Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sourdough Challah Mini Braid and Swirls filled with Cinnamon Brown Sugar

Gosh, I was so excited to tackle this recipe. 

I grew up making Challah with my dad pretty often as his side of the family is Jewish...but it had been quite a while since I'd made it so I was a little nervous. Plus, the added challenge of using sourdough instead of yeast as the leavener was exciting and a little nerve-wracking.

I've been keeping Sid (my sourdough starter) in the fridge for the majority of his life up here where I go to school, and feeding him as needed...but I really haven't experimented with him as much as I should. A few things here and there (bread, pancakes). (Yes, Sid is like a third being in our abode. He has a name, gets fed. He's like our mascot.)

When I was thinking of things to attempt in the sourdough realm, I immediately thought of Challah because I'm going to Israel this summer. I hadn't heard of sourdough Challah before, but when I was looking up recipes I read that it may actually be more similar to the traditional ways of making it back in the day with natural fermentation before yeast!

I was super frustrated by the braiding process (apparently I suck at braiding anything) but I was able to get a mini 6 strand braid complete. Then I did two snailshell swirls filled with cinnamon brown sugar. SO GOOD.

The sourness of the bread is juuust right. It's not like you're eating straight up sourdough bread in the shape of Challah. It's slightly sour Challah, still with it's perfect sweetness from the honey. And the crust! Perfect.

Recipe adapted from: The Fresh Loaf

Prepping the Starter: (the night before baking)
2 tablespoons very active sourdough starter (refreshed 8-12 hours before)
1/3 cup warm water
About 1 cup bread flour

Final Dough: (day of baking)
1/4 cup warm water
3 eggs, plus 1 for glazing
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable)
3 tablespoons honey
3 cups bread flour

Filling & Topping:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for top

The Starter: (night before baking)
In a small mixing bowl, mix together the starter and water. Then stir in the flour. Measure out 1 cup of the new starter mix and place in an airtight container (discard the extra, or save it for another use). Let ferment/rise overnight 8-12 hours. It should triple in volume overnight.

Final Dough: (day of baking)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, water, salt, oil and honey until well combined. Mix in the bread flour with a wooden spoon until it creates a shaggy ball. Scoop out onto a work surface, add the sourdough starter and knead until it forms a smooth dough (no more than 10 minutes). It will be a fairly firm dough, but if it's too hard to work with (too dry or wet) add a tablespoon of water or flour to get it to the right consistency.

Transfer the dough to a clean warm greased (olive oil) bowl and let ferment for 2 hours. It probably will not rise at all (that's normal).

After 2 hours, divide the dough however you'd like. You can do two 1 pound portions for loaves, one 1 1/2 pound loaf and smaller pieces for rolls (which is what I did) or look up different ways to do it. This page is a great resource. Braid or shape them how you prefer, and then transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof for 5 hours. The recipe I followed said they should triple in size (however, mine did not...and turned out fine. I think it just depends how active your sourdough is).

Half an hour before baking, move your oven racks to the upper and lower third positions, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the 5 hours are up, whisk together the final egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Paint the tops of your Challah with the egg wash.

Bake small rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, 1 pound loaves for 25- 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2 pound loaf for 35 to 45 minutes all until they are well browned. Halfway through baking turn your pans around to ensure even browning. You can tent them with foil if they are browning too quickly. Transfer to a cooling rack.

And there you have it! I figured making Challah the weekend before Passover would be quite fitting. 

I'm very happy with how it turned out and I want to keep working on the braiding. I absolutely love Challah. It's always so beautiful and delicious! Can't wait to experiment more. :D

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chocolate Bouchons

Bouchon. Booooshawnnn. Boooshaun.

Leave it to the French to make something super yummy yet impossible to say. Bouchons are little brownie cakes in the shape of a cork. Bouchon means cork in French evidently ( Spanish it's 'corcho' so no Romance-language connection there). I just love how silly and stumpy they look.

These guys take me right back to two summers ago, working at the SweetLife Bakery in San Anselmo.  I'd make them every day to go along with our jars and jars full of giant cookies. Super chocolatey, dense, screaming for a hot beverage (tea, coffee...whatever floats your boat) to wash them down with.

They are one of my favorite decadent desserts. Simple, but oh so delicious and rich. 

They really let the grade of the ingredients shine. You really don't want to skimp on quality with regards to ingredients for this recipe. High-end cocoa powder and European style butter truly make them that much better. These go beyond your average brownie.

With each bite you really do taste the richness of good quality cocoa, and Plugra butter can do no wrong. I recommend making these if you have guests over for dinner as an end of the meal treat to pair with a warming drink.

They're best to serve the day they're made, but you can always make the batter beforehand, freeze it in the molds and bake them when you want them (as we did at the bakery :D).

Bouchons: (Adapted from Thomas Keller)

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I recommend Valrhona)
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1.5 cups plus 3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces unsalted butter (European style), melted and just slightly warm
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (good quality is best!)
Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

Butter a silicon baba mold (I got mine on Amazon) and place on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl. In your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes until very thick and pale. Add the vanilla.

Then on low speed add one third of the dry ingredients, and then one third of melted butter. Alternate adding each until everything is thoroughly incorporated (but do not overmix). Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Transfer to a piping bag, and fill the molds just up to the brim (if not a little below). Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out mostly clean (a few crumbs are ok!).

Let cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack before inverting the molds carefully to release the bouchons. Transfer to a serving dish and dust with powdered sugar.

And there you go! 
They are so yummy and chocolatey and moist. 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Earl Grey French Macarons with Honey Rose Water Buttercream

There is something so unbelievably satisfying about making French Macarons, and actually succeeding in all the little details that make this cookie so delicious and mystifying.

The foot...the shell, the color, the texture, the correct filling...they are pretty much the most beautiful/unique/adorable cookie ever. I don't even know how they qualify as a cookie. They are so much more.

I made French macarons at the bakery I worked at a few summers ago pretty often, so I was able to learn the process fairly well. But it had actually been over a year since I last made these lovely little treats. I almost get anxiety when I think about making macarons. They are such a shame to mess up, but when they come out, there's nothing like them!

Being so close to the French border when I lived in Spain last year, I took a few day trips to adorable little towns in the south of France. Man oh man did my friends and I take full advantage of all the amazing food opportunities. 

Pastries, cheese, wine, and of course macarons! I nearly had a heart attack when I first saw the vibrant and beautiful macs in the window displays of the French shops. That was my number one goal in going to France: Macarons. ALLLL the macarons. 

Needless to say, I love em. This recipe can be adapted to whatever tea you'd like to use (but I recommend sticking to flavored black teas). Such a unique flavor combination, and they really work together. 

The Creative Cookie Exchange theme this month was Coffee or Tea to wake up from winter so I thought these macs would go perfectly. Another wonderful thing about these guys, they are so versatile! Combos of all sorts of flavors and colors. DOOO it. 

Macaron Shells: (Adapted from Muffins Are Ugly Cupcakes)
3 egg whites
50 grams granulated sugar
200 grams powdered sugar
110 grams ground almonds
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea (or other of your choice)
2-3 drops Teal Food Dye Gel

First grind up your tea in a food processor until it is fairly fine. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, and then pulse the ground almonds in the food processor as well. Sift the ground almonds and powdered sugar into the bowl with the tea in it. Whisk together all the dry ingredients until everything is entirely incorporated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (make sure it is very clean AND dry) with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium until slightly foamy. Add the granulated sugar, and beat until soft peaks form. Pour the dry ingredients into the egg whites and carefully fold it in with a rubber spatula. Do not overmix! 

The batter should now be slow moving and should sink back into itself after 20 seconds or so when you move it around. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Using a regular round tip, pipe the batter onto your baking sheets in small circles. Once piped, knock the baking sheets onto the counter to get the air bubbles out. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and let the piped cookies sit out to form their outer shell for about half an hour. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Honey Rose Water Buttercream: (Adapted from Baked! Explorations)

1 batch of the Honey Vanilla Buttercream from when I made these
except omit the vanilla and add:
2-3 teaspoons Rose Water
1/2 tsp salt
2 or 3 drops Fuschia Food Dye Gel

Make the buttercream the exact same way as the Aunt Sassy Cake from Baked, or my Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes. Add the salt, rose water and food dye after the honey. 

I usually go through all the cookie halves and find them their size/shape matches. Then pipe the buttercream onto your cookies with a regular round piping tip (about a teaspoon), and sandwich them!

There they are. So cute. So lovely. 
I almost don't want to eat them cuz they're so perrrtyyy! 
(key word there...almost). 
Ya gotta do it. 
They look like little Robin's eggs. :)

If you have a nagging fear of attempting macarons 
because of their notorious reputation of difficulty, 
I get you. 
They are scary. 

But they're also just SO worth it. I promise, you'll be hooked.

About the Creative Cookie Exchange:
The theme this month is Wake from Winter with Coffee and Tea--because unlike last month, now our Spring Fever has some basis in reality! Creative Cookie Exchange has decided to stop using the linky. What this means is that the only way to join in the fun is to become a host. Just contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.
You can also just use us as a great resource for cookie recipes--be sure to check out our Facebook page, our Pinterest Board, and our monthly posts. You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Remer Sister Guest Recipe: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Well, this post is a landmark for my blog! My first guest recipe, and the first savory one! 

My older sister, Amy, was interested in making this pizza (I had coincidentally been saving Jessica's version to try out) and asked if she could have the recipe posted here after it turned out so delicious.

I was able to try out making this pizza this weekend with my mom (since I'm home this week for my final Spring Break of my undergrad career...whhhhattttt?) and ohh man is it good.

The crust is so TASTY. I was honestly surprised how much I liked the flavor, and with Amy's alterations to make it crispier, it's spot on with how we like our pizza (thin, crispy and full of yummy toppings). 

Healthier pizza. Somewhat of an oxymoron, but I won't argue...
(more room for dessert! the important things in life :D).

Ingredients: Yield: One 12-inch pizza (or two 6 inch pizzas)
<Adapted from Lucky Penny Blog and Eat Fat Lose Fat>

1 head of cauliflower (once processed it should be 1½ to 2 cups).
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp dried basil, ½ tsp dried oregano.  (I use a coffee grinder to powder the spices.  You could also just crush them up more between your fingers.)
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese.
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
1 egg (if using more cauliflower, add an additional egg white)

AND toppings of your choice (cheese, veggies, meat, etc)

Place a pizza stone in the oven.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the florets of the cauliflower and pulse in a food processor until you get fluffy “snow.”  (If you don’t have a food processor you can grate it by hand with a cheese grater).

Put cauliflower in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and cook for 4 minutes.

Pour cauliflower onto a clean, thin, dishtowel.  When it is cool enough to handle, bundle it up in the towel and wring out the moisture.  Really squeeze it; you want to get as much water out as possible.

In a bowl mix together the cheeses, spices, and salt.  Add the cauliflower.  It’s easiest to use your hands to mix.  Now add the egg and mix with hands.  You want the dough to be sticky, like drop-biscuit dough.  If it seems too dry, add an additional egg white.

Roll out a piece of parchment paper onto a cutting board and spray with nonstick spray.  Form a ball of dough, flatten it into a patty on the oiled parchment.  Use your hands to flatten out and form the pizza.  Start from the middle and push out to the edges so it ends up with uniform thickness.  It should be around ¼ to 1/3  of an inch thick.

Use the cutting board to slide the pizza (on the parchment) onto the pizza stone (or baking sheet).  Cook for around 10 minutes, or until the crust starts to brown.  The browned surface will be the bottom of the pizza.  Take it out of the oven and flip onto another oiled parchment paper.  Put back into the oven until the other side browns.  It should take around 5 minutes; watch closely so the edges don’t burn.  If you are having trouble getting it to the preferred crispiness, you can use the broiler to toast it.

Remove from oven and add sauce, cheese, toppings…whatever you want.  Put back in the oven until cheese is melted (about 5 minutes).

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.  Let it cool for at least 5 minutes.

Slice and enjoy!

Seriously. Do it. It sounds weird and like it wouldn't taste like real pizza, but I promise that you'll not even nooootice that the crust is made from a stinky albino vegetable.
 Cheesy, garlic-y, Italian spice-y...fairly easy. Give it a try! 

...and then go make one of my dessert recipes, 
because what dinner is complete without something sweet? :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Homemade Samoa Cookies

Geeez. I have been talking about making my own Girl Scout cookies for quite a while. Ages really.

Growing up, my family really didn't buy Girl Scout cookies because we've always been set on homemade baked goods. Store-bought pies, cookies and really anything baked are pretty much taboo in our fam...(with the exception of the occasional Orange Milano or Oreo in very desperate times).

I usually had samplings of Girl Scout cookies at friends' houses growing up, and then in college my friends were really into them. I've probably only bought one or two boxes myself in my lifetime. That said, I do admit they have some wonderful flavor combos that straight up BELONG together.

Recently I have been trying to be more conscious of what products I buy because of the palm oil issue around the world. Palm oil is in almost every processed food and a ton of cosmetic products. Millions of acres of rainforest are being destroyed to grow palm oil plantations, wiping out the habitats of many species (including endangered animals such as Orangutans) and causing environmental degradation all across the board.

After hearing that they use palm oil in their cookies, I decided to boycott Girl Scout cookies (even though I really didn't buy them habitually anyways). While there have been efforts to rid the brand of palm oil, they still use it, and I believe in making the best effort to keep conscious decisions about this kind of stuff. With this knowledge, I decided it was even more reason to make my own!

Such a perfect combination. Shortbread cookie. Chocolate. Caramel. Toasted Coconut. Ohh yes.

And while this may be the more complicated cookie of the Girl Scouts to bake yourself, it is truly worth the effort.

Ingredients: Recipe adapted from Mind Over Batter

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups ap flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Scant 2 tbsp milk

3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 can Dulce de Leche
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. chocolate of your choice (I used semisweet)

Make the Cookies:
In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) and set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Then pour in the dry ingredients and mix on low. While mixing add the milk, and mix until it just comes together. Separate into two, form into rectangles & wrap with plastic, chill in the fridge or freezer for 45ish minutes.

While the dough is chilling, toast your coconut. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread evenly on a baking sheet, and bake 10 to 15 minutes until golden. Be sure to check on it every 5 minutes or so and stir it around so it gets an even toasting.

Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment or a silpat. On a floured surface, roll out one of the dough halves with a floured rolling pin to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using a round cookie cutter (or if you have it, a linzer cookie cutter like I used) cut out your circles. Then using a smaller circle (the bottom of a piping tip works great) cut out a hole in the middle. Do the same with the other dough half. Transfer to your baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until set and the bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool entirely on a wire rack before topping.

The Topping:
Put the Dulce de Leche in a microwavable bowl with the milk and salt and zap for three one minute intervals (stopping in between to stir). Once smooth, add the toasted coconut and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until incorporated. <If you want to make your own caramel rather than using Dulce de Leche I'm sure it would work.>

Prepare a set up of wax paper or parchment that you can put the cookies on while they are setting up. Using a spoon or small offset spatula, spread about 2 teaspoons of the caramel coconut mixture onto the cookies and place on parchment. Let set up for a few minutes. Then melt your chocolate (microwave, double boiler-- however you prefer) and dip the bottoms of the cookies in the chocolate. Then pour the remaining chocolate into a piping bag (or ziploc with the tip snipped off) and do the drizzle over the coconut layer. Transfer to the fridge to let set up.

And there you go!

While it was a little more intensive than I anticipated, I'm glad I made these guys! Makes me feel better to know that I'm not supporting at least one company that uses palm oil. And baking is so fun. Why wouldn't you make your own Girl Scout cookies with the chance? Nom. :)

Just one more week of classes until Spring Break! My last ever as an undergrad. WEIRD. Once break comes, we just have half of the semester left to go. Seriously crazy.

To learn more about palm oil and how to help check out this site!

<Photography by Nevin Cullen>

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling and Honey Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Well hello there!

I know it has been a while since my last post... I've been caught up in the beginnings of the semester and haven't had a chance to get back into my blogging creativity until now.

I just cannot believe that it is almost March already. Time flies in an oh so cliché way, before I know it this semester will be over (yay!!) and I will be on to new and (hopefully) greater things! A free trip to Israel (fingers crossed that I get in to Birthright), culinary school, working in a bakery again. Oh to just fast forward!

But back to these cupcakes...My wonderful friend Allison had a birthday earlier this week, and I couldn't make it to her celebration, so we had a lovely little belated birthday evening friday night. 
We went to a fancified diner in town for dinner (Luke's Joint...super good organic/local foods), and then came back to Pheebs' and my place for tea and cupcakes. (Because tea: always. And cupcakes: duh).

These guys are a combination of a few different recipes that I have come to love in my time blogging. The cake is the same one I used for the Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting (which I got from A Cup of Marscapone). Super moist, fluffy and the coffee just gives the chocolate that wonderful boost of flavor.

The salted caramel filling came from this same recipe I used for these Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies I did. Easy, no thermometer needed. But of course, watch that FINE line between delish and burnt.

And the Honey Vanilla Buttercream came from the Baked Explorations cookbook recipe for their Aunt Sassy Cake. Such a perfect buttercream. I find the amount of honey they use to be a little much, so I reduce it to one or one and a half tablespoons, and I use vanilla bean paste. Out of this world.


2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I used fat free)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup hot brewed coffee (you can use boiling water instead, but I recommend the coffee for taste!)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp butter
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp and cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or extract
1 (or 1 1/2) tablespoon honey

Make the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line your cupcake tin with papers. Mix together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs, vegetable oil and vanilla and mix on low for about two minutes. Add in milk and mix on low until incorporated, then scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add in the hot coffee and mix on low. Batter will be very thin, but that's how it supposed to be. Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 of the way with the batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before filling/frosting.

Make the Caramel: In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water (after whisking together slightly) over high heat until it turns an amber color (about 8 minutes on the stove), swirling the pan occasionally to get the sugar moving a bit. Once you've reached the color, remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Then slowly pour the cream in a small stream, whisking as you go. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your whisk so the sugar doesn't clump. Once everything is combined, whisk in the salt and vanilla.

Make the Buttercream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the milk and cream, and cook over medium heat while continually whisking or stirring with a heatproof spatula to prevent the bottom from scorching. Cook until it comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment on high speed until cool, about 10 minutes. Then on medium speed, add in the butter a few pieces at a time. Mix until the butter in incorporated (about 5 minutes), and then turn it up to medium-high and beat another two minutes. Add in the vanilla and honey, and beat until combined. If it isn't the right consistency, try sticking it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so and beat again. When in doubt, beat the hell out of it! :)

Assembly: Using a small knife, or a cupcake corer, take out a middle section of each cupcake. Pipe or spoon about a teaspoon of caramel into each one (just up to the edge of the hole, not over it), and then using a piping bag and a star tip (or any tip you'd like) frost over the caramel holes. Top with caramel drizzles and mini chocolate chips.

And there you have it. The best way to spend my free Friday afternoons! Baking for my lovely friends. I'm amidst the beginning of my midterm weeks, so I better get back to studying and writing papers...but I wanted to leave y'all a nice little 'sweet treat' (as Nevin and his roommates have come to call my baking explorations) before getting back to the grind of school. 

Ugh. Summer, come faster please.

Photos by Nevin Cullen