On My Mind

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1. Generally speaking, brisket has not been my favorite cut of beef. I think it mostly has to do with not finding a preparation that I enjoy… Until now. I found this recipe from Epicurious, and based just on name alone you should run out and make it: Braised Brisket with Bourbon and Peach glaze. So delicious. Truly. Get on this one to warm your belly and senses during this cold weather!

2. I always love getting the new Lilly Pulitzer catalog. This one had some pics from some of the upcoming new releases. I know we are only beginning the onslaught of the cold and snow, but these are a few of my favorites from the catalog. They will be going on my spring wish list, and if I have the opportunity, I will stow them away in my closet for when the warmer weather gets here. It helps to remind that the snow won’t last forever!

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Janice Shift in True Navy

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Cambridge Palazzo in Pomegranite Jungle Tumble

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Janice Shift in Spectrum Blue Catwalk

WIP Wednesday – A Celtic Banner Happy Dance!

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I know, I know. The picture totally sucks, but I am trying to crop out all of my bathroom door! Also, just for context, I am 5’0″, and this length of fabric is almost as long as I am tall! This is why I included all sorts of close up pictures below. 

But! It. Is. Done. That is my second big WIP Happy Dance this year (the other will be revealed at the end of the year), and when looking back at where I started the year with this piece, I really accomplished a lot with it… More than half the piece.

In any event, I thought I was done with this on Sunday, but then discovered I was missing some stitching from the knotwork border, and had to finish that up tonight – just in time for this post!

Here are the close up pictures (apologies for it being so picture heavy):

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#BreadBakers – Chocolate Chip Scones

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I love a good pastry. I do. I don’t care for breakfast unless a pastry is involved. If there is a coffee cake, muffin, scone, or danish, I am there.

The first time that I ever had a scone was when I was a teenager. At the time I was a ballet dancer, and spent an inordinate amount of time in the ballet studio during the week. Right next to my studio there was a great cafe/specialty food market (one of many things I really miss about NYC) called Yura’s (I think the owners split, so it is now called Corner Cafe and Bakery, and Yura’s is now a little further downtown on Madison).

Anyway, since I would basically spend all day there on the weekends, I would often find myself at Yura’s getting something for some meal. With my penchant for all things chocolate (and pastry), I had a hankering for a chocolate chip muffin one Saturday morning, which they didn’t have any of that day. They DID have chocolate chip scones though, so I figured how could it go wrong? My life was immediately changed. I know it sounds silly to say, but it’s one of those things that was a defining moment in my life. :-D

Incidentally, it is hard to find a good chocolate chip scone out here in the Mountain West. Actually, it’s hard to find ANY scones out here that aren’t completely confused with fry bread.

– Side Story –

When my husband and I first moved out here to Utah, I saw this place next to the grocery store called “Scone Cutters”. I asked my husband what it was, and he told me that basically it is a place that serves burgers on “scones”. It took me a while of being completely confused about why on earth anyone would put a burger on a traditional English scone, and how this came to be a thing of popularity, before I discovered that what people out here call scones are actually fry bread. Literally, balls of bread dough that are dumped into the fryer and allowed to puff up. Of course now every time I talk about scones I have to clarify what I mean. Quel Dommage.

Well, since #BreadBakers the world over are celebrating National Homemade Bread Day (hosted by Lauren at From Gate to Plate), I thought, what better way to celebrate, than with one of my favorite homemade “breads”! The best thing about scones is that, as long as you know the base recipe, you can really customize them however you like. You can add nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, lemon zest… the possibilities are really only as endless as your imagination. This recipe is adapted from the Tartine cookbook.

My yield was 9 scones, but I also made them really big. You can cut them smaller if you want more.

6 oz semi-sweet Guittard chocolate chips, or similar.

4 3/4 cups (24oz/680g) of flour
1 tablespoon (15ml) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (3.75ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (3.5oz/100g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon (6.25ml) salt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9oz/255g) cold, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (12oz/375ml) whole milk (you can also substitute the regular milk for buttermilk if you like the extra tang)

topping:
2 tablespoons (45ml) melted butter
sugar for sprinkling (I wanted sugar crystals, but I my local cooking supply store was out of stock. I used a bigger crystal turbinado sugar instead)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°, and line your baking sheet with parchment. Depending on how many scones you cut the dough into, you may want to use two baking sheets. Don’t forget that these will expand when you bake them off.

(Note: I used a Cuisinart food processor to mix the dry ingredients and cut the butter in, but you can just as well do this by hand with either a pastry cutter, or a fork)

2. Pulse your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar together until well combined. (Or hand whisk in a bowl)

3. Gradually cut in your butter by either feeding it in 1/2″ pieces through your feeder tube, or by cutting it in with the pastry blender. If you use a food processor, be aware that your butter pieces will likely be much smaller than if you cut it in by hand. I see this as ok, because the cold butter, when steamed in the oven, creates the airy separation of layers. You just want to make sure that you don’t over process your flour. If you cut it in by hand you will want to achieve pea-sized pieces.

4. In a big mixing bowl add your flour/butter mixture, your milk (all at once), and your chocolate chips. Carefully mix with a sturdy spoon until combined, but not more than that.

5. On a clean work surface, sprinkle a little flour, and then dump your dough onto that surface. Carefully press your mixture until it has achieved 1 1/2″ thickness, and then use a round cutter to cut them out. You can really cut the scones into whatever shape you prefer. I used a scalloped cutter.

6. Once you have cut out as many scones as you can cut, bring your scraps together until you have used all of your dough.

7. If you have man-handled your dough too much, I would recommend fridging your scones for about 30 minutes or so before baking, just to make your scones are super cold. Again, the cold butter, when steamed in a hot oven, creates that flaky expansion that you will want from your scones.

7. Transfer your scones to your lined baking sheet, brush the top of each scone with your melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Be sure to space them well. Like I said, they will expand with the baking process.

8. Bake your scones until your tops are golden. I baked mine for about 25 minutes, but I cut mine big. If you cut smaller scones, you will want to aim for about 20 minutes. Use your judgement.

9. After cooling, serve. You could serve with jam, butter, cream… whatever you like. Or nothing at all. I think I will have mine with a little apricot preserves. Yum!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient, and I hope that National Bread Bakers day prompts you to bake your favorite homemade bread today. Check out my fellow #BreadBakers celebratory posts:

Pumpkin Bagels by Sophie at Sweet Cinnamon & Honey
Pain Tordu by Carola at En la Cocina de Caro
Peanut Butter Buns by Renee at Magnolia Days
Pumpkin Chocolate Tea Bread by Linda at Brunch with Joy
Almond Bread by Rocio at Kidsandchic
Hatch Chile Bread by Holly at A Baker’s House
Italian Dinner Rolls by Lauren at From Gate to Plate
White Cranberry Nut Bread by Cindy at Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Hadrian’s Bread by Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Hearth Sourdough by Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories
Homemade English Muffins by Stacy at Food Lust People Love
Stollen by Laura at Baking in Pyjamas
Olive, Feta & Tomato Bread by Robin at A Shaggy Dough Story

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers

#BreadBakers – Gruyere Gougères

BreadBakers

In the last few weeks I stumbled upon and joined this fab group called #BreadBakers. #BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page. Participants take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. This month’s event is hosted by Holly from A Baker’s House. Thanks Holly! I’m looking forward to participating; I thought it would be a great way to engage my more recent interest in experimenting with breads.

Well, this month’s theme is Thanksgiving Dinner.

I was trying to think of something simple and delicious that is different than your typical bread basket fare. Did I ever mention that two Thanksgivings ago I was up until 4am baking 3 dozen brioche rolls? I don’t even think 6 were eaten. Madness.

Gougères are a pretty versatile sort of thing. Are they a bread? A pastry? Not too sure. I do know that they are DELICIOUS though. And that SMELL. That smell will drive you mad. There I was dancing in front of the oven for 40 minutes. Are they done yet? ARE THEY DONE YET?!?!?

While you certainly can add these to your bread basket to take it up a notch, I envision serving them with a glass of wine while everyone is getting hangry and picking at the turkey as it rests on the counter. They are light enough to serve as a nibble without filling you up before dinner is served.

And they really couldn’t be easier. Essentially Gougères are Pâte à Choux with cheese added to them.

Gruyere Gougères

Gruyere Gougères

Here is how I made them:

For the dough:

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter (preferably unsalted)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sifted, spooned, and leveled flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten, with 1 tbs of the egg mixture reserved (I actually sieved my eggs for optimum result)
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 350, with your rack in the center.

Combine your milk, butter, and salt in a smallish saucepan, and bring it to a boil over medium heat.

As soon as your milk boils, immediately remove it from the heat and add in your flour in one fell swoop, stirring it with a wooden spoon. While increasing your heat to medium high, return your pot to the heat and continue to stir until your dough pulls away from the saucepan, and then for about another 20 seconds to dry it out.

Add your dough to either a food processor, or a KitchenAid, and give it a spin for 5 seconds to cool it down a smidge.

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Side note. The first time I made Pâte à Choux, I did not have a food processor, so I made it in my KitchenAid stand mixer. I stood over the bowl, worrying about how broken the dough looked as I added my eggs. You’ve seen Munch’s “The Scream”, right? Yeah, that was me. If you use a stand mixer, don’t worry. It will come together — it just takes a little longer than with a food processor.

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ANYWAY.

Now that you have pulsed your dough for 5 seconds to cool it down, you will want to add in your eggs, and process the mixture until it is combined and smooth. Add your cheese, and again process until your mixture is smooth.

Spoon your mixture into a pastry bag with either a #12 Wilton piping tip, or an Ateco 3/8″ tip; they are about the same size. I actually use ziploc bags, rather than pastry bags for fast and easy jobs like this one.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, make rounds of the dough that are somewhere between the size of a golf ball and a chicken egg. My recipe yielded 18 gougères. You’ll want to space the dough rounds about an inch apart.

Once you have piped out your gougères, brush the tops with the remaining egg wash, making sure that any little peaks are smoothed down. Since I always like to go the extra mile, I sprinkled on a little extra shredded Gruyere on top, with a scant sprinkling of Maldon sea salt as well. The sea salt gives it a little extra kick, so I highly recommend it, although it isn’t necessary.

Bake your gougères for 40 minutes, and then open your oven to vent and dry your gougères for another 10 minutes.

And now? Good luck not scarfing these down. I would be lying if I said that my husband and I didn’t eat a third of these after I photo’d them, these lovely golden rounds of cheesy, savory goodness!

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Well, if you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

In the meanwhile, feel free to check out some of the other blogger’s entries for this month’s #BreadBakers:

Bouchon Bakery: Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies

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I’ll tell you right now that if you want the recipe, there are plenty of people who has posted the recipe. If you want it, you’ll have to Google it, but I won’t post it, because, you know, copyright infringement.

I will also say that there are a lot of people who baked these cookies, but claim the recipe is too fussy because it calls for baking by weight. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this… Taking the few extra steps to weigh your ingredients. Frankly, you wind up with a consistent product if you do this. I am not sure that those who claim that baking by weight is too fussy and intimidating realize that things like moisture in the air (or lack thereof), or even being a little lazy with sifting your flour, can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of your product! Who wants a dry hockey puck? Not me! I have gotten tired of having a disappointing outcome when I get lazy with my ingredients. It’s not worth the time spent to make whatever you are making if you don’t turn out a superior product. /soap box

Anyway, chocolate chip cookies were always something I did with my mom. I really cherish those memories, and miss being able to do things like that with her, being on different sides of the country. On many occasions as a kid, my dad would happen to call home just as we were making the batter, and whilst my mother was in the other room talking to my dad, I would eat a significant portion of the dough. Urp. I’m sure we’ve all been there. And then my mom would often bake me cookies (usually I would beg) while away for the summer in Boston, or at college. Such great care packages. Love baked into every bite!

These cookies are great, but quite rich. I would say that the cookie (not the chocolate) was the star… I could have eaten that on its own without the chocolate in it. Also, I made them as recommend, and the way they serve them at Bouchon Bakery… Massively huge! Next time I think I will make them smaller, mostly because I wasted 1/4 of a cookie, not being able to eat the whole thing.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_20141102_132844As you can tell from my WIP posts, I mostly work on larger pieces. Not quite BAPs (though I have a few of those), but pieces that definitely take a bit longer to work on.

Some time ago on Pinterest, I found this cute little ornament, and the image linked back to the designer’s website. A fan of Grumpy Cat myself, and in the mood for a quick stitch and finish, I just couldn’t resist kitting this up. I started it on Saturday, and finished it on Sunday! Not sure what the fabric was — some tight little linen in a 28 count that I had a scrap of in my stash. Maybe I will even finish it into an ornament before Christmas! (unlikely)

Here is a link to the designer’s website, where you can download a .pdf of the pattern yourself.

I also got more work done again on Giovanni’s Alphabet:
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Until next week, Happy Stitching!

Custard Creme Layer Cake, or, Colonial Baking – Test One

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For this year’s DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Chapter Christmas party, we are making recipes that were special to our Founding Fathers, or signers or the Declaration of Independence. Most of the baking recipes come from the book “Baking Recipes of our Founding Fathers” by Robert W. Pelton. Google Books has a scan of the book here, if you are interested. The recipe I refer to can be found on page 162, and the link should take you straight there.

I purposefully selected a more vague recipe, “Custard Creme Layer Cake”, a favorite of Samuel Adams, because I like a challenge!

Not being one to just present a baked item without previous practice, I decided to make a trial run this weekend to ensure everything worked out just the way I wanted it to. I adapted the recipe to be made using modern appliances, like a stand mixer and kitchen scale, but if you want to give it the old Colonial go and make it entirely by hand, be my guest!

Of course I encourage you to sift out and level the flour and powdered sugar to ensure you aren’t overdoing the dry ingredients, and would always encourage you to weigh out both pans before baking to ensure you have two exactly even layers. Speaking of which, the recipe doesn’t tell you how many layers to make, so I filled two 9″ cake pans, baking them for 20 minutes, and they turned out perfectly. Including the cake pans, each pan weighed exactly 36 ounces prior to baking, but yours will vary depending on your baking equipment.

The custard was a little more tricky. Just from reading the recipe it seemed that what they were going for was a creme patissiere, but since it was my first time making the recipe, I wanted to make it as the recipe stated – which makes it easier to improve upon. I had to improvise though because the first portion of the custard (just the boiled milk and arrowroot) only thickens so much, and certainly not enough to make a thick cream between cake layers like the recipe calls for (and even at that, YUCK on the bland flavoring). Instead I made a game time decision to mix in all of the egg/sugar mix into the milk/arrowroot like you would if you were making creme patissiere, and just split the custard between the frosting and the layering. This, though, really doesn’t leave enough for both, and the cake is plain enough that it really needs the extra filling. And since I am complaining, I don’t really like using arrowroot or corn starch as thickeners because the outcome always looks lumpy. So there.

Taste-wise, it is like Boston Cream Pie without the chocolate. Nothing terribly exciting, and definitely relies on the custard to carry it. The cake itself has a very delicate taste, and a very fluffy crumb. According to the write up by the author, this was a favorite of Samuel Adams. Sorry Sam, but I just don’t see it. I mean it is OK. Maybe it will be improved with the addition of more custard.

So here is what I would do next time:

1. The cake is fine – a good basic white cake, with a delicate Madeleine-type flavor.
2. Make a creme patissiere instead of this custard, and then double it. This will make enough to not only create a substantial filling, but also fully frost the top. And not have it look lumpy.

When asking my husband what he thought the cake needed to be better, aside from the addition of chocolate or raspberry, he, too, thought it needed more custard/cream in the middle.

From a historical perspective I can justify subbing in a creme patissiere, because Samuel’s close cousin and second President John Adams spent a great deal of time in France, and there were many French men supporting our own Revolution. Of course, to me, taste and visual justification is paramount to historical replication.