Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gah! Grissini...

This one didn't go so well...

I started out with the greatest of intentions, however, I was again foiled by flour.

Grissini was the next recipe in my book, and I was SO excited to try out my pasta 'machine' that I picked up on sale last week. Grissini is basically a long, skinny, bread stick and I was looking forward to spending the week crunching away one grissini at a time. If you sense a hint of sorrow, you are spot on. I hit a wall...a big wall made out of flour.

The grissini called for 'High Gluten Flour'...unfortunately, what I purchased wasn't actually 'High Gluten Flour' and instead was a pure gluten flour.

So, what started out as this (cute huh?):

...ended up as this (ew!):

A pure gluten laden mess...not at all anything even CLOSE to dough.

I've decided that I need to stop trying to shop at my local grocery store when it comes to an ingredient I've never used or heard of before. I'm seeking out a specialty baking store, or hitting up Amazon to order what I need on the net.

Stop back soon, because I'm trying this one again.....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Soft Roll DOH-No!!!

Knot & Parker House Rolls Using Soft Roll Dough

Say it with me now...DOH! It was bound to happen again...sooner rather than later, I manage to eff things up. Naturally, I didn't realize that I screwed up until the very possible end; the taste test. Since I did spend all afternoon embarking on my roll-tastic journey, I'll take you through it until the very, very, salty end.

The next two recipes in my text book were for Knot Rolls and Parker house rolls, both utilizing the same dough, just shaped differently. Being the adventurous sorta gal that I am, I opted to just try them both! I was so psyched to finally have graduated past the 3 ingredient bread phase and was  thrilled to finally be making something with eggs, milk and butter!!

Business as usual, I quartered the recipe. Here is where I screwed up, I neglected to quarter the salt Dum Dum Daaaahhhhhh. Essentially, I prepared the dough with 4 times the amount of salt necessary and allow me to say, that sucks! It sucks salty dough balls! Here is the recipe with the correct amount of all ingredients:

Bread Flour 1.25 lb
Instant Dry Yeast 8.75 g 
Milk, room temperature 10 fl oz
Butter, soft 2 oz
1 Egg, (I always allow my eggs to come to room temperature when baking)
Sugar 2 oz
Salt 0.5 oz (NOT 2 oz, as I used, I cannot possibly stress this enough)
Egg Wash (for knot rolls)
Clarified Butter (for parker house rolls)
I mixed the yeast and flour in one bowl and the butter, egg, milk, salt and sugar in the mixer's bowl fitted with the bread hook attachment. As I mentioned above, I let my egg come to room temperature along with the milk and butter, I think I learned this from my good buddy Alton Brown...

I added the flour/yeast mixture to the other ingredients and mixed on low for about 2 minutes, kicking the speed up to medium for another few minutes until I reached the improved stage of gluten development. I checked for this by taking a small piece of dough, dipping it in flour and stretching it to a thin membrane.

I transferred the dough to my rising bowl, sprayed with a touch of Pam, and loosely covered it with plastic wrap to bulk ferment for one hour.

Today, during what I like to call my ‘rising time’, I actually had some peace and quiet! My poor little son who has been battling chronic, back to back, ear infections finally decided that a nap was in his best interest, so some rare quiet time was nice! While my dough was rising, I was able to take my time folding some laundry, something I had come to take for granted. Typically I have my son in the laundry room with me, and quietly folding towels takes a back seat to keeping him out of the laundry room cabinets while I hastily wad up the clean laundry.
As the dough was rising, and I was folding, I was thinking how nice some homemade rolls would have been during last weekend’s Easter meal. I decided that, from now on, I would make them my go-to rolls for any upcoming holiday (made correctly of course).

Once the laundry was folded and another load started (WHEN DOES IT END?!) I gathered up my tools for the next phase. I've come to love these silicone mats that I found at Aldi a few years back, they make for a much easier counter cleanup!

Once the dough had risen, I gave it a nice fold and divided it into two one pound hunks-o-dough (and one little, leftover, hunk). I preshaped the dough into rounds (check out Lean Dough Take II for preshaping instructions). Once preshaped, I moved the rounds to my baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and covered with a towel for about 15 minutes to relax (the dough relaxes, I however had a short, little blond gentleman kindly requesting to be rescued from his crib).

Now for the fun part, time to commence roll making! The dough needed to be divided into 50 gram pieces. This sounds easier than it actually is, trying to get a consistent sized dough ball was a little tough, but the scale really helps! If you don't have a kitchen scale by now, do yourself a favor and pick one up! I think mine was about $15 or so and I've certainly gotten a lot of use out of it!

Now that I have a lot of balls... it's time to shape them out! I decided to do half knot rolls and half parker house rolls.

Starting with the Knot Rolls, you'll need to work sequentially, shaping the first dough piece that you cut, so I worked from left to right. To make the knots, I began by flattening the dough with my fingertips, folding the top half to the middle of the dough, pressing lightly with my fingertips to seal, then folding in half again, sealing with the heal of my hand. Then I just simply rolled it out, Play-Do style, until I had a 6 inch long rope.

Once rolled, all there is to do is tie the dough in a knot and pinch the ends together. This was a little easier said than done, and I found that I needed to roll the dough into slightly longer ropes to accomplish this feat. Trust me, I got better at this as I went along!

Once knotted, it was time to egg wash. Just one egg and a little water, beaten together and brushed on.

The knot rolls then just needed to rest & proof, covered (they've had a long day) for about 30 minutes, hit 'em again with the egg wash, before going into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and shiny.

Now onto the Parker House Rolls. The instructions seemed simple enough. I started out by re-rounding the dough pieces and letting them rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Rest was a much needed thing at this point, as I'd allowed my son to have free range in the kitchen...needless to say, we were in desperate need of some non-kitchen-play-time!

Once rested, I finally got to break out my new rolling pin, and rolled each piece of dough into an oval about 5 inches long. The dough was then folded in half (top comes down to the bottom), flipped over so that the fold was closest to me, then I rolled the bottom few inches of the folded dough with my rolling pin to create the Parker House Roll.

Now all there was to do was put the rolls onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush on some clarified (basically, melt down some butter in a saute pan, and strain it through a mesh strainer with a piece of paper towel) butter.

Once bathed in butter (that just sounds amazing, doesn't it), the rolls need to proof for about 30 minutes. I did this by placing them in a slightly warm oven. Once proofed, bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown and shiny, brush again with the butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Once I had all of my rolls out of the oven and started tasting, my husband and I both proclaimed "these are REALLY salty". That prompted me to re-check my math, and I realized that I added WAY to much salt (as in 2 oz when I should have used 0.5 oz). The rolls were reminiscent of the dough creations some of us made as children with the water/salt/flour dough, painted and gave to our parents as an ashtray or paperweight.

Quite frankly, these would have made fantastic paperweights! Into the trash they went, and a hard lesson learned. Just like in carpentry, measure twice, cut once! In my case, check your math!

Disappointed, yes. Discouraged, no. I will make these again, correctly, the next time the occasion calls for a nice dinner roll and I encourage you to do the same! Impress your friends, your family, your mother-in-law, with a scratch made roll, rather than the roll-in-a-can or the par-baked rolls we've all grown accustomed to!

Tune in again soon for my next (fingers crossed) triumph in baking: Grissini!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ode to baking from scratch

What a weekend!! I am proud to say that I actually ventured into several new culinary battlegrounds this weekend and emerged, somewhat, unscathed and quite successful! While this is not one of my traditional "baking from the C.I.A. text book" posts, since I did bake from scratch, I felt I should share!

My husband's sister and her spouse were having us over for a grill out on Saturday and I offered to make the dessert (of course)! I spent about an hour combing through my favorite pastry blogs and finally chose my go-to dessert gal Heather's newest post "Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Devil's Food Cake Cheesecake."

Since I spend a considerable amount of time on Heather's blog ogling her tasty creations and I love cookie dough and cheesecake, I decided to take the plunge! I've only recently started making cheesecakes because I'd been afraid of the "water bath" technique forever. I finally braved it over the holidays and actually made several great cheesecakes, so I'm no longer petrified could dive in with confidence.

I did have to make a few modifications, simply because I wasn't able to locate dark unsweetened baking chocolate powder or sorghum molasses in my local grocery store, so I just used regular unsweetened baking chocolate powder and regular molasses. Lucky for me, I don't think it affected the flavor too much!

I started this recipe on Friday night, so I could just make the butter cream and assemble it the next morning. I loved how the egg less cookie dough turned out! I never would have imagined that it could actually taste just like real chocolate chip cookie dough!

The next day, while my son took his morning snooze, I made my very first butter cream!

Now, I've been making and decorating, what I think and I've been told are great cupcakes, (from a mix and a can of frosting) for years! I WILL NEVER AGAIN USE A CANNED FROSTING!! Butter cream is super easy to make, tastes better than canned, and goes into the piping bag really easily! If you've ever loaded a piping bag with icing from the can, it's super heavy and sticky and I've always had to put the bag into the fridge to tighten it up enough to pipe onto a cake or cupcake. With the butter cream, it was so light an fluffy...I was honestly blown away!!!

Once I got everything assembled, this is what I came up with:

I also had quite a bit of butter cream leftover, so I made good use of all the leftover chocolate wafers and made little cookie sandwiches, which I froze and made yummy treats for later!

The cake was yummy! VERY rich, but very yummy! I would probably use Heather's "I love a little cookie dough" option next time I make it and I would slather on more butter cream! I'm now a tried and true member of the butter cream congregation!!!

Thanks so much to Heather at Sprinklebakes for a fantastic recipe!!!

Now for today's baking wasn't much of an excursion at all! I've made banana bread more times than I can count! It's always a fan favorite and doesn't last very long at all around here!

My son LOVES bananas (or nanas, as he calls them, pointing to the banana hook on the counter)! But every now and again I get a bad bunch that goes brown if you look at them cross eyed. Last week I purchased one of those bunches and refused to toss them. Why toss when you can bake?!

So I strapped my son into his chair with some crayons (which he ate the tips off of...yum) and put on a little cooking show for him (which he seemed honestly interested in...gotta love the captive audience)!! The end result was a couple loaves of tasty banana bread which we've been eating at all afternoon!

To those of you (the few, the brave) who log on to read about my baking exploits, fear not! I promise to return soon with the next recipe from the C.I.A baking text book: Knot Rolls Using Soft Roll Dough! FINALLY, something with eggs in it!!!