Monday, October 21, 2019

Lacy Brown Butter and Ricotta Cookies

I follow Stella Parks (bravetart) in Instagram, and she is a baker who develops recipes for Serious Eats. She kept posting about these cookies so even though I went to the apple orchard and had a peck of apples to deal with, I made these cookies instead. I have no regrets.

Lacy Brown Butter and Ricotta Cookies
(recipe and more information about process and troubleshooting on Serious Eats)

  • 5 ounces unsalted butter (about 10 tablespoons; 140g)
  • 7 ounces granulated sugar (about 1 cup; 195g)
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25g) baking soda
  • 4 ounces cold ricotta (about 1/2 cup; 110g), strained if watery
  • 4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup, spooned; 125g)

Getting Ready: In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. When it has completely melted, add vanilla pod (if using) and increase heat to medium. Simmer, stirring and scraping with a heat-resistant spatula while butter hisses and pops. When butter is golden yellow and perfectly silent, remove from heat and pour into a medium bowl, making sure to scrape up all the toasty brown bits from along the bottom. Cool until slightly thickened and opaque, but still slightly warm, around 80°F (27°C). This will take about 75 minutes at room temperature or 25 minutes in the fridge; if refrigerating, stir butter every 6 minutes or so to prevent it from hardening around the edges of the bowl.

Make the Dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). When brown butter has cooled, remove vanilla pod (if using) and stir in sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Stir until baking soda is well distributed, about 1 minute, then fold in cold ricotta. Once ingredients are combined, stir in flour to form a soft dough.

Portioning the Dough: Divide into 1-tablespoon portions and arrange on a parchment-lined half sheet pan, leaving about 4 inches between cookies to account for their significant spread. (If you like, the dough can be placed on a parchment-lined plate and frozen until firm, then transferred to a zip-top bag for storage. It can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.)

Bake until cookies are lacy, thin, and golden brown around the edges, but still rather pale in the middle, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet, as the cookies will be doughy and soft while warm. Enjoy after cooling, or store up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes from JennyBakes:

  •  I was pondering sandwich cookies after making these and so did Stella. She tried them with chocolate hazelnut spread, and I think that would be good, maybe also a fruit butter for fall!
  • Those that I baked only 12 minutes, I liked better in the coming days. More than that and they became a stale crunchy while the 12 minute bakes were soft in the best ways.
  • There are some more complicated ingredients in the original recipe, please see links for those. I removed for simplification and to reflect what I actually did.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Peanut Butter Chess Pie from Sean Brock's South

The recipes in South by Sean Brock focus on perfecting the craft for the best version of old standards. You can feel Sean's painstaking attention to detail in the recipes as well.

I was thrilled to find some creative spins on desserts and knew I needed to make this pie, especially since it had a chocolate cornmeal crust. I did have a copy from the publisher, but hey, the cookbook comes out tomorrow (October 15, 2019.)

I followed the directions carefully for this pie, which meant a lot more fridge time than I would normally give a pie. I'm not sure if I made it right but the insides settle into a pecan pie like center without the nuts, topped by some peanut butter cakey layer, which is topped with ganache. I suspect the peanut butter and the sugar were supposed to be better blended, but this all happened while t baked. The crust rolled out beautifully after letting it chill as recommended.

Peanut Butter Chess Pie

1 recipe Chocolate Cornmeal Crust dough (recipe in cookbook)

2 tbsp unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup whole milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache
6 oz 60% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

For the Crust: See the cookbook.

For the Filling: Preheat the oven to 325 F.

Combine the butter and peanut butter in the top of a double boiler. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water, set over low heat, and insert the top. The water shoudl not touch thte bottom of the insert and should never be hotter than a simmer. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula until the butter has melted and hte mixture is compeltely combined, scraping down the sides as necessary and being careful not to incorporate air. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside.

Combine the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the milk, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the peanut butter mixture.

Place the piecrust on a rimmed baking sheet. Gently pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes more, or until the filling is set and no longer jiggles in the center when the pan is gently shaken. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

When the pie is completely cool, make the ganache: Put the chocolate in a heatproof container. Put the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate, cover, and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir to completely combine the melted chocolate and cream.

Pour the ganache over the top of the pie, rotating the pie if necesary to ensure that the ganache topping is even. Cool for 5 minutes, then refrigerate the pie for at least 2 hours to allow the topping to set before serving.

Serve the pie chilled. Tightly cover any leftovers and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

South by Sean Brock
Available 15 October 2019

Other recipes I marked to try:

  • Sea Island Red Pea Spread with Cucumber Tomato Salad
  • Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Buttermilk and Sunflower Seeds
  • Tomato-Okra Stew
  • Sorghum Seed Crackers
  • Blackberry Cobbler
  • Magnolia Vinegar and Brown Butter Pie (what?)!
  • Buttermilk Pie
  • Hand-Churned Peach Sherbert

Monday, October 07, 2019

Brownies from Tartine

I think anyone who bakes has Tartine on their radar, one of the bakeries that brought artisan baking to the forefront in the United States. Their cookbook of the same name was originally published in 2006, and a revised edition with 68 new recipes came out October 1, 2019. I had a copy to play with from the publisher through NetGalley. I'll put a list of the recipes I want to try at the end of this post, but my husband always tries brownies at a new bakery as a "test" so I decided to go with something simple.

I was surprised to find a different technique than I'd ever used for brownies, and I've made a lot of brownies. This is clearly a recipe they have perfected over time, and a note in the recipe says this reflects their preference for "fudgy" brownies. They also have a recipe for making this same recipe slightly differently for ice-cream sandwiches, and a version that is for rocky road brownies. I went rogue and made a halfish recipe because I had misremembered how much chocolate I needed to buy.

Tartine Brownies
(from the Tartine Revised Ed. Cookbook)

Yields one 9x13 inch baking dish; 12 brownies

3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter
1 lb (450 g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
2 1/4 cups (400 g) light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 salt
2 cups (200 g) nuts such as walnut or pecan halves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter a 9x13 in glass baking dish.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. If the heat from the butter does not fully melt the chocolate, put the pan back over the heat for 10 seconds and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour into a small mixing bowl. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture thickens and becomes pale in color and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon that folds back on itself and slowly dissolves on the surface, 4-5 minutes. Alternately, use a mixing bowl and a whisk to beat the ingredients until the mixture falls from the whisk in a wide ribbon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and fold it in quickly but gently with the rubber spatula so that you don't deflate the air that's been incorporated into the eggs.

Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the top with the spatula. If you are using nuts, evenly distribute them across the batter. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Using a sharp knife, cut into twelve squares, or whatever size you desire. The brownies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week.

Notes from JennyBakes: Okay so this is my bad but I did a half recipe in a 9" square pan but used 3 eggs. I tried baking for 20 minutes but went to the full 25, was worried about overbaking and ended up underbaking, I think. A bit gooey in the middle but I stuck them in the fridge and they'll be fine. I also forgot to put the walnuts on until they'd baked 5 minutes. I loved the technique of beating the eggs and brown sugar - I've done that with white sugar before (see Alton Brown's cocoa brownies) but I've never used brown sugar in brownies. The texture before adding the chocolate and flour was very viscous and the batter was like chocolate marshmallows.

Tartine (Revised edition) came out October 1, 2019, and like I already stated, I had a review copy.

Other recipes I've marked to try:
  • English Muffins
  • Savory Scones
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Tart
  • Devil's Food Layer Cake
  • Victoria Sponge
  • Almond-Lemon Tea Cake
  • Honey Spice Cake
  • Black Tea Blondies with Caramel Swirl
  • Sweet Potato Cake with Meringue
  • Buttermilk Scones
  • Quiche
  • Chocolate Chess Pie
  • Dutch Apple Pie
  • Matcha Streusel Tart
  • Cake Aux Olives
  • Pumpkin Tea Cake

Monday, September 30, 2019

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo) from The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs

I always look for baking cookbooks in my lists of books to review, but when I saw The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs, I thought I probably had too much experience to give it a fair review. However my husband Nathaniel has not baked a lot, so I asked him to select a recipe to try. He chose Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo) because it was savory, lower-carb, and cheesy.

Overall, the cookbook comes from America's Test Kitchen, so you know the recipes have been tested and tweaked and should be pretty solid. They give great advice for new chefs without talking down to kids, explaining concepts such as "mise en place" and adding safety tips. You will see in this recipe that it tells you when to ask an adult for help. With shows on like Master Chef Junior, this would be an excellent cookbook gift for your rising bakers and pastry chefs!

Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo)

Vegetable oil spray
1 cup (8 oz) whole milk
1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (2 oz)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
2 cups (8 oz) tapioca starch*
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 F. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray (making sure to get inside each cup).
  2. Add milk, cheddar cheese, Pecorino cheese, oil, eggs, and salt to blender. Add tapioca starch. (Make sure to add tapioca starch last, or the mixture will turn to glue in the blender.) Place lid on top of blender and hold lid firmly in place with folded dish towel. Process on high speed for 30 seconds. Stop blender.
  3. Use rubber spatula to scrape down sides of blender jar. Replace lid and replace on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour batter evenly into greased muffin tin cups, filling each cup about 3/4 full.
  4. Place muffin tin in oven and bake until rolls are golden and puffed, 25-30 minutes.
  5. Use oven mitts to remove muffin tin from oven (ask an adult for help.) Place muffin tin on cooling rack and let rolls cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes.
  6. Run butter knife around edges of roll to loosen from muffin tin (ask an adult for help - muffin tin will be very hot.) Using your finger tips, gently wiggle rolls to remove from muffin tin and transfer directly to cooling rack. Serve warm. 
Jenny received a copy of this cookbook from the publisher through Edelweiss. It comes out October 1, 2019, the day after this posts.

Notes from JennyBakes:

These notes are actually from Jenny's husband, Nathaniel.

Tapioca starch is also sold as Tapioca Flour, and in my experience that was much easier to find, but I did not realize they were interchangeable at first.

I took them out when they began to be golden but should have waited a bit longer.

Follow the instructions where it says tin if you want them to rise properly. Silicone won't rise as far. I wouldn't describe them as chewy, more as gummy, a level beyond chewiness (this could have been underbaking.) They still come out as very cheesy even if the batter doesn't look very cheesy after the blender.

One note from Jenny: I really like to use these as buns for the giant tofurkey vegetarian sausages, cut into smaller pieces. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Molasses Coffee Cake

As fall approaches, but fall temperatures do not, I find myself drawn more to caramel and salted caramel and molasses than the usual pumpkin and apple. Last week I posted a molasses quick bread recipe, and that one was a bit lighter than this one, which approaches a fancy gingerbread with the glaze. It comes from Dorie Greenspan's Everyday Dorie.

Molasses Coffee Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 stick (8 tbsp/4 oz/ 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (132 grams) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 ml) hot coffee or espresso (can be made with instant coffee or espresso powder)

For the coffee glaze (optional):1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp boiling water
5 oz (142 grams) best-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
2 tsp unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces, at room temperature

Whipped cream, for topping  

Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 F.  Butter a 9-inch round cake pan that's at least 2 inches high (use a springform if you don't have a regular pan that's tall enough), fit a round of parchment paper into the bottom of the pan, butter the paper and dust the interior with flour; tap out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, ginger, five-spice powder, cinnamon, and pepper.

Working in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the molasses and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg and beat for 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla. Turn the mixer off, add the flour mixture and pulse to begin incorporating it. Then beat on low speed only until the dry ingredients disappear into the batter. With the mixer on low, add the hot coffee, again mixing only until it is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and swivel the pan to even it.

Bake for 28 to 33 minutes, until the cake is beautifully browned and has risen uniformly. It will pull away from the sides of the pan if gently tugged and a tested inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cake rest for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the sides of the cake. Turn the cake out onto the rack, gently peel off the parchment, invert onto another rack and cool to room temperature; or, if you used a springform, simply remove the ring. The cake may develop a little dip in the center - that's its personality.

To make the optional glaze: Dissolve the instant espresso in the boiling water. Put the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil (you can do this in a microwave oven), stir in the espresso extract that you made, and pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 30 seconds and then, using a whisk or small heatproof spatula, stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the butter one piece at a time, stirring until it is melted and incorporated.

Set the cake, on the rack, on a piece of foil to catch drips. Pour as much of the glaze as you want over the cake and use a long spatula or a table knife to spread it.

Put the cake in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set the glaze, then return it to room temperature before serving. Pass any remaining glaze at the table.

Notes from JennyBakes:

-I don't have a tall enough round pan, something that keeps happening (my old springform won't close) so I used a 9" square pan and thought it was fine!
-I bet you could play with the spices in this. Don't let not having 5-spice powder stop you!
-I feel like the dip in the middle is a failure of recipe but just made it as described first. Next I'll need to do a little research. More structure, maybe? Another egg?
-I didn't take the cake out as fast as it recommends but had no problems, unlike some true gingerbreads that stick like crazy
-Do not use white chocolate CHIPS for this recipe. I speak from glompy experience. I also misread the amount of cream in the glaze so mine was a little rubby.
-I used leftover coffee from breakfast (still hot) for the cake, but used espresso powder in the glaze. I didn't bother making an extract because I knew it would dissolve just fine in the hot cream.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Molasses Sweet Bread from The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery

I came across the up and coming revised edition of The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery in NetGalley and knew I'd want to look through it. It is a pretty standard primary source in this region, and I've seen chefs mention it on shows like Mind of a Chef and in their own cookbooks.

More from the publisher:
From springhouse to smokehouse, from hearth to garden, Southern Appalachian foodways are celebrated afresh in this newly revised edition of The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery. First published in 1984—one of the wildly popular Foxfire books drawn from a wealth of material gathered by Foxfire students in Rabun Gap, Georgia—the volume combines hundreds of unpretentious, delectable recipes with the practical knowledge, wisdom, and riveting stories of those who have cooked this way for generations. A tremendous resource for all interested in the region’s culinary culture, it is now reimagined with today’s heightened interest in cultural-specific cooking and food-lovers culture in mind. This edition features new documentation, photographs, and recipes drawn from Foxfire’s extensive archives while maintaining all the reminiscences and sharp humor of the amazing people originally interviewed.
Appalachian-born chef Sean Brock contributes a passionate foreword to this edition, witnessing to the book’s spellbinding influence on him and its continued relevance. T. J. Smith, editor of the revised edition, provides a fascinating perspective on the book’s original creation and this revision. They invite you to join Foxfire for the first time or once again for a journey into the delicious world of wild foods, traditional favorites, and tastes found only in Southern Appalachia.
The pictures they have added to the revised edition are amazing and capture the faces of an aging white population. The information is useful to some and otherwise informative from a folklore and/or historical standpoint. I may never need to store items with ice blocks or skin a rabbit, but I am always interested in traditional baked goods that are usually made with seasonal ingredients or ingredients you would otherwise have on hand.

Molasses Sweet Bread

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp ginger
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup molasses or 2/3 cup molasses and 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Sift together dry ingredients and add melted butter and the molasses. Mix well, adding buttermilk and egg. Pour into a loaf pan and bake in a 350 F oven for 45-50 minutes.

This cookbook should be a staple in Southern and Appalachian kitchens, and then probably should be on hand for all preppers and anyone who wants to be prepared to live through an  apocalypse (let's be honest, survival is survival.)

Other baked goods I've marked to try:
  • Corn Cakes
  • Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
  • Arizona's Gingerbread (Arizona is a person)
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Honey Tea Cakes
  • Molasses Cookies
  • Vanilla Wafers
The revised edition comes out September 16, 2019, and I thank the publisher for providing me an early copy for review.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies (gluten-free, grain-free)

We recently visited a local bakery, The Bakery off Augusta, and bought a few items to try. As we were leaving we snagged samples of a chocolate cookie that ended up being super delicious. The woman at the cash register said they were gluten free and only had four ingredients! So I stood there and said, hmm, chocolate, nuts, sugar, and eggs?

And that's when I knew I had to figure out how to make these chewy gooey cookies.

It didn't take long to find the likely recipe online, although it has five ingredients (also vanilla.) I think these are made for Passover because they contain no flour or leavening. I was most intrigued by the mixing method, which takes advantage of the egg whites to thicken the cookie batter and add structure to the cookies.

François Payard’s Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies Recipe 
As seen on Food Republic
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Serving Size: 12 4-inch cookies


1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt
2 3/4 cups walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Place a rack each in the upper and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. 
  3. Combine the cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, salt and walnuts in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute. 
  4. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg whites and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has slightly thickened. Do not overmix it, or the egg whites will thicken too much. 
  5. With a 2-ounce cookie or ice cream scoop or a generous tablespoon, scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, to make cookies that are 4 inches in diameter. Scoop 5 cookies on each pan, about 3 inches apart so that they don’t stick when they spread. If you have extra batter, wait until the first batch of cookies is baked before scooping the next batch. 
  6. Put the cookies in the oven, and immediately lower the temperature to 320°F. 
  7. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until small thin cracks appear on the surface of the cookies. Switch the pans halfway through baking. 
  8. Pull the parchment paper with the cookies onto a wire cooling rack, and let cool completely before removing the cookies from the paper. 
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 
Notes from JennyBakes:

I feel my version was lumpier and less refined than the bakery's but I will tweak a few things next time - more finely chopped nuts, maybe mixed slightly less, maybe more manual spreading of the batter, which kept its shape from how it was placed on the cookie sheet. I think I may have underbaked them a bit, since mine were thicker. The bottoms were nicely baked but inside was more gooey than chewy, not so much that it was gross, but definitely borderline.

I'm also curious about trying this with different nuts. I think this recipe is dying to be made from Oregon hazelnuts! Also instead of Dutch-processed cocoa I used cocoa powder from my co-worker Libby who brought it to me from Ecuador!