CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This review is long overdue. I first contacted Nancy Birtwhistle to ask permission to blog on a recipe from her first cookbook, Sizzle and Drizzle, in December last year.  But a lot happened to all of us. Life turned upside down, and it will quite likely never go back to what it used to be. To that normal I suppose we all took for granted. Better late than never, I am sharing today a recipe that feels very special to me. Nancy made it in a certain tent during the Great British Bake Off and I remember falling in love with it the first time I watched that episode. How could I not? It joined chocolate and passion fruit. And she decorated it in a simple yet very elegant way. Instead of making a single, larger tart, I made two individual portions. In isolation times, we have no one to share this type of dessert with, so a smaller portion was the ticket.

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART
(from Nancy Birtwhistle’s Sizzle and Drizzle)

1 tart pan, 9 inch (23 cm) in diamater, preferably fluted edges, loose bottom

for the crust:
125g flour
20g cocoa powder
90g salted butter, cold, cut in small dice
30g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice mixture (optional)
2 Tablespoons egg yolks, beaten

for the filling:
(use half if making two individual size tarts)
6 eggs
200g granulated sugar
100g softened butter cut into dice
200mL passion fruit juice
5 gelatin leaves (I used Platinum)

for the decoration:
1 egg white
100g powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 400F.

Make the tart crust. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and spice in the food process and blitz to mix. Add the cold butter and process until everything is combined, this will take just a few pulses. With the motor running, pour the egg yolks and process until it starts to come together. Stop and gather everything over a plastic wrap. Press into a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry very thin (I like to do it over wax paper and with a plastic wrap on top), then use it to cover your tart pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for 5 minutes more. Trim the edges with a serrated knife, and allow to cool completely.

Make the filling. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water. Mix the sugar and passion fruit juice in a sauce pan, heating it gently until it fully dissolved. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks vigorously, then add the warm juice slowly, whisking non-stop. Put the mixture back in the sauce pan and heat to 185 F (85 Celsius). Be careful and keep whisking, remove from heat if needed for a few seconds to make sure no curdling of egg yolks happen.

Remove from heat, add the drained gelatin sheets, pass it through a sieve. Add the butter, whisk very well to emulsify. Allow the curd to cool slightly then pour into the pastry case all the way to the top. It is better to do this already in the fridge so you don’t have to move the tart around.

When the tart is set, decorate with the Royal icing mixture that you make by whisking the sugar and egg white together for about 4 minutes in a KitchenAid type mixture.  Adjust the consistency to make it right for piping. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used the full amount of dough but made smaller tarts, I find it easier to work with larger amounts and not get into pie dough anxiety as I’m rolling it out and trying to make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan. I halved the amount of filling, so if you are considering making just two small tarts, pay attention to that. Of course, the passion fruit curd is delicious and having some extra hanging around in the fridge is not a bad idea.


Nancy gives two important tips: roll the pastry thin, as thin as you can do it. And transfer the empty blind-baked shells to the fridge to fill them. That ensures you can fill them to the top and not spill over the side as you try to carry them to the fridge. Small details matter. As I was piping the swirls, I transported my mind back to the tent, and imagined Nancy grabbing the piping bag with the Royal icing, taking a deep breath and knowing she had to do as perfect a job as possible, with the cameras on her, and the shiny surface of the passion fruit curd ready and waiting. She did such a beautiful job! No wonder she went on to win the whole thing!

This was absolutely delicious, and I urge you to make it if you have access to passion fruit (you will need 8 to 9 fruits to make the full amount of filling). I have still quite a bit of frozen passion fruit pulp, and it worked well for this purpose.

And now a small overview of Nancy’s book, Sizzle and Drizzle.

If I had to define the book with a simple statement, I would summarize it as “superb baking instruction and tips with Nancy’s personality shinning through the whole book.”  One of the things that was evident from her performance in the show, is that she has  a ton of self-confidence and knowledge. She tested her recipes and was not afraid to stand up to Paul. Just one small example, she defended her method to speed up proofing of an enriched dough using the microwave. To Paul, of all people, the Bread King… And I loved when she was proved right (sorry for the lousy pun).  In the book, she mentioned that her first show-stopping challenge in the Great British Bake Off was making 36 mini-cakes. Everybody had butter over their counters (remember, the recipes are all submitted in advance and they set up the ingredients). Nancy was THE ONLY ONE with margarine. She felt a little “wobble in her confidence” but then said to herself – my cake tastes good. I have nothing to worry about. Guess what? She was Star Baker that week. We should all keep her experience in mind when that inner voice starts nagging us with self-doubt.

Her cookbook was entirely conceived, written, photographed, and published by her. And it has a very nice feature (she calls it “Let me show you”): you get access to videos in which she demonstrates parts of her recipes, by using your smartphone to decode a little bar printed on the pages. Very VERY cool. Here is an overview chapter by chapter with a few examples from each. Every chapter starts with her top tips for success.

BISCUITS AND SCONES. I pretty much would like to bake every single item of this chapter. Her approach is to use less sugar than most recipes would call for, and also keep the dough a bit on the dry side, rolling always in between plastic sheets.  My favorites would be Lemon Shortbread, Spiced Christmas Shortbreads, Brandy Snaps, Rose and Chocolate Macarons (how can I resist those?), Rye and Fennel Thins, Cherry Bakewell Scones,  and Cheese Scones. Every single recipe has the “Let me show you” link available so you can watch her making it. Just amazing!

BREADS. “It is better to over bake than under bake bread.”  Music to my ears. I see so many pictures that people share online of breads that clearly needed another 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven to really shine. From this chapter, I want to bake her Crusty Topped Bloomer (remember Tiger Rolls? this is similar), her Hot Cross Buns, Stromboli, and Yorkshire Teacakes (adorable).

CAKES. “An over baked sponge will have a dark crust on its sides, bottom, and maybe even the top. The perfect sponge should be the same color all over.”  Yes, yes, and YES! Might be my favorite chapter.  Chocolate Fudge Cake (with tips on what to do if your fudge separates), the classic Lemon Drizzle Cake, Pistachio and Raspberry Ripple Swiss Roll, Simnel Cake (on my list to do!), Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes, Gluten-Free Coffee and Walnut Cake (she swears you cannot tell it’s gluten-free), Vegan Lemon Cake. But let me tell you that I baked one of her cakes and will include it here as a teaser. A Coconut and Lime Traybake.  Absolutely delicious!

PASTRY. I lied. This is my favorite chapter. Nancy learned pastry from her Grandma, a huge influence in her life. Her initial description on how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry is worth the whole book, in my opinion. The featured recipe was from this chapter. My other favorites: School Dinners Meat Pie (gorgeous), Courgette Quiche (stunning presentation), Single Serve Whole Apple and Blackberry Pies, Rich Chocolate Tart, Luxury Mince Pies (plenty of tips on how to pull perfect ones, plus her great video tutorial),  Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Eclairs, Sausage Rolls

PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS.  This chapter stretched my horizons a bit, as I am not too familiar with some of the UK classics. I am very intrigued by Steamed Treacle Sponge (it does look great), Nancy’s Christmas Pudding, Eve’s Pudding, and obviously at some point I need to make the Queen of Puddings, as it was a technical I missed because a gingerbread sculpture collapsed and I was shown the exit door of a beloved tent (insert discreet tears). Half Sugar Almond Meringues are also calling my name, as well as Summer Lemon and Elderflower Cheesecake, and a stunning Raspberry and White Chocolate Bundt Cake.

HOME TIME. In this closing chapter, she goes over her way of life, growing a lot of the things she eats, preserving things, coming up with clever systems for cleaning that avoid strong chemicals or store-bought products. Everything with the videos ready and waiting for you.

I hope you enjoyed this little review. Her cookbook was clearly a labor of love form page 1 to page 416. Nancy is an author who wants you to succeed in the kitchen, she wants to make sure you can bake every single one of those recipes without issues. I will never forget her last showstopper challenge in the tent, in which she made a Moulin Rouge sculpture with sugar work. To conceive that was amazing, but to pull it all IN THE TENT, with the “male judge” hovering nearby,  just blows my mind.  So I am thrilled that a person with so much talent decided to share it in a cookbook, and we can all profit from it.

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me permission to share the Passion Fruit Tart recipe, and for your support….

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemony Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Almonds

TWO YEAR AGO: Savory Oatmeal with Bacon and Cheddar

THREE YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways (most popular post on my blog!)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

SIX YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

NINE YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

TEN YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE & THE JOYS OF BAKING BOOK REVIEW

I will never write a cookbook. Having said that, IF I ever wrote one, I would like it to be along the lines of The Joys of Baking, by Samantha Seneviratne. As Dorie Greenspan writes in her endorsement: A sweet meditation on why we bake… the book is a delight.

I couldn’t have said it better, Dorie summarized it all. I contacted Samantha and she gave me permission to publish one recipe on the blog. I had quite a hard time choosing which one to share, but decided to go with her Orange Streusel Cake, because its preparation is quite unusual and the cake turned out absolutely perfect for my taste.  But I will also show you pictures of another recipe from the book, Samantha’s  Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars. Because… ginger…

ORANGE STREUSEL CAKE
(from The Joys of Baking, published with permission from Samantha Seneviratne)

For the streusel:
½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, melted (I used half the butter)
1/2 cup (15g) sliced almonds

for the cake:
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 entire navel orange (about 280 g), seeded, cut into large chunks
¼ cup (60g) sour cream, at room temperature
1 +1/2 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the glaze:
3 to 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
¾ cup (90g) powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and stir to incorporate. The mixture should clump together when squeezed. Toss in the almonds. Prepare the cake: Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Place the orange in a blender and process until it is the texture of applesauce. It’s okay if you have a few larger pieces. You should have about 1 cup of orange purée. Add the sour cream and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat in the orange mixture, then beat in the remaining half of the flour mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Top with the streusel mixture. Squeeze the streusel to form a range of differently sized clumps. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then, using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.

Prepare the glaze (if using): In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice into the confectioners’ sugar, adding a little less juice for a thicker glaze that will look lovely on top of the cake, or a little more for a thinner glaze that will soak in. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am very fond of marinades that use a whole lemon instead of its juice or zest, so the moment I saw that the cake called for a full orange turned into a pulp in the food processor, I knew I had to give it a try. You cannot get much more orange-y than that. And the drizzle of icing sugar/orange juice beautifully seals the deal. The cake is moist, feels rich but light at the same time, if at all possible.

Do you notice the little bits of orange throughout the crumb?
Absolute yumminess.

Now let me share with you a little teaser of a recipe. Originally I was going to focus the blog post on this one, because it was a huge hit when I took it to the Common Table meal (meals for homeless in our town). Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars…

It starts as a very smooth batter, pretty much like a brownie, a one-bowl deal.

Then you swirl a mascarpone cream into it, and marvel at the way it looks.

The crumb is tight, full of gingerbread flavor, and you get that delicious sharp contrast of the mascarpone every now and then. This will please anyone.

Now, a virtual tour of Samantha’s book.

From her introductory chapter, I cut and paste her words…

Cooking is a necessity. Everyone needs to eat. Preparing a special meal can be a joy, of course, but often it feels like a chore, just another item on an endless list of things that must get done. Baking is different. Baking is a choice. Baking is never a necessity. No one needs a chocolate cake to survive. Except, sometimes, a chocolate cake is exactly what you need to survive. Sometimes, a chocolate cake is the only thing you need in the world. This is a book about and for those times.

I was touched by this paragraph, it really echoes with the way I view baking. She then moved to talk about the tragic life story of Irma Rombauer,  the woman behind the most classic American cookbook of all times, The Joy of Cooking. I was unaware of it, and once again Samantha’s words touched me.

The Joys of Baking is inspired by the book that Irma Rombauer could have written. It’s the story of baking my way through my own heartbreak—of what happened when the parts of my life I thought would be the best turned out to be the worst, and when the things I thought would make me happy almost wrecked me, and why they didn’t.

The book is divided in chapters that have nothing to do with baking categories. They are: Courage, Grace, Bliss, Love, and Wisdom.  Each chapter and each recipe starts with a small paragraph that is like a tiny little window into Samantha’s soul. The window might be tiny, but the image it shows is very bright. 

From this chapter, many recipes tempted me to get into the kitchen and start baking. Coconut and Passion Fruit Pound Cake, a breathtakingly gorgeous Chocolate Cardamon Babka, Earl Grey Pain au Chocolat, the Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars (photo included in this post), and a Sweet Potato Cinnamon Bun with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Glaze (wow!).

The chapter opens with Salted Chocolate-Covered Chocolate Caramels. Of course, when a person wears braces, she will be fiercely drawn towards caramels, brittles, and nougats, even if before having braces those items were rarely part of her life. Anyway, I will make these babies the moment I get rid of my torture devices. Coffee Creme Bundt Cake, is beautiful and preceded by a heart-warming bit about her Dad. As always, just a little paragraph, just enough to make you smile and wonder if you haven’t been too narrow-minded about your thoughts about food.  Next comes a recipe I really wanted to feature in the blog, but did not have a chance to make yet. Ready to dream? Creme Brulle Tart with Pears and Chocolate. Yes, this will be in our kitchen at some point in the near future.  Danish Sugar Cookies with Currants and LemonPistachio and Praline PuffsSunshine Wreath (a thing of beauty!).

From this chapter the first thing that caught my eye was a shortbread, a recent weakness of mine. Her version is a Chocolate Almond Spelt Shortbread. Looks really tasty. Brownie Cake with Candied Hazelnuts and Whipped Cream...  Coconut BunsGingered Cashew Nut Brittle (blame it on the braces)…  Graham Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting (just adorable)…  Another heavy contender to be featured is We are Nuts About Nuts Cookies. Little sugar cookie rectangles dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with ground pistachio nuts. Just lovely. Orange Streusel Cake, featured today, is also in this chapter.


The chapter opens with my favorite little story of her book. Just a few thoughts about JFK Airport in New York City. More specifically about the arrivals gate.  “Where shopping and dining isn’t the point. It’s all about the crowd along the barriers.”  Just perfect.

From this final chapter, I would gladly try her Apple Snack Cake...  Barley Oat BiscuitsCinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels (the picture is enough to make your heart missed a few beats)… Lemon Lime Earl Grey Sables...  Maple Cream Pie…  Orange Pistachio BunsSaffron and Chocolate Tea Cake…  and the very last recipe of the book, Unorthodox Challah with Dates and Cocoa.

I hope you enjoyed my little review and consider inviting this gem of a cookbook into your home. Samantha, thank you for allowing me to share a recipe with my readers. I look forward to baking more goodies from your book, and reading again and again your stories behind each one.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pink Praline Brioche

TWO YEARS AGO: A Spinach Salad to Write Home About

THREE YEARS AGO: Karen’s Four Hour French Country Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Siren’s Song of the Royal Icing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Blog-worthy Roasted Butternut Squash

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate Currant Sourdough Loaf & Roasted Beet Hummus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flax Seed Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Spanakopita Meatballs

NINE YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

TEN YEARS AGO: Pain de Mie au Levain

 

PUFF BREAD BALLS, TWO SALADS AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Do people need cookbooks these days? Just think about it. You can find pretty much any recipe you want with a click of your mouse. Endless content online by food bloggers and food sites, free for you to grab and enjoy. Some virtual spots might annoy you a bit with pop-ups and advertisement, but it is a small price to pay to get that recipe to put your bottle of pomegranate molasses or the jar of rose harrissa to good use. I have a different view, though. I buy cookbooks because I want to support the authors and honor their hard work. For that reason, I never share a recipe from a cookbook unless I get permission to do so. Last month I bought  “DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread”, from Richard Bertinet, and immediately fell in love with it. His approach to making bread is straigthforward and very creative. It takes a lot for a cookbook to impress me enough to write a review about it. However, I could not wait to share my views on Bertinet’s and in fact I loved it so much I had to also bring his book “CRUMB: Bake Brilliant Bread” into  my life.  If you love bread baking and want to have recipes that make you go “why I never thought of this?” – this one is for you!

(to see a video of his slap and fold technique, click here)

PUFF BREAD BALLS
(published with permission from Mr. Richard Bertinet)
from his cookbook DOUGH: Simple, Contemporary Bread)

10g yeast (fresh if possible) (I used 6 g dry instant yeast from King Arthur Flour)
500g bread flour
10g Salt
350g water

Heat oven to 475F.

If using fresh yeast, rub it into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Add the salt and water. Hold the bowl with one hand and mix the ingredients around with the other for 2–3 minutes until the dough starts to form. Knead the dough according to his method (see video link above) or use a KitchenAid type mixer for 2 minutes, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for a further 6-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Rest the dough  for about 20 minutes (the puff balls don’t need extensive proofing time).

Divide it into equal pieces (about 40g each).  Round each piece of dough into a small ball, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for a further 5 minutes. Make sure there are no tiny pieces of dried dough on your work surface or rolling pin, as any particles that get into the dough will stop it from puffing up. Dust your work surface with some sifted flour (the idea is to avoid large particles at all cost).  

Roll out each piece of dough into a disc, turning it over a few times, and flouring well as you go. Continue rolling until the dough is very thin (1–2mm). You will need to bake the puff balls one or two at a time, depending on the size of your oven. I rolled them over parchment paper and simply carried the paper into the oven. It gets a bit yellow at the end of the baking time, but it does not burn. I find that if I try to place the thin dough over a wooden peel, it gets totally messed up in shape. If you are better at it, try it that way, which is the way Bertinet recommends. Bake for about 3–4 minutes. The puff balls should inflate very quickly and are ready when they are completely puffed up, golden brown and sound hollow if you tap them.

If you like to make pillows, use a square cutter, they puff just like the round balls, and are very cute.

Carefully remove each one from the oven and cool on a wire rack. The puff balls are at their best about 3–4 hours after baking, but can be kept for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These were so much fun to bake! I managed to stick three at a time in our oven, but they bake so fast, it’s not big deal if you need to bake one or two only. The balls would be fun to serve at a cocktail party, especially if you make the little pillows, and let your guests break them in half, or small pieces, using them as spoons to dig into hummus or other dips. I will definitely be making this often, as they are ready so quickly.

SALAD IN A BREAD BALL

Greens of your choice
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Cucumbers
simple salad dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper)

Brush a small circle of the base with water to soften the crust, then carefully cut out this softened disc with a sharp knife. Just before serving push a good quantity of salad gently into each puff ball. Let everyone break the tops with a spoon or fork, add dressing, and eat with the pieces of broken bread ball.

FATTOUSH-LIKE SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a couple of bread balls shattered into pieces
olive oil
1/2 tsp sumac
baby lettuce leaves
1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed
smoked paprika
tomato pieces
cucumber pieces
for vinaigrette:
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sumac
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the pieces of bread and sautee for a few seconds. Season with the sumac and reserve over paper towels to remove excess oil.

Prepare the garbanzo beans: coat them very lightly with olive oil, add smoked paprka, a touch of salt and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and allow it to cool  before adding to the salad.

Make the vinaigrette by emulsifying all ingredients together. Assemble the salad in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and pieces of seasoned bread.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This salad was a winner, all the way. Normally made with pita, I think the broken bread balls worked even better, they developed a very nice flavor, and got super crunchy. The garbanzo beans straight from the can, benefit from a quick visit to the microwave, a trick I saw somewhere online and stayed in my memory. You can use other spices, the idea is to just break that boring canned feel. It works!  You could saute them briefly in a pan but the microwave makes it even easier.

And now, without further delay, my thoughts on a great cookbook. Thank you, Mr. Bertinet for so quickly answering my request to publish this recipe. You made the life of this food blogger a lot easier!

 

 

REVIEW OF RICHARD BERTINET’S DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread

The book is based around the kneading technique favored by  Bertinet, which is quite more energetic than folding, because you will be slapping the dough around with considerable enthusiasm, but he does so in a way that incorporates air into the dough much more efficiently. It is almost like a dance, I cannot help but think of samba as I go through those moves. You get into the rhythm, and  soon the dough starts developing structure right under your fingers. Fascinating and fun.

He organizes the book in 5 chapters according to the type of dough: White,  Olive, Brown, Rye, and Sweet Dough. Every bread in each chapter uses a single recipe for dough that he takes into unique directions, some will be familiar to you, others will intrigue and make you dream.  He uses fresh yeast, I have a hard time finding it where I live, so I use about 60% of the amount of instant dry yeast. I will list the recipes that called my attention in each of the chapters.

WHITE DOUGH. From this group I got the recipe for the cute bread puffs I shared today. But I loved the idea of “Bread Shots”, Sesame and Aniseed Breadsticks, Spicy Moroccan Rolls (OMG),  and also his Saffron Rolls.

OLIVE DOUGH. A departure from the first chapter, in this variation he adds a small amount of olive oil to the dough, which gives it more elasticity and softness.  Maybe you think that Tomato, Garlic and Basil Bread is too “common?” Wait until you see how he shapes it, and you will definitely re-consider.  How about making a soup bowl with your bread? He explains how, I cannot wait to try that soon, while soup weather is with us. I want to make a smoky tomato soup and serve it inside a cute bread bowl. And no, it’s not a round loaf with the crumb removed. This chapter has one cute idea after another, I was also taken by his Parmesan, Parma Ham, and Pine Nut Slices, they are shaped almost as cinnamon rolls. So so clever.

BROWN DOUGH. Honey and Lavender Loaf…. Cardamom and Prune Bread… Do I have your attention yet?  Those are two of the loaves that I definitely want to try, using what he calls brown dough as a starting point. As you may have guessed, it is a straightforward dough with a high proportion of whole-wheat flour in it. Once again his creativity shines in cute ways to shape bread, like his Poppy Seed Stars. Just lovely and you can definitely use that shaping in any bread dough you’d like.

RYE DOUGH. I really like his approach to rye. It is a tricky flour to work with, and the higher the proportion of rye in a dough, the worst it gets. Gummy, heavy, unpleasant to work with and not always ending on a happy note after baking. He uses a low proportion of rye so that you profit from its taste but it still handles as a regular dough during kneading and shaping. His Walnut Bread and Olive Bread are two that called my name pretty loud. They look hearty, rustic, and are both quite beautiful. Aniseed and Guinness Bread seems very intriguing and he also shares a recipe for Dark Rye Bread that flips the formula around, it is mostly rye with a touch of white flour. I should really give it a try, particularly with his kneading method. Could be fun…

SWEET DOUGH. I thought about showcasing one of the recipes in this chapter but the puff bread was too cute not to share. The thing with his sweet dough is that it works both for sweet and savory concoctions, because it is not overly sweet. I love that. I am fascinated by all recipes in this chapter, so I will give you just the top four: Orange and Mint Loaf, Chocolate Buns (they look amazing!), Apricot and Almond Tart (yes, he uses his sweet dough to line a tart!), Pain Viennois.

Every recipe in the book is also adapted for a KitchenAid type mixer, so don’t worry if you prefer not to go the Samba-Knead route. There are no sourdough recipes in the book, so all you need is some commercial yeast and a little time. He shares a nice method to increase flavor, in which part of the dough is stored in the fridge and “refreshed” pretty much like a sourdough starter would.  Bakeries use that trick very often and it’s a simple way to pump flavor in the home kitchen.

If you love to bake bread, or if you would like to start but feel a bit intimidated, get his books (links to amazon in the beginning of the post; I make no profit from your acquisitions).

ONE YEAR AGO: Pistachio-Caramel and Apple Mousse Cakes

TWO YEARS AGO: La Couronne Bordelaise

THREE YEAR AGO: A Special Birthday Dinner

FOUR YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

NINE YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

 

FIVE STRANDED BRAIDED BREAD & A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Braids, twists and elaborate knots fascinate me. I suppose it’s the repetitive pattern leading to elegance and serenity. Tying things together in harmony. When it comes to bread, going past the three-strand braid can be intimidating, but trust me, once you get the pattern going it is quite simple. A few months ago I was searching for videos on youtube to help me understand the process and found a gem of a cookbook: The Art of Braiding Bread, by Roberto von Krammer. His instructions are crystal clear and easy to follow.  I share with you my first attempt at a five-stranded braided bread.

FIVE-STRANDE BRAIDED BREAD
(adapted from The Art of Braiding Bread)

345 g bread flour
30 g sugar
26 g egg yolks
48 g whole eggs
26 g mild vegetable oil
110 g water
7 g salt
10 g instant yeast

Place all the ingredients in a Kitchen Aid type  bowl. Knead on first speed for 3 minutes until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, then on second for approximately 5 minutes.

Ferment for 2 hours. The dough can also ferment overnight in the fridge. If you prefer to do that, allow it to sit at room temperature for one hour, then degas it gently by pressing it down, and place in the fridge. Press it down gently again two more times over a period of two hours.  A colder dough temperature makes it easier to form strands. The dough can be divided and shaped straight from refrigeration.

Pre-shape 5 round of dough and rest on an unfloured work surface, covered with plastic. When relaxed enough to be elongated without tearing, usually 10 to 15 minutes, roll out the strands and form the braids (process in the comments). Once braided, proof the loaves covered with baker’s linen and a sheet of plastic to prevent the formation of a skin.

Final fermentation after braiding: ½ to 2 hours at about 25 C.

Heat oven to 375 F. Before baking, thoroughly egg wash the surface of the loaves. If desired, sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds on top. Bake until golden brown and internal temperature is about 200 F, about 30 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  With Mr. Krammer’s permission, here is the process to form a 5-stranded beta braid. First thing is to number the strands from left to right, then keep in mind that as the strand moves around, then new formation also gets numbered the same way, first strand to the left will be number 1, last one to the right will be number 5. If strand #5 jumps in between strand #1 and #2, it will become strand #2 in the new formation.

 Place #5 between #1 and #2

Move #1 between #3 and #4

Place #2 over #3 and #3 under #2 (twist)

End of cycle, repeat all over again until you reach the end of the bread.

By going through the process, you’ll end up with a beautiful 5-strand braid, that is then allowed to ferment until almost doubled in size.

I also made a Four-Braided Alpha loaf, and you can see that it generates a totally different look.

Now for the book. I could not believe how many different styles of braiding bread exist. From the number of strands used to the actual braiding, it is mind-blowing! You can use the basic dough for all of them, dividing the dough in the appropriate number of strands, and then deciding which method to follow. For each one Roberto provides pictures of EACH movement of the strand, plus the numeric pattern that you can memorize and repeat as you become more comfortable and experienced.

You will find several methods of braiding for 3, 4, 5, and 6 stranded loaves that go way beyond what you might imagine. Some braiding methods are challenging, but his instructions are so clear and the pictures of each step make it all doable.  I will definitely be challenging myself to the more complex styles, including braided round loaves, and breads that stack braids together.

This composite photo shows a few examples of the many found in his book, which I highly recommend! Click on his name below the recipe title for buying info.

A braided bread never fails to impress because it is so festive, and of course you can use other types of dough, with chocolate, or even going into a savory territory. Don’t be intimidated, and have fun with it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Green Olive Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Coffee Macarons Dressed up to Party

THREE YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FIVE YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!   

SIX YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SEVEN  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

NINE YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

TEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE (AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW)

Back in 2006-2007 I used to follow a food blog called Cafe Fernando. The absolute majority of food bloggers are female, so I’ve always been fascinated by men who food blog. And you cannot get more fascinating than Cenk Sönmezsoy, from far away, exotic Istanbul. He is a fantastic baker, very talented, and comes across like a super nice human being. For one reason or another, I lost track of his blog. I think in those days I did not subscribe to anything, just had some sites bookmarked and whenever the craving for novelty hit me, I would browse a few blogs. Fast forward to 2017, amazon.com hit me with a suggestion for a cookbook. You know, “based on your purchases, we think you might also like this.”  That’s how the cookbook The Artful Baker jumped into my virtual basket. Only after I bought it, it hit me. Cenk was THAT Cenk, the blogger from my past, who – much to my surprise – is still food blogging today, 12 years later! I share with you today a recipe from his cookbook, in fact it is the cake he chose for the cover. A complete dream for the chocolate lover!

DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE

This recipe is a re-make of one Cenk’s recipes, in which he coupled chocolate cake with a Biscoff filling. You know, Biscoff, that spread that makes angels sing and have naughty thoughts. Cenk decided he could improve on it, because the devil should in fact wear chocolate head to toe. Who am I to disagree? It makes perfect sense. So, instead of Biscoff, or fancy pralines, he coupled chocolate ganache with… water!  Yes, you read it right. He makes a water-chocolate-ganache, because it allows the full flavor of chocolate to hit you in full force, no distractions. I tell you one thing: it works.

Recipe Overview

His chocolate cake uses the creaming method, butter and sugar together as the basis for the cake. Then, eggs are beaten into it. To that, a suspension of cocoa powder in boiling water and yogurt is added alternating with flour and leavening agents.

For the ganache, chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and salt, are first combined with boiling water, only after fully dissolved, some butter and heavy cream are added to the mixture, that then sits in the fridge for one hour for perfect spreading consistency.

Why am I not giving you the full recipe? Cenk was a total sweetheart when I got in touch with him and asked for some advice on the decoration of the cake. I told him I wanted to blog about it, and he said he would be honored if I did so. But, I just don’t feel it’s right to share the very recipe that is on the cover of his book, so I prefer to publish a brief overview. As a teaser, I will show you how the chocolate shards are done, such a cool method! No tempering of chocolate involved, which makes it doable by common mortals. In fact, tempered chocolate will not work for this design, it does not break the proper way for the effect.

You simply spread the right amount of melted chocolate on parchment paper (dimensions recommended by Cenk to get the right thickness), place another parchment on top, smooth it well, and roll it. Cool it completely in the fridge. Unroll, which breaks in the chocolate into nice, curved shards. And that is all it takes.

It is basically the coolest thing you can do on a Sunday afternoon. I made a double batch to make sure I would have enough big shards to decorate my cake. They can be saved in the fridge or even frozen, and any leftovers used to decorate cupcakes, enjoy over ice cream, or sneak a bite or two as Netflix entertains you through the evening.

The filling/frosting is shiny and creamy at first, once you frost the cake it gets a more dull appearance. It is the most chocolate-y frosting you will ever taste. Basically, this is a cake for choco-holics at peace with their affliction.  Cenk offers an alternative idea for decorating the cake, in case making the shards seems like too much work. Just make a double batch of the water-ganache and frost the cake with a thicker layer, making designs with the back of a spoon.  Simple and elegant. Now, for some confession. I messed up the top of the cake a little bit. First I was going to do the same that Cenk did for his in the book: adding little bits of shards all over the surface. But, as I started to do so, I just did not care for the way it looked. So I stopped, removed the choc bits, and went with a wavy fork design.  The only problem is that I had already compromised the surface a little bit by inserting the pieces of chocolate and the fork design did not go as smoothly as it should have. I considered a little hairdryer action, but I already had the shards placed around the cake. No major harm done, but another little lesson learned. I go through them often (sigh).

The cake was served for our department colleagues, in a farewell party for two wonderful staff members.

And now, allow me to show you why you need The Artful Baker in your bookshelf… I will walk you through the different chapters.

Cookies… Not sure how to break this for you. I’ve never had a cookbook in which every single recipe of a chapter appeals to me. This was it. Every. Single. One. He opens the chapter with Cenk’s House Cookies, a recipe that was born out of a kitchen problem with his food processor. You know a baker is great when boo-boos turn into culinary masterpieces.  Then he proceeds to temp you with all sorts of amazing delicacies:  Vanilla Bean Meltaways (his version of the Turkish un kurabiyesi), Pistachio and Matcha Sables, Lime and Ginger Cookies (with good advice on zesting citrus), Hazelnut and Caramel Cookies (OMG), Macarons… macarons so exotic they left me dreaming. The one that made my heart stop used kaymak in the filling. Many years ago, 1986 to be precise, I happened to travel to Yugoslavia and one morning, in the island of Krk, I had kaymak for the first time. Unforgettable. One of those perfect gastronomic moments. Of course, it is impossible to find in the US, and he suggests mascarpone as an alternative. Still, it’s nice to see he designed a macaron with kaymak in mind. Cocoa and Chestnut Macarons, Sour Cherry and White Chocolate Macarons, Chocolate and Lavender Macarons… I am in love.

Brownies… Have you heard of leblebi? Probably not. Intriguing ingredient. He uses that in a brownie that is, simply put, drool-inducing. But nothing beats his “Brownie Wears Lace.”  I so wish I could try it, but my artistic skills are definitely not up to that challenge, just looking at the design my hand starts to shake. I will share a picture of this beauty since it’s in his blog anyway.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful brownie in your life? I swear, I cannot stop staring and dreaming…

Cakes, Muffins, Cheesecakes and Meringues… There are 21 recipes in this chapter. Honestly, I have a hard time deciding which could be my top five to share. The three madeleines call my name loudly: Sakura, Lemon Verbena, and Lavender. Three flavors I adore.  The cake featured in this post comes from this chapter too, Devil Wears Chocolate. Matcha and Pistachio No-Bake Cheesecake and Monte Bianco would probably be the other favorites. Just an amazing collection of goodies. In this chapter he also writes about his first day in San Francisco. I will never forget my first day in California, when I landed also in San Francisco and then went to my first home away from home, in Mountain View. Life changing experiences.

Tarts, Galettes, Pie, Quiche, Cobbler & Crumble…  Blanche is a fruit tart that opens the chapter. It is a masterpiece. It seems almost doable, because his instructions are so detailed, but I am not sure I’m ready to face it quite yet. My experience with tarts and pies is a bit limited.  Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart (seems like every nice cookbook has one, but his version as usual, takes it a step higher). Peel-to-Stem Apple Pie has a very interesting ingredient that totally changes the game in terms of texture. Just like the Devil Wears Chocolate Cake, this pie maximizes the apple component. I need to give it a try. Lemon Meringue Tarts and Fig, Thyme & Blue Cheese Galette make my personal favorite list too.

Breads and Pastries… Another total winner of a chapter. Have you heard of Simis? They are Turkish breads shaped as a ring and encrusted with sesame seeds. I need them in my life.  Whole-Wheat and Kefir Pullman Loaf, Croissants & Pain au Chocolat, Profiteroles, Mocha Eclairs (so so cute).

Ice Creams, Frozen Yogurts, and Sorbets… I have to quote his opening paragraph: Ice cream is to me what water is to you. Your body weight is 60 percent water; mine is probably 60 percent ice cream. About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water; more than 70 percent of my tongue’s surface is regularly covered with ice cream.  When you take those words in account, you know you can trust his taste in the subject. He starts with Chocolate, moves to Three-Bean-Vanilla, and gets to Salted Caramel Ice Cream right away. But the Roasted Strawberry captured my imagination. Strawberry is a very tricky fruit to use in desserts in general, because it has such a big water content. His trick to roast the fruit makes sure the ice cream will deliver intense flavor.  Blackberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt makes this list also.

Confections and Drinks…  He shares recipes for caramels (like Passion Fruit Caramels!), Fernando Rocher (a labor of love, recipe he carefully crafted using home-made sour cherry liqueur),  Elderflower Syrup, Hot Chocolate, are all very tempting to try.

Jams and Jellies… Well, I have to admit I am not crazy for jams to try and make my own. But I know lots of cooks have a fascination for this type of endeavor. Those will be mesmerized by the chapter, that starts with detailed instruction to make your own apple pectin, apparently an ingredient that will take your jam-making experience to very high levels. But there are two recipes in the chapter I could happily try: Dulce de Leche and Cajeta

Base Recipes… Pretty much everything you need to pull any of the recipes in the book and also to design your own. It includes ingredients like Vanilla Wafer Crumbs, Cocoa Wafer Crumbs, Cinnamon and Ginger Wafer Crumbs, for those times in which you are ready to go the extra mile. Recipes for several kinds of pastry cream, and doughs (pies, tarts, pate a choux).

So, what’s so special about the book? Definitely the author behind it, and his commitment to making his recipes work in your own kitchen, no matter your baking comfort level. He skips no details, he carries no hidden cards up his sleeves. As I try to improve my baking skills and attempt more elaborate desserts, I notice how often quite reputable cookbooks have omissions (and even mistakes!) that can be fatal to the outcome. I won’t name names, I realize writing a flawless cookbook is a daunting task. But The Artful Baker is just that: flawless. And the talent (and humbleness) of Cenk is evident all the way through the book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is wonderful that he’s getting all the praise and recognition he deserves.

Cenk, thank you for a fantastic cookbook! I am so glad I reconnected with your blog…

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

TWO YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

THREE YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FOUR YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101