25 May 2013

Bouchon Bakery's Cinnamon Honey Scones

There's nothing like thinking you've developed a way of doing something only to come across someone or something that does it completely differently. In this case, that something is scones, and those someones happen to own a top NYC bakery. While I have always stuck to making dough the day of with grated frozen butter, Thomas Keller has a completely different method in mind using a stand mixer then both refrigerating and freezing the dough after it is made. It's the method of large-scale bakery kitchen production. This recipe for cinnamon honey scones yields a very tender and soft dough marbled with cinnamon-honey in an almost candy or streusal-like way, and comes from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook, and trust me, following his lead, you'll feel like you own a bakery yourself.

One thing to keep in mind. These are. Incredibly. Rich. Midway into your morning you'll realize you should probably have a salad at lunch :) I did a double take at first glance at the recipe, checking the web for correct measurements to verify that a batch of 12 (large) scones did indeed call for two sticks or 8 ounces of butter. I immediately decided to halve the recipe and baked off 3 one day and 3 a few days later. And despite my trepidation at the method, we liked the scones a lot. Their texture is a bit surprising, and not in a bad way at all. What you're getting is a pillow of an inside that is a bit more smooth and biscuit-like, not at all crackly. Eating it reminded me of the biscuits you got at Roy Rogers (aghh) growing up--that same soft fluffy texture inside with crisp outside. 

The few changes I made were subbing sour cream for the creme fraiche, not using cake flour, just reducing some of the all purpose flour by scant two tablespoons, and making an attempt to sneak in a tablespoon of whole wheat flour instead. Because of the way this dough is made, it's a bit less feathery than my other favorite scone. But they are an entity in their own right for sure, and what sets them apart are the marbled streaks of cinnamon-honey mixture. Keller has you mix a bit of butter, honey and cinnamon together into a square, freeze it, and then cut it into chunks to add to the scone batter. In the oven they melt and soften and you bite into cinna-honey dots here and there. It's quite effective.

And the other great thing about these scones turned out to be the thing that concerned me in the beginning: that the dough is frozen. When that turned out to be fine in the chemical outcome I realized the advantage: it's already there. You set the oven to 350 when you get up, get dressed, wash your face, then put them on the sheet pan, take them out a half hour later, brush with honey-butter glaze that takes 2 seconds to heat on the stove, and let them cool. I found that step essential. Resist the urge to eat them piping hot. You need to let them sit for at least 15 minutes, and really, if you can let them go a bit longer than that, you're golden as honey. They don't get dry, they actually stiffen in a good way while maintaining their soft centers.

And one more thing: be sure and read the recipe all the way through first. You'll be best off doing the steps one at a time, over a few days, then bake when you need them. I made the honey cubes one day, the dough the next, then baked them the following. Lastly, I am going to go ahead and list the recipe exactly as it's written here, but note that I ultimately halved it. If you want a larger stash of scones, stick to the original, if you want just 6, halve what you see below, like I did. Don't get too stressed over the strange measurements, just do the best you can. Keller notes that in writing the recipe he had to reduce it a lot because of their usual large-scale production and large industrial mixers. xo MN

Bouchon Bakery's Cinnamon Honey Scones

Cinnamon Honey Cubes:
3 T. (30 g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 T. (30 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. (4 g) ground cinnamon
1 oz (30 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 T. (20 g) clover honey

Plain Scone Dough:
1 cup + 1 1/2 T. (152 g) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups + 2 T. (304 g) cake flour  (MN note: I used all-purpose)
2 1/2 tsp. (12.5 g) baking powder
1/2 tsp. (2.5 g) baking soda
1/4 cup + 3 1/2 T. (91 g) granulated sugar
8 oz (227 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 T. (135 g) heavy cream
1/2 cup + 2 T. (135 g) crème fraîche (MN note: I used sour cream)

Honey Butter Glaze:
3 T. + 2 tsp. (45 g) butter
1 T. (20 g)  honey

For the cinnamon honey cubes: Place flour in a medium bowl. Sift in the sugar and cinnamon and whisk to combine. Toss in the butter cubes, coating them in the dry mixture. Using your fingertips, break up the butter until there are no large visible pieces. Using a spatula, mix in the honey to form a smooth paste.

Press the paste into a 4-inch square on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. (The paste can be frozen up to 1 week.)

For the scones: Place the all purpose flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and sift in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and granulated sugar. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest setting for about 15 seconds to combine. Stop the mixer, add the butter, and on the lowest setting pulse to begin incorporating the butter. Increase the speed to low and mix for about 3 minutes to break up the butter and incorporate it into the dry mixture. If any large pieces of butter remain, stop the mixer, break them up by and, and mix just until incorporated.

With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cream. Add the creme fraiche and mix for about 30 seconds until all the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together around the paddle. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle and pulse again to combine.

Cut the cinnamon honey paste into 1/4-inch cubes. Once the scone dough is mixed, mix in the cubes by hand. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together. Place the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and press it into a 7 1/2-by-10-inch block, smoothing the top. Press the sides of your hands against the sides of the dough to straighten the edges. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper of silpat. Using a chef’s knife, cut the block of dough lengthwise into thirds and then crosswise into quarters. You will have twelve 2 1/2-inch squares. Cover with a plastic wrap and freeze until frozen solid, at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight. (The scones can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (convection) or 350 degrees F (standard). Line a sheet pan with  parchment paper.

Arrange the frozen scones 1 inch apart on the sheet pan. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes in a convection oven, or 28 to 30 minutes in a standard oven, until golden brown. (MN note: I kissed mine under the broiler for a bout a hot second just to get a tad more color on top)

For the glaze: Stir the butter and honey together in a butter warmer or a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter has melted and combined with the honey.

As soon as you remove the scones from the oven, brush the top with the glaze. Cool completely on a rack.

22 May 2013

Barley and Parsley Salad

Yesterday was not a day  you wanted to be cooking in a small apartment at 425 degrees. The only reason I heated my oven was to roast some asparagus for 15 minutes; everything else was to be done on the stove top. And so I found the perfect opportunity to make this salad I've been eying.

Despite my chef crush on Yotam Ottolenghi, I found out about this salad from the lovely Katie. And because its two stars, barley and parsley, are relatively cheap and non-delicate, one may easily overlook the recipe by its name. But I assure you, you don't want to do that. It's a filling, sharp, clean and energizing meal on its own, or a great side in smaller divisions, served with a vegetable and piece of fish or meat.

As the barley cooks, you can prep the rest of the salad components, then you drain and slightly cool the barley and clean up the work station, toss and enjoy.

While Mr. Ottolenghi's recipe is noted to be more about the parsley than the barley, since I was serving this at dinner, I wanted it to be more of a grain salad. Also, I took it as a chance to make a big pot of barley to have on hand for other uses. I also adapted it a bit. I left out the green pepper, za'atar, and subbed chopped toasted almonds for cashews. All in all, his recipe clicked as more of an inspiration than drive for replication, and it was a great way to use up all of the parsley bunch I've been chipping away at.

To get an update on why I should be eating barley without searching the internet, I instead looked on my bookshelf at Alicia Silverstone's Kind Diet vegan cookbook. It was a stroll down memory lane, as I recall posting her pumpkin bread just after I begun this blog. Around a few of the barley recipes in there, Alicia reminds us that barley is great for the skin, feeds friendly bacteria in the intestine, and is also a liver and gallbladder tonic.

Putting olive-oil and cumin-marinated feta on that recipe for health just makes it better. I'll be back in a few days with my rendition on a well-known NY bakery sweet. xo MN

Parsley and Barley Salad
Adapted from Jerusalem
Note: I made adjustments in several places notably doubling the barley and halving the parsley. I account for those changes in this version below. 
1/2 cup pearl barley 
1 cup water + chicken/ or vegetable broth
4 oz feta cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 a large bunch flat-leaf parsley (2-3 bunches), leaves and fine stems, finely chopped
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
3 T almonds lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pearl barley for about 40 minutes, in a combination half water and stock if using, until tender but with a very slight bite. You don't want it mushy or risotto-like. Pour into a fine sieve, shake to remove all the water, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, break feta into rough pieces, mix in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, tand the cumin. Cover and leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the salad. 
Chop the parsley finely and place in a large serving bowl with the green onions, garlic, almonds, lemon juice,  remaining olive oil, and finally, the cooked barley. Mix together well and season with salt and more lemon/oil if desired. Top with the marinated feta.
Serves 2-4.

16 May 2013

Cocoa Brownies

The official title of these brownies is, "Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies" and with a name like that, I wasn't sure what to expect. What classifies a brownie as being the best? Everyone likes it a little different I should imagine. I have previously baked up two brownie recipes on this blog so far, that I liked very much (black bean and cherry almond) but have never made an actual straight up brownie (on here). But here we go. Everything happens at the right time because, I can tell you that I am having a hard time doing anything right now except gushing about how good these are.

I didn't even put nuts in them as I'm inclined to do with almost everything. I wanted them pure and that they are. Their tops will rock your candy-coated dreams, for they form a nice, candy-like thin crisp crust atop while giving way to perfectly chewy centers. They are a more-than ideal afternoon treat.

What makes these brownies different from most other recipes out there is the use of cocoa powder rather than a baking bar (a whole 3/4 cup of it, so if you were wondering what to do with that powder in your cupboard besides sprinkle it on your chocolate bar brownies, rejoice. This uses quite a bit of it.) And that also means less flour, and less of an opportunity to over-mix.

The technique is all pretty nifty (while melting the butter, sugar and cocoa together in a heat-proof bowl in a wide skillet, not bothering with a double boiler and then with the 40 beats/strokes you'll find yourself wondering if you're partaking in an experiment of some sort but, just trust. With Medrich being the dessert expert that she is, I don't have to explain the science behind how this works. With Medrich, you don't ask, you just do. You're a follower.

Except with the baking time on these.

As several other people out there have noted, think about it. You're baking at 325 degrees in a 9-inch pan. In order to set these brownies you must count on baking them an extra ten minutes than the 20-25 called for. I took mine out at 35 bordering 37. I tested with a tester in the center a few times. And I was very glad I did that because, maybe I'm an anomaly here, but I do not like under-baked goods, even brownies. I like them baked as far as they can and should go. But if it's super goey you're after, by all means, stick to the 25. I just like a bit more structure.

Also, you must let these cool completely. You can even send them to the freezer for a bit before cutting. And then, you should cut them with a dinky plastic take-out knife. Because, that is what works. An elegant brownie demands some contrast to deter its knife-clinging nature. Lastly, I baked these off in a 9 inch round pan which worked out just fine being it's the same surface area,. It also meant I could have cut them in wedges. But in the end I opted for baby squares with some half moons on the side. And about that salt sprinkle, I don't think Medrich would mind : )

And on another note: did you ever notice how much iron is in cocoa powder...8% of your "daily need" in a Tablespoon? Well then this entire batch has almost 100% of your daily need of iron. Ahem, that was not a go-ahead to eat the whole pan. But you know what, these are so rich in their little squares you can learn to find pure satisfaction in one or 2. It also helps to keep most of them frozen.

About storage: they were equally delicious and chewy the next day after baking, having been stored at room temperature in a glass container, but I don't know about longer than that. The rest are cut into squares in the freezer, eagerly awaiting their departure.

(click here for a previous Medrich cookie recipe)

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unsifted, measured by stirring briefly, spooning into the measuring cup until it's heaped above the rim, then leveling it with a straight-edged knife or spatula)
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.(MN note: I used a 9 inch round)
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
  4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. (More like 30-35) Let cool completely on a rack.
  5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. (It helps to chill first)

10 May 2013

Green Dinner Pasta Salad

Inspiration always strikes with just a few choices, doesn't it? Left with a few spoonfuls of fresh pesto, a small hunk of mozzarella, about 3 handfuls of farmer's market arugula and enough roasted asparagus in a jar to round out a dinner, I started thinking green pasta. By the time the water boils and the pasta is cooked, you can prep all the accompaniments. And when I realized I'd prefer to serve it cooled to room temperature alongside a glass of white wine on a humid May evening, I decided that that was in order. So I dallied in the process, not bothering to keep the dish warm, instead popping it, covered in the fridge for a few minutes, before placing it on the table while I washed the pot and pan and made it look like nothing had happened in this kitchen. Things always taste better when you've already cleaned up the mess.

And that is the beauty of the pasta salad.

A few notes on this salad that set it apart from the old P & V (pasta with veggies): you're going for the green in triplicate here which delivers lots of punch in flavor: pureed in pesto, chopped in asparagus and torn in arugula. Salt your water well and save a little to thin out the pesto with so you can coat the pasta. Feel free to of course throw in more pesto if you have it but I just wanted it to be 1/3 of the equation. I think fresh mozzarella and a little diced tomato make everything cool even cooler especially since it won't melt into the sauce here.

 Green Dinner Pasta Salad
serves 2 heartily, 4 as a side

1/2 lb fusilli
3 dollops pesto*
10 asparagus spears
pinch red pepper flakes
Few chives, diced
Few swipes lemon zest
1/2 inch of a white part of a scallion, chopped
olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper
lemon juice
3 handfuls arugula
2 inch hunk fresh mozzarella
1/2 small tomato, diced

Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. Reserve a bit of water, drain pasta, toss a glug oil with it and let it cool on a sheet pan, spread out. Mix some of the water, just a bit at a time, with the pesto to thin it a bit. you're looking for a yogurt consistency.

Meanwhile toss asparagus with salt, oil and roast in a 400 degree oven, about 15 minutes, until tender, toss with red pepper flakes, then let cool and chop into thirds.

In a large serving bowl, combine chopped asparagus, chives, scallion, zest, a spoonful of pesto, half the pasta. Stir, then add a bit of the arugula, then more pasta, more pesto, until you've used everything and then add 1/2 the mozzarella. Squeeze a bit of lemon and olive oil over it, coarse salt if desired, toss once more, and finish with tomato, reserved cheese and pepper. Let stand at room temperature or chill. 

(If you do chill long, you may need to pour in a tad more oil or pasta water to loosen the pasta a bit)

For Pesto: Combine a cup chopped basil leaves, a small handful chopped toasted nuts and a few spoonfuls oil, a squeeze lemon and blend in a food processor or immersion blender. Season with salt and add a handful cheese if desired (I didn't here)

07 May 2013

Baked Feta

I'm popping in for a quick hello today in lieu of a Monday mashup (um and yes, I know it's Tuesday) and sharing a recipe. I hope you'll find it a fitting alterna-plan : )

On the feta. I'm going to, perhaps state the obvious: you should bake feta. It's my new obsession and here's why: Pretty much anything roasted at 425 degrees in the oven with a bit of oil turns to gold, right? The same is true with this cheese. A crumbly and zesty topper/accomplice (yes, feta is a total accomplice to things that need tang, salt and bite, isn't it?) is transformed into a strong stunner in itself when it emerges from the oven a little dressed up like this.

The recipe I'll share today couldn't be simpler. Perhaps you've walked in the door in yoga clothes and want lunch prepared (for you?) while you rinse off or come home from a long day and want to put a side dish on the table while you figure out the rest of a meal. But actually, toast some crusty bread (I picked up a local loaf at Gourmet Garage yesterday, who was having a special) and dress some greens and you've got yourself a lunch or substantial dinner side.

A few things here. You can dress up your cheese however you want. Deb at Smitten has done a version with halved cherry tomatoes. But here I am keeping it simple with black olives and lemon zest. I pepper in a bit of basil at the end for an herby note.

And on another note: I've noticed that it doesn't quite matter the thickness of the cut of your cheese, just check after 10 minutes, and be sure to let it cool a few minutes before eating.

Baked Feta

Hunk of feta
4-5 olives kalmata, chopped
Olive oil for drizzling
Zest of 1/4 to 1/2 a lemon + squeeze of juice
Herbs of choice (I used basil, torn)

Bread for accompaniment 

Oven to 425
Set a hunk of feta, or slice a few pieces and place, in an oven-safe baking dish. Drizzle with oil, olives, zest, torn herbs, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Top with a drizzle lemon juice and rest of herbs. Let cool a few moments and enjoy with bread.

04 May 2013

Feathery Currant Scones

Today I bring you a soft-textured, most feathery scone thanks to a combination of ingredients and technique. Currant-flecked, orange scented and crisp on the outside while soft, layered and feathery on the inside, this is a breakfast pastry that begs to be split open in the center like a biscuit and spread with a tad (more?!) butter, honey or jam. Or if you're a purist, nothing for that matter. They are quite nice as they are.
The last time I posted on scones, what I was mostly after was what you see below, except I was trying to get to that using a different recipe in the efforts to be "lighter" about it. In those scone variations, egg helps cut the amount of cream and butter used. But this scone here is eggless. And it also has less leavening agents. When I first read the ingredient list from the meticulous Rose Levy Berenbaum, calling for cream, butter, flour, minimal leavening agents and a more assertive and mandatory folding instruction, I fretted, wondering if I was just giving myself more trouble deviating from the basic formula I'd understood and executed from memory: egg, half and half and butter. 

And yet the result difference was obvious here: a scone with egg and/or buttermilk would indeed be "cakier" while one without it would be more biscuit-like. They each produce something worth enjoying over a cup of joe, it all just depends on preference and if you care enough, authenticity. But once I saw those feathers in the center there on this batch, I fell hard. Due to the way it was built and strengthened through specific attention, this was a scone prone to rising (but not so much that it toppled over). And though created through restriction in a sense, its insides are as soft as cotton.

What's most important here is what is important always in scones: cold butter, and this is such an important issue that I did "deviate" a bit from the ingredient list and went ahead and froze the butter to grate into the flour. That helps insure that the butter doesn't melt as you mix it into the flour and keeps colder longer before it hits the oven. But also, do fold the dough as instructed. And once you start that you'll realize there's quite a bit of leeway if you use this technique to avoid "overhandling."

For me it helps to think about it like this: most scone recipes call for "kneading" the dough "just a few times" before shaping it to cut and bake. Well what on earth does that mean? It does not mean grab it with your hands and squeeze it... I know that, so I translated that into folding. When you dump out the dough as instructed, push on it a bit and fold it over itself. That's kneading in scones. Once you fold it over itself a few times, even if it's cracking, it eventually becomes a square and you are to fold it over itself 3-4x. Run with that. I should mention that because I'm me, I used a tablespoon of whole wheat flour in addition to the cup of all purpose (recipe calls for 1 c + 1 T flour). I think going beyond that is pushing it if you want this feathery result. Also, I divided Rose's original recipe by 4! I only wanted to make 4 scones, not 16. And lastly, I used Hecker's flour, which has a lower protein content (lower gluten) and produces a tad more tender of a pastry.

 Feathery Currant Scones
Adapted from The Bread Bible
Makes 4

Needed: Pastry scraper/brush, box grater

1/2 stick butter (4 T) frozen overnight
1 c + 1 T All Purpose flour (MN note: I used 1 c Heckers AP flour, + 1 T whole wheat flour)
2 T sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/8 t baking soda
scant 1/8 t salt
1/2 c heavy cream (preferably organic or good quality)
1/4 c currants
Pinch orange zest
Pinch Turbinado sugar + extra cream for brushing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a baking sheet in there a few minutes after you do. Grate the frozen butter on the large holes of a box grater and set it back in the freezer in plastic wrap while you prep the other ingredients. 

Sift flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in medium bowl, and set in the freezer. 

Measure out your cream and currants, set in fridge.

Toss the butter into the flour mix and work in just ever so lightly, mostly coating the flakes. Add the zest and currants. Add the cream and stir a few times with a spatula to moisten. Try to moisten as much as possible (look for clumps). There may be some unincorporated mass, it's ok. Dump it all onto a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. With your hand and a pastry scraper, push down from top and in from the side with the scraper on all sides to encourage square-shape. Using the plastic and scraper as helper, fold dough over itself like a book. Rotate dough 90 degrees. Flatten/pat from top and push from side again. Do this about 2 or 3 more times.

Shape into a rectangle scant 1 inch high. Brush top with a little cream and sprinkle with Turbinado. Set this, on the plastic, keeping flat, into the freezer while you grab a piece of parchment and line the preheated pan with it. Take the pan out of the oven and working quickly, take the dough out of the freezer, use the pastry scraper to cut in half into 2 squares, then each square into a triangle. Carefully, with a small offset spatula, lift each scone onto the parchment, set 1 inch apart and bake 15-20 minutes (I let mine go to 20). The tops and bottoms should be golden brown.

Cool the scones at least 10 minutes on a wire rack wrapped lightly in a clean kitchen towel. This is super-effective as the towel breathes while keeping the scones warm-ish. You'll be thankful you waited those 10-15 minutes as they really set nicely in the towel.