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Entries in Baked Goods (53)

Tuesday
Nov262013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is an unconventional post on the eve of Thanksgiving.  We are heading to Philadelphia to spend Thanksgiving with Rob's side of our family so I am not caught up in the prep work that usually leads up to the holiday.  It's quite nice to have an empty fridge and no anxiety about the upcoming holiday!

My Dad just celebrated a birthday and I never know what to get him (as is the case for all of the men in my life).  This year I kept it simple and baked his favorite Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.  Since freshly baked cookies are always the best, I baked off half the batch and froze the rest of the dough and gave him the frozen dough.  With a note detailing baking instructions on the freezer bag or tupperware, the recipient can have cookies straight from the oven any time (and can bake just 1 or 2 at a time).

A note about these cookies.  I first attempted to make them considerably smaller than the suggested 1/4-cup size scoop per cookie (I was making mine more like 1 tbsp per cookie).  When I baked those, they were quite flat and crisp.  When I stuck with the recommended 1/4-cup size, the cookies turned out much better.  It may be the altitude, but I'm guessing its the tried and true method of from Flour

Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Recipe adapted just slightly from the Flour Bakery Cookbook
Yield = About 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup (245 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cup old –fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins

Preparation

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.  If you use a hand-held mixer, this will take about 10 minutes.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times with a rubber spatula to release any clinging butter or sugar.

2.  Beat in the eggs on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

3.  In a separate, medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  Add the raisins and toss to combine.  On low speed (or with a wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

4.  For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3-4 hours) before baking.  When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

5.  Drop the dough in 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand or the back of the spoon.  I was tempted to make these balls smaller, but don't - they turn out best when the dough balls are 1/4-cup in size.

6.  Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center.  Be careful not to overbake!  Soft, chewy centers are what you want with these cookies.  Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack.  

7.  The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  The unbaked dough can also be portioned off into the balls (like in step #5) and then frozen in an airtight container or ziploc and baked off as needed!

Sunday
Nov102013

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I regularly have ambitious plans to make an elaborate dessert for a dinner party, and often it just does not happen.  Life gets in the way, the guests are arriving in one hour, and I haven't showered, set the table, etc.  Any of this sound familiar?

For the last few years, this Flourless Chocolate Cake has been my go-to dessert.  I always have the ingredients on hand and it takes no more than 15 minutes to get this into the oven.   While it bakes, you can clean up, do any last minute prep work, and pour yourself a drink.  About 35 minutes later, your home will smell like chocolate and your dessert is ready!  This is a rich, intense cake and it is best-served with something - I like whipped cream and a few raspberries or sliced strawberries.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Adapted very slightly from Alexandra Cooks
Yield = 1 9-inch cake (I find this serves 8 generous slices or 12 slightly smaller slices)

Notes -  This cake is meant to be moist inside so be sure not to overcook it.  As soon as it feels only slightly wobbly but mostly firm, remove it from the oven.  Give the cake time to cool before you dust it with powdered sugar, too, or it will soak right into the cake.  This cake calls for almond flour, so it's not for those who need to be nut-free, but it is gluten free!  

Ingredients
8 oz semisweet chocolate
8 tablespoons margarine or butter 
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs, separated
2 large eggs, whole
1/3 cup plus ½ cup sugar
½ cup almond flour

Fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries (if you'd like)
Whipped cream (you could also serve it with ice cream, but I prefer whipped cream)
Powdered sugar (If you serve this for Passover, see Alexandra Cooks for a different option for dusting the cake)

Preparation
1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place chocolate and margarine or butter in bowl and microwave on high for one minute (or until melted), stirring once after 30 seconds.  If you don't have a microwave, you can use the oven or a double-boiler (if you use the oven, watch it carefully!).

2.  Coat a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.  Line bottom with round of parchment paper, then spray the parchment as well.

3.  Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth, then add salt and almond extract and stir until blended.

4.  Crack 4 of the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks.  Whisk the four yolks and two additional whole eggs (whites and yolks) with the 1/3 cup of sugar just until blended.  Add yolk mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in almond flour.

5.  In the bowl of an electric mixture, whip the four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the ½ cup sugar and beat until egg whites become shiny and hold their peaks, but are not too stiff. 

6.  Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten.  Then, in two additions, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Pour batter into pan and place in oven.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.  Cake will rise and have cracks running across it. It should feel only slightly wobbly when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing sides and transferring to cooling rack. 

7.  Use a fine mesh colander or sifter to dust the cake with powdered sugar.  Serve the cake with whipped cream and fresh berries if you have them.  I'm sure it will also pair well with ice cream.

Wednesday
Oct232013

Homemade Challah

It's been almost six weeks since I last posted.  It isn't that I haven't seen things or made recipes that I wanted to share but I haven't made the time to sit down and actually post about anything! I'm resolving to change that in the coming weeks.

That said, I've made a few delicious things that I really want to share, the best of which was this Challah that I made over the weekend.  J recommended it to me and it couldn't be easier, tastier or a more impressive loaf of bread.  It is braided after all...

I'd recommend making the challah and serving it with this Roasted Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup.  The addition of coconut milk instead of the usual chicken stock elevates this soup to the next level.  Like the challah, this soup is simple - perfect for a weeknight.  

Homemade Challah
Recipe from Food52 
Yield = Two large loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup warm water, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant (powdered) yeast
  • 6 cups flour -- either all white or half white whole wheat (I used all white flour)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup mild honey, plus an extra tablespoon for eggwash
  • 2/3 cups flavorless vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs, plus one yolk for eggwash

Preparation

  1. Put 1 cup warm water in a small bowl.  Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top, swirl the bowl just to combine, and leave it to proof for five minutes.
  2. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment).  Stir to incorporate or blend on low speed.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs.
  4. When yeast has finished proofing (you'll know because it will be bubbly), add it to the flour, immediately followed by wet ingredients.  Mix with a large wooden spoon or on medium-low speed in the mixer, just until combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Switch to dough hook and begin to knead on low speed, making sure to incorporate what's at the bottom of the bowl if the dough hook misses it. If kneading by hand, stir using spoon until dough becomes to thick to stir.  Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand.  Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour with a light hand as needed, 7-10 minutes.
  6. Split the dough into two equal pieces. Set each in a large oiled bowl, cover both bowls with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. If using white flour, this should take about 2-2.5 hours. If using white whole wheat, it will take closer to 3.5 or 4. Feel free to let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight instead; if you do this, be sure to set out the dough in plenty of time before shaping, so it can come to room temperature.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  8. After the rise, the dough should be soft and pliable. Separate each mound of dough into three equal balls, for a total of six. Roll each ball into a log almost 1-foot long. Braid the logs together to create your loaf. For the nicest-looking braid, do not pinch the top edges of your logs together before braiding; simply place one log over the next and braid until you reach the bottom, then pinch those edges together. Then, flip the unfinished loaf the long way, so that the unfinished edge is now at the bottom and the loaf has been flipped over and upside down. Finish braiding and pinch these edges together. This way, both ends look identical. Tuck the very tips beneath the loaf when braiding is finished. Repeat with second loaf.
  9. Put each loaf on its own silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet. If using eggwash, mix yolk with a 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush over loaves.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until challot are golden and baked through.

Sunday
Aug182013

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

There are some recipes that I return to over and over, that never get old, and that I can almost make without the recipe at all.  This Cinnamon-Raisin Bread is one of them.  Ali introduced me to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which is indispensable if you enjoy making homemade bread.  The technique is simple and the end result is tasty homemade bread baking in your oven with relatively little work. 

I usually start the day with a slice of this bread slathered with butter, but this weekend I used it for peanut butter sandwiches for an awesome mountain bike ride we did through the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.  If you ever find yourself in Steamboat Springs, its worth driving a little farther north to check out this area - it's filled with wildflowers, lakes, rivers, and craggy mountains... and we even saw two moose.  The bread tasted even better when looking at views like the one below!

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread
Adapted slightly from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day 
Yield = Three 1½-lb. loaves

For the bread:
2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1½ tablespoons yeast
1½ tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
6½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
butter for greasing the pan
For the filling:
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1½ cups raisins
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

Preparation

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water and buttermilk in a 5-quart mixing bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment) or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook. If you’re not using a machine, you may have to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.  I find that the easiest way to do this is in my stand mixer.

3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.  The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.

4. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch non-stick loaf pan and line it with parchment paper (this isn't absolutely necessary but I always bake with parchment - it makes it much easier to remove the bread after it bakes). Set aside.  Measure out your raisins, place them in a bowl, and cover them with just enough hot water to cover the raisins, and then cover the bowl (I like to reconstitute the raisins, which this does).  Set aside.  Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1½-pound (grapefruit-size) piece.  Dust the piece of dough with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Elongate the ball into an oval.

5. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to an 18×16-inch rectangle about ¼-inch thick, dusting the board and rolling pin with flour as needed. 

6. Using a pastry brush (this is my favorite), cover the surface of the dough lightly with the egg wash.  Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough.  It seemed like a lot to me, but do use it all! Drain the water from the raisins and then sprinkle them evenly over the dough.

7. Starting from the short side, roll it up jelly-roll style. Pinch the edges and ends together, tucking the ends under. Place the loaf seam-side down in the prepared pan. Allow to rest 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

8. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool before slicing.

Sunday
Aug112013

Peach Hand Pies


Driving to meet a friend for a run yesterday, I heard Kim Boyce talk about her hand pies on NPR.  I was already salivating the first time I heard the story, but the same story repeated when I got back in the car after my run and then I knew I needed to make them.

Hand pies are quite an invention.  You get to eat pie, but you don't need a plate or fork and you can even take them to go.  I've made a Cherry Hand Pie before using puff pastry, and I love Ali's Apple Hand Pies with Cheddar Crust, but in the peak of summer peaches seem like the only option.

This recipe calls for making your own puff pastry.  The end result is a flaky, buttery crust that is absolutely worth the work and time involved (the actual work is limited, but you have to let the dough chill a few times).  If you are short on time, you can certainly make the filling and use store bought puff pastry, but this crust is worth making from scratch - just note that you need to start a day ahead of when you want to serve the pies. 

When it comes to the filling, what I love about this recipe is the addition of jam to the filling mixture.  The jam adds flavor and thickens the filling.  And speaking of filling, every time I make hand pies, I attempt to stuff as much filling as possible into the pie, which always backfires.  This time I exercised restraint and I'd advise you to as well... there will still be plenty of fruit inside and your pies will actually stay sealed!

Peach Hand Pies
Adapted from Kim Boyce at Bakeshop via NPR
Yield = 12 hand pies

Pie Dough
About 5 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (60 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (10 grams) kosher salt
500 grams (about 1 pound - 4 sticks)) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups ice-cold water

Filling
2 pounds ripe peaches (approximately 6) (I had about 2 cups of filling leftover, too)
1/2 cup peach or apricot jam
2 tablespoons sugar

Finish
1 egg, whisked well
Cinnamon

Preparation
To make the dough, place dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add butter and mix or pulse until broken down to sizes varying from peas to almonds to walnuts. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add the smaller amount of water recommended. Toss together and squeeze the dough to determine if more water is needed. The dough should just hold together, with shaggy dry areas as well as areas that are moister. If the dough is too dry, add the remaining water and toss. Transfer dough to a shallow container or wrap into a rough square in plastic wrap.  Chill overnight.

After the dough has chilled, unwrap it onto a floured surface. Pat the dough into a square, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle about 8 1/2 x 14 inches. The dough will crumble and be rough around the edges, but don't add more flour or water — it will come together during rolling.

For the first "turn," fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. The seam should be on the left side. Chill 30 minutes.

For the second turn, take the dough out, this time with the seam at the bottom. Again roll the dough into an 8 1/2 x 14 inch rectangle and repeat the previous step. Chill 30 minutes.

For the third turn, repeat the previous step, then wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

After the dough has chilled for the final time, roll it to a thickness of approximately 1/8 inch. Cut into 7-inch circles (if you don't have a cutter, you can draw a knife around the edge of a plate).  Take any scraps and knead them together and chill, covered, before re-rolling. Repeat until all of the dough is cut into circles. Keep dough circles cold while you prepare the filling.  Puff pastry warms very quickly and turns into a buttery mess, so do be sure to keep it cold.

To make the filling and finish the pies, cut the peaches in half and discard the pits, slice them into wedges (I sliced mine into eights), and then slice the wedges in half.  Place peaches in a large bowl and add the jam and sugar.  Stir lightly to coat - the fruit should glisten with a light coating of jam.

Take your prepared pastry circles and brush with the beaten egg. Fill the circles with the filling (approximately 3-4 tablespoons of peach filling), then fold into a half-moon shape and press a half-inch from the edge to seal (Boyce suggests not crimping the very edges themselves, to avoid compressing the layers).  My mom got me one of these "pocket pie presses" - it isn't necessary, but it does help to seal the edges and to prevent me from over-stuffing the pie with fruit.

Place on a pan in a single layer, brush with the egg and sprinkle with cinnamon. Freeze for a minimum of one hour.

While the tarts are freezing, preheat the oven to 375°F.  When the hand pies are frozen, line a few baking sheets with parchment and place the hand pies on the sheet (with ample space between them).

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating the pans halfway through. The tarts are ready when the crusts are dark golden-brown and blistering, the fruit is bubbling and perhaps some juice has run from the hand pies and caramelized on the parchment paper.

(Boyce stresses that color equals flavor. And with such a high crust-to-filling ratio, she says, you don't want it doughy — so try to let the pies get a bit darker than you might be inclined). Remove pies from the oven, and immediately transfer the hand pies to a cooling rack, before the caramelized juices cement them down.

Serve the hand pies warm from the oven or later that same day. The unbaked hand pies will keep, well wrapped and frozen, for up to one month (I only baked 4 of mine today).