Tag Archives: alton brown

Cinnamon Vanilla Granola

I complain about the heat all summer long. It’s just what I do. Normally I’d be whining about how it is 95 out, but it is hotter in other parts of the country so I’ll just keep my pretty little mouth shut. And being the perfectly reasonable person that I am, I still turn my oven on during the hottest time of the day to make yummies that bake for over an hour, like granola. I mean, 250F isn’t that hot for an oven, so what’s the big deal?

 

I know it would be better for my electric bill to scale back on the oven use over the hot summer months, but I still need my treats. And granola is a staple in this house, usually with dried fruit. We are never without it. I sprinkle it on my yogurt. My hubby takes it to work everyday for a snack. We eat it as cereal. We take it with us whenever we travel. So, you see, I can’t just stop making granola because it is hot outside. I could stop whining, but what fun would that be?

Put into jars for easy little homemade gifts! 

One year ago: Best Ever Banana Bread

Cinnamon Vanilla Granola

Inspired from Alton Brown

Yield: About 6 to 8 cups depending on the nuts you use

Difficulty: Really Easy

Time: 10 minutes to prep; 1 hour 15 minutes to bake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped nuts (I usually use a combination of almonds and walnuts, but anything goes here)
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey, maple syrup, or a combination
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dried fruit, optional. (I prefer cranberries or cherries)

Notes: I’ve made this recipe so many different ways over the years. It is very flexible and you can add or delete things to make it yours. You can adjust the sugar to suit your needs: more will obviously make it sweeter but will also cause it to clump together more, kind of like bars. Less will make it looser, which isn’t bad either, but I’ve found it is harder to snack on that way. Olive oil may seem strange but it is a better fat than canola oil and I think the taste is better. Flaxseed is optional, but a great way to add some heart goodness to your food without knowing it is there! If you omit it, I’d add another 1/2 cup of nuts or oats. It is pretty sweet by itself but is a wonderful compliment to tangy greek yogurt.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250F. Prepare one or two sheet pans. One if you want your granola to clump together a bit more (this is what I do) or two if you want it to be looser and roast a bit more.

2. In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, flaxseed, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Toss together to combine well.

3. In a small bowl combine the oil, honey or maple syrup, vanilla, and pinch of salt. Whisk together.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until well combined.

4. Spread onto sheet pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Your house will smell intoxicating. No need for candles today!

5. Let cool in the sheet pan. If you want really big clumps, don’t touch it till it is cool. It will then break nicely into large pieces (if you used just one pan). If you want it to be more cereal like, let it cool for just a minute then take a spatula and start stirring it up. You can add dried fruit at this point, but I usually don’t add the fruit until right before serving. I may use fresh fruit, especially this time of year, or dried fruit.

What’s your favorite granola? I  need some ideas to mix it up a bit!

Enjoy!

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Day 10 of Bakers Dozen: Chewy Ginger Snaps

We’ve made it to the home stretch! Can you believe Christmas is less than a week away? This time of year always flies by. I’m almost done with my holiday shopping, just have a few last minute items to pick up and the last of my mailings went out today. Now it is time to just kick back and relax a bit!

Gingersnaps are probably one of the most recognized holiday cookies. I’d always preferred sugar cookies over ginger cookies but I may have been persuaded with this recipe. The perfect amount of fresh ginger, chewy (not a fan of crunchy), and well, I think they look pretty. I think Santa agrees!

This recipe came from Alton Brown, Good Eats 3. It’s a really amazing book and would make a great gift for a foodie. And Amazon is selling it at half the price I paid for it. We were lucky enough to meet Alton at one of his book signings this past fall, but you had to buy the book from the store to get a ticket. Which of course meant buying it at full price. It’s a steal at $18! I also got the Sugarplums recipe out of this book. And the marshmallows. Can’t say I don’t use my cookbooks, right?

These cookies are easy, which is how Cookies for Santa should be. You don’t want the added stress of complicated cookies this time of year. Chopping the ginger was the most time consuming part. I omitted the candied ginger because I knew that would be too much ginger for my taste buds, but added extra fresh ginger, 4 tsp instead of 2 tsp.  And the fresh ginger makes a huge difference. Don’t omit that. It takes the cookie to a whole new level.

I used a tablespoon scoop and baked the cookies for 12 minutes to get them perfectly chewy. If you prefer a crisper cookie, just bake longer, about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Ginger Snaps

Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: about 30 cookies

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 ounces dark brown sugar (just under 1 cup)
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick + 1 tsp)
  • 3 ounces molasses, by weight (1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 ounces finely chopped candied ginger (optional – if you add candied ginger reduce fresh ginger to 2 tsp)
  • coarse sugar for sprinkling on cookies (optional)

Note: I’ve provided conversions in case you don’t have a scale, but I can’t vouch for the accuracy.

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, clove and salt.

3. Place the brown sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until light and fluffy,3 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the molasses, egg and fresh ginger and beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger, if using, and using a rubber spatula, stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with paddle until well combined.

4. Using a 1 TB cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a parchment lined half sheet pan approximately 2-inches apart. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12 minutes for slightly chewy cookies or 15 minutes for more crisp cookies. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.

5. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to stay on the sheet pan for 30 seconds before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with all of the dough. Store in an airtight container for up 10 days (trust me, they won’t last that long!). If desired, you may scoop and freeze the cookie dough on a sheet pan and once frozen, place in a resealable bag to store. Bake directly from the freezer as above.

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Baker’s Dozen Days of Christmas Day 1: Hot Cocoa & Peppermint Marshmallows

It’s December, in case you hadn’t checked your calendar yet. That means the holiday season is in full swing! I know this time of year means different things to different people. I’m not religious, so for me it means spending time with loved ones, putting smiles on their faces with yummy food, and well, eating, drinking, and being merry. I’ve made it a rule the past few years not to go overboard and really just enjoy this time of year.

I did some quick research on the 12 Days of Christmas, since I didn’t know much about it, and technically it starts December 25 and ends January 5. Well, I’m not going to follow that rule and plan to have my 13 days – a baker’s dozen – done long before that so we can enjoy the holiday treats.

Day 1 is a very easy project and one that makes great gifts for family and friends – hot cocoa and marshmallows! Who doesn’t love hot cocoa during the holidays? Both recipes are from Alton Brown – so you know they rock – and are easy to do with little time required. Ok, so the marshmallows can be slightly intimidating, but once you make them you’ll see just how easy it is. And tasty.

In fact, my hope is that once you make your very own hot cocoa mix, you’ll wonder why on earth you were wasting your money with sub par products like Swiss Miss. Let’s talk about the ingredient list in a package of Swiss Miss. I found this on Wal-mart.

Swiss Miss: Sugar, Corn Syrup, dutch process cocoa, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil , Nonfat Dry Milk, Less Than 2% Of : Natural Flavor, Carrageenan, Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono- And Diglycerides (huh?). Contains Milk.

Homemade hot chocolate: powdered sugar, dutch process cocoa, powdered milk, salt, and cornstarch.

Cayenne pepper is optional, but I like it (didn’t add it for my gifts though – not everyone is crazy about cayenne in their hot cocoa. They just don’t know what they are missing!).

Maybe you think I’m overreacting, but I’d rather have the cocoa with the ingredient list I can pronounce. Just. Saying. And you know what? It took all of five minutes to make. Dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and you have a whole bunch of hot cocoa for much cheaper and better quality than buying a prepackaged product. And you can make it pretty and give it as gifts. This is what I did:

You could probably do better than me and even add a cute little scoop or something. And probably cuter labels. I’m not the most crafty person around.

This recipe makes several cups of dry cocoa. I don’t know how many servings because I am still using mine. But it will make a lot. And it is so yummy, especially when made with hot milk. Rich and creamy and chocolatey.

Moving on to the marshmallows. This isn’t quite as easy as the hot cocoa, but still only took about 30 minutes, depending on how you cut the them. And Alton’s recipe uses gelatin instead of egg whites, which makes the recipe even easier and almost fool proof. That’s good, right? Right. I tried to take pictures while making the marshmallows, but well, that just didn’t work. Didn’t want the camera too close to hot sugar, nor did I want to be distracted while working with hot sugar.

You do need a candy thermometer (or a digital one like this) and you need a mixer. Handheld will work, but you’ll be holding it for about 15 minutes. That said, it’s pretty basic. Disolve gelatin, bring sugar mixture to 240F, slowly pour hot sugar into gelatin and mix for about 15 minutes until you see fluffy white marshmallow. I also added a bit of red food coloring and peppermint extract. You could use any extract and color you want. Isn’t it great when you have creative control? And, on top of all that, you can use cookie cutters to create fun shapes. I did candy canes.

They taste so fresh and pillowy! After having homemade marshmallows you’ll wonder just how long the store bought versions have been sitting on the shelves. And let’s not forget the ingredient list. We’ll use Kraft Jet Puffed.

Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallows: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Water, Gelatin, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (Whipping Aid), Artificial Flavor (gee, that’s my favorite flavor!), Artificial Color (Blue 1).

Homemade marshmallows: gelatin, sugar, corn syrup, salt, vanilla. (Plus cornstarch and more sugar for dusting).

Again, the choice is clear. Why put artificial stuff in your body if you don’t have you? People call me a food snob because I refuse to eat anything artificial. I’m not sure why refusing to eat chemically made “food” makes me a snob, but I’m ok with that.

On that note, I’ll step off my soap box and move on to the recipes.

Yield: 5 1/2 cups dry mix

Difficulty: Really easy!

Hot Cocoa

Recipe from Alton Brown (I didn’t change a thing!)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • Hot water or milk

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. Store in airtight container. When ready to use, warm water or milk in a mug and add several spoonfuls of dry mix (start with just one or two, and add until you like the taste). Top with marshmallows.

Marshmallows

Recipe from Alton Brown

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 to 2 drops gel food coloring (optional)

1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat. (this took a bit longer for me, but I turned the heat down).

3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. (Make sure you do NOT pour the sugar onto the whisk! Sugar will go everywhere and you may get hurt!) Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows. (there is also a method for “mini” marshmallows that involve piping, but cutting them will be much easier).

4. Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

5. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

And that’s it! Both recipes took less than 45 minutes combined! Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Have You Met My Friend, Chocolate Chip Cookie?

It’s here! It’s finally here! What, you ask? The one year anniversary (or birthday?) of Cookie Talk. Yes, folks, I’ve survived one year of blogging. I’ve learned so much, particularly about photography, and it’s been great hearing all the comments and suggestions. Blogs are such a wonderful way to share and connect with others. So thank you for sticking with me!

And what to do for the 1st Anniversary? Cookies, of course. Not just one cookie, but three cookies. To be fair, I’ve done one before, it was one of my very first posts, the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever, which is a copycat of the Levain Bakery from Lisa Michele. I’ve been making this cookie for about two years, feeling as though no other chocolate chip cookie could ever take it’s place. But all over the food world I see two other popular recipes: The New York Times recipe from Jacques Torres, and the Neiman Marcus “$250,000” cookie, or however much the rumor goes.

I was curious, and thus, came the challenge. I’d make all three chocolate chip cookies and the hubby and I, as well as a few of our more-than-willing friends and co-workers (“Hey, want to taste some cookies?” is a great way to win some friends), would do a blind taste test. It’s a rough job blogging. Really, tasting all these cookies was such hard work! Fine, don’t believe me.

The blind tasting for hubby and I was actually challenging, but probably not in a way that will garner any sympathy. We knew what went into each cookie and what each one looked like. But we tried to make it as objective as possible and even went so far as to blindfold one while the other took notes. But it was still pretty easy to guess which cookie we were tasting.

I learned a lot from this experiment, and was a bit surprised as well. I’m also working on my own chocolate chip cookie recipe, combining our favorites from each. But that’s a post for another day. Making the perfect cookie doesn’t happen overnight.

And the winner is (drum roll)…… The New York Times Jacques Torres, with Levain as a very close second. In fact, my initial favorite was Levain, barely, because I just couldn’t accept that my favorite cookie was being replaced. The more I ate the NYT cookie (yes, I’ve had several, which is not good for the waist line. See the sacrifices I make?) the more I liked it and the more I realized the Levain wasn’t as special as I thought it was. It was like learning you and your best friend have grown apart and now you have a new best friend who is much cooler and more compatible. It hurts a little. Until you have another cookie.

Now, I must point out that I have never had a true Levain cookie, or a Jacques Torres cookie, or a Neiman Marcus cookie. The Levain is a copycat recipe, which could completely change the results. So it isn’t a completely true competition, but hey, we’re doing the best we can. Someday I hope to go to New York and have Jacques Torres and Levain all in the same day. Probably with a tummy ache on the side.

Now, let’s talk about the differences in these cookies. All three are basic chocolate chip cookies: flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, butter, chocolate.  But they are all very different cookies, as you can see in the picture above. I used the same scoop, 3 TB, for each cookie and they baked very differently. The first is the Torres cookie, the second Levain, and the third Neiman Marcus.

Let’s talk first about the least favorite: The Neiman Marcus. Really, this cookie had no business attempting to compete against the other two. It’s not even in the same category. Two people did say it was their favorite, but most didn’t even like it all that much. The only redeeming factor was the chocolate-y-ness of it (and also that was by far the fastest to make), which came from the insane amount of instant coffee. It almost tasted like a Coffee Chocolate Chip cookie. But it was kind of dry, almost crunchy, and really not that special. It had the least amount of butter, only 1 egg, and was mostly brown sugar, which should have been a good thing. But it just didn’t measure up. Sorry, Neiman Marcus, your cookie isn’t even worth $2.50.

Next, the runner up, the Levain Copycat. After I made this recipe for the umpteenth time, I noticed Lisa Michele had updated her recipe to include less flour and more brown sugar, which is exactly what we thought it needed after tasting the NYT recipe. I had always used less flour than she suggested, and I always add vanilla. I feel it is necessary in a chocolate chip cookie. This is a great overall cookie. It is cakey and well balanced between dough and chocolate. If you were forced to eat this cookie for the rest of your life, you’d still be darned happy. It does dry out quite a bit the next day, which is one of the reasons it was forced into second place, but a few seconds in the microwave can help fix that.

And finally, the star of the Cookie World, the New York Times recipe courtesy of Jacques Torres. This cookie is a real show stopper. It is everything you want in a chocolate chip cookie and then some. And I didn’t even use the chocolate “discs” as the recipe suggests, which I can only imagine would make it even more delightful. This cookie had a lower brown sugar to granulated sugar ratio than the Neiman Marcus, but for some reason the brown sugar really stood out in the Jacques Torres cookie.  I don’t know why it stood out more in this cookie. I’m baffled. I’m also completely baffled at how it baked. I fully expected a bigger rise on this cookie due to the cold butter and the extra baking powder. But it didn’t. It spread and wasn’t cakey at all like the Levain. Have I mentioned I’m baffled? This goes against my basic knowledge of baking. Anyone care to help me out here? It must have something to do with the ratio of butter to flour to leavening agents. Or maybe it is because it is made with bread flour and cake flour? Help. Where is Alton Brown when I need him? I need to watch his Chocolate Chip Cookie episode again!

And back to the cookie. It’s crunchy on the outside. Gooey on the inside. A rich chocolate flavor with a caramel tasting dough. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, how about sprinkling some sea salt on top to take you right over the edge into Chocolate Chip Cookie Heaven? Yup, that’s a winning cookie.

Let’s take another look at the cookies:

New York Times/Jacques Torres

Levain Copycat

Neiman Marcus

This was a fun experiment. It’s interesting to see how slightly different measurements can create a completely different cookie.  So what’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie and why?

Tips and Pointers: For each recipe I used Guittard chocolate chips, light brown sugar, unsalted butter, fine sea salt, King Arthur Flour, and a 3 TB scoop. I also could not bake and eat all these cookies at the same time, nor do I have enough friends to share all this dough. I recommend scooping each dough out, freezing the dough balls, and then baking when you are ready. If you freeze the dough and then try to scoop, you are likely to hurt your shoulder. Trust me, I learned the hard way. This also ensures that you can always have fresh baked cookies on a moments notice…which might not be a good thing.

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Neiman Marcus

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (doesn’t sound like much, but it is!)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chip cookies

1) Preheat oven to 300F. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

2) Beat in the egg and vanilla for another 30 seconds, or until combined.

3) In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in espresso and chocolate chips.

4) Using your desired cookie scoop, drop onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (or silpat) about three inches apart. Gently press down to flatten. Bake about 20 minutes, or until brown. I think 20 minutes is too long and only baked for about 16 minutes.

Levain Copycat

  • 2 sticks ‘cold and cubed’ unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups AP flour – Spoon and Sweep method. I usually stick with 3 1/4 cup.
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4-1 teaspoon baking powder (just under 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2)  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugars and vanilla until well blended and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.. and beat until well incorporated.
3)  Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in chocolate chunks, or add to the mixer at the very end on very low speed.
4)  Using a scoop, place each on sheet pan lined with parchment paper or silpat and bake in the preheated oven until very lightly browned, taking care not to over bake, about 14 – 16 minutes depending on your preference.

New York Times adapted from Jacques Torres

  • 2 cups minus 2 TB cake flour
  • 1 2/3 cup bread flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 TB granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups chocolate chips or discs
1)  Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.
2)  Cream together sugars and butter until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing completely and scraping bowl after each addition. Reduce speed to low and very slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Add chocolate very carefully.
3) Scoop cookies onto baking sheet and chill for 24 to 36 hours. Wrap tightly.
4)  Preheat oven to 350F. Bake cookies 14 to 18 minutes depending on the size, until golden but still gooey.
5) Eat immediately and have another.

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Pumpkin Brioche & French Toast

I hope all of you aren’t getting sick of pumpkin. I’m not! I recently made one of my favorite treats – Pumpkin Brioche. There are many things you can do with this dough, but this time I made it into loaves for the Best French Toast Ever. Yup. That’s right. You’ll agree with me when you eat it yourself. The pumpkin and spices, soaked in a custard, cooked until golden and then topped off with some fresh whip cream. Are you drooling yet? 

Now to have this as your delicious Sunday brunch, you’ll have to do a little planning ahead. Never fear though, while it is a little time consuming, there isn’t much hands on. Just a lot of waiting and you can knock off other things on your to-do list while you wait. This recipe is once again from Ciril Hitz, although I’m not sure what book it is from because it is a recipe I picked up in culinary school.

You’ll follow a similar technique to Classic Brioche, except this recipe has a starter called a Biga. The biga is super easy, but you need to plan for it to rest for at least 12 hours, preferrably 24. The biga has very little yeast so it won’t rise much, but it will help enhance the flavor.

Biga

  • 312 g    (11 oz)  Bread Flour
  • 190 g     (6.75 oz) Milk
  • Pinch instant yeast

Mix all ingredients together and then knead by hand until it forms a somewhat smooth, but still dry, dough. It will seem as though something is wrong, but it’s not. As long as it is mixed and kneaded, it will be fine and should look something like this: 

Cover and let rest at room temperature for up to 24 hours.

The next day…..gather all your ingredients and keep the cold stuff cold.

  • 500 g (17.6 oz) Bread flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 8 g (1 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
  • 25 g (0.9 oz) milk
  • 11.5 g (0.5 oz) salt
  • 375 g (almost 1 can) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 65 g (2.3 oz) sugar
  • 50 g (1.76 oz) honey
  • 125 g (4.4 oz) butter

Place all your ingredients, except for the butter, in your mixing bowl. It helps to put the liquids in first, then your biga (which you can cut into pieces), and then the dry ingredients. Keep your butter aside for later. Mix on speed 1 for five minutes. While the dough is mixing, make your butter pliable.

After the clean up stage, increase to speed 2-4, depending on your mixer. I usually do speed 4. Slowly incorporate your butter adding a little at a time and waiting until fully incorporated before adding more. Remember, this process will take about 15 minutes.

After all the butter is incorporated, mix until a good gluten window has formed and the dough is smooth.

Empty dough into a container sprayed with cooking spray and perform a stretch and fold. Let rest for 45 minutes and perform another stretch and fold. After another 45 minutes, the dough should be ready. But, if it looks like it needs a little more time (perhaps your kitchen is cold?) then let it rise a bit longer until double.

A loaf is the easiest way to do this dough if you are making it for french toast. We will explore other options (such as filling with pastry cream!) another time.

This will make two big loaves of dough. It would probably make three loaves if you like your slices a little on the smaller side. So, depending on your preference, divide your dough up into two or three equal parts. Loosely shape your dough into rectangles and lightly flatten. Then, to shape into loaves, fold half the dough over towards itself and then the other half so they meet in the middle.

One side folded over to the center. Repeat with the other half.

When both sides are in the center, fold one side again so that it completely covers the other side and seal by lightly “hammering” with the side of your hand. Then flip the dough over and cup both ends with your hands and pull gently towards yourself repeatedly until the seam has sealed. Once it is sealed, place the dough in a prepared bread pan (sprayed lightly) and let rest until double. To create a home proofer, put both loaves in the oven and spray the oven with water. If this isn’t possible, just cover with a damp towel.

Before proofing.

After proofing.

After proofing, brush lightly with egg wash. If you made two big loaves, preheat your oven to 325F. I made the mistake of baking at 375 and the very top burned ever so slightly, so I’d recommend baking a lower temperature. Bake until a thermometer in the center (insert thermometer from the side or bottom, not the top) reads 160F. If you made three smaller loaves, then 375F should be fine.

After a few minutes, remove loaves from pan (don’t let sit in pan for more than 10 minutes or bread may become soggy) and let cool completely on a cooling rack. This will be hard to do. You will want to taste it. Resist the urge!

After cooling you can do what you wish. Make toast with cinnamon sugar (yum!) or make French Toast, which as mentioned earlier was my sole purpose for making this bread.

My favorite french toast recipe is from Alton Brown, modified slightly.

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 TB honey, warm
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. Slice your bread and preheat oven to 250. Set up a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Place another sheet pan in the oven. Preheat a pan and have butter ready. Dip your bread in the custard and let each side soak for about 30 seconds. Move to cooling rack so excess can drip off. Add butter to your pan and brown the bread on each side, then move to oven to keep warm until you are finished with all the bread and custard.

Then, if you so desire, make some whip cream. I used about a cup of heavy cream, a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, and some grand marnier. Whip until fluffy. This is all done to taste, so just experiment with what you like.

And then…dig in!

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