Two weeks ago, one of my dear middle school friends visited from France with her husband and adorable 11 month-old baby. We hosted them for dinner on a weeknight so making a meal from scratch seemed too daunting a task, especially with my hectic work schedule these past few weeks. We brainstormed good take-out options and decided to order from our favorite Indian restaurant, Royal Taj, a place that we’ve visited on a couple occasions with Indian friends. Then Dave had another brilliant idea – I would make the naan for the meal. How perfect was it that the next TWD recipe happened to be naan?
This naan is called Oasis Naan in Baking with Julia. I tried to search for the origin of the name but did not come up with anything. I made the dough the night before and let it rise in the fridge. I had a bit of trouble shaping the dough and may not have prickled it enough before baking. As you can see, mine are quite puffy while the ones photographed in the book are much flatter. They were still very tasty but likely more hearty than intended (although it seems that for many other TWD bloggers these came out thicker than in the book as well) and made for a very fine vessel to scoop up all the curries we had that night.
Hello! Sorry this is a bit late. Between weekend travels and work projects I did not find the time to post this yesterday. This week’s TWD recipe: Pecan Sticky Buns using Nancy Silverton’s brioche dough.
I’ve talked about this brioche dough before so the recipe didn’t look so scary to me despite the many steps. After three rises, and LOTS of butter, you end up with these lovely little buns. I only made one batch (one pan, seven buns), and drastically cut the amount of butter down like a lot of my fellow bloggers. Definitely not as decadent and sticky but they still tasted pretty darn buttery.
This might be my favorite TWD recipe to date. Crumbly buttery dough with flecks of salt that linger on your tongue. A bit of jelly in the middle for a note of acidity. Dusts of powdered sugar for fun and aesthetics. This is one pretty amazing shortbread bar.
The secret to this shortbread’s texture comes from its unusual method of freezing and grating the dough (using a cheese grater). The original recipe calls for rhubarb jam but you can use any preserves you’d like. Since we don’t eat jam or preserves very much, all I had in my pantry was a jar of marula jelly I’d brought from my trip to Namibia last year. It seemed like the perfect occasion to finally open it.
[Disclaimer: this is not the lemon loaf cake from this week’s TWD. Orange Cardamom Cheese Pound Cake.]
This week’s TWD recipe is an easy-peasy lemon loaf cake. Initial reviews on the TWD blog site seemed mixed; most people found it dry and/or lacking in lemon flavor. Since I had just baked a pound cake not too long ago (pictured above), I didn’t feel particularly excited about this one either at first. But the technique used here is a bit different from other pound cakes and while my first pound cake was fairly good, it was also quite dense and erred on the drier side. So I was eager to learn a different technique as I wanted to achieve a lighter texture while keeping the cake tight as pound cakes should be.
Most pound cake recipes will have you cream the butter with sugar first, before adding in the eggs and finally the dry ingredients. The shape and size of your sugar crystals may actually matter in getting that lighter texture. You see, our leavening agent, i.e. baking powder, releases carbon dioxide as it comes into contact with liquids. This carbon dioxide needs a place to go and that’s where the air pockets that your sugar has made in the butter creaming process come in. When your batter heats up, bubbles form, the moisture from the cake creates steam and the air pockets get filled leading to the seemingly magical rise of your cake. So you need sugar that will cut through the butter properly and create appropriate air pockets. This also means that you need to make sure you start with soft butter and that you cream the butter thoroughly. Adding more baking powder won’t necessarily do you good; overleavening can make the bubbles run to the top and pop, and you still won’t get that wonderful rise.
This week’s TWD recipe is Pizza Rustica, a recipe from Nick Malgieri. I had never heard of Pizza Rustica and I always like to learn new things so I was really looking forward to trying this. Pizza Rustica is not a traditional pizza, as you’ve deduced from the photo. Some people say that it’s like an Italian quiche, I would say that it’s more like a tourte since two layers of dough encrust the filling.
Pizza Rustica, a traditional Italian savory pie, is typically eaten at Easter (don’t you love that the TWD team gives us recipes that keep with the calendar?). It uses a ricotta base mixed with several cheeses and cured and/or fresh meats. I’ve seen recipes with Italian sausage, prosciutto, mortadella, sopressatta, ham, along with parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino romano. Some recipes even call for boiled eggs. This all depends on which region of Italy the Pizza Rustica comes from. In many recipes, the ingredients are layered but in the Neapolitan version, the ingredients are simply chopped and mixed together, like in Nick Malgieri’s version.
I mentioned in my first post that I joined Tuesdays With Dorie because of this whole concept of community learning. So after my first TWD baking experience, I was looking forward to reading other bloggers’ comments on the recipe. I decided it would be nice to do a sort of lessons learned post afterwards. So here’s what I learned from fellow bloggers.
The majority of TWDers loved the bread although some thought the basic recipe was too plain. Most bloggers actually altered the recipe, with the addition of raisins, currants (both often soaked in some kind of liquor) and/or carraway seeds the most common. Another common addition was that of cheese. Delectable Delights with Rebecca recommends adding about 2 cups of grated cheese to Baking with Julia‘s base recipe. Some other people also used a mix of whole weat and regular all-purpose flour in order to obtain a more wholesome loaf.
My favorite variant came from The Double Trouble Kitchen. She added sundried tomatoes, rosemary and sprinkled it with sea salt and black pepper. Salt plus pepper, a common flavor profile in Chinese cuisine, is pretty much a sure winning combination in my book (incidentally, Costco sells these amazing salt and pepper pistachios that we’re addicted to).
But what I love most is the learning of techniques, tips and tricks. And this time, I learned that if you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can easily substitute it with one of several things:
This week’s TWD recipe is Irish Soda Bread, in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day this past weekend (did you do anything fun?).
The bread gets its name from its use of, well what else, baking soda. As a researcher by day, I like to learn about the origin of different types of foods and how they evolved over time. According to this article, baking in Ireland has been influenced by two main factors. The first one being the Irish climate, which is much more temperate than other European countries and thus prevented hard wheats from growing properly. Hard wheats have high gluten content and are thus suitable for being raised with yeast. Soft wheats on the other hand do grow well in Ireland but contain less gluten than hard wheats (American all-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheats). The second factor was the abundance of fuel such as firewood. This meant that every household could bake at home instead of using a communal oven.
These two factors contributed to the Irish baker using baking soda, or ‘bread soda’ in Ireland, as the main leavening agent. And traditionally this soda bread was baked in a pot (called a bastible) over the fire rather than in an oven. I also learned from this interesting interview with Irish chef Rory O’Connell that Irish soda bread in America is quite different from the one you can find in Ireland as the addition of butter and eggs, which is common in the U.S., would raise eyebrows over there.
A couple months ago, I got struck by inspiration. I had just brought pearl sugar back from France, imported specifically to make my beloved chouquettes. A recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated (one of my all-time favorite magazines) had featured a recipe for croissants. And while perusing La Tartine Gourmande’s archives, I came across her brioche recipe. Like Beatrice Peltre, brioche is probably my favorite viennoiserie along with pains aux raisins. And the recipe looked so simple, so accessible.
It never occurred to me that I could make my favorite French viennoiseries, pastries and breads in my own kitchen at home. Any of my close non-French friends can tell you that I am somewhat of a dessert snob. I despise overly sweet American desserts, don’t care much for cupcakes and frosting, lament the state of croissants and eclairs in this country, and generally speaking would rather go for savory snacks rather than sweet ones. But I love French baked goods. And if I could really make them at home, why not?