Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review: The Bread Bible

Posted by BAKE-EN at 3:53 PM 1 comments Links to this post

I have found a lot of inspiration from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible lately, so I thought I would give a quick review of it.


-There are 300 recipes in this book from coffe cakes, to pizza, to whole grain loaves, to biscuits to bread machine. It truely covers a lot of dough.
-Though I've only tried 1% of the recipes, so far so good.
-Lots of unusual recipes. Next up on my list to make is Lemon whole-wheat egg bread with nasturtium butter. Any cookbook that finds a use for edible flowers has a special place in my bookshelf (and heart).


-No pictures, except for the cover.
-I wish it had a section on each recipe where it says total time it takes to make the dough. Also, I love how King Arthurs Flour has a symbol on their recipes where a dough needs to rest overnight. I think all cookbooks should do that.
-You have to read the beginning of the book if you've never made bread before. I know this sounds strange, but she gives all her helpful tips on kneeding, proofing, etc in the beginning. I could see that confusing people who are used to reading a recipe and immediately making it.

Overall: If you're even remotely interested in bread baking, buy this book. The recipes are well laid out and simple. So far I've made her gingerbread, oatmeal bulgur bread and sour cream braid; and they were great. This is a book I plan to bake from again and again.

Sour Cream Braid

Posted by BAKE-EN at 2:27 PM 2 comments Links to this post

Ahh, the sour cream braid; so pretty, so delicious and so...easy. Easy? Surprisingly so. Beth Hensperger's Sour Cream Braid recipe is shockingly simple. By means of a food processor you can have your dough made in well under 15 minutes (including time to proof your yeast). Then all you have to do is proof the dough for an hour, braid it, proof again, egg wash and sprinkle with cardamom sugar and then bake. Seriously, it is as easy as it sounds. Anyone who's fearful of bread should put their fear aside and make this. You'll feel like a pro.

I followed the recipe nearly to the T. It calls for sour cream, but I used low fat sour cream because that's what I had on hand. Once the dough had proofed I divided the dough into 6 ropes and made two separate braids (I froze one). Lastly, I used demerara sugar instead of granulated in the sugar crust.

Overall this is excellent bread. It has a tight crumb, but is moist with a slight sweetness (due to the sugar crust). The demerara and cardamom made it interesting, but not unapproachable to a person who doesn't like that sort of fanciness. I will make this bread again.

Sour Cream Braid from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible

1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
2 tbsps plus 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cold milk
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) room temp unsalted butter cut into pieces

1. In a 1-cup-measure pour in the warm water. Sprinkle with yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar. Stir to dissolve

and let stand till foamy about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl whisk ingredients milk through almond extract together. Add the yeast mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine.
2. In a food processor bowl with a blade combine flour, 2 tbsps sugar and salt. Dot the top with butter pieces. Process 10 seconds. With the motor running, pour the yeast-milk mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. After the dough forms a soft, elastic ball and clears the sides of the bowl, process 45 seconds more to knead.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and give it a few kneads. Place the dough in a lightly greased container, cover with wrap. Let rise till doubled in bulk about 1 hour.

4. Divide dough into 3 portions (I did 6). Shape each into a 12" rope tapered at each end. Form into a braid.

Let proof till doubled in bulk about 45 minutes on your baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Sugar Crust:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
1 heaping tbsp sugar (use demerara, you won't regret it)
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
5. Twenty minutes before baking preheat oven to 375. Combine sugar and cardamom in a small bowl. Gently brush the surface of the dough with the egg glaze. Sprinkle sugar mixture all over dough.

Bake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chocolate Cream Tart (TWD)

Posted by BAKE-EN at 5:24 PM 5 comments Links to this post

There are some desserts that need little to no explanation. Introducing today's TWD chocolate cream tart. Slightly bitter tart shell with silky chocolate pastry cream and sinful whipped cream.

For this recipe please visit Kim of Scrumptious Photography. Her photography truly is scrumptious.



Posted by BAKE-EN at 2:29 PM 1 comments Links to this post

This past week I made gingerbread from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. Her recipe calls for a combination of maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses. I grew up in Vermont, so any recipe with maple syrup as a sweetener is bound to peak my interest. All in all this was a fun easy recipe to make. The recipe calls for adding baking soda to boiling water and then adding that to the batter. It turns into a neat example of chemistry in action.

As far as gingerbreads go, this was great. I like it better than Dorie Greenspan's gingerbread which was a bit too bitter because of the espresso chocolate edge. This gingerbread was moist with a medium spice level. I love spicy gingerbread, so next time I make it I will add come finely chopped candied and fresh ginger. I made an 8" cake and a baby gingerbread loaf. As soon as it cooled I froze the 8" cake. I hope to make a layered cake with it sometime soon.

Here's the recipe:

Gingerbread from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

Makes one 9" pan or twelve 3" round cakes.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease cake pan


2 ½ cups AP Flour

2 Tbsp instant espresso powder

1 Tbsp ground ginger (increase this if you want a bold ginger flavor)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp grated nutmeg

¼ tsp ground black pepper

Grated zest of 1 lemon (I omitted this because I didn't have one on hand)

8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter

½ Cup light brown sugar

½ Cup unsulfured molasses

½ Cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

2 tsps baking soda

1 cup boiling water


Combine Flour through lemon zest in a large bowl and mix well with a whisk.

In a small saucepan combine the butter through molasses. Stir frequently over low heat till butter is dissolved.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the hot butter mixture. Add the eggs and quickly beat with a wooden spoon till smooth. Combine the baking soda with the boiling water. Pour over the batter and stir gently to evenly incorporate.

Pour into greased pan. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

Posted by BAKE-EN at 5:38 PM 11 comments Links to this post

I am no stranger to bread pudding. It is something I have made on countless occasions while working in the baking and pastry field. At Sofra we make a special brown butter bread pudding on weekends that people swoon for. While at Henrietta's we made a chocolate bread pudding with a banana rum caramel sauce. At Bouchon we made hotel pans of chocolate bread pudding and would cut them into cylinder shapes and top with a canele of caramel whipped cream. So much bread pudding in such a short career (now almost 4 years).

Since I've had so much exposure to bread pudding I wasn't planning on making this recipe. Also, the truth is bread pudding doesn't really do it for me. I'm not a huge custard fan, and I usually find it to be a bit boring. I decided to make this because I had a little bit of stale bread left over from the Oatmeal Bulgur bread I made on Sunday. I couldn't stand to see this bread go to waste, so I decided to make a very small batch based on Dorie's recipe. I made 1/6 of the recipe and changed it a bit. I didn't have whole milk or heavy cream, so I subbed skim and evaporated milk. Also, I read in the P&Q section of TWD that it wasn't chocolaty enough, so I added a little cocoa powder. Here's the recipe as I made it. For the actual recipe was Dorie would make visit Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle. She picked this TWD recipe.

Extra Chocolaty Chocolate Bread Pudding

2 ounces of cubed bread

A small handful of dried cherries

½ cup of skim milk

2 Tbsp plus 2 tsps Evaporated whole milk

1 scant Tbsp Valhrona cocoa powder

1 large egg

1 Tbsp plus 2 tsps sugar

1 ¼ ounce Scharfenberger 70% finely chopped.

Put the cubed bread and cherries in a bowl large enough to hold about 2 cups. Bring skim milk, evaporated milk and cocoa powder just to a boil in a small sauce pan whisking frequently. Once the liquids come to a boil whisk together the sugar and egg. In a very slow stream pour the hot liquid into the egg sugar mixture whisking constantly. Once all your liquid is in the bowl. Strain the hot liquid onto the chocolate. (Side note: I have no idea why she doesn't say to strain the custard, as a rule of thumb it's a very good idea to always strain custards). Whisk the custard/chocolate mixture till all the chocolate melts. Pour the mixture onto the cubed bread and cherries.

Let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring some water to a boil for your water bath. Carefully take your soaked bread cubes and cherries out of the custard putting it into a ramekin (I used an 8 oz ramekin). Try not to man handle your cubes too much or else they will disintegrate. Pour your custard remaining custard up to the line in the ramekin (not the very top).

Place your ramekin into a larger dish that has tall sides and is oven safe (I used a larger ramekin). Pour your hot water into the larger dish to create a water bath.

Carefully put your dishes into the oven and bake for 33 minutes (till a knife comes out clean).

When the bread pudding was in the oven, I realized the recipe didn't call for salt. I'm a huge fan of salt, so I decided to make a salted caramel to go along side the pudding. Unfortunately, I didn't measure it out, but essentially all I did was I put about 3/4 cup of sugar in a pan and brought it to the caramel stage. Then I poured in some evaporated milk (maybe ¼ cup), added a touch of butter and a very healthy amount of fleur de sel. Whisked all that together, and there was my salted caramel sauce.

We ate the bread pudding and caramel sauce warm. They were very nice together, but I think next time I would also add some vanilla ice cream to even things out. Will I make this again? Sure, if I have left-over bread. I think the Oatmeal Bulgur bread was perfect in this, there was no hint of "healthiness" (from the bread) in this chocolate bread pudding. It was all about indulgent chocolate, custard and caramel.

Oatmeal-Bulgur Bread

Posted by BAKE-EN at 11:52 AM 2 comments Links to this post

On a grocery shopping trip to Sevan in Watertown last week, I purchased 2 pounds of fine bulgur. With that purchase, a new obsession began. What to do with all this bulgur? I knew I could make Kibbeh, but being a baker, I really wanted to bake with it. After a quick internet search I found several interesting recipes to choose from. One that really stood out was a recipe for Oatmeal Bulgur bread from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. Then two awesome things happened. One being Maura told me I could make the bread at Sofra. Second, Maura lent me her copy of The Bread Bible.

The bread was fun to make at work because it's one of those recipes that involves 5 to 10 minutes of work here and there over a few hours. Often when I make bread at home, I feel chained to my house because there's always a punch down on the horizon, or something along those lines. While at work, I was able to make this, while making tons of other things. No feeling of being chained down by the bread.

Overall this bread took a little under 4 hours to make from start to finish. The resulting bread was a little sweet with a tight crumb and a dense texture. This is the perfect toast with peanut butter bread. It would also be great sandwiched with turkey or ham. The next time I make it I will increase the hydration of the bread a bit because it never really relaxed after I shaped it into boules. As you can see by the pictures below, the bread was still pretty rounded on the edges.

Oatmeal Bulgur Bread from The Bread Bible


1Tbsp active dry yeast

2 Tbsp lt. brown sugar

2/3 Cup bulgur wheat (fine or medium grind, I used fine)

2 ¼ cups warm water

2 cups AP or Bread Flour (I used AP)

Put water the work bowl of a heavy duty mixer. Sprinkle yeast, brown sugar, and bulgur wheat over the surface and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of flour and beat hard until well moistened and cream (about 2 minutes). Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp till foamy (about an hour).


1 ¼ Cups regular rolled oats

¼ Cup wheat bran (I didn't have this, so I used 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour and 2 Tbsp more of oats)

¼ Cup lt. brown sugar

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp salt

3 to 3 ½ Cups AP or bread flour

To the bowl with the sponge add the rolled oats, bran, sugar, oil and salt. Beat hard for 1 min. Add flour ½ cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides. (I used about 2 ¾ cups flour). Turn the dough out and kneed till smooth and elastic about 4 minutes. Place the dough in a greased deep container.

Proof till doubled about 2 hours.

Deflate the dough, and divide into 3 equal portions. Shape into rounds or shape and put into 3 8x4-inch loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk about 45 minutes (mine took about an hour and 15 minutes).

Score dough. Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves are browned and sound hollow when tapped with your finger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Posted by BAKE-EN at 6:56 AM 17 comments Links to this post

Today's TWD recipe 15 minute chocolate amaretti torte was chosen by Holly of Phe/MOM/enon.

I went to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, MA looking for Amaretti cookies. Formaggio is one of the places I've been trying to go to for a while, but because of parking issues haven't. The weather on Saturday was pretty bad, so I decided to take my chances and park in a resident only spot. I have found that in Cambridge there is a direct correlation between weather and parking tickets. Good weather = tons of tickets. Bad weather = less tickets. I knew I would be in and out quickly, so I wasn't too worried. They had an assortment of amaretti cookies, but not the ones Dorie suggested. I purchased Doria Amaretti cookies, and I'm glad I did. I am surprised how much I liked these little cookies. They are so crisp and slightly over baked; in the extra-caramelized-kind-of-way that I love. The back of the bag suggests dipping the cookies in red wine. We tried this, but decided they are much better alone or dipped in milk. We like our red wine without cookie crumbs.

The torte truly lived up to it's name. From start to finish it was in the oven in 15 minutes. Making it reminded me of why I splurged on a food processor last year. It made the whole "process" so easy. The recipe says the cake takes 25-30 minutes to bake. My cake ended up baking an extra 4 minutes (34 total) with a knife coming out with some streaks.

The next morning I made the chocolate glaze, which was easy too. I love that the recipe suggests putting the chocolate in a "pourable" container. It makes glazing the cake so easy.

Overall, this was a delicious cake. Since I knew it would be extremely rich; I cut the cake into 12 slices. The portion size was just perfect; anything bigger would have resulted in leftover cake on plates (ugh!). As far as cake goes, I prefer traditional cakes to tortes. To me, traditional American style cakes (think devils food with vanilla butter cream) are more satisfying because you can eat more! That being said; I will make this cake again because other people loved it; and well, it's not always about me.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Easy Banana Walnut Bread

Posted by BAKE-EN at 7:17 PM 2 comments Links to this post

Sure, I have many Banana Bread recipes in my repertoire, but what's wrong with one more.

Today I made a double batch of Easy Banana Walnut Bread from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book. Easy? Yes. Delicious? Yes. So why not add another (healthy) banana bread recipe to your repertoire?

Easy Banana Walnut Bread from King Arthur Flour Whole Gain Baking

Here is a doubled version of the original recipe. The recipe below makes 2 9x5-inch loaves
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (I only increased this 50%, the original recipe called for 1 tsp)
3 cups (24 oz) mashed very ripe bananas
½ cup (6 oz) honey
4 large eggs
4 cups (1 lb) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 oz) chopped walnuts.
Preheat 350 degrees. Grease 2 9x5-inch loaf pans.
Beat butter, sugar, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla till smooth. Add banana, honey and eggs beating till smooth. Add flour and nuts, stir till smooth. Spoon into prepared pans. Let rest at room temp for 10 minutes (I forgot to do this, so my breads were a little flat).
Bake for 50 minutes. Lay a piece of foil over top (I didn’t do this) and bake till a cake tester comes out clean 10 to 15 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes then remove from pan.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD Banana Cream Pie

Posted by BAKE-EN at 4:36 PM 10 comments Links to this post

Today's TWD recipe Banana Cream pie was picked by Amy of Sing for Your Supper. As luck would have it, I actually had a reason to make a whole pie this week. My sister and her boyfriend Ben came to Boston for the Red Sox's opening game. Luckily (for me), the game was rained out; so they had to stay another day.

I have to admit, up until about a year ago; I wouldn't touch banana cream pie. The idea of pastry cream, bananas and whipped cream never did it for me. It wasn't until I worked at the Charles Hotel that I discovered how good banana cream pie can be. There we made a pie with pastry cream that was lightened with a rum caramel sauce and whipped cream. We then folded in bananas, put that in a pie shell, topped with whipped cream and drizzled more rum caramel sauce on top. It was so good. The pie crust was just salty enough to add a bit of complexity to the whole pie, it was just delicious.

Due to my relatively new found love of banana cream pie, I was psyched to make this recipe. I made Dorie's good for almost anything pie crust, which I've made before and liked. This time I was in a bit of a rush, so I made it, put in my blast chiller (i.e. freezer) for 30 minutes. Then I rolled it out, put it in my pan and put it back in the freezer while the oven was preheating. Once the oven was warmed up, I docked the pie dough, put in a piece of foil and some beans, and baked it according to the recipe. I was a bit worried the pie might shrink or fall because I rushed it, but it came out perfect.

The pastry cream was easy to make. The flavors in the pastry cream were nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. I added a teaspoon of rum since rum and bananas go together so well. I found the pastry cream to be a bit on the "eggy" side.

On its own it reminded me of pumpkin pie which I'm not a fan of (gasp), so I lightened it up by folding in about ½ cup of whipped cream. Once the pie and pastry cream were completely cooled, the pie was fast to assemble.

In the pie shell you put a thin layer of pastry cream down, top that with half your sliced bananas, more pastry cream, more bananas and then the rest of the pastry cream. Next you top the pie with the whipped cream mixture. I whipped my cream to stiff peaks, added the sour cream and whipped it a bit more because I wanted to pipe the whipped cream on.

All ingredients combined, this is a delicious pie. The "eggy" flavor was no longer noticeable with the addition of the whipped cream and bananas. All four of us cleaned our dessert plates (Joe grabbing another serving), so it was a success. While eating dessert my sister told me that banana cream pie is my father's favorite pie. I had no idea. Next time I go to Vermont to visit my parents; I'll have to make this pie again.


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