Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Brioche, because this is the bread to bake if you have to wake up super early on a day off.

Brioche, buttery delicious brioche. The bread that seems to have a perfect use for everything. Good toasted, good plain, divine straight out of the oven. Easy to make, rich, always a crowd pleaser. Except that the first rise goes overnight, and the second rise takes 2-3 friggin hours so unless you’re planning on breakfast at like 10am the point of this joyous bouquet of flours is lost. The last time I made one of these I intended it to be for breakie, but we ended up snacking on it before lunch. But something has changed.

I joined U.S. Masters Swimming and I go to swim practice at 4:45 in the morning Monday through Friday. I took today off. I get home around 6:15 from swim practice and my baby girl wakes up at 9. BRIOCHE FOR BREAKFAST. So last night I made the dough in the mixer. If you have a nice stand mixer, this is a super great dough to make because it really latches onto the dough hook and spanks the inside of the bowl with gratifying thuds. For a LONG time. I think I let it knead for at least 10 minutes. It’s also super fun because once you add the butter the dough dissolves and comes back together as a much looser mass.

So after swimming, I walked straight into the kitchen, still in a freezing cold wet bathing suit, and hand kneaded the dough into little balls, set them in a pan, and went about my morning. About 30 minutes  before “go time” for the day I put it in a 375F oven and let it bake. It. Is. Delicious. Love me a brioche.

Also, there is something really cathartic about kneading bread, more so early in the morning. I felt like if this was my occupation I’d be okay with that. Making bread is noble. Bakers fulfill a necessary role in society. I wish I fulfilled such a necessary role. But dollars talk in America and if you want your kid to grow up with tons of opportunities you do what you’ve got to do. Maybe in retirement.

 

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Learning to Bake with daddyPrimate: Bakewell Tart

A co-worker’s birthday is always a good time to remind my team that they are glad they hired me. This time, though, a super sweet baklava, or a big ass kugelhopf wouldn’t do the trick. This coworker likes their food light, not overly sweet, and beautiful. Well fuck. That rules out a lot of what I make. A frangipane tart though, that’s always a crowd pleaser, and a Bakewell Tart isn’t overly sweet, I mean the crust is barely sweetened at all. That’ll do, pig!

Bakewell Tart fresh out of the oven for a coworker's birthday tomorrow. #baking

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So I made the crust, and it rolled out so beautiful and thin that I thought the whole thing was going to go to shit because I’ve never made a crust so easily. In fact, it seems like usually I should just use the rolling pin as a can opener because every time I get the thing out I have trouble, but not this time! I blind baked the crust and let it dry out nicely because as my gurl Mary Berry says, no one likes a soggy bottom.

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I made the filling before putting my little girl to bed, and when I went to pour it into the crust it didn’t pour. It was a big thicker than I remembered, and I really had to work at it to get it nice and even in the crust. As for the berries I had placed at the bottom of the crust…well…they moved to where they wanted to be and I had no choice in the matter.

In the end, though, the tart was well received by my coworkers. They’re still happy that they hired me. And I got to use my beautiful tart pan. That is success, my friends.

 

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Weihnachts Kugelhopf (Christmas Kugelhopf)…a daddyPrimate riff on a classic Kugelhopf

If you read my previous post about Kugelhopf you already know it’s a 15th century Austrian yeast-raised cake that’s not really cake but not really a bread either and somewhere in between in texture and flavor. Or maybe I wrote that post poorly. Well, mommyPrimate got a gift card to Sur la Table and bought a really beautiful “bundt” pan that looks a bit more like a kugelhopf mold to me, so I decided to have a second go at it. I got the recipe once again from Epicurious but somehow I got the magic right a little better this time.

Christmas Kugelhopf proving on the counter. #baking #proveyourself

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When I made the dough this time, I don’t think I got the milk quite as hot. I may have had a little bit of a yeast die-off last time from too-hot liquid ingredients. I also put blobs in the pan (which I sprayed with coconut oil and floured pretty aggressively) by hand instead of dropping it in like a comforter in a washing machine. Once the blobs were in, I aggressively smoothed out the dough with a lubed up spatula (Lubed Up Spatula, by the way, is the name of my new band.) I let it rise for two hours.

Risen! #boom

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After a two hour prove it looked like this. BAM. I credit the success of this prove to my lucky tea towel that has my daughter’s name on it. There is no other secret to my success. So, now that the dough had risen, I tossed it in a 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes, slid some foil on top, and let it go another 20 minutes. It was soft and bounced back when I touched it with my finger, and a wooden skewer inserted came out clean.

Cool down faster I want to decorate you and go to bed! 😴😴😴#baking

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After about 3 minutes or so I tipped it out of the pan and it came out cleanly. No idea how that actually happened. I credit dumb luck, the lucky tea towel, and the liberal application of coconut oil and flour on the pan. Now, while this beautiful beast cools down a little, I’ll tell you about why it’s a Weihnachts Kugelhopf instead of just a Kugelhopf.

Basically, we didn’t have a bunch of sultanas lying around, but we DID have a bunch of fresh cranberries. And oranges. So I tossed in whole fresh cranberries while it was mixing, and flavored it with orange zest. Cranberry and orange is about as wintry of a flavor combination as I can come up with. Christmas is in two weeks. BOOOOM! Weihnachts Kugelhopf. I bet your mind is BLOWN right now.

Cranberry orange kugelhopf with candied cranberries and oranges #baking #cakes

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Now, to decorate this beautiful lady of a cake, I candied fresh cranberries and mandarin orange slices by boiling them in simple syrup for about an hour and cooling them in the fridge. I dusted the cake with icing sugar, then creatively placed the candied fruits in the crevasses. This may very well be the most spectacular baked good I’ve ever brought into this world, AND I WILL TAKE IT RIGHT BACK OUT.

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The texture of this kugelhopf came out MUCH more pleasantly than the last one I baked. It’s similar to what you would expect if an angel food cake and a brioche had a baby. It’s soft, light, spongy, but not too sweet. It’s wonderful, and its rightful place is at breakfast, I think.

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If you’d like to try to bake one of these, use the recipe I linked above, and swap out the raisins with fresh cranberries. Your taste buds will thank you.

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Kugelhopf

One of the  most alluring concepts for me in baking is old recipes. When the Great British Bake-Off series that aired in the U.S. in 2015 explored yeast-raised continental cakes, there was one that caught my eye…the Kugelhopf. Finally presented with an opportunity that was appropriate to make this old Austrian recipe, I had a look at the ingredients, decided I had everything, and got to work.

So, Kugelhopf is a recipe from the Habsburg Dynasty in Austria that apparently got its name from the shape of the pan resembling the disembodied head of a Turk. The cake was originally baked to celebrate the Habsburg victory over the Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1485. That makes this a 15th century recipe.

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So basically, you melt butter in milk and dissolve sugar in it, form a “volcano” of flour and yeast in your mixer, and pour the liquid into the dry as it mixes. When it comes together you add orange zest and raisins, let it beat until the gluten forms nicely, and plop it into your kugelhopf mould. Of course, I don’t have a kugelhopf mould (yet…Christmas is coming), so I just used a bundt pan.

It bakes for 15 minutes, gets covered with foil so the bottom doesn’t develop too much of a tan, and then continues to bake another 25 minutes or so. I “topped” mine with apricots, but they burnt to  a crisp so I pulled them out and pretended that the inlaid pattern of light and dark was done on purpose. Pro-tip: people will believe anything you tell them about baking because they don’t do it themselves.

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So it turned out pretty well. It’s not a cake, per se, because it’s not very sweet and has a much more bread-like texture. I think next time I may double the orange zest, and use cranberries instead of raisins. You know, for Christmas.

At any rate, kugelhopfs are good, and I recommend them to anyone who has to take something to work for a potluck.

The end.

 

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: Ciabatta be kidding me!

Homemade ciabatta fresh out of the oven #bread

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This week I decided to have another go at ciabatta. The last time I made it went alright, however I didn’t leave it in the oven long enough to get a nice golden brown crust, and the dough was so thin the bread was tiny once it baked up.

This time I divided the dough in 2 instead of 4, and took it out based on color, not time. It turned out beautifully. What a terribly wet dough, though. It’s difficult to work with without knocking out all of the air. I didn’t need it to be perfect, just good enough to thicken a ribollita for dinner. That’s what it did, and it did so beautifully.

I think the next time I bake it will have to be something a bit more ridiculous, like a charlotte russe, or a povitica. Perhaps that will inspire greatness.

Learning to Bake with daddyPrimate: Victoria Sponge – lack of failure is success!

Finally made a Victoria sponge that didn't totally collapse #baking

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The grand finale of the Great British Baking Show as shown in the US (last year’s version, for my British Friend) featured a challenge of baking traditional British cakes. Given my complete lack of success with Victoria Sponge, I felt inspired. I used mommyPrimate’s new book as the recipe was slightly different than Paul Hollywood’s, well the ingredients were the same, however the process was a bit difference.

While I didn’t get a domed top, I at least didn’t get a saggy middle. I think the domed top will happen when I either adjust the recipe to make just a touch more batter or use smaller tins. At any rate, it’s delicious. I’m slightly concerned about the fresh strawberries I used for the filling (along with strawberry jam) turning into, uh, fermented strawberries before we can finish the cake, but if we don’t put all of this butter and sugar into our systems I guess it’s okay.

Is this a Victorious Sponge? I’d say yes. Seeing as it took 4 tries, and probably about $15 worth of butter/flour/sugar to finally get a decent result, I think I’ll call it a Pyrrhic victory.

 

 

Learning to bake with daddyPrimate: I thought shortbread was supposed to be easy

Pro-tip: When only 7/10 of the biscuits you’ve baked turned out aesthetically pleasing, put those biscuits on top of the bucket. People will assume the others were damaged by clumsy hands snatching cookies. 😉

 

Having not baked much new in a while, and having a good excuse to take something in to work after a four day weekend, I thought a great exploration of my cultural heritage would be shortbread. Blah blah blah emotional spiritual bullshit blah blah blah heritage blah blah blah. Butter. There was lots of butter.

mommyPrimate recently got Tanya Burr’s “Tanya Bakes” and so far everything we’ve had out of it has been super primo, so I thought I’d give her shortbread biscuits a go. She said the dough was crumbly in the book. She was totally right. I had a bit of a hard time rolling it out and cutting it. It’s making me rethink my idea for a shortbread advent calendar.

At any rate, you can’t really go wrong with shortbread. Mainly because butter buffers out every bad decision you could make. My boss was the first one to stop by my desk, her boss the second. Score. Cookies area  subtle form of bribery. Just a little way to pay someone off so they like you a little better. Before leaving for the day yesterday, 3 days after these cookies arrived and left faster than a model can change clothing between runway walks, my boss stopped by my desk and said. “I tried to wait until the afternoon to eat the cookie, but then I looked at the expanding puddle of butter on the napkin it was sitting on and I knew it was too good to wait.”

Shortbread, you’re not easy to work with, but you do your job well. When your job is to fish me out some compliments at work.

Now to finish my first cup of coffee this morning.