Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Buttermilk honey dough and resurfacing from under that white stuff

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photo taken exactly one week ago

There are a zillion reasons why I dearly love the two dudes I work for. One of them is how they handle the holidays. Typically, this time of year is not in any way merry for us restaurant employees. We are working our asses off while the rest of the world spends time with their friends and families.
Luckily for my co-workers and I, our employers cut us all a generous holiday bonus check and close both the restaurants down from the 23rd to the 2nd.
We all think they are completely bat shit crazy to do this, as they are missing out on some serious revenue, but we don't exactly complain about it.

During last year's closure I was little miss productive. This year, not so much. First of all, anyone living in the Northwest knows about last week's snow apocalypse.
And before any of your east coasters start in on how we are a bunch of pussies, let me just stop you right there.
Yes. We are a bunch of pussies. However, we are not used to this kind of weather and most of us are not confident driving in it. Then we get the "outsiders", immigrants from Vermont or Wisconsin or whatever, who think they are "experienced snow drivers". They get really cocky behind the wheel of their front wheel drive Honda, forgetting that Seattle is NOT FLAT. We are a city comprised of several neighborhoods, most of which are on their own ginormous hill. I happen to live on one of the biggest ones: Queen Anne Hill, which they had to close down completely. Did that stop the cheese heads from going around the road closed sign? Of course not. They can just drive around it, as unlike these local nimrods, cheese head is an "experienced snow driver". Oh wait...cheese head forgot that Seattle does not salt the roads either. Chaos ensues. Parked cars get smashed into, etc.

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Crisis '08!

Needless to say, we were snowed in and we both became ill with cabin fever. Even walking to the grocery store was not exactly safe. The hill was so iced up that falling on ones ass was bound to happen at least a dozen times.

So, we watched a ton of movies and several old episodes of The A-Team, I got over halfway through a 1000 page historical novel about Cleopatra and I did a lot of baking. I even took pictures of all my baking with the full intention to blog all of it. Did I feel like sitting at the computer for any of this down time? No not at all. I can't explain it, but blogging was the last thing on earth I wanted to do.

But, of course, now that the snow is nearly gone and I am free to go out and about- I'm ready to sit down and share some of these recipes with you. Yes, I am a strange bird.

When the snow first started falling, Trevor asked if I might be willing to make him "those little ham roll thingies" and "while I'm at it, what about cinnamon rolls? It's the same dough, right? Puuuleeeeease?"

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Yes, it is the same miraculous buttermilk honey dough. It comes from Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Bible. It's just a perfect white bread dough. Delicious when baked into a loaf and smeared with a little butter and honey. Even better when used for cinnamon rolls, or Trev's fave: Ham and cheddar rolls.

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For the ham rolls, roll the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle generously with sharp cheddar cheese (I like Tillamook). Then lay out several slices of good deli ham. Top with a little more shredded cheese and chopped sage. Roll up like Cinnamon rolls, and slice into medallions. Allow the rolls to proof in a warm spot for about 40 minutes. Then bake at 375 for about 20 minutes. For cinnamon rolls it's the same idea. Roll dough into a rectangle, brush with lots of melted butter. Sprinkle generously with a blend of brown sugar and cinnamon (I never use a recipe for either of these rolls, sorry I can't be exact). Once the cinnamon rolls come out of the oven, make a glaze by whisking powdered sugar and buttermilk together and pour it over the rolls while they are still hot.

Here is the recipe, and I promise my next post will be lighter on the yakity yak and heavier on the content. Pinky swear.

Buttermilk Honey Dough from The Bread Bible
makes 12 cinnamon or ham rolls or 2 9-by-5 inch loaves

3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 T active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, warmed slightly
2 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T honey
1 T salt
6 to 6 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Pour the water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to combine and let stand at room temp until foamy- about 10 minutes.

Add the buttermilk, butter, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat hard with the paddle attachment to combine. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a shaggy dough is formed. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 3-4 minutes, or until the dough is springy. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead briefly by hand.

Place dough into a greased bowl (I just use pan spray). Turn the dough once to grease the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Gently deflate dough and form into desired shape, or follow above roll instructions. Allow to rise again for 40 minutes, then bake.

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cinnamon rolls were devoured before a photo shoot could take place.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not your grandmother's bread pudding

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warm gingerbread pudding with meyer lemon chantilly

It's not that I forgot to blog for the last two weeks. It's just that my stoopid computer caught one of those trojan virus thingys and was at the computer doctor for a week. Then I was lazy for a few days.
It's fixed and life/my blog may return to it's regularly scheduled programming.

Let's talk bread pudding, shall we? I first developed my geriatric-like obsession for this dessert (because, lets face it. The vast majority of those who ordered this dessert were of The Greatest Generation) while I was working at this little bakery in high school. It was a simple affair, made from the leftover cinnamon, orange, and pecan rolls. The combination of flavors from each roll was amazing. Caramel, cinnamon, and orange. All bound together with a very gently sweetened custard. The occasional pecan or golden raisin would pop up every other bite or so- but never obtrusively, for as a general rule, I am anti-raisin in bread pudding.

I have since eaten many other forms of this dessert made with brioche, cake, croissants, and plain old white sandwich bread. Some have been lovely (I once worked with a pastry chef that made a version using dried chocolate cake and a caramel custard. Holeee shit. That was a tasty 'un), and some have been downright despicable. There is a reputable restaurant in this city (who shall remain nameless) that prides itself on it's bread pudding. It is mushy, overly sweet and cloying. Nothing short of a travesty.

I think it comes down to the fact that there are two schools of thought on bread pudding. Those who allow the bread to completely soak up the custard before baking, creating a solid unit of indiscernible mush. And those who use a little restraint with that step, creating a pudding with more depth. I prefer the latter.

This gingerbread pudding is probably my second favorite incarnation of the dessert. The first being the one from my high school days. Sadly, I pretty much never have leftover cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, and orange rolls sitting around. And unless we're visiting my in-laws, I avoid my hometown of Issaquah like the plague. That first taste of bread pudding will probably have to remain romanticized in my memory.

Okay- the recipe. I know it seems foolish to bake a perfectly good batch of gingerbread, only to cut it up and dry it out like croutons in the oven. Never will this seem more idiotic than with this recipe. It is that good. I took David Lebovitz's gingerbread recipe and tinkered with it. I replaced the oil with brown butter, and added the spices right in the pot with the butter as it browned to help their flavors bloom a little more. The result is a really tender, extra spicy (it almost tastes "hot") ginger cake. You may want to double the recipe so you have some fresh cake to snack on while the bread pudding bakes.

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I garnish this dessert with meyer lemon chantilly, which is just a simple meyer lemon curd with a little whipped cream folded in....good enough to eat with a spoon, standing in front of the fridge with the door still open. But not that I've done that.

Gingerbread

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

4 oz butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda

2 T minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with baking release (like pam), line with parchment paper, and spray again. Sift the flour and salt together and set aside. Place a pot of water in the stove to boil. Combine the butter and the spices in a pot and melt over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown a little (this takes a minute or two, and will be difficult to tell when it has browned, as the spices are in there. Go by smell- it should begin to smell nutty.) Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk the molasses, sugar, and egg together. Add the butter/spice mixture and whisk to combine.
Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.Measure out the 1/2 cup of boiling water and quickly stir the baking soda into it. Add to cake batter and stir gently until combined. Finally, add the minced ginger and stir. Pour the batter out onto the prepared sheet pan and bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Cut the cooled gingerbread into 1/2" cubes and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes. After the gingerbread has cooled, it will be somewhat crisp, like croutons.

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Gingerbread pudding

8 cups loosely packed cubed gingerbread

3 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream

9 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T calvados, or brandy

Whisk the eggs, sugars, and spices together in a large bowl. Bring the milk and cream to a boil, the gradually whisk into the eggs. Strain the custard, then stir in the calvados and vanilla.
Butter a large souffle dish. Place the dried gingerbread in the dish and slowly pour the custard over the gingerbread. Place in a large roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water, until the souffle dish is about halfway submerged. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes. The custard will be set, but slightly wobbly in the center.
Cool to room temperature and serve.

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Thanks Norm!