Sunday, 12 December 2010

Her results - Challah Bread

Bread is pretty time intensive stuff. I feel like I've been making this bread for days. That's a slight over-dramatization, but not by much... Let me walk you through the process.

Saturday evening I made the dough. I mixed everything by hand because I still haven't bought a new mixer. Thankfully, few muscles were required to mix everything up.

After I'd mixed everything, I pulled it out of the bowl and began kneading it. I'm jealous of my grandma's wooden work surface and I'll have to get one of those someday. In the meantime, the counter did alright. My dough was very sticky and I had to use at least 1/4 cup if not 1/2 cup extra flour, plus some extra oil. It was a sticky mess for a while, but things worked out in the end.

I tossed my kneaded dough into a bowl and left it an hour. It rose nicely.

I covered the bowl with cling wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. When I opened the door this morning, it had a hilarious bubble in the middle.

Who knows whether or not starting things on Saturday and finishing them on Sunday had an adverse effect. Regardless, the show went on. I punched down the dough and turned it onto the counter and left it to rise slightly.

For the careless braider, such as myself, the next step was very simple and fun. First the big braid...

Then the little braid on top...

Then I brushed the whole unbaked loaf with the reserved egg yolk and sprinkled it with poppy seeds.

Into the oven it went! And out it came, a pretty loaf if I do say so myself.

I had a piece while the loaf while it was still slightly warm, and later a second slice toasted and buttered with jam. It's a nice, soft white bread with a thin crust. Pretty tasty! I'd categorize this week's baking more as a good experience than as a ridiculously delicious treat, but I'm definitely happy that I tried it out.

I fly to England in two days, and I'm not sure whether or not I'll do any blogging during the weeks that I'm there. If not, Happy Holidays!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Recipe 37 - Challah Bread (Egg Twist)

I graduated from the University of Chicago. Every winter the Alumni Association mails a holiday card that is one of the first pieces of holiday correspondence I receive. The card used to feature a wintery picture of campus and a do-good quote, but for the past two years the cards have shown a recipe contributed by someone on campus. Weird, but I'll take it.

About a week ago I received this year's card, which featured this cheesecake recipe. I thought we could make it this weekend but then I saw that you have to let it rest for at least a day before eating it. That won't do! It's our custom to make a recipe and try a bite before saying goodbye. But the card pointed me to a website with more recipes and the best thing I could find to make was Challah Bread (Egg Twist). The recipe was contributed by one of my favorite math professors, Robert Fefferman. I loved this guy! During the first semester of my second year of college, I took his class and sat through a quarter of too-difficult Analysis in Rn just so I could experience his teaching. (The next quarter I dropped down into an easier section taught by someone else!) Every day Professor Fefferman would walk into the room and elegantly sweep off his long coat and launch into an animated lecture. I remember him as a smiling, nice man and a very effective teacher. It's not his fault that I don't remember Analysis, but perhaps he will teach me something new with this recipe...

Happy Holidays from the Physical Sciences Division
Challah Bread (Egg Twist)
from Bob and Joan Fefferman

Robert Fefferman is dean of the Physical Sciences Division and Max Mason distinguished service professor of mathematics. He writes, "We hope that everyone enjoys this; it has been our signature holiday treat for the family for 28 years!"

Preparation time: Several hours from start to finish, including inactive time waiting for the dough to rise and bake.


1 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
About 3 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp salad oil (I use olive oil)
3/4 cup water
3 eggs
Poppy or sesame seeds for the top of bread


In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, heat oil and 3/4 cup water until very warm (we heat to 125 degrees). With a mixer set at low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes.

Reserve 1 egg yolk.

Add one egg white, 2 eggs, and 1 cup flour to the mixture; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in 1 1/4 cup of the flour. On a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in about 1/4 cup more of the flour.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning dough to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; turn onto a floured surface; cover; let rest 15 minutes. Cut 2/3 of the dough into 3 equal pieces; roll each into a 13-inch rope. On a greased, large cookie sheet, place ropes side by side and braid together; pinch ends to seal. Cut remaining dough into 3 pieces. Roll each into a 14-inch rope; braid as above.

Place small braid along center top of large braid; tuck ends under to seal and keep braid in place. Cover with a towel; let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a cup, beat remaining egg yolk; brush onto top of loaf. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake 30 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool loaf on a rack. Makes 1 loaf, about 16 servings.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Her results- Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

He was right, I was super happy to see this recipe on the docket. I love spices! These turned out to be really yummy cookies.

I had a little trouble finding cardamom. My nearby grocery neither carried whole nor ground cardamom, so I had to go to Whole Foods. The good news is that they had it in their bulk food aisle, so I only had to buy what I needed. I think that scooping what I need into a tiny little bag is cheaper, fresher, and more fun, too.

The resultant dough was quite sticky and thinner than typical cookie dough. But it was thick enough that I was able to roll my dough balls in a mixture of granulated sugar, opal sanding sugar and demerara sugar. That gave the finished product a nice, sweet crunch.

I had a feeling that they'd spread out a lot, so I placed the little balls very far apart on my 16 x 13" baking sheet - just six to a sheet at first. That turned out to be smart, because they really spread. I put nine on my final sheet, which was probably the best spacing.

I baked my first batch for six minutes and I felt like they were underdone, so I baked the rest of the batches for seven minutes. Unfortunately, seven minutes in the oven made the cookies crisper than I'd suggest. To cover for myself, I opted to leave the word "chewy" out of the title when advertising these to friends. Ha! If you make these, err on the side of under-baking.

These are great holiday cookies.

On Saturday, my co-workers and I are going to a Gourmet Cooking baking class at Sur La Table. The menu consists of:
Scandinavian Rosettes - Biscotti Quadrati al Miele e alle Noci (Honey Nut Squares) - Chocolate Peppermint Bar Cookies - Trios - Glittering Lemon Sandwich Cookies

I'm excited! Maybe I'll learn a thing or two about how to move fast. I have no idea how one bakes five types of cookies in two hours.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

His results- Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

These were super easy to whip up. They took a fair while longer to bake than the recipe suggested but, praise the lord, I managed to pull them out just at the right moment and didn't over bake them (the fate of the last few lots of cookies I made).

I had two people at work ask for the recipe and one say it's their new favourite of the things I've brought in. Lofty praise! Next time I make them I'll probably add in a bit more candied ginger. I loved biting into a chunk of it. Yummy!

I'm pretty excited to see what She chooses for the last recipe of 2010. We'll be sharing a real kitchen over christmas and new year!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Recipe 36 - Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cardamom and Black Pepper

I can only imagine how happy She will be when she sees this recipe title. It sounds wonderful to me and it's packed full of flavours she loves.

It's taken from Maggie Hoffman on Serious Eats. The recipe and whatnot can be found here. I'll translate the ingredients to metric below!

  • 240g flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 160ml vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 60ml molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 75g chopped candied ginger
  • 50g coarse sugar, for rolling (optional)

Her results - Coconut Cream Pie

Not to get too new agey and introspective, but I am really thankful that every experience teaches me something new. Regardless of whether something is a good experience or a terrible experience, everything I do keeps me growing and exploring things that I'd never even considered. 2010 has been particularly poignant year for me at work and the kitchen. Never a dull moment!

So coconut cream pie... I've eaten a few slices in my day, but I had never actually baked one. I had never baked a cream pie, period. I think I've mentioned before that in my hometown in Kentucky, the ability to bake good pies is something that can make a person virtuous in the eyes of the masses. Something I remember fairly clearly from college is reading and discussing Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Here's what Wikipedia says about his concept of virtue:

"In Aristotle's sense, it is excellence at being human, a skill which helps a person survive, thrive, form meaningful relationships and find happiness. Learning virtue is usually difficult at first, but becomes easier with practice over time until it becomes a habit."

I don't remember it being explained that way college, but it applies particularly well to the virtue of pie baking, especially in the American South and Midwest!

I baked my pie in my grandmother's kitchen, using her equipment including this very effective egg separator:

The custard filling was easy to make, but I didn't get mine quite thick enough. The recipe said to let it get as thick as cream and then leave it a minute longer. I left mine even longer than that, but it apparently wasn't long enough. It was delicious but runny. Oh well, better luck next time!

Once again we used Delia's recipe for crust, but this time I used standard American cup and spoon measurements instead of a digital scale. It rolled out great and transferred to the dish beautifully, and I was psyched! But alas, it was tough after being baked. Darn it! I have no idea what went wrong.

As you can see, I pricked the bottom of my crust with a fork but I failed to do it to the sides, which resulted in some puffiness. Lesson learned.

I poured the filling into the shell, whipped up the meringue in the Kitchen Aid mixer (enviably easy compared to hand-whisking!) and spread the meringue and coconut atop the pie:

And after the oven...

The ladies in the picture are my Grandma Sue and my Aunt Becki. They're the most famous bakers in my family, and I have learned a lot from both of them. I don't know two people who bake more. Comically, my Aunt Martha is the celebrity coconut cream pie baker in my family, and I didn't get a shot of her.

So here's my finished product:

The filling was runny, the crust was tough, and I'll be honest, I threw a teeny tantrum. I wanted it to be wonderful! But my family looked on the bright side and gave it rave reviews despite its shortcomings. Sometimes it's good when people lie to you. :)

Friday, 3 December 2010

His results - Coconut Cream Pie

I have to say I impressed myself a little this week. This turned out incredibly well. It looked amazing and tasted better. Yum, yum, yum!

It was a really good choice of recipe. I hope I come up with something as good for next time!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Recipe 35 - Coconut Cream Pie

I found a recipe for Coconut Cream Pie on a website called Leite's Culinaria. The recipe came from the book Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott. It sounds delicious and it will be a nice treat to share with my grandpa. He just got home from a quick stay in the hospital and I know it will make him happy to eat this with me. He loves pie even more than I do!

Coconut Cream Pie


For the custard filling
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 1/4 cups milk, preferably whole milk
1 1/4 cups shredded or flaked coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the meringue
3 large egg whites
5 tablespoons granulated sugar


Make and blind bake a crust using a recipe of your choice.

Make the custard filling
1. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to mix them well. In another small bowl, beat the egg yolks.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk almost to a boil, stirring it as it begins to steam. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot milk with a measuring cup and pour it into the beaten egg yolks, stirring constantly as you pour. This warms up the eggs and discourages them from curdling. Pour the bowl of egg yolk-milk mixture into the milk in the pan over medium heat and stir well.
3. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture to the warm egg-and-milk mixture and stir until dissolved. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard mixture becomes very smooth and has thickened to about the consistency of cream. Cook for about 1 minute more and then remove the pan from the heat.
4. Add 1 cup of the coconut, the butter, and vanilla to the custard in the pan. Stir to mix everything. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and set it aside to cool to room temperature. When the custard has cooled down, remove the plastic wrap and pour it into the piecrust.

Make the meringue
1. Heat the oven to 350° F (176°C)
2. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat the egg whites until they swell up into plump, shiny, soft clouds that hold firm, curly peaks.
3. Scoop the meringue on top of the cooled custard filling, spreading the meringue all the way to the crust and mounding the meringue up slightly in the center of the pie. Create swoops and swirls in the meringue for decorative effect and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of the coconut over the top of the meringue.
4. Place the coconut cream pie on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the meringue is a beautiful golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature or, if desired, refrigerate and serve chilled.

Her results - Halfway Cookies

Last weekend we made some tasty cookie bars, and I'm going to go right ahead and admit that I think a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie is simpler and just a good. That aside, these were fun to make and tasty to eat.

My iBook has quit working and my cordless phone battery only lasts five minutes, so I had to drag my ingredients to near the telephone base so we could chat on speakerphone while whipping everything up. My phone is on my desk in my bedroom, so what's where I worked. There's a first time for everything!

Here's a pictorial tour of the process:

I used three egg whites in the meringue, and next time I'd use less chocolate in the middle layer, but other than that the recipe felt quite reliable. I didn't apply the parchment paper very well, so it did more harm than good to the surface of the meringue. If you're going to apply the paper, follow the directions and press it smoothly and carefully onto the surface before baking. I think the paper might be altogether unnecessary, but then again I haven't tried it without...

These cookie bars were extra sugary sweet. They recalled to my mind some of the most sugary foods I know, such as a big glass of cherry Kool-aid. I think it would be the perfect pairing for this dessert. All or nothing!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

His results - Halfway Cookies

Oh man. Another killer week. It's going to take all the energy I have to type this.

A while back I bought a ton of 70% chocolate for a bargain price and I've been using it for ages. I was pretty excited to buy this stuff just because I love the packaging. I'd just about forgotten how much it increases the price of the ingredients though.

This was really easy I thought. The end product was slightly strange. I'm not sure the meringue really added anything but it was nice. Technically the recipe was good. The cookie layer was really tasty too. I'd recommend it just as a stand alone thing for sure.

These bars certianly looked good and they were tasty too. I'd just say the meringue was a little unnecessary.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Recipe 34 - Halfway Cookies

I have loads and loads of bookmarked recipes to choose from. My problem comes deciding which I fancy each week. I'm not in any particular mood right now so I opted for something which is neither one thing or another really. Hopefully whatever mood I'm in when we bake and eat this it will satisfy me.

The recipe for these halfway cookies came from the kitchn.

I won't type out the method, you can find that through the link but here are the ingedients in metric:

240g flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
110g unsalted butter, softened
100g granulated sugar
270g brown sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla
300g semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

Her results - Chocolate Ganache Custard Tart

Another David Lebovitz prizewinner! I really enjoyed this tart and its crust. I failed to get many pictures and I apologize for that, but I can give you a little commentary.

Making the crust was very simple and stress free. I'll eventually be able to roll out and transfer thin dough to a dish, but until that happens I'm glad that I've found a recipe for a crust that can be pressed into the pan. I will definitely add this one to my repertoire. The uncooked dough resembeles choux paste but the baked crust is quite different and tastes flaky and buttery.

Whipping up the filling was also incredibly easy. I was loading up my shopping cart with expensive chocolate bars when I realized I could just use chocolate chips. So I bought a bag of Whole Foods' semi-sweet chips for much less than the price of three nice chocolate bars. It worked great. After adding some half-and-half and eggs, I had a lovely batter. I filled up my tart crust and had enough left to fill a ramekin. I ate the latter as a very unhealthy breakfast one morning. It was worth it!

The tart came out nice:

And then I dropped a box of ziplock bags onto it:

I'm getting more like that Julie and Julia moron every day. Somebody shoot me!

At any rate I thought it tasted great and my co-workers liked it, too. It is a nice simple, elegant dessert. It packs a big punch. It might be fun to try using some milk chocolate in it someday. It would also be fun to make mini-tarts in the little pans I bought for the strawberry meringue tartlets we made a while back.

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