July 1, 2015

Mixed Starter Bread

mixed starter bread


I have always wanted to understand the mysteries of making bread.  As a small child I watched my mother mix and knead bread by hand in our kitchen in southern California.  She stood at the counter to the left of the stove and kneaded the dough with a passion.  Times were tough and homemade bread was more economical than store bought bread.  This was during the times when store bought manufactured products symbolized ease, convenience, stability and success.  I loved the smell of the yeasty dough, the magical round of dough in a bowl rising under a towel on the stove, and the wonderful smell of baking bread that filled the house.  This bread was precious even though it came about during a time of hardship it bound my family together around our small table with the cozy warmth that homemade bread brings to a home.

I have yet to master bread making but year by year I increase my skills as I continue to make and try new recipes.  I have always wanted to use a starter so this was my first attempt.  My son was inspired to make bread while I made this bread and he made No Knead Bread and we had a taste test between the two (the round loaf in the bottom photo).  The Mixed Starter bread had a deeper, richer flavor than the no knead bread which I contribute to the longer process of flour and yeast development .

Two Day Mixed Starter Bread

Old-dough Starter - 8 hour rise
½ ounce of risen dough from white bread or pizza (I saved a piece of my pizza dough)
¼ cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Second Starter - 4 hour rise - up to an 8 hour chill
All of the old-dough starter
¼ cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Final Dough – 1 ½ hours rise
1 ¼ cups cool water (78ºF)
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Second starter, cut into pieces
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Shape Dough, Final Rise – 1 ½ hours, Bake – 20 minutes

Old-dough Starter
Cut the old dough into pieces and add them to stand mixer bowl.
Add the warm water, and let sit for about 5 minutes.
With the paddle, gradually add the flour for 2 to 3 minutes.
Place it back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 8 hours.
The dough will be soft, springy, bubbly and sticky.
Second Starter
Scrape old dough starter onto cutting board and cut into 4 pieces.
Place pieces in stand mixer mixing bowl and add warm water.
Let dough soften for about 5 minutes.
Mix in flour with paddle attachment and mix on low for 2-3 minutes.
This dough will be soft.
Transfer dough to large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 4 hours.
The dough will double and the gluten will be long and lacy when stretched and smell sweet and yeasty.
Chill dough for a minimum of 1 hour but no more than 8 hours.
Final Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, the yeast, and the second starter pieces.
Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add all of the flour and mix at low speed with the paddle until dough is cohesive and flour is incorporated.
Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the dough.
Knead on medium to medium high for about 8 minutes.
Dough will be soft and moist.
If the dough rises up the hook push back down into bowl.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let it rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot (80ºF to 85ºF).
The dough will have bubbles visible under the surface.
Gently stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides," and let it rise, covered, for another 45 minutes.
Baguette Shape
Portion off dough into 10 ounce pieces.
Shape into rough rectangles without smashing the dough.
Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all-purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed tea towel, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide.

The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the tea towel to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the tea towel with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed tea towel, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

Place a pizza stone in your oven, and preheat it to 450ºF.
Place a cast iron pan on bottom rack and fill with 1 cup of water. 2 minutes before loaves go in.
Flip loaves onto a rice flour or corn meal coated peel or cookie sheet without sides.
Slash the baguettes with a razor or very sharp knife.
Make 3 diagonal slashes the length of the bread.
Slide loaves onto baking stone quickly to maintain the ovens temperature and steam.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and interior temperature reads

Cool completely on a wire rack.

bread bake off

June 30, 2015

Almond Coffee Cake Ring

almond coffee cake ring

almond coffee cake ring

Entenmann's was a staple during my teenage years.  My father worked shift work and he liked coffee cake on his break at work - somehow the coffee cake made the long night hours more bearable, more civilized, when most people were snug in their beds, the coffee break with coffee and cake made it more bearable.  My father has never verbalized this sentiment but he did have habits that indicated comfort - the mental and physical comfort that food can bring.  He is not of the school of meditation or mantras, he is connected to the deep root of his childhood and the comforts food brought.  Before a long stretch of a night shift work like he would make his homemade chicken soup and pack his lunch box with his Entemann's coffee cake, often this style almond cake or the New York style crumb cake.

This is a delicious cake especially if you enjoy the intense creamy flavor of almonds.

Almond Ring Coffee Cake
Makes 2 rings, each serving 8-10 

1 tube almond paste (7 ounces)
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cups warm milk (110ºF)
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted and cooled
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for topping)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4½ cups flour, plus extra for work surface
1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt

3 large egg whites
½ cup sliced almonds
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, and cream cheese until smooth. 
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
This can be done the day before but not necessary.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 200ºF, turn off oven when it reaches temperature.
Or set your oven to bread proofing if your oven is equipped with that feature.
Grease a large bowl with flavorless oil. 
Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
Mix milk, sugar, melted butter, yolks, and vanilla in medium bowl.
Mix flour, yeast, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
Turn mixer to low and slowly add milk mixture.
After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes - dough will be sticky.
Turn dough onto heavily floured work surface, shape into ball, and transfer to greased bowl.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough is almost doubled, about 20 minutes.
Divide dough into 2 equal pieces on lightly floured work surface.
Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into 18-by-9-inch rectangle with long side facing you.
Spread with half of filling and roll up dough.
Brush top edge with water, then press to seal and transfer, seam side down, to parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a ring or circle.
With a sharp knife, make cuts around outside of dough, about 1½ inches apart, leaving about an inch of intact dough at the top of your cut (inner ring). 
The dough remains attached by the inner ring.
Turn each piece of dough so that the filling is showing face up on the baking sheet.
You are twisting an attached cinnamon roll to face up on the baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling
Cover with plastic wrap coated with oil
Return to oven until rings have puffed slightly, 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Whisk reserved egg whites in a small bowl
Brush rings with egg whites and sprinkle with almonds.
Bake until deep brown, about 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. 
Whisk confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla in small bowl until smooth.  Drizzle icing over baked coffee cakes and serve warm. 

Adapted from Cook’s Country

June 2, 2015

Coconut Cream Pie

coconut cream pie


tea with coconut cream pie

I have a coconut lover in the house.  Her passion for coconut may have started when we pried open a coconut on a trip to Hawaii or more likely influenced by all the paleo recipes and advice from the nutrition and exercise gurus on the internet expounding the benefit of the coconut.  A birthday request for a coconut cream pie was placed.  This was a delicious pie – rich and creamy and delicious. 

Coconut Cream Pie

½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups unsweetened coconut milk (from a 13.75­ounce can)
1¼  cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾-1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, to your preference
Crust one recipe of pâte brisée

Pâte Brisée
Makes Single Crust
1¼  cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½  teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of ice cold butter cut into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup ice water

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt for 10 seconds.
Open lid and spread butter cubes over flour return lid and pulse for around 10 seconds until mixture looks like crumbs with some larger pieces of butter.
Add water through the feed tube until dough comes together when you gather up in your hand a squeeze.
This should take no more than 30 seconds (over processed dough equals a tough crust).
If too crumbly and it won't hold together, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time.
Flatten into a disk on a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight or I pop mine into the freezer for 20-30 minutes

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. 
Roll dough on a lightly floured surface into a disk about 9 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch in thickness.
Place dough pie dish gently pushing dough into edges not stretching. 
Trim edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes or 15 minutes in the freezer.
Blind bake using foil or parchment to line the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake the crust at 375ºF for 25 minutes.
Remove the foil with the weights and bake the crust until the bottom is golden and dry about 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool

Coconut Filling

Combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.
Whisk in coconut milk and whole milk.
Cook over medium­ high heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl.
Add milk mixture to yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated.
Return to saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened.
Strain custard through a fine sieve into a bowl, and stir in vanilla and shredded coconut. Pour into piecrust, and smooth top.
Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until filling is completely set, about 4 hours, and up to 2 days.

Toasted Coconut
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Spread coconut amount of your choice evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Slow Whipped Smooth Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add more or less sugar to your preference)
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chill your bowl and whisk of your stand mixer, in the freezer or refrigerator 15 minutes prior to mixing.
Add the cream to a mixer with the whisk attachment and set to a low speed*.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the mixture slowly.
Whisk for around 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to ripple.
Turn the mixer off and finish whisking by hand, until the mixture starts to stiffen and sticks to the whisk.
Be careful not to whisk too hard or the frosting will become clumpy.

*This method of mixing your whip cream produces a thick, smooth and stable whipped cream that will not breakdown and become runny.  The low speed forms small air bubbles that create a stable structure in the cream.  Whipping cream fast creates large unstable air bubbles that collapse and run.  

coconut cream pie


We Tried a Coconut

May 19, 2015

Sweet Grammy - Blonde Brownie Recipe

the world is moving and she is right there with it

my grammy

Grammy's Blonde Brownies

My Grammy

Genevieve Charlotte  1918 – 2012

A generation is swept away with the fallen leaves on a chill breeze
No longer there to pass the time to
Share their wisdom, their view of a world that now travels at hyper-speed,
Sit with confusion and pain
Melancholy and fatigue,
Mondays are for washing and hanging clothes on the line
Tuesdays are for hair and shopping
Wednesdays are for lunch with the ladies at the diner
Saturday is for mowing
Sunday is for baking and family,
Famous for banana bread and blonde brownies,
Lover of ice cream,
Bestow smiles on the young
Hold a daughter's hand ever so tightly,
Hang on to this place, this time,
Hold sway at the kitchen table with coffee and english muffins,
Fret over a husbands misgivings and whereabouts
"Hon, what are you doing now!"
“Oh, hon!” with a small foot stamp and clenched hands,
Tackle the lawn with a fierce gusto
Take down screens and put up storm windows
Take down storm windows and put up screens
Close the windows when it rains,
Struck by lightning as a girl
Hard times and displacement,
Plant spring flowers with a great granddaughter
Lover of flowers and houseplants
Johnny jump-ups reseed every year, planted by her son when he was 5,
Look with delight at a babies and toddlers
Laugh with innocence at silly jokes
Ready for a hand of Old Maid
Busy grandchildren with coloring books and crayons,
Summer blueberry muffins
Store more "junk" in the attic,
Married for 74 years,
Poppy walked from New York to Connecticut to court Grammy,
Bent back and bent fingers,
Express frustration at your own elderly mother
Tipsy with a secret glass of wine
Wearing Emeraude perfume
Long hallway past the
Dark and quiet bedroom where Poppy slept into the afternoon due to his late hours playing cards or going to the casino,
Listening, always listening, listening for what is next, listening to stories of loved ones, listening to the radio, listening to know where loveds are and what they are doing,
Drinking black coffee, always
Until her final years when she switched to green tea,
Telling her troubles to the weeping cherry tree,
Bearing her arthiritis pain with nobility
Being ready to go when the "good lord is ready to take me"
Frustration exhalation of whfff,
Washing the dishes, drying the dishes,
Making sure everyone is set,
A cookie for each hand
Reading mystery stories
Loving cardinals
Feeding the birds, squirrels and chipmunks,

I began this post  2 years ago and couldn’t find the right words, so I thought, but after re-reading, I thought it was like a poem.  My grandmother was a kind hearted special lady.  She lived a full life surrounded by her family – she was the glue that kept us together.  She baked blonde brownies, often and it seemed like she always had a batch ready in her rectangle Tupperware container on her dining room table.  I am certain she liked to make blonde brownies because they are so easy to make.  She sometimes liked to add coconut flakes and orange peel granules.

Grammy’s Blonde Brownies

Blonde Brownies

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 tablespoons hot water, if using margarine
2 cups light brown sugar         
2 eggs                     
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Melt butter or margarine.
In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In large bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar.
If using margarine add the hot water.
Blend in eggs and vanilla.
Add flour mixture gradually, mixing well.
Spread in 13"x 9” greased or parchment lined baking pan.
Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cool in pan and cut into squares.

at work


Christmas 1979 - Gram at her stove

grammy at the stove

Every evening, Gram read the paper with her ever present cup of black coffee

Grammy and Poppy taking a trip

Grammy's Blonde Brownies
The last batch of brownies I received from Grandmother.
my last conversation with my grammy

February 27, 2015

Flavorful Apple Cake

flavorful apple cake

apple cake

This cake is an extraordinary apple cake – upon first bite, your palate shouts ‘apples’ then the flavor mellows to a deep apple and cinnamon spiciness.  If you make this apple cake, your family or friends will wonder how you infused the deep apple flavor in this cake.  They may say it tastes like apple pie but wonder at the tender cake crumb and the lack of apple chunks.  They may wonder if you used artificial flavorings but dismiss the notion after a second bite as the flavor is so real - it is like biting into an apple.    They may wonder if a Calvados or apple brandy was used but then notice the lack of a liquor zing.  This cake will keep people guessing.  This is not your ordinary applesauce spice cake where applesauce adds moisture and can even replace the fat but not much flavor.  The main event in this cake is the apples with a tender and just moist enough crumb.

The secret is cooking the apples in a low temperature oven until soft enough to puree then return the pureed apples to the oven to evaporate even more liquid and intensify the apple flavor.  Use a tart, flavorful apple but the best apples to use are the ones that have been long forgotten in the back of your vegetable crisper and are too soft to eat out of hand and may even have a slight ferment smell.  

I frosted my cake with a thin layer of smooth whipped cream frosting (recipe below) or a simple sifting of 1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar is another option.  I halved the recipe featured in the photos, and made a single 9-inch round cake.

Flavorful Apple Cake
2 9-inch round cakes or 1 9-inch Bundt pan

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ sticks of  butter or 14 tablespoons, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ cups apple puree (recipe below-prepare ahead of time)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Butter and flour pan(s) and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, all-spice, nutmeg and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed.  
Add eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add the apple puree and beat until fully incorporated.
Gradually add flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed.
Transfer batter into prepared pan (s) and smooth.
Bake for 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
Turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Apple Puree
4-5 pounds tart apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel, core and cut apples into large pieces.
Place on a 13 by 9 inch glass baking dish. 
Bake for 1 hour or until soft. 
Stir halfway through add up to a ¼ cup of water if the apples are drying out.
Drop temperature 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Puree baked apples in a blender; Cuisinart (or use an immersion blender) and puree until smooth.
Return the apple puree back into the glass baking dish and spread evenly.
Bake, stirring and smoothing two or three times during the baking cycle to prevent a crust from forming on top.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. 
If there is too much moisture remove the foil halfway through, just make sure it doesn’t dry out completely.
You are making a dry applesauce that is thick and soft.
If it is too dry add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water at the puree stage.

Recipe adapted from Café Fernando

Smooth Whipped Cream Frosting

1 cup heavy cream
3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar (add more or less sugar to your preference)
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chill your bowl and whisk of your stand mixer, in the freezer or refrigerator 15 minutes prior to mixing.
Add the cream to a mixer with the whisk attachment and set to a low speed*.
Add the sugar and vanilla to the mixture slowly.
Whisk for around 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to ripple.
Turn the mixer off and finish whisking by hand, until the mixture starts to stiffen and sticks to the whisk.
Be careful not to whisk too hard or the frosting will become clumpy.

*This method of mixing your whip cream produces a thick, smooth and stable whipped cream that will not breakdown and become runny.  The low speed forms small air bubbles that create a stable structure in the cream.  Whipping cream fast creates large unstable air bubbles that collapse and run.   

flavorful apple cake


tender cake crumb


December 31, 2014

Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies


pumpkin shortbread cookies with penuche icing

I love baking with pumpkin puree especially during the Fall and Winter season.  Pumpkin Spice Drops are one my favorite cookies but I was in ready for a crunchy cookie packed with the spicy pumpkin cookie flavors.  These shortbread cookies do the trick with their spicy snap. They are especially delicious topped with Penuche Icing.

Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

½ cup butter, 113g
cup powdered sugar, 34g
1 cup flour, 135g
teaspoon salt
½ cup decadent pumpkin butter, 135g (see recipe below)
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon ground cloves
teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the pumpkin butter and powdered sugar.
Add cool brown butter and vanilla and mix to fully incorporated. 
Whisk together flour, salt and spices in a small bowl.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
Roll into log and wrap in plastic wrap, parchment, or waxed paper.
Freeze for 10-15 minutes or refrigerate until ready to bake.
Roll dough out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick between parchment.
Use a cutter of your choice to cut out cookies. 
Roll scraps and repeat process.
Place cookies on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Remove cookies and let cool on rack.
Glaze cookies, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from ibakesheshoots.com 

tea time

Pumpkin Butter Stove Top Method
Makes about 2 cups

1 large can pumpkin puree, 29 ounces
1 3/4 cups brown sugar

Mix pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a large pan set to medium high heat.
Stir every 2 minutes or as needed.
After 20 minutes, turn heat to medium low and stir more frequently.
The pumpkin butter is ready when it has turned a deep orange-brown color and been reduced by about 40%.
Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Recipe Adapted from ibakesheshoots.com

Pumpkin Butter Crock Pot Method
Makes about 2 cups

2 15 ounce cans or 1 large can of pumpkin puree
1 ¾ cup packed brown sugar

Mix sugar and puree together in crock pot.
Cook on low for 6 hours until thickened.


Penuche Icing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

4 tablespoons, 1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light cream or evaporated milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 1 teaspoon rum

In a double boiler over simmering water stir until smooth butter, brown sugar, salt and cream.
Remove from heat and beat in powdered sugar and vanilla or rum until icing is smooth and spreadable.
Ice cookies cooled cookies by spooning a tablespoon of icing in the middle of each cookie and spread slightly. 

The icing will run over the edges if spread too close to the edges.