TWELVE YEARS OF SOURDOUGH BAKING

March 11th, 2020
Twelve years of sourdough and 60 years alive and kicking!

The other day I found a little notebook with handwritten notes about the very beginning of my sourdough days, when I did not have a blog yet. No photos, just remarks about what to avoid, what to improve, the favorite recipes. The notebook is 12 years old, the age of my oldest starter, Dan. I wish I knew how many loaves I’ve baked over these years. What I realize is that I streamlined the process quite a bit, and now settled on a timeframe that works perfectly for me. Mix the dough around 4pm, shape and refrigerate around 9pm and bake next morning, straight from the fridge, into a cold Dutch oven type container, sitting on parchment paper. No more arm burns trying to deal with a screaming hot pan. Sometimes I throw a bit of water or an ice cube inside the pan, sometimes I forget and the fact that the pan is covered tightly with a lid seems to generate enough moisture for a nice crust. In this post, I share two loaves in which I played with color, razors and scissors. I also modified slightly how I mix the dough, and must say that I love the effect it has on the overall “strength” of the crumb. Purists, prepare to be disappointed.


SALLY’S SCISSORHANDS SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

110g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
380g water
50g whole-wheat flour
450g bread flour
10g salt

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the sourdough in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add all flours and salt.  Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours, or even sooner than that.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and lightly, very lightly coat it with flour, then rub all over the surface with the palm of your hand. Use a string to make four lines to mark regions of the bread to facilitate drawing the patters. Use a new razor blade to slash the dough in a leaf pattern, one leaf per quadrant. Then, with very small scissors, clip the outside lines of the leaves. Decorate the inside region with more razor blade slashes.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. You can generate additional steam by spraying the inside of the lid with water before closing the pan.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Loved scoring the bread with scissors! I cannot take credit for it, just noticed a few breads like that in instagram feeds and pinterest, and decided to give the technique a try. I think I could have been a bit more assertive, but to tell you the truth, after I butchered Paul Hollywood’s Cob Loaf in front of the cameras because of excessive enthusiasm, I became slashing-shy. I need some more time to recover and find my mojo.

Moving on…  A similar sourdough loaf with two additions: peanut butter and butterfly pea flower powder. I was so thrilled by the taste and looks of this bread, I cannot wait to bake another loaf.

NUTTY BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER SOURDOUGH 
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

110g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
380g water
50g whole-wheat flour
450g bread flour
1 Tablespoon butterfly pea flower powder
1/8 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
10g salt

Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.

When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter and the peanut butter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the flours, and salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and lightly, very lightly coat it with flour, then rub all over the surface with the palm of your hand. Use a new razor blade to slash the dough in a decorative pattern.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. You can generate additional steam by spraying the inside of the lid with water before closing the pan.  Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I was a bit worried when the dough showed such intense blue color, but it gets quite a bit mellowed down during baking. The other thing that amazed me about the bread was the peanut smell during baking, very noticeable and pleasant. The idea of using a nut butter came from my friend, Bread Baker Queen, Elaine. She’s been doing it quite often with great results (check her post here) and I finally had a chance to do it myself. The additional fat in the peanut butter changes the texture of the crumb quite a bit. Try it, you might fall in love with it too.

Someone was very intrigued by the color of the loaf. Keep in mind that the blue color is lost on the crust as it gets dark in the oven, so don’t panic thinking that the blue was somehow ruined. Once you slice it, you’ll have a big smile in your face.

Did I say I was going to share two breads today? Well, here’s one more, same recipe as the first, but no scissors. Just some swirls.



I find  sourdough baking one of the most flexible and forgiving methods to make bread. When you use commercial yeast, things happen so fast, you need to be around and on top of it from beginning to end. Once you get a system in place for the slow approach of wild yeast, you will never look back.

As this post is published, we will be in Oahu, enjoying a double celebration trip, 20 years of our wedding anniversary and my Birthday. I feel lucky and grateful for so much. Having the blog to share recipes and thoughts, and friends that make it so special, is the icing on my Birthday cake. THANK YOU!

ONE YEAR AGO: Rainbow Carrots with Rose Harissa

TWO YEARS AGO: Deviled Eggs go Green

THREE YEARS AGO: Tiramisu

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

SIX YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

NINE YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

TEN YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE: CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS

For a few years I’ve been blogging on recipes that are almost too simple to call as such (see them all here), but tasty enough to sit side by side in a blog with more elaborate concoctions. Normally I like to wait until I have several “incredibly simple” items to share in a single post, but spring is almost here, asparagus season is knocking at the door, and this recipe was too good to keep it a secret for much longer. I made it three times in two weeks. The delicate crunch on these babies? I am seriously in love.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/3 cup almond meal

Heat oven to 425 F.

Mix enough olive oil and lemon juice (half and half) to give enough liquid to coat the asparagus well.  Add salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence to the mixture, eye-balling is totally fine.

Place the asparagus on a tray, pour the seasoned olive oil mixture over them, and move to coat well.

Place the almond meal in a separate tray, drop the asparagus coated in olive oil over it, move gently to make the almond meal stick to the surface.

Arrange them on a single layer on a baking dish covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Roast for 12 minutes, shaking them a bit halfway through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Really hard to imagine a simpler recipe. Well, of course, you can omit the almond meal coating and still get excellent roasted asparagus that way. But this very minor additional step sends this side dish to a whole other level of deliciousness.

Change things around by using other spices, although you risk masking the flavor of the veggie itself. Still, if you are in the mood for it, add cayenne, smoked paprika, sumac (oh, that would be great), play with the whole concept and make it yours. Whatever you do, do not omit the lemon juice.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Sourdough Quartet

TWO YEARS AGO: When bad things happen to good people

THREE YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

FIVE YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

NINE YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

TEN YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

 

BICOLOR CROISSANT AND PAIN AU CHOCOLAT


For the past few months, I could not get bicolor croissants and their close cousins – pain au chocolat – out of my mind. As you may already know, I tend to get obsessed about things. That means that two bad batches in a row did not prevent me from trying again. They were heavy and doughy, with almost no lamination.  You probably won’t find a detailed recipe in cookbooks, but youtube videos (some not in English) promise to show you how to succeed in a home setting. Keep in mind that for the most part, these are made in patisseries by bakers who have those incredibly efficient rolling machines (sheeters) at their disposal.  Fear not, I am ready to share a recipe and a method that worked well for me. My main advice: do not rush it. This is not the type of recipe to try and adapt for a tent-baking situation. Take your time. Keep the dough and yourself cool at all times.

BICOLOR CROISSANTS & PAIN AU CHOCOLAT
(adapted from many sources)

for main dough:
490g all-purpose flour
36g sugar
10g osmo-tolerant yeast (or regular instant  yeast, same amount)
16g salt
300g full-fat milk
70g butter, melted and cooled
for butter block:
340g butter cut in pieces, cold
(unsalted Land O’Lakes *see comments)
35g flour

Batons of chocolate
1 egg for egg wash
simple syrup (water and sugar, equal amounts by weight, dissolved by boiling and cooled)

Make the dough the day before.  Add all ingredients except butter to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer with a dough hook. Process for about 3 minutes, then add the butter, and mix for about 4 minutes longer, at low-speed. The dough should feel smooth and elastic.

Remove from the machine, knead by hand a few times, place in a bowl coated with a little butter, cover and leave at room temperature for 1 hour. Remove 110g of dough and add a few drops of red gel dye. Wearing gloves, knead the color into the dough, adding more if necessary. It will take a little while, the color will resist mixing at first. Make sure it is totally incorporated throughout the little ball of dough.  Reserve both doughs in separate bowls, covered, and place in the fridge overnight.

Make the butter block. Add cold butter and flour to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer fitted with the mixing blade. Process for about 2 minutes. Make an envelope for the butter using parchment paper. Fold 24-inch length of parchment in half to create a 12-inch rectangle. Fold over 3 open sides of rectangle to form 8-inch square, creasing the folds very firmly.  Unfold parchment envelope, add the butter/flour and refold the envelope. Roll gently until the butter is uniform in thickness and forms a perfect 8-inch square.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Roll the main dough (with no color) over a lightly floured surface to a rectangle about 9 x 16 inches, so that you can set the butter square in the center and fold the top and bottom parts over it, with a seam in the exact middle of the butter square. Gently glue the open sides of the dough so that the butter is all cozy inside. Turn the dough so that the seam is vertical now, perpendicular to you.  Roll again to the same general dimension (9 x 16 inches).  Make the first fold: divide the dough in three pieces (eye-balling is fine). Bring the top third down, and the bottom third up, in what is known as the envelope fold. Place the folded dough in the fridge covered with plastic for 45 minutes, transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough again to the same dimension (9 x 16 inches). Make the second fold, exactly like you did the first. Place the folded dough in the fridge, covered with plastic for 45 minutes, transfer to the freezer for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough again to the same dimension (9 x 16 inches). Make the third and final fold. Bring the top part down and the bottom part up to almost meet at the center, leaving a small space between the edges, so that you can fold the dough right there in the center.  That is known as the “book-fold.”  Refrigerate for 1 hour and freeze for 20 minutes.

While the dough cools, it’s time to roll out the red dough. You need to make it thin and a little bigger than the dimension of the folded white dough, so that it sits on top of it. When the dough is out of the freezer, moisten it very lightly with water, place the rolled out red dough on top, and gently roll them both together (you can flip the dough to place the red one at the bottom after rolling a few times).

Roll both doughs together to a final dimension of 9 by 20 inches. Ideally, roll slightly bigger than that, then cut neatly to that final dimension. If for some reason some parts near the edges do not have the red dough on it, do not worry. Just proceed with cutting the pieces, it will not hurt the final look.

I used half the dough to make croissants and half to make pain au chocolat.  To make the croissants, I cut a 9-inch square from the dough and eye-balled triangles from it. With the rest of the dough I cut rectangles that were about 3 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.  Shape croissants and enclose two chocolate batons per pain au chocolat, placing the red dough at the bottom in both cases.

Right after shaping the pain au chocolat, make parallel cuts with a razor blade on the red dough to expose the plain dough underneath. Some scraps from the dough I used to shape as a little flower. Allow the shaped pastries to proof for 2 and a half to 3 hours.

Heat the oven to 350F (higher temperatures will affect the red color).  Brush the pastries very lightly with egg wash, and place them in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow the butter to solidify a bit. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack. If desired, brush the surface with a simple syrup while they are still hot for a little shine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used all-purpose flour and American butter, not the fancy 82% or higher fat butter than many recipes recommend. American butter has slightly more water, it resists better the rolling and pounding without incorporating into the dough, and it laminates well too. Particularly with the two-color dough, I felt it gave a lighter and better laminated final product. European butter made the croissants doughy and a lot of butter leaked during baking. It is possible that I need to improve my technique before using a higher fat butter with the two-color dough. If it works well for you, go for it. Freezing the dough before baking is a nice additional step that I learned in Artful Baker and decided to incorporate in the recipe. 

In theory, there are two ways to incorporate the red dough on the plain one. You can do what I did, or you can roll both doughs to the final dimension (9 by 20 inches) and place the red on top at that time. I tried both ways, and prefer the method I shared here. It is quite tricky to roll the red dough by itself as a large sheet and it is not as efficiently “glued” to the main dough since you simply place it on top and proceed to cutting the pieces. I should also mention that Philip, Baker Extraordinaire, makes a colored dough that does not contain yeast and it works very well. Check his method here. I am going to try that next time.

On shaping. As you roll the croissants or the little pain au chocolat, it is important to make it tight, by stretching a bit, generating tension as you roll. I was a bit worried about the layer of red dough and got too gentle with the shaping, so the pain au chocolat was not as tight as it should have been. Most were already unrolling during proofing. So that is definitely a detail to keep in mind.

Overall I am pretty happy with these babies. My previous attempts were  heavy and dense, with no open structure at all inside.  These had a nice crumbly crust, good butter flavor (even using American butter), and felt pretty light when handled. All I need to do next is optimize the shaping. And perhaps explore a different color scheme… Orange? Black?

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemon-Blueberry Entremet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Walk Strong3: A review of Jessica Smith’s latest workout program

THREE YEARS AGO: Pork Medallions with Black Berry Compote

FOUR YEARS AGO: Indian-Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas and Spinach

FIVE YEARS AGO: Curry Cardamon Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, March 2014

SEVEN YEARS AGOBoeuf Bourguignon for a Snowy Evening

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Chickpea Salad

NINE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

TEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Onion and Asiago Cheese Miche

THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: FEBRUARY PROJECT

If you don’t know what the Home Bakers Collective is all about, I invite you to read my post about it with a click here. This month’s challenge was conceived by the one and only Carlos, Tent-Baker-Extraordinaire, Newly-Dad of Franklin Chip, a chocolate lab who is the most adorable thing roaming the planet at the present time. Check him out. Back to the challenge. Methinks Carlos made this one for me. Because, seriously, look at his brief: If you were a macaron, which macaron would you be? Can you imagine my sheer joy?  Of course, I could not wait to bake this batch, although it was not as easy and straightforward to decide what to do. I had two main paths in my mind, one focusing on color, the other on flavor. It was tricky to come up with something that would join both harmoniously. So I went with flavor. Tropical, of course, but with some spice. Swirls and sprinkles, of course. Because by now everybody knows I am a serial sprinkler.

SALLY’S SPICY MANGO AND COCONUT MACARON
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the shells:
200 g powdered sugar
115 g almond meal
115 g egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
100 g superfine sugar
orange gel color from Artisan Accents
2 drops coconut extract

for the mango gelee filling:
2g gelatin (powdered or 1 sheet)
water to bloom gelatin (10 mL if using powdered)
60g sugar
60g water
60g mango puree (I used canned)
2tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp Sarawak pepper, ground
1g agar

for the coconut ganache filling:
4g powdered gelatin (I used Knox)
20g cold water
375g heavy cream
130g white chocolate
1/4 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
to decorate:
Royal icing or Candy melts + sprinkles (optional)

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and almond meal in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam.

Slowly add in the granulated sugar in three to four additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the coconut extract drops. Staying at medium-high speed, whip until firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Divide in two portions, color one orange, leave the other plain. Proceed with the macaronage, mixing each mixture to the correct texture (molten lava is the term of choice, I like to form a figure 8 with the batter and also check a small amount placed on parchment, the texture should smooth out in 30 seconds or so).  Place both batters inside the same piping bag fitted with an 8mm tip, or any tip you feel comfortable for piping.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull, about 30 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the gelee filling: Bloom the gelatin by submerging it in water until it softens, about 10 minutes.  Combine the 60g water with mango puree, lime, pepper and agar. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add gelatin.  Pour into a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and place in fridge until set.  Cut small circles that will sit in the center of each shell.

Make the coconut ganache. Place the powdered gelatin into a small saucepan along with the cold water, let it sit for 10 minutes. It will turn into a hard paste.

Add the heavy cream into a saucepan along with the shredded coconut. Simmer until it almost boils, turn the heat off, cover the pan and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Drain the shredded coconut, bring the weight back to 375g with additional heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, then add to the chocolate. Add the gelatin, and mix well to incorporate everything together and melt the chocolate. Use an immersion blender if desired. Place the mixture in the fridge for a few hours. It is best if made the day before and kept refrigerated. Whip before using.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a round of mango gelee in the center. Surround with coconut ganache. Close the shell.

Decorate the tops with swirls and sprinkles. Because, why not?

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: This was my first time making a double filling for the macarons and there’s definitely a learning curve associated with it. For instance, the agar-layer generates a bit of moisture, so if you are not consuming the macarons within two days, the texture will suffer a bit. I think the issue can be prevented with a very thin layer of melted white chocolate before filling the shells, to form a barrier.  But if you intend to consume the macarons in a couple of days, I would not worry about it.

The pepper. I had several options to try, including Szechuan peppers that would probably be pretty cool to use also. In the end, I sat down with Mr. Pierre Herme’ and he advised me to search for Sarawak pepper. Well, ok, it was not exactly him, flesh and bone (borrowing a Brazilian expression), but his book. Minor detail. So I amazoned the pepper, and used the same amount he did in his Mahogany Macarons, recipe found here. My agar layer is however totally different from his filling, just the pepper in common.


I loved the contrast of mango-gelee and the shell, plus the creaminess of the ganache around it. Infusing the ganache with shredded coconut gave it enough flavor, and more natural than coconut extracts, which often will give that odd sun-tanning lotion aura.

Did I  hit my self-macaron perfectly? Well, it is not as colorful as I could make it, but I think the swirls and sprinkles compensate for the restraint in the color department. The taste is spot on, to quote a certain judge from a certain baking show. What do you think, does it “look” like yours truly?

Carlos, I loved this challenge and I can hardly wait to see what everyone else baked!

To all my readers, make sure to stop by The Home Bakers Collective, and say hi to my friends, each one waiting for you with a very personal macaron in hand. (It might take a few hours after publication of my post for the collective to get updated, so try later if there’s nothing there yet).

ONE YEAR AGO: Bouillabaise for a Chilly Evening

TWO YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

FIVE YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

NINE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

TEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

 

CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM

Every Monday I like to take a bake to our department, and try to keep it varied, never the same type of sweet two weeks in a row. I always have too many options in my mind and go into a state of paralysis when the weekend arrives and I need to decide what to make. Last weekend was particularly tough, so I asked the husband to help me out. He did not even blink. Why not a chocolate cake with coconut frosting? And that’s how this cake was born.

CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM
(adapted from  Ina Garten and Stella Parks)

for the chocolate cake (make one day in advance):
(after Ina Garten)
228g all-purpose flour
400g sugar
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

for coconut creme patissiere:
1 cup coconut milk
4 large egg yolks
65g granulated sugar
2 + 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

for coconut frosting:
(after Stella Parks)
170g egg whites
340g turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
450 g butter (4 sticks)  softened to about 65 F
115g virgin coconut oil

for the drip glaze:
113 g semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Make the cakes. Heat the oven to 350°. Butter three 7-by-2-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.

I In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, both leavening agents and salt in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer.  Turn the mixer on, and after a few seconds slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Slowly pour the warm coffee. Batter will be pretty thin.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment. When completely cold, refrigerate to finish next day.

Make the creme patissiere (can be made the day before). Bring the coconut milk up to a simmer in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and extract until pale in color. Slowly pour in the hot coconut milk while whisking continuously. Return the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk over medium-high heat until it boils. Boil for two minutes (important step, to destroy amylases in the egg yolks, that would prevent the cream from setting properly).  Pour the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve then stir in the butter. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream, making sure it is touching the surface, and refrigerate until cooled completely. Stir in the shredded coconut when ready to use in the cake.

Make the coconut frosting. Make a Swiss meringue by mixing egg whites, turbinado sugar, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla paste in a large bowl and bringing it to 185F over simmering water, whisking constantly.  Transfer to Kitchen Aid type mixer and whisk at high-speed for about 12 minutes until temperature is around 90F.

Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, then add the coconut oil. Whisk a couple more minutes until fully smooth, and use right away. You can also store it in the fridge, bring it to 70F and whisk again before using.

Make the drip glaze. Warm all ingredients in a bowl over simmering water. Once chocolate is fully melted and incorporated with other ingredients, remove from heat. Cool to around 98F to use.

Assemble the cake. Place one layer over a cake board. Add a layer of coconut frosting, top with a small amount of coconut creme patissier. Add second layer of the cake, repeat filling. Add final third layer, frost top and sides with a crumb coat of frosting. Put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Add a final coating of the coconut frosting, work with a scraper to the remove a bit from the sides, exposing some of the layers. Place back in the fridge, so that it is very cold before you add the drip glaze.

Add the drip glaze with a spoon, dripping around the sides, then fill the top of the cake with a thin layer. Refrigerate again for 15 minutes or until the drip glaze is set. Add swirls of coconut buttercream, decorate the base with shredded coconut, if so desired.  Sprinkles are optional.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The chocolate cake is a favorite of mine. I’ve used it in the past, and was my cake of choice for a very special celebration back in December.  It is moist, it is intense, it holds well in layers. I was a bit worried that so much chocolate would obliterate the coconut component, but we are talking a duel between Ina and Stella, two Baking Titans. Stella Parks’ coconut frosting rose to the challenge.  I do think my little contribution of the creme pat was also pretty nice, so I discreetly offered myself a pat in the back.

Usually, when we think about chocolate cake with coconut frosting, the first idea that comes to mind is a mountain of white frosting with shredded coconut all over it. I don’t particularly care for the texture of shredded coconut when it is prominent like that. So for my personal taste this version is more appealing. And it does have a touch of elegance, I think.

I loved doing the drip glaze thing. It is not as dramatic as mirror-glazing, in fact it is much more Zen, because you can plan your drips and watch them form. Plan your drips. Yeah, that is one odd statement, but it’s the best I could do. It’s early and coffee has not kicked in yet.

I think this cake goes easily into my top five list. 

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts 

TWO YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

THREE YEAR AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

FIVE YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

NINE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

TEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

 

 

BROWNIES, THREE WAYS

I share with you three takes on a very simple bake, the deliciously humble brownie. What makes a brownie a  brownie? Tough to define precisely because lots of different recipes will take you to that territory. In general, it is a simple cake with just a few ingredients: butter, flour, chocolate, sugar and eggs. But a leavening agent might finds its way there also, in case the baker prefers a more cake-like version. Marriages have been damaged due to brownie divergencies. I advise you to date people who share your passion for fudgy or cakey. Back to what matters. My three versions are right here for you.

BROWNIE, TRADITIONAL

I like it to be dense, creamy, not cakey. I like a brownie with substance, but that melts in the mouth and brings with each bite a moment of introspection because words seem like such a waste.

This recipe, straight from the blog of Helen, my tent-baker friend, checks all the boxes.For the recipe, visit Bakers Anonymous with a click here.

BROWNIE, DRESSED UP

BROWNIE PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the pastry shell:
(makes more than you need, save the rest in the freezer)
310g  all purpose flour
30g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
170g butter (chilled and cut in small cubes)
3 egg yolks mixed with very cold water to make a volume of 6 tablespoons

for the chocolate brownie filling:
100 g coarsely chopped 70% chocolate
10 g  Dutch-process cocoa powder
120 g unsalted butter
180 g whole eggs
130 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour, sifted
powdered sugar for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 375F.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in food processor then add the butter and process until the butter is in small pieces. With the motor running add the mixture of egg yolks and cold water. Stop the mixer before the pastry forms a ball, remove it from the processor and gently bring it all together with your hands over plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disc and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. I like to do it in between two plastic sheets (I cut the four sides of a  large ziplock bag leaving just the bottom part attached, open it and roll the pastry inside it). Roll the dough as a circle large enough to cover the pan and leave a little extra around the sides. Place it in an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Line the surface with plastic wrap and fill with beans. Wrap the plastic over the beans so that it does not touch the metal sides of the pan.  Blind bake for 15 minutes with the beans on, then carefully remove them and place the shell back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Remove and allow it to cool slightly.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 F.

Make the brownie filling. Gently melt the chocolate, cocoa powder and butter together in the microwave. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and sugar by hand. Fold in the dark chocolate mixture, followed by the sifted flour. Continue gently folding using a spatula until well combined. Place the finished mixture into the blind-baked tart shell and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is set in the center.

Allow it to cool and decorate with powdered sugar using a stencil, if you like. Refrigerate until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This was decadent. We offered pieces to some bricklayers working in a little project in our home and they were very VERY happy.  This recipe has just enough flour to hold it together, so it is almost like enjoying a piece of ready to  melt chocolate on top of a sweet tart shell. Bliss. 

Am I the only one who sees a cute alien?

Now finally, my third version for you…

BROWNIE BITES, FOR FUN

BROWNIE BITES
(adapted from The Cookery Wife)

95 g all-purpose flour
200 g granulated sugar
75 g cocoa powder (I used natural)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, (1 stick, 113 g), room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla paste
2 Tablespoons full-fat milk (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.

Spray your mini-cake pan with baking spray containing flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt. Stir to combine. Next, add eggs, vanilla, butter. Mix on low for 30 seconds, add the milk and mix on medium-high for 2 full minutes. Batter will be very thick. Place it in a piping bag (no need for piping tip). Cut an opening and fill the mini-cakes between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

Using the tip of your finger coated with a bit of butter, press the batter to smooth it out. Bake for 15 minutes until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

A toothpick can help loosen the sides, but be gentle.  Cool completely over a rack before decorating with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

First of all, don’t let the lack of a mini-cute-Bundt pan stop you from making these bites. A mini-muffin alternative will work just as well. But, you know I cannot resist a baking gadget. I was a bit afraid of them sticking to the pan, but most came out just with a gentle flip of the pan (see photo, bottom left). Just a few stayed in, but were also released with a gentle tap, no harm done. I think filling them just a little over half capacity is the ticket. If some of them dome a bit, you can gently shave the bump with a small serrated knife, so they will sit leveled.

They have great flavor and the texture is not dense, even though the batter started so thick. You can decorate them with powdered sugar, a drizzle of caramel, melted chocolate. I happened to have some leftover white chocolate ganache from a macaron adventure, so I added a touch of that to most of them. They are perfect to bring to parties or share with co-workers. I will bake them regularly, my next project will involve a lemon cake. The idea is to avoid cake batters that are too light, you need more substance to get them to unmold nicely and keep the overall design.

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

TWO YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FOUR YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

SHARING A LITTLE GUEST POST

I love baking, I love exercising, I love my work, but I also have a secret passion for all things language. It gave me a thrill to be invited by the superb linguist Dr. Denise Santos to contribute with a little article to her blog.  If you’d like to see it, jump here.