Tuesdays With Dorie: Baking Powder Biscuits

Summer patio breakfast: sliced fresh peaches, scrambled Beatrice egg, perfect Spouse-made latte, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit laden with organic butter and homemade raspberry jam. Cozy winter fireside dinner: minestrone of winter vegetables with a grating of parmesan, Unti Segromigno, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit to sop up the broth. Late spring afternoon tea: sliced strawberries with barely sweetened whipped cream all over a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit. Who cares about the tea! Biscuits: easier than pie and able to be dressed for any meal.

As with all baked goods, achieving a light, flakey biscuit requires some technique. One needs to keep a light hand when incorporating the shortening, when mixing in the milk, and especially, when kneading the dough. While I have made biscuits for years, I had never tried the Baking With Julia recipe until today. I was happy to see, in Baking With Julia, that Dorie references the expression, “she has a good biscuit hand,” a fine compliment for a biscuit baker. The technique in the book is straightforward and I found the instructions clear. I strayed from the recipe as written by using a blend of flours and rather than use “solid vegetable shortening”, I used organic butter.

As always, be ready.
As always, be ready.
A mix of white whole wheat, red whole wheat, and unbleached white flour, baking powder, salt, butter.
A mix of white whole wheat, red whole wheat, and unbleached white flour, baking powder, salt, butter.
Butter in varying degrees of chunkiness.
Butter in varying degrees of chunkiness.
Just-combined.
Just combined.
Use a bench knife or bowl scraper to help with the loose, wet dough.
Use a bench knife or bowl scraper to help with the loose, wet dough.
Lightly kneaded-no more than 10 turns.
Lightly kneaded-no more than 10 turns.
Roll gently or pat out the dough; thickness dependent on need and size of cutter.
Roll gently or pat out the dough; thickness dependent on need and size of cutter.
Ready for oven.
Ready for oven.
Mostly whole wheat with a little more butter and some raspberry jam.
Mostly whole wheat with a little more butter and some raspberry jam.

 

 

Biscuits are homey food, often with regional differences that some take very seriously. If you’ve never made biscuits like this, you should. Begin with any recipe from a reliable source, including this one from Baking With Julia. Try the recipe as written, usually using only all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour ensures higher chances at a better rise, and you won’t, potentially, need to fiddle with any extra liquid that whole wheat sometimes requires. If your first attempt is more hockey puck than flakey, try again. Biscuits are worth the time and learning effort.

For no reason I know of, my family, well at least my sisters and I, began referring to the little backsides of very small humans as biscuits. When my nieces were very, very young, when my nephews were very, very young, when Junior himself was very, very young, their backsides, while thankfully sharing little in comparison except for shape, were likened to the flakey, golden-brown, disc-shaped baked good known as a biscuit. As with so many folksy expressions, I don’t know the why or from where of this one, but I will leave any attempt at further analysis for another time, in another post, on another blog. In the meantime, I think I’ll have another latte.

Cheers!

Baking Powder Biscuits • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 211-212

 

Advertisements

Tuesdays With Dorie: Vanilla Pound Cake

It is officially summer in Western Washington. All of the 40F degrees and rain of (especially) November, February, and March are a distant and hazy memory. The gardens are relentless in their demand for water, raspberries ripen daily, hollering “pick me! pick me!”, dinners cooked and served al fresco, Junior entertaining us in the small but useful above-ground pool.

The cusp of this glorious summer had my sister getting married, and me working to make the after-party happen. While the caterers handled the delicious and very authentic taco bar and sides, I and some others worked magic for the dessert table. The varied array looked lovely and yummy! One of my offerings was to turn this flourless chocolate cake into pretty 3-bite morsels. I found the pan I wanted, but needed to test it on something here at home. As the Vanilla Pound Cake from Baking With Julia suggested using a tube or Bundt pan, I baked the cake as minis.

When I think pound cake, my mind  jumps to lemon. I love lemon pound cake, every sugary, dense, buttery bit of it. I had never made nor tasted any pound cake other than lemon. (OK-I may have had some Sara Lee from the freezer case at a potluck during a past life but that could never count.) This recipe is a straight-forward, everything at room temperature butter cake. Here’s what I did!

Mise en place
Mise en place
Sifted
Sifted
Sugar waiting to join butter
Sugar waiting to join butter
Eggs waiting to join sugar & butter
Eggs waiting to join sugar & butter
Flour taking turns with milk while vanilla looks on
Flour taking turns with milk while vanilla looks on
Cute cakes cooling
Cute cakes cooling
Just-picked raspberries and a powdered sugar dusting
Just-picked raspberries and a powdered sugar dusting

My new pan worked beautifully. Recipe formulation always takes into account the size of pan a cake will bake in. As I veered greatly from the pan size for this recipe, I had to guess on bake time. I stayed close to the oven and was happy with the result. The recipe calls to cut the cooled cake into slices, but the mini cakes were perfect to serve whole. The cakes were sweet, sturdy and tender, only lacking a dollop of whipped cream to keep the berries company. Rather than send all the extras to Spouse’s break room, I have several cakes Ziploc’d in my freezer, waiting to serve summer guests on the patio. As for the wedding chocolate cakes, they were light, moist, very chocolately, and the first thing to disappear from the buffet. Cheers!

Vanilla Pound Cake • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Flo Braker • pages 251-252

Tuesdays With Dorie: Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches

TWD’s first June recipe was for Savory Wheat Crackers, pages 163-164. I love making crackers, make crackers often, but with the end of May and beginning of June slammed with birthdays, kids baking, work travel, and preparation for the next karate belt test, I hoped that June’s second recipe would be doable.

This dessert was fairly simple, though I did make a few substitutions. The recipe calls for vanilla ice cream and raspberries to be the main players. I happened to have some brown sugar vanilla, as well as some strawberry ice cream, both homemade in the freezer, so opted for 2 versions, and, as I had just used the day’s raspberries, pulled in strawberries instead.

The structure of the sandwich comes from phyllo dough ribbon nests, baked with a bit of clarified butter and a sprinkling of sugar. I left the berry-mint salad unsweetened, figuring, rightly, that sweet from the ice cream would be sufficient for the entire dessert.

Here are the steps:

Thawed phyllo dough
Thawed phyllo dough
Phyllo sliced like noodles
Phyllo sliced like noodles
Phyllo noodle nest, splashed with clarified butter, sprinkled with sugar
Phyllo noodle nest, splashed with clarified butter, sprinkled with sugar
Strawberry puree to mix with berries & mint
Strawberry purée to mix with berries & mint
Baked to golden brown
Baked to golden brown
Whipped cream anchor
Whipped cream anchor
Nest on cream
Nest on cream
Berry/mint salad on nest, topped with icecream Right: strawberry Left: brown sugar
Berry/mint salad on nest, topped with ice cream
Right: strawberry
Left: brown sugar
Nest on icecream, skewered by fruit, whipped cream on side
Nest on ice cream, skewered by fruit, whipped cream on side

While my first impression visually was “Mid-90’s Circus Dessert,” the taste of this dessert was delicious. The slightly less sweet, homemade Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream was a great balance for the berries and the barely sweetened crunch of the phyllo nests. This would be an easy, but “fancy” dessert to pull off for any dinner party.

 

Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Gale Gand • pages 405-406 

Tuesdays With Dorie: (Not-So) Tropical Napoleons

Each month brings two recipes to make from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking With Julia. Group members choose recipes, which are then narrowed down and made official by the moderators. As a participant, I should make at least one of each month’s entries. May’s first recipe was for phyllo dough wrapped, pesto-d scallops. I was under the impression that we were to make phyllo, so I decided to abstain. Come LeaveYourLink day, everyone had used ready-made phyllo. That would have been so easy!

May’s 2nd recipe called for a coconut flake meringue wafer, layered with rum-infused whipped cream, and slices of tropical fruits. I was SO not doing that! But wait, 2 recipes in a month! I need to make 1! With only slight pangs of guilt, I was still going to skip this recipe until realizing that tomorrow’s Wednesdays With Kids has us separating eggs and beating egg whites. I decided today, on LeaveYourLink Day, some fresh meringue-making in my arsenal would help with my class. I began to rummage for ingredients.

Eggs are easy right now, the chickens are all laying, and Scotti is even broody. Sugar & salt-check. Sesame seeds-suprisingly-check. Sweetened flaked coconut? Nope. We are not overly fond of coconut here. Coconut milk in curries or whipped for allergen-free desserts, and some uses for coconut oil are as far as we go. On to Google for coconut flake substitutions. Between some helpful Paleo sites and an Alice Medrich meringue recipe from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, I settled on replacing the coconut with finely chopped nuts. The only nuts I could find in my freezer were cashews. A few food processor pulses later and voilà! I give you my mise en place:

Collected
Collected

The wafers are meant to be thin, so the author instructs to cut a template from a plastic lid. My template is between 3 1/2- and 4-inches in diameter.

I chose to use my 7-speed hand-held mixer since I was only working with 3 egg whites, though using the Kitchen Aid would have been easier to photograph. As an aside, when the chickens are laying, I only use their eggs in my cooking and baking. We have a variety of breeds, providing different color, and different size eggs. Most of the chickens give us extra-large eggs, requiring I juggle sizes and numbers of eggs to get as close as I can to the egg requirement of any recipe.

Separating
Separating

The fresh, room temperature whites whipped up nicely.

Foamy
Foamy
Ready for sugar
Ready for sugar
Post sugar
Post sugar

I added the sugar after soft peaks begin to form, gradually poured in while the mixer runs. The final peaks were “shiny and firm”, the goal stated in the recipe.

At this point, a loyal recipe follower would fold in half of the coconut flakes, saving the rest to be sprinkled on each wafer before baking. I folded in my finely chopped cashew.

Cutting into the middle
Cutting into the middle
Bringing spatula around and turning over
Bringing spatula around and turning over

The meringue had a beautiful consistency. I’ve never been overly fond of eating meringue cookies-no substance and far too sweet-but folding this “batter” was a thrill.

To form the wafers, I placed the plastic template onto a buttered/floured baking sheet. Greasing the pan is necessary to remove the wafers after baking.

A generous tablespoon of batter
A generous tablespoon of batter
spread thin with an offset metal spatula
spread thin with an offset metal spatula
repeated
repeated
sprinkled with more cashew & sesame seeds then baked.
sprinkled with more cashew & sesame seeds then baked.

 

I baked until the wafers began to color. I have no experience with meringue outside of using it to top a pie. Determining doneness was a bit tricky. One wafer was thicker in places so it came off the baking sheet in pieces.

After whipping some heavy cream, finishing the dessert went as follows:

Cream to hold dessert to plate
Cream to hold dessert to plate
Wafer 1
Wafer 1
covered with cream and fruit
covered with cream and fruit
followed by wafer 2
followed by wafer 2
on top of which was more cream and fruit and wafer 3.
on top of which was more cream and fruit and wafer 3.

I used the fruit I had: sliced fresh strawberries and some frozen blue & blackberries. I only used vanilla in the whipped cream, not rum, and sweetened it only slightly. Though skeptical, this dessert was delicious. I think almonds would have provided a deeper flavor, and I am sure for those who love coconut, this dessert, properly made, would be amazing.

Not easy to eat but tasty!
Not easy to eat but tasty!
1 more view
1 more view

Tropical Napoleons • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Charlotte Akoto • pages 393-394

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mocha Brownie Cake Rewind

With the first assignment being scones I had baked for years, starting Tuesdays With Dorie in March was easy. So easy, it felt like cheating. March’s second assignment was Mocha Brownie Cake. The cake looked delicious, but I was emerging from 3 weeks of cake research and testing for Wednesdays, and, subsequently, Junior’s birthday. I had to admit that I was actually sick of cake and would NOT be doing a second TWD blog post for March. I *gasp* didn’t want to think about cake!

The Fates showed mercy, though, (I’m not sure The Fates do mercy, being fate and all) and gave April three Tuesdays in which I could work with Dorie. The occasional third Tuesday in any given month is a Rewind week: one can revisit a previous favorite or  pick up a recipe that had otherwise been skipped. This wildcard week would give me two entries for the month, since I had no intention of doing April’s 2nd project: lefse. I grew up in a Lefse Household, and while I appreciate it for the heritage tag, and while I could have borrowed the electric skillet gizmo to bake them on, the cloth-lined rolling-pin to roll them with, as well as the special stick to flip them from my Mom, I don’t like lefse enough to have squeezed the project into my early-April life.

Needing the TWD projects to remotely fit into my IRL existence, I decided the Mocha Brownie Cake would be perfect for the Spring (aka Birthday) Dinner I make yearly for my lovely Mother-in-law. This cake did not disappoint.

Here we go!
Here we go!
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar

The recipe calls for 5 eggs which should be beaten until a bit thickened and doubled in volume. This step highlights one of my favorite metamorphoses of the humble egg.

Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Before
Unsweetened, bittersweet, milk chocolate, & butter before
During
during
Being added
then being added

As always, the better the chocolate you start with, the better chocolate tasting the whateveritis you’re making will be. The recipe instructs to use 4.5 oz semisweet plus 2.5 oz unsweetened chocolate; I used something closer to 50/50 Scharffen Berger unsweetened and Cordillera Milk Chocolate. Intense!

Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn't want to hassle with slicing
Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn’t want to hassle with slicing
Ganache step 1
Ganache step 1

The mocha element for this cake comes from strong coffee (I used a shot of espresso) added to the chocolate and cream of the ganache. The chocolate I had on hand was almost equal parts: 70% Cordillera Dark Chocolate and 65% Sunspire Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.

Ganache Step 2
Ganache Step 2
Oh My Ganache!
Oh My Ganache!
1st layer to springform
1st layer to springform
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!

The cake was a little dry from guessing on the baking time for 3 thin layers rather than 1 thick layer. Next time, I would bake for 18 minutes rather than 20. While I followed the recipe closely, measuring each cup of ganache for the filling, I barely had enough left for the final coat, so had to spread a thin layer rather than pour a smooth one. Next time I will increase the ganache quantity. That being said, this cake was delicious! It was not overly mocha-y, while being a very sincere hit of chocolate. Most important, the guest of honor found it beautiful and delicious. I look forward to making this cake for many Springs to come!

The last piece
The last piece

Mocha Brownie Cake • Baking with Julia • Contributing Baker: Marcel Desaulniers •       pages 282-283

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cantuccini

I was happy to find Tuesdays with Dorie as an inducement to get more posts into My Tiny Kitchen. Signing up before my Wednesdays with Kids began was, perhaps, fortuitous, but has worked to shape the TWD motivation into more of a goad, a very friendly large stick.  In a good way. Throw in a vacation that I thought for SURE I would use for writing the blog text, and, well, here I sit on Leave Your Link Day, scribbling some words to attend the photos for these delicious cookies.

Cantuccini are a biscotti and biscotti are Italian cookies. For any of you who don’t think you like biscotti, it may be that you are eating them incorrectly. These twice-baked, crunchy, dry, tasty little wonders are meant to be dunked, most notably into Vin Santo, but, short of that, any fine marocchino will do.

These biscotti are delicious. Almonds are always a favorite of mine, with just enough of the attendant cinnamon to accent the espresso I dunked the cookie into. The instruction in the book was clear, including the important step of letting the cookie “loaf” cool completely before slicing and baking the final time. These would be a beautiful end to your Easter dinner, a bit of communion, using this “bread” soaked in the holy wine. Buon appetito!

the "meez"
the “meez”
the dry
the dry
the almonds
the almonds
the egg
the egg
the dough
the dough
the loaf
the loaf
the cooling
the cooling
the slicing
the slicing
the 2nd bake
the 2nd bake
the end
the end

Cantuccini • Baking with Julia • Contributing Baker: Nick Malgieri • pages 313-314

 

Tuesdays With Dorie: Buttermilk Scones

Fumbling around the internet for cookie recipes or cake recipes made with lower amounts of sugar, seeking the What Happens When of reducing sugar in a recipe, trawling the sea of information for specifics that could only really be found in the mind of a food scientist or seasoned pastry chef, I bumped into Tuesdays With Dorie. Tuesdays With Dorie is a blog designed for people with blogs wishing to work through the recipes of Baking With Julia, and other books by Dorie Greenspan, over the course of a year, posting results on, yes, a Tuesday. As usual with internet searches, this was not what I was looking for but, intrigued, I signed up. I got the green light from the TWD élite in time for a March start.

I have owned Baking With Julia since purchasing my First Edition copy the year published, in 1996. I had fallen headlong in love with cooking and baking, was taking classes, feeding family and friends and coworkers, dreaming of little cafes. This book is a companion piece to one of Julia Childs’ PBS cooking shows. The series filmed in her kitchen, has the illustrious Julia keeping company with a variety of breadmakers, pastry chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook writers, each creating some of their signature baked items for her. I never watched many of the PBS episodes but have fiddled with several recipes in this book. For any number of reasons with me and cookbooks, I found the 2 or 3 recipes that became standards, and have rarely picked up the book since. Tuesdays With Dorie sounded like a motivating way to give the book another look and write more posts here. Happily, the first assignment for March is one of my standards: Buttermilk Scones.

One stipulation of TWD is that we are not to include recipes in our posts, instead encouraging others to purchase the beautiful book for themselves. For this rendition of scones, I have measured equal parts just-ground whole wheat and organic white unbleached all-purpose flours, salt, leaveners, cold butter in pieces, and coconut palm sugar. (Always try new recipes as written, then give yourself permission to try different flours or sugars or mix-ins, as long as they are in kind.)

mise en place
mise en place

The original method calls for combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and for working in the cold butter with fingers, a pastry cutter, or a knife & fork. I am comfortable with this method, but usually use a food processor for this first step of the process.

flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and lemon zest
Ready for pulsing.

A food processor is powerful, so pulsing the mixture into a coarse meal happens in less than a minute. I am able to keep the cold butter away from my warm hands, processing it quickly so it stays cold. At this point, I pour the flour/butter mixture into a mixing bowl before adding the liquid.

Ready for buttermilk
Ready for buttermilk.

As these scones are Buttermilk Scones, the recipe calls for buttermilk. When I have buttermilk on hand, I always save 1 cup for scone-making. The slightly sour, thick liquid works a magic with the other ingredients. When I don’t have buttermilk, I can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup total. The recipe calls for lemon or orange zest to be added along with the buttermilk. I zest the fruit over the food processor bowl instead, letting the long strands from my zester pulse with the butter. Also at this point, you can add a few currants or other diced plump dried fruit. I have even mixed in blueberries or pieces of firm pear with great success. I mix the flour and milk with a fork until combined. Like biscuits, scones don’t want to be overworked. While still in the bowl, I work the dough/batter with my hand, kneading gently until I can gather into a ball.

Ready for the work surface.
Ready for the work surface.

On the counter, I gently knead the mass for 2 or 3 more turns. The ball of dough is then divided in half, flattened into disks, brushed with melted butter, and cut into wedges. The disks should be 6- to 7-inches in diameter. You can also sprinkle extra sugar over the brushed-on butter.

Ready for cutting.
Ready for cutting.

For tiny scones, I create 3 disks instead of 2, with a diameter of 4-inches or so. This makes a nice size scone for a tea-tray. With all the cut scones positioned on a parchment-lined baking sheet, we are ready for a hot oven.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

These scones only bake for 10-12 minutes. The hot oven of 425F gets the cold butter melted, leaving little caverns for the steam and leaveners to push out further. The result, even with the whole wheat I use, is some lovely light, flakey, crisp outside, tender inside just-baked yum.

Mmmmm
Mmmmm!

With the light glistening off my mirabelle plum jam, I will excuse myself now to go enjoy some Baking With Julia goodness.

Buttermilk Scones • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 210-211