Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie

One of the reasons I set up this blog was to share my baking adventures; good and bad. Another reason was so that I could participate in the weekly challenges set forth by the members of the "Tuesday's with Dorie" blog. All recipes from this blog come from "Baking From My Home To Yours" by Dorie Greenspan. This week's challenge is "Pecan Honey Sticky Buns" and has a May 27th deadline.
Although I was excited to begin my first ever challenge I was equally hesitant due to the use of yeast. I tend to avoid the "Y" ingredient but, that is the purpose of challenges, isn't it?
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns: (Adapted version)
For the Buns: 1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves
For the Glaze:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick (8oz) unsalted, butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbs light brown sugar
3 tbs unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbs Vanilla Schnapps
Deep can do it!
Golden Brioche Dough:
2 packets of active dry yeast
1/3 c water (warmed to 105 degrees)
1/3 cup milk (warmed to 105 degrees)
3 3/4 cups ap flour
2 tsp salt
3 eggs, @ room temp
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12oz) butter @ room temp but slightly firm
To make the dough: Put the yeast, water, and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour, salt, and sugar and fit the mixer with the dough hook. Stand back or cover the bowl with a towl to keep the flour from showering you and the kitchen. Turn the mixer on slow just to dampen the flour, increase mixer speed to medium-low, just until the flour is moistened (you now have a shaggy mass).
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time. Increase the mixer speed and beat for 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2 tbs-sized chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have dough that is very soft, almost batter like. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean, buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 40-60 minutes. Deflate the dough, recover it with plastic wrap and put it in the frigerator. Deflate the dough every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours. (After my first unsuccessful attempt at this dough I make a slight deviation from the original recipe at this point). While the dough is rising make the filling and glaze.
To make the filling:
Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. Put the cranberries and vanilla schnapps in a small bowl. Put in the microwave for 15 seconds just to warm; set aside to plump for about 15 minutes. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft and spreadable.
To make the glaze:
Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
In a heavy- bottomed sauce pan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heat proof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.
After two hours the dough should be firm. If not leave it in the refrigerator for another 1-2 hours or overnight as Dorie says. On a flour-dusted work surface (or parchment paper), roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Sprinkle the cranberries over the dough. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.
With a chefs knife (I use dental floss), using a gentle sawing motion, trim the ends, then cut the log into 1-inch-thick buns (you will get 15). Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap. To continue my method: proof in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning place the pan in a warm spot and allow to come to room temperature and contine its final proof about 2 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after the come out of the oven. Use a rimmed platter or baking sheet lined or buttered. Be careful- the glaze is molten hot.
My official tasters all agree it was worth my efforts. The buns are sweet, sticky and taste heavenly. The pairing of pecans and cranberries compliment each other nicely. My conclusion: I must overcome my fears and work with yeast more often! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bananas, bananas and more bananas

Banana bread and banana cake was one of many quests from my earlier days of random experimentation. All recipes at that time came from my one and only cookbook. Yes, it was the bridal shower gift, the BC Cookbook of course! It wasn't until years later that I discovered there were hundreds of great Cookbooks and yes, baking books one better than the other. Although I am desperately trying to contain myself these days, it seems I have a "collection". Ah, but that is another story now back to bananas.

My earliest experience with one of natures most perfect food was a cake that always seemed to be a bit on the rubbery side. After several unsuccessful tries with many alterations I decided to move on, not looking back until now. I unexpectedly found myself with 18 perfectly ripe bananas and not a clue what to do with them. Pudding was out of the question, it just didn't use enough of the yellow things to put a dent in the supply. So, I went searching through my "collection" (did I admit to having a "collection" again?) of baking books. Much to my surprise I found an interesting recipe in "Tartine" by Elisabeth Prueitt & Chad Robertson which called for not one but 4 bananas per loaf. I simply had to try it. I am happy to report the texture is cake-like, very moist, very flavorful, and it freezes well. My usual array of tasters all love it, so it is a must try. Thank you "Tartine"!!!

Banana-Date Tea Cake

  • 1 c + 2tbs Flour
  • 2 tbs Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 3 medium Bananas, ripe
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 6 tbs Butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 c + 2tbs Sugar
  • 1 c Walnuts, coarse chopped
  • 1 3/4 c Dates, pitted, coarse chopped


  • 1 medium Banana
  • 2 tbs Sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of 9x5" loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda; stir to mix and set aside. Peel bananas and in a second bowl mash with fork until you have chunky puree. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt to the bananas and mix well; set aside. In a third mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the banana mixture and beat until incorporated scraping down the sides. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Then fold in the nuts and the dates. Scrape down the sides of the bowl making sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and smooth the surface. To top the cake, peel the last banana and cut lengthwise into 4 long slices. Lay the slices on the top of the batter. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert pan onto rack. Turn right side up and let cool completely. Serve cake at room temperature.

Enjoy, I know we did!