scones

The baking crew was back at it again.

This time we decided on scones.20130207-173908.jpg

I know … you're probably wondering … from bagels to brioche to pie to doughnuts to scones???

We usually pick an untested, untried recipe and aim for passable success. This time we stuck with a well known classic.

We decided to do this for a couple of reasons:

We were all a little yeasted out. We wanted needed a little break from having to use it.

Plus … we wanted to see how Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery scones would be like.

Our challenge was pretty simple: bake the Bouchon Bakery plain scone; and then make a second scone, each of us letting loose and picking *another* flavour.

Keller & Rouxel offer a few options in their book: chocolate cherry scones, cinnamon honey scones, and bacon cheddar scones.

After considerable deliberation, I opted to create my own scone flavour: grapefruit coconut scones.

Which worked out well since Meredith tried the cinnamon honey scones, Cory opted for the bacon cheddar scones, and Tom & Aimee presented us with chocolate orange scones.

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A nice little balance of flavours.

Now you might wonder … why the heck would all of us bake the plain scones? And using the exact same recipe?!

I’m glad you asked!

It turns out it was a great opportunity for us to talk about what worked well … and to see the different results we all ended up with… because we really did end up with very different scones.

Meredith and my scones didn’t seem to rise; whereas Cory, Tom & Aimee’s scones rose beautifully.

The recipe called for creme fraiche: Meredith used it, I replaced it with sour cream. Meredith also opted for an unsalted butter: I used salted butter. These scones are so plain and simple (honestly, this recipe is uber basic) you could taste the difference. The salty difference.

Tom & Aimee replaced the creme fraiche with a soy alternative and tossed in vanilla seeds: the vanilla wasn’t really very pronounced … but it sure did look pretty.

Cory completely disregarded the original recipe when making his scones; they reminded us all of a cross between a biscuit and a scone (they were absolutely delicious).

After sampling the plain scones we dug into the flavoured ones.

Meredith’s cinnamon honey scones were insanely delightful. They were buttery with a hint of sweetness. Totally worth the effort of making the cinnamon honey butter. I’ve also decided that I love these scones so much that I want to make them myself … and perhaps turn them into a bread pudding of sorts … don’t be surprised if you see a blog post in that vein soon :0)

Tom & Aimee’s chocolate orange scones were the perfect balance of both flavours. They used a bit of chocolate liqueur as well as enough orange juice to basically replace the cream in the recipe. They were then topped with more chocolate glaze. The perfect scone to sit down and enjoy over a cup of coffee.

Cory went big: bacon cheddar scones. Who doesn’t love that flavour combo? They were also dense enough that they would be the absolute perfect accompaniment to chili. Or butternut squash soup. Basically … these scones are perfect for this cold weather.

Are you wondering how my grapefruit coconut scones turned out?

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They were pretty nicely balanced … but unlike Tom & Aimee’s chocolate orange scones in which both flavours were really distinct, these scones needed a little pop of something extra. I think next time I’ll add more grapefruit juice to the batter and perhaps increase the sugar slightly so that there is more of a contrast of flavours. I’ll continue tweaking the recipe and get back to you … because I’m pretty determined to get it right.

All of us, except for Cory, followed the Bouchon Bakery plain scone recipe – and even based our *flavoured* scones on the original plain recipe. So perhaps you’d like to give it a try too! One thing to note … Keller wants you to let your dough rest and chill overnight.

Yeah … this is an overnight kind of recipe.

Do you really need to plan that far ahead? Well … as a collective group we discussed it, and none of us really think you really, absolutely must freeze the scone batter overnight. I would recommend refrigerating the dough a couple of hours; then shape out the scones and freeze them for a further 2 hours (basically you want the butter to be as cold as possible so that you end up with a flakey and tender scone).

Then I’d bake ’em. For about 20 minutes.

They will be delicious: honestly … I actually preferred mine the following day. The plain scones were the perfect accompaniment to my creamy ginger-carrot beetroot soup.

Thomas Keller’s plain scone recipe
ingredients:
152 g / 1 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp flour
304 g / 2 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp cake flour
12.5 g / 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2.5 g / 1/2 tsp baking soda
91 g / 8 ounces sugar
227 g / 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
135 g / 1/2 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
135 g / 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp creme fraiche (I used sour cream instead)

*the recipe, as per Bouchon Bakery’s instructions, uses a stand-mixer. Feel free to use your hands instead.*

Place the flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using your paddle attachment, and setting your mixer on the “stir” setting, mix for 15 seconds. Basically you just want to combine all those ingredients.

Stop the mixer. Add all the butter, and starting on the lowest setting (this prevents the flour from flying all over your counter), mix the ingredients together. After about 45 seconds, increase the speed and mix for a further 3 minutes: breaking up the butter and incorporating into the dry mixture. If any large pieces of butter remain, stop the mixer, break them up by hand, and then mix again until incorporated.

While the mixer is running, slowly pour in the cream. Add the creme fraiche (sour cream) and mix for about 30 seconds, you’ll know it’s ready because all the dough will start to come together around the paddle.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. You’re done.

On a clean work surface (no flour required), mound the dough into a pile, and using your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together.

20130206-085301.jpgPlace the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, and using your hands, press it into a 6 – by – 9 – inch block (mine will look smaller since I divided the dough in half and added grapefruit zest, juice and flaked coconut to the remaining batter, thereby getting two different types of scones out of the original plain scone recipe). Straighten your block, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a knife, cut the block of dough lengthwise into thirds (mine was cut in half), and then crosswise in half. Cut each rectangle in half, creating perfect little triangles. Arrange them on the cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid: at least 2 hours, but preferable overnight (I think 2 hours is fine).

20130206-085255.jpgHeat your oven to 350 F.

Line another, un-frozen cookie sheet, with parchment paper. Arrange the frozen scone triangles about 1 inch apart and brush the tops with heavy cream; then sprinkle the tops of each scone with sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on your oven). Basically you are looking for golden brown. In my case, I tend to pay attention more to the bottoms of the scones than the tops of the scones, so once those had a nice bake to them, I took them out of the oven to cool on a wire rack.

Done. Dead simple eh? And it’s a great basic recipe to play around with.

Now it’s your turn …

suguared doughnuts

The baking crew is back! And we’re on a mission … of sorts. We’ve decided to bake our way through Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook.

One recipe at a time.

We started with Keller’s sugared doughnuts recipe.
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Mother of pearl!

Delicious. They are delicious. A brioche dough … shaped into doughnuts … fried in some oil … and then covered in sugar. And filled with lemon curd. Or filled with whipped chocolate. Or topped with freshly flaked coconut.

For realz. Awesome eh?

Ok so this recipe excites me because … well if you remember the last time I tried making brioche (with the baking crew) … it was not as successful as I had hoped it would be.

But this time … this time I rocked it! I totally got it. Even with a slight typo in the recipe.

I got it.

And the result was … PERRRRR-FECT.

Are you excited? Are you feeling an urge to make homemade doughnuts? (believe me … these doughnuts will make you a lover of fried dough)

Meredith, Cory and I were so excited to make them that we fried them up … OUTSIDE. in -20 temperatures. In the snow. With a windchill.

And … it was fun. Especially when we all popped our first doughnuts into our mouths … freshly rolled in sugar and filled with cream.

The best baking challenge yet (the entire baking crew agree).

A couple of things to take into consideration when working with this recipe:

You have to allow for the dough to rise in your refrigerator overnight. So start this before going to bed.

Secondly …you should probably get yourself a scale. I’ll post the recipe in weights and measures (since that’s how they write it in the book); however I used my scale when following the recipe.

Other than those two points … this is a pretty standard recipe. And if you’re new to bread making / are apprehensive about making dough … give this one a try. I promise it’ll work. Believe me. I know how you feel. Been there. Done that.

So pull out your instant yeast and flour and get busy. You won’t regret trying this recipe out.

Thomas Keller’s sugared doughnut recipe
ingredients:
518g / 3 1/2 c. + 3 tbsp flour
10g / 1 tbsp instant yeast
74g / 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp sugar
9g / 1 tbsp salt
212g / 3/4 c. + 1 1/2 tbsp milk, warmed to 75 F
111g / 2 eggs
9g / 1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
57g / 2 ounces butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes

canola oil for frying
sugar to coat the doughnuts
lemon curd to fill doughnuts

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To make the dough. Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of your stand-mixer fitted with your dough hook. Mix for about 15 seconds just so that the yeast gets evenly distributed.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the butter, and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.

Now, continue to knead the dough for a further 30 minutes (your stand-mixer will likely feel warm, it should be fine). Add the small cubes of butter, one piece at a time, allowing it to be incorporated into the dough before adding more butter.

After 30 minutes (all the butter should have been added at this point), turn off the stand-mixer, scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl, push the dough off the hook: resume kneading on a low speed for another 5 minutes.

Run a spatula over the sides and bottom of the bowl and release the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. You only need enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

With your hands, gently pat the dough into a rectangular shape.

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As you can see from the picture above, you’ll want to stretch the left side of the dough out and then fold it over two-thirds of the dough (as though you are folding a letter into an envelope). Once the left side is folded in, repeat the process with the right side. Once that is done, do the exact same thing, working from the bottom and then the top.

That’s it.

20130124-194853.jpgFlip the dough over, seam side down and place it in your bowl (that you’ve sprayed with non-stick spray). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 hour at room temperature.

1 hour later … use a spatula to release the sides and bottom of the dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

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You’ll do the same thing as you did the first time you stretched and folded the dough; only this time, you’ll cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To roll out the dough & shape the doughnuts.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough, flipping and fluffing it (basically you just want to roll the dough, take your hand and gently lift the dough from the work surface, then turn the dough clockwise, repeat) into an 11-inch round.

Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or freeze for 10 minutes); long enough to allow the dough to be more manageable.

Line another sheet with parchment paper, spray the parchment with non-stick spray (this is an important step), set aside.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and using your 3-inch round cookie cutters, cut out your doughnuts. The recipe says that you should get 8 rounds … I got 16 rounds.

If you just want to fill your doughnuts with pastry cream, whipped chocolate, lemon curd, etc. leave them as is. However, if you want to make doughnuts with holes; grab a small round cookie cutter and cut the centre out of your 3-inch rounds.

Save the mini rounds. They make pretty fabulous mini doughnuts.

To proof the doughnuts. Cover the baking sheet with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and proof for 60 to 90 minutes. The doughnuts will double in size; or when the dough is gently pressed, a small imprint will remain.

To fry the doughnuts. If you’re like me … you go over to a friend’s place and he sets up an awesome fryer outside so that his apartment doesn’t stink up (thank you Cory!). Or if you’re like Tom and Aimee you can use an indoor deep-fryer … both of these things make frying the doughnuts pretty simple.

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If you don’t have one of these options … you can pour 3 inches of oil into a Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot; the oil shouldn’t come up more than 1/3rd of the way up the sides of the pot, but it needs to be deep enough to allow the doughnuts to fry freely.

Heat the oil to 350 F.

Set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet, pour the sugar into a shallow bowl.

If you have a set of chopsticks you should pull them out for this part. They work perfectly for flipping the doughnuts in the oil and pulling them out of the oil. They are long enough that you keep your hands and fingers away from the oil while still controlling flipping the doughnuts.

Gently drop as many doughnuts as can fit into the pot. Fry on the second side for 45 seconds. Flip them over again and fry for a further 45 seconds, or until they are a rich golden brown.

Transfer the batch to the wire rack, and continue frying more of your doughnuts.

You want to roll them in the sugar while they are still warm (don’t worry, they cool enough to handle pretty quickly). If filling – allow the doughnuts to cool completely before using a piping bag and filling the doughnuts with your favourite flavours.

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That’s it.

All done. As you can see … it’s not an overly difficult or tricky recipe. You might be nervous to try it for any number of reasons: making dough, frying in oil, etc. But really, you should give it a try. It will make you a believer in doughnuts.

As you can see … the entire baking crew had a great time (and were pretty darn successful) in making a batch of these …

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pie challenge & the tart

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The baking crew and I were at it again.  This time, the challenge was pies.

Yay!  I heart making pies!

Cory made a beautiful apple, walnut, goat cheese pie (gorgeous … but a little dry: even he agreed).  Tom & Aimée made a really delicious pecan pie (nothing to fault with this one at all), and Meredith made a super flavourful apple & cranberry pie (she had some pastry issues … but the filling was spot on).

We went pie crazy! I went pie crazy!

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Not only did I make my chocolate – cranberry tart … but I also thought it’d be fun to arrive with some mini chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts topped with pumpkin ganache (talk about a real mouthful!).

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Mother of Jerome!? (It can’t always be Pearl right?) What was I thinking?

I was thinking … “I am not 100% sure that the chocolate – cranberry tart will turn out exactly as I want it too… so why not add a new component to an already loved classic and giver!”  Welcome to how my mind works … these are the types of internal dialogues I have … all.the.time.

Since we were baking these in honour of American Thanksgiving … I thought … pumpkin, pecans, chocolate, cherries and pie … individually they all remind me of Thanksgiving … combined … they SCREAM Thanksgiving (and deliciousness in a bite).

How could I *not* make these??!  Exactly.  I had no choice.  chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache were a must.

This recipe is a combination of my own chocolate-pecan pie and momofuku milkbar‘s pumpkin ganache.  I had been flipping through my momofuku milkbar cookbook, spotted the ganache recipe and thought it would be the perfect complement to my tart filling.  Although you need to plan ahead (the ganache recipe calls for a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge), the entire recipe is dead easy.  And ridiculously delicious.

*bakers note: according to the recipe book, you MUST use an immersion blender to make this ganache.   

My chocolate-pecan-cherry filling actually originated from a pecan pie recipe: it’s what I consider to be my *go to* pie.  The one I make when I don’t have much time, when I don’t want to blind bake my pastry dough, and when I want to impress people.  The original recipe brings a smile to everyones face … I decided it was time to switch it up a bit.

If you’re new to pies and tarts and want to try something easy and delicious: this is the recipe for you.  Plus you’ll impress everyone when they see how pretty the tarts look with a little piped pumpkin ganache.

chocolate-pecan-cherry tarts with pumpkin ganache

ingredients:

basic pastry dough (I omit the sugar and water from the recipe)

momofuku milkbar’s pumpkin ganache

150 g white chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp corn syrup
1/4 c. cold heavy cream
1/3 c. pumpkin purée
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine the white chocolate and butter in a medium bowl over gently simmering water (you don’t want the water to touch the bottom of your bowl), and melt.  You want the chocolate to be barely warm to the touch.  You can also do this in a microwave in 15 second bursts (stirring between each blast).

Transfer your chocolate mixture to a tall and narrow container – something that will accommodate an immersion blender (mine came with a 1 litre container-like bowl).  Add the corn syrup to the chocolate mixture and buzz with your hand blender.  After a minute, stream in the COLD heavy cream.  You’ll see that the ganache will come together in a smooth and shiny texture.

Blend in the pumpkin purée, salt and cinnamon.

Put the ganache in your fridge to firm before using; a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.  If not used immediately, this can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

tart filling

1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. all-purpose b. flour
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dried cherries, chopped
1 c. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. butter, melted

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface.  I was able to roll it out, cut out 12 pieces and line the 12 muffin cups in my pan.  I like to have my dough as cold as possible … so once I’ve lined the muffin cups, I return the pan to the freezer while I make the filling.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and flour together. Add the eggs, pecans, chocolates, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crusts.

Bake for 20 minutes on the lower rack of your oven.  You’ll know that they are ready when the centre doesn’t jiggle.  Careful!  These babies are hot!  Corn syrup, pecans and brown sugar … all things that heat up quickly!  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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I decided to re-whip the pumpkin ganache before putting it in the piping bag.  I just wanted to get it a little fluffy.  After quickly whipping the ganache, I filled a piping bag and piped each mini tart (using a star tip).

Don’t they look pretty?  They tasted pretty awesome too!

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ps … my chocolate-cranberry tart won best in show!