Grown Up Chocolate Chip Cookies

I hope everyone is hanging in there. ¬†Given that this blog is called the Misanthropic Hostess, you can probably tell how I’m doing.

People keep asking me if I’m doing lots of baking and are surprised to hear that I’m not. ¬†Like most (I hope) people, I’m sequestered at home and adjusting to a for-now normal. ¬†For me, a big part of this is establishing a consistent and doable day job schedule.

For me, baking isn’t work (I’m not saying people shouldn’t bake or do whatever they can to get through these days–I just personally don’t want to confuse work and baking modes). ¬†So, I’ll be sticking to doing my baking on the weekends. ¬†Something to look forward to.

In the weeks before social distancing, I baked all of the sweet stuff that was in my freezers to make room for more sensible things like frozen ground turkey and a few trays of a dish TD and I call Shizzyladas.  Giving away the baked goods was fun as always.  But, I made very fatal error on my part: I forgot to hold anything back for me and TD.

So, last weekend, I made up a batch of dough for one of the few cookies TD and I agree on: Chocolate Chip. These are a little fancier than the norm with browned butter, a bit of rye flour and lots and lots and lots of chocolate.  Really, get creative with the chocolate.  The great thing about these is that you can make the dough, portion it, chill it and freeze it for on-the-spot baking.

Early returns show that I’m going to have to limit the number of baked cookies available to my housemates and I.

Grown Up Chocolate Chip Cookies

NYT/Toll House/Yo’ Momma Inspired

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C cake flour
  • 3/4 C rye flour
  • 1 1/2 C bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 C) unsalted butter at room temp [note--brown the butter if you want to get super adult–if browning, use 3 sticks]
  • 1 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20 ounces (about¬† 3 1/4 cups) dark chocolate disks (you could use any combination of chocolate here.¬† In the cookies pictured I happened to have 6 ounces of solid 72% chocolate that I chopped and combined with 12 ounces of discs).

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder,  soda and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy (if using brown butter, it may only fluff a bit).  Add in sugars and cream until light, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add in egg, egg yolk and vanilla beating in between each to combine.
  4. Stop mixer and add dry ingredients.  Mix on lowest speed until just combined.  Fold-in your chocolate.
  5. Scoop dough into desired sized balls.  While 1/4 C is a popular size and will give you amazing bakery-sized cookies, I like to use a 2 TBS scoop.
  6. Refrigerate balls for at least 24 hours (or do as I do and refrigerate until cold and then freeze double bagged until you want to use them).
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line your sheets with parchment.  Allow a couple of inches in between smaller dough balls and up to four if you are really going for it with the 1/4 C scoop.
  8. Bake until golden (this is about 11 minutes in my oven from very cold, 13 if frozen).

Chinese Style Almond Cookies

You know the ones.  Crumbly and shortbread-like in texture, satisfyingly rich with  just a hint of almond.

When I first thought I’d try making these, I disappeared down the rabbit whole of origin. ¬†While some sources say they are an adaption of the Chinese walnut cookie, these simple sweet biscuits have an uncertain background.

I reviewed several recipes and decided to dive in with the cookie from Elaine at China Sichuan Food because of the addition of almond flour.   Beware, even a small amount of time spent on her site will make you very, very hungry.

Like most things made from scratch, these were much better than anything I’d ever had from the package. ¬†In fact, found myself returning and trying them several times just to make sure.

Chinese Style Almond Cookies

from www.chinasichuanfood.com

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C (120g) cake flour
  • 2/3 C (60g) almond flour
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C (115 g) butter softened
  • 1/4 C minus 1 TBS (40g) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 16 whole almonds

for egg wash

  • 1 egg plus 1 TBS water lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Sift together the flours, baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light, a couple of minutes.  Beat-in the egg yolk and extract.
  3. Add dry ingredient to wet ingredients on low speed until just combined.
  4. On a clean surface, gently kneed the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
  6. Divide dough into 16 equally-sized pieces.  Roll each into a ball.  Slightly flatten with finger or criss-cross with a fork.  Add whole almond to center and brush with egg wash.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely on pans.

 

Basic B Oatmeal Cookies

Snicky snackys are my downfall.¬† Pub mix. Cheez-Its. Chex mix.¬† Trail mix (though the fact that nuts aren’t my favorite save me a little here).¬† I love it all.

This is why I never have them in our house.¬† It’s also why I know better than to go to Target on a busy Saturday afternoon when I’m hungry.

But, I did and I was and so a Handful of Everything  trail mix ended up in my cart.

There I was, trying not to lose my mind in our local “newly redesigned” Target (which is code for they want to sell more stuff so they’ve narrowed each aisle just enough that the carts can’t pass one another achieving what is effectively a very subtle but no less psychologically hostile Thunderdome).¬† While I had a list, I didn’t completely know my way around the new layout and so accidentally ended up in the snicky snaky aisle.¬† Oops.

I spied the Handful of Everything trail mix and suddenly Meredith Brooks was belting out “I don’t envy you, I’m a little bit of everything, All rolled into one, I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…”

This happens to me all the time, Allie McBeal style.¬† I’m not kidding.

So, in order to not eat the entire container, I made cookies and the Basic B cookie was born.  Because we all know, there is no such thing as a Basic B.

You get it right?¬† I’m using it ironically, hipster style.¬† Please don’t call anyone a Basic B.

Basic B Oatmeal Cookies

inspired by a basic recipe from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 TBS baking soda
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 C, 3/4 pound/ 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 C packed golden brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 3 C old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking/ 1 minute)
  • 7 C assorted goodies. I used all but about an ounce of the 27 ounce container of Archer Farms Handful of Everything¬†trail mix.¬† If you go for the trail mix, chop mango and break-up banana chip pieces. Could could also use any combination of chocolate chips, coconut, dried fruit, nuts, M&Ms etc.

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.
  2. In bowl of a larger stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer, cream butter until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Gradually beat-in both sugars.  Cream another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time, beating in between.  Beat in vanilla.
  4. Fold-in flour mixture until just combined.
  5. Fold in your goodies.
  6. Depending on the size of cookie you want, roll 1/4 scoops (bigger) into balls or, my preference, 2 TBS scoops (smaller).  Roll all dough and allow to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours to over night.  Once very cold, these will also freeze well to be baked-off at a later time.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment.
  8. For large cookies, bake 15-17 minutes (10-11 for smaller) until the edges are lightly browned.¬† Don’t forget to rotate pans halfway through.
  9. Allow to cool completely before picking up.

Honey, please do!

These are a take on the honey cake often served at Rosh Hashanah.¬† I am cognizant that from a timing perspective, I’m off by not just the Rosh Hashanah holiday, but also the Western calendar and the Lunar New Year. ¬†Since I’ve missed a hat trick of New Years and the fiscal new year is still a couple quarters off, how about we celebrate the start of February?

Speaking of new years and February, I had a little bit of a revelation this early 2020. ¬†Each year I ride the struggle bus through January. ¬† ¬†It’s dark, I’m tired from the holidays and generally not in a ‘let’s get this party started’ mood come January 1st through, well, let’s be honest, 20th. ¬†I’m tired of beating myself up over it. ¬†So, going forward, I’m declaring January as the transition month to the new year. ¬†I’ve decided it’s just fine to spend the first couple of weeks focused on putting one foot in front of the next as I shake off the holiday indulgence and stress. ¬†I’ve also decided it’s great to gently nudge and nurture my ideas for goals on the next trip around the sun rather attempting to do it in the hectic lead up to the first day of the year.

So my friends, happy new year.

The apple butter (or apple sauce) helps to keep these moist. And, the spice profile is just sassy enough to make things interesting.

I’ve made muffins for this post but also give the bundt instructions below.¬† These would be really nice served for a new year’s (you pick) brunch to be topped with additional apple butter, cream cheese or maybe just a little good butter.

Honey Cake Muffins

Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 C (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 C water
  • 6 TBS unsweetened apple sauce or apple butter
  • 1/4 C (2 ounces) vegetable oil (I used grape seed)
  • 1/4 C ( 2 ounces) orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 C (20 ounces) honey
  • 1/2 C Trader Joes honey almonds (optional).

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. ¬†If making muffins, line 24 cups with liners (I got 23 muffins from this recipe–you could squeeze to 24 I think). ¬†If making a cake, heavily spray a 12-cup non-stick Bundt pan with baking spray, then flour or, get some Bak Clean–it’s worth the sticker shock.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, water, applesauce or apple butter, oil, orange juice and vanilla.
  4. Whisk wet mixture into dry mixture until fully incorporated.
  5. Evenly portion  batter into cups or pour batter into Bundt pan. Top with slivered almonds if desired.
  6. For muffins, bake 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Bake 45-60 minutes if doing Bundt.
  7. Let cool in tins for 10 muffins, then gently remove and allow to cool completely on rack.

LAUSD Coffee Cake

Right out of graduate school I went to work for a non-profit educational consulting firm.  Over the four years I worked there, I spent a lot of time in LAUSD schools.

I spent hours doing classroom observations, attending staff meetings, interviewing faculty and staff and even waiting outside of the principal’s office. ¬† I also spent time in the cafeterias (in Southern California, this is where kids go when it’s recess and raining). ¬†Yet somehow in all that time, I missed the Angelino institution known as LAUSD coffee cake.

I know, I know. ¬†Public school cafeterias aren’t exactly known for their cuisine. ¬†But this is the stuff of school yard legend. ¬†I came across it in a blurb on some social media platform or another which resulted in a quick Google dive. ¬†Turns out, this snack cake has been famous for a very, very long time. ¬†In fact, the recipe I found came from a 1994 (!) Los Angeles Times article.

The cake is deceptively simple, with a surprise secret ingredient: nutmeg. ¬†If you are looking for something quick to put together for a holiday brunch or gifts for friends or family (it travels very well), consider this recipe LAUSD’s holiday gift to you.

LAUSD Coffee Cake

as printed in the Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1994

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 C grapeseed oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C buttermilk at room temp

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg and oil.
  3. Remove 1/2 C of mixture from bowl.  Add 1 tsp cinnamon and set aside for topping.
  4. Combine remaining 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda, egg and buttermilk.  Blend well.  Fold into flour mixture, do not over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with 1/2 C reserved topping.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.

If you’d like to ice as pictured

  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 water (or to desired consistency
  • Once cake is cooled, combine confectioner’s sugar and water in a small bowl. ¬†Mix until you have your desired consistency. ¬†Drizzle over top of cake. ¬†Allow to harden before cutting.

Holiday Baking 2019 Recipes

And just like that, the 2019 holiday baking odyssey has come to an end. ¬†As always, it was a hoot and even though in the 11th hour I swore I’d never do it again, I’m already dreaming about what to do for next year.

If you followed along with the 2019 Holiday Baking Analytics, you already know the stats.  I used nearly 80 pounds of sugar, 36 pounds of flour, 29 pounds of butter and 45 pounds of fruits, nuts and other add-ins.  I made nine types of cookies this year yielding 3,761 units.  We mailed 22 boxes and delivered another 30 or so in person.  Folks, my work here is done.

But, just in case you’d like to make your own, I’ve included links to each of the recipes below.

Cheers and happy holidays to all!

Sugar Stars

Rum Butter Nuts

Peanut Butter Balls

or as we call them in our house, Schweddy Balls

Triple Gingersnaps

Candied Orange Peel

Almond Butter Crunch

Confettidoodles

Brown Butter Coconut Caramel Crispies

Chocolate Crinkles

Our house looked like a tornado hit it for a day or two.

There was no theme, but I did have a lot of fun with colored duct tape (seriously–get some, it’s a good time).

And a new company for labels, Paper Culture.

I promised we stuffed as much as we could into each box.

Pre-purchasing labels from USPS is the way to go.

As an added bonus, each and every box (and most of the tissue paper) was checked for safety and construction by our quality control crew.

 

Ye Old Chocolate Crinkles

Traditional chocolate crinkle cookies were the second freshman cookie this year.  I wanted something simple and chocolatey to replace the World Peace cookies that have been in rotation for many years.  After searching through what seemed like hundreds of chocolate cookie recipes, the road lead me to this holiday favorite.

As I researched across recipes for the optimal chocolate crinkle, I learned that like rugelach, there really is only one recipe with slight variations.  Nearly all I saw use vegetable oil instead of butter and unsweetened cocoa instead of chocolate.

Again, never to leave well enough alone, my version has the subtle addition of espresso powder. ¬†Because, as I’ve said before, why be normal.

Chocolate Crinkles

Ingredients

  • 1 C (90 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 C (325 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil (I like grapeseed)
  • 4 eggs at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C (300 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 TBS espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 C confectioners/powdered sugar

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil.
  2. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, espresso powder and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture.
  4. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  6. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Roll dough into one inch balls.
  8. Coat each ball in confectioners’ sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Brown Butter Coconut Caramel Cripsies

Because leaving well enough alone is boring, I like to rotate a couple of the cookie selections each year for holiday baking.  This year, one of the new kids is a deeply browned butter, lacy coconut and caramel crispy concoction.

This should not come as a surprise considering my current obsession with caramelized rice crispies. ¬†As you might recall, I employed them in various and delicious ways including a Cracker Jack inspired bar, an extra chocolate chip cookie and some meta rice cripsie (or is it Krispy…or Krispie) treats.

And then there is my absolute favorite cookie discovery of 2019: Browned Butter Coconut Cookies.

I know.¬† You know.¬† Where I’m going.

These take some time; the butter needs to brown and cool in advance and the caramel crispies need to be made separately. ¬†BUT, if these flavors are your jam, it’s totally worth it.

Brown Butter Caramel Crispies

For the Caramelized Crispy Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 C crispy rice cereal (have had good results with both regular and brown rice versions)
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan add sugar.  Then add water and mix until sugar dissolves.  This is the last time you are going to want to touch the mixture until you take it off the heat the first time.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil (don’t stir) and allow to simmer until the syrup just starts to brown.
  4. Remove from heat and mix in cereal (I find a rubber spatula works the best). Gently mix cereal until ever last piece is covered in syrup.  By the time you there, everything will have dried and look like its dusted in snow (and now we know how they make Frosted Flakes).
  5. Return to heat over a medium burned and fold constantly.  The sugar will start to melt and caramelize.  Keep folding until you reach desired depth of caramelization.  I know the version I like is done when the sugar starts to smoke.
  6. Spread cereal on parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
  7. From here you can store in an airtight container in big hunks.

For the cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 C (2 sticks or 225 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 TBS water
  • 1/2 C plus 2 TBS (125 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 C (145 grams) packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 C plus 3 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Slightly heaped 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 C (180 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut chips
  • 1/2 batch caramelized crispy rice (so feel free to eat the other half)

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do.  Once it is a deeply fragrant, almost nut-brown color, remove from heat and pour butter and all browned bits at the bottom into a measuring cup. Adding 2 tablespoons water should bring the butter amount back up to 1 cup.
  2. Chill browned butter in the fridge until it solidifies, about 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Scrape chilled browned butter and any bits into a large mixing bowl. Add both sugars and beat the mixture together until fluffy.
  4. Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed, then vanilla.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Pour half of flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined, then add remaining flour and mix again, scraping down bowl if needed. Add coconut chips in two parts as well.
  6. Fold-in caramelized rice crispies.
  7. Scoop dough into 1 inch balls, flatten each slightly and arrange all onto a baking sheet (separating layers with parchment paper).  Refrigerate for an hour up to over night.
  8. When you are ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
  9. Arrange a few with a lot of room for spreading on the baking sheets.  Bake cookies until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes (rotate halfway through cooking).  Repeat to bake all cookies.
  10. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cookies keep for up to one week at room temperature. Extra dough can be stored in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a month or more.

The Artist Formerly Known as Lung Bread

A couple of years ago, TD and I happened across this cool looking exotic bread in Whole Foods. ¬†As I remember it (which doesn’t mean it’s true), we asked the baker what it was. She replied that she didn’t know what it was called, she just bakes it.

Intrigued (by the bread, not the baker’s lack of mysterious bread nomenclature), we bought a loaf. ¬†Lobe-shaped and cut allowing for lots of golden salted crust, TD thought it looked like a lung. ¬†So we called it lung bread.

For years.

Until it showed up as the technical challenge on Season 4, Episode 6 of the Great British Baking Show.  Turns out lung bread is actually called Fougasse.

Lung, leaf, potato, pohtahto.

Fougasse is sort of Provence’s version of focaccia. ¬†Slightly flat, with spring and a satisfyingly chewy texture, this lovely loaf is addicting.

Once I knew what it was, I set about trying to make it. ¬†And, if you follow me on Instagram (@TMHostess), you’ve seen my attempts over the last year or so.

My first attempt was Paul Hollywood’s recipe from the Great British Baking Show. ¬†While the result was visually stunning, the texture was all wrong: short crumb, no chew.

On my second attempt I went more the direction of pizza dough.  Again, looked great, wrong texture.

Like Goldilocks (half head of highlights included), I was determined. ¬†And so when I discovered another recipe in the most recent Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Baking publication, I chopped up some fresh rosemary and got to work.

The key to good chew, explains the recipe’s author, Andrew Janjigian, is a properly hydrated dough, added flavor from a little whole wheat flour and an overnight fermentation. ¬† Before it rests all night, the bread¬† goes through a quadruple proof of gentle folds over the course of a couple of hours (according to Janjigian, this method allows the gluten to develop slowly helping to create a light, airy and irregular crumb).

So, was the third time a charm? Oh God yes! This recipe is everything TD and I knew and loved about lung bread: salty, flavorful but mild with that hallmark chew.

Fougasse is not technically difficult, but, it does take some time. ¬†If you have an afternoon (and an evening before to throw together the dough), this is a very enjoyable way to spend it. ¬†As Paul Hollywood advised in the technical challenge, “be patient and remember the shaping.”

No post next week (I’ll be hundreds deep in schweddy balls about this time next Thursday), so Happy Thanksgiving to all! ¬†I’ll see you on the holiday side.

Fougasse

modified slightly from Cooks Illustrated All-Time Best Baking

makes two loaves

Ingredients

  • 1/4 C (1 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 3 C (15 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/2 C (12 ounces) water
  • cornmeal or semolina flour
  • 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBS fresh rosemary or other desired herbs
  • 2 tsp course sea salt

Directions

  1. Sift whole wheat flour through fine-mesh strainer into bowl of stand mixer.  Add bread flour and yeast to mixer.  Fit stand mixer with dough hook and knead on low speed until cohesive dough forms and no incorporated flour remains (5 minutes).  Add salt and knead (using hook) for 2 more minutes.
  2. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for 30 minutes.
  3. Holding the edge of the dough with your fingertips, fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding the edge of the dough toward the center (see pic above).  Turn bowl 45 degrees, fold again.  Turn bowl and fold 6 more times (2 rotations).
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
  5. Repeat folding and rising every 30 minutes 3 more times.  After fourth set of folds, cover bowl tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 16 hours and up to 48.
  6. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter.  Stretch gently into an 8 inch round and divide it in half.  Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, gently stretch and fold over 3 side of the dough to create a triangle with 5 inch sides.
  7. Transfer to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet, seam side down and repeat with remaining piece of dough.  Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap lightly coated with vegetable oil spray and let rest at room temp until Doug is relaxed and no longer cool to the touch (30-60 minutes).
  8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put one baking sheet into pre-heating oven.
  9. Transfer 1 piece of dough to lightly floured work surface and, using a rolling pin, gently roll into a triangular shape with an 8-inch base and 10-inch sides, about 1/2 inch thick.  Transfer to a baking-sheet sized piece of parchment liberally dusted with cornmeal or semolina (the sheet can be on the counter or if you have enough, an extra baking sheet).
  10. Using a pizza cutter, make a 6-inch long cut down the center of the triangle leaving about 1 1/2 inches of dough on either end.  Make three 2-3 inch diagonal cuts, leaving a 1-inch boarder on each end of the cuts to create a leaf pattern.
  11. Gently stretch dough toward sides of pan to widen cuts and emphasize the leaf shape (you can add cuts to the edges if you’d like–see photos above). ¬†The overall size of the loaf should measure about 10 X 12 inches.
  12. Cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with oil spray and let rest at room temp until nearly double in size, 30-45 minutes.  Twenty minutes after shaping first loaf, repeat with second half of dough.
  13. Brush the top and sides of the first loaf with 2 TBS olive oil.  Sprinkle loaf with rosemary and salt.
  14. Pull hot baking sheet from oven.  Using the edges of the parchment, carefully lift parchment and shaped dough onto hot baking sheet.
  15. Bake until golden brown, 18-22 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.
  16. Transfer to a wire rack and put hot pan back into the oven to heat for the second loaf.
  17. Allow bread to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  18. Repeat with second loaf.

While the bread will stay fresh for a couple of days, it is my humble opinion that it tastes absolutely the best just cooled from the oven.

Take me home, country loaf

Sorry.

As I’ve mentioned before, a few years ago I took a baking course through the New School of Cooking in Culver City. ¬†It was a great course for all levels and the instructor was fantastic (it doesn’t appear she teaches through New School any longer).

With the exception of the laminated doughs, I’d already made nearly everything on the syllabus prior to taking the class. ¬†What I was after were a boost in my technical skills. ¬†For instance, I understood that using butter or oil in baking created different outcomes–I just didn’t know why. ¬†I also didn’t know that in addition to Italian and Swiss, there are also German and American buttercreams. ¬†How great is it to live in a world with so many kinds of intercontinental buttercream?

One of the best recipes (in my opinion) from this course is a simple country loaf.  For this recipe, patience far outweighs technique in creating a chewy, airy crumb.

Three things make this bread really good. ¬†The first is an overnight fermentation of the sponge. ¬†You can do it in an hour (and this is how we did it in class). ¬†However, through my own trial and error I’ve learned that allowing the sponge to develop in a warm kitchen and then throwing it in the fridge for a sleep really develops the flavor.

The second is waiting until the last couple of minutes of kneading to add the salt. Salt and yeast are sort of like Tom and Jerry so you want the yeast nice and developed and protected by lots of flour before you add the salt into the mix. ¬†I now use this method any time I’m making yeasted dough. ¬†Wait to add the salt.

The third is the pan of steaming water. ¬†As I learned in the baking course, many professional baking ovens have a steam function that helps put the “crust” into crusty bread. ¬†A pan of steaming water helps do the same.

If you have any interest in playing with yeast, this is a great fist step.

Country Loaf

New School of Cooking

Ingredients

for the sponge

  • 1 TBS active dry yeast
  • 1 C warm water
  • 4 ounces (1 C) bread flour

for the dough

  • 20 oz (5 C) bread flour
  • 1 1/3 C warm water
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1 TBS kosher salt
  • cornmeal for sprinkling

Directions

for the sponge

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water and stir in bread flour.  Cover and let rest for 1 hour, but, best case scenario, refrigerate over night.  Return to room temp before using.

for the bread

  1. In a bowl, combine the sponge, flour, water and honey. ¬†Knead for eight minutes or so. ¬†Add salt during the last three minutes. Return to bowl if you’ve kneaded by hand. ¬†Cover bowl and allow to double in size (about 1 hour).
  2. Sprinkle a liberal layer of corn meal onto a baking sheet.
  3. Lightly flour hands and work surface, dough will be sticky.  Turn out dough and knead lightly.  Rough form it into a ball and place on top of the cornmeal dusted baking sheet. Flour the top of the loaf and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. ¬†Place a small pan filled with steaming water on the bottom of the oven. ¬†Place baking tray on lowest rack. ¬†Back 35-40 minutes until the crust is very dark brown and the internal temp is 210 degrees. ¬†If you don’t have a thermometer, flip the bread, and thump the bottom. ¬†If it sounds hollow, it’s done.
  5. Cool to room temp before slicing.