I made: peach/pineapple spiced mini pies

Another bake from earlier in June I didn’t write up.  I sort of invented this one, and there were some things I liked about this, some things I didn’t like.  I REALLY wanted to make mini peach pies, but my peaches weren’t very ripe, and I didn’t have very many of them.  I had a whole pineapple, though, so I struck on the idea of cooking them up on the stove.

So, I didn’t really record it at the time, but what I did was, chopped up the peaches and pineapple into small pieces and sauteed in butter and brown sugar.  I also added spices: about a tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and half tsp each of cloves, allspice, ground ginger.

I made pie crust using a simple basic piecrust recipe that’s on my baking mat.  Basic all-butter crust.

I ran into a little trouble shaping the crusts for mini pies.  I’d never made mini pies in cupcake tins before, and I wasn’t sure how big to cut them.  I ended up just winging it and mostly it was ok, although I think I could have cut them bigger, because they shrink down a bit in the tins.  I parbaked them before filling and finishing up.

Overall:

  • these mini pies tasted pretty good fresh out of the oven!
  • they were maybe a little TOO spiced.  They didn’t really taste of fruit, just of spices, which isn’t necessarily what you want…
  • would try again, just needs some refining.

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I made: Coffee cupcakes with Nutella frosting

The month of June was actually pretty great for me, overall, but wow was it busy!  I baked a few things, but I’ve completely flaked on the writeups.  So, to start off… back in early June I made too much coffee by mistake, so I decided to cook it down to a concentrate and use in cupcakes.  I don’t remember the specific recipe I used.  For the frosting I made Nutella frosting from the earlier banana cupcake recipe.  These cupcakes were yummy!

I made: Buchteln (sort of)

Ok first of all, a caveat: what I made did not end up being AT ALL like traditional Buchteln, which are a kind of Austrian sweet yeast roll.  I started with a recipe for Buchteln, but after several frustrating issues, I gave up on the rolls and just made a giant loaf instead.  So, consider this a semi-Buchtel.  A Grosse-Buchtel, if you will.

The actual dough recipe itself is fairly straightforward and not entirely dissimilar from other sweet breads I’ve made recently, such as challah and brioche.  The major differences are that this recipe calls for milk instead of water, it uses melted butter, and it calls for the baker to shape several small rolls, each filled with apricot jam.

Problem 1:

  • I could not get the yeast to properly proof in warm milk.  I tried twice, with two different sources of yeast (one from a packet and once from a freshly opened jar).  I’m not sure if the problem was the temperature, or if it was specific to the milk itself.  It was highly frustrating and eventually I gave up and proofed the yeast in water, then added milk later.

My solution may have in part contributed to problem #2:

  • This was the most unreasonably liquidy dough recipe I have ever worked with.  I know I may have used excessive liquid in the first step discussed above, but I didn’t use THAT much excess.  I’m honestly mystified, because I double checked each measurement aside from the water/milk, and I know I included the correct amounts.
  • During the kneading phase, I ended up adding at least a cup of flour, even though the recipe says not to.  I was still worried because at the stage at which the dough was supposed to rise, it literally wasn’t even dough at all.  It was straight-up batter.
  • At that point, I left it alone for an hour and hoped that perhaps it would even itself out during that time.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out… when I turned it out to punch down & shape after the rise, it was literally still batter.  I had to add probably another full cup of flour just to get it to hold somewhat of a shape… and it was STILL too liquidy/sticky to actually form rolls.  Every time I tried to make a roll shape, it just stuck to my fingers too much and started sliding around.  It was literally impossible to “fill” with apricot jam because it wasn’t even a dough at all.
  • At that point I finally just said “screw it” and I threw the entire mass of dough into the pan, hoping that it might at least be an edible bread.

Well, so the good news is, it actually was!  I baked it at 375 for 30 minutes, at which point it had risen to about double the height of the pan, and turned a lovely golden color.  I think it could have taken a longer bake at a lower temperature, because it collapsed somewhat and the innermost dough didn’t really fully cook.  However, it did turn out to be a very tasty sweet bread that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

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I would never, ever use this specific recipe again, unless it were to play a prank on someone.  I am still interested in the concept of the Buchteln so perhaps I will search for a better recipe and try again sometime.

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May 2018 in Review

This month, I baked 9 things:

  1. Peanut butter cut-out cookies with chocolate ganache
  2. Pineapple upside-down cake!
  3. Roll-out chocolate chip cookies
  4. Challah bread
  5. Brownies
  6. Brioche
  7. Everything cookies
  8. Cinnamon swirl cream cheese banana bread
  9. Brioche

I think this may have been my most diverse month of baking yet: I made

  • 3 types of cookie
  • 2 types of bread
  • 1 quickbread
  • 1 cake!

None of these recipes were bad.

My favorite was easily the brioche, especially the second time I made it, and especially in roll form.  Yum yum, I could eat an unreasonable number of these fresh out of the oven.

New things I tried this month:

  • I made a skillet cake!

I think that was the only ~brand new~ thing I tried… most of the rest of the bakes were more of variations on different forms, such as the brioche as another variation on a fairly simple bread.

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I progressed in basically every one of my resolutions this month!  This was definitely more of a bread-focused month than a cake-focused, but technically I did bake one cake.  I am also really proud of my re-bakes, which are helping me to learn a lot faster than simply trying new things all the time!

Next month: I’m going to keep my options open, as far as what I bake.  I want to commit to writing up my baking posts sooner, because I’ve let that slide a lot the past month.  It’s really helpful to do the write-up quickly, because I remember more of what worked and what didn’t.  Onward!

I remade: Brioche

The last of my May bakes.  I made this last weekend after the previous weekend’s success.  It was easier to make by hand rather than using the mixer.  It also became more clear to me that this is just a sticky recipe, and that’s okay.  I made all rolls this time (no loaf), and it was great!  A+ would make brioche again.

I made: Cinnamon swirl cream cheese banana bread

Still catching up on my May bakes.  I found this recipe online because I wanted to make banana bread but I didn’t want it to be boring.  This was a tasty bread that I would definitely make again.  However, I would modify the topping somewhat.  The recipe calls for a simple cinnamon/sugar mix as a topping, which is fine, but boring.  I would add butter so that it gets crunchier and more rich, and also incorporate other spices and nuts as well.  Aside from that, it was great!

I made: Everything cookies

Catching up on backlog of May bakes.  I had a bunch of half-empty bags of stuff, which I wanted to use up.  I made a simple chocolate chip cookie recipe from the back of a bag of chocolate chips, but instead of just chocolate chips, I also included:

  • dried cranberries
  • toffee bits
  • chopped hazelnuts
  • toasted coconut
  • mini chocolate chips

I doubled the recipe and used up almost everything I wanted to.  I took these to work and they were much enjoyed!

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I made: Brioche

So far this is one of my favorite things I’ve baked this year!  I have always loved brioche and after my reasonable success with challah, it seemed like a good next step in the realm of yeast baking.  I found this recipe simply by googling, and followed the instructions fairly closely; I mixed with the stand mixer instead of by hand, however.  I split the dough in half and made 8 rolls with one half, and a loaf with the other half.

Results:

  • The rolls were EXCELLENT in terms of taste and texture.  We ate them all the first night.
  • Some of the rolls came out shaped a little funny.  It’s a work in progress.

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  • I did half the rolls as simple balls, and the other half I attempted to make a fancier shape by putting one smaller ball on top of a larger ball of dough.  These worked okay for the most part, but for sandwich purposes, the simple balls worked better.

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  • The loaf was okay.  It didn’t make an especially tall loaf, although it’s such a rich bread, I’m not sure if you’d really want a much larger slice at a time.
  • The loaf has lasted a bit longer.  After a few days, it has become sort of unpleasantly… crumbly?  It still tastes fine, but makes a giant mess.

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Next time:

  • I have a very tiny collection of attachments for my stand mixer, which made the mixing process more difficult than it really needs to be.  I don’t actually have a proper “dough hook” at all.  I think I would try it by hand next time.
  • Actually I think I need to watch some videos because I’m not 100% sure my dough was right.  It was so crumbly and barely dough at all before I started adding butter, I just don’t know if I ever fully developed the gluten in it.
  • I’d rather just make 16 rolls than bother with the loaf (at least with this recipe).

I re-made: Brownies

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This is the same recipe that I tried previously.  I did a few things differently:

  • I added 1 tsp of espresso powder.  Results: not a noticeable coffee flavor, but it’s possible it enriched the chocolate flavor.  Would try again, but increase amount.
  • Baked in a smaller pan with the goal of creating taller brownies.  Results: the edge pieces were tall, but the center pieces rose and then collapsed like a cake does.
  • Used an electric hand mixer instead of just manually stirring it on the stove.  Results: much less sore arm.

Overall: these are still really amazing brownies and I would again recommend this as a great recipe.

I re-made: Challah bread

It’s almost getting to the point where I feel that I’m cheating to keep including the challah bread as a bake, but as long as I continue fiddling with it and learning different things, I’m thinking it still counts as a separate bake.

This time I had a few more observations:

  • Instead of measuring out yeast, I just used 2 packets of active dry yeast, which by eyeball, seemed about right.  This was fine.
  • I let both the first and second rise go for longer than recommended.  I believe this helped ensure a complete rise and there was less rising in the oven as a result.
  • I used a heavier hand to brush the top with egg, which resulted in a browner top.
  • I tried a different method for braiding one of the loaves.  This method, which I read about online, suggested that you divide the bread into 6 equal pieces and then roll each piece out into snakes, which you then connect and braid together.  I found this to be tedious and way more fussy than my usual method, which is simply to shape a big rectangle and use kitchen scissors to cut six roughly equivalent strands.  The snake method resulted in a less pretty bread as well.  Not gonna use that method again probably.
  • I included a slight bit more sugar than usual (less than a tablespoon extra probably) and it seemed like a good idea, still not too sweet, but a touch sweeter and tastier than previous versions.
  • Finally: I’m still having issues with stickiness.  I’m not sure if I’m just not using enough flour?  I always end up turning out huge amounts of flour onto the kneading surface.  I think next time I’m going to try just starting out with more flour in the recipe to begin with, which will hopefully avoid some of the mess and sticky dough issues.

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