Posted in baking

Liege Waffles, Quicker

making the waffles
It’s important to dress for the occasion when you make Liege waffles.

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.

8. Cook.

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.

finished waffles
No one knows how long Liege waffles keep for.

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.

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Posted in baking, candy, custard, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Fraisier

 Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

 

Fraisier

Instead of the Daring Baker recipe, I used this recipe from Food Lover’s Odyssey. It uses genoise cake instead of chiffon, meaning the eggs aren’t separated but are heated and then beaten to make a foam, and it uses an ungodly amount of butter to make the cream stand up instead of gelatin.

I used half the amount of butter it calls for – the strawberries in the center of the middle layer did most of the work of holding the cake up.  My boyfriend and I picked the strawberries ourselves! And the blueberries came from the same farm.

The cake shrunk as it cooked, naturally, so my springform pan had a little extra room when I used it as a mold for the center layer. The result was the strawberries hanging kind of low. If I had started with the cream it probably would’ve worked better.

Regardless, it was delicious! Decadent and summery at the same time. We ate it on the Fourth of July. I would definitely make it again, but probably in the structure of a regular cake just to make my life easier.

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

Everything you ever wanted to know about crêpes, but didn’t know enough French to ask

I adore crêpes.  But I’ve had a hell of a time figuring out how to make them well.  Lucky for you, now that I’ve put in the time and untold gallons of milk, you can just read this post and make perfect crêpes tomorrow morning.

Ingredients

You can’t have a crêpe without flour, liquid, and eggs.  You can’t have a crêpe that tastes right without a dash of salt, too.  Everything else is optional.

  • Flour.  All-purpose flour is the standard choice.  Whole wheat flour works great.  Buckwheat flour is used to make galettes; I suspect this means buckwheat flour mixed with wheat flour, but I’ve only made regular crepes.  I also can’t speak on the effectiveness of different gluten-free crepe mixes.  I wouldn’t recommend bread, cake, or pastry flour, because I think AP flour gives a good balance of tenderness and strength, but you could probably get away with bread flour.
  • Liquid.  Usually this is milk.  I’ve used whole and 1% and have been equally pleased both ways.  I’ve also used part wine, and the Epicurious recipe uses part brandy.  Many recipes use half milk and half water, and I’ve supplemented some milk with water when I ran out.  I haven’t experimented beyond that, but I believe that if you choose a water-based liquid that you like the taste of, and that has a viscosity in the ballpark of milk’s, you’ll be fine.
  • Eggs.  Yep.
  • Salt.  Add a pinch or two if you’re making sweet crepes, maybe a little more if you’re making savory ones.
  • Sugar.  This is optional.  A couple of teaspoons is fine for sweet crepes, but don’t add too much, or your crepes will be too delicate.
  • Fat.  Also optional.  Many recipes contain a little butter, some call for oil.
  • Vanilla extract or other flavoring.  Sky’s the limit!

Proportions

My ratio: 1 part flour, 2 parts eggs, 4 parts milk, by weight. Or, if you don’t want to multiply, here’s a good amount:

  • 100g flour (1 cup)
  • 4 eggs
  • 400g milk (between 1 2/3 and 1 3/4 cup) The volume measurement for the milk is 1.7 cups; nothing bad will happen if you round that up or down.

I estimate that, per egg, you make 3-4 crepes, which I figure is about right for one person, although I can certainly eat more.  So using my ratio-by-weight, set 1 part to the number of people times 25g, because one egg weighs 50g.

My ratio makes a crêpe so thin it lets light pass through it.  But not everyone likes that. Many of the recipes for crêpes out there have less milk (1 part by volume/2.5 parts by weight) and/or less egg (2 eggs per cup of flour/1 part by weight).  Some also have fat, usually butter (2-4 Tbsp per cup of flour/a fourth to half a part by weight).

Mixing

This is one of the biggest problems in making crêpes.  Just mixing everything together creates lumps.  Not to worry, people have figured out how to avoid that, right?  Well, sort of.  Some people strain their batter, which means 1) they have to clean a strainer and 2) they’re losing an undefined amount of flour and 3) they have an extra step.  Some people mix their batter in a blender, which means 1) they have to clean a blender and 2) they have to wait several hours for the bubbles to subside.  Surely there must be a better way.  And there is.  In fact, it’s already a well-established cooking technique used in sauce-making.  It’s called a slurry.

If you’re going to thicken a sauce with cornstarch, you don’t just dump the starch into the sauce, because it would clump.  So instead, you add the cornstarch to a small amount of liquid, make a thick liquid – a slurry – and then mix the thick liquid with the thin liquid.  The slurry gets thinned out, but no lumps are formed.  Similarly, if you want to make lump-free crêpe batter, or pancake batter or what have you, all you have to do is make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and make a slurry in that well, like so:

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Whisk together the wet ingredients in another bowl. (I don’t like to wash more than one, so I add the milk following these instructions and then add the eggs to that.)
  3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour about a third of the wet ingredients into the well.
  5. Whisk in the well, just touching the dry ingredients to pull some of them in.  Keep doing this until there’s enough dries in the wets to make a fairly thick batter.
  6. Mix another third of the wets into the batter to thin it out, and then start whisking the dries in again.
  7. Repeat with the last third of the wets.

I don’t know why it works.  But it works.

There’s one other issue to address: some recipes include melted butter.  If you add melted butter to milk straight from the fridge, you will get unmelted butter, which is not good for making a batter.  I have gotten around this by melting the butter in the milk in a double boiler or the microwave, thus heating both.  But that takes time.  I found that I didn’t notice a difference when I left the butter out, so I haven’t gotten around to trying these methods, but I imagine that mixing the butter with a little of the flour before adding the liquid, or maybe even mixing the butter into the slurry when it’s on the thicker side, might solve the problem.  Alternatively, you could use oil – which sacrifices flavor, and perhaps that’s the only reason the butter is in there in the first place, but try it and see how you like it – or omit the butter.

Spreading

The real Parisian crêpe stands make their crêpes on griddles and spread them with tools made for the job.  I think it would be cool to get one, but I suspect it takes some skill to use it well.  And the reality is, real Parisian home cooks make them like the rest of us: in pans, swirling the batter around until it covers the bottom.  As long as you swirl right after putting the batter in, that works just fine.

Cooking

Many people will tell you that it is an unfortunate inevitability that the first crêpe of a batch always comes out wrong.  I suspect that these people are using too much butter in their pans.  The first crêpe gets funny edges because it’s swimming in butter, but it absorbs some and so the next crêpe has a better time of it.  I for one don’t use butter at all; just a ridiculously nonstick pan.  Seriously: I am not a proponent of nonstick cookware, but for this, I make an exception.  But a little butter (like, rub the stick on the pan real quick) is fine as long as you can keep the temperature stable enough not to burn it.

Flipping

You don’t have to flip your crêpes in the air.  They will taste the same either way.  But your level of awesomeness will increase substantially if you do.  I know.  You’re afraid.  But the worst that can happen is you flip a crêpe onto the floor.  I ask you: are you not willing to sacrifice 25 cents of foodstuff in the pursuit of awesomeness?

This will only work if your pan is seriously nonstick, and even then, you might have to release it from the pan a little first with a spatula.  Once it’s released enough to be able to slide a little in the pan, just move the pan real quick like you see TV chefs do.  It works.  Swear.  The only mistake you’re likely to make is chickening out and not flicking it hard enough.  So go for it.

Filling

I like to have parties where everyone brings a different filling.  There are lots of possibilities:

  • butter
  • sugar (granulated, brown, powdered)
  • lemon curd, and other flavors
  • jams and jellies
  • Nutella
  • fruit
  • whipped cream
  • crêpe Suzette sauce (that’s another post)
  • maple syrup…any kind of syrup
  • that wonderful chestnut sauce that I can’t find in the States (yet another post)
  • savory stuff…you can tell that’s not my really my thing, but some people dig it…goat cheese would probably be great.

Folding

There are many ways of folding crêpes, and I am unaware of any being held superior to the others.  Here are some options:

  • Fold in half one way and then in half again the other way, ending up with a quarter circle.
  • Fold the left third in and then the right third in, like a letter.  That’s enough if you’re serving it on a plate, but if you’re going to carry it around, fold it in half long ways or fold the tops and bottoms in, too.
  • Roll it up.

Freezing

Indeed, crêpes freeze well.  Layer them in between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper and put in a zip-top bag.  They defrost real quick in the microwave.

That was a long post, but I hope you’ll realize that making crêpes is not a long process.  Put a ridiculously nonstick pan on the heat, put one part flour and a dash of salt into a bowl, gradually whisk in four parts milk and two parts eggs, ladle in enough batter to just cover the bottom of the pan, swirl, cook, flip, cook a little more, fill and eat!  Bon appétit!

Posted in baking

Fresh From the Oven Challenge: Brioche

loaf of brioche
I still have yet to master slashing.

I’m really late posting this, because I was traveling and then, well, not in a blogging mood.  But the August FFTO challenge was really great, I would make this again in a heartbeat. Chele from Chocolate Teapot gave us this recipe from from the River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread.

  • 400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 90ml warm milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 4 medium free range eggs, beaten

To Glaze

  • 1 medium free range egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  1. Mix the ingredients.
  2. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and shiny.
  3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Shape into two loaves.
  5. Let rise 3-4 hours, until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
  7. Beat egg and milk together for the glaze.
  8. Put loaves on baking sheet.
  9. Glaze loaves with a pastry brush.
  10. Bake 10 minutes.
  11. Turn oven down to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Cool.

Makes 2 small loaves

I actually followed the recipe exactly – shocking, I know – and it worked beautifully except that my stupid oven burned the bottoms of the loaves.  I seriously have to cook everything in it for ten minutes less than recipes say.  The rest was fine, though.  Even though it looks long, this recipe is really easy.  It’s a great one to try.  This was my first time doing a real glaze and I loved the shininess!  It’s just a shame that I left town right after making it so I couldn’t enjoy it more, but don’t worry, I packed one loaf in my carry-on and took it to the friends I was visiting!

crumb of brioche
It was nice and soft, but don't overbake yours like I did!
Posted in baking, emulsion, foam

Yellow cupcakes with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream frosting

Two of the professors in my department just emailed me saying they have a KitchenAid stand mixer they never use and would I be able to give it a home and make it feel used?

Just take a minute to absorb that.

Within 48 hours, it was in my kitchen making cupcakes for them.

Yellow Cupcakes

cake batter in the mixer
The batter after mixing.

I’ve made yellow cake once before, and as I remember it was good, but it took an awful lot of egg yolks.  Instead of going back to that recipe, I just foodgawked yellow cake and found four recipes that looked good and came from reputable sources.  I ran these through my baker’s percentage program to make them easier to compare and then picked Smitten Kitchen’s, because it looked like an especially moist recipe, and not one that contained egg whites.  (Who puts egg whites in a yellow cake?  The Culinary Institute of America, apparently.  Shrug.)

I won’t copy the recipe here, but I will tell you that I used lowfat milk instead of buttermilk because that way I didn’t have to go shopping, and since I wasn’t going to have the acid of the buttermilk in the recipe to react with the baking soda, I replaced the baking soda with baking powder (the internets say amount of baking powder = amount of baking soda divided by three).  Baking powder contains both baking soda and an acid for it to react with – gotta remember to balance your acids and bases, or your cake won’t rise and will have a metallic taste.  Then I halved the recipe.  It made 48 mini cupcakes, exactly two pans’ worth.  I seem to have underfilled the cups, because most of them didn’t rise enough to make little tops for themselves, so maybe it should actually make less than that.

You’re supposed to bake the cake for 35-45 minutes, but the mini cupcakes baked in about 18 minutes at the same temperature, 350F.

The review: Wow.  First of all, making a cake with a scale and a stand mixer is a lovely experience.  Everything was so easy and fast.  Secondly, this is a great cake recipe.  Soft (cake flour is a good thing), moist, fluffy.  The tops are flat; I have no opinion on the optimal shape of the top of a cupcake, but now you know what you’ll get out of this recipe.  They’re losing moisture fast, though, so if you make them, eat them forthwith.

cupcakes
Some baked mini cupcakes.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

meringue in mixer
The meringue just after whipping.

Buttercream frosting and I have a shady past.  I tried to make it three times in a row to no avail.  First, a whole egg buttercream that fell flat.  Then, an egg yolk buttercream that was unacceptably salty because I used salted butter (normally you can get away with salted butter; not in buttercream!) and that really had too much butter in it, anyway (it got so hard in the fridge that I was able to pick up the entire mass by one edge and throw it away).  Finally, another whole egg buttercream that just never came together, no matter how long I beat it with my hand mixer.  It seemed to me that buttercream frosting was one of the few things that I couldn’t figure out how to make without a stand mixer.  So it was the perfect recipe to welcome my new toy to my kitchen.  But this time, I decided to make an egg white buttercream, because I imagined the meringue would be better at balancing out all that butter than the egg yolks had been.

I used a recipe from My Buttery Fingers which is based on a vanilla buttercream from Smitten Kitchen (whence all good things come, apparently!) and a chocolate espresso buttercream from Use Real Butter.  The only changes I made were to beat the egg whites to fairly stiff peaks before adding the butter, rather than adding it as soon as the meringue was cool, and to use 150g of butter rather than 180g, which Wendy suggested.  I think it was absolutely the right choice.

The recipe worked perfectly.  It’s normal for buttercream to separate into a chunky solid phase and a liquid phase before coming together again, but mine never even did that.  It was just perfect the whole entire time.  My hand mixer couldn’t quite get Swiss meringue to stiff peaks; I tried once for long enough that I ended up moving the bowl and mixer to a table so I could sit down, and all I got was an overheated mixer and soft peaks.  So expect to see some piped meringues in the future.

As for the flavor of the frosting, I think it was a nice amount of chocolate.  You could go chocolatier, but only if you want to really make a statement.  This was a nice, classic yellow cake-chocolate frosting combo.

finished cupcakes
Thanks, John and Ellen!
Posted in baking

Peach Cobbler

peach cobblerMy friend had an awesome birthday party today.  We went tubing on the Deerfield River, then went home and showered and changed, and reconvened for a barbecue and finally, a bonfire.  Now there’s a dude who knows how to celebrate the passage of time.  He mentioned that peaches were in season when I asked him what I could make, so at first I was thinking of a peach pie, but I’m not great with pie crusts and I was low on time to experiment, so I decided on a peach cobbler.  I haven’t actually made a cobbler since I was pretty young and made a blackberry one with my grandmother in North Carolina (fond memories), so I was a little iffy on what I was shooting for.

I used Paula Deen’s recipe, reprinted here in baker’s percentage and all that good stuff:

257.1 B%        383.3 g        2 cups sugar, divided
79.4 B%            118.3 g        1/2 cup water
77.0 B%            114.8 g        1/2 cup butter
100.0 B%        149.1 g        1 1/2 cups flour
5.7 B%            8.4 g        2 1/4 tsp baking powder
245.2 B%        365.5 g        1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups (7-8) peeled, sliced peaches
Ground cinnamon, optional

I threw in a little ground nutmeg and changed the self-rising flour to flour and baking powder.  Her recipe doesn’t have salt, but my butter was salted.  Here’s my paraphrase on the instructions, plus my instructions for the peaches:

  1. Blanch and shock peaches.  (Put them in boiling water for 45 seconds to a minute, then put in ice water to cool.)
  2. Peel off whatever skin will come off.  Cut off the rest; it will still come off more easily than if they weren’t blanched.  But, they will have a slightly cooked outer layer that might not be as pretty as if you had just peeled them.  Your call.
  3. Slice peaches.  I tried slicing one radially, you know, like how canned peaches come sliced, but it’s hard to do thanks to the pit.  So I hacked off one cheek, the other, then the sides, and then the bottom.  Sliced the cheeks in half.  Works for me.
  4. Turn oven on to 350F.  Put butter in pan and pan in oven.
  5. Put peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Mix flour, baking powder, 1 cup sugar, and milk.
  7. Put batter, then peaches and syrup, in the pan with the butter, without stirring.
  8. Bake 30-45 minutes.  I baked mine for 35 minutes.

I think it needed to be baked longer.  I was skeptical about this but thought the top looked and felt done, but when I tried some at the party it was definitely doughy beneath the surface.  With no eggs, it’s not dangerous, but I imagine doughy isn’t the goal.  I should really eat more cobblers.

That said, get yourselves to Whole Foods and buy some ripe peaches pronto.  Eating the leftover bits of peach was magical.  I don’t think I have properly appreciated peaches in the past because I haven’t normally had really good, really ripe ones.  I also got rainier cherries after 1) having them stare at me on my computer background for months and 2) not finding any at the store until recently, when my usual grocery store started having them, but first they looked really bad, and then they looked ok but where EIGHT dollars a pound, and 3) finally happening upon them at Whole Foods, looking perfect and costing something I could stomach. And man. are. they. good.  I can’t even tell you.  You’ll just have to go buy some yourself.