Torte

1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Crape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

More Dorie recipes I've made from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
Bill's Big Carrot Cake
Fresh Tangelo Cream Tart
Gooey Chocolate Cakes
Perfect Party Cake
Brioche Raisin Snails
Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
Snickery Squares
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Almost-Fudge Gâteau