Category Archives: Baking
The end of the year is coming fast, and November has been crazy! I had a quick visit to Philadelphia to meet up with my sisters for a happy family event. We packed in the activities, as we always do. Our mother was not one to sit still, and she trained us to be the same way.
I really like cake, plain simple unfrosted cakes. I could take or leave birthday cakes or other layered cakes, but I always enjoy a pound cake, a Bundt cake, or any kind of one layer cake. A simple glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar makes them complete, no fussing required. For Howard, I think it’s all about the frosting as he never gets excited when I make a cake, so they are usually relegated to occasions where I’m having just my friends over or bake something to bring somewhere else.
My favorite bakery cake is the Vanilla Bean Pound Cake made by Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge. They are regulars at the Lexington Farmers’ Market and, in season, I treat myself to a slice about once a month. The genius of their cake is that it’s soaked in vanilla-infused simple syrup, making the outside crust magical. Eating an end piece with its extra crust is just heaven. I’ve never made it myself, but here’s the recipe.
Right before I left, I made David Lebovitz’s Bay Leaf Pound Cake, the first November challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays. I did NOT need a whole cake. I had nowhere to bring it that week. So, I minified it. I made one-third of the recipe (dividing by the eggs, of course) to fill one small loaf pan – a personal pound cake.
This cake is a little different than a traditional pound cake recipe because rather than creaming the butter, the butter is melted. In this case, the butter is then infused with bay leaves to add some depth of flavor. A couple of bay leaves are also set on the bottom of the pan to add more bay flavoring.
We are also instructed to squeeze a line of soft butter on top of the cake to enhance a decorative crack. It could be because of my smaller pan, but that didn’t happen on my cake.
The final touch was an orange glaze. The cake’s predominant flavor was orange. Even with the infused butter and extra leaves, I didn’t notice the bay flavoring at all. Overall, this was a lovely cake, small enough for me to eat a daily slice for a few days. It wasn’t interesting enough to make again, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
The second recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is Panade de Butternut (Butternut Squash Bread Soup). To read the C&C (comments and concerns) post for this recipe, it wasn’t getting a lot of love, so I was a bit wary.
The recipe took a bit of advanced planning. David recommends homemade stock for this one. We were finishing up a whole chicken, so that was easy enough with a carcass on hand. I’ve been making stock in the slow cooker for the past few years which is so simple. Sourdough bread was also required. My sourdough starter needed a workout this week, so I managed to bake my own loaf to use. Stock? Check! Bread? Check! I was ready to go.
This panade is a layering of caramelized onions, toasted sourdough bread, sliced butternut squash, chopped thyme and sage, and grated cheese doused with the homemade chicken stock. I halved the recipe for our household. I must have sliced the bread too thickly because there wasn’t nearly enough to fully cover the pan for even two layers, and the recipe called for three. That means I had three layers of squash and just two of bread, which was fine.
As the panade baked, the bread absorbed all the stock, so the result was more like bread pudding than soup. It also reminded me of a lighter version of the filling for a stuffed pumpkin I’ve made. Whatever it was, it was delicious! All the flavors of fall combined into one hearty dish. It would be a wonderful alternative to stuffing for the Thanksgiving table. On the downside, if I’m being honest, even though I really liked it, in my opinion, it was a lot more work than it was worth.
Judge for yourself! Recipes for both the pound cake (page 296) and the panade (page 163) can be found in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. My friends from Cook the Book Fridays made these too. You can find their reviews for the cake here and the panade here.
It’s hard to contain my excitement. This week, Dorie Greenspan published her newest cookbook, Lucky #13, called Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook. It’s not a baking book this time. It’s an all-round cookbook with enticing pictures. As I browse the pages, so many recipes jump out and say “Make me! Make me!” As always, Dorie’s kind and encouraging voice guides you through the headnotes and instructions.
From October 2010 until May 2015, I cooked each and every recipe from Dorie’s previous all-round cookbook Around My French Table. It was an enjoyable and educational journey. Along the way, I met and bonded with a virtual group of cooks who were doing the same. A subset of us have continued to cook together under a group we call Cook the Book Fridays. Sticking with the French theme, we’re currently working our way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. With this week’s new book launch, we’re adding Dorie’s book to the mix. We’ll cook one of Dorie’s recipes each month until we finish up David’s book then continue until we make all the recipes in the new book. Hopefully, more of the original gang will join this new venture.
So, we begin….
The inaugural recipe I made from Everyday Dorie is My Newest Gougères. “My” is Dorie’s voice, not my own. For those not versed in French food words, gougères are best described as savory cheesy cream puffs. They are made with the same pâte à choux dough as cream puffs with the addition of grated cheese, and in this “newest” version, toasted walnuts and some Dijon mustard.
On paper, pâte à choux could seem intimidating, but it’s not that hard. You bring milk, water, butter, and salt to a boil. Then, you add flour, and stir, stir, stir, over low heat to dry out the dough.
Next, you beat in eggs (a stand mixer is best) one at a time, leaving you with a sticky dough. Finally, you add the cheese, mustard, and nuts.
Finally, scoop the dough onto parchment- or silicon-lined baking sheets. I used a small scoop which yielded 6 dozen puffs. We didn’t have any guests, so I baked one dozen to snack on before dinner. The gougères were light and airy. The nuts added a welcome bite.
Dorie suggests keeping frozen unbaked puffs in the freezer, leaving you prepared with appetizers when friends stop by for an impromptu (or planned) visit. That’s where the remainder ended up.
What a fitting start as the first recipe I made from Around My French Table was also gougères. I must admit that I haven’t made them since. I’m not sure why. Hopefully I remember to make these again before Dorie publishes her next book. You should try them too (recipe below or page 8 of Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook). Or give me a call that you’re stopping by and I’ll pull some from the freezer and bake them for us to share over an aperitif.
Also follow my Cook the Book Fridays friends’ links here to see what they thought of Dorie’s Newest Gougères.
And last, but not least, GO RED SOX!!!!!
excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
MY NEWEST GOUGERES
Makes about 60 gougères
Gougères are French cheese puffs based on a classic dough called pâte à choux (the dough used for cream puffs), and it’s a testament to their goodness that I’m still crazy about them after all these years and after all the thousands that I’ve made. Twenty or so years ago, when my husband and I moved to Paris, I decided that gougères would be the nibble I’d have ready for guests when they visited. Regulars chez moi have come to expect them.
Over the years, I’ve made minor adjustments to the recipe’s ingredients, flirting with different cheeses, different kinds of pepper and different spices.
The recipe is welcoming. This current favorite has a structural tweak: Instead of the usual five eggs in the dough, I use four, plus a white—it makes the puff just a tad sturdier. In addition, I’ve downsized the puffs, shaping them with a small cookie scoop. And I’ve added Dijon mustard to the mix for zip and a surprise—walnuts.
1⁄2 cup (120 grams) whole milk
1⁄2 cup (120 grams) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1⁄4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (preferably French)
2 cups (170 grams) coarsely grated cheese, such as Comté, Gruyère and/or sharp cheddar
2⁄3 cup (80 grams) walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
My secret to being able to serve guests gougères on short notice is to keep them in the freezer, ready to bake. Scoop the puffs, freeze them on a parchment- lined baking sheet or cutting board and then pack them airtight. You can bake them straight from the oven; just give them a couple more minutes of heat.
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat it to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the flour all at once, lower the heat and immediately start stirring energetically with a heavy spoon or whisk. The dough will form a ball and there’ll be a light film on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so to dry the dough. Dry dough will make puffy puffs.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work by hand with a wooden spoon and elbow grease). Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one, followed by the white, beating until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. The dough may look as though it’s separating or falling apart but just keep working; by the time the white goes in, the dough will be beautiful. Beat in the mustard, followed by the cheese and the walnuts. Give the dough a last mix-through by hand.
Scoop or spoon out the dough, using a small cookie scoop (11⁄2 teaspoons). If you’d like larger puffs, shape them with a tablespoon or medium-size cookie scoop. Drop the dough onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each mound. (The dough can be scooped and frozen on baking sheets at this point.)
Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.
Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom. Continue baking until the gougères are puffed, golden and firm enough to pick up, another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately—these are best directly from the oven.
STORING : The puffs are best soon after they come out of the oven and nice (if flatter) at room temperature that same day. If you want to keep baked puffs, freeze them and then reheat them in a 350-degree-F oven for a few minutes.