BISCOFF COOKIES

During my first airplane flight in a year, and second in two years, the airline (Delta) served Biscoff cookies. (That was about the ONLY thing Delta did right) I love those cookies. They have a wonderful blend of spices, a crispness, and refreshing taste that is perfect. I said to myself, “Self, you can bake. Make you own damn Biscoff cookies!” And I did. First try the are nearly there. I think a couple more minutes baking they would have been nearly perfect. They flavor and crispness is just about right and the flavor is spot on. Lots of ingredients, mostly spices but I had them in the pantry anyway, but well worth it.

BISCOFF COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

• 250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• 227g (1 cup) unsalted butter room temperature
• 100g (½ cup) sugar
• 55g (¼ cup) dark brown sugar firmly packed

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom), baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar.
  4. Gradually blend the flour and butter mixtures until well combined.
  5. Divide the dough into flat discs. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Overnight works well too.)
  6. Roll half of the dough at time to 1/4 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper or two silicone mats. Cut out using your favorite cookie cutters. They do spread a little bit so don’t choose something with an intricate shape.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Be sure they are browned! They will still be soft. The cookies crisp up as they cool.
  8. Cool on cooling rack before serving

Not Very Thin Mint Cookies

Spring is thin mint cookie season. At QC’s request. I made Not Very Thin Mint Cookies for her Mah Jongg group. This was not my first thin mint rodeo. The mint flavor was strong the first time, so this time I didn’t add mint extract to the chocolate coating and the hint ‘o mint was perfect.

I coated the cookies with milk chocolate (31% cacao) rather than the dark chocolate (first attempt) or the second attempt with semi-sweet chocolate coating. The dark (64%) and semi-sweet (46%.)

The dark chocolate did not add enough sweetness to counter the strong mint flavor. The semi-sweet was a big improvement, so why not go a little sweeter yet? I am not a big fan of milk chocolate and I felt the last attempt was past the mark. I remember back when I was a professional photographer—when printing photos always go past what you think the perfect exposure/contrast is… just to be sure. Semi-sweet is the winner.

The liquidity of the chocolate is inversely proportional to the sweetness. This means the thickness of the chocolate coating increases with sweetness, which if you are not a fan of milk chocolate, is not a plus.

Thin Mint Cookies

INGREDIENTS
• ½ cup butter
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 cup AP flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1/3 cup special dark cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Chocolate Coating:
• 8 ounces baking chocolate
• ¼ teaspoon vegetable oil
• ¼ teaspoon pure peppermint extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and peppermint extract. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball.
  4. Place the ball of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Flatten it into a disk and put another piece of parchment paper on top.
  5. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. (I like to use chopsticks on either side of the dough to control the thickness.) Transfer the rolled dough, with the parchment paper, onto a baking sheet.
  6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer the flattened dough to a countertop. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and use it to line the baking sheet.
  8. Use a small, circular cookie cutter to cut out disks of dough. Transfer the cut disks onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving space in between. Because the dough is chilled, these cookies won’t spread while baking.
  9. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 11 minutes. Once baked, remove the cookies from the oven, then transfer the parchment paper and cookies to a cooling rack to fully cool.
  10. I temper chocolate using a sous vide. I find it is easier to control the temperature to modify the chocolate’s crystal structure. It is also easier to maintain the proper temper temperature while you dip and coat the cookies. Stir the chocolate until fully melted and stir in the peppermint extract.
  11. Use two forks to tip and flip the cookies. Once covered in chocolate, transfer each cookie back to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to fully set and harden.

• Thin Mints are best enjoyed cold.
• Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge.
• Keep in the freezer for one to two months, or in the fridge for two weeks. This will also keep the chocolate coating at its best.
• Store in an airtight container for two days.

Rustic Italian Bread

I ran across a four ingredient, no knead, no stretch and fold, Italian bread. I am on my third bake of this bread, each with minor tweaks.

Version 1 was as presented. Version 2 was as presented but baked in a Dutch oven (my preferred baking method.) Version 3 included Cake and Bread Enhancer (fifth ingredient) and was baked flat on a baking stone.

Version 1 was excellent. Version 2 was excellent. Version 3 was excellent. All three had great, crispy crusts and a soft tender crumb on the inside.

My current favorite is (was) my high hydration honey no-knead bread, but this may be my new go to. It’s even easier than the honey no-knead. Simply mix everything together the let it ferment for 2 hours. Gently pour out, (I do mean pour, it is high hydration, slack and sticky,) minimally shape and bake. All done!

My goal is to create larger holes in the bread. Version 2 (center) and 3 (right) were the best. I overworked the fermented dough a little too much in Version 1. Try, try, and try again!

Rustic Italian Bread

INGREDIENTS
• 380 g AP flour + more for dusting
• 20 g (3 Tbl) Bread Enhancer
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 350 g warm water
• 2 tsp active dry yeast

METHOD

  1. Add the flour, enhancer, salt and yeast to your stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to mix and combine so no dry patches remain.
  2. Add the warm water and mix until everything is incorporated and a soft, wet dough forms. It will be a slack, sticky dough.
  3. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic and let the dough rise at room temperature (See tip below) for 2 to 3 hours or until doubled in size.
  4. Dust your kitchen counter with flour and scrape the very sticky dough out with a bowl scraper.
  5. With floured hands shape the dough into a ball (or batard,) deflating it as little as possible.
  6. Line a banneton with parchment paper. (See tip below)
  7. Place the ball of dough in the lined banneton smooth side up and let it rest while your oven heats up.
  8. Use a sharp knife or lame to lightly slash an X in the top of the loaf.
  9. Preheat your oven to 450 F with a dutch oven inside for about 45 minutes before baking the bread. Fill an oven proof bowl with 2 inches of water and place it on the bottom rack.
  10. Once hot, carefully transfer the bread loaf into the dutch oven using the parchment paper.
  11. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 5 minutes until golden brown on top. The internal temperature should be 205 F
  12. Remove the bread from the dutch oven and transfer to a cooling rack or it won’t stay crispy.

TIPS

  1. Lining a round banneton: Crumple parchment paper starting from the edges. You should end up with a ball which will smooth out to fill the round banneton
  2. Room temperature proofing: I like to put the bowl in an “off” oven with the light on. In the winter my kitchen tends to be cool (62-65 F) My “off” oven with the light on is 78o F.

From King Arthur Baking’s Cake and Bread Enhancer: A “miracle” ingredient for your cakes!

(From KAB) Our bakers have called this the “miracle” ingredient for many reasons: it makes cakes and other baked goods softer, moister, and helps them stay fresher longer. Our blend contains vegetable fats that act as emulsifiers, allowing the fats and liquids in your favorite recipe to combine more easily. The enhancer also acts as a stabilizer and texture enhancer. Cake enhancers are commonly used in professional bakeries to keep breads fresh and soft, and help cakes stay light and fluffy. It’s especially great for making soft sandwich loaves.

Dede’s Bakery President’s Day Continued

While I was waiting for other items to mix/chill/rise/etc I made a few other items this morning.

We were nearly out of bread (amazing.) I made a loaf of my honey high-hydration no-knead bread. This may be the prettiest loaf I have made. The slashes on top were well defined and kept the bread from blowing out anywhere else.

Oh, by the way, there are three-berry scones in the background. I like to freeze them, then on golf days take them from the freezer and snack on them on the course. They don’t seem to help my game, but do make it more enjoyable.

This time, I made the scones bigger than usual. I used some frozen berries we had (ever frugal) and had trouble incorporating them into the dough. They ended up being delicious!

Dede’s Bakery – President’s Day

It’s the same old story, but with a different meaning. I had three egg yolks leftover from an earlier bake. As QC says (often) I am both frugal and whimsical and didn’t want to waste three whole egg yolks. As it happens home made scratch chocolate pudding requires three whole egg yolks.

I suppose a real photographer could make chocolate pudding look good, but probably couldn’t make it taste this good!

Chocolate Pudding from Scratch

Makes 4 cups; serves 8

INGREDIENTS
• 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
• 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 3 large egg yolks
• 2 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Use a serrated knife to chop the chocolate into fine flakes; set aside.
  2. Whisk the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt together in a large, heatproof bowl. Slowly whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the cream and cornstarch mixture.
  4. Pour the milk into a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan. Add the sugar and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Watch for the surface of the milk to vibrate and for bubbles to form around the edges of the pot.
  6. To temper the eggs, slowly pour most of the hot milk into the bowl of cream and egg yolks. Whisk until well-combined, then pour everything back into the pot.
  7. Bring the mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. (It should look like lava boiling up!) At this point, the pudding will look much thicker.
  8. Cook for 2 minutes more, whisking constantly and vigorously. Get your whisk into all corners of the pot.
  9. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Add the chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. Whisk vigorously until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
  10. Transfer the pudding to a storage container and press plastic wrap or wax paper directly onto the surface of the pudding. Cover with a lid and refrigerate.

Thin Mint Cookies

Neil sent me a recipe for these cookies, knowing they are among QC’s and my favorite cookies.

Well, they weren’t exactly thin but they were minty. I am not exactly thin either so I don’t hold that against them.

Not the prettiest cooking to photograph, but who cares?

When I make these again, and rest assured I WILL be making these again, I will roll between waxed paper instead of parchment paper. The dough is quite sticky and distorted when trying to remove them from the paper and put on a baking sheet.

I also think coating in tempered chocolate might help as this chocolate will melt in your hands, as well as your mouth.

Thin Mint Cookies

INGREDIENTS
½ cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup AP flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Chocolate Coating:
8 ounces baking chocolate
¼ teaspoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon pure peppermint extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and peppermint extract. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball.
  4. Place the ball of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Flatten it into a disk and put another piece of parchment paper on top. It may be a good idea to use waxed paper as the dough is very sticky and did not remove from the parchment paper easily.
  5. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the rolled dough, with the parchment paper, onto a baking sheet.
  6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer the flattened dough to a countertop. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and use it to line the baking sheet.
  8. Use a small, circular cookie cutter to cut out disks of dough. Transfer the cut disks onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving space in between. Because the dough is chilled, these cookies won’t spread too much while baking. I collected the excess dough, re-rolled and chilled to make about 8 more cookies.
  9. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 11 minutes. Once baked, remove the cookies from the oven, then transfer the parchment paper and cookies to a cooling rack to fully cool.
  10. Set up a double boiler and chop the chocolate. Add the chopped chocolate into the bowl of the boiler and stir in the vegetable oil. Stir the chocolate until fully melted and stir in the peppermint extract. Next time I will temper the chocolate. These cookies much be refrigerated or the chocolate will melt in your hands.
  11. Use a slotted wooden spoon to make the dipping process easier. Place a cookie on the wooden spoon. Dip it into the chocolate or use a large spoon to help cover the cookie. Tap the spoon gently against the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Once covered in chocolate, transfer each cookie back to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to fully set and harden.

• Thin Mints are best enjoyed cold.
• Store in an airtight container in the freezer or fridge.
• Keep in the freezer for one to two months, or in the fridge for two weeks. This will also keep the chocolate coating at its best.
• Store in an airtight container for two days.

Nana, Nana, Bo-bana. Banana-fana Fo-fana

So what are you supposed to do when you wake early, and as you walk through the kitchen on you way to turn on the TV to watch the replay of the Olympics (that you slept through last night) and you see 3 small, very ripe bananas sitting there?

Answer: make raisin banana bread. As I opened the drawer where the bread pans live, I saw two small bread pans I bought to make some Tangzhong Pillowy White Bread. Knowing I would give half the bread away, I felt these would be a perfect size.

There is nothing exceptional or fancy about this bread other than it’s tender, has a great crumb, and is neither tough or dry. (Be sure to take it out of the oven when the internal temperature reaches 190 F. Over-baking can reverse all its good characteristics.)

Banana Raisin Bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄4 cup oil
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1⁄2 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon sparkling sugar

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  5. Pour in loaf pan sprayed with Pam and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons coarse sparkling sugar.
  6. Bake for about an hour, until golden brown. (In the small pans it only required 40 minutes of baking. Start checking internal temp at about 30 minutes.)
  7. Cool completely before slicing.

Happy Valentines Day!

So, I started out Valentines Day morning making a chocolate Bundt cake, using a new recipe I found online. Everything looked fine after baking. The aroma was fantastic, the spring back was good, but when I turned it out of the pan it simply exploded in my hands. Testing a few scraps I found the cake dry, bitter and not particularly tasty. Straight to the bin!

Undeterred, I quickly switched to make heart shaped shortbread cookies with red sprinkles on top and the bottom dipped in dark chocolate. They were buttery with a nice crisp snap. Good recovery.

I also made my second annual heart shaped pizza. All day I was calling it a Jackson Pollock pizza. Last years looked like I was on acid when I made it. Jackson would have been impressed with the abstract result.

This years, with much thanks to the other grandpa, ‘Mike’, I put enough corn meal under the uncooked pizza to allow it to slide off the peel and onto the pizza stone in the barbecue grill (500 deg F) still heart shaped.

It cooked for 4-5 minutes (I didn’t time it) until it was browning, the crust was firm and the cheese was fully melted and just starting to brown.

Add some Basil and Eat Your Heart out Jackson!

One for the Sour, Two for the Dough

All through the pandemic’s shut downs, social isolations and maskings I resisted joining the crowd and never made sourdough bread. Things are starting to open up, so I made my first ever sourdough boule.

As it so happens I kept my copy of King Arthur Baking’s February 2022 catalog that has a recipe for multigrain sourdough, and as it happens, I bought a jar of King Arthur’s sourdough starter when I was in Vermont last summer. This starter has been nurtured in New England since the 1700’s. KAF recommends feeding their starter within 10 days after receiving it. Well, it was a bit longer for me… nearly 10 months. It was a lot of work to revive it, but it was certainly worth the effort!

I had most of the ingredients on hand, but had to make some substitutions. Apparently, malted wheat flakes are in short supply so I used rolled oats instead. To created the malt flavor I added 2 tablespoons of diastatic malt powder. I am also not a fan of sunflower seeds so substituted roasted pine nuts, which I crushed after roasting but before mixing into the dough. For some reason, lost in the mists of baking history, I had some KAF Artisan Bread Topping —perfect.

Other than those substitutions I followed KAF’s instructions below, which resulted in an outstanding loaf with a great crust and crumb. Oh! I almost forgot. I baked it in an Dutch over with extra steam from hot water poured in a hot pan at the bottom of the over when the bread was put in the over.

Sourdough Pine Nut Boule

INGREDIENTS
Soaker
• 1 cup (120g) rolled oatmeal
• 2/3 cup (152g) boiling water
• 2 Tbl Diastolic Malt Powder
Dough
• 1 cups (227g) ripe (fed) sourdough starter
• ¾ cup (170g) to ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (190g) lukewarm water
• 3 ½ cup (420g) bread flour
• ½ cup (71g) toasted pine nuts
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
Topping
• 1 – 2 tablespoon sesame seeds or The Works Bread Topping, or your favorite blend of seeds

METHOD
For the soaker

  1. Put the oatmeal and diastolic malt powder in a heat proof bowl and mix in boiling water.
  2. Stir until combined and cool to lukewarm

For the dough

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the ripe starter and ¾ cup of water, mix to combine
  2. Add the soaker and remaining ingredients, and mix and knead approx 8 minutes until you’ve made a soft dough, adding additional water or flour as needed.
  3. Cover the dough in the bowl, and let it rise until it’s almost doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, and gently fold it over a few times to deflate it. Shape it into a large round.
  5. Place the round in a covered baker, about 4.2-quart and 10″ diameter, that’s been sprayed with non-stick baking spray and put on the cover. Let the loaf rise until it’s very puffy, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  6. Just before baking, brush with water, and sprinkle with seeds. Use a lame or a very sharp knife to make four slashes across the top of the loaf, in a crosshatch pattern.
  7. Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375F and uncover the loaf if in a covered baker, and continue to bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. (A loaf baked on a baking sheet will need to bake for 38 to 45 minutes total.)
  8. Remove the bread from the oven, let sit in the baker for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a rack.

True Lies and False Confections

This morning some radio commentator mentioned St. Valentines Day is Monday. After reviewing my calendar I said to myself, myself I said, “Yikes! Time is running out to make my chocolate candies for friends and family.”

Last year I began using my sous vide to temper chocolate. It is easier to control the temperature of the chocolate than in a double boiler.

Sous Vide Chocolate Tempering Set-up

Here is the setup I use. A pot of water chosen to fit both the sous vide and small pan holding the chocolate. The pan with the chocolate fits snugly so it wouldn’t fall into the water. The dishcloth is used to wipe and water from the bottom of the pan, if necessary, like when removing hot water from the water bath and adding ice to cool the water. There are two acrylic molds in the background to make the candies and the blue silicone mold to hold any excess chocolate. The excess made some nice solid chocolate hearts. Barely visible at the top of the photo is my morning coffee, an essential part of any kitchen adventure.

TEMPERING CHOCOLATE

Weigh desired amount of chocolate remembering it is easier to control the temperature of larger amounts of chocolate.

  1. For dark chocolate, set the sous vide to 126 deg and let the chocolate heat to 122 deg F and hold until it is all at temperature. That’s the beauty of using the sous vide to temper. It will hold indefinitely at any temperature you select.
  2. Remove the sauce pan containing the melted chocolate, wipe the pan dry and set it aside
  3. Replace 6-8 cups of water with 8-10 cups of ice. (Ice takes up more room than water. Add more cold water to the water bath if required.)
  4. Set the sous vide to 75 deg.
  5. When the chocolate cools to 82 deg, set the temperature to 95 to hold the chocolate in temper at 90 deg for over an hour.

NOTE FOR ACRYLIC MOLDS

  1. Paint the inside of each mold with a silicone brush allowing the chocolate to dry before repainting. Leave the brush in the tempered chocolate
  2. Paint three coats of chocolate being sure to examine the sides and corners closely to assure the entire inside of each mold is covered. Hold the coated mold up to the light and see if there are any holes in the coating.

I used different molds, the heart shaped one for the caramel filling and the domed one for the marshmallow. It required about 100 g of caramel to fill the 18 cells of hearts and 50 g of marshmallow to fill each of the domes.

FILLING CHOCOLATES

I warmed the caramel to piping consistency, filled a piping bag with the slightly warm caramel. When filling the chocolate shells be sure to leave adequate room to seal the bottoms of the chocolates. Repeat with about the marshmallow.

Cutting the chocolates for photos is always difficult. The tempering makes them hard and brittle. I used a very thin serrated knife.
Any suggestions would be welcome.

Pour enough chocolate across the filled molds and spread to assure each cell is covered with chocolate. (NOTE: the chocolate was kept at 90 deg and remained tempered throughout all the steps. Yay sous vide!)

Once the bottom coat of chocolate is fairly cool scrape off the excess with a bench knife. Save the excess for you next adventure.