• 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!

  • Salty Honey Panna Cotta with Crushed Raspberry Sauce

    I’m baaaaaaack! It’s been a while, I know. Here’s the thing, I’ve been all over (mentally and physically), but really what happened was I went to England (!!!) to visit my sister Clare and then for some reason I needed several weeks to recover. I won’t go into all the details but we had the most wholesome time and I saw everything from the Tower of London to the (haunted) Viaduct Tavern. We did SO much walking, got our ears pierced (sorry Mom), and we saw SO many sights and quite frankly I’d like to move there thank you. But to be honest, I have been trying to write this same blog post for three weeks now, and I don’t know WHY its taken me so long to get it out because this was such a delicious and easy dessert to make.

    It all started when I was home and bored and flipping through my two (2) Alison Roman cookbooks because why not? It was a Saturday and I was looking for something to entertain me, I didn’t really want to go outside, after all. I came across this recipe and it sounded like the perfect combination of lazy and fancy, which is my entire Aesthetic™️. It’s made with several different types of dairy, including buttermilk, heavy cream, and sour cream, and topped with a bright and perfect raspberry smash, and all I’m saying is that people should expect this dessert at all my dinner parties for the rest of ever, thanks.

    If memory serves, this is one of the first Alison Roman recipes I’ve written about on Sweet D, I can’t believe it! She is a powerhouse of cooking things and I aspire to be as chic and clever as she is and basically what I’m getting at is that this might as well be an Alison Roman stan blog from now on. The most fun part about this recipe is that you can pour the custard into any containers you’d like really, which is why I used my collection of martini glasses and my brand new English tea cup, because who wouldn’t love to be served dessert from a tea cup, I ask you.

    Okay anyway, that’s enough of me ranting, here are 5 things to be happy about before we start cooking. Baking? Preparing? I don’t really know how to describe it for this particular dessert. Ah well, here we go!
    ONE. Taking a nice long walk on an unseasonably warm day.
    TWO. The sound of rain hitting the windows outside.
    THREE. Getting your hair blown out and feeling incredibly fancy for a day.
    FOUR. Being barefoot in your own house.
    FIVE. The feeling of being on vacation.

    Okay let’s go!

    Ingredients

    1 envelope (¼ ounces) unflavored gelatin
    ¼ cup water
    3 cups heavy cream, divided
    ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 cup sour cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
    Pinch of salt
    6 ounces fresh raspberries
    1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar


    Steps

    In a measuring cup, add the water and pour the envelope of gelatin over it. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes so that it softens and hydrates.

    In a small pot, add the softened gelatin, ½ cup cream, and ½ cup honey. Heat over low heat, swirling until the gelatin is dissolved. Do NOT simmer, as it will denature the gelatin and prevent it from firming back up.

    Gently whisk the sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla, the remaining 2½ cups cream, and salt into a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm gelatin mixture over the cream mixture, but make sure not to whisk so hard that air bubbles form. Divide the mixture among the glasses, it will be 6 to 10 glasses, depending on their size. Chill until set, 1 to 2 hours.

    In the meantime, add the raspberries to a bowl with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of honey. Crush the raspberries with the back of a fork so that the juices are released, and stir to combine. To serve, top each panna cotta with the portion of the raspberries, and a drizzle of honey, if you’d like!

    YUM!!

    Want some more Sweet D? Look here, here, and here!

  • Brownie Stamp Cookies with Peppermint Glaze

    Has it been a month since I posted?? I didn’t even realize, time flies at the end of the year, (and decade!!) doesn’t it? But anyway, I’m back now, and here to talk about stamp cookies! Naturally I asked for almost exclusively cooking related gifts for Christmas, including Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy, a proper chef’s knife, AND a beautiful set of Nordic Ware cookie stamps. Maybe it was just me but I felt like my Instagram feed was flooded with stamp cookies this season, and I started to feel left out! So many people offered fancy cookie combinations, including shortbread and citrus, gingerbread and rum butter, but I was immediately drawn to these, rich dark chocolate and peppermint glaze. Like hot chocolate in a cookie!! Originally found here, I made a few minor adjustments and these beauties came out like glazed tiles and I LOVE THEM.

    Moving into a new year and a new decade, I find myself looking back on what the last few years have brought me- some ups and downs for sure, but also this space to bake and write, and people to share it with. I moved out on my own, took on challenges that scared me, and made a freaking loaf of sourdough from scratch! I am very thankful for what I have done, and I can’t wait for what’s in store. I wish you all the happiest of new years and many stamp cookies, too!

    Before we bake, here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. Popcorn at the movies, and the fact that it somehow is better than any popcorn you make at home.
    TWO. Sleeping late on a rainy day, knowing that you don’t have anything to do.
    THREE. Cherry cordials with syrupy centers.
    FOUR. Serving drinks in a punch bowl.
    FIVE. Movie trilogies.

    Let’s bake! Recipe makes about 3 dozen glazed cookies.

    Brownie Cookies

    3 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark for this)
    1 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder
    1 cup salted butter, softened
    1½ cups light brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla


    Peppermint Glaze

    2 cups confectioner’s sugar
    8-12 tablespoons heavy cream (have more on hand)
    ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon peppermint extract
    Pinch of salt

    How To:

    In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and instant espresso.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Mix in vanilla.

    Add the dry ingredients all at once and cover the mixer so that the flour doesn’t go everywhere when the mixer is turned on. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times during the mixing so that all dry ingredients are incorporated- the dough will be very thick!

    Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tightly, chilling for at least 1 hour before proceeding.

    Once the dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

    (There are a few ways to make stamp cookies, but my directions below are my favorite way, I found they kept the cookies the most intact and even.)

    Working with about half the dough at a time, take about 2 tablespoons worth of dough and roll it into a ball between your palms. Dust the desired cookie stamp with cocoa powder to prevent sticking, and press the stamp down on the center of the ball of dough, pushing on all sides so that the pressed cookie remains fairly even, and the pattern is fully embossed. Gently peel the cookie off of the stamp and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

    If you’re a perfectionist like me, then take a circular cookie cutter with approximately the same size as the stamp, and cut off the rough edges of each cookie. Repeat until all dough is used.

    Bake the cookies for 7 to 10 minutes, switching the trays from top to bottom oven rack halfway through. It’s best to stay on the less baked side, as this will ensure the cookies stay soft after baking.

    While the cookies are baking, whisk together all the glaze ingredients in one bowl. It should be the consistency of glue, thick, but pourable, so feel free to adjust with an extra tablespoon of confectioners sugar or cream as necessary.

    When the cookies are finished baking, brush the glaze over the warm cookies with a pastry brush almost immediately, this will help the glaze melt into every line of the pattern and cover the cookie evenly.

    Allow the cookies to dry completely before storing, and enjoy!!

    PSA, the cookie stamps I used can be found here, but these cookies can also be made by rolling the dough a ½ inch thick and cutting out circles.