Bake Club: Babish Cookies

I am one of the 9 million people who watch the BCU (Babish Culinary Universe), I started when he only had 6 million viewers last fall. I enjoy his humour and his odd English language choices. Twice a week I tune in to watch. Never have I ever made one of his recipes before but this time he made a basic cookie dough that could be used many different ways. We all know I love a good cookie.

After looking up the recipe here, I realized this was not an afternoon type of event. The first step required to make a batch of browned butter and then let it cool. I stuck it in the fridge over night to proceed with the cookie making the next afternoon. Look at that dark yumminess. I put it on the counter the next morning to let it come to room temp.

The first step has you creaming it together with sugar then add eggs. This recipe doesn’t have vanilla – which IMO- it needs. I didn’t add it but when you don’t use vanilla, you can tell its missing.

I then added the dry ingredients and and found this to be a very dry dough. The recipe recommends you let it hang out in the fridge for a while – up to three days. I thought it was too dry after a couple of hours so I let it sit in the fridge for the full three days. It really needs to hydrate. I found it to be much more pliable after hydration. I am not going to lie, I was a little concerned about getting all the fixin’s in if this thing was going to be so crumbly.

Thankfully, it came together just fine – still dry but it held together when you squeezed it.

I decided to make the kitchen sink version. He used kettle corn, chopped nuts, candy and other things I can’t remember. I sent the hubs to buy cookie fixin’s and he came home with Mint Areo balls, Kit Kat Chunk, Chocolate Chips and Almonds. – all his favourites.

So I chopped and tossed everything in.

I scooped with my largest cookie scoop – about a 1/4 cup measure and baked them at 375F for about 15 minutes. Less time than Babish did and I am glad. I prefer a softer cookie.

The result? Pretty good. I think using browned butter makes all cookies next level awesome. You could taste the nuttiness from it and I used regular salted butter because I love the salty/sweet combo it gives you. This is a big yes. The kitchen sink ingredients that the hubs chose were excellent. I loved the almonds and will add that again – I thought about pistachio and think that would also be really good. I would have put caramels in this – maybe next time.

How about the cookie base? It was not chewy, it is more of a crunchy cookie. It tasted good – but needed vanilla.

Will I make these again? I don’t know, it took me four days. FOUR DAYS for a cookie that was good but not spectacular.

Will I keep watching Binging with Babish or Basics or any of his BCU? Heck yes – this guy is hilarious.

What are you baking this week?

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Speculoos Babka

The last time I was in the United States back in 2019, I visited Trader Joe’s. This is now the only reason I want to visit. I kid… I also really miss In and Out Burgers. Anyway, back to TJs, they carry this magical spread called Cookie Butter. It is not found here in Edmonton, or wasn’t recently until Freson Bros came to town. The hubs and I were exploring this new Edmonton grocery store that commits to supporting local and the carry other items that aren’t easily found in Canada – like fresh fruit in January. The baking section is on another level. Missing an ingredient? It is there. I swear. (Let’s pause this part of the story).

At Christmas, you may recall, I received Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She has a recipe for Speculoos Babka. I looked through the ingredients and thought – there is no way I can make that until I am back at Trader Joes. Queue the sad music.

Fast forward to Freson Bros.

The hubs and I we wandering the aisle and I saw this:

Creamy Cookie Butter Case - WHOLESALE | Shop Biscoff

If you aren’t sure what Biscoff is, think back to your last plane trip and the package of cookies they give is Biscoff. It is my favourite cookie.

When I saw this on the shelf next to the Nutella I nearly lost my mind. As a bonus part to the day, lower down the shelf was a full package of BISCOFF COOKIES! (they are delicious but taste better at altitude like tomato juice does. Its a thing.

I remembered the speculoos recipe and knew this jar was coming home with me.

Out came the cook book and I went to work making the sweet dough. It is the same sweet dough recipe she uses for her cinnamon buns but your favourite sweet bread dough recipe will work here too.

I cut it in two and rolled into a rectangle measuring 10″ x 18″. I mixed 1 cup of cookie butter with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix it well and spread it over the prepared dough.

Then roll it as you would for a cinnamon roll or traditional babka. Now there is no slicing of the dough log in this recipe. Just twist it like this.

Place it into a greased bread tin and repeat with the other dough. Let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.

It calls for a crumble topping. 1 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp of cinnamon, half cup of light brown sugar, 12 tbsps. of melted butter. Mix together and you will notice it isn’t a usual crumb topping – its more like cookie dough. break it up into crumbs and sprinkle over the risen babkas.

Bake at 350F for about 65 minute – use an instant read thermometer to test. It should read an internal temperature of 185F.

It was so delicious. I highly recommend this one. I would also consider this as a cinnamon roll and forget the topping. It doesn’t need it because it is delicious on its own. If you give it a try, let me know how it went!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Confetti Cake

At my house, we are heading into birthday season. It kicks off with my mom’s birthday in March and ends with my dad’s in May. In between there are nephews, sisters, best friends and my two kids. We used to have parties in the before times. Now we bake layer cakes, give two layers to the birthday person and save one for us so we can eat it virtually together. My daughter requested a confetti layer cake but shares her birthday week with two of her best friends. She wants each of them to have a layer….with money baked in. Then she will deliver the cakes and together they will Zoom chat, eat cake and likely watch a movie or play a game together. This is what quarantine birthdays part II look like. Her first one was sad and lonely, now we have the hang of this together alone business. Maybe next year will be different?

I pulled out my Dessert Person cookbook by Claire Saffitz. She has really good cake cake recipes. Her Almond Poppy Seed is stellar. So I thought I would give her Confetti Cake a try.

In my head this is a pink cake, but when I read the recipe and look at my photos – its white. Weird.

The recipe calls for three 9″ round cake pans. I have two, but I also have a 9″ spring form pan. So I used that as well since this was not going to be a three layer cake. Grease – I used Pam – the pans then cut a 9″ round of parchment for the bottom of the pan and give that a once over with spray as well. Set these aside.

This cake uses the reverse creaming method. Nothing about this method is typical to cakes but it makes a superior moist cake with a tight crumb. I will forever make cakes this way from now on.

Mix all the dry ingredients (this includes the sugar – strange but true) in your stand mixer on low and mix to combine. Give the eggs a quick whisk with a fork to break them up then add it along with all the wet ingredients to the dry. Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.

Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.

It makes a big difference so set your timer. Then add one cup of sprinkles. I went to bulk barn. When you need a lot, buying in bulk makes sense.

The stars are my favourites.

Pour out the batter into the prepared pans. You can scoop, pour or weigh but try to get them even so they bake at the same rate.

Bake at 350F for about 40 – 45 minutes rotating at about 30 minutes unless you have a convection oven – then its fine and will bake evenly. Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Cake need the pan to help hold its structure. pop them out too quickly and you get cracks or broken sections. Then lay them on a wire rack to cool completely.

While they are cooling make your frosting. This uses a pound of room temp cream cheese – the good stuff not low fat or it won’t emulsify. This equates to two packages of cream cheese (room temp) and half a pound of butter – also room temp. Cream these two together for a minute. Then add one pound of icing sugar, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of vanilla. Cover your mixer with a clean tea towel and start mixing until everything is fluffy and combined. Chill this in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

I trimmed the layers so they would sit flat on the cake plate.

This is the chef’s snack.

Then place a dollop of frosting onto the layer, spread it around. It is at this point you add money. Wrap coins in wax paper or cling wrap – my grandma always used foil – and lay the coins around the first layer. Mix it up! Add twoonies and loonies or even wrap a fiver – but coins are super fun. Then add the next layer flat side up. Continue spreading the frosting across the top then the sides. Use a bench scraper to get everything super smooth.

I tossed more sprinkles on top but do whatever you like. My decorating skills are basic because it doesn’t interest me to go fancy – that is my sister’s job.

I did the same with the single layer but you could add it as a third layer if you wish.

This cake was delicious and reminded me of birthday cakes in the olden days before people started buying supermarket sheet cakes. I think that is why I thought I didn’t like cake. Store cakes don’t taste like anything good.

The single layer was plenty big. You could even wrap the layers and freeze. Frost them before you are going to eat them. I recommend watching her video first.

Here are the ingredients:

Confetti Cake:

Butter for the pans

5 1/2 cups cake flour (23.3 oz/ 660g)

2 1/2 cups sugar (16.4 oz / 466g)

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (0.63 oz / 18g)

1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.16 oz / 5g)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g),

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (12.7 oz / 360g)

1/3 cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (2.6 oz / 75g)

3 large eggs (5.3 oz / 150g),

6 large egg whites (7.4 oz / 210g),

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/2 cup store-bought rainbow sprinkles (3.3 oz / 93g), plus more for decorating

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Bake Club: Not Hot Cross Buns

The act of making is typically done to please someone else. At least in my case. I have created all kinds of things to gain that praise from someone. When I bake I make things that my family likes. Not this time. Today I made something that only I like. Last week I realized I have not been treating myself – that ended today.

My daughter claims dried fruit is an abomination. Raisins are like chewing old people. I disagree. But because I love her, I tend to leave out raisins, dried cherries, candied ginger and other dried fruit to please her. My grandma put raisins in everything. I remember my dad complaining about it in everything but butter tarts. I always loved them except that time she put it in her stew… grandma – I love you but that was weird. But the raisin sauce on ham was good!

Today I made Not Hot Cross Buns because every spring the bakeries make them and they look so delicious with their currents and raisins. The hubs bough ‘hot cross bun bagels’ last week. The flavour was nice but the fruit was green and red. That candied peel fruit that is dyed is tasteless and holds way too much artificial colour. I prefer no food dye. I am not sure why – but it turns me off. Anything that alters normal body chemistry and turns things colours can’t be good for you over the long haul.

I soaked 2/3 cup of raisins – the good kind that taste like they came from a red box. You know what I mean. Then I zested one orange and juiced it. I soaked the raisins in the orange juice for about 30 minutes. Rum is good for this as well. While that was happening I weighed out my 440g of flour, 50 grams of dark brown sugar and 50 g of white granulated sugar into the bowl of my stand mixer. I added 2 1/4 tsp or one package of instant yeast, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of allspice and 1/4 of a grated nutmeg. I whisked that together and started on my wet ingredients.

Into a small bowl or two cup glass measure, I added 1/2 cup of 2% milk, 1/3 cup of butter and popped that into the microwave for about a minute swirling it together until the butter melted. I added 1 Tbsp. of vanilla and the orange zest from before. Whisked 1 egg and add it to the mix.

In your stand mixer with a dough hook attachment (or by hand – but it will take a while) on low speed, slowly drizzle the wet ingredients. Before it combines into a ball, drain the raisins and add them to the dough. Beat on medium speed until it comes together. There will likely be raisins or what ever dried fruit you used on the bottom of the bowl.

Sprinkle about 2 Tbsp. of flour onto a clean surface and dump the dough and remaining dried fruit out. Start to knead the dough until it feels soft. At the beginning it will be gritty – you will know the second it becomes soft and smooth. It will take about 5-7 minutes but maybe longer. It took me 10 minutes today. Form into a ball.

Light oil a bowl, and place your dough into the bowl. rotate it so it also is covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let this double in size in a warm spot. Keep an eye on it it should be about an hour but it really depends on your kitchen.

Divide up the dough into 14 pieces and form into balls. I put them into a parchment lined pan because I like soft sides. Give them a little room because they will expand. If you don’t want soft pull-a-parts – put them on a baking tray with lots of room around them so they won’t touch while rising. Let rise for another 2 hours.

This is where I stop because a flour paste cross is tasteless and I don’t like the sticky glaze – but if you do – here are the rest of the instructions. This is why I call them Not Hot Cross Buns. My daughter said – just call it raisin buns…. sheesh mom!

The cross! Mix about a 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 of water until it forms a paste. You are going to pipe this – so adjust the consistency as necessary. I filled a ziplock bag and snipped the end off. Pipe a long stream from top to bottom allowing it to hug the bun. Turn your tray and repeat the process intersecting the first line.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Make an egg wash of egg and cream or milk – about a tbsp, and brush over your buns. Bake in the overn for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Make an apricot glaze – I used Peach jam because that is what my mom made me and it is what I had on hand. 1 tbsp. of jam, 3 tbsp. of vanilla and 1 tbsp. of water. heat together and strain through a fine sieve. Brush over the warm buns. Eat them warm, eat them room temperature or eat them cold.

This is how they should look:

Easter Hot Cross Buns Recipe | Le Cordon Bleu

Tell me how yours turned out!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Pistachio Pinwheel Cookies

I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.

There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.

I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.

This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.

I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.

Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.

No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.

I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.

I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.

I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.

These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.

Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.

  • 2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
  • 2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.6 oz / 130g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1-1/8 cups almond flour (5.6 oz / 160g)
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar, for rolling

Stay healthly friends!

Bake Club: Focaccia

Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.

I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.

I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.

I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.

I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!

Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.

Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.

It smelled so good.

I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.

I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.

Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.

Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.

Bake Club: Grunt

I am not sure this counts as baking because it bubbles away on a stove top making a grunting sound but its made with a sweet biscuit dough so I think it counts. Traditionally it is called Blueberry Grunt and is a long time Canadian Maritime treat with unclear origins. Some say Arcadian and some say Newfoundland but the recipe can be found in all the maritime provinces. I was invited to a Newfie kitchen party in my 20’s and had it then. I have been making it since but as usual, I stray from tradition. I use whatever berries or rhubarb I have in my freezer. Last night it was smoothie leftovers of strawberries and blueberries.

Five cups of frozen berries into a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1/2 cup of water and one cup of sugar. To that I add the juice of half a lime and all the zest from the lime. Essentially this is jam. Bring it to a boil, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer while you make the sweet biscuit dough.

My mom bought me a Danish whisk for Christmas and I had never seen one before. I did some research and learned it was for heavy batters like bread, muffins and quick bread batters. It claims not to over work the dough and keeps raisins from hiding in pockets of dough. It binds everything together without streaks of flour and there are no wood spoons to clean off all that tough batter. I put it in my baking drawer next to my rolling pin. When I was pulling out my measuring cups and spoons, I decided to give this whisk a try.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have no words. This was the easiest batter I every put together and the texture was beautifully smooth and supple. It came together fast – I’d say twice as fast as if I used a spoon or stand mixer. It’s heavy and feels good in my hand. I highly recommend picking one up to add to your kitchen gadget collection.

I used the whisk to pull together 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of milk. Drop spoonful’s of dough over the simmering berries and let it bubble away for 15 minutes with the lid on and no peeking. You will hear grunts and sputters but that is normal. RESIST the urge to peek. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let it sit for a while because molten fruit juice will blister your mouth – just speaking from experience. Eat it warm. Adding a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary to the simmering berries is a way to elevate your game. Cinnamon can be a nice addition too. This basic recipe can benefit from different herbs and spices or is excellent on its own.

This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but do yourself a kindness and heat it up before you eat it. The best cold winter dessert ever.

Let me know what you think! And stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Bagel Nightmares

I love bagels. Claire Safitz posted a a how-to video on NYT Cooking. It was a recipe from her new cookbook Dessert Person. Only it wasn’. She is a liar. Well…. It wasn’t the same recipe and this caused me stress because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I watched the video then read the recipe. I decided to follow the recipe in the book because so far – the recipes were fantastic. I figured I had nothing to lose. Except I had some issues, complications and problems.

The first one was finding barley malt syrup. No luck. It might be because I am in western Canada, or it might be because its a pandemic, I could not find any. The recipe did say molasses would be a good substitute. I had that – no problem. I used 100% bread flour as directed. My yeast was now a year old – and in my freezer. I had doubts.

I made everything like she directed and the dough was stiff. I had to let it rest a few times along the way just so I could knead it. If I had used my mixer like directed in the book (the video advised not to use my mixer) I would be shopping for a new stand mixer. The dough was that stiff – and very dry. Her video showed a shaggy but definatly wetter dough – ‘Add more flour as needed’ ummmmm Okay – sure it is dry here on the prairies but for the love of all things delcisious – not that dry!

I set it out to rest and rise – nothing. Okay – so my yeast was dead. I kinda expected that. I made everything the way the book advised. left it overnight, did a float test – it did not float – even after the suggested warm up time of 15 minutes. No floating. I popped them into the boiling water and when they floated after 3 minutes – I pulled them out and set them on a rack.

I sprinkled sesame and flake salt on them and baked for 15 minutes as directed. a few got a bit dark but they baked up nice. Cutting them was a another story – hole LEE! These suckers were tough. They were super chewy but SO DAMN DELICOUS!

Okay – I will try again but with new fresh yeast.

I tested and proofed the yeast – so frothy!

Followed the book again – damn the dough is tough. I could barely knead it. It looked like dried up brains. I left it to rise and headed straight to google to do research. I watched her video again. She used baking soda in the boiling water – omits it from the book. Her dough was soft and pliable. WHY???? I did some more research and learned Canada has higher quality flour than America. Canada has a standard that requires it to be 13% protein. This results in higher hydration than their American counterpart. American flours vary from 8-13%. Their bread flour is 13% – the same as our all-purpose flour. WHAT THE HELL??? I then started watching Montreal style bagel recipes and found they used bread flour but had more water. The baking soda makes a softer crust – chewy but penetrable with human teeth and no need for a chain saw to slice it.

Summary: Use more water. Use baking soda. Use less bread flour because we don’t have enough left in the pantry.

This is what happened.

I mixed tablespoons of fancy molasses and 1 1/4 cups of 110F water. 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast and set aside until it foamed – about five minutes.

Meanwhile mix 2 cups of Canadian AP flour and 2 cups of Canadian Bread flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Whisk together and make a well in the centre. Whisk the yeast mixture and add to the flour. Pull it together with your hands – add more water as needed. I ended up using another 1/4 cup of water to get the dough to come together. It was soft and pliable like bread dough should be.

I did not add flour to the counter – I kneaded it until smooth. The one on top is the hydrated dough. the one on the bottom is Claire’s version (Canadian ingredients in an American recipe). I kept kneading until it was smoother.

I divided the dough into nine portions per batch. Rolled them into balls and let them rest while I did more research. No one – and I mean NO ONE including Fairmont’s famous Montreal Bagels let the dough sit overnight in the fridge. Claire says do it – I say don’t bother. So I got my pot ready. I filled the pot with about 4L of water – and brought it to a boil. I added molasses until it looked like strong tea. Montreal version use honey and a pinch of salt. I like the dark colour you get from the molasses.

I punched my finger through the centre of the dough ball. and stretched to get a 4″ring. I couldn’t do it with the 100% bread flour – it was too tough. (traditional Montreal Style – roll into a log and wrap around your hand. Pinch dough together.) I covered with a damp towel and put three into boiling water. These fellows floated! New yeast for the win.

After boiling for 2 minutes a side, I transferred to a rack with a towel underneath. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Placed them on a bed of cornmeal and repeated the process until one batch was ready for the oven. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes. Same as before but none of the bagels were too toasty this time. I think that had to do with the dampness of boiling correctly.

I repeated the process with the 50/50 flour bagels.

I let them cool and then did a side by side visual and taste test. Both were easy to cut – thanks baking soda. Both had a chewy texture expected from a bagel. Thanks bread flour. But my recipe was just that much easier to chew. PLUS it was a bit more tender and had a nicer crumb. the 50/50 is on the left. They puffed up more while boiling.

I had one of the 50/50 bagel for breakfast – lightly toasted with butter. Damn…. it was delicious. I froze half the bagels and will eat the other half for breakfast this week. I won’t be following Claire’s bagel recipe again – mine was really good. Next time I make bagels, I will find a Canadian Montreal Style recipe and compare that for fun.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Poppy Seed Almond Cake

I remember my grandma always having a bundt cake on hand to serve when we came for a visit. The visit was called ‘coffee’. I never drank coffee but I always had the cake. My grandma was a good baker. I mentioned before that I received a couple of cookbooks for Christmas. I spent so many weekends trying out Duchess, I had neglected Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She is the phenom who stared in the Bon Appetit series Gourmet Makes where she would try some food and recreate it, things like Doritos or Skittles. Nine times out of ten she nailed it or improved upon it (according to her test kitchen colleagues. Where she really excelled was with pastries and desserts. That is what her cookbook is all about.

I read this book from start to finish and I think she has weird ingredients. Spelt and miso in baked goods are not things I have on hand in my pantry. I need to plan ahead when I decide to make something of hers. What I do like is the companion videos that go with some of her recipes. She has her own series produced by her publishing house Penguin. I have watched every video she has released so far. Including the satire video by Novympia. Hilarious because Saffitz isn’t the most cheerful person and she complains a lot. The best part is her being surprised by the instructions in her cookbook. All very funny and on brand.

I chose Poppy Seed Almond Cake as my first foray into Dessert Person. I watch the video here before I read the recipe and began baking it. My first thought was “this recipe is backwards”. Normally you would cream the sugar, eggs, butter and flavourings together first. Then add milk and four in stages. This recipe you combine all the dry in the stand mixer then add all the wet all at once. It is a very easy and forgiving cake.

Flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt all wen in first. I weighed everything because American measurements are slightly different from Canadian measurements and I wanted this to be accurate. It’s been a hot minute before I have used poppy seeds and almond flavoring, so those were the new purchases for this bake.

Then I added the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts.

I didn’t even have to break up the eggs before I added it to the bowl. I was highly skeptical. Then I mixed it on medium high for 2 minutes (set the timer).

It was about the consistency of pancake batter. I poured it into a prepared bundt pan. I used Pam and then floured it. But I don’t think it needed to be floured. I have a non-stick pan and Pam does a great job. Flouring the pan left flour clumps on the finished cake. So proceed with caution.

It baked for a long time, 90 minutes. When I pulled it out, there was a crack on the top (normal) and a nice brown crust (also normal). My cake tester came out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. This is an important step. The steam in the cake needs to release to improve the structure of the cake. The pan will support it while this happens. Pop it out too soon and your cake will break or crack. After 15 minutes turn out on a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. This will catch the crumbs and the glaze drips.

The glaze was simple. Using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer I combined melted butter (weird), orange juice, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. I poked holes all over the cake so it would absorb the glaze. Then I used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. It took and absorbed about five coats. I used all the glaze and you can scoop up the stuff from the bottom of the pan that drips off. I didn’t I was sticky enough.

I let it completely cool because in the video Claire and her mom talk about the odd dense section of the cake and Claire and her mom surmised it was from not letting the cake cool enough before cutting. I had let it cool 2 hours before we cut into it and I still got that strange dense section. It doesn’t affect the taste but it gives an appearance of an under baked cake. My advice is to let the cake sit overnight.

My daughter wanted you to know her review: It was good.

*Edmonton Tourist’s Note: I have made three more since this day. I have been baking treats for my parents lately because mom isn’t up to it and treats are nice. They both said it was the best cake they ever had – and it was Dad’s mom who was the famous grandma in this story – so that is high praise. I did let the cake sit over night and two things happened. It tasted better and there wasn’t that weird ‘under baked’ section of the cake. I also tried it in two loaf pans. This was smart. I froze one and ate one. It baked a little better in the loaf pan and I didn’t get the flour residue. Today I am trying orange blossom instead of almond – because dad want more.

So there you have it. It is one of those old timey cakes that grandmas used to serve for ‘coffee’. It was good – very moist and tender. One of the easiest cakes I have ever made not from a box. I will put the ingredients below because she shares them on her video.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups or 465g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp or 17g poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp or 6g baking powder
  • 1 tsp or 3g kosher salt
  • 3 cups or 390g AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups or 360g of whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cup or 288g of neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp of almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup or 90g of powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 57g orange juice
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract