Monday, June 13, 2016

The Baking Bible: Cherry Sweetie Pie

A sweet cherry pie with a pretty lattice top, this was an overall winner in my house. I also think this is the best version of Rose's Tender and Flaky Pie Crust I've made to date!

It is a fairly simple and straight forward pie, which is also a plus. The cherries are pitted, but you could also use frozen cherries which I assume would already be pitted. Rose says if the cherries are on the large side to cut them in half with scissors. She considers large to be 1 inch or more, but honestly I've never seen a fresh sweet cherry that isn't about 1 inch in size. Rose picked up a tip from Cook's Illustrated to add a couple of pureed fresh plums to give the pie a bit of tartness. All the fruit is then macerated in some sugar and cornstarch and cooked until the juices thicken. After this mixture cools down lemon zest and vanilla extract are stirred in and poured into the waiting pie crust.

The pie crust is the usual Tender and Flaky crust which employs cream cheese and butter and heavy cream and apple cider vinegar as the secret weapons. I've found a sort of hybrid food processor-by hand mixing technique that seems to work for me. Anyhoots the top crust is a lattice top which is just so darn pretty and appealing. I dabbed a bit of watered down cream on the top and sprinkled on some sanding sugar for sparkles and crunch. Now I'm itching to buy a pastry crimper for even prettier lattice tops.

Then the pie gets baked atop a hot baking stone; mine took a little more than the required time to finish. It is supposed to cool for 3 hours but I think we broke into it after only a couple of hours. I whipped up the leftover heavy cream from the Rum Raisin French Toast to serve alongside, although vanilla ice cream would be a better match.

a bit too browned, but don't let that bother you
 The crust shattered in a wonderfully flaky way, and the cherry filling was still warm and a bit runny. Mark appreciated that the cherries were still toothsome and that the filing wasn't sickly sweet. It is quite a yummy filling and the lemon zest complements the cherries so well. However what I love most about this pie is the pie crust! Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of pie dough? That would be exciting!

snowy owl took a bath in my mixing bowl while the pie baked

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Baking Bible: Rum Raisin French Toast Royale

Well, I skipped the rum so these are really Raisin French Toast Royale. They are the best kind of french toast I've ever had. They blur the lines between french toast regular and bread pudding, breakfast edition. Well worth all the preparation.

The preparation involved baking a loaf of bread, a loaf of cinamon-swirl raisin bread. And since I decided to have a brunch party, I made two loaves of bread and four batches of french toast. (The recipe makes 4 slices, which is roughly half a loaf of bread.)

The cinnamon-swirl raisin bread is a soft white loaf and it was really hard to have two loaves of it sitting untouched on the counter for a couple of days. (You want the bread to be a bit stale so that it soaks up the custard better.) This loaf begins with a starter then after a few hours is kneaded for a long time in the mixer. At this point the raisins are added to the dough--I assumed they were going to be in the filling but Rose says adding the fruit to the dough this way keeps the spiral nice and tight.  The KitchenAid will dance across the counter and so I spent the ten minutes with one eye on the counter. After the kneading, the dough is left to double, then degassed and chilled. Then the fun part: the dough is rolled into a rectangle, the cinnamon sugar is sprinkled over and the bread is rolled up tight, with melted butter brushed on the dough between rolls. The seams are pinched together, the ends are tucked under, and the loaf is plopped into a bread pan and left to rise one more time. Then off to bake and then sit tantalizingly on the counter for a couple of days.

The french toast part of the recipe begins with a basic custard: heavy cream, milk, eggs, and nutmeg. And rum, if you aren't going to be feeding a couple of children. The loaf is sliced into 1 inch thick slices--I got 8 slices per loaf with a little bit left to shave off each end. The slices are left in the custard overnight, in a single layer, so I rustled up a bunch of pans to fit 16 slices and squish into the refrigerator. The 10 inch cake pans were a bit roomy, the 9 inch pans a bit tight. I've never soaked french toast overnight, I've just dipped/soaked for a few minutes before cooking so this was all new to me.

Soaking overnight does make the french toast easy to prepare for brunch as all the prep is done the days and night before. I am a convert.

My parents were in town, I invited over some good friends, and we had french toast with hashbrowns and sausage and fruit on the back deck. It was delicious. The insides were soft and custardy, the nutmeg in the custard and the cinnamon in the bread gave it a nice flavor. I think the texture was my favorite part of the french toast: it was so creamy and soft it really did remind me of bread pudding.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Baking Bible: Chocolate Ganache Tartlets

There is nothing unhappy about these tartlets. The sweet cookie tart crust is excellent, and the little ganache dollop is just enough divine chocolate to leave you ready for another. These would be fun for a party as you can make the cookie shells ahead of time.

Because of the pate sucree, these can almost be put in the (fancy pantsy) cookie category. In fact, a peanut butter cookie crust (like this one from Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible) would be killer and would upstage any peanut butter blossom in existence.

The recipe calls for little mini brioche pans but I don't have them so I used my mini muffin pan. These make tartlets about 1.5x bigger so my batch didn't yield as many. I think I got about 30 instead of 48. In the mini brioche pans, Rose says to use 8.5g of dough per pan but I used about 12g.

The ganache is piped into the cups for maximum fanciness and for being a piping novice, I am satisfied with my results. Some are better than others. But they all taste equally addictive.

The Baking Bible: Pecan Praline Scheherazades

These are a simple and easy candy to make; very quick and easy as long as you are not caramel-averse. The key to caramel, at least for me, is to keep an eagle eye on it and check the temperature frequently.

What makes these candies shine are the ingredients used: golden syrup and muscovado sugar bring more flavor than corn syrup and brown sugar. The real amazing ingredient is the creme fraiche instead of heavy cream, but I had heavy cream so that's what I used. They're still good, not to worry.

I made a few mistakes despite how easy I am telling you this recipe is. The pecans are to be chopped up into medium-small pieces and I skipped over the small part. This left the nut-caramel ratio in favor of the caramel which was a bit of a bummer. Then, after making caramel and pouring over the nuts in a bowl, the candies are spooned out into rounds. My candies were apparently large as I was supposed to end up with fourteen to sixteen candies and I had nine. Nine! Oh well.

They are chewy and crunchy and quite satisfying. Easy to make and easy to eat.

larger-than-life pecan praline scheherazade