Recipe Review: Cinnamon Cream Brioche


Cinnamon Cream Brioche

Cinnamon Cream Brioche

These Cinnamon Cream Brioche pastries from Joanne Chang’s flour, too cookbook are great.  A brioche dough base is topped with pastry cream, creme fraiche, and a dusting of cinnamon sugar.  Brioche is a rich yeasted dough made with eggs, butter, and sugar.  A stand mixer is a definite must, because a large amount of butter must be incorporated into the dough at high speed.  My mixing bowl got stuck in the base of the mixer due to the force of mixing.  If that happens, I suggest using a mallet to knock the bowl loose.  After mixing, the dough must rise in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours, so it’s good to make the dough and pastry cream in the evening and do the final assembly and baking in the morning.  The pastry cream is pretty straightforward: scald some milk, add a mixture of cake flour, sugar, and egg yolks, whisk until thickened, and then let set overnight.  In the morning, divide the dough into pieces, shape into rounds, and top with pastry cream, creme fraiche, and cinnamon sugar, and bake.

Couple of notes on how much to make.  The recipe calls for half-recipe of brioche dough for eight pastries, but I used the full recipe to make sixteen.  I used a double recipe of pastry cream.  The creme fraiche I bought from Trader Joe’s, and two tubs were less than what was called for in the recipe but I thought was plenty.  The cinnamon sugar in the original recipe (1 1/4 cups sugar + one teaspoon cinnamon) is more than enough for sixteen pastries.

The baked pastry cream, with a little tartness from the creme fraiche and a little sweetness from the cinnamon sugar, all on top of the airy brioche dough, is a great combination and got great comments.

Cost: about $15 to make 16

Level of difficulty: moderate-difficult

Deliciousness: delicious (4 of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to flour, too cookbook here.

Link to previous post on first flour cookbook here.

 

Recipe Review: Soy-Glazed Chicken with Asparagus and Scallions


Soy-glazed chicken with asparagus and scallions

Soy-glazed chicken with asparagus and scallions

This is a fast, easy, good recipe from Bon Appetit May 2014.  Chicken is marinated in a teriyaki-like sauce that contains toasted anise seed, soy sauce, honey, garlic, and lime juice (a little expensive because of the great lime shortage of 2014).  The chicken is marinated for 30 minutes up to overnight, then baked with the marinade in a 450 oven.  The recipe states that after roasting in the oven, the sauce thickens into a nice glaze.  However, in my experience, the sauce burned almost completely.  However, the chicken still came out moist and flavorful.  Asparagus and scallions are roasted at the same time and accompany the chicken nicely.

Level of difficulty: easy

Cost: about $10

Deliciousness: 3 of 5 stars (good)

Healthy: yes

Time: about 15 minutes active time + marinade time and roasting time of 30 minutes

Make again: maybe

Link to recipe here.

 

Recipe Review: Apple Snacking Spice Cake


Joanne Chang, Flour, apple snacking spice cake

Joanne Chang, Flour, apple snacking spice cake

This is an easy-to-make cake from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook that is also one of the most popular items at Flour Bakery in Boston.  The cake is full of spices, pecans, and raisins, and the high percentage of diced apple makes the cake really moist and flavorful.  This cake got great reviews, with people coming back for seconds.  I made a few modifications: doubling the amount of cinnamon and cloves (because mine were a little bit old) and substituting about 1 tsp of fresh ginger for powdered ginger (because I didn’t have any on hand), and baking in a 9×9 square cake pan.

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Deliciousness: 4 of 5 stars

Cost: about $10

Time: 20 minutes active time, around 1.5 hours total

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to Flour cookbook here.

Recipes from Craftsman and Wolves: Apple Gruyere Scone, Cocoa Carrot Cake with Cocoa Crumble


Several recipes from my favorite bakery, Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco, have been published on-line.  These include a previous iteration of the cocoa carrot muffins, in cake form, and a sweet-savory apple gruyere scone.  Both are delicious and definitely worth doing.  I am hoping for the pear-yuzu croissant, the Rebel Within, and Valrhona chocolate chip cookie recipes to someday be published.  Note to Chef William Werner: cookbook, please!

Cocoa carrot cake recipe here

Apple gruyere scone recipe here

Other William Werner recipes on-line:

– Thai scones and Chocolate coffee eclair on the Starchefs site here.

– several recipes on Food and Wine, including chocolate peanut butter shortbread sandwich cookies recipe  here.

– update December 2014: C&W made it to the cover of the annual Bon Appetit Christmas issue with five recipes for Christmas sweets!  Link here.  And, the Valrhona Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was finally published in 7×7 magazine here!

Recipe Review: Ottolenghi Hummus Kawarma (Lamb) with Lemon Sauce


Ottolenghi Hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce

Ottolenghi Hummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce

In Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook, there is an illuminating short essay on the importance of hummus among Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, the debate about its origins, and the arguments about which hummusia makes the best hummus.

Ottolenghi’s basic hummus recipe starts from dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight.  I tried to use a blender to make the hummus, but it was difficult to process unless in small batches.  A food processor as recommended would work better.  The hummus is great, smooth and fluffy, with the right amount of garlic, lemon juice, and tahini.  There are additional recipes in the chapter for lamb kawarma, a spiced, fried chopped lamb served over hummus, and musabaha (warm chickpeas with hummus).

Cost: about $20

Time: about 2 hours

Level of Difficulty: easy-moderate

Taste: excellent (3.5 of five stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Onion, Tahini, Za’atar


Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar

Ottolenghi Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

This is a beautiful, delicious, easy recipe from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Butternut squash and red onions are roasted at 475 for about 30-40 until there is some caramelization.  The vegetables are then paired with a tahini sauce.  Tahini is crushed sesame seed paste and a common ingredient in Jerusalem.  The dish is finished with pine nuts for crunch, za’atar spice blend, and parsley for color.  The nutty tahini really complements the caramelized squash and red onions.  This would be a great vegetarian main course or side.

Time: about one hour

Level of difficulty: easy

Cost: about $8

Taste: 4 of 5 stars (delicious)

Healthy: yes

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Chocolate Krantz Cake


There is an interesting section of sweets in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Chocolate krantz cake is like a chocolate babka, with a sweet leavened dough layered with chocolate and nuts.  The dough must rise overnight, then is rolled out and layered with chocolate and pecans, rolled up, split, and twisted back together to create all the layers.  It then proofs for 90 minutes before baking.  The recipe recommends baking for 30 minutes at 375.  At that point, the crust is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center came out dry, but the bottom layers were a little underdone.  It might take 10-20 minutes longer than suggested to bake through, depending on your oven.  After baking, a simple syrup is brushed onto the cake.  The cake was rich, sweet, and chocolately, and got good reviews, but is a little bit involved to make.

Cost: about $10

Time: about 16 hours (2 hours active)

Level of Difficulty: moderate

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Chicken, Caramelized Onions, Cardamom Rice


Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice

Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice

This is a fantastic dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Chicken is cooked together with caramelized onions, basmati rice, and spices including cardamom and cloves.  The chicken becomes fragrant from the spices, the rice soaks up flavor from the chicken and spices, and the caramelized onions lend sweetness and depth.  The dish is finished with fresh herbs and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  It’s great one-pot cooking.  I made it with four chicken thighs, but I think there is enough rice for six servings.  Beware of biting into some of the whole cloves and cardamom pods.

Cost: about $15

Time: about 1.5-2 hours

Level of Difficulty: easy-moderate

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: fairly healthy

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Seared Fish with Beet Salsa


I try to balance “cheat” days at my favorite bakery (Craftsman and Wolves) with some healthy dinners during the week.  One great source for recipes is the Recipes for Health series by Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times.  The recent recipe for beet salsa is really easy and flavorful.  I roast the beets covered in foil for about an hour at 400F.  The roast beets are diced together with apple, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice.  The fresh salsa has bright flavors that go well over a simple pan-seared fish fillet such as tilapia.  Pair with some green beans for a healthy, flavorful meal.  The salsa keeps for a few days in the refrigerator and can be used to accompany other dishes; one delicious application was on top of omelettes.

Level of difficulty: easy

Time: about 1 1/2 hours, including 1 hour to roast the beets.

Deliciousness: great (3 of 5 stars)

Cost: about $10

Healthy: yes

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Thomas Keller Bouchon Pain au Chocolat, Pain aux Raisins


Pain au chocolat

Pain au chocolat

Pain aux raisins

Pain aux raisins

Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook has an amazing, meticulous recipe for croissant dough, which can be used for classic French pastries: traditional croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and pain aux raisins.  This is a weekend project, and I literally mean the whole weekend.  I complained about the meticulousness of some recipes in this book in a previous post, but I actually really appreciated the level of precision in the recipe for the croissant dough.  Everything worked out exactly as described, and it would have been frustrating to put in all that work and have something not turn out correctly.  Case in point: rolling out the croissant dough to 19 x 9 inches, so that one could trim the edges for a 17.5 x 8 rectangle that could then be divided into ten equal rectangles for the chocolate croissants.  Also, the trimmings made a nice bonus traditional croissant.

Thomas Keller recipes often have one or two ingredients that are quite specialized, which makes for quite the scavenger hunt.  For the croissant dough, a small amount of diastatic malt powder is added to the dough.  Malt powder comes from malted barley and contains the sugar maltose.  Diastatic refers to the presence of enzymes such as amylase, which are preserved if the malting process is performed below a certain temperature.  The presence of maltose and the enzymes works together with the yeast to make the dough more complex and also contributes to the color.  Diastatic malt powder is not available at Safeway, Whole Foods, Draeger’s, Berkeley Bowl, Bi-Rite Grocery, or Rainbow Grocery in the Bay Area.  Dry malt extract, found in home-brewing supply stores, I am pretty sure is not correct.  I found “malt powder” in a Korean grocery store in Santa Clara, but I have no idea whether it is diastatic or non-diastatic.  Regardless, the pastries turned out great using this malt powder.  I found Bird’s brand custard powder, used to make pastry cream, at The Milk Pail in Mountain View.  Finally, chocolate batons or chocolate pieces used for the chocolate croissants can be found at Spun Sugar in Berkeley.  I think everything could be found on-line, but what’s the fun in that?

The croissant dough starts with a poolish, a yeast, water, and flour mixture that ferments overnight and is used as a starter for the croissant dough.  The croissant dough contains flour, water, sugar, salt, butter, and the poolish.  A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment makes kneading the dough easy.  The dough rises for about an hour.  Then a 330 gm (11.6 oz) block of European-style butter is enrobed in the dough and then laminated several times (rolled out and folded over itself to create layers).  This takes a lot of time and work, because the dough has to be put in the freezer after each fold to keep the butter cold, and the cold dough is a bit difficult to roll.  One can then use the dough right away, but I kept mine in the refrigerator overnight.  I used half of the dough to make the pain aux raisins, and half to make the pain au chocolat.  To make the pain aux raisins, there are two sub-recipes, Rum-soaked Raisins and Pastry Cream.  Rum-soaked raisins are easy – raisins are soaked overnight in simple syrup and a splash of rum (actually, 30 gm to be more precise).  The pastry cream uses egg yolks, vanilla bean, whole milk, and custard powder and requires constant attention over low-heat for the thickening process.

The croissants had shatteringly crispy outer flaky layers, and were buttery, rich, and delicious.  Pretty much perfect versions of pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins, fresh out of the oven were incredible.  I might have liked a little more pastry cream in the pain aux raisins, but this is a minor complaint.

Cost: about $20 for 10 chocolate croissants and 10 pain aux raisins.  This includes ingredients that were used in limited amounts, like the diastatic malt powder (3 gm or about one teaspoon), custard powder, and chocolate batons.

Time: minimum time 22 hours.  Mine took about 34 hours from start to finish with active time of about 7-8 hours.

Level of difficulty: Thomas Keller.  I have a new scale for level of difficulty: easy, moderate, difficult, and “Thomas Keller”

Deliciousness: incredible (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: although the pastries were really good, this is probably a one-off due to the amount of time required.

Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

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