Girl Versus Dough

Sifted Words — Where you at?

In case you’ve been pining for more recipes in my absence, you’re not alone. The fact is, I’ve missed baking, too. But it’s been the craziest of weeks, namely for one reason: A wedding.

Don’t you just love weddings? They brighten my mood no matter how I’m feeling (Case of the Mondays? Gone. Smells like cat pee in the hallway? No probs. Nasty sunburn peeling off while I’m fighting off laryngitis and can barely speak? OK, that sucked, but a wedding would still make me slightly cheery.). And this past weekend, I was blessed to be a bridesmaid in my dear, dear friend Sarah Jean’s wedding in St. Paul, Minn. It was a lovely affair.

Aw, pretty bridesmaids. We were fun. And pretty.

That would be the bride, brush-a-brush-a-brushin’ her teeth minutes before getting hitched. Naturally. Still, she’s dang beautiful.

Not sure what I’m doing here. I planned to look diva-ish, but I ended up looking, well, not so diva-ish. I blame the non-diva dress. Sarah’s looking mighty nervous (but excited!) before the ceremony. Clearly I pay no attention to anyone’s feelings whence trying to look like a diva.

And finally, the lovely bride, Sarah Jean, and groom, Nate. They are happy. (Though it might be for the cake, I don’t know.)

So there you have it. My big fat excuse for not baking. Don’t worry, I’ve got thoughts swirling in my head and a loaf in the oven right now (a gluten-free surprise for Tablespoon, but that’s for another day). Things are happening, indeed.

P.S. First photo courtesy of Sarah Vande Kamp; Other photos courtesy of Ashley Moore

Round Thirty Four — Golden Raisin & Caraway Scones

Golden Raisin Caraway Seed Scones

It’s dang hot outside.

Can I just say that? I know how we all love to talk about the weather (it is, after all, the most common — pause. My husband is rapping about scientific terms behind me. What a NERD. — topic of conversation among strangers). But we’re not strangers here, are we? I hope not.

But if you are a stranger, these scones will make us instant friends. I promise you that.

I was searching for the perfect scone recipe the other day. I write perfect because, well, I’m mighty picky when it comes to my scones. I’m a scone snob, I admit it. I don’t like scones that are extra crumbly. Fact. I also dislike scones with sweet fruits in them, like raspberries or blueberries. Also a fact. I’m also partial to their shape — if they aren’t in triangle form, I may or may not turn up my nose in disapproval. They’re just not the same.

That being said, I took a bit of a gamble when I decided to make this recipe. I found it on the North Fork Table & Inn’s Web site by way of Smitten Kitchen by way of Whisk The Pantry. After all this adventure, I finally settled on what appeared to be an acceptable scone recipe — a triangular, sweet (but not too sweet!) and savory, less crumbly creation. But I was still skeptical.

You see, I’m trying to find my way around the chemistry of baking. Like, how does bread rise (or not)? Or, how do you make your own ingredients from things you already have tucked away in the pantry? In this case, I’m learning that the more sugar you add to a recipe, the more cake-like it will become. Or at least I think so. Still haven’t aced this class yet.

What is so absolutely perfect — yes, perfect — about this recipe is that it yields the most delicate balance between a flaky, buttery consistency and that loaf-like sponginess. Not too crumbly, but not too cakey. And with the genius combination of sweet, golden raisins and hearty caraway seeds, they go perfectly with a tall glass of iced tea on one dang hot summer day. But a perfect day, nonetheless.

Debrief: This recipe originally states that it yields 12 to 16 scones, but I got a little overzealous with the bench scraper and managed to cut around 20 triangles in all. It worked out — I had a lovely mix of mini scones and regular-sized ones. That said, take the “yield” with a grain of salt — you can make as many scones as you darn well please, thankyouverymuch.

Golden Raisin & Caraway Scones Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen from North Fork Table & Inn

Yields 12 to 16 triangular scones (or, as said above, up to 24 miniature scones)

Ingredients:

2 3/4 cup pastry or unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 tbsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda 6 oz. butter (about 1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1 cup golden raisins 1 tbsp caraway seeds 1 cup buttermilk (or just under a cup of regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice and refrigerated for 5 minutes) Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put cubed butter in freezer for 15 minutes. In the meantime, place flour, baking powder and baking soda and mix, using paddle attachment, in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter to stand mixer bowl and mix until butter and flour mixture are the texture of coarse cornmeal. Add buttermilk, raisins and caraway seeds, mixing on the lowest speed until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently about 2 minutes until dough mostly sticks together. Roll out dough using hands or a rolling pin, into a rectangle slab about 1 inch thick. Cut into squares, and then cut squares on a diagonal to form triangles. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

Extra punches: If you are partial to a fruit scone, you can substitute 1 cup of any chopped fresh fruit for the raisins and caraway seeds, and use only 3/4 cup of buttermilk. If using fruit, also make sure you use aluminum-free baking powder, or your scones may result in a blueish tint and a slight tinny flavor.

Sifted Words — Tablespoon, part deux.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

Friends!

I forgot to tell you (OK I didn’t forget, I just haven’t gotten around to it. There, I said it. Confession.) — I’m posting recipes on Tablespoon again. So far: Blueberry Muffin Bread, Avocado Quick Bread and today, Mom’s Zucchini Bread (yes you, Ma. Love you!). And there will be more, even yummier recipes on the way. So you should check out the blog every week for what I’m up to over there (or, if you’re here already, click on that nifty little box in the right column. The one that reads “Featured Tablespoon Blogger,” in case it’s been a long day and you still don’t get it.).

For now, a happy day to you all. It’s the weekend soon, so cheer up! Life is dang good, isn’t it? Indeed.

Round Thirty Three — Oat Flour Bread

Oat Flour Bread

I’d noticed that I’ve been a little fancy lately with my recipes. Nothing over the top but, you know, none of those basic loaves. It’s just been a while.

So I thought I’d go back to a simpler time, when a handful of ingredients mixed together and left to rise makes the most amazing, tasteful bread on Earth.

Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

You see, as you can tell by my life story (heavily abridged, of course), this blog is about both the good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. My triumphs and my failures. Some days we win, some, we lose. And I was one big loser this time around.

After all these months (nearly a year, actually, egads!) you’d think I’d know what makes a bread rise or not. Confession: I don’t. Luck, perhaps? A tiny plea for success? Crossing your fingers as you pour the yeast into the batter? Clicking your heels together before the bread is left to proof? In my short but adventurous bread baking experience, I still haven’t figured it out.

I know a few things. I know that warm water and room temperature ingredients help out a lot. I know it’s best to keep the yeast fresh, sealed and tucked in the back of the fridge. I know that sometimes, instant yeast is SO much easier to work with than active dry yeast. I know that putting the dough on top of the fridge seems to always help out the rise. Don’t ask me why. Don’t ask me how I know. I just know. You pick these things up along the way.

And yet… after knowing all those things, sometimes, a loaf will turn out as ugly as this one. Boring, lifeless, barely risen and with a hard-as-a-rock crust.

Was it old flour? Was it the fact that I put the dough in the fridge after the first rise because I was leaving to go camping for the weekend, and therefore had no time to wait for its second rise (though the directions stated clearly that the dough can be stored at this point for up to 10 days)? Was it cold yeast? Was it the fact that I thirded (yes, thirded, not halved) the ingredients and perhaps overly trusted my shoddy math? Who knows.

So here it is, folks. The seedy underbelly. The dark side of the bread baking world. A catastrophe. And yet, a tasty one at that. Because despite the hideousness of its exterior, the inside of this loaf is quite delicious. Well hand me a knife and slap me on some buttah, there is always a silver lining.

Debrief: I like to think this entire post was a debrief. I have no idea what went wrong here (I’m guessing it had something to do with the refrigeration, as that never seems to work well for me). Maybe you can venture on this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you.

Oat Flour Bread Courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

(I’m going to give you the full version of the recipe in case my math was wrong, but, I did third this recipe because I have so many dang loaves in the fridge, the last thing I needed were triplets added to the bunch.)

Makes three 1 1/2-pound loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

3 1/4 cups lukewarm water 1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets) 1 1/2 tbsp salt 1 cup oat flour, plus several tbsp extra to thicken the dough (about 3-5) 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour Cooking spray or oil for greasing the pan

Directions:

Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a large bowl. Set aside. Mix the flours, without kneading, into a heavy duty stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and knead with dough hook until a soft and smooth dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes (here is where the extra tbsp of oat flour may come in, depending on how sticky your dough is). Place kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded container and use over the next 10 days. On baking day, lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-lb. (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and shape it into a ball. Drop into the loaf pan. all to rest and rise for 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with an empty broiler tray on a shelf below the bread. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven and just above the broiler pan. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 45 minutes or until deeply browned and firm. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Sifted Words — The 4th.

The 4th

Happy belated Fourth of July, all! I celebrated the weekend with my crazy — er, wonderful family on a camping adventure. We had a fantastic time playing bean bag toss, Bocce ball, Catch Phrase and Uno (yeah, we kind of like games) while sipping Coronas and watching the sun go down late at night. We also had a lot of fun with sparklers.

Hope you had as blessed of a weekend as I did.

P.S. A new post is coming up oh. So. Soon! Just you wait. It’ll rock your socks off. Or knock. Whatevs.

Round Thirty Two — Braided Lemon & Cream Cheese Bread

Braided Lemon Cream Cheese Bread

Yesterday was the husband’s and my very first anniversary. A year ago, on June 26, he and I both said, “I do.” And that’s that.

I have to say, I’m pretty dang lucky to have this guy in my life. He makes me happy every day. And he’s a fun roommate.

But enough on that. Let’s talk about this bread.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I was simultaneously baking this bread, this cake and this bread (for an upcoming Tablespoon post… eee!) all afternoon while watching (and/or yelling at) the TV while USA kicked a ball around with Ghana. USA lost. I was bummed. But then I realized I had cake, and I was happy.

But once again, back to the bread. I’ve been planning to make this lovely creation since I first saw it on King Arthur Flour’s blog, but then life got in the way I guess and, lo and behold, it popped up on Smitten Kitchen days later, with a much simpler approach that I am grateful to say made my life yesterday easier.

There’s not much to say about this bread, other than the fact that within its lovely braid there is a concoction of sugar, cream cheese and lemon curd, and therefore it is undeniably amazing. It’s also not as intimidating as the directions may at first suggest, especially because they’ve been adapted so people like me, who don’t see why it would be impossible to transfer a 10 x 15-inch rectangle by hand from counter to baking sheet (let me tell you, it IS nearly impossible), don’t end up with a mess. If you don’t have parchment paper (and preferably a bench scraper, as well), get thee to the nearest grocery and buy one, especially if you plan to bake often. They are handy and nearly necessary tools.

I had a lot more to say about this, but it’s been a busy weekend, and all I can think about right now is this. Yum.

Debrief: The original and adapted recipes call for pearl sugar sprinkled atop the braid, but I didn’t have any and really don’t see when I would use it ever again, so I opted out. It probably makes the bread look prettier, but I think the braid speaks volumes itself. The egg wash is still necessary though, in my opinion, as that’s what gives the loaf that glossy, ever-so-slightly crusty crust.

Braided Lemon Bread Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yields: 1 loaf

Sponge: 6 tbsp warm water 1 tsp sugar 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough: Sponge (above) 6 tbsp sour cream or yogurt 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened 2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash 1/4 cup sugar 1 tsp salt 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (optional) Pearl sugar or sparkling white sugar for sprinkling

Lemon cream cheese filling: 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened 2 tbsp sugar 2 tbsp sour cream or yogurt 1 tsp lemon juice 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup lemon curd

Directions: Make sponge — In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with a towel, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.

Make dough — Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until you have a shaggy dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes until doubled. (Dough can also be made by hand, incorporating all ingredients in a bowl and using your hands to mix and knead. Kneading by hand will take about 5 to 10 minutes before smooth and soft.)

Make the filling (while dough rises) — Mix together all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl until smooth (no lumps). Refrigerate the filling and set aside lemon curd until ready to fill the braids.

Prepare bread — Gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a well-floured counter into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper, folding in quarters and then unfolding once transferred (quickly, or it’ll stick together!). With the side of your hand (in a karate-chop fashion), lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.

To form the braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of your dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Be careful not to cut your parchment paper (now is when that bench scraper comes in handy). Remove the four corner segments (shown here on KAF). To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out. You can tuck the last couple over or under the end of the braid (I chose over, and you can barely tell the difference).

Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes until puffy.

Bake bread — Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the loaves with your egg wash, and sprinkle with pearl or coarse sparkling sugar if desired. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown (or a mere 17 minutes for me, as my oven is a beast). Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Extra punches: The dough can be set aside and refrigerated at nearly any point in the preparation process. Just take the dough out of the fridge when you’re ready to work with it again, and let sit until it reaches room temperature. Then, proceed.