Posted in baking

Daring Baker Challenge: Phyllo Dough and Maple Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I was a little daunted by the idea of making my own phyllo dough. Even Alton Brown doesn’t make his own phyllo dough when he makes baklava.  I have now made something more from scratch than Alton Brown.  But I did decide to compromise.  I made the bottom layer myself and used store bought dough for the rest.  I also tweaked the classic recipe by making mine round and using maple syrup instead of spiced honey.  I liked the idea, but I don’t think the spices that you mix in with the nuts complement the maple flavor that well.  I doubt it’s the cinnamon, so it’s probably the allspice or the clove, or both, that’s not playing nice with maple.  That didn’t stop my friends from enjoying it, though.

homemade phyllo dough
The dough got pretty thin and translucent.

The full recipe is here.  I’ll just add a tip for rolling out the phyllo dough, if you are ever possessed to do this yourself.  It’s not as hard as you’d think, and you can use a regular rolling pin even though they suggest a wooden dowel.  But when you roll out dough, you create new surface area, and so even though you floured the dough and the counter, you still get sticky areas.  If you’re rolling out something this much, you have a lot of sticky area. So I tried buttering my work surface instead of flouring it.  After rolling a piece, it came right off of my counter instead of needing a lot of gentle prodding like before.  And then I had a head start on the buttering that you do to make the baklava.

I only baked mine once, for about 30 minutes, whereas the recipe has you do that twice.  Mine probably could’ve used some more time in the oven, but I think another full 30 minutes would have been too much.


Posted in baking

Daring Baker Challenge: Cranberry Spice Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The Recipe: I altered the flavors and mix-ins.  I used 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of cardamom, 1/2 tsp of allspice, and a 1/2 tsp of nutmeg.  I kept the vanilla and orange extracts.  For mix-ins I used slivered almonds, candied ginger, and Craisins, and I mixed them in differently.

    Mix-ins, evenly distributed
  1. Mix yeast and water, wait five minutes.
  2. Add other wet ingredients.
  3. Add dry ingredients.
  4. Add dried fruit and nuts. (I didn’t yet.)
  5. Knead.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Let come to room temperature for 2 hours.
  8. Roll into a big rectangle. (Mine didn’t make it to 16×24 in.  Also, I learned that rolling gluten-full dough on top of wax paper doesn’t work, because it shrinks and pulls the paper with it into lots of crinkles.  It worked so much better on a clean bare countertop.)
  9. My way of mixing in: Put mix-ins on top of rectangle and then run a rolling pin over them.
  10. Roll dough like a jellyroll, starting from one of the shorter sides so you end up with a long log.
  11. Bring the ends of the log together, and fit one into the other.  Shape into a nice circle.
  12. Dough ready for the oven.
  13. Slash the outsides of the circle every 2 inches or so.
  14. Let rise for 2 hours.
  15. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350F, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is 190F.
  16. Cool.
  17. Brush melted butter on top.
  18. Sift powdered sugar on top.

My method of mixing stuff in was probably nicer to my hands and the gluten since there weren’t slivers of almond involved in the kneading.  But I did seem to underestimate how much to use.  I guess the bread rose enough that the amount of mix-ins got diluted.  It was good, though, and the flavors were not at all overpowering.  In fact, I wish I had tasted more cardamom.  But it was a really fun challenge, to make something so seasonal and have it come out looking like it should.  Happy holidays!

Posted in baking

Sweet potato cookies

I am a Cookie Monster for our department, meaning I make cookies when speakers come (I do also eat a lot of cookies, but that’s coincidental).  The night I made these, I had completely forgotten that there was a colloquium the next day, and so I dreamt something up that I had all the ingredients for: sweet potato cookies.  I got the sweet potatoes from the farmshare, and I always have the makings for cookies.  I even had chocolate chips on hand, so I tried to make the cookies look like jack-o-lanterns, because it was right before Halloween (yes, that’s how far behind I am on posting).  It didn’t really work.  But they tasted good.

I started with the trusty old recipe on the bag of chocolate chips and tried to change it to accomodate the sweet potatoes, which I microwaved and blended.  I used the same amount of butter and sugar as normal, but more brown than white.  I used one egg instead of two, thinking the sweet potato would add moisture.  I added cinnamon and allspice.  Then I figured I would just add flour until I got to the right consistency.  I had bread and cake flour but not AP, so I figured I’d try to use half of each and it would all even out.  Well, normally you use 2 1/4 cups of flour in a batch of cookies, so I thought I’d add the flours a half a cup at a time.  But when I got to a 3/4 cup, it seemed like the right consistency.  I mean, ok, sweet potatoes are starchy, and I only used one egg.  Now I’ve made a lot of cookies in my life, folks.  I know what homemade cookie dough feels like.  But somehow, I was very, very wrong.  This was what I ended up with (don’t use it):

  1. 1 cup butter
  2. 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  3. 1 cup brown sugar
  4. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  8. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  9. 1 tsp baking soda
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 1/2 cup bread flour
  12. 1/4 cup cake flour
  13. chocolate chips

I lovingly scooped them onto a baking sheet and pressed chocolate chips on top as the face of a jack-o-lantern.  Jack-o-Lantern Cookie

Then I baked them.  Then I checked how they were doing in the middle.  I had a sheet of cookieness.  It was delicious.  But it was not cookies.  So I snacked on cookieness for the next few days, and I added flour like crazy to the next batch.  Which did actually turn into cookies.  I chilled them overnight and baked them in the morning.  They came out sticky and flat, but at least they were separate.  I wish I had written down how much flour I added, but I probably didn’t even measure it.

Part of the way through scraping the cookieness off of the sheet.

The flavors, however, were quite good.  It would not be a waste of time to work on this one.  The sweet potatoes didn’t come through as much as I would have liked, though.  They weren’t really orange so much as orangey brown and people weren’t quite sure what the flavor was.