Sunday, September 30, 2007

Daring Bakers September Challenge - Sticky Buns

Busy mixer
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
When I saw cinnamon rolls and/or sticky buns announced as the September Daring Bakers challenge, I have to admit to sighing in relief. I have made cinnamon rolls many times, of many varieties, and it didn't look like I'd have to wrestle with caramel this time around. I read through the recipe, decided to make sticky buns, and realized... oops, still caramel. Darn! The recipe made it seem easy, but caramel has some kind of vendetta against me. I don't know why!

Rather than copying and pasting the recipe, please visit the blog of Marce, this month's hostess, to see the recipe. It comes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, a cookbook I have long contemplated buying, and I enjoyed how some of the steps of the recipe were illustrated, and there wasn't just a picture of what the final result should look like.

The first picture (above) shows my Sunbeam mixer trying to knead the dough. It was making such a ruckus and trying to jump off the counter, that at first I put a towel underneath it, and then decided to knead by hand. My poor Sunbeam has been challenged severely, although the worst thing I did to it was make divinity, which almost burned out the motor. Eventually I want to get a Kitchenaid with a snazzy color but I enjoy kneading by hand so much I didn't mind helping my mixer out. I could get the dough to feel quite right, and wish I had added a little less flour.

Caramel mixture
While the dough rose in an oiled bowl, I prepared the caramel mixture. I was happy to see that I didn't have to cook anything on the stove, just mix butter and sugar and syrup together in the mixer and spread it into the pan I would bake the buns in. The recipe said corn syrup but that you could substitute golden syrup - I had a bunch of golden syrup leftover from making treacle tart, and happily used it. Now this is where following the recipe exactly would have been helpful. It said to spread 1/4" of the caramel mixture on the bottom of the pan. I did, and thought it looked scarce, and had a bunch left over, so I scraped all of it into the pan. Little did I know the regret this would cause later on.

You may also notice that only half the caramel is sprinkled with nuts - we have one nut lover and one nut apathetic in my house. I made a little for each of us.

Dough with cinnamon sugar
After the dough had risen, it gets rolled out and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. This step was the same for both the regular cinnamon rolls and the sticky buns. A step very familiar to me, although I was surprised the recipe didn't instruct me to leave a space to seal the rolls off (but I just did what it said). I also left all items resembling dried fruit out, since this was one of the ingredients we could omit if we pleased. If I had left them in, I would have been facing an entire pan of sticky buns to eat on my own. Yikes! The dough at this point was still not the texture I wanted - I made this recipe the first weekend of September and after reading other posts about it, it sounds like people let the dough rise longer if it wasn't quite ready. Well, I was anxious, and the rising time was soooo long already!!

Sliced buns
The next step is rolling the dough into a log and slicing into 12-16 equal slices. I learned long ago that the best knife to use when slicing dough such as this is a bread knife, and was happy to easily make nice slices of the buns. I went with 12 buns because I wanted to bake everything in one pan.

Sticky buns after rising
The buns get laid into the caramel, covered, and left to rise a second time. If I had made them the night before, this is the stage I could have put them into the fridge, but I didn't plan that far ahead. This is another place where I should have allowed for extra time to rise, but I looked at them, saw they had proofed slightly, told them "Time's up!" and stuck them in the oven. At this point the process had taken 3-4 hours, the house smelled like Cinnabon, and we were starving!!

Finished product in the pan
The buns smelled amazing while baking, well, until about 15 minutes before they were supposed to be finished. I opened the door and smoke started pouring out. You remember that extra caramel I lavished on the pan? Well, the reason you only put 1/4" on the bottom is that otherwise it bubbles over into the bottom of your stove. I had to take the buns out before I was really ready, and they were slightly underdone (not noticably, but not perfectly to my liking). I couldn't decide what to do about the oven for days - thanks to the advice from several Daring Bakers, I used lemon juice and baking soda, and it worked miracles (thanks everyone!!).

Sticky bun
The finished product was delicious. Despite my rushing of the proofing, I felt like the dough was light and not that weird-sweet flavor of dough that has not risen correctly. The sticky bun part was tasty, but I think a little too sweet for me. The use of golden syrup lent a slight molasses taste to the buns which I think added a nice flavor dimension. On the other hand I felt the lemon zest was slightly overpowering, and might add less next time. I did like the way the caramel baked on its own, which technically should have meant less problems. I had plans to try an apple or orange version but never got around to it, but this recipe goes into my file as one I would make again. I would definitely do most of this the night before I wanted to eat them, however. 1 PM is a little late for breakfast!

Daring Bakers Blue Logo
Since this recipe is brought to you by the Daring Bakers, you can check out the other versions of this recipe by clicking on the blogroll on the left column of this blog. I have to warn you - there are now over 100 of us! I'll probably be spending the next few days reading and commenting on them!

Categories: Caramel, Cinnamon, Pastry, Yeast

Monday, September 24, 2007

Apple Cake

Apple Cake
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I've had Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard for some time now but most times I would thumb through it, I would not have all the ingredients I needed. I had been eyeing the apples on my kitchen table, knowing I would need to bake with them soon.

For this blog, I couldn't make my Grandma's apple cake, although I've already made it once this season. (See last October's blog if you missed that episode). I saw the apple cake recipe in this book and was surprised that it was both simple and limited ingredients.

The only thing I didn't have was apricot jam, so I made a quick glaze with powdered sugar for the top. The taste of this is okay - more like an apple bread, and I'd be more likely to serve it for breakfast than dessert - but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. It just... isn't Grandma's, you know?

Apple cake side view

Apple Cake
from Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard

1/2 cup (60 grams) raisins
3 tbsp (42 grams) dark rum, such as Myers
1 scant cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp (3 grams) baking powder
8 tbsp (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (115 grams) confectioner's sugar
3 large eggs
2 apples, such as Fuji or Rome, peeled and cored
1/4 cup (60 grams) Apricot glaze (pg 33 of book)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add the raisins, and boil 1 minute. Drain and repeat the process. Drain the raisins well a second time and place in a small bowl with the rum; stir and set aside.
3. Sift together the flour and baking powder.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and confectioner's sugar on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix in the raisins and rum. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until blended. Spoon half of the batter into the pan and smooth into an even layer.
5. Cut one apple into 12 wedges and arrange them over the batter, down the center of the pan, so their sides touch and the domed side of each wedge is on the top. Spoon the rest of the batter over and around the apples and smooth the top. Cut the other apples into 8 wedges and then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Arrange the wedges in a single row along each long side of the pan, pressing the center-cut sides of the apples against the sides of the pan. There will be two rows of apple slices, with their points toward the center of the pan and exposed batter in the center. Gently push the apples into the batter, leaving the top of the apples exposed.
6. Bake the cake for 60-65 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Unmold the cake and turn it rightside up. Gently brush the apricot glaze over the top of the hot cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting it into slices.

Jenny's notes: I didn't do the raisin thing, merely added the rum to the batter as is. I also tried to follow the apple cutting directions but they would have been fine anywhere in the cake. I wish I had the suggested apples but only had Golden Delicious.

Categories: Apple, Cake

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Great Apple Cider Donut Quest

Apple Cider Donuts
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
When I lived in Indiana (from 2000-2006), I remember reading an autobiography where the author, who was a Hoosier, pontificated about apple cider donuts. I was intrigued and tried finding some within a daytrip distance from where I lived, but never could. The closest I could find were in Michigan, at least 3.5 hours away.

Now I live in South Carolina, and the thought occurred to me the other day that I had not yet taken up my quest since moving. I did a search and came across the Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill, past Spartanburg but well within an easy drive of home. They are basically open two months a year and that's it! The quest began.

Windy Hill Orchard
I have to say, the Windy Hill Orchard isn't nearly the tourist attraction or as large as Sky Top Orchard in North Carolina where we went last year. But you can pick apples, buy donuts, apple bread, apple cider, Wassail, and pumpkins.

Windy Hill Orchard stash
I picked up a jug of Wassail to drink on Halloween or Thanksgiving, if it lasts that long. The donuts were good - we got the kind that had been rolled in cinnamon-sugar. Even better warmed up a little.

Another week without something I actually baked, but I like to feature local places from time to time. This isn't a bakery exactly, but a cider mill that bakes donuts? Clearly can't be ignored.

Categories: Apples, Bakery, Donuts, Local Food

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Taking a week off

I won't be making a baking post this week but I have a quotation to share. I realized today that baking is one of the few things that I don't quit even when I continually have setbacks and failures.

Julia Child would be proud, I think.

"Cooking is one failure after another - that's how you learn." - Julia Child

Monday, September 03, 2007

Melba Peach Pie

Melba Peach Pie
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I live in South Carolina, where peaches are usually one of our best and brightest crops. Unfortunately, a frost late in the year (as frosts go) destroyed something like 75% of the crop. Where last year you couldn't drive a mile without someone selling peaches along the road, this year I have had to intentionally seek peaches out. Only one farm was selling them at the farmer's market last weekend, so I bought one bag to make one pie.

If this sounds pitiful, that's how I feel! Last summer I was swimming in peaches, and there is just nothing like fresh local fruit. Of course I could buy peaches at the grocery store but they are the kind that is from a different country, picked green, and stored chilled.

I also had some leftover raspberries in the fridge, so when deciding on a recipe, I thought combining the two would be nice. I picked the Melba Peach Pie from the Almost Home Tearoom Cookbook.

The Almost Home Tearoom is a restaurant in Greencastle, Indiana, that serves lunch and dinner. I worked there for a year making desserts, and had so much freedom. Besides having to make sure there was enough strawberry pizza (their signature dessert) and lemon meringue pie on Thursdays, the rest of the dessert selections were up to me. That was a great year and sometimes I really miss the huge industrial kitchen with all the ingredients I could ever use and the thrill of needing to make enough dessert to feed 250 people every day, but in small batches so they had more variety.

This dessert calls for a homemade Melba Sauce, but I had some leftover raspberry syrup in the fridge so I used that. I suspect you could also melt down some raspberry jam. Just don't let the idea of making a sauce in addition to a pie stop you from trying this!

Melba Peach Pie

Prepare: Pastry for 9" double-crusted pie
Line a 9" pie plate with half of pastry dough
Place in bottom of pastry shell: A few whole red raspberries

4 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp almond extract

Pour over raspberries.

Dot with: 1-2 tbsp butter
Cover with pastry, seal, and crimp edges.
Brush top with cream, and sprinkle with sugar.

Slit 5-6 vent holes in the top.

Bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Serve with a dip of vanilla ice cream and the following Melba Sauce.

Melba Sauce
Combine in a glass cup:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Stir in: 3/4 cup red raspberry juice
Microwave on high for 1 minute 15 seconds; stir and microwave 30 seconds more. (Mixture may be placed in a suaucepan and cooked until boiling, stirring constantly).

Yields 6-8 servings

Jenny's notes: I would let this cool completely before serving to allow the cornstarch to do its job. And I'm not sure it needed quite this much sugar - next time I would try a cup or less. I was out of nutmeg, so chose to use cinnamon instead.

Categories: Peaches, Pie, Raspberries, Sauce