Years ago I started making Liege waffles and blogged about it. I’ve made that recipe several times, and it’s always gone well, but recently I wanted to make Liege waffles and I didn’t have time to start the dough the night before. So I tried keeping the ingredients the same but changing the method.
I also multiplied the recipe by 7 because I was serving them at a party. That didn’t pose any problems, but it did require me to divide the dough into two large mixing bowls. It would’ve been smarter for me to make it in two separate bowls from the beginning, rather than guessing on how to halve it in the middle of adding ingredients. I ended up with 38 waffles.
Another change I’ve made since my first couple times making these waffles is that I ran out of imported pearl sugar and switched to bashing sugar cubes in a ziploc bag with the end of the handle of my chef’s knife. They still caramelize, so it seems like a fine compromise to me. This post suggests making pearl sugar by mixing sugar with maple syrup and letting it dry. I don’t know how real pearl sugar is made but that doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all since we know maple syrup tastes great with waffles.
Ok, so the quicker method:
1. Wake up your yeast.
Mix water, milk, yeast, egg, and half the flour in a bowl. Let sit for a few minutes.
2. Let the flour absorb the water.
Add the rest of the flour, mix well. Let sit for 20 minutes.
3. Make gluten.
Knead until the dough is elastic.
4. Add all remaining ingredients except pearl sugar (or sugar cube pieces).
This is where you put in the salt, which makes kneading difficult, as well as the brown sugar, honey, and butter, which make gluten formation difficult. It’s also when you add the vanilla extract, but I don’t think it really matters when you do that.
Getting the butter incorporated is hard if you’re mixing by hand. I recommend microwaving it until it’s melty but not liquid.
I got worried at this point, since I usually mix it in a machine but this time did it by hand, and the texture looked awful. But during the rise it rallied.
5. Let rise.
Let it sit for an hour.
6. Redistribute bubbles and yeast, divide into servings.
Punch it down, fold it a few times, and then shape it into a bunch of balls that are a bit smaller than each section of your waffle maker (because they’re going to rise).
7. Let rise.
Let it sit for another hour.
Put them in your waffle maker. Mine does best on level 4 out of 5 for less time than my waffle maker thinks is necessary – I go by smell and intuition, and checking on them doesn’t really hurt.
Cleaning your waffle maker is interesting after making Liege waffles. The trick is to let the caramel harden and then break it out with a fork. Then eat whatever caramel isn’t burnt as your prize for having to clean this thing.
Do you lose anything by speeding up the process? Possibly. I haven’t compared them side by side and these were perfectly delicious, but it is true that letting yeast work slowly at a cool temperature produces better flavors than having them work fast at room temperature. But I think there’s so much else going on in the flavor of a Liege waffle that it probably doesn’t matter.
Anyone who’s into chocolate chip cookies knows about the NYT recipes from Jacques Torres. Some swear by it. Last night, I was struck with cookie inspiration and decided to finally try it. My overall impression is that it makes for great texture, meh flavor. Here’s what I’ve found out so far:
No need to be so fancy
Flour: It calls for, by weight, half bread flour and half cake flour. Depending on the flours you use (their contents vary by brand), I think this amounts to using all all-purpose flour. Perhaps Jacques had some good reason for writing the recipe this way, but until further notice, I’ll assume it was just to look fancy. I didn’t have enough bread or cake flour on hand (most of my bread flour is whole wheat because most of it goes to making, you know, bread), so I used all-purpose flour, and I was perfectly satisfied with the result.
Chocolate: I hope I don’t even have to tell you that you can use whatever bits of yumminess you want in these cookies. High quality chocolate tastes good, but I used regular old chocolate chips and they taste just as good as they always do.
Size: The NYT recipe wants you to make enormous cookies. Well, sure, cookies the size of my head can stay soft for a while, but I like my cookies normal size, and I want a recipe that produces well-textured normal size cookies. So I test mine with somewhere around a tablespoon of dough per cookie. The results are good: the success of the NYT recipe is not due to a size trick. It makes good normal size cookies, too.
Timing: The NYT recipe says to chill the cookie dough for 24-36 hours before baking. What a pain, I wanted cookies last night! So I decided to find out if it really matters. I baked one sheet of the cookies last night right after making up the dough – I stuck them in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes just because the preheated oven was making the room hot and I wanted them to have a fair chance. Then I put one log of cookie dough in the fridge to be baked tonight, and another log (it makes a lot of cookies!) in the freezer for a rainy day (like yesterday, and today…). I will report on the results of a blind taste test soon. But already I can tell you, unchilled NYT cookies are plenty good. Not too flat or hard or crispy, pretty much just how I like them.
It succeeds in making a cookie that’s chewy, not crispy or cakey.
It uses a little more brown sugar than white sugar, as a chocolate chip cookies should, in my opinion. Brown sugar is brown because it has molasses in it, and molasses has water in it, so it’s a way of making your cookie a little softer.
I like to compare cookies to the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, which I’ve had memorized for I don’t know how many years. My Nestle cookies always come out too hard when cool, and kind of greasy. Here’s approximately how to make NYT cookies from a Nestle recipe (all comparisons are by weight):
Divide the amount of butter in half.
Divide the amount of egg in half.
Subtract one fourth the total amount of sugar.
It’s hard to tell that these are the differences between the two recipes, since they make different amounts. That’s why putting recipes in baker’s percentage is so handy. But the result is that the flour, leavening, salt, and vanilla play a bigger role in the NYT cookies.
Why less butter and egg: Cookies that are heavier on flour and lighter on butter stay soft better, but they run the risk of being too cakey and dry. In fact, I made some like this once and compared that recipe to the NYT recipe. It turns out that the only difference between the two was that the dry recipe used all white sugar instead of a mix of white and brown, and more egg. We know that brown sugar makes a cookie wetter and softer, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, eggs make them cakey, even though eggs are wet. So I guess in order to increase the relative amount of flour in the recipe without ending up too cakey, the NYT recipe had to decrease the amount of egg.
My one complaint is the flavor.
What I don’t know about is the sugar. Does it have to be decreased? The combination of less sugar and more salt seemed to trick my taste buds into thinking I was eating peanut butter cookies, which I’m sure is right up some people’s alley, but I’d rather have the regular old sweet flavor. So my next task will be to replicate this recipe but with more sugar and less salt. (In Jacques’ defense, I had to estimate the amount of salt, because I was using kosher instead of sea salt, which is less coarse.)
The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and
Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and
Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa
chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice
Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s
“The Perfect Scoop”.
I had never browned butter before and was a little nervous about burning it, but it went fine. I just put it all in the pan – didn’t even worry about cutting it up – and heated and stirred and heated and stirred until the milk solids turned brown. Then got it out of that hot pan quick, because they get browner and browner really fast.
The annoying part is cooling the butter just enough to where it’s solid but soft for creaming with the sugar. From there, it’s just a regular creaming method pound cake. A breeze in my stand mixer :).
Zabaglione Ice Cream
I thought a French vanilla would go well with the brown butter cake, and I looked through The Perfect Scoop for something like that but a little more exciting. Enter zabaglione ice cream. Zabaglione is a poured custard made with egg yolks, marsala wine, and sugar. I adore it. We used it in the DB tiramisu challenge. But Lebovitz’s recipe says to use 1/2 cup of dry marsala for a 1 quart recipe (he just substitutes it in for 1/2 cup of the dairy), and that seemed like a lot. Alcohol makes ice cream softer, and I wanted mine to stay frozen during the baking and flambeing, plus I wasn’t sure if my guests would love the flavor as much as I do; some people don’t go for it as much. So I used 1/4 of a cup. This is even less when you consider that I increased the recipe to make 1.5 quarts. I still tasted it, though; I think it might have been a little overpowering if I had used as much as he said, but a little more would have been fine.
Besides that, I followed his recipe, egg yolks and all. I found that when I use light cream, as I am wont to do instead of all heavy cream or Lebovitz’s mix of whole milk and heavy cream, the yolks don’t make it too fatty. I had some freezing issues due to not having frozen my ice cream maker’s core early enough, so I couldn’t judge this ice cream very accurately, but I think it turned out pretty well.
I could make meringue in my sleep, which was good to know because I decided to wait until my guests had arrived to make it. That was a Good Idea; I piped, baked, flambeed, and served one baked Alaska before doing the same to the next one, and in the meantime, the quality of the meringue had noticeably declined. It was less satiny, starting to separate I guess. But not too much – purely an aesthetic issue at that point. Having the stand mixer do the beating for me made doing this mid-party less of a hassle.
I tried to do some pretty piping but I wanted to make sure to cover every little cranny since the meringue is an insulator for the ice cream, and that necessitated going over some spots multiple times. But all in all, not too bad.
Don’t know how to make meringue? Commit this to memory:
Beat room temperature egg whites with a few sprinkles of cream of tartar and cornstarch. When they start to turn opaque, add sugar (1/4 cup or 60 g per white is customary for meringue shells; in this case, about half that much*) and keep beating. Stop when they stick out pretty straight from the beater when you stop it and pull it out of the foam.
There, now you can make meringue in your sleep, too.
*1/4 cup or 60g per white is twice as much sugar per egg white by either volume or weight. This recipe used slightly less than an equal weight of egg whites and sugar. It was a nice amount.
Heat up the broiler and put the Alaska under it for five minutes. My ice cream was definitely starting to melt at this point, which didn’t matter since my Alaskas were so horizontal, but one of those tower-type ones might have had trouble.
I was kind of afraid to flambe them, because I had never done it before, but it’s so easy. Just pour a little alcohol – at least 40% abv, I think; I used cognac – into a pan, heat it until it just starts to bubble, pour it on the dessert, and light it with a long match. I had better luck lighting the pan of alcohol, actually, and then poured the flaming alcohol onto the dessert. It sounds dangerous, but it went fine. It looks really cool if you turn out the lights.
This part is unnecessary and actually not traditional for baked Alaska; mine were technically bombe Alaska because I did this. But it makes a great show! And the leftover booze that soaked in tasted good.
The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.
The recipe is available here.
I’ll be honest, I thought this dessert was going to be too much. I had to pick flavors for four components, plus have a fudge sauce. But I tried to pick things that wouldn’t clash, and I think it turned out really well. The subtleties probably didn’t come through, because you tend to eat it all together, but it tasted good together, and that’s what matters, right?
So, this dessert had five parts.
1. Sponge cake – I tried making it first by whipping the egg yolks and egg whites separately, folding the flour and water into the yolks, folding part of the whites into the yolks, and then adding all of the yolk mixture to the whites. This worked well and it worked FAST, especially because my eggs were pretty old. Then I tried it with brand new eggs, whipping whole eggs. I can’t say whether it was the fact that they were whole or the fact that they were new or both, but they definitely took a lot longer to whip. Eventually, though, they did, and although I had the impression they didn’t end up as airy as the first batch, the cakes were basically identical in the end. It is important to grease your parchment paper – something I’ve never had to do before – because this cake will stick to everything, and it’s too thin (thin enough to bake in a jellyroll pan, that’s the kind with short sides) to afford losing a layer to the parchment. Because it’s so thin, it cooks fast. In my overzealous oven, I consistently cooked them for 8 minutes each.
I flavored my cake by using brown sugar instead of white (actually I kept a little white sugar in there, but I doubt it matters). When it came out of the oven, it smelled like French toast. Yummmm. I substituted cake flour for the cocoa powder in the recipe – all the flour I used was cake flour.
By the way, does anyone know why the recipe says to have the water boiling? I don’t see why that matters, but I did it just to be safe.
2. Filling – I made whipped cream with brown sugar instead of white, and added some ground cassia/Saigon cinnamon. I once impatiently put the filling on the cake before letting the cake cool, and the cake soaked it all up. You really do have to let the cake cool first. I don’t know how important it is to roll the cake while it’s warm to make it roll without breaking later, but I always did. I didn’t use a towel, since my kitchen towels are of questionable cleanliness. I never had any trouble with the cake breaking from rolling or unrolling it, but I did have trouble getting the cake to roll tightly enough to be pretty but not so tightly as to squeeze out the filling. I ended up rolling as best I could, slicing, and then unrolling and rerolling each slice. Messy, annoying, but got the job done. I think the trick, if there is one, has to do with getting an even layer of the filling on the cake. Mine seemed to have more towards the middle, which made my outer slices badly shaped.
The slices of the resulting Swiss roll were pressed into a bowl (which was covered in plastic wrap) to line the sides, and this was put in the freezer.
3. Ice Cream #1 – I made Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream, loosely based on David Lebovitz’s Aztec Hot Chocolate recipe from The Perfect Scoop. I believe in making dairy-based ice creams with light cream, around 18% fat (I calculated that this makes an ice cream with the same fat, solid, and water content as a formula I found for premium ice cream), so I did that, and the recipe went like this:
Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream
3 cups light cream
5 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 oz chile flavored chocolate, chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 Tbsp cognac
1 small dried red chile pepper, chopped and with seeds removed (I got this from my farmshare and don’t know what it should be called, but it is HOT)
Heat cream, sugar, pepper, and cocoa powder until boiling. Remove from heat and add everything else. Strain. Chill. Churn. Freeze.
I didn’t know if it would be too hot or not hot enough, but I think it turned out just right if you like it mild. You could tell something interesting was going on, but it wasn’t at all bothersome. People who like spicy food would want more heat, though. I think having it cold and with all that dairy definitely tones it down – I got more spice out of it when I tasted it pre-churning.I thought it was delicious. In any case, I think it’s one of my new favorite flavors.
4. Ice Cream #2 – I chose hazelnut for this one. I bought some hazelnuts, skinned them – I found out through on OChef that boiling them in a quart of water with 4 Tbsp of baking powder for about 3 minutes makes this really easy, I was so thankful – baked them at about 200F for about 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and then tried to grind them into butter. That failed, so I infused my light cream (actually, this time I used half heavy cream and half whole milk, which is approximately the same) with the ground hazelnuts (and sugar) and then strained it. This time, since I wasn’t adding alcohol, which makes ice cream softer, I added gelatin, which also keeps ice cream from freezing too solid, though in its own, gelatiny way. In the past I’ve used a whole packet of gelatin for this much ice cream, and half a packet for 2/3 this much ice cream, and both times thought it was a little much. So I tried half a packet, but I forgot to bloom it in some of the liquid kept cold, so I just stirred it into the hot liquid, and I don’t know if that keeps it from working, but it didn’t seem to have any effect. The texture of the ice cream was great, but gelatin keeps ice cream from melting into a puddle and this ice cream melted like crazy, so I’m skeptical that it was really doing its job. I also used a little more sugar because my lower-gelatin batch before seemed not quite soft enough and perhaps not quite sweet enough. I looked at Lebovitz’s Gianduja Gelato recipe to see about infusing the cream with the nuts, but other than that this is my own recipe. If I can figure out how to make hazelnut butter I’ll have an even more original one for you – I’ve done the math to match that premium ice cream formula again, but alas, my grinders just aren’t cooperating.
Hazelnut Ice Cream
3 cups light cream
7/8 cup sugar (that’s 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
150 g ground hazelnuts
1 pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 envelope of gelatin (about 4g)
Bloom gelatin in some of the cream. Heat the rest of the cream, sugar, salt, and hazelnuts. Remove from heat and add gelatin and vanilla, whisking well. Strain. Chill. Churn. Freeze.
These ice creams were poured into the bowl on top of the frozen Swiss rolls. I let the first freeze before churning and adding the second.
5. Fudge Sauce – I cheated. I’m sorry. Please let me stay in the club. I was supposed to put the fudge sauce in between the layers of ice cream, but I’m sorry, that is not the purpose of fudge sauce. Fudge sauce it to be added hot on top of cold ice cream. So that’s what I did. I poured it on top of the whole ice cream cake.
I also wasn’t very excited about a fudge sauce based on water thickened with cornstarch. I found a recipe on Allrecipes that was simply sweetened condensed milk and unsweetened chocolate, with a little salt and vanilla. (It also had water, but I omitted that – I wanted it nice and thick.) That sounded more like it me, so that’s what I made. It was thoroughly enjoyed.
To Americans, Belgian waffles mean fluffy waffles with big pockets. But Belgium has two famous kinds of waffles, even if one of them failed to become famous over here. There are Brussels waffles, which are more or less like what we think of, though they’re yeast-risen, and then there are Liège waffles, which are rich, dense, and dotted with chunks of sugar. In Belgium, waffles are a snack food, served with whipped cream, fruit, chocolate, you name it. I even got waffles from a vending machine once in France. And Liège waffles live up to that calling, even without any toppings. They’re essentially briochewith pearl sugar mixed in, cooked in a waffle iron instead of in an oven.
Brioche: yeast-risen bread with butter, eggs, and sugar. About as rich as kneaded bread can get.
Pearl sugar: lumps of sugar made under intense pressure that hold their shape in heat. I ordered some online, but in my experience half-crushed sugar cubes do just fine.
I used this recipe, and man, did it serve me well. They all but canonized me when I brought these into the department for a colloquium reception along with some jersey whipped cream. (Jersey refers to the kind of cow – it makes a higher-fat milk than our (Americans’) usual Holsteins. It also made a denser, less smooth whipped cream.) It was definitely the most loved contribution I’ve made to the department, and most of the desserts I post here end up eaten by people in the department. A gay man proposed to me so I could make them for him all the time.
The recipe requires very little work but quite a bit of time and careful scheduling. I find the instructions a little hard to follow, so I’ve gone through it again here.
1. Mix the flour, water, milk, yeast, and egg, and let it hydrate and develop some gluten and rise a bit before you add all the stuff that will make gluten development difficult (that is, sugar and fat – I supposed the egg goes in early because of its water content and in spite of its fat).
2. Wait 1-1.5 hours. Put the butter out during this wait so it’ll be soft.
3. Then add everything else, except the pearl sugar. (The recipe breaks this into a few steps, which I find unnecessary – and I’m stirring by hand!) Mix well, knead a little.
4. Wait 4 hours.
4.5. Then the recipe says to put it in the fridge for half an hour before stirring it down, folding it a few times, and refrigerating overnight. It says the preliminary refrigeration is critical, so I haven’t been gutsy enough to test it, but it baffles me why you would need to refrigerate it before refrigerating it. The stirring down part just knocks out some air and redistributes the yeast – I can imagine, if I squint, that the yeast need to slow down before being introduced to new food sources, but no other bread recipes I know of require you to refrigerate before the punch-down. Anybody have any clues? Anyway, I add the pearl sugar at this point because it’s easier than when the dough is cold. I haven’t had any problems because of it.
5. So, stir the pearl sugar in, refrigerate overnight (or whenever), and then take the dough out, divide it into waffle-sized pieces (the recipe is for five waffles, but I make about 8 small ones, and I usually double the recipe for a total of 16), and let rise at room temperature for 1.5 hours.
6. I have a Cuisinart Belgian waffle iron that I use normally (not the way the recipe says) at about level 3 or 4, out of 5, in terms of the heat. I usually let them cook for a little longer than one cycle. They’ll get pretty dark because they have sugar and protein, which brown well. You’re aiming for the pearl sugar to caramelize but not burn, but even if it doesn’t caramelize, it will be de-freaking-licious.
The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
I made a Sussex Pond pudding. I’ll admit, I used Crisco in place of suet. The pudding was simple and unusual: essentially, a pie crust, filled with butter, brown sugar, and a whole lemon, then put in a heatproof bowl (I used Pyrex), covered in parchment paper and foil, and steamed in a pot on the stove for about 3 hours. You prick the lemon before putting it in so the juices come out and make a sauce with the butter and brown sugar.
They tell you to make sure to use a thin-skinned lemon. Well, I used the only kind of lemon being sold at Stop n Shop, and apparently the skin was not thin enough. The bitter flavor of the pith really came out in the sauce, and although the first few bites were delicious, once I hit the bitterness I really couldn’t even stand to eat anymore. I still think it’s ingenious, though – I’d like to try again using lemon zest and juice instead of the whole lemon (cool as the idea of the whole lemon is).
I’m not gonna lie: it’s a pretty ugly dessert, or at least my attempt at it was. Here’s a picture just to prove I made it.
The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.
In December I found out about the Daring Bakers, and I really wanted to join but I thought, I’m probably not up to speed with them. But they have deadlines for getting in each month due to the way they all reveal the challenge on the same day, and the thought of missing the deadline and having to wait a long time gave me that extra push. So I dove in, and here I am doing a Daring Bakers’ Challenge!
Unfortunately I missed the month they did cannoli only to come in right on time for the graham cracker month. Graham crackers. I won’t even eat the things if they aren’t in s’mores or pie crusts. But ok. I wanted to be a Daring Baker, I’ll do it.
At least there is also a recipe for the graham crackers to go in – Nanaimo Bars. This is cool because it’s a Canadian recipe I had never heard of, so I’m learning.
I’ll be learning about gluten-free cooking, too. I of course wanted a deeper understanding of the chemistry of gluten-free baking, so I read up on the different kinds of flours at Gluten Free Mommy. I soon realized these flours replace the starch of wheat flour; the binding action of the gluten is left up to other ingredients, like xanthan gum. Gluten-free Lifestyle gets a little more into the nitty gritty of it – you need less xanthan gum for products that would otherwise rely less on gluten than yeast breads. Guar gum is another possible binder. And adding protein, such as milk powder or gelatin, can be helpful, I suppose because protein strengthens the structure of the baked good. Apparently, graham crackers don’t really need a binder, because there is no egg or gum in them at all. I guess they don’t have to support much!
I couldn’t find glutinous rice flour anywhere, so I used white rice flour. It seemed to work fine. One of my flours seemed not to be milled quite fine enough, though, and left a grainy mouthfeel that kept me
from enjoying them too much, although the flavor was good otherwise. I don’t know which it was but for some reason I suspect the sorghum. I also substituted a little 1% milk and a little cream for the whole milk I was supposed to use. I forgot to make my graham crackers look like crackers, but that didn’t matter for crushing them up for the Nanaimo bars.
The bottom layer is a chocolate custard with stuff mixed in – graham crackers, coconut, and almonds. This is the part I would do differently the next time around. 1) The custard curdled on my first try. I redid it a little differently: I melted the butter halfway, so it wasn’t too hot, then took it off the heat and added the rest of the ingredients, then put it back on the heat and let it thicken. If you don’t mind dirtying up another bowl, mixing the egg with the sugar first would be extra protection. Alternatively, you could cream the butter and sugar and then add the egg, like you’re making cookies. The point is, if you have fat and/or sugar mixed with the egg, the proteins will be protected somewhat from curdling. If you add the egg to already hot ingredients, you should remember, unlike me, to temper them first by adding a small amount to
the egg and then adding the egg to the rest. 2) I think the flavor would be better with melted chocolate than
cocoa powder. I think this about most chocolate flavored things.
The middle layer is mostly butter and powdered sugar. Gross to think about, delicious to eat. The top layer is mostly chocolate. Delicious again.
I served these at a party I threw recently and they got great reviews. I happened to have a guest who eats gluten-free, so she was pleasantly surprised!
PS: Apologies for the bizarre look of this page. I wrestled with WordPress to get my pictures displayed nicely and WordPress won. Kind of took the fun out of my first Daring Baker post, to be honest.