French Baguettes

Mmm, I love me some homemade bread.

Yes, it’s true; I have a yeast love affair.  When I was a child (seriously, a kid, not a teenager) I would bake amazing bread for my family every week.  I have no idea what kind it was, only that it was from a starter that my mother received from a friend.  I baked bread every week until finally I rebelled.  No more bread.  I needed time to torment my little sister and bread making was getting in my way!

Now my house is quiet.  Other than Better Half and our cat, I have no one to torment, so I bake more frequently.  Better Half adores bread, homemade pizza, etc., so I try to do something yeasty at least once a week or so.

Last night we had dear friends over for wicked card playing and Frogmore Stew (OMG-love shrimp and tators!) so I baked two trusty lovely, crunchy baguettes.  My baguette pan holds two loaves, therefore, that’s the recipe I devised.  Two lovely fresh loaves.  Enjoy!

French Baguettes (two)

3½ cups KAF Artisan Flour (or all-purpose)
2¼ teaspooons active dry yeast
½ rounded teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup warm water
Optional for shiny crust: 1 egg white beaten w/ 2 teaspoons water

In mixer (again, I’m using my trusty KitchenAid), mix together 1 cup flour, yeast, and salt.  Add water, honey, and olive oil and beat for approximately 2 minutes.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Switching to kneading blade, add remaining flour and knead on low speed for approximately 6 minutes (scraping side of bowl to incorporate flour, if needed) until the dough is stiff, smooth and elastic.  Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning dough over to coat.  Cover with clean towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled (approx. 2 hours).

Lightly oil baguette pan.  Punch down dough and knead by hand for approximately 30 seconds.  Divide dough in half and roll each half into a long rope almost the size of your baguette pan and place in pan.  Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).

Preheat over to 375°.  If you would like a shiny crust, brush the egg white/water mixture lightly over your dough.  Using scissors or sharp knife, cut slashes into dough.  Bake loaves approximately 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and does not yield to pressure.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Or in my house, remove from pan, break open loaf, slather with butter and place in pie-hole.

For more yeast love, check out the über cool blog: YeastSpotting!

Blueberry Lemon Biscuit Scones

I have a secret.

I’m a lousy breakfast cook.  I don’t know why, but eggs, pancakes; basically all traditional breakfast food, seem to elude me and my spatula.   I do have a few things that I cook well, like amazing homemade waffles in my 50 year-old waffle maker, breakfast casseroles are easy, and seriously, my sausage gravy rocks (when I don’t curdle it).  But ask me for an omelet or scrambled eggs, and good luck.  Better Half makes the omelets and pancakes in our household.  Yum.  When lovely daughter was little he would make her Barbie pancakes—not for her, for Barbie!

This little gem is one of my no-fail, always impresses recipes.  I make it from start to finish in my KitchenAid mixer (no hand kneading for me!), but I realize most people make biscuits or scones without the need of a machine.  I just love my KitchenAid!

These are so darn good with lemon curd.  I’ve even varied the recipe to make orange coconut biscuit scones, but that’s another recipe for another blog post.

Blueberry Lemon Biscuit Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
⅓ cup shortening
1 beaten egg
¾ cup milk
½ teaspoon lemon extract
¾ cup blueberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
2 tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar

Preheat oven to 400°.  In large bowl or mixer, combine first 6 ingredients and cut in shortening.  Add egg, milk, and extract to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Add blueberries and knead about 6 times.  Place dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and pat into a circle about 9” wide.  Using pizza cutter, cut into wedges (but do not move the wedges).  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Re-cut wedges and serve with lemon curd.

Black & Tan Brownies

Oh my, oh my.  I needed a dessert, but I wasn’t feeling too great, so I knew I wasn’t up to being too creative.  There’s where my fav ‘lil baker comes in; let’s here it for the boy:  King Arthur.  King Arthur Flour that is.  It’s my favorite foodie place of all great foodie-love places, and every time I try one of their recipes, it never fails me.  Plus, I’m a sucker for their flours.  I read their catalogs like a 16 y/o male reads Victoria Secret’s catalog.  If only I lived in Vermont and didn’t have to pay shipping costs.  Sigh…  Here is their recipe, but with my tweaks (in red) to change it from KAF’s Fudge Brownies to my Black and Tan Brownies.

Black & Tan Brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa Black Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 cups chocolate chips 12 oz. brick of 36% cocoa, coarsely chopped (pic below)
Homemade caramel sauce (click here for my earlier recipe)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan

2) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.

3) While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.

4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.

5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.  For tan chocolate to show yes, let batter cool.

6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.

7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

8) Drizzle caramel sauce over brownies.  Now sing its praises!

coarsely chopped chocolate

Apple Cranberry Crostata

Still jonzing for fall. . . .  Better Half was craving grilled chops and while I toyed with making an apple cider/maple glaze for the chops to satisfy my need for all things fall-like, I realized Better Half is a meat purist, so a fall dessert using crisp apples would be better.  (Okay, I really, really like dessert and it has nothing to do with Better Half being a meat purist, even if there is such a thing, blah, blah).  Hence, Apple Cranberry Crostata.

Apple Cranberry Crostata

1 prepared pie crust
3 crisp apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼″ slices
(tossed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning, if you like)
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  Center pie crust on baking stone or sheet.  Mix sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and toss with apples to coat.  Arrange apples in a circle on pie crust, leaving a 2″ border free.  Add cranberries on top of apple slices.  Gently fold edges of pie crust over filling.  Dot filling with butter and drizzle with cream.  Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Enjoy with ice cream or fresh-whipped cream.

And please pray for fall.  I really need it, and secretly you know you want it too.

Caramel Cake

Nirvana, Heaven, Sublime…  I’m not going to lie (again, because lying is bad for karma).  This is an amazing slice of supremeness (real word?) to put in your cake-hole.  I saw this recipe in Food & Wine and knew that I had to bake it.  Correction:  Had. To. Eat. It.

It is a little time-consuming.  I suggest making the three cake layers the day before and making the caramel icing the next day.  The reasons are that it does take a while to get the caramel made and it seriously takes time for the caramel to set up.  I was icing that cake for a long time.  Next time I will let the caramel set up for way longer than 15 minutes.  The caramel between the layers set up fine, but I will not frost the top and sides next time until I know it’s really thick and will set.

Please, do yourself a big cake-love favor and make this cake.  This is one of those cakes that I would pay serious money to just have a slice.  It’s that good.

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