Monday, January 31, 2011

Scones--Two Ways

I make scones about once a year, usually for our January coffee hours, and looking back over the years, I see that I nearly always declare that these scones are the best I've ever made. In all honesty, I think this must be because I love scones so much that I'm always pleased with myself for having made them.
This year I made two variations on the Cook's Illustrated basic theme. And once again, I think that they may be the best scones I ever nade, especially the pecan scones with maple-cream glaze. I suppose if you were violently allergic to nuts you wouldn't like these; otherwise, there's no hope for you if you turned up your nose at them.

I doubled the recipe and made apricot scones with grated lemon peel and the aforesaid pecan scones. The doubled amount--with four cups of flour and 10 tablespoons of butter, was a bit much for the food processor to handle efficiently. If I made this recipe again and doubled it (which I had to do to provide enough scones for the neighbors), I think I'd just make the single recipe twice.

After mixing in the cream, you pat or roll out the dough into a circle. No one will know if your circle isn't perfectly circular. As usual, I rolled mine out too thin because I always think that otherwise the scones will be too fat. I'm always wrong. I may get it right sometime, but I'm not counting on it.

A dough scraper is the easiest thing to use to cut the dough into eight wedges. If you don't have a dough scraper, I highly recommend that you get one posthaste. (My daughter just used the word "posthaste" on her Facebook page, and I thought to myself, "what a good word! I will have to use it myself.")

These scones have only two tablespoons of sugar per two cups of flour. That is much less sweet than typical American coffeehouse scones. If you want them sweeter you can increase the sugar. Alternatively, you can brush cream on top of the unbaked scones and sprinkle them with sugar; that's what I did with the apricot-lemon scones. Or you can wait until they're baked and drizzle a glaze on them. For the pecan scones, I made a glaze of cream, maple syrup, and confectioners' sugar. (I didn't measure--just add sugar until you get the consistency you're looking for).

These scones were a huge hit. Only the children ate the doughnuts. The adults all dug into the scones. Two of the neighbors are scone aficianados, and claimed that these were as good as (or possibly better than) the best bakery scones. Of course, they do have an interest in encouraging me to bake for them, so it wouldn't be politic for them to criticize my baking, would it?

Cream Scones
--from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3/4 cup fruit or nuts (Toasted pecans, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, currants, etc.)
Grated lemon or orange rind (optional)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. Remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add any fruit/nut additions and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper. (You could also roll or pat out and cut pieces with a biscuit cutter).

6. Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet (I covered the pan with parchment paper) and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Almost Easy to Make "Bostock"

This is not authentic Bostock. But then it's not authentic Brioche either. It's 5-Minutes-a-Day Brioche, which is essentially dump-and-stir bread. A real Bostock is a twice-baked brioche; before bostocks became trendy, they were a way to use up day-old brioche. The thrifty French topped the practically over-the-hill brioche with almond cream and baked them.
Perhaps it was devised by a baker named Bostock, but no one seems to know.

The "5-Minute" brioche recipe is certainly the easiest I've ever made: just mix up water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter; then mix in the flour.

This recipe has a very casual attitude toward the brioche dough: never mind about mixing it thoroughly! Don't let a few floury lumps trouble you! I wasn't troubled, but I ended up having to pick some lumps out of the dough after I rolled it out, so I think I shouldn't have been so quick to adopt the authors' carefree attitude.
I wanted to make this Bostock on Saturday morning, so I mixed up the dough Thursday evening, let it rise for a few hours, and then put it in the refrigerator until I was ready for it.

I made the almond cream on Friday night. Again, just a matter of mixing a few ingredients: almond paste, butter, egg, flour, almond extract, and orange-flower water (I used Fiori di Sicilia). It smelled heavenly.

Saturday morning, all I had to do was roll out the brioche dough to an oblong, fill it with the almond cream, and roll it up, jelly roll style. It looked like cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon; everything was very white.

Because there's almost no color difference between the almond paste and the brioche dough, you can hardly see that something is rolled up--it looks like blobs of uncooked dough.

Even the topping--sugar, almonds, and grated orange peel--didn't give it much color differential.

Ready to bake.  It still looks pretty white.

Only if you look at the bottom can you see that these are actually nicely browned rolls.

By 9:30 Saturday morning, they were out of the oven, and I was able to serve them warm to the neighbors who come to our house on Saturdays in January for our annual coffee and doughnut hours. They tasted very good, but not as good as the Bostock I've had from good bakeries. The almond cream layer kind of baked into the brioche, so there wasn't that lovely, gooey, almondy topping that you get on a proper Bostock.
On the other hand, a proper Bostock can't be whipped up on Saturday morning and be ready to serve just a few hours after the second punch of the snooze alarm.

Almond Brioche Bostock
from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
2 1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup (80 g.) honey
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
3 3/4 cups (541 g.)flour

Almond Cream
3/4 cup almond paste
6 Tbsp butter (at room temperature)
3/8 cup flour
1 1/2 eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp fiori di sicilia (optional)

3/8 cup sugar
zest from a whole orange
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. Make the brioche: mix the salt, yeast, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a large bowl. mix in the flour without kneading. The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled. cover the dough and allow to rest a room temperature for 2 hours. Cover the dough bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Make the almond cream: cream together the butter, almond paste, flour, egg and almond extract in a food processor until smooth and set aside.

3. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut in two even pieces. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape into a ball. Roll the dough out into a long rectangle (about 1/4 inch thick), using enough flour to prevent it from sticking to the counter. Spread the almond cream evenly over the rectangle and roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting at the long end. Repeat with second ball of brioche dough. Chill the log in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan with butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

4. Cut the chilled dough into 8 equal pieces. Place them evenly in the cake pan so the swirled edge is facing upward. Allow the dough (covered) to rest in the pan for an hour. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 F. Just before baking, combine the sugar, orange zest and almonds and sprinkle over the brioche. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and well set in the center.

6. When you remove the brioche from the oven the run a knife around the inside of the pan to release the bread from the sides and invert it onto a large plate. Eat while warm.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Craig Ponsford's Ciabatta

Who is Craig Ponsford, you ask?
I would ask the same question, except that I have Maggie Glezer's book, Artisan Baking, and she tells me that Craig Ponsford has a bakery in Sonoma, California. Lucky man.
And lucky us, because he was willing to give Maggie Glezer his recipe for ciabatta.

Before I start in on the bread, however, I'd like to thank Tara Snyder for listing this blog as one of the top 50 bread blogs. Although as #50, I may have been somewhat of an afterthought, I'm still honored to be in such great company. And you'll want to check out some of these blogs: the listing includes both the tried and true, and the (probably) new to you.

Back to bread. After I make a soft-crusted sandwich loaf, I often have a hankering for something with crispy crust and big holes. This ciabatta fills the bill.
Making this ciabatta is a two-day affair. The first day, however, takes just a few minutes. You mix four different flours (all-purpose, bread, rye, and whole wheat) with some water that's been merely kissed by yeast--the most minute amount of yeast possible. After 24 hours, this little lump of dough has tripled in size, and you're ready for Day 2.

On the morning of the second day, (sounds kind of Biblical, doesn't it?), this multi-grain starter is mixed in with more flour, yeast, salt, and a lot of water. It's a wet dough, and would be difficult to handle if you tried to make it by hand. The KitchenAid is a life saver here.

After five minutes of mixing, the dough is easier to handle, but still sticky.

The technical term is "gloppy."

You pour this gloppy mixture into a bowl, and let it rise for about 3 hours. But don't go away. Your work is not done.

This dough requires you to turn it every 20 minutes, until it's been turned four times. Turning simply means that you turn it out on the counter, gently stretch it into a square, and fold over all four sides. After being turned four times, the dough is still soft, but considerably easier to handle.

Finally, after about 3 hours, the dough is ready to be stretched once more, floured, and covered in a floured tea towel (or couche) for another 45 minutes. There are no pictures of the tea towel hiding the dough.

Although this bread may look misshapen, I'm actually very pleased with the way it turned out. I knew that "ciabatta" means "slipper" in Italian, and I always assumed it was a pretty satin dancing slipper. But, according to Glezer, it's meant to look like an old grandpa's slipper. I think mine definitely bears a resemblance to Grandpa's beat-up slipper, especially if Grandpa was inclined to dump flour on his slippers. No, I don't know why he would.

In order for the crispy crust and full flavor to develop, this bread needs to be completely baked, so set the timer for another five minutes after you think it's done. Then it will be perfect.

This is an excellent bread--the kind you could just keep on eating. Plain, buttered, slathered with cheese, dipped in olive oil, used to sop up spaghetti sauce--however you want to enjoy it, that's the way it's meant to be enjoyed.

The recipe in Artisan Baking makes two loaves. I made only half a recipe, which is the recipe I'm including. Obviously, it would be easy to double.

Craig Ponsford's Ciabatta
--from Artisan Baking, by Maggie Glezer

1/8 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 cup water (110 to 115 F)
100 grams unbleached bread flour
50 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
7.5 grams whole-wheat flour
7.5 grams rye flour
92.5 grams water

Sprinkle the yeat over the warm water, stir, and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Mix the flours in a bowl. Measure 1/4 teaspoon of the yeasted water into the flour mixture. Then add the rest of the water, using warmer water in winter and cold water in the summer.
Mix by hand until the flour is absorbed. This is a very stiff biga. It's ready in about 24 hours, when it's tripled in size. It may spend the day looking like it's doing nothing, but it will expand eventually.

162.5 grams unbleached AP flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/8 teaspoons salt
171 grams lukewarm water
The biga

Combine flour, yeast and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Add the water and biga and mix the dough on low speed with paddle attachment until it forms a rough dough. Raise speed to medium and mix for another five minutes. If the dough doesn't seem wet enough (it's "gloppy"), add a little water.

Scrape the dough into a container and cover tightly. Let it ferment until about doubled in bulk, 1/2 to 3 hours. Turn the dough 4 times at 20-minute intervals; after the fourth turn, let dough rise for the rest of the 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Flour a tea towel. Gently stretch out the dough and fold loosely into thirds, using a business-letter turn. Place seam side down on the floured cloth, sprinkle more flour on top, and cover with another towel. Proof about 45 minutes, or until the dough barely springs back when pressed.

Preheat oven to 450, putting a rack in the top third of the oven. Place a baking stone on the top rack.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a peel. Flip the loaf onto it so it is seam side up. Carefully stretch to make the dough "vaguely rectangular." Dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Slide bread onto the baking stone with the parchment paper. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until very dark brown. Rotate loaf halfway through bsking.

Cool on a rack.