Olive Sourdough Crackers

Crisps, chips, crostini, crackers, toasted bread… whatever you want to call these, I’m here for it. I made these out of a olive sourdough loaf that unfortunately didn’t turn out so attractive. It was too wet and slack for me to shape – overly-ambitious me went for 85% hydration – so I took a shortcut and put it in a loaf pan.

Too dense bread

Luckily, the flavors were still excellent. I used a mix of brine-cured green Halkidiki olives from Trader Joe’s (they call it Chalkidiki) and brine-cured black Kalamata olives, and the recipe called for Herbes de Provence and lemon zest, which I always keep a jar of in my freezer. My love affair with olives had been burgeoning over the last few years and it reached its zenith with these plump and briney Halkidiki olives. I’ve never even spent time in the south of France, but I’ve spent some time in Barcelona, and the whole concoction transports me to a world where I’m sipping on some Verdejo or Xarello, noshing on charcuterie in a four-seater bar with just one guy running the whole operation.

Anyway. I miss traveling.

Olive Sourdough Crackers

  • 188 g of water
  • 250 of all purpose flour
  • 50 g of leaven
  • 5 g of salt
  • 3/4 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/4 tsp of lemon zest
  1. Mix water and flour with your hands and let rest for 30-45 minutes to autolyse. This allows the flour to fully absorb the water and develop strength – if you want lofty loaves instead of frisbee disc loaves, do as I say and not as I do.
  2. Mix in leaven and salt with your hands and knead until the dough passes the windowpane test. This will probably take 10-15 minutes of continuous kneading. Do Google any/all of the above terms if you want to go down the breadmaking rabbit hole, like I have. You can knead bread a dozen ways, I’ve learned.
  3. Mix in olives, herbs and lemon zest into the dough.
  4. Let the bulk fermentation begin. Depending on the strength of your leaven, and the ambient temperature, this can take anywhere between 3 or 12 hours. When the dough has increased in size by 20-30% and a knuckle in the dough leaves an impression that takes a few seconds to bounce back, you’re ready.
  5. Shape your loaf. A boule or a batard, whatever you like. Let it go through its second rise, or the proof; this will take several hours as well. The same impression test will tell you when it’s ready
  6. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 550 F with a lidded Dutch oven or a cast iron pan in it. Remove the Dutch oven/cast iron pan from your oven, sprinkle some cornmeal or rice flour or regular flour to prevent sticking and put your bread in it. Slash your bread so it’ll have room to rise. Put bread in the oven.
  7. Bake bread for about 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 450 F, remove the lid, and continue to bake until the bread is brown and crusty, and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Or if the bread reaches an internal temperature of 212 F if you have a pen thermometer
  8. Leave bread to cool for an hour or two before slicing into it.
  9. To turn into crackers, slice it really thinly, perhaps 5 mm max, and lay on a single sheet on a baking tray.
  10. Bake at 375 F for 10-20 minutes, flipping and rotating and removing crackers as they each inevitably brown and crisp up at their own rate.

Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This spicy and boozy cake was inspired by my recent trip to London. I love exploring culture through cuisine, and foreign grocery stores are always a pit-stop for me. I came across this pear, ginger, and white chocolate cake in Waitrose, and was intrigued by the flavor combination.

The cake is described as a “dark sticky ginger cake made with black treacle and stem ginger, filled and topped with British pear jam and white chocolate ganache with notes of caramel.” The original cake was cloyingly sweet due to the white chocolate caramel ganache, but I loved the autumnal harmony of the pear, ginger, and molasses.

I don’t see pear jam very often, and I loved how mossy and velvety it felt on the tongue. The stem ginger, which is basically ginger soaked in a sugar syrup, studded the cake and greeted my molars like spicier and more succulent versions of raisins. And the treacly stickiness of the cake felt so warm and cozy and perfect for the cold weather.

After examining the ingredients list closely, I came up with an action plan to put my own spin on this cake. While the Waitrose version used stem ginger, I used a David Lebovitz recipe that relied on fresh ginger – I wanted a less sweet effect. After reading the comments, I also halved the sugar and oil from the original recipe. The cake is spicy and flavorful, but definitely a little dry with less oil.

I didn’t find an affordable pear jam in my local grocery stores (Whole Foods had one for $10) so I decided to make my own. The jam involved dicing up less-than-ripe pears and letting it sit in sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice overnight, then heating it up while simultaneously mashing it to get a jam. I probably should’ve cut the pieces smaller, but I didn’t mind the toothsomeness.

While I found many recipes for caramelized white chocolate frosting, I decided to keep it simple and made a two-ingredient frosting from Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and unsalted butter. For me, the sweet, smooth and creamy frosting is what ties the whole cake together. I hadn’t planned to brush the cake with rum, but it seemed like a good idea and I did not regret it. The bite from the fresh ginger mellows after a day or two, as does the alcohol from the rum, and this is a cake that improves with time.

Pear, Ginger and Rum Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Makes one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf cake

Cake adapted from David Lebovitz in the New York Times; pear jam from Practical Self Reliance; salted caramel frosting adapted from Let The Baking Begin

Ingredients

Ginger Rum Cake
  • 140g molasses
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 80g neutral oil, like canola
  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 oz fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (optional)

Pear Jam
  • 1 lb pears that are just shy of ripe
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Salted Caramel Frosting
  • 4 oz butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 7 oz salted caramel sauce

Instructions

To make the jam:

  1. Peel, core and dice pears. (Be sure to chop the pears relatively small, as they’ll remain close to that size in the finished jam.)
  2. Toss the pears in lemon juice and sugar, cover and refrigerate for overnight (12 to 24 hours). This step is important, and at an absolute minimum, they need 4 hours, preferably more.
  3. Place pear mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil on high. The mixture will foam, so be sure your pan is big enough to handle foaming to avoid overflows.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally, watching for overflows, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. If pear pieces are too large, crush slightly with a potato masher (optional).
  5. Cook until the pear jam reaches gel stage at 220 F, using an instant-read thermometer or testing a small amount on a plate placed in the freezer.
  6. Set aside the pear jam in the fridge for later use.

To make the cake:

  1. Position rack in center of oven. Heat to 350 degrees. Line a 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the molasses, sugar and oil. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
  3. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Stir in baking soda, then mix hot water into molasses mixture. Stir in ginger.
  4. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into batter. Add egg, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into prepared pan, and bake for about 50 minutes, until top of cake springs back lightly when pressed or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If the top of cake browns too quickly before cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.
  5. Cool cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen it from pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack, and peel off parchment paper.

To make the frosting:

  1. Start with room temperature butter. For this, remove butter out of the fridge for about 3 hours.
  2. Add the butter to the mixer bowl and whip for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides several times throughout. Then add salted caramel sauce until just mixed.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Slice cake into three layers. Brush each layer with rum, if desired.
  2. Spread pear jam onto two of the layers.
  3. Assemble cake into a three-layered stack.
  4. I recommend freezing the cake for about 30 minutes for easier frosting. Spread salted caramel frosting all over the cake.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Rum Butter Glaze from Ottolenghi

I saw these gingerbread cookies when I was at Ottolenghi’s in London. What struck me about the cookies was how soft they felt beneath the packaging, but alas, I never ended up purchasing them in favor of other treats. Luckily for me, the recipe was easy enough to find online and therefore recreate at home. I learned that it was originally a Tartine recipe that Ottolenghi found super compelling and had to include in his book, Sweet.

I didn’t have a cookie stamp, so I made my own with salt dough, which is essentially flour, salt, and water formed into a clay and baked at a low temperature to form a mold. I used the end of a funnel to form this holey honeycomb pattern.

How soft the cookies were really depends on the thickness of the dough, how long it was in the oven, and whether the cookies were cut from the first roll-out or reconstituted dough scraps, which tends to have incorporated extra flour sprinkled on the bench to prevent sticking.

The cookie was warmingly spiced with black pepper, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, and not too sweet. I loved the rum glaze; it added a touch more spice and just a bit more complexity. I actually forgot to add butter to the glaze, but I didn’t find that the cookie suffered from it at all. I also loved how the glaze cracks with each bite.

Soft Gingerbread Cookies with Rum Butter Glaze from Ottolenghi

Recipe from Epicurious

Makes 12 3-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 packed cup plus 2 tbsp (90 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (100 g) blackstrap molasses (I used regular molasses)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp (235 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for pressing
  • 1 tbsp Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used regular cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Place the butter, sugar and molasses in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until smooth and incorporated. Add the egg yolk and continue to beat until fully combined.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper into a bowl. Turn the speed of the mixer to low, and add the dry ingredients to the butter and molasses. Once the mix comes together, tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently. Roll out the dough so that it is about 1/4 inch/ 0.5 cm thick. If the dough is very soft, you will need to chill it.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  4. Dip the cookie stamps in a small bowl of flour, shake off any excess and then press them firmly into the dough, one at a time, to create a deep imprint. How far you need to press to get an imprint will depend on your stamp; the patterns on some are more deeply cut than others. Bear in mind that the cookies rise a little when cooked, so any soft imprints will disappear. Using a round cookie cutter that is slightly larger than the pattern, cut out the pieces of imprinted gingerbread. Transfer the cookies to the lined baking sheets, spaced about 3/4 inch/2 cm apart. Reroll the dough and continue to stamp and cut cookies until all the dough is used up.
  5. Bake for 9–10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until firm to the touch. They will continue to firm up as they cool, so don’t be tempted to bake them for any longer.
  6. To make the rum butter glaze while the gingerbreads are in the oven, as the glaze needs to be brushed onto the cookies while they are still warm, sift the confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon into a small bowl. Add the melted butter, rum (or lemon juice) and water and mix with a spoon until smooth. The glaze will thicken slightly if it sits around, so stir through a little more warm water if you need to—it should be the consistency of runny honey.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven, leave them to cool for 5 minutes, then brush or dab the glaze all over with a pastry brush. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lacto-Fermented Blueberries

Ever since I began making my own sauerkraut last year, I’ve been on a lacto-fermenting kick. I wanted to ferment everything in sight, and the Noma Guide to Fermentation has been good about providing inspiration for things to ferment, as well as narratives around their trials and errors. Lacto-fermented blueberries is one of the more popular Noma recipes, which the New Yorker also covered.

How do these lacto-fermented blueberries taste? The plump and juicy acidity that characterizes fresh blueberries evolve into a more mellow tang that’s rounded out with savory notes, and has a slightly jammy consistency that works really well as a yogurt topping. It evokes the flavor of umeboshi, or Japanese preserved plums. I also really liked the addition of roasted flax seeds with the fermented blueberries – the toasty, nutty, and crunch texture made this feel even more like a complete meal.

Lacto-fermentation is exceedingly straightforward, and requires minimum time or money investment – I highly recommend you give it a go.

LACTO-Fermented Blueberries

Ingredients
  • Some amount of blueberries
  • 2% of its weight in salt
Equipment
  • Zip lock bag and a glass jar OR
  • A vacuum sealer and a vacuum sealing bag
Instructions
  1. Rinse blueberries in tap water; just enough to rinse off any visible debris or dirt. You don’t want it to be completely sterile; the bacteria that’s naturally occurring on the skin of the fruit is what’s driving the fermentation process.
  2. Mix blueberries and salt in a bowl.
  3. Using a spatula, scrape blueberries and salt into the glass jar OR the vacuum sealing bag.
    1. If using a glass jar: Fill zip lock bag with water, and place it in the jar, covering the blueberries. Minimize the air exposure the blueberries will have by gently massaging the water-filled zip lock bag into the nooks and crannies the blueberries have created.
    2. If using a vacuum sealer: Ensure blueberries are in a a single layer in the bag. Vacuum seal it.
  4. Let the blueberries hang out in a dark corner for a bit, anywhere from 3 days (if it’s a hot summer’s day) to a week. I let mine hang out for four days at around 20 degrees Celsius and I think it could’ve gone two more days for extra funk.

Chocolate Chip Cookies With Black Sesame and Seaweed

IMG_2567 2 This chocolate chip cookie has such an unusual combination of ingredients that I simply had to try it out for myself. Rye flour, black sesame, and SEAWEED?! Granted, it took me multiple grocery stores to amass this collection of bizarre ingredients (rye flour from Whole Foods, seaweed from Chinatown, and tahini from Trader Joe’s – yes I could’ve gotten all three from the same place, but I wasn’t in a rush.) Personally I’m not sure the seaweed really added much to the cookie. Granted, I did NOT use salted seaweed snacks. While wouldn’t call it a savory cookie, it certainly had a nutty and unctuous quality, that tasted not too sweet and very grown-up and gourmet. IMG_2568 2 To me, the best thing about the cookie is actually the bake. It’s baked at a slightly higher temperature of 400F, and cooling it on the tray allows the crust to firm up and stabilize while keeping the cookie soft and gooey in the middle. Not to mention the fun crunchy bits the black sesame seeds on the outside lend to the cookie. IMG_2569 2 Chocolate Chip Cookies with Black Sesame and Seaweed Makes 22 cookies From The New York Times

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups/190 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups/140 grams dark rye flour or pumpernickel flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ packed teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup/165 grams dark brown sugar
  • ⅔ cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/140 grams unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon/105 grams black sesame paste, such as Kevala Black Sesame Tahini, or regular tahini
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 13 ounces/370 grams 65 to 70 percent dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup/5 grams kizami nori (toasted and shredded seaweed) (see Tip)
  • 1 cup/120 grams black sesame seeds, to coat

Preparation

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and rye flours, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt; set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars together on medium speed to blend. Add butter and beat on medium until beginning to lighten and starting to become creamy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time to the butter mixture, beating until incorporated, then add the black sesame paste and vanilla, and blend just until combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture all at once, and use a sturdy rubber spatula to fold it into the butter mixture until about halfway combined, and the mixture goes from a shaggy mess to a semi-combined dough. Scatter the chocolate and seaweed on top and fold just until dough forms. (A gentle touch is necessary, as overmixing can cause the dough to separate and crumble.)
  5. Add the black sesame seeds to a shallow bowl. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, portion the dough into about 22 balls (60 grams each). Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll it between your palms until rounded, then gently roll it into the sesame seeds until coated all over. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and transfer to the refrigerator to chill at least 4 hours. (You can prepare the dough balls up to one week in advance; transfer to a lidded container or loosely cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
  6. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the cookies a few inches apart on a large baking sheet and bake until they have spread out slightly but are still puffed in the center, about 12 minutes. Once you’ve removed the baking sheet from the oven, gently tap the center of each cookie down using the bottom of a ladle, pressing just until you’ve created a slightly indented crater. (This technique helps ensure a gooey and chewy center.)
  7. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store, covered, at room temperature, up to 2 days.

Multigrain Sunflower Seed Bread

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I’ve been on a sourdough bread kick lately, and I’m finally confident enough about some of my creations to share them on here – namely this multigrain sunflower seed bread. This bread contains a rye levain, rye flour, cracked wheat (i.e. whole wheat berries I blitzed in a blender for a little bit), malted wheat flakes, and whole wheat flour. It is a recipe from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread.

This bread has a really complex flavor and texture profile that I adore. All of the different grains and the sourdough starter come together to create something slightly tangy, but also a little earthy, a little nutty. The sunflower seeds add crunch, and the bread has a crisp crust with a more yielding interior. I love to eat the slices plain, but also lightly toasted.

Having made several recipes from Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s How to Make Bread, I can finally feel comfortable with this book, and all of its quirks and nuances. The ingredients for each recipe create perfectly harmonious flavors, but the instructions are way off. I never pay attention to the rising times and bake times anymore. I rely on look and feel (and several failed loaves) to figure out rising times, and as for bake times, I have my trusty Thermopop to let me know when a loaf is done. (This King Arthur Flour blog post has been most instructive for appropriate temperatures based on bread type; the kind of crusty/dense sourdough breads I prefer tend to skew hotter, around 210F.)

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Multigrain Sunflower Seed Bread
Makes 1 medium (500g) loaf
6×4 inch loaf pan, greased

Ingredients
10g blackstrap or dark molasses
155g warm water
100g chopped/cracked rye berries (I used wheat berries)
140g dark rye flour
30g whole wheat flour
10g malted wheat flakes (substitute with whole wheat flour if you don’t have this)
10g salt
100g sunflower seeds (I used roasted and unsalted)
3g active dry yeast
80g warm water
60g rye sourdough starter (100% hydration)

  1. In one bowl, mix molasses, 155g water, and chopped/cracked rye berries until molasses dissolve. Let soak until soft – overnight if necessary.
  2. In another bowl, mix flours, salt, seeds. This is your dry mixture.
  3. In a larger mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 80g water, and stir in sourdough starter. This is your wet mixture.
  4. Add soaked berries to your wet mixture, and mix. Now add dry mixture and stir well.
  5. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a towel. Complete first rise, or your bulk fermentation, roughly 5-8 hours. The dough should have bubbles under the surface and would have expanded by about 30%.
  6. Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan, and use a plastic scraper or tablespoon dipped in water to smooth the surface of the dough.
  7. Cover the loaf pan loosely with greased cling wrap, and let rise until dough reaches slightly over the top of loaf pan.
  8. Preheat oven to 475F with a roasting pan in the bottom. When ready to bake, pour a cup of water into the roasting pan. Put loaf pan in and immediately reduce temperature to 450F.
  9. Bread will take about 45 minutes, or when inner temperature reads close to 205F-210F.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack.

Bread Illustrated’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cooler temps always inspires me to turn on the oven and bake something. I was debating between something with pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon in it, and this cinnamon swirl bread won. Because pumpkin pie spice – ya’ basic.

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This loaf is a real stunner. I really enjoy making braided breads because of the technical finesse involved. Dumping brownie batter in a pan, or shaping cookie dough balls doesn’t interest me. But rolling out dough and shaping it and re-introducing it to the loaf pan while maintaining its shape… now that’s the stuff.

IMG_1040

Looking at the loaf sliced through is making me realize I probably should invest in a bread knife. Look at all of that unfortunate compression! But that aside, it really is a stellar recipe. I cannot recommend Bread Illustrated enough for its step-by-step photos and precise instructions. As Brene Brown might say, clear is kind. The bread was fluffy, enriched, and just a tad sweet.

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The swirls were such a visual treat. I can totally imagine French-toasting this bread, or serving it with cinnamon raisin cream cheese for a cinnamon raisin double whammy.

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Bread Illustrated’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Adapted from Bread Illustrated
Makes one 8.5 inch x 4.5 inch loaf

equipment: stand mixer, rolling pin, pastry brush, instant-read thermometer, 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan

dough
4 tbsps (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
1.75 cups + 2 tbsps of flour (10.5 oz) bread flour
6 tbsps (1.125 oz) nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 tbsp active or instant yeast
0.75 cups (6 oz) of water, room temperature
1/6 cup (1.16 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 egg (or 2 tbsps, or 25g)
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (3.75 oz) golden raisins

filling
1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 egg, lightly beaten with 1/2 tbsp water and pinch of salt

1. for the dough Toss butter with 1/2 tbsp flour in a bowl and set aside to soften. Whisk remaining flour, milk powder, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer. In a separate 4-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk water, sugar and egg until sugar dissolves. Using a dough hook on low speed, slowly add water mixture to flour mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rest 20 minutes.

2. Add salt to dough and knead on medium-low speed until dough is smooth, elastic, and clears sides of bowl, about 8 minutes. With mixer running, add butter, a few pieces at a time, and knead until butter is fully incorporated, about 4 minutes. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl, 3-5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add raisins and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

3. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container. Using a greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough towards the middle. Turn the bowl 45 degrees and repeat. Do this for a total of 8 folds. Cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rise for 45 minutes. Repeat folding 8 times, cover tightly with plastic again and let dough rise until nearly doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter. Press and roll into 11×6 inch rectangle, with short side parallel to counter edge. Fold dough lengthwise so it’s 11 by 3 inches. From the short 3-inch edge, roll dough away from you so it’s a firm ball, keeping it taut.

5. For the filling Whisk all together in bowl until combined. Coat rolled dough ball lightly in flour and place on lightly floured counter. With seam side down, flatten ball with rolling pin into 18 x 7 inch rectangle, short side parallel to counter edge. Mist surface of dough with water (I wet my hands and speckled it over the dough, you can use a spray bottle.) Spread filling mixture over dough, leaving 1/4 inch border on sides, and 3/4 inch border on top and bottom. Mist filling with water once more.

6. Roll dough away from you into firm cylinder. Pinch seam and ends closed. Dust cylinder lightly on all sides with flour, covering loosely with greased plastic, and let rest for 10 minutes.

7. Grease one 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan. Cut cylinder in half lengthwise. Turn halves cut side up and gently strength into 14-inch lengths. Arrange strips side by side, perpendicular to counter edge, and pinch the far end together. Take left strip of dough and lay over right strip. Repeat, keeping cut sides up, until dough is twisted all the way through. Pinch remaining end closed. Transfer loaf cut side up into pan. Press dough into corners of pan and pushed any exposed raisins into seams of the braid. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until loaves reach 1 inch above lip of pan, and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 1.5 to 2 hours.

8. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Brush loaves with egg mixture and bake until crust is well-browned, about 25 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through. Reduce oven to 325 F, tent loaf with aluminium foil, and continue baking until internal temperature of loaf reaches 200-205 F, about 15 to 25 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove loaf from pan, let cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.

BraveTart’s Brown Butter Carrot Cake

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Ugly spatula work, delicious cake

These days, I bake desserts rather infrequently, and when I do decide to make something, I want it to be worth my while – and I trust Stella Parks from Serious Eats. Her recent April Fools’ article for the site was an embodiment of the surgical attention to detail that she stands for. And her carrot cake recipe is just that. I always read recipes before I begin them, and even then, I made a few mistakes which thankfully didn’t hurt the cake at all.

This carrot cake is really delicious and well worth the hours of attention it demanded. It’s moist, is generously studded with pecans, and the cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet. However, I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe:

  • I had halved the recipe because a) I didn’t want to have to shred two pounds of carrots and b) I’m going to get pretty sick of eating all that carrot cake after some time. It still produced a substantial two-layer 8-inch cake, and there weren’t any volume issues when it came to mixing the cake in the stand mixer, so I would highly recommend
  • I also accidentally used 25% less butter in the cake than prescribed – I had set aside 1.5 sticks of butter for the frosting, but instead used it for the cake (which required 2 sticks). I thought the cake did not suffer from this reduction at all.
  • I used 19% more carrots than instructed because I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough – the ingredient list called for 405g whole, unpeeled carrots, while you only need 340g of shredded carrots in the cake. I didn’t think the extra carrots hurt the recipe either.
  • I did not have a vanilla bean and just used 1 tbsp of regular vanilla extract in the cream cheese frosting. It ended up tasting way too artificial, so I would recommend procuring a vanilla bean, or using maybe just 1 tsp instead of 1 tbsp of extract as a substitute.
  • This might be a controversial opinion, but as moist the cake was and as wonderful the crunch from the pecans were, I was really missing the burst from plump, juicy raisins. If I were to remake this, I’d probably add in some golden raisins (they tend to be juicier) or at the very least, raisins re-hydrated in hot water, that’s 50% the volume of the pecans.

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BraveTart’s Brown Butter Carrot Cake

Makes a two-layer 8-inch cake
Adapted from Serious Eats
Note: I’ve modified the recipe and instructions to better suit the half-recipe I made with the inadvertent “healthier” substitutes (i.e. less butter, more carrots).

For the Cake:
7 ounces pecan pieces (1 3/4 cups; 198g) (I got the toasted version from Trader Joe’s which eliminated the toasting step)
14 oz finely shredded carrots (approx 3.5 firmly packed cups, 405g) can be refrigerated up to a week in advance)
6 ounces unsalted butter (1.5 sticks; 170g)
7 ounces white sugar (1 cup; 198g)
4 ounces light brown sugar (1/2 cup, gently packed; 113g) (I used 100g of white sugar and 13g of Grandma’s Original Molasses)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 + 3/8 teaspoons (3.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (7g)
3 large eggs, straight from the fridge
5.5 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal (1 1/4 cups, spooned; 155g)
2.5 ounces whole wheat flour, not stone-ground (1/2 cup; 70g)

For the Frosting:
(The amount below makes 50% of the original recipe, but the surface area to be frosted only dropped by 33%. This will mean a slightly thinner frosting than if you weren’t making a half-recipe, but I was fine with the amount of frosting the cake had.)

Custard
6 ounces milk, any percentage will do (about 3/4 cups; 170g)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 ounces sugar (about 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon; 113g)
3/4 ounces cornstarch (about 1/6 cup, spooned; 23g)
1.5 large eggs, straight from the fridge (for the half egg, use 2 tbsps of a beaten egg)
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (7g)

Buttercream
8 ounces full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese, softened to about 65°F/18°C (1 eight-ounce packages; 227g)
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened to about 65°F/18°C (1.5 sticks; 170g)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)

Instructions
To better synchronize the downtime between recipes, make the cream cheese frosting first, which is made of a custard and a buttercream.

FROSTING, PART 1 of 2: The Custard
1. In a 3-quart stainless steel saucier, combine the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, shut off the heat, cover, and steep 30 minutes. Alternately, cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 24 hours to extract the deepest vanilla flavor. Meanwhile, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium bowl, followed by the eggs.

2. Return milk to a simmer and discard vanilla bean after scraping out the flavorful pulp inside. Ladle 1/4 cup hot milk into the eggs and whisk to combine. Repeat with a second and third ladleful, then pour the warmed eggs into the pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard turns thick and lumpy, about 3 minutes. After it begins to bubble sluggishly, continue cooking and whisking 2 full minutes to neutralize a starch-dissolving protein found in the yolks, and until the custard is smooth.

3. Off heat, stir in vanilla extract, then pour custard into a large baking dish to speed the cooling process. Press a sheet of plastic against the surface and refrigerate until thick and cool, about 1 hour, or to roughly 68°F (20°C). Alternatively, refrigerate up to 1 week and stand at room temperature until warmed to roughly 68°F.

Now that the custard is cooling, move on to making the cake. I would finish the frosting recipe while the cake is cooling.

CAKE
4. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Toast the pecans on a baking sheet until golden brown, about 10 minutes, and cool completely.

This would be a good time to shred your carrots, if you haven’t already done them.

5. To make browned butter for the cake: in a small saucepan, completely melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase to medium and simmer, stirring with a heat-resistant spatula while the butter hisses and pops. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping up any brown bits that form along the pan, until the butter is golden-yellow and perfectly silent. Pour into a heat-safe measuring cup, along with all the toasty brown bits, and proceed as directed, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week; melt before using.

6. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease two 8-inch anodized aluminum cake pans and line with parchment (instructions here). If you don’t have two pans, it’s okay to bake the cakes in stages; the batter will keep at room temperature until needed.

7. Combine white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase to medium and whip until thick and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Drizzle in the brown butter in a steady stream, then reduce speed to low and add the flours. Once smooth, fold in shredded carrots and pecans with a flexible spatula.

8. Divide batter between the prepared cake pans, about 28 ounces each. If you don’t have two pans, the remaining batter can be held at room temperature up to 3 hours. (Note that if you only have one cake pan, this will mean you’ll have to be in the kitchen at 30 minute to 60 minute intervals. So don’t commit to anything else. Really.) Bake until cakes are golden, about 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center will have a few crumbs still attached, and your fingertip will leave a slight indentation in the puffy crust.

9. Cool cakes directly in their pans for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and return cakes right side up (covered in plastic, the cakes can be left at room temperature for a few hours).

Now that the cake is cooling, it’s a good time to prepare the buttercream to finish up the rest of the frosting.

FROSTING, PART 2 of 2: The Buttercream
10. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese and butter on medium speed until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the thick pudding in its dish to create a thick, dough-like mass. Scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, then switch to whisk attachment and whip on medium speed. Add pudding a few tablespoons at a time, then drizzle in the lemon juice; if you like, season to taste with a pinch of salt (see note). Scrape the bowl once more and whip a few seconds to ensure no lumps remain. The finished frosting should be light and creamy, but thick enough to hang upside down from a spoon.

Once the cake layers are cooled, it’s time to stack it up!

11. I didn’t think the cake needed leveling since they didn’t dome that much, but please use a serrated knife to do so if you wish. I also did not have a cake turntable or an offset spatula, so I placed the cake on an inverted plate and used the back of a chef’s knife to apply the frosting.

12. To crumb coat the cake:Use 1 cup of the frosting to spread it on one of the cake layers. Place the second layer on top, and top with another cup of frosting. Cover the sides of the cake with about 3/4 cup of frosting, as thinly as you can. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes so the frosting sets.

13. Decorate the cake with the rest of the frosting. Under a cake dome or an inverted pot, the frosted cake will keep 24 hours at cool room temperature. For longer storage, freeze the sliced cake for a couple of hours until the frosting is hard and no longer tacky. Wrap each slice well with cling wrap to avoid moisture loss or air exposure. Freeze cake for up to a month.

Super Thick Levain-Style Chocolate Chip Cookie from Stella Parks

Chocolate chip cookies will never go out of style, and there’s always a new recipe claiming to be the best or the Last Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You’ll Ever Need. And honestly, I prefer a more egalitarian approach – it’s all going to boil down to what you’re in the mood for. And this time, I was in the mood for a big honking ooey-gooey Levain-style chocolate chip cookie.

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And this was definitely a honkingly huge cookie from Stella Parks of Serious Eats. Each cookie weighed 6 ounces. I don’t even want to think about how many calories it contains. But by God was it delicious. The original Levain cookie contains walnuts, as does this recipe. And there have been competitors like Chip NYC and Gooey on the Inside that also do the barely-baked-hunk-of-dough thing, but their chocolate chip cookies do NOT have walnuts and I think it makes a significant difference to the textural and flavor complexity of the cookie.

Stella Parks’ recipes are always detailed, and they’re not only prescriptive but also informative. She explains that a pinch of nutmeg makes butter taste more buttery, and also recommends using different sizes and darkness of chocolate chips to add interest. I don’t usually keep chocolate chips at home because I prefer to chop up a high quality bar of semisweet, but Stella explains that this massive cookie needs the structural stability that commercial chocolate chips would provide.

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The original recipe indicated a 22 minute bake time at 350 F, and I thought that was a little too gooey for me, as pictured below. The cookie was falling apart in my hand, but it was still super delicious. I’d probably bake it to 25 minutes next time though. I love the crisp edges and the gooey and toasty interior. I made a half recipe (which yielded 4 cookies), and didn’t have any issues with simply halving everything. These cookies do require an overnight rest period, but I promise it’s worth it.

Super Thick Levain-Style Chocolate Chip Cookie from Stella Parks
Makes 8 large shareable cookies
From Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces unsalted American butter (about 1/2 cup; 113g), softened to about 65°F (18°C)
  • 4 ounces light brown sugar (about 1/2 cup, firmly packed; 113g)
  • 3 1/2 ounces white sugar, preferably well toasted (about 1/2 cup; 100g)
  • 1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
  • 2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight (plus more for sprinkling, if desired)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs (about 3 1/2 ounces; 100g), straight from the fridge
  • 10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups, spooned; 283g), such as Gold Medal
  • 15 ounces assorted chocolate chips (about 2 1/2 cups; 425g), not chopped chocolate; see note
  • 8 1/2 ounces raw walnut pieces or lightly toasted pecan pieces (shy 1 3/4 cups; 240g)
  1. To Prepare the Dough: Combine butter, light brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Mix on low to moisten, then increase speed to medium and beat until soft, fluffy, and pale, about 8 minutes; halfway through, pause to scrape bowl and beater with a flexible spatula. With mixer running, add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Reduce speed to low, then add the flour all at once. When flour is incorporated, add chocolate chips and nuts and keep mixing until dough is homogeneous.
  3. Divide dough into 8 equal portions (about 6 ounces/170g each) and round each into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 12 hours before baking; if well protected from air, the dough can be kept in the fridge up to 1 week.
  4. To Bake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line an aluminum half-sheet pan with parchment paper. When the oven comes to temperature, arrange up to 4 portions of cold dough on prepared pan, leaving ample space between them to account for spread. If you like, sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
  5. Bake until cookies are puffed and lightly brown, about 22 minutes or to an internal temperature of between 175 and 185°F (79 and 85°C). The ideal temperature will vary from person to person; future rounds can be baked more or less to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Cool cookies directly on baking sheet until no warmer than 100°F (38°C) before serving. Enjoy warm, or within 12 hours; these cookies taste best when freshly baked.

Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Poppy Seed Cookies

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Now that it’s officially fall, it means that turning on the oven to cook is no longer an unwelcome prospect. I came across this chocolate chip cookie recipe on the New York Times and was intrigued by its unconventional additions. It contained rye flour (of which I still had some remaining from my Nordic bread-making experiments), but also dried cranberries and poppy seeds.

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The cookie was invented by Moko Hirayama, who runs a bakery called Mokonuts in Paris, and she was very precise about why each ingredient is included:

The cranberries are a bit sour, and they offset the cookie’s sweetness; the chocolate is bitter, another guard against the cookie’s being too sweet; and the rye flour, well, it makes the cookie a little more tender, but it found a place in the mix because Hirayama was attracted to its beautiful gray color. [The poppyseeds] speckle the cookie, look tweedy and autumnal and taste just this side of knowable — there’s a mystery about them. Hirayama says she added them to make the cookie crunchy, and they do.

I’ve not seen these ingredients in combination before, but it makes so much sense now that I’ve tasted these cookies. Poppy seeds also have a special place in my heart. I had mohnkuchen – or poppy seed cake – in Austria for the first time last Christmas, and it’s not like the sparsely populated application that you see in lemon poppy seed cake – the poppy seeds in mohnkuchen was packed to density and made the cake look nearly black.

mohnkuchen
Mohnkuchen, or poppy seed cake in German

But back to these cookies. I really enjoy how sweetness isn’t its primary feature: the nuttiness from the rye flour, the textural complexity from the poppy seeds, plus the generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt definitely makes these a gourmet chocolate chip cookie that you should try making this fall.

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Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Poppy Seed Cookies
Makes 15 large cookies
From NYTimes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (130 grams) medium rye flour
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (85 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter at cool room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup (100 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  •  cup (50 grams) poppy seeds
  •  cup (80 grams) moist, plump dried cranberries (I did this by steeping my dried cranberries in hot water for about 15 minutes)
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
  •  Flake salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

PREPARATION

  1. Whisk together the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sea salt and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Working with a mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment, if you have one), beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until blended; scrape the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once, then pulse the mixer a few times to begin blending the ingredients. Beat on low speed until the flour almost disappears, and then add the poppy seeds, cranberries and chocolate. Mix only until incorporated. Scrape the bowl to bring the dough together.
  3. Have a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or plastic wrap nearby. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place on the baking sheet. Cover, and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 3 days. (If you’d like, you can wrap the balls airtight and freeze them for up to 1 month. Defrost them overnight in the fridge before baking.)
  4. When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the cookies on the sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (work with half a batch at a time and keep the remaining balls of dough in the refrigerator until needed). Sprinkle each cookie with a little flake salt, crushing it between your fingers as you do.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using cold dough and a cool baking sheet.
  6. Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.