French Bread

Okay. We all know how much I love bread. So very much!!!! I made this and then forgot to take pictures of it… Twice. So there are still no pictures. Shame on me! Either way, here is a recipe for French bread. This was so easy to make, and there is a lot of hands-off time in the recipe, because it has to rise. The next time I make this, I will be SURE to get pictures!

I made this to make into a cheesy garlic pull-apart bread, and it tasted amazing. I took it to a staff party, and the whole loaf was gone in 20 minutes! People loved the garlic cheesy-ness of the bread, but they were also a little flabbergasted that I made the bread myself. Those who know about my blog said “Of course I made the bread myself”, and weren’t surprised.

I found the original recipe here, and it is SO easy and SO rewarding. I think this will be a new regular loaf of bread in my house, especially when we have pasta!

Ingredients

Yield: 2 loaves of bread

2¼ c. warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
¾ tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil (olive, canola, etc.)
5½ – 6 c. flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit for 3-5 minutes to activate the yeast, until it is bubbling and foamy.

Add the salt, oil, and 3 cups of flour. Mix, adding in the extra flour a little at a time, until you get a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl into a ball that is soft, yet leaves very little dough residue on your fingers. Knead for 2-3 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.

Lightly grease or oil a bowl (I just take the dough out of my mixer bowl and oil that) and turn the dough to coat, then cover with a layer of greased plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot in your kitchen to rise until doubled, about 1 hour or so.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly greased surface and divide in half. Pat each section into a thick rectangle (about 9×13). Roll the dough up starting from the long edge, pressing out air bubbles, and pinch the edge to seal. Arrange seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

To avoid the risk of your bread deflating, slash gashes in the top of your loaves now. (I don’t have a baker’s lame, so I do it now. If you have a baker’s lame, wait to cut the bread.)

Cover formed loaves with greased plastic wrap, and let the loaves rise until noticably puffy, and almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Slash the loaves (if you haven’t already), and place in the center rack of the oven. To get a super crispy crust, you can throw a few ice cubes on the bottom of your oven (but look at manufacturer’s recommendations first!) or spritz the loaves with water before closing the oven door. Personally, I just spray down the loaves with water, because I’m renting a house and don’t want to buy a new oven just in case!

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and baked through. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing or turning into cheesy garlic pull-apart bread! (Which might just be my next post!!)

Brioche Bread

Time for another foray back into the world of bread-baking!

Brioche is a classic French bread. Its main components are eggs and butter, and boy, is it rich. This baby has a whopping total of 9 eggs (including the egg wash egg), and a full cup of butter in the batter. It is not for the faint of heart.

I’ve been looking up recipes for Brioche for years. I’ve dabbled in the “Easy” the “Beginner’s” and “So-Good-It’s-Almost-Brioche” recipes. They’ve never been the winner for me.

This recipe has it all – I loved how easy it was to follow along. A lot of brioche recipes sounded quite confusing, or needed a ton of time, or just seemed too finicky. I mean, this recipe does take quite a bit of time. All of the prep time, the rising time, and the baking and cooling time adds up to quite a chunk of your day. I was always turned off by the amount of eggs that the dough uses.

But, I don’t know what happened. I was surfing around Pinterest last night, looking for a recipe, and BANG. This brioche recipe dropped into my lap. The picture pulled me in, and I read through Marta Antonia Rivera’s blog Sense and Edibility to find this recipe. 

Suddenly, brioche didn’t seem so daunting. And I had a sudden urge that YES, I want to make brioche.

So here we are.

Not going to lie, the recipe calls for bread flour, and I only have all purpose. I know, I know, bad baker, but we buy HUGE bags of all-purpose flour from Costco, so I can never quite justify going out and buying more flour than we already have. I bake a lot, okay?

Either way, I do not have the beautiful step-by-step pictures as the original recipe did, so if you want, head over to the site linked above and check out the step-by-step, and hopefully, brioche becomes easier to tackle because of today’s recipe!

I wish you could smell this bread through your computer screen. It is absolutely divine, and so soft! Trust me, go make this. It is completely worth the effort!

Ingredients

Yield: 2 loaves of bread

For the sponge:

¼ c. honey
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. milk, warmed to 110°F
1 c. flour

For the dough:

½ c. sugar
4 tsp. salt
8 eggs (large)
5¾ c. flour
1 c. butter, cut into tablespoons

For the egg wash:

1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. water

To make the sponge, pour the milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and yeast to the milk and allow the yeast to bloom for 5 minutes. If the yeast does not get bubbly and foamy, it is dead. Open a fresh pack of yeast, and try everything again.

Whisk the flour into the yeast mixture. The sponge should look like a thick cake batter.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot (like the oven with the light turned on) to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

To continue making the dough, transfer the sponge to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix in the eggs, sugar, and salt. After incorporating, the mixture should look like a smooth, thick batter.

Slowly add the remaining flour into the dough. If it gets too hard to incorporate with the paddle attachment, switch to the dough hook.

Once the flour is incorporated, add in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Add the next 2 tablespoons only when the previous 2 are completely incorporated into the batter, and save the wrapper from your butter.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated into the dough, it should be soft, smooth, and pliable. Remove the dough from the bowl, and grease the bowl with the leftover butter on the wrappers. Discard the wrappers.

Return the dough to the bowl and turn to coat in the butter lining the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and allow to rise again in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Once the dough has finished rising, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured countertop. Divide in half.

Preheat oven to 375°F, and lightly grease two loaf pans.

Form the two halves of dough into logs roughly the same length as your loaf pans, and place them in the greased pans. Whisk together the egg and water of the egg wash and brush the loaves with the egg wash to prevent drying.

Place the pans in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to rise until the dough is about 1 inch away from the top of the pan. This should take 30 minutes to an hour.

Brush loaves again with egg wash, and if desired, cut the tops of the loaves into a decorative pattern.

Bake loaves in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove pans from the oven, and allow bread to cool in pans for 10 minutes.

Remove bread from pans, and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte Cake

Hello again!

I have had an extended absence from the blogging world, and for that, I am sorry! It has been a crazy last month and a half. Since my last post (almost a month ago! Agghh!) classes have ended, final exams are over, graduation is done, and I have been to, and am back from, Edmonton, where I marked diploma exams for a week.

After I got back from Edmonton, I got sick with a cold for a week, got better, went to Lethbridge, and began to clean out and move my classroom.

With all that insanity behind me, I decided to make something a little fancy before the insanity starts again. I have a friend’s wedding coming up, and I am making centerpieces and the cupcakes.

A charlotte cake is French in origin, usually with a sponge cake of some kind at the base, and ladyfinger cookies surrounding a fluffy smooth mousse filling.

I decided to make my own version of a charlotte. I did use recipes I found for all components, but put all the recipes together for my own version. I used the sponge cake and raspberry mousse filling from this site, and the chocolate mousse from here. Honestly, I should have halved the chocolate mousse recipe, because it made so much. I have reflected the proper measurements below, but if you want just a chocolate charlotte, double the recipe and use just the chocolate mousse as a filling.

The recipe I used consists of the following: a ladyfinger cookie outline surrounding the pan, a sponge cake base, a raspberry mousse, a chocolate mousse, and a middle layer of ladyfinger and sponge cake trimmings.

Here is a fancy dessert that (other than the sponge cake), requires no turning on of your oven. In fact, some versions of a charlotte use more ladyfingers as a base instead of a spongecake. This is a perfectly fine, and the only reason I didn’t use ladyfingers was because I ran out, so I made a sponge cake base. Them’s the breaks.

I will warn you: this dessert is not for the faint of heart! It’s a time and labour intensive dessert, but SO worth the effort.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 9 inch cake

For the sponge cake:

4 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
3-4 tbsp. raspberry preserves, jam, or liqeur

For the raspberry mousse:

2½ c. frozen raspberries
½ c. sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. unflavoured gelatin
2 c. heavy cream
6 tbsp. icing sugar

For the chocolate mousse:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. heavy cream
¼ c. milk
¼ c. plus 2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
3 eggs, separated
¼ c. sugar

For the lining and garnish:

2-3 dozen ladyfinger cookies (more if you use ladyfingers as a base as well as the lining)
1 c. heavy cream
Fresh raspberries (if desired)
Chocolate shavings (if desired)

To prepare, line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper, and the sides of the springform pan with plastic wrap. Trim ladyfinger cookies ½ inch, so there is one flat edge. Place upright in the springform pan, sitting on the flat edge. If desired, line the bottom of the pan with more ladyfinger cookies, and use the cut pieces to fill in gaps.

If not lining the cake pan with ladyfinger cookies, begin preparation by making the sponge cake. In a 7 inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs for 1 minute. Add the sugar, and beat again on high speed approximately 7 minutes, until light, fluffy, and 3-4 times the volume.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture in two additions, folding after each addition. Be thorough, and catch any hidden flour pockets, but keep the air in and do not over-mix.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 23-25 minutes, until top is golden and springs back when poked lightly.

Let cool completely, then slice cake in half. My cake did not slice evenly, so I had one even layer, and I turned the remainder into a secondary “crumb” layer with my ladyfinger pieces in the middle.

For the raspberry mousse, combine the frozen raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries reach a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on the fruit to extract as much liquid as possible.

Into the strained raspberry juice, stir in the lemon juice and gelatin. Transfer back to the saucepan, and over the warm burner whisk together until gelatin dissolves, then take back off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and the icing sugar together until thick and spreadable. Once the raspberry syrup is at room temperature, fold into the whipped cream a ¼ at a time, until all of the raspberry syrup is incorporated. Set aside, at room temperature.

For the chocolate mousse, in a heat-proof bowl add the chocolate, and melt over a double boiler or in the microwave for 30 second blasts, stirring constantly.

Add the milk, and whisk completely. Add the butter, and the egg yolks, whisking again until fully incorporated.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream until fluffy and thick. Fold in the chocolate mixture.

In a clean mixer bowl (with no grease whatsoever!), whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, and whip egg whites into stiff peaks.

Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture until cohesive.

To assemble the charlotte, in the prepared springform pan lined with ladyfingers, place the sponge cake in the base of the pan. Brush with the raspberry preserves, jam, or liqueur if using.

Spread half of the raspberry mousse in an even layer, and place in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes to set up. Top with half of the chocolate mousse, and refrigerate again to begin setting up. Be careful not to knock the ladyfingers out of place.

If desired, use another layer of ladyfingers and cake crumbs on top of the chocolate mousse layer.

Top with remaining raspberry mousse, set for 10-20 minutes again, the remaining chocolate mousse, and refrigerate 3-4 hours until set.

To garnish, whip the cream into soft, thick peaks. Fill a piping bag with a star tip, and the whipped cream. Pipe onto charlotte, and garnish as desired with raspberries or chocolate shavings.

Vanilla Sables

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Hello again, my dear readers! This week, I felt an irresistible pull to make cookies. I didn’t really care what kind of cookies, I just wanted to make cookies. I also wanted to make something I have never made before. It was a kind of feeling that I just wanted to make small, single portion baking, so I made these vanilla sables, and, for a more indulgent treat, I made Neapolitan Cupcakes. That recipe will be posted in a few days, but I wanted to start off with something relatively simple.

Of course, who do I turn to when I am looking for something I have never made before? Annie, of course! She had this recipe for vanilla sables, as well as a slightly more complex version of Chocolate Chai Sables. Well, let me tell you, I was tempted by both, and the vanilla sables won. For a recipe I had never tried before, I wanted to taste the original version.
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These sables were a resounding success. I did have to make a few tweaks to the recipe, but that is because I don’t actually have any vanilla beans (gasp, I know!). It’s an investment I keep meaning to make, but I just keep forgetting to order a nice big bag off the internet. Either way, I substituted some extra vanilla extract for the absence of vanilla beans, and regular sugar for the vanilla sugar.

If, however, you have vanilla beans, and feel the urge to make some vanilla sugar, take some used vanilla bean pods, and stick them in a container of white sugar for a few days. That’s it! When I finally get around to getting some vanilla beans, I also have plans to make my own vanilla extract, so hopefully in the next year there will be a post on that.

These French sables, they remind me a little of shortbread. The cookie dough is all mixed together, then rolled into a log, and frozen for a few hours or overnight. After that, it is cut into slices, and baked. Quite simple, and not that time consuming. But, enough talk! To the cookies!

Ingredients

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

1 c. butter, at room temperature
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise (or 2 tbsp. vanilla extract)
2/3 c. vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2¼ c. flour
½ tsp. salt

For finishing:

Turbinado sugar (approx. ¾ c.)
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water

In a mixer bowl, combine the butter, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla sugar. Beat on medium-high, about 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg yolks, one at a time, and add in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour and salt until incorporated, and a thick dough forms.

Gather the dough together and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. With your hands, form the dough into a long log, about 12-14 inches long and 1¾ inches in diameter. Wrap the dough up in the parchment paper, twisting the ends to secure, and place the dough in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until firm.

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Unroll the dough from the parchment paper, and pour a line of turbinado sugar on one side of the parchment paper. Whisk the egg and water together, then brush over the dough log. Roll the dough log into the turbinado sugar. (If you can’t find any turbinado sugar, just use brown or white sugar. I used white sugar, and the cookies turned out fine. Paul looked for me, but could not find turbinado anywhere.)

Slice the sugared dough into ½ inch slices with a sharp knife, and transfer to the baking sheets.

Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, for 14-15 minutes total, until cookies are just set and light golden around the edges. Let cool briefly on pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.