It’s A… Pretzroll

I intended to make soft pretzels yesterday, but somehow they turned out like pretzel-shaped rolls. Not at all what I intended. I think I will be having a do-over on this one.


More fun with laminated dough — I also made croissants! Believe me when I say they were beautiful — plump with a little curve to them — before I baked them. When they came out of the oven they were more straight across, kind of like… I don’t know what. But the layers were clearly defined and they were buttery like you read about. C. told me I “should make these all the time.” I’m delighted he loves them, but I fear I might have to go live in a padded room if I make them too often. Or maybe worse, I might get really good at them and the world would experience a butter shortage due to our croissant consumption habits.

apple danish

This weekend, I tackled a longtime baking fear of mine — laminated dough. Ever since I watched Julia Child make puff pastry on one of her shows (I was so traumatized I couldn’t retain that information), I thought — “that is something I will never, ever, make.”

Making laminating dough involves alternating layer upon layer of dough and butter. Puff pastry, probably the most well-known laminated dough, apparently has 729 layers. My laminated dough had just 81. (I still can’t imagine ever making puff pastry.)

One of the end results of my dough production were these apple danishes. I sprinkled cinnamon sugar on the dough before I coiled them into the classic danish shape. I also filled them with an homemade apple filling — I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I thought it would cook down more in the oven (it didn’t). I didn’t glaze them with the traditional confectioners’ sugar/water glaze because I was still out of confectioners’. As a result they are barely sweet, which is actually kind of nice. Although I wished they had browned more, the pastry is flaky as promised, and they still really, really good. And what’s more, they taste better the day after.

sub rolls

I made these sub rolls to accompany my slow-cooker barbecued pulled pork. I also learned a few lessons that you might not have expected during this process.

(1) I cannot fit two half-sheet pans and a steam pan in my oven at once.

(2) If you keep opening the oven door to try to figure out how to squeeze two half-sheet pans and a steam pan inside, the oven will cool down…

(3) … a lot.

(4) If you smell smoke and the oven is on, maybe you should check it out.

(5) Parchment paper may smolder at temps over 420 degree F just like the box says (even though this never happened to me before at much higher temps).

(6) Sub rolls are very forgiving.

And finally…

(7) A 14-year-old boy can easily put away 3 pulled pork subs in one sitting.

double chocolate chunks

I’m not a chocolate person. I like chocolate and all, I just don’t crave it like some people. However, a lot of people L-O-V-E chocolate. A lot. And when L. needed to bring a goodie to one of his teen gatherings, I thought why not something chocolate? Well, that, and I have lots of chocolate to work with in my kitchen.

I first made these cookies at Thanksgiving as my chocolate offering for dessert. Everyone was so stuffed after the dinner, they were initially ignored, but I included them in the take-home leftover bags and in the days after got an IM from my MIL raving about them. P. also discovered them post-turkey day. So I thought they were worth revisiting and foisting them on some other unsuspecting souls.

Double Chocolate Chunks are just an over-the-top burst of chocolatey goodness — with brownie-like softness, and oozing with chocolate bits. A little bit of espresso powder accentuates the cocoa flavor. My intent was to roll the cookies in confectioners’ sugar before putting them in the oven (as I had with the last) but discovered to my horror that I am out of confectioners’ (how does this even happen??). They really don’t need the extra sugar, but they do look a little plain without them. If I had some white chocolate, I might have melted some and drizzled it across the tops to pretty them up a bit. It doesn’t really matter — once you take a bite you really don’t care what they look like!

amo il panettone!

Panettone is an Italian yeast bread (almost like a cake though — light and sweet), enriched with eggs, sugar and honey, and dried or candied fruits. It’s traditionally eaten at Christmastime and there are many legends surrounding its creation. I’m actually a fairly recent convert to panettone. For years, I’d see those blue and red boxes in stores during the holiday season, but I hesitated trying it because I feared it would be heavy and fruitcake-like. A few years ago, I finally gave in to curiosity and discovered that panettone was more airy bread than cake and had just a touch of sweetness — I loved it!

Homemade panettone is an elaborate, time consuming process. Because of the high sugar content, the dough takes many hours (close to 10 for mine) to proof, but the resulting bread is very delicate and melt-in-your-mouth. I didn’t have the traditional panettone papers, so after some experimenting, I ended up taking a cue from Baker’s Banter (although I didn’t use their recipe) and baked it in a bundt pan. If you love panettone, I strongly urge you to make your own. It really is that good.

more sourdough boules

This is the same recipe as last week, but with the instant yeast boost. As you can see, these boules have a bit more oomph than the earlier ones. Also, for this batch I used a higher protein flour than what was used in my last attempt. And finally, I read an interesting post about how different scoring might affect how breads expand in the oven from this post at The Fresh Loaf, and tried something new here. The vertical scoring is supposed to encourage the loaves to rise upward rather than spread outward. All in all, I’m much happier with this batch!

sourdough rye bread

More bread from my sourdough starter. I made two sandwich loaves of rye bread, sans caraway seeds. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s real rye bread without the caraway, but I wanted to make it accessible to everyone in the house and not everyone shares my fondness for seeded rye bread. This is my first batch of yeast bread in loaf pans since my very sad white sandwich bread (which I overproofed), and I have to admit that it was very nice to not have to think about shaping the dough for once. And thankfully, this rye turned out perfectly and had that lovely sourdough tartness you would expect.

my thursday with dorie — chunky peanut butter and oatmeal chocolate chipsters

Tuesdays with Dorie is a group of very dedicated baking bloggers who, once a week, select, prepare and post a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Although I own the book and I’ve often considered participating, I haven’t yet, I think mostly because I’m frightened what weekly goodies will do to my waistline. So today, I thought I would have my own day with Dorie. I baked her Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters (page 73 for those who wish to follow along).

Maybe it’s because I’ve been so (relatively) good in the past week, but the combination of oatmeal, peanut butter and chocolate came to me several days ago and just sounded so appealing. I proceeded to google cookie recipes with that combo only to discover that I already had such a recipe in my own house! I actually halved Dorie’s version since I wanted to continue being (relatively) good, and opted to use creamy peanut butter (it’s what I had in the house) and semisweet chocolate chunks (ditto) instead of bittersweet chocolate. The house smells amazing — baking brown sugar, peanut butter, cinnamon and chocolate — and (mmmmmmm) the cookies are even more amazing.

french-style country bread

It’s a frrrrrrrosty day here and I’m making chicken soup for dinner. I thought I’d whip up some bread to serve alongside. “Whip up” is a phrase which here means prepare a sponge the evening before, mix up some dough first thing in the morning, and then spend the remainder of the morning proofing and baking said bread.

I have some rye sourdough starter in the works for later this week, so I made a French-style crusty white (although it does contain a small amount of whole wheat flour) bread. King Arthur Flour makes the lofty claim that “you could make this bread, and no other, for the rest of your baking career, and never feel cheated.” I’m not sure I agree with that, although I do admit it’s a fine bread. I would say it closely resembles a ciabatta — chewy crust and a moist, open crumb. It’s not really like anything I’ve been making recently, and I generally prefer a drier crumb, but L. gives it a thumbs up.