• 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!

  • Spiced Apple Cake

    T minus 2 days until Thanksgiving, WHO IS READY? Not me, that’s who. I’m spending too much time going over my notes from previous years and trying to come up with a reasonable schedule that won’t end with me making pie at 2 am. And yet, I will probably still be baking pies at 2 am. Because things just never go according to plan, as I’m sure you know. But before I worry about all this, let’s briefly talk about cake. This cake, in particular. Originally from Giada De Laurentiis, this spiced apple cake is perfectly light and moist thanks to AP and almond flours, plus it’s sandwiched on both sides by lil cinnamon apples so what’s not to love!

    Do you know someone who doesn’t like pie? Then this is the Thanksgiving dessert for them! Although, if you don’t like pie, probably don’t tell me, because I can’t handle that kind of negativity. Other than that, a warm slice of this would be perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee in your pjs, because cake for breakfast is never the wrong idea. Did I mention that it also takes literally 30 minutes to throw together? It’s a win-win!

    Here are 5 things to be happy about today!! (Thanksgiving addition)
    ONE. Sneaking some crispy turkey skin when no one is looking.
    TWO. Cranberry sauce holding the shape from its can.
    THREE. Eating Thanksgiving leftovers for three days straight.
    FOUR. Having a slice of each pie because why NOT.
    FIVE. Waiting until midnight after Thanksgiving to go into full Christmas mode.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving all! Let’s bake!!

    Spiced Apple Cake

    If for some reason you're not a pie person, or you're looking for a quick but impressive dessert, look no further than this cake! A beautifully light cake sandwiched on both sides by spiced apples, there's literally no time of day that this isn't appropriate.
    Prep Time 30 mins
    Cook Time 1 hr
    Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
    Course Dessert
    Servings 15 servings

    Ingredients
      

    • Softened butter; for greasing the pan
    • 6 granny smith apples; peeled and sliced
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon; divided
    • sticks butter; at room temperature
    • 1⅓ cup white sugar; divided
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
    • 1 cup Almond Flour
    • tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • A pinch ground cloves
    • ½ tsp kosher salt
    • cups buttermilk
    • Powdered sugar; for serving
    • Whipped Cream; for serving

    Instructions
     

    • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously butter the baking dish.
    • In a medium bowl, toss the apples with ⅓ cup white sugar and ½ tsp of cinnamon. Set aside while you prepare the cake batter.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the 1½ sticks of softened butter and the remaining 1 cup of sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix each one until incorporated before adding the next.
    • Turn the mixer down and carefully add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, ½ tsp cinnamon, pinch of cloves, salt, and buttermilk. At this point, fold the batter with a rubber spatula so that you do not overmix.
    • Take half of the apples and spread them evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking dish, then pour the batter on top. Arrange the remaining apples on top in any pattern that you feel like!
    • Bake the cake for 1 hour, rotating halfway through baking, testing with a toothpick or cake tester to make sure it's fully done before removing from the oven. Allow to cool at least slightly before sprinkling with powdered sugar and/ or whipped cream. YUM!
    Keyword apple, cake, fall baking, Thanksgiving

    Need more Thanksgiving inspo? Look no further than here, here, here, and here!

  • BA’s Pecan Pumpkin Pie

    Welcome back to Sweet D, two weeks in a row, are you impressed?? The bar is really low, I am aware, but this was the first weekend in ages that I had literally no plans. Who knew that would be such a satisfying thing to say, you know? That’s how I know I’m a grandma in a 24 year old’s body, I have to actively reserve weekends to do nothing so I can actually get some sleep. And, after sleeping until 11:30 on both Saturday and Sunday, I can tell you that I am, in fact, STILL TIRED lol. BUT in addition to sleeping forever, I caught up on all 7 episodes of Bon Appetit’s “Making Perfect” Thanksgiving addition. To me, Thanksgiving is like the Olympics of cooking, so naturally I start preparing weeks in advance. I watched Brad Leone and Queen Claire Saffitz bake this remarkable marriage of two classic pies and you KNOW I had to try it out. So yes, that was my whole Saturday and now there’s a pie in my fridge, someone come help me eat it thanks.

    Since I was old enough to cook, I have taken responsibility for most of the pies at my family’s Thanksgiving. I would make 2 apple and 2 pumpkin, and my mom would take the pecan. I take the day before Thanksgiving off from work and my Mom and I are prepping LITERALLY from the moment I wake up, and I’m usually still making pie well past midnight. Now as anyone who cooks Thanksgiving knows, any time saving measures you can take, the better, so I made this pie with a frozen pie shell. It saves me over an hour of prep time, and can be baked straight from the freezer, plus it still tastes good! But, if you’d prefer to use a homemade crust, the one from the original recipe is never a bad idea.

    So let’s get down to what makes this pie special. The filling is perfectly smooth thanks to the eggs and heavy cream, with every fall spice you could ever hope for. But the real showstopper? The gorgeous pecan topping!! Toasted pecans tossed with butter, cinnamon, maple syrup, and egg white, then baked until crisp, you’ll have to restrain yourself from eating them all off the top of the pie. I had some left over that I baked separately, and I’m keeping them in a tupperware exclusively for snacking!

    Before we go full Thanksgiving, here are five things to be happy about today:
    ONE. Eating too many cheese and crackers before dinner.
    TWO. Coming inside after being out in the cold.
    THREE. Running errands on a Sunday and rewarding yourself with coffee.
    FOUR. Pie for breakfast.
    FIVE. Hot drinks in clear mugs.

    Let’s bake!

    BA’s Pecan Pumpkin Pie

    This impeccable dessert is the marriage of two Thanksgiving classics, the pecan pie and the pumpkin pie. A smooth, custardy pumpkin filling with ALL the warm Autumn spices, topped with toasty, maple-caramelized pecans, it's the best of both worlds!!
    Prep Time 20 mins
    Cook Time 50 mins
    Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
    Course Dessert
    Servings 8 people

    Ingredients
      

    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 additional egg; yolk and white separated
    • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
    • ¾ cup whole milk
    • ¼ cup granulated sugar
    • 2 Tbsp whiskey
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp nutmeg
    • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
    • Pinch ground cloves
    • 8 Tbsp brown sugar; separated
    • 3 Tbsp melted butter; divided
    • 1 tsp salt; divided
    • cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
    • Frozen pie shell; or see link to original recipe for homemade crust!

    Preparation

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and place the still frozen pie shell into a small sheet pan. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, extra yolk, canned pumpkin, heavy cream, sugar, whiskey, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, 6 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Whisk thoroughly until evenly mixed. If you prefer a completely homogenous mixture, you can use an immersion blender or regular blender in batches, making sure not to incorporated too much air.

    Pour the filling into the pie shell and carefully transfer the whole sheet pan to the oven so that the filling doesn’t spill, it’s very runny. Bake until the filling has puffed and the center is a little wobbly when shaken. This should be about 40 minutes.

    What happens when you pour filling into a pie shell on a lopsided oven rack!

    About 15 minutes before the pie is done, spread the pecans in one even layer on a second sheet pan and toast, tossing once, until they are fragrant and slightly darkened in color.

    In a bowl large enough for the pecans, whisk the reserved egg white, remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, a dash of cinnamon, and remaining salt until foamy. Add the syrup and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and whisk until combined. Add in the toasted pecans and toss until they are all evenly coated.

    Remove the pie from the oven and arrange the pecans on top as you’d like, making sure the extra egg white mixture drips back into the bowl. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the filling is totally set and the pecans are dry to the touch. Allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

    Looking for more pie? check out classic apple, banana cream, cheesecake pudding, and pear!