Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bread Baking Buddies:Brioche Snowflake

When I saw this incredible bread I knew I had to try it.  I haven't baked with the group Bread Baking Buddies for ages, but this bread was too good to pass.  Plus it is so festive!   It is not for the inexperienced bakers, the brioche is not a beginner bread and the rolling and chocolate spreading were not that simple.  However, the end result is so beautiful!  In Italian we say "anche l'occhio vuole la sua parte", which means that even the eye has to be pleased.

You can find all you need to know in Lien's blog, and the original recipe with photos here.

Waiting for the snowflake to bake to take a final photo.

Few things...
  • I rolled the sections really thin in order to be able to create a nice layering effect, and in retrospect I should have chilled the circles before spreading the nutella since they were quite soft (even after   softening the spread in the microwave). 
  • I cut the staked circles to have a perfect circle before the twist.  The leftover made a  tasty although misshapen morsel. 
  • I used the top of the spread in the center of the bread before cutting, this made sure the cuts were even in the center.
 Can't wait to try it!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Turkey and Kale Salad

At the risk of committing a heresy, I confess that I don’t like turkey meat.  I find it bland in taste, and always dry, this year's Thanksgiving leftovers were not different.  Despite my finicky taste buds, I wouldn’t want to waste any food, the turkey and the people who raised it deserve better.  This turkey salad used ingredients I had at home and used up the leftovers, it was delicious and very nutritious.  This is just a starting recipe, change the nuts or any of the other ingredients according to your taste.  I threw in some cut grapes towards the end and it was even better, chopped apples would work as well.

Leftover Turkey Salad 

2 cups chopped turkey leftovers
1 cup chopped Tuscan kale
2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
A handful of dried cranberries
A handful of walnuts, chopped
1 big spoon of mayonnaise
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Toss all the above ingredients and adjust the seasoning. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

No-Knead Chocolate Bread-Bread Baking Buddy

I can't remember the last time I baked as a Bread Baking Buddy, let alone the last time I baked bread.  First my gluten intolerance, then being burnt out by my professional baking kept me away from one of my the greatest satisfactions, getting my hands in some yeast dough.  Lately I have  started baking again to my family's happiness.

I saw this bread when it was chosen as bread of the month by the Bread Baking Babes, and I decided to make it for my family since they love bread and they are all serious chocoholics.   Plus I was also up at 2 due to jet lag so why not bake some bread?

I followed the recipe to the letter, except that I omitted the chocolate chips in the dough and did some extra mixing since the dough didn't come together easily. 

I used the gluten developing technique I learned from my friend and mentor DMG, which works great with very wet doughs and when a mixer is not available.  I know this is a no-knead bread but the recipe warned that the dough works better when chilled, I figured I would get some gluten going to make it easier to handle.

After the initial mixing, I transferred the dough onto lightly floured surface, and by hand pulled the dough and folded it few times until it looked more homogeneous.  After a 10 minute rest, I pulled and refolded it again.  After another 30 minute rest, I pulled and folded it a final time.  The dough was left to rise in a warm spot for another hour and thirty minutes.

The recipe was chosen by Jamie of Life's a feast blog and can be found in Jamie's post, to find the recipe in a printed friendly link check Lien's post.

I left out the prunes, and tried two versions, a chocolate roll inspired by Ilva of the blog Lucullian Delights, and a loaf. 

For the loaf, I cut a pound and a half off the main dough, covered with chips and pat it down into a rectangle, rolled it tight as long as my loaf pan. I transferred the loaf, seam down, into the loaf pan and let it rise for 90 minutes in a warm place.  I then brushed it with the egg wash and covered it with sugar.  

For the chocolate roll bread I used the remaining dough, rolled the dough into a thin rectangle, brushed it with egg wash (one egg beaten with one yolk), sprinkled some granulated sugar and enough chocolate chips to cover most of the rectangle (leaving one long edge free of chips to seal it).  I then rolled the dough into a tight roll, cut about 2 inch sections and arranged them into a buttered 8" pan (the type with a 2" edge).  I let the shaped breads rise for 90 minutes, and baked it until the internal temperature reached 200F.

This bread was delicious, best eaten warm, but it makes a lot of dough so next time I will either make half of the recipe or freeze the dough after the first rise.  Loved the challenge!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Best Buttermilk Scone Recipe

It would be crazy to know how many scones I have baked in the past ten years, don't you agree?  This recipe was probably the first one I tried when I needed few morning pastry recipes for my very first job.  Joy of Baking was one of the first internet sites that offered a huge array of recipes, all of which were really good.  The recipe I use has been slightly modified from the original but it is such a good recipe I never felt the need to find another one.  At my second job in a tiny restaurant that was open for breakfast for its first 5 months two sweet ladies came in almost everyday just for the scones, and when I was selling them at a local farmers market, the ginger scones were among my best sellers.

The first time I had a scone was in Ireland, the morning after we camped on one of the Aran Islands.  We woke up early, started walking and stopped at a farm house that was converted into a restaurant.  The place  was not open for breakfast, but the lovely owner, a woman in her late 20's, invited us in and served tea and a delicious triangular pastry that must have been a scone.  The dried fruit and seeds made them delicious, I wish I could try her recipe, that was one of the most wonderful breakfasts of my life.  I suspect that the butter had a lot to do with the incredible taste.

I have made these scones with currants, dried cherries and anise seeds, chocolate chips, or crystallized ginger, and everyone who has tried them raved about them, so go ahead and try them, you will never go back.

The trick to light and flaky scones is to use cold ingredients and handle the dough as little as you can.  Once cut, they store for weeks in the freezer so double the recipe us and freeze some to keep for a moment's notice.

Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from The Joy of Baking

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz butter, cubed and chilled
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375F.  Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.  Add cold butter, mix with the paddle attachment until the butter pieces are pea size.  Add the chocolate chips or any other dry ingredients, mix for few seconds.  Add the buttermilk and mix just until incorporated. Transfer the dough onto a floured surface, finish the mixing by hand to avoid overworking the dough, form a ball and flatten it to a disk 1.5" high.  Cut the disk in eighths, brush with cream, sprinkle with crystal sugar (optional), and bake until golden, 15-20  minutes (turn the temperature down to 350 half way).   Variations:  1 cup chocolate chips, or 1 cup currants.   Add other ingredients to taste, like anise or caraway seeds.  For ginger scones add 1 tsp ginger powder to the dry ingredients, and 2/3 cup crystallized ginger chopped in 1/4" pieces.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Career and a Diagnosis

It has been cold in the Bay Area!

I disappeared once again, I needed to regroup, so much has changed since my last post, I am still processing it, but as of April I am no longer baking professionally.  It has been a long and sad process to give up the pastry chef profession, but it was no longer sustainable for me to work in professional kitchens, physically and financially, so it was time to move on.  I have loved the incredible creativity, the many challenges, the ups and downs, the many people I met, especially the wonderful Mayan and Guatemalan cooks I have worked with, they have brightened many long and tiring days.  Besides the hundred wonderful recipes I have tried, and the skills I have mastered, the best thing of all was meeting my mentor and pastry chef extraordinaire Darren, whom I can't thank enough for the incredible work ethics he instilled in me.   Cooking and baking will always be part of my life, and I look forward to baking a lot of cookies for the Holidays.

These flowers are stunning even frozen

So now what?  About two years ago I started thinking of an alternative career, and becoming a Master Gardener in May 2012 pushed me past my indecision and fears and I decided that plants, soil, sustainable gardens, edibles, and getting my hands dirty were in my professional future.  After taking few classes in sustainable landscaping I launched my new career, I now work as a sustainable landscape designer, I have a handful of steady clients, one beautiful yard installation, an ever increasing collection of books, and still lots of learning to do.  I am now in the process of finishing my web site, so stay tuned...

As I close one door and open another, I have been trying to figure out which direction to take this blog, I want it to be about food, but sugar has become my enemy so baking is much harder.  In the hope to help other people with similar issues I feel the need to talk about some health issues which have taken six years to figure out (talk about failure of the western medicine to find a diagnosis!).  

I have been struggling with joint and back pain for the past 6 years, I was told to take anti-inflammatory drugs to control the arthritis.  Considering my age I felt that I was doomed to not being able to get out of bed by the time I turned 60, and I refused to think that that was my future.  Gluten made it worse so I gave up gluten three years ago, but that didn't completely solve all my symptoms, I still couldn't get off the couch without feeling frozen in my joints.  Many tests ruled out an array of autoimmune diseases but I knew deep inside that my GI and joint symptoms were correlated, and I suspected that certain foods were causing the joint inflammation, my primary doctor was clueless.  

At last, and paying out my own pocket, a stint with a nutritionist, and my incredible chiropractor helped me to finally get a diagnosis.  It turned out I have SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth, probably the result of the damage that gluten caused in my body.   SIBO causes inflammation, my body was/is trying to fight it, and genetically I am sensitive to inflammatory responses (my maternal grandmother had horrible joint pain all her life too).  Carbohydrates are my enemy, avoiding all carbs for 3 months made me lose weight, feel finally normal, and to my complete surprise, I am now pain free!  After feeling able to finally move without pain I realized how much the constant joint pain was controlling my life and my mood, so I am mentioning it here in the hope of helping others who deal with multiple symptoms that don't seem related.

Stay tuned for an amazing sorbet recipe!
I am now trying to figure out how to heal my body, medicines for SIBO are not covered by my health insurance (!), and although eating a no carb diet is not feasible, reducing my sugar intake is now my life style.  So now you understand how baking is no longer a simple pleasure for me, I can't bake the cake and eat it too, right?   Even if the cake is gluten free.  Turning this blog into a gluten free/paleo blog is not something I want to do either, so stay tuned while I figure it out.  I still want to bake for my family, my kids have been begging for a while, I need to get my hands dusted in flour again.

There are many amazing bloggers that made the switch to gluten free baking and few that went grain free, here are just a few.

Cannelle et Vanille
La Tartine Gourmande
The Art of Gluten Free Baking
and the most comprehensive of all...Gluten Free Girl 
And a grain free/paleo site Deliciously Organic


Friday, April 5, 2013

Refrigerator Chicken Soup

No need to go to the grocery store if you normally are well stocked.

I have been away too long!  Lots has happened, a change of career (yes, again!), few dietary changes, but I am still cooking and baking for my family so more recipes to come.....

When the weather is really gloomy like today a hot soup is what I want to eat.  Knowing I had some frozen chicken broth and lots of vegetables in the fridge I opened the door and pulled all the things that I thought would work in a tasty soup.  In just 20 minutes I had a delicious and nutritious soup.

The recipe below is just a guideline, if you don't have chicken broth use water or a vegetable broth. Beans or quinoa can be used if you are vegetarian.  If you really like ginger add more, or use parsley instead of cilantro, be creative!

Refrigerator chicken soup
serves two

2 cups chicken broth
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 shallots, chopped fine
1 scallion, sliced thin
1 medium carrot thinly sliced
1 stalk of celery thinly sliced
1 garlic clove
1 small piece of ginger, sliced
1/4 finely sliced napa cabbage
half bunch cilantro, chopped fine
1 cup water
4 oz chicken thigh, cut in small cubes
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan heat up the olive oil, add the sliced onions, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the ginger, the broth, the cabbage, and a cup of water.  Cook for 10 minutes, add the cilantro, the meat and cook for 5 more minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

For the Children and the Staff of Sandy Hook

With unbelievable grief and sadness, I pay tribute to the children and the teachers lost in this horrible tragedy.   My heart breaks for their families and friends.

Charlotte Bacon 6
Daniel Barden
Olivia Engel 6
Josephine Gay 7 
Ana M. Marquez-Greene 6
Dylan Hockley 6
Madeleine F. Hsu 6
Catherine V. Hubbard 6
Chase Kowalski 7
Jesse Lewis 6
James Mattioli 6
Grace McDonnell 7
Emilie Parker 6
Jack Pinto 6
Noah Pozner 6
Caroline Previdi 6
Jessica Rekos 6
Avielle Richman 6
Benjamin Wheeler 6
Allison N. Wyatt 6
Rachel Davino
Dawn Hochsprung 
Anne Marie Murphy
Lauren Rousseau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Soto


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