• Cinnamon Sugar Brioche Twists

    Well well well, if it isn’t me, back in action after 3 months. To be frank, I can’t even apologize for being gone because I don’t even know what I was up to, and for the record, time means nothing this year anyway. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this is doing okay, and that you’re taking some time to do what makes you happy, even though you’ve probably been in the same place for the last 8 months.

    A brief paragraph on today’s bake: I’ve been buying cookbooks like there’s no tomorrow, and one that I’ve been looking forward to for AGES is Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz, formerly of the BA Test Kitchen. It finally arrived last week and I have to say, I was a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. But, because I know who I am as a person, I settled on these Brioche Twists first. Anything to get me out of bed on time for the workday, am I right? Now I won’t lie, these are a little challenging. I always say that bread is the scariest thing for me to bake, every time I make it feels like the first time in terms of the sheer panic that I feel. I will confess that I tried blooming four separate batches of yeast before I got one that worked, I very nearly quit before I had even started. However, all it takes is some patience (this is a two day project), and make sure you read the whole recipe through before starting, so you know what you’re getting into. You’ve been warned. Then, as a reward, you’ll have the most delightfully buttery, slightly sweet cinnamon breakfast pastry for days on end.

    I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been as motivated to write as I have in the past, and the obvious answer is that like everyone else, quite simply doing anything in this pandemic can sometimes seem pointless and exhausting. For a while, cooking became something that we all had to do, rather than something I did for fun, and I always told myself that I would take a step back form Sweet D if it ever felt like a chore, rather than force myself and grow to hate it. I was afraid to go overboard at the grocery store, since I couldn’t spontaneously take a trip every time I was out of a single random ingredient, and I just wasn’t feeling very creative.

    BUT, eventually I had to reason with myself, and decided that I need to take advantage of all the little things that make me happy in a day. Especially now that I’m back in my apartment, I can sometimes go the entire work day without going outside, and I needed to find a way to break up my day and separate work time from free time. Soon enough, I found myself looking forward to the meals I’d be making for dinner again. I won’t go preachy on you all, but I think the best we can do right now is savor the little parts of the day that make you smile. For me, it’s cooking dinner and dancing in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and listening to some boyband music. You can get through this, and you can get through this cooking!

    Before we start, here are 5 things to be happy about:
    ONE. Buying a collection of decorative pumpkins to arrange on the coffee table.
    TWO. Switching out your summer scented candles with your fall ones.
    THREE. Watching the leaves change day to day and remembering that time is passing.
    FOUR. Discovering a new TV show to watch, that already has all its episodes out.
    FIVE. Taking this quarantine time to really finish decorating your house.

    Let’s bake!

    Brioche Dough Ingredients

    ¼ cup whole milk
    1 tsp active dry yeast
    1 tsp honey
    4 cups all purpose flour
    ¼ cup granulated white sugar
    2 tsp fine kosher salt
    6 large eggs, at room temperature
    2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

    Brioche Dough Steps

    Proof the yeast. In a small saucepan, heat the milk to around 105 degrees. It should be warm, but not too hot that it kills the yeast. Add the heated milk to a small bowl, stir in the yeast and the teaspoon of honey, then set aside to bloom for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know its working if the mixture gets foamy at the top. It’s important to note that if your yeast doesn’t do this, start over, as the yeast is dead.

    Combining the ingredients. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, and salt, then mix briefly to combine. Make a small well in the center of this flour mixture and add the bloomed yeast, then all 6 eggs.

    Mixing the dough. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on low speed until the flour is moistened. After about a minute, turn the mixer to medium and knead until the dough becomes cohesive, smooth, and sticks to the bottom of the bowl. Don’t panic, it can take up to 10 minutes for the dough to come together in the soft consistency you’re looking for. If need be, add a tablespoon or two of flour to the bowl if the dough continues to stick to the sides.

    Adding the butter. With the mixer still on medium, add the butter in, a tablespoon at a time, mixing fully before adding the next tablespoon. Again, don’t rush this, it will take up to 15 minutes to completely incorporate all the butter.

    First Rise and chill. Now that the dough is extremely soft and beautiful, gather it into a ball and lightly flour all sides. Place it in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for 1 to 1½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size. Note: don’t let it rise someplace too warm, as the butter will start to melt back out of the dough.

    Once the first rise is done, place the wrapped bowl in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, up to 24. This will help make the dough more manageable when you’re shaping it! Now we get to the twist!

    Brioche Twist Ingredients

    ½ Batch of Brioche Dough (above)
    ½ cup granulated white sugar
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    ¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
    4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

    Brioche Twist Steps

    Make the toppings. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom (if using). Set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Set aside.

    Divide the dough and prepare your baking sheets. Using half the batch of dough from the above recipe, divide into 8 equal (or mostly equal!) portions. Lay these portions on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Work with one ball of dough at a time, returning the baking sheet to the fridge in between. This will make sure that all the twists proof at the same rate, so don’t skip this!

    On a clean, unfloured work surface, roll each ball of dough into a rope about 10cm long. On a separate plate, brush the rope all over with melted butter, and coat generously in the spiced sugar. To fold, pick up the rope from the middle, and twist the tails once or twice around each other. Note: you can also make any shape you feel like, knotted or spiraled will taste just as good!

    Return the completed twist to the baking sheet in the fridge, and repeat with the remaining 7 pieces of dough.

    Proof the twists. Once all 8 twists are done, remove the baking sheet from the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 55-65 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’re slightly puffed, and when they bounce back but hold a slight indentation when poked.

    Bake the twists. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the twists for 20-25 minutes, until they’re puffed and golden brown. While you’re waiting for them to bake, bask in the heavenly cinnamon-sugar butter smell. Congratulations, you’ve made bread!!

    xoxoxoxD

    Want more bread content? Look here, here, and here!! Want a quarantine challenge? Try this!

  • Making Sourdough (From Scratch!)

    Hello my friends, I hope your Thanksgivings were full of pie and that the work week hasn’t gotten you down too much already. I am here today about a very special topic already revealed in the title of this post: SOURDOUGH! Remember when I said I was making my starter from scratch? Well, this weekend at my parents house, with a dutch oven at my disposal, I finally used it to make bread. AND IT WORKED! And now, I will pass everything I have learned on to you, in case you too are crazy enough to make your own bread. Please keep in mind before we begin, it takes a few weeks and some determination, plus many a cell phone alarm reminding you to feed your starter!! But with that being said, let’s get to work!

    First thing’s first, I’m going to share with you the resources that I used along the way. I will type up the steps that I took as well, but in case you want the unabbreviated version, I will include it here.

    Step One: Making Your Starter

    To make sourdough starter from scratch, you’re essentially growing your own yeast in a container. So cool, right? This way, no dried yeast is necessary, and the process of mixing the flour and water over a period of days produces lactobacilli (friendly bacteria!) and wild yeast which give the sourdough its classic tangy flavor.

    To adequately give the yeast and bacteria time to grow, you will need at least 5 days of routine feeding. After those initial 5 days, you can put unused starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, but once you intend to use it, it will need to be fed daily again for at least 3 days.

    For creating my sourdough starter, I used this step by step guide from King Arthur Flour. For extra info on sourdough, you ca also read this beginners guide here! I found this to be the simplest but also most extensive set of instructions, which basically guarantees results.

    INGREDIENTS TO START:

    1 cup whole wheat flour (it must be whole wheat!)
    1/2 cup cool water

    INGREDIENTS TO FEED:

    Scant 1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup cool water (adjust temperature based on the temp of your kitchen)

    STEPS:

    1. In a 1-quart non-reactive container (glass, food-safe plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel), mix together the initial amount of flour and water. There should be no dry flour left and the mixture should be the consistency of pancake batter, I found that I needed to add a tiny bit more water initially to hydrate all the flour. Cover the container loosely and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

    2. After the first 24 hours, regardless of whether or not you see any activity, discard all but 4 ounces (a 1/2 cup) of the starter. (Here’s a hint, make this cake with it!) Feed the remaining starter with a scant 1 cup of all purpose flour and the half cup of water. Stir so that there is no dry flour left. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.

    3. By day 3, you should be seeing some bubbling and it should have a fresh, fruity smell. Once this happens, it’s time to begin a twice daily feeding schedule, spacing the feedings as far apart as you can. For example, I would feed my starter at 6:30am before I left for work, then again at 6:30pm when I came home. Continue feeding as usual, discarding all but 4 ounces and replacing it with the scant 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water, twice a day.

    4. Repeat step 3 for days 4 and 5. By the end of day 5, the starter should be doubled in volume, with many bubbles and a tangy, slightly acidic smell. If your starter doesn’t look like this, continue a twice a day feeding scheduling for another day or two until you get there. At this point, give it once final routine feeding, and let it sit for 6-8 hours. You have grown mature starter, congratulations!! From here, you have 2 choices: you can take the starter you need for a loaf of bread immediately, (skip down to the bread making section for this), or you could transfer it to its permanent home if you’re not quite ready.

    5. To transfer it to its permanent home, transfer 4 ounces and feed as normal, leaving out overnight to rest before covering it. This starter can now be kept in the fridge, but will need to be fed as usual once a week.

    Required Viewing!

    Right here we’re taking a quick break to watch an important video about making sourdough. From the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, Brad Leone and Claire Saffitz show us how to make fancy loaves of sourdough bread, and how much work goes into it. We won’t be making a loaf with a process this extensive, but the technique and science behind it is certainly worth knowing! Plus it’s hilarious and exactly what you deserve right now.

    Making the Sourdough!

    To prepare our sourdough loaf, I followed Cooks Illustrated’s “Almost No-Knead Sourdough”. While still a two day process, it cuts out some of the longer steps and yet still produces a perfectly tangy, crisp loaf of bread.

    To start, you will need the following:

    INGREDIENTS:

    3 ⅔ cups All-Purpose Flour
    1 ½ cups plus 4 teaspoons room temperature water
    1 ¾ teaspoons salt
    ⅓ cup mature sourdough starter

    TOOLS:

    A large Dutch Oven
    Parchment Paper
    A sharp pairing knife or bread lame

    STEPS:

    1. To begin, make sure you are using mature sourdough starter. If your five days of feeding have just finished, you are set to go. If your starter has been in the fridge, you must feed it once a day for at least 3 days before it’s ready to use.

    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until combined. In a larger bowl (this will be the bowl that holds the rising dough), whisk together the starter and the water until the starter is dissolved. Add the flour mixture to this mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until there is no dry flour left and a ball of dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.


    3. After the initial rise, spray a large piece of parchment paper with vegetable oil and set on the counter. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead 10 to 15 times until smooth. Pinch the edges into one middle seam at the bottom so that the top is smooth and rounded. Place this dough seam side down onto the greased sheet of parchment paper, then lift the paper carefully and transfer into the dutch oven.

    4. Wrap the top of the dutch oven in plastic wrap and place on the middle rack of your OFF oven. Place a cake pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill with 3 cups of boiling water. Close the oven door and let the dough rise here for another 2 to 3 hours, until it has doubled in size. To test that it’s ready, the dough should not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.

    5. Once the rising is complete, take the pot and pan of water out of the oven. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a sharp knife or lame, make one long cut down the center of the loaf, as smoothly as possible.Place the top on the pot and return to the middle rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the pot inside and start a timer for 30 minutes immediately. Do not wait for the oven to reach 425 before you start the timer, as the bread will burn.

    6. After the first 30 minutes, remove the top of the dutch oven and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden and crisp, and the internal temperature is 210 degrees. Remove the bread from the pot and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

    YOU MADE BREAD! I’m so proud of you!!


  • Conchas!!

    I would like to mark down March 10th, 2019 as a very special day in my life calendar, because it was the day that I made my first Concha, and I can already tell that we will have a long and happy life together. Also called Pan Dulce, these beautiful works of art are a Mexican bakery staple known for their intricately patterned tops, often resembling the swirl of a shell. A concha consists of two parts: a sweet cinnamon roll, and a crisp, colored (and sometimes flavored) streusel-like topping, which forms the crackly pattern on top. Whenever I used to come across pictures of these, I just assumed that some kind of baking pan or stamp was required and so I never really gave it much more thought. THEN, I came across this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen, and suddenly they were so attainable!!! No stamp needed, just a pairing knife, a steady hand, and some patience, and since I have two of those things, I once again took a bread-making quest that paid of incredibly well!

    Almost as soon as you start this recipe, you will start to wonder why no one has managed to make a candle that can capture this scent exactly. No offense but the combination of fresh bread and cinnamon is the only thing that matters in this world. Truly. Anyway, if you thought these treats couldn’t get any better, boy do I have news for you! Something that is very fun and special about this recipe is that it’s totally customizable! By mixing different flavors and colors into your streusel topping, you are opening up so many possibilities here! You can add cocoa powder for a hint of chocolate, lemon zest, freeze dried berries, or combine several food colors for a rainbow pattern, and it’s 100% up to you! I kept mine on the simpler side for my first try, and used a red gel food coloring to give my Conchas a bright pink finish. From there, you could follow the traditional concha shaped top by cutting a shell pattern into the top (the bun rises and expands while baking to form the crackled top that these are known for), but you can also add concentric circles, stripes, grids, or any number of patterns and see how they turn out!

    Before we get started, let’s all take a moment to appreciate these 5 things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Falling asleep in the car on the way home from a long day.
    TWO. Using something you had been saving for a special occasion.
    THREE. An evening of zero productivity.
    FOUR. An evening of extreme productivity.
    FIVE. Asking for a booth at the restaurant.

     

    MAKES: 12 buns with topping
    PREP TIME: 30 minutes
    RISING TIME: 2½ hours (divided)
    BAKE TIME: 18-20 minutes

    DOUGH INGREDIENTS

    3 Tbsp. warm water
    2½ tsp active dry yeast
    1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
    1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    1/3 white sugar
    ¾ cup evaporated milk
    2 tsp kosher salt
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 eggs, at room temperature
    4 cups all purpose flour

    TOPPING INGREDIENTS

    ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
    2/3 cup white sugar
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Gel food coloring of your choice or 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

    STEPS

    ONE. Warm the bowl of your stand mixer by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for a minute. This will allow you to add warm water with the yeast and not have the heat change when it touches the cold metal bowl. Once the bowl is warmed, remove that water and add in the 3 tablespoons of warm water and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom and get foamy, about 5-7 minutes. If it doesn’t foam up, your water was either too hot or too cold, or the yeast is no good, so you’ll have to start over.

    TWO. When the yeast is ready, add in the oil, melted (and slightly cooled!) butter, sugar, evaporated milk, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs. Using the dough hook attachment, mix until the eggs are slightly broken up and everything is incorporated.

    THREE. Add the flour all at once, and mix the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth, and a little sticky. Coat a large bowl with oil or cooking spray and transfer the dough. Cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

    FOUR. While your dough is rising, you can make the buttery streusel topping! Mix all the ingredients in your stand mixer until smooth and incorporated, then decide whether you want the topping to be chocolate (add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa) or colored (add gel food coloring of your choice!), or both! I went for pink this time but you can do whatever you want! Scoop out about a tablespoon’s worth of topping for each bun, I did this ahead of time so that the topping was ready when the bread was!

    FIVE. After the bread dough has doubled, turn it out onto a baking mat or countertop and section it into 12 rolls. If you want to weigh them individually so that they’re even, you can, but I just eyeballed it. Shape them by hand into uniform, round buns and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

    SIX. Take each topping round and flatten it into a disk in your palms, then lay it over the top of each bun so that the top is totally covered. Repeat for all. Using a pairing knife, cut some patterns into the top- you can research some of the more traditional patterns here, but you can also do whatever you feel like! When all designs are done, cover the whole tray with a towel and allow the buns to rise again for another 30 minutes, until doubled in size again. Preheat your oven to 350ºF halfway through this second rise.

    SEVEN. Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes, until they are lightly golden and the topping has spread into the classic concha shape. Best eaten soon after baking, with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate!!

    YAY! xoxoxoxD