• 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

     

  • Spaghetti al Limone

    If you remember last week’s post, I mentioned that I have recently been introduced to the world of Bon Appetit Test Kitchen videos, and I can’t believe I survived this long without them honestly. Aside from being incredibly informative, they’re so wholesome and everyone is super lovely and nice to each other and I love it so much.

    Of the test kitchen chefs, I keep finding myself going back to the videos done by Molly Baz, because they’re simple in procedure, but packed with flavor, also I’m fascinated by her collection of cross-back aprons. So much so that I definitely also bought one and I’m in LOVE with it. But anyway, back to food because that’s why we’re here, this recipe comes from Molly herself (original can be found here), and it’s literally so good that the first time I made it I gasped out loud. I’m not kidding!! It’s rich and cheesy like a fettucine alfredo, but with a bright zing of lemon so that it doesn’t feel heavy, it’s a dream come true. Plus it’s done in under half an hour so what more could you possibly want from a pasta dish??

    Because I can barely contain my excitement, we’ll get right to it, but not before I give you five things to be happy about today!
    ONE. A book so gripping that you read it from start to finish in one sitting, well into the night.
    TWO. Iced coffee with coffee ice cubes.
    THREE. A three day weekend.
    FOUR. Drinks served in mason jars.
    FIVE. Clothes that you can wear from winter to spring.

    Let’s cook!!
    SERVES: 3-4 people
    PREP TIME: 10 minutes
    COOK TIME: 15 minutes

    INGREDIENTS

    1 lemon
    12 oz. thick spaghetti
    Kosher salt
    ¾ cup heavy cream
    6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    ¾ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
    Fresh ground black pepper

    STEPS

    ONE. Before starting, place your pot of water on the stove to boil, so that it’s ready when you are. Set out all of your ingredients in their correct measurements (called a mise en place!) because once you get started, you won’t have time to stop and grate cheese or juice a lemon on the go.

    Waste not! We use this whoooooole lemon!

    TWO. Using a vegetable peeler, cut one wide strip of the lemon peel and slice it into thin strips and set aside (this will be a garnish for later!). Zest the remaining peel of the lemon into a dutch oven or large saucepan, then juice the same lemon and reserve 2 tablespoons of juice.

    THREE. Pour the cream into the dutch oven with the lemon zest, and cook on medium heat until the cream is heated through and just about to simmer. *Start cooking your pasta now!* Lower the heat and whisk in your butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, then remove the pot from the heat.

    FOUR. When your pasta is very al dente, about 3 minutes earlier than the package instructions, scoop out 1½ cups of pasta cooking water, and add ¾ cup to the cream sauce. Transfer your pasta to the sauce pot using a pair of tongs (it’s okay if some pasta water drips in as well), and return to medium heat. Cook the pasta for 3 minutes, adding the parmesan cheese gradually until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth and glossy. Feel free to add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the reserved lemon juice now, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

    FIVE. To serve, swirl a generous pile of pasta onto the plate, garnish with more fresh black pepper, and the reserved lemon peel strips. Enjoy!!!

    xoxoxoxoxoD

  • Classic Popovers

    Ooooooh you guys, I can’t believe I ever forgot about how good popovers are. They are literally so simple to make and you can eat them with dinner, with a cup of tea, or several at a time while they’re warm and crisp right out of the oven. I came across this recipe from Zoe Bakes and sprang into action, immediately ordering a popover pan from Amazon. Naturally because I’m me, the pan sat on my kitchen table for several days after arriving before I did anything about it, but goodness am I glad that I did.

    For those who are unfamiliar with popovers, they’re the lightest, puffiest little pastries, practically hollow on the inside (perfect for filling with jam and butter), with the most comforting crisp outside and eggy inside. They are typically baked in a pan made specifically for popovers (I bought this one here), but I have read that you can also make them in a regular muffin tin, you may just have to play around with the baking times and how much you fill each cup. They are best eaten fresh out of the oven, but I still found myself reheating a leftover until it was crisp in the oven because I couldn’t bear to let it go to waste.

    On this particular baking adventure, I brought my dear friend Michelle, who I have known for years and often share a brain with, it feels like. We baked 12 popovers and then she introduced me to the world of Bon Appetit Test Kitchen cooking videos and suddenly they are the only thing I care about watching (Bon Appetit, if you’re reading this, hire me pls). It’s always so inspiring to watch professionals pulling together recipes as they go, and being able to hear about the thought process and reasoning behind certain flavor combinations or techniques teaches me so much. Also, everyone is so lovely and hilarious and I think I’ve gone through every episode of It’s Alive! with Brad Leone to exist. It’s in your best interest to head over to YouTube right now and maybe binge it, it’s better than regular binge watching because it’s informative, right?? Okay now that I’m done fangirling about that, we can get down to business, thanks for sticking with me.

    Here are 5 things to be happy about today!
    ONE. The half-light of evening.
    TWO.
    Postcard views.
    THREE.
    The green shoots of new plants.
    FOUR. 
    Frolicking.
    FIVE. Cake mix.

    Let’s bake!

    MAKES: 12 medium (or 6 large) popovers
    PREP TIME: 10 minutes
    BAKE TIME: 35-40 minutes

     INGREDIENTS

    5 eggs
    2 cups whole milk
    1½ cups all-purpose flour
    Kosher salt
    2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Softened butter, for pans

    STEPS

    ONE. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Blend together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, melted butter, and vanilla so that it’s totally smooth and a little bubbly.

    TWO. Brush your popover pan with the softened butter and place in the preheated oven until the butter is melted and the pans are hot.

    THREE. Pour the batter into each cup ¾ of the way full, and bake for 15 minutes, until golden and puffed up. At this point, decrease the temperature to 350ºF without opening the oven door. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, until the color is deep golden.

    FOUR. Tap the popovers out of the pan immediately so that they remain crisp and don’t steam. Best served immediately.

    *Tip: it’s pretty easy to change up the flavor of these, whether you stir finely shredded cheddar cheese and some green onions into the batter, or you brush the finished popovers with melted butter and roll them in cinnamon sugar, it’s totally up to you!! Pls note that if you’re going savory, remove the vanilla extract!