Monday, November 27, 2017

Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns and Thanksgiving 2017

Sometimes I linger over a recipe, waiting for the right time to make it, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen's recipe for chocolate tahini challah buns has been one of those. Last December I made chocolate tahini cookies and thought they were delicious, so I was curious how that flavor combination would do in this challah bun configuration. My husband and I eat low-sugar most of the time, and sometimes on holidays we overdo it on the sweet department and feel less than great for the holidays. So I was also interested because Deb mentions that the dough, being challah instead of cinnamon roll dough, is less rich, and that overall they are not super sweet. I decided this might be the perfect Thanksgiving breakfast for us, and also went light on the glaze.

Pictured: buns before glaze (I used the orange juice version.)

I liked these okay. I am a bit out of practice with yeast and feel like the dough wasn't as risen as I wanted it to be, but true to form for most Thanksgiving Eves I had waited longer than I intended to start them and I was impatient.

I did go up through all the steps up to placing the cut rolls in the pan, and then stuck the pan covered in the fridge, already with egg wash.

In the morning, it was Nathaniel's day to get up early with the dogs so he took the pan out and they sat around for an hour before I baked them.

I used bittersweet chocolate because I had a bar of it leftover from a previous baking project that was exactly the right amount. I would say that the type of chocolate you choose will heavily influence whether or not the rolls are received as sweet or not; with bittersweet they really aren't very sweet at all. I did notice that the chocolate burns a bit cooking so long in the bun, and I'm not sure how to avoid that fate.

I'm going to copy and paste her recipe here, but only because I worry about it disappearing, and know it's okay to do so with a recipe based on USA copyright law. But this recipe is not mine, and you should buy her cookbooks, because she does a lot of recipe testing until a dish is right! And if you follow my many links to her recipe, you will see step by step directions. I have erased the metric measurements because some of the comments on her blog said they were incorrect, and she may update them, so check back there.

Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
Source: Smitten Kitchen


2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or another neutral oil, or melted butter
2/3 cup milk or water, plus an additional tablespoon if needed
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the counter
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
Butter or nonstick spray for baking pan

Filling and assembly

4 ounces dark (semi- or bittersweet) chocolate (or approximately 3/4 cup chocolate chips)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold is fine
Scant 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup tahini, well-stirred
1 large egg, beaten
Sesame seeds

Glaze (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon or orange juice

Make dough: Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, oil and milk or water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl. Add flour, yeast and salt and combine with dough hook until it comes together, then let machine knead it for 5 to 7 minutes. Oil a large bowl and let dough rise in it at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until slightly shy of doubled. 
 Were your ingredients really cold? This is fine, but if so, it might take 30 to 45 minutes longer. You can speed this process along by turning your oven on to 150 degrees F and turning it off and then placing bowl the dough inside. Keep an eye on it because it will rise more quickly.
Butter a 9×13-inch or equivalent size baking dish, or coat it with nonstick spray.

Make filling: Melt butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and tahini; mixture should be a spreadable consistency. [New note:] If your filling is thin, pop it in the fridge or freezer (if freezer, keep a very close eye on it) for a few minutes to let it thicken a bit.

Assemble buns: On a very well-floured counter, roll out dough into a rectangle about 18 inches wide (side facing you) and as far away from you (i.e. length) as it comfortably goes, usually 12 to 15 inches. Dollop chocolate mixture over and spread it smooth. Roll dough in a tight spiral.
Cut log very gently — it’s going to be a soft mess, use a sharp serrated knife, sewing thread works well here too — into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch segments. Arrange cut side up in prepared pan. Beat egg in small bowl. Brush tops of buns and tops of sides with egg and cover with plastic wrap. You can either fefrigerate overnight, along with leftover egg wash or leave it at room temperature to proof for another 60 to 90 minutes, until puffed a bit.

Bake buns: If in fridge, remove buns from fridge and let warm up for 30 minutes before baking. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tops tops of sides with egg with egg wash again (I forgot and skipped the sides, which is why they are pale in the photos) and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 minutes, until bronzed all over and buns have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Let cool slightly before serving.

To glaze (optional): If using glaze, whisk ingredients until smooth. You can drizzle this over the buns or serve it alongside with a spoon. If drizzling over, it’s best to let the buns almost fully cool before putting it on or it may melt off.


Just a brief note about the rest of our Thanksgiving meal - I made dishes that were lightly influenced by Native American recipes. We had salmon with potlatch spices, roasted root vegetables with a mustard seed vinaigrette (from the Mitsitam cookbook), wajapi made from cranberries and blueberries, fry bread, and apricot juice. Many traditional cookbooks had "apricot drink" made from "field apricots" but I don't even really understand what those are! It was a delicious meal and not too heavy, just the two of us.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gluten-free, Grain-free Pumpkin Waffles

I looked at some protein waffles, paleo waffles, and various other pumpkin waffle recipes online and decided to make up my own. These were tasty and the morning after I made them, we all agreed we should have just made these pumpkin waffles again!

Pumpkin Waffles (grain-free, gluten-free)

¾ cup rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup coconut sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix everything together and make waffles.  (Some waffle recipes separate the eggs and fold beaten egg whites into the rest but I didn't care that much and they were good anyway!)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Carrot Cake Truffles (aka Dealing with Cake Disasters)

Let's face it, even if you've been baking forever, and feel like you know how to properly grease a pan, sometimes a series of choices and events beyond your control will cause a delicious cake to refuse to release from a pan in one piece. In my case, I started baking at 8, I didn't wait for the browned butter to cool, I hadn't properly greased the pan, and when I started to unmold it after it had cooled 10 minutes, it was not even budging an inch,.

Here's the marvelous carrot cake from The Artful Baker, or rather, the pan after I finally got the majority of the cake out.

Suffice to say, I did not salvage the cake in one servable chunk. I decided early on to make either a cake trifle or cake truffles but I was really short on time prior to the evening I had volunteered to bring dessert.

So my first strategy was to cut the largest pieces down into mini cakes that were roughly the same size, put a dollop of cream cheese icing on each, and sprinkle on some pecans. The cake recipe was delicious so they were tasty, and after a filling meal, the little cake bites were a nice size.

I still had the pieces I cut from these mini cakes and a bowl of crumbs salvaged from the inner workings of the rose pan, so with these I made a smaller batch of carrot cake truffles. This is easy, you just have to have time for the various stages to firm up. I'm going to put the official recipe below but real talk, I used canned frosting and Ghiradelli white chocolate melts and those were the only ingredients I bothered with. I had to cover a few of the truffles twice in order to stick pecans to them as the Ghiradelli melts reset incredibly quickly.

These are overly sweet for my tastes, more white chocolate than carrot cake. But they may be to some people's tastes, so I will bring them to work with me and see what happens.

But this strategy could work with any cake failure, with any flavor of icing and a chocolate candy coating. A former co-worker used to make delicious oreo truffles in a similar way and people loved them!

Carrot Cake Truffles
(as seen on the Inspired by Charm blog, and let me tell you, you should check out their photos and process because they are beautiful and perfect!)

Makes about 40 truffles

Here's what you will need:

1 prepared carrot cake (13x9" pan, no frosting)
1 cup cream cheese frosting (recipe here)
1 bag (12 ounces) pure white candy melts
1 bar (4 ounces) white chocolate baking bar, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable shorting (Crisco)
1 cup orange candy melts
Carrot sugar candies, optional

In a large bowl, crumble the carrot cake with your hands. Using a spatula, stir in about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Add more as needed. The mixture should stay together when rolled into a ball, but not be overly sticky.

Roll the cake mixture into 1-inch balls. Set the cake balls on a plate and refrigerate until cool, about 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add the white candy melts, white chocolate, and vegetable shortening. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each until melted.

Dip the cooled cake balls into the melted white chocolate mixture and coat completely. Set on wax paper and allow chocolate to set completely.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the orange candy melts by microwaving them at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.

Add the melted orange candy melts to a piping bag or plastic baggie. (Use caution if using a plastic bag. If your melted candy is too warm, it can cause the bag to break.) Cut a small tip off one corner of the bag and drizzle the melted candy onto the coated cake balls. Top with a carrot sugar candy, if desired.

Once the candy coating is completely set, pack and store the truffles in an air-tight container.