Also, with regard to the butter post, would you not want to use the dry butter in bread applications because the moisture will help activate glutens? Or do you assume that your processes in preparing the bread dough do enough activation that the extra moisture from the butter is not necessary?

Reasonable question(s), Sara.

Bread doughs develop plenty of gluten if properly kneaded and in appropriate flour to water ratios. Missing the additional water from a dry(er) butter will do little to no damage whatsoever. While the additional butterfat will coat some of the flour molecules and prevent them from stringing together, the difference will be modest at most. Moisture levels in the air and the flour will affect the final product much more than water content in the butter which is why it is always a bit of a guessing game, even if baking by weight from a recipe. In yeast doughs rich in butter the benefit of using a better butter would be better flavor.

Plus, one always has the option of adding additional water to make up the 2-8% loss (by weight of the beurre sec), if one is so inclined. Personally, I'd follow the recipe to spec. and add extra flour (or water) if the dough looked like it required it.

Straus Butter
Photo © Straus Creamery

If you ask any culinary professional worth their salt: "What is the key to success in the kitchen?" they will almost always respond with "start with the best ingredients available." If one can perceive the unspoken, yet inherent, addition of "and don't screw them up," one would be 75% of the way toward making a great meal. Not unlike everything else in life, when it comes to food, you generally get what you pay for - and it's usually worth the extra 10-20% to buy premium brand base items (though there are a few exceptions to this rule). You'll find if you follow the exact recipe for say, veal scallopine, with store brand flour and butter and place it next to a the same breaded in premium flour (say King Arthur's Flour) and butter (which you have previously clarified) the latter will win in a blind taste test every time.

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Many of my posts are going to revolve around one topic: the purchase, preparation and consumption of meat. To save myself the hassle of re-typing the same things over and over again in every post, I thought it prudent to jot down some simple rules for buying and preparing meat. If you're a protein enthusiast like me, I implore you to go out and pick up:

Image from Amazon
The River Cottage Meat Book

by British chef/author/farmer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. "The Meat book" as it is referred to around my house is a great resource for all things meat - from feed to farming to butchering practices, packing and cooking techniques. (Also, the recipes are amazing.)

There are a few rules that apply to any meat. Follow them and you are well on your way to preparing an excellent meal:

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For those of you who are not familiar with Magnolia Bakery, it is a well known bakery in New York City and they are famous for their yummy pastel frosted cupcakes. I believe they are credited with starting the "cupcake craze" of the 1990's.

I had a hankering for cake after watching Paula Deen make a ridiculous Red Velvet cake so I started leafing through my copy of
At Home with Magnolia: Classic American Recipes from the Owner of Magnolia Bakery by Allysa Torey. Notice these cupcakes as one of the cover pictures on the book.

Image from Amazon

My sister gave this to me a while back as a gift - thanks Em :p. It is a departure from Torey's other 2 books which are solely baking cookbooks. At Home with Magnolia is a collection of Torey's own recipes and includes some great looking lunch and dinner recipes as well as a good sized dessert section. Many of the savory recipes are Italian influenced (which is my personal favorite) and focus on using the seasonal farm fresh ingredients that she grows on her property in upstate New York. And of course, it includes a few of the cupcake and icebox cake recipes that made her famous. My only issue with this book is that is has too many non food related pictures. I say less pictures of inanimate objects and more pictures of the actual food.

You can find the recipe here. I chose this recipe because I wanted cake but did not want to leave my cave (a.k.a. my condo) to go to the store again and I happened to have a few spare oranges in the house. Perfect! I even had self rising flour - I was meant to make these cupcakes.

The recipe calls for orange zest and 1 cup of non pulpy orange juice. I used fresh orange juice and strained it. This reminded me that fresh orange juice really is tasty, so I juiced my remaining oranges and we drank it the next morning for a Sunday breakfast treat. Yum - it was good.

Besides the fresh juice, I did not stray from her recipe except that I halved it to make 12 cupcakes, used fat free milk for the frosting, and did not garnish with coconut. The fat free milk did not pose any problem with getting the frosting to the desired consistency and it tasted good - so you may as well save that fat.

I also added 1 drop of pink food coloring to my frosting to get a pastel pink frosting - really only 1 carefully added drop. Luckily, I actually exercised some restraint and patience otherwise I would have ended up with 80's neon pink frosted cupcakes. It almost happened people.

Despite the fact that I grew up in New York, I have never been to this bakery so I can't compare my cupcakes to theirs, but I can tell you that these are moist and delicious and worth the effort. They are definitely the best non chocolate cupcake I have ever made. Sara, what is the best chocolate cupcake you have ever made, you ask? Well, they are Ina Garten's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing.

I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the new blog! Thankfully, the planets aligned in such a way yesterday that our little blog got a free advert on Joe-Pastry-dot-com. and now I'm watching the referrer clicks piling in. It is in this spirit that I have decided to announce this morning a new facet, and hopefully a line of successful posts, comparing three culinary giants.

As Joepastry's reputation precedes him everywhere he goes, I will forgo wasting any of your time recounting his culinary aptitude and greatness for fear it would overshadow the other contestants. For those of you who otherwise would not know, Thomas Keller is arguably the greatest American chef of our time. While he is not directly responsible for all of the pastry related writings in his books, I will take on his authority (and the dinner I ate at Per Se) the work of his dessert staff to be of a quality consistent with his cooking. Pierre Hermé is a French born pastry extraordinaire who apprenticed under Gaston Lenôtre. He owns boutique pâtisserie shops in Paris and Japan and has made countless contributions to the modern pastry arts (and judging from the books of his I've read, a fairly robust sense of better-than-thou-Frenchiness).

How, you say, would one go about objectively comparing the merits of all three? Even with a boundless amount of time and an unlimited budget it would be next to impossible - though for the first installment we will make brioche to their specifications and then using my highly refined and unbiased palate I will declare a winner. Fortunately for me I have a direct line to both Mr. Keller and Mr. Hermé (think red phone to the Kremlin), so I may be able to receive some assistance with their recipes. When it comes to the elusive Joepastry, I'll have to rely on his posts (and process photos) alone.

This is a huge undertaking, one I am willing to carry the burden of for the pleasure of the readership at large. Wish me luck and stay tuned to find out who is indeed, the better brioche man.

Not only is this my first Tuesdays with Dorie post, but this is the first post ever on our blog. Yay!

This week Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Dorie Greenspan herself, and she chose the French Pear Tart on page 368-69 of Baking: From My Home to Yours. This tart came out pretty tasty and it was fun to make. My whole family enjoyed it, save Nick who called it banal - thanks honey :roll:.

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