Archive for January, 2012

Cuban Bread

Every week I look forward to seeing the weekly “yeastspotting” roundup on the blog Wild Yeast, but this past Thursday Susan had a post for her monthly  Bread Baking Babes challenge.  I wanted to get in on this one since they were using a recipe from one of my favorite books “Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Bread”. I just baked a potato loaf from this book last week and was going on about how I really adored this book. The Cuban bread was one I had never tried so needless to say I have hopped on the bread train to tag along on this one.  Wow, what a nice surprise this bread turned out to be, and the best part about it is that you can have it on the table, ready to eat, in under 2 hours!! Actually 1 hour and 30 minutes. Seems too good to be true, right? Wrong.  So easy to bake, anyone can do this. I should know, since it turned out beautifully and I am a novice bread baker (ahhh, maybe one day I too can say I am a BBB). The only complaint from me is that the recipe calls for brushing the loaf with a little water and then sprinkling with  some sesame seeds (I used flax seeds instead). Well, it looked great but most of the flax seeds fell off while I was cutting the bread and now they are everywhere. Next time I will brush the bread with a little egg white for better adhesion. I only made half of the recipe so  we would have one loaf; perfect with dinner. Get the recipe here, at Lucullian Delights, another blog I am so glad to be turned onto, and give it a try. Bake on!

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This months bakers challenge was hosted by  Audax from Audax Artifex. In many ways he is the backbone among us; always the first to complete the challenge and  always providing insightful tips on how to make the challenge more successful. There is never a challenge that he doesn’t seem to take to the limit, pushing flavor boundries to the edge. So it was somewhat of a surprise that when it was his turn to host he chose biscuits. In his native Australia, they are known as scones, but here in North America they are called baking powder biscuits, or biscuits.  What I love about this challenge is that while it appears so simple and basic, it is so elusive in reality. How many times have you been to someone’s house and were served hockey pucks that were disguised as biscuits- or worse- how many times have you served them to guests??

With all this being said, you must go visit his site and read up all about his  trial and errors. He has some wonderful and interesting things to say on the subject that are not to be missed.

For mine, I baked up the basic version and a cheddar cheese version. The latter I brushed with garlic butter and dried parsley as soon as they came out of the oven which made them taste just like the cheddar bay biscuits served at Red Lobster (mmmm). Many others in the Daring Bakers crew added raisins or fruit so you should check it out, but I like my biscuits without such things. I did try a gingerbread version but decided I like gingerbread cake, not gingerbread biscuits.

We go through spurts of baking biscuits, so they are no stranger to this house. I love this recipe, which is so good with breakfast, but Audix has provided a lovely version as well. There are a few things that will definitely take away with me from this challenge. 1) Grate frozen butter with a box grater (this virtually cuts out blending with your fingertips). 2) use half butter, half shortening 3) let the dough rest before and after cutting

Biscuits are one of those staples that everyone should know how to bake. So give it try and bake on!

Baking Powder Biscuits

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of shortening and butter)
approx. ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops (which I don’t do)

Cheddar Cheese variation: Add 2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients. When fresh out of the oven brush immediately with garlic butter and sprinkle lightly with dried parley.

 Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9
 Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. 
Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
 Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be! Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)

 Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire. 
Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Pop them back in the fridge for another 10 minutes.

Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones. (I never do either of these things)
 Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
 Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm. Enjoy!

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National Pie Day

Since today is national pie day, I thought I would get in the spirit and bake a little pie. I mean that literally. A 9 inch pie is just too much for just us without company coming over, so I made 12 mini pies so we could give some away. With a pie crust in the freezer (see, things like this do come in handy), and a regular muffin tin, this was quite quick to put together.  If you don’t have a large, round cutter, you can flip a small bowl over and use that as your template. The crust should only come halfway up the sides of the muffin cup, unless you want a very deep dish pie.

So, do you part and bake a pie today… or at least eat one. Bake On!

Chocolate Banana Coconut Pie

Makes one 9 inch pie or 12 small pies

You will need one recipe for flaky pie dough. (you will need 1/2 this recipe)

Chocolate Ganache:

3/4 Cup (6 oz) heavy cream
6 Ounces Bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until almost boiling and then pour over the chocolate. Let this sit for 3 minutes. Whisk together until smooth and creamy (this will take less than a minute), then stir in the extracts until well blended. Set aside to set up for 30 minutes (my pie crust was thawing during this time).

*Preheat your oven to 350F*


1/4 Cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup (4 oz) dark brown sugar
1/2 Cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 Cup (4 oz) whole milk
2 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 1/2 Cups (6 oz) sweetened shredded coconut

Beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk ,mashed bananas, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. It will look slightly curdled- don’t worry. Stir in the coconut. Set aside.


Roll out you pie to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out twelve 4 inch circles. Press each circle into a muffin space so it is evenly and firmly in the bottom well. It will be halfway up the sides.

Drop a tablespoon’s worth of the chocolate ganache into each little pie shell.

Cover with a very large spoonful (about 1/4 cup) of the coconut filling. When you use up all of the filling, each of your little pie shells will be very full. That is what you want; the filling will settle as it bakes.

Place in your preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes . Let cool completely. Run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen before taking them out of the pan.

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Potato Bread

Baby it’s cold outside… like -22F I mean (and lower at night!). Doesn’t seem believable but sadly it’s true. What’s a girl to do in  weather like this? Bake , of course. And make it comfort food please. Like soups, stews, chocolate chip cookies, and fresh bread. Warm out of the oven fresh bread. That should help a little with this kind of cold. And it does. Needless to say I haven’t been outside much this past week. It’s been crazy cold like this for the past week so there has been a lot of home time, which can be really nice sometimes. My daughter and I have been able to play a lot of games together this week and I have had the chance to bake this wonderful bread. Potatoes are used two ways in this bread. First, the potato water, or I should say, the water that the potato is cooked in. It is rich in starch and flavor. Second, the boiled potato itself. This make the bread moist and supple with a crisp crust. So good.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite bread books Bernard Clayton’s  New Complete Book of Breads. I picked it up a long time ago at a local book sale for $3C. Worth every penny, and then some. No fancy pictures, but simple to follow instructions. These are recipes, so it’s not about  techniques or the science behind bread baking, which is why I like it so much. I am not an advanced bread baker with knowledge about the percentage of moisture in my starter. Maybe one day I’ll get there. I just know that I like to bake bread. A lot. This book gives you three methods for every recipe; by hand, by standing mixer, and by processor. It’s a real every mans kind of book. Wait, I mean, every bakers kind of book. So, Bake on!

* A small note about yeast in this recipe. I have made this using 2 different kinds of yeast with different rising times. When I use active dry yeast, I measure out 1/2 cup of the potato water and let it sit until it is 100F. I then add the yeast and proof it for ten minutes before adding it to the flour with the hot potato water mixture. This first rise takes about 1 1/2. This particular time I used instant dry yeast (SAF gold) and followed the recipe below with my rise only taking 50 minutes. I can’t say I could taste any difference, especially since they weren’t side by side. In other words, use what you have on hand!

Potato Bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves and freezes beautifully. I made braided loaves but you can also use 2 loaf pans

2 small to medium potatoes or 1 large one (which is what I used)
2 cups water
5 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast, or 2 packages
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 Cup unsalted butter

Peel the potato (es) and bring to a boil with the water in a medium-sized pot. Cook until tender. Drain, saving the water, and rice or mash the potato. Set them both aside. You should have 1 3/4 cups potato water left; if not add some tap water if necessary.

Stir together  3 cups of flour, the yeast, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Place the riced potato, potato water and butter back into the pot. Stir in all together and heat, if necessary, to 120F (yes, this is hot). Add to the flour mixture. Using the dough hook attachment (or beat by hand using a wooden spoon), add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time. The dough will be sticky at first, but this will change as you sprinkle in the flour. The dough will clean the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Place the ball of dough into a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume. This will take 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on your yeast*

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 equal pieces ( a kitchen scale is quite handy and I recommend everyone treat themselves to this very useful item- otherwise, just eye it as best as possible). If you want to make a braid, divide one of your pieces into 3 more equal pieces. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and then roll the pieces out into 14 inch ropes and braid then, making sure to pinch the ends together tightly. I like to slightly roll the ends under.  Repeat with the other piece of dough and place these on a large, parchment lined baking sheet with about 4 inches of space between them. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400F 30 minutes before baking.

Bake for 15 minutes and then turn your oven down to 350F and bake for an additional 25 minutes. If they brown too quickly, cover them loosely with a piece of foil. They are fully baked when they bottom of the bread sounds hard and hollow when tapped with your finger.

Cool on a wire cooling rack (for as long as you can wait, which was only about 10 minutes in our house).


P.S. While it has been frigid cold all week it is supposed to up to the mid forties by next week. Life in Rockies!!

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Happy New Year

Yes, I know, I know, I know. It’s been 6 weeks since my last post. I’m not making any excuses for myself. I have been in New York visiting my mom for the holidays and just didn’t make time to fit it in. Everyone needs a break, right? Not that I have taken a break from baking. Far from it. I have baked more in the last 6 weeks than I have in months. I’m just too tired at the end of the day to write about it! Here is a small sampling of what has been going on in the kitchen….

Sugar cookies, Stollen bites,

cashew caramel cookies, cocoa blocks

Cranberry Turtle bars, Brandied Fruit Squares*, Creole pecan bars

Skinny Peanut Wafers*, Peanut Madness Chunks**,

Vanilla  Sugar Cookies, Red Velvet shortbread

Chocolate covered sandwich cookies with dulce de leche, Brioche

Double Chocolate Chunk cookies, Red Velvet swiss roll with rasberry cream cheese filling

And so I want to wish everyone a wonderful beginning to a New Yearfilled with love and baking!

* From Maeda Heatters Great book of Cookies

** From Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

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