Monday, March 29, 2010

Chewy, crusty french boule

Yessss. A crusty french bread you can make at home. I've been trying for a couple months to find the perfect french bread recipe, and just when I thought I'd give up joythebaker came to my rescue again. And perfect it is! This is quite honestly the best thing that has come out of my oven, EVER. And much better than anything I've bought from the bakery.

And it is so simple, and fool-proof, I feel silly for wasting countless hours trying any other method/recipes. My sister, whom had never baked bread before today, used this recipe and it turned out perfect.

If you're a first time bread baker, or been doing it for years, please try this out. You'll think you're in Paris. The result is a chewy amazing crust and a melt-in-your-mouth crumb. And if you're like my husband and I, one loaf will last about 5 minutes.

Here's how to do it. (Edited to add: No kitchenaid? See the mixer-free version at the bottom.)

You'll need:
a stand mixer
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt

You'll need 4 cups bread flour. Reserve 1/4 c for countertop and kneading and dump the remaining 3 3/4 c into the stand mixer.

Put 2 teaspoons salt on one side of the bowl, and 2 teaspoons of yeast on the other side.

Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into the middle and mix on a slow speed with the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together.

When the dough forms a mass, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but may stick to the bottom a bit.

If you feel like the dough is too sticky or too dry, feel free to add a touch more water or flour by the tablespoonful. (I haven't had to do this)
After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for five minutes.

After the five minute rest, mix the dough again for 3 minutes. Place the dough on the counter and, using the 1/4 cup of bread flour we reserved in the beginning, hand knead the dough. You may not need to incorporate the entire 1/4 cup. If the dough feels firm and solid enough, just knead for a few minutes and prepare it to rest. You should have a satiny, smooth compact ball.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn the dough over to coat the entire dough lightly in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rest for 1 1/2 hours. The dough should double in size. Remove from the bowl, punch down and reform into a ball. Return to the bowl, cover and allow to rest for another 30 minutes.

After the second short rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round ball, tucking any haggard edges on the underside of the dough. Leave to rest, covered with a damp cloth, on the lightly floured surface for 45 minutes to a hour.
During the last 20 minutes of the resting period, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking rack in the lower third of the oven and leave either a baking stone or an upside down baking sheet in the oven to heat as well.

Just before the boules are set to go in the oven, slash the top of the loaves with 2 to 4 slashes, using a sharp knife. This will allow the bread to expand in the oven. Remove the super hot baking sheet from the oven. Carefully transfer the dough onto the baking sheets and return to the oven.

Here’s some fun! Just after you put the bread in the oven, take 1/4 cup of water, open the oven door, quickly poor the water onto the hot oven floor and immediately close the oven door. We’re creating steam here people… it’s exciting. Wait 2 minutes and repeat the process.

Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes. They’ll be golden and gorgeous. Remove from the oven and insert a thermometer. The temperature should be between 190 to 210 degrees F.

Here’s the hard part: let the bread cool completely before slicing.

If you don't have a kitchenaid/stand mixer instead of mixing, then resting then mixing again.. do this:

Put your dry ingredients (minus yeast) in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour your luke warm water into it. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and wait a minute or so. Then start to mix in the flour with the water until you get it together into a doughy gloop. Then knead the dough in the bowl until it gets the nice smooth consistency that you see in the pictures and it isn't sticking to the bowl – you may need to add a smidge of flour to get it to this consistency.. the whole process should take about 7 minutes or so..

then continue with the rising instructions as it says.

*I haven't tried this method out myself but it should work. The kitchenaid just makes it easier. If you do try this method, please let me know how it works for you and what you did.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Macarons for national macaron day.

March 20 was national macaron day.. And I made these.

And here I am on March 28 posting about it. Just a little behind. I was caught up in doing nitty gritty spring cleaning/rearranging all week, and I'm happy to say that I only have 3 closets, 1 dresser and the pantry left to organize.

Back to macarons, I had a few failed attempts after my first success. I haven't had the chance to buy almond meal (flour) so I've been using my food processor to grind slivered almonds. And I couldn't find the right mix between super chunky almonds and almond butter. I learned my lesson. This time I only pulsed a few times, then sifted, then pulsed, then sifted more, then pulsed, and on and on until i had the right amount of flour on the scale. It was tedious, and I hope I find almond meal at a store soon, but it did in fact work.

For these I used the recipe from an article by tartelette called Demystifying macarons. Download it here. It is a really useful step by step tutorial for making french macarons.

P.S. i saw she&him last night and it was ahhhhmazing. But more on that next time..

French Macarons with chocolate ganache

100g egg whites, aged (in a covered container on the counter for 24 hours, or microwave for 10-20 seconds before using)
50g granulated sugar
200g powdered sugar
110g almond meal

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add granulated sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue.

Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly.

Add them to the meringue, and start to give quick strokes at first to break the mass and then slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes.
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flatten on its own, you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple more folds.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inchs in diameter) onto parchment paper or silpat baking sheets.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on their size. Let them cool completely before filling.

Pipe or spoon your filling of choice on one shell and sandwich with another.

To make the filling:
Melt dark chocolate in microwave safe bowl. Once melted, add cream until desired taste and consistency.

*I'm working on getting my layout to work with bigger pictures in the post. But for now if you would like to see them enlarged, you have to click on them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

a wishlist

I did some online window shopping over the weekend. And I'm going crazy for these! Especially the rompers. I've always had a thing for onesies (just ask my family) and these look especially comfortable for the atrocity that is summer in Georgia.

plus this amazing radio

These amazing linen heels

and this swim suit!
All items are from urban outfitters

Bake it pretty winner!

And the winner is Sarah! Comment #45

Hooray Sarah! I hope you finally get the magical forest sampler!

Thank you all for participating and to Bake it pretty for sponsoring this wonderful giveaway!

This was really fun and I will definitely be doing more in the near future.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The many uses of coffee filters

A few months ago my mom sent me an email with a bunch of great ways to use coffee filters. I got a french press for Christmas so I had over 100 coffee filters that have been sitting in a kitchen cabinet. I thought I'd post them here, along with some pictures. (Pictures make everything better, right?) They are really useful, and with each one I find myself saying "Why didn't I think of that??"

1. Cover bowls and dishes in the microwave. If you've ever had refried beans explode in your microwave, this will be the first thing you start using the coffee filters for.

2. Strain yogurt for making dip or frozen yogurt. Place filter in a wide-mouth jar and secure with a rubber band. Spoon yogurt and drain until desired consistency. This was perfect for me, I never have cheesecloth.

3. Protect china by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter in between each dish. (I don't own such china, so I demonstrated with my fiestaware)

4. Weigh food in a coffee filter on kitchen scale. This is genius! And so convenient.

5. Use coffee filter as a small disposable snack bowl.

6. Protect a cast iron skillet. Place a coffee filter inside skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

7. Clean windows, mirrors and chrome. Coffee filters are lint-free so it leaves them sparkling clean.

8. Use strips of coffee filters as waxing strips for your eye brows.

Here are a few more I didn't have the chance to photograph.

  • Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
  • Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes
  • Keep your hands clean when eating a popsicle. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
  • Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.
  • As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
  • Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
  • Diffuse the flash on a camera. When you’re taking a close-up, soften the brightness by placing a coffee filter over the flash.

If you have these lying around I hope you find this helpful. And if you don't have them lying around, you can buy a few hundred for a $1.

Have a good weekend! I'll be painting some furniture, having a bon fire with friends and catching up on the ever growing stack of library books.

Oh and if you haven't entered to win the Bake it pretty gift card make sure you do so before Sunday night!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cookie no-dough ice cream and bake it pretty giveaway

Bake it pretty giveaway after recipe!

Sugar. It's my weakness. For the past few months (read: years) I've been battling the addiction. I really love my sweets. I love ice cream, cookies, cakes, muffins, and candy. Even really cheap "gross" candy.

I don't want to be addicted to the stuff but I also don't want to give up something that I get so much enjoyment from. That is where balance comes in.

I'm sugar "fasting" for six days a week. No brown sugar on my steel-cut oats in the morning, no sweet and sour tofu, no spaghetti sauce (unless homemade without sugar), ect. But one day a week I'll bake and eat whatever sweet I desire.

As a result, I don't feel sluggish all day, everyday. But I still get to indulge once a week. It's been working out great.

This week I could not decide for the life of me what I wanted to make. I had about 1001 ideas but nothing was popping out at me. Until I remembered this recipe I had bookmarked. I guess I have a thing for chocolate chip cookie dough.

Cookie no-dough ice cream
(adapted from joythebaker)

Note #1 from Abi: I used whole milk instead of half and half. I understood this would result in a less creamy ice cream but I was okay with that. And it was still absolutely divine. But if you want super creamy ice cream, go with the half and half.

Note #2 from Abi: After you pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan, keep stirring the entire time! otherwise you might end up cooking some of the egg. If you do end up with some graininess (cooked egg), no worries. Just strain through a fine mesh strainer a few times until smooth.

1 cup chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups whole milk (or reduced fat, if you prefer)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of salt

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter until it is a deep golden brown color. There will be charming little brown bits at the bottom of the pan. You don’t want it too burnt, otherwise it’ll taste, for lack of a better word, weird. Add the half and half and heat until scalding (not quite boiling).
In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy. Take the half and half mixture off the heat, and add a little to the egg mixture while mixing. This is called tempering the eggs: introducing hot liquid a little at a time to eggs while stirring, as to not cook the eggs with the hot liquid. Add a little more (just over half of the hot mixture total) and the healthy pinch of salt, then pour everything back into the sauce pan.
Heat, stirring very often or constantly, until about 170 degrees, or until it coats a metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill. Once the mixture is chilled, whisk in the additional 1 1/2 cups of milk and add it to your ice cream machine. When it’s almost fully churned, add your chopped chocolate. Eat directly from the ice cream maker or freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Now for the best part of this post.

I am sure many of you already know and love bake it pretty. If you don't, click on that link and you'll see what I'm talking about.

It is the cutest store you'll ever see. I seriously want ten of EVERYTHING they sell.

On bake it pretty, you'll find tons of cute cupcake liners like these: (Pictures via

ever adorable cookie cutters like these:

and even cute cupcake toppers like these

Plus sprinkles, cupcake kits, and tons more

To enter:

Head on over to bake it pretty and have a peek, then come back and leave a comment to tell me which item/s you'd want. And be sure to leave an email address so we can contact you if you win.

If you want to double your chances, post a link on twitter or your blog and link it back here in an additional comment.

The giveaway will be open until Sunday (3/21) at 9pm EST. I'll select the winner randomly, and announce on Monday.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kitchenaid White wheat bread

I'm on the hunt for a go-to wheat bread recipe. I've been testing out a new one each week and most of them have been okay, while only one has been flat out disgusting. By the way, few things are worse than spending 3 hours working on bread and it turning out nearly inedible.

I came across this one last week in a Williams sonoma cookbook. When I saw it made the kitchenaid do all the work I was sold. It came together easy and tastes great. Finally!

I'm keeping this one around, however I'm still working on the perfect 100% whole wheat bread. If you have one you love please let me know!

White wheat bread
makes 2 loaves

1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
pinch of brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 cups (375ml) tepid milk (90 degrees)
1/4 cup (75g) pure maple syrup, honey or light molasses
1/4 cup (60ml) canola oil
1 Tbsp salt
3 cups (470g) whole wheat flour
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour, or more if needed

In a bowl, sprinkle the yeast andbrown sugar over the water and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine milk, maple syrup, oil, salt and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Beat on medium-low speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the yeast mixture and the remaining whole wheat flour and beat for 1 minute. Beat in the bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed, adding bread flour 1 tbsp at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth but slightly sticky when pressed, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to an oiled deep bowl and turn the dough once to coat it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease two loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide it in half. Flatten into a rectangle that measures about 14"x9" with your hands, and roll like you would when making cinnamon rolls. And place into loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until about 1 inch above the rim of each pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake until the loaves are golden brown and pull away from the sides of the pan, 35-40 minutes. Turn out onto racks and let cool completely.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

this weekend

this weekend I ate these

drank this. (Oh kombucha, i love to hate you)

and made these.

I also saw alice in wonderland (which was so pretty, I loved it), organized my kitchen, and put a dent in the 30+ library books I currently have checked out.