Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gingersnap Cookies

Due to an unfortunate accident with the frozen cookie dough, we didn't get to taste these cookies.  Dr. Marcy assured us this is an excellent recipe so I'm posting it anyway!  Just be sure to pack the dough into a METAL loaf pan (not a glass one) and DON'T set the pan in the door of the freezer.

Gingersnap Cookies

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 large eggs or 2 small eggs
1/3 cup molasses
3 cups all purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
2-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1.  Cream butter until soft.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until well incorporated and smooth.  Add molasses and beat until well mixed.

2.  Sift dry ingredients; add to the molasses mixture, 1/3 at a time.  Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated. 

3.  Line a 9" x 5" METAL loaf pan with plastic wrap so that it hangs out over the pan.  Press the dough into the bottom of the pan.  Pack it tightly and try to make the top as level as possible.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

4.  Unwrap and remove dough from the pan.  Slice the brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8" thick.  Place on a parchment lined sheetpan at least 1" apart.  Bake at 350°F until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes.

For softer cookies, bake a bit less.  For crunchier cookies, bake a bit longer.

You don't have to make the whole brick at once-- just freeze the remaining dough and slice when you're ready to bake!

French Bread (Baguettes)

Unfortunately, I didn't even think about taking photos the first day of class.  I was just too excited to remember that I have a camera on my cell phone!  The first day was mainly focused on Bread. I will be posting each bread recipe separately as some take longer than others.  Plus, it will be easier to find later!

The first recipe is from On Cooking (page 980), the culinary textbook used as a reference by the Research Chefs Association.  We halved the recipe in class and made 3 beautiful baguettes.  The dough may be used to make baguettes, rolls, or french bread.  We used a baguette pan to bake our loaves, but they may also be baked free form.  The pans are fairly inexpensive and can be found online for around $20.  This is what a baguette pan looks like:
The French Bread Pan looks similar, but has wider valleys to accommodate the larger bread loaf (only 2 per pan instead of 3).  If you don't have one of these pans, you can use a floured kitchen towel on a sheet pan to help maintain shape and prevent the dough from spreading out while rising.  See the YouTube Video at the bottom of the post that details how to shape a Baguette for an illustration of this technique.

The trick to this bread is baking in a moist oven.  Fill an 8"x8" pan with boiling water and place it in the bottom of the oven while baking the bread.  This will help your crust to develop that wonderful crunchy texture found on artisan breads.  You could also open the door to the oven and mist the floor and sides of the oven with a spray bottle every 5 minutes or so-- but who has time for that?!  I don't want to be glued to my oven door. :-)

French Bread
1 quart (32 oz.) warm water (about 110°F)
1 oz. active dry yeast
3 lbs. 12 oz. Bread Flour
1 oz. salt

1.  Combine water and yeast in the mixing bowl of a large capacity stand mixer.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low speed with dough hook until all the flour is incorporated.

2.  Increase speed of mixer to medium low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

3.  Let the dough rise until doubled.  Punch down, divide, shape and slash as desired*.  Let rise again until doubled.  Preheat oven to 400°F.

4.  Place pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven to generate steam while the dough cooks.

5.  Bake at 400°F until the crust is well developed and golden brown and the bread is baked through, approximately 12 minutes for rolls and 30 minutes for small loaves.  Larger loaves will take a bit longer-- up to 45 minutes.

*Shaping dough: one recipe of dough may be used for: 4 loaves french bread, 6 loaves baguettes, several rolls (pinch off dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on a greased sheet pan).  Use a very sharp blade when slashing the dough. 

There are several YouTube videos on shaping Baguettes.  This one was a good one:

Hope you enjoy that fresh baked bread smell!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cream Scones with Devonshire Cream and Fresh Strawberry Jam

This is the first installment of the Arkansas Cooking Class recipes!  You are sure to LOVE these light, flaky scones. 

The Cream Scones recipe is from On Cooking, page 956.  This is the Culinary Textbook that the Research Chefs Association uses as its reference.  The recipes I've tried from the book have been wonderful-- but get ready to do some math.  Some of those recipes are written for a crowd!

The Devonshire Cream recipe was one the chef found on a website, but I'm not sure which one.  The Strawberry Jam was something we just threw together in class.  The amounts in that recipe are estimated based on my memory-- let's hope I remembered correctly.

You'll notice that the ingredients listed in the baking recipes are all weights-- not cups and teaspoons.  We did this for a reason.  Flour can weigh more or less depending on how humid it is.  Weighing the flour gives you a more accurate measure than using cups.  Also, I'm sure everyone has heard that baking is a science.  Well, IT IS!!  Every baking recipe is a careful balance of chemical leaveners, acids, bases, enzymes, salts, etc.  Mess with one part of the equation and the whole thing will go out the window-- literally!  Leave out the salt in a bread dough and it will rise too fast and taste bland.  Out the window to the birds with that one! 

Ok.  That's enough ranting.  On to the recipes.

Cream Scones
1 lb. all purpose flour
1-1/2 oz. white sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
2 Lg egg yolks (save the whites for later)
11 fl oz. half and half

1.  Sift the dry ingredients together, making sure they are blended well. 
2.  Cut in the butter using a pastry blender (U-shaped with 3 or four blades and a handle).  The mixture should look mealy.  Be sure not to over mix. 
3.  Whisk the half and half with the egg yolks.  Add to the mealy mixture and combine just until the dough begins to hold together.
4.  Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Cut into triangles.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with half and half.
5.  Bake at 400°F for about 10 minutes.
6.  Brush the tops with butter while hot.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Devonshire Cream (aka Clotted Cream)
4 oz. mascarpone cheese (Italian cream-style cheese)
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp powdered sugar or caster sugar

1.  Place all ingredients in a stand mixer with the whip attachment.  Whip until well blended and the consistency of spreadable cream cheese. 
2.  Store covered tightly with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Fresh Strawberry Jam
1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar (approximate-- may need to add more depending on how sweet your strawberries are)
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 envelope fruit glaze

1.  Place strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a pot over medium heat.  Cook until fruit is soft and the mixture is syrupy, about 20 minutes.  Mash lightly with a potato masher until it is the desired consistency.
2.  Prepare glaze according to package directions.  Cool slightly, then blend with strawberry mixture.
3.  Store covered tightly with plastic wrap in the refrigerator.