Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers August 2016

So here is a confession for you….wait for it….the only cinnamon raisin swirl bread I’ve had until now is the mass market stuff you buy at the local grocery store. Here in Southern California the brand is Oroweat. It’s okay, but nothing I would spend one bit of energy thinking or writing about. This past week I made our August recipe for Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers – the Cinnamon Raisin Loaf. julie-e-julia-sonypictures-com-brDespite a couple of minor hiccups that I’ll explain later, it was fantastic. By the way, this is the second month in a row where we’ve made a bread that I haven’t made before so I’m expanding my baking horizons. This is one of the beautiful things about the Bread Bible. With 150 recipes to choose from, many of which offer multiple variations, it will take a bit of time (maybe years unless you do one every day) to get through them all. As I write this, I am thinking of the 2009 movie Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I may have to watch that again soon on Amazon Prime as I haven’t seen it in ages.

Made entirely with white flour, there were three important similarities with the Caramel Sticky Buns we made last month. The two obvious similarities were the use of cinnamon and raisins, as well as the spiral rolling technique. One other note, for both of these recipes, I tried the Vietnamese Cinnamon from King Arthur Flour.  It provides a really nice, vibrant cinnamon flavor, and a large 3 ounce jar is only $5.95.  Be sure to add it to your shopping list next time you order — you won’t regret it.  The third similarity was the use of butter in the dough which created a silky rich dough with great texture and taste. I started work on this recipe on a IMG_0067Saturday morning by preparing the dough starter. I should note that the recipe is enough for two loaves baked in 8.5 x 4.5” loaf pans. I only have one loaf pan, so I decided that since I had such success with the Oxo cake pan I purchased last month that I would pop by Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up a second loaf pan. When I got it home I realized that my old pan was actually 10.5 x 5.5” and I’m not sure how I ended up with a non-standard pan size. Anyway the new pan was $16.99 less the $5 off coupon I remembered to take with me, and I love the square straight sides. Both pans performed well, however the loaf baked in the larger pan was not as tall. I suppose I didn’t split the dough into two pieces of quite the right size, but it wasn’t really a problem.

IMG_0055Now here is where my urgent need for a mani-pedi set me up for one of two minor hiccups. If you use Rose’s recipes and have read Chapter One in “The Bible” about the need to wait and add the salt after the yeast so that the two ingredients don’t come into direct contact then you don’t add the salt with your other dry ingredients. What I normally do is sit the salt container next to the mixer as a reminder to add it when I mix the dough. When I initially prepared the sponge and dry ingredients 4 hours earlier, I forgot to put the salt out and failed to add it as I was rushing to get that mani-pedi.  I realized the salt was missing of course as soon as I tasted the finished bread, although nobody else seemed to notice or care.

Fast forward to post mani-pedi and rolling out the dough. The dough was very smooth and easy to work with after refrigerating it. I brushed the dough with the lightly beaten egg before sprinkling on the cinnamon-sugar mixture, but I forgot about dimpling the dough to prevent gaps from forming. You’ll see that the smaller of the two loaves does have one gap towards the top of the loaf, while the other is gap free. By the way, I do believe that the smaller loaf had risen fully so I don’t believe I had excessive oven spring. That top layer just wasn’t rolled tightly enough.

Despite these minor issues, the results were great and I would certainly bake this recipe again. Rose does provide an herb variation with parsley and green onions instead of the cinnamon and raisins that I’d love to try in the near future. Another idea would be to try a sun-dried tomato or herb and cheese mixture like the Pane Bianco recipe I tried last month. My only bit of advice is to pay attention as you go along and do not rush off to get a mani-pedi!

P.S. – if you’d like to follow my blog via Bloglovin’ it is a new option for you so you don’t have to miss a thing. Just click here.

Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish recipe review

This is a quick review of a recipe for Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish that was originally published in Sunset magazine. Two reviewers rated this recipe with five stars, and I agree with their assessment.

As you may know, the common name for sablefish in Canada, the US, and the UK is black cod. This fish has a rich, buttery taste and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Sablefish7I would definitely describe this as a “special occasion” meal as it is typically one of the more expensive fish in my local market — $30 per pound is not unheard of. I normally prepare it in what I call “Nobu fashion “ by marinating the fish for a day or two in a mixture of miso paste, sugar, and sake – a signature dish made famous by the renowned Nobu restaurants. This entre sells for $32 per serving in the restaurant, but it is easy to make at home.

I decided I wanted to expand my horizons by trying a different preparation and came across this recipe. It is perfect for a decoratively plated sit down meal as it presents very well, and it tastes fantastic. The cooking tips provided are very helpful and foolproof. The combination of orange, maple, and sweet potato flavors is classic, and the herb sauce drizzled atop is a great finishing touch. It is not a difficult recipe to make, but there is a bit of prep work and planning that you’ll need to do in order to bring it all together nicely. If you have a warming drawer, it is handy for keeping your vegetables warm while the fish cooks. The only change I made to the recipe was omitting the blackberries. LOL I did have some in the refrigerator, but I think I was so looking forward to eating the meal that I forgot to put them on the plates. Honestly, I was hurrying to take the photos so we could sit down and eat.

main_variation_Default_view_2_425x425.Here is my one recommendation. Sablefish is very delicate or fragile when cooked which makes plating the meal nicely somewhat challenging. One piece unfortunately slipped from my spatula and broke up as it fell onto the plate so of course I didn’t photograph that one. After this mishap, I attended a cooking class at the new Sur La Table store in Westwood Village and was introduced to a very handy fish spatula. Its unique shape is especially designed for fish and it was highly recommended by our instructor. I got to try it out last night with a rather thin large slice of swordfish and it worked great.

If you’re looking for a special occasion plated meal, this one is great…. give it a try and let me know what you think.

PS – if you haven’t tried a cooking class at Sur La Table, they are great fun. Do give them a try.

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers July 2016

Our July recipe was for Caramel Sticky Buns which are based on a wonderful brioche dough. The dough was soft and silky smooth, rich with the addition of eggs and butter. I made the dough roughly 36 hours ahead, and while it took a bit more effort than a standard bread dough it was absolutely worth it. Rose provides directions for a modified sticky bun with a maple topping and using walnuts instead of pecans in the filling so I made this variation. Rose’s very detailed directions are truly a blessing as this was my first time making this type of dough, and my first time with spiral rolled buns. While my finished rolls were not perfect in appearance, they tasted heavenly warm from the oven or gently reheated in the microwave.

On the first day I prepared the starter, and after a couple of hours began to mix the dough. I chilled the dough and manipulated it, rolling and performing the business letter turns and refrigerating again as directed.

On the evening of the second day I prepared the raisins, the walnut filling and the maple topping. Rose recommends Lyle’s Golden Syrup which I tried for the first time instead of maple syrup as the maple syrup I had on hand seemed really thin. I recently received a small sample of Boyajian’s Maple Flavor with an order from King Arthur Flour and decided to give it a try. The directions suggested ¼ teaspoon per cup of liquid so I used 1/8 teaspoon and a few drops extra for good measure. When combined, the syrup, maple flavoring, heavy cream and butter created a topping that was absolutely divine.

Rolling the dough into the required rectangle was quick and easy—there were no issues with it sticking to my lightly floured work surface. After the dough was rolled, I applied the egg wash, sprinkled the dough with the nut mixture and the raisins, then rolled it into the tube shape to be cut. Before cutting, I did freeze the dough for about 10 minutes, but I still found it challenging to slice the dough. The buns rose beautifully and I popped them in the oven after about two hours. My one suggestion would be to not use the baking stone as the topping became perhaps a little more brown than I would like although they tasted great.  I will bake these again as they were a hit with visiting relatives and the head baker here.

One final note – I decided to purchase a new 9 X 13 pan as my old pan was really old and not non-stick which I felt would be important for this recipe. I did a bit of online research and decided to try the Oxo Non-stick Pro cake pan as an alternative to the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch which cost almost twice as much.

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My new pan before baking

The pan performed well in the oven, and cleanup was a breeze. The gooey mess left in the pan worried me, but I filled the pan with hot water and let it sit for a few hours. When I drained the pan, it was almost completely clean — and I hadn’t even used soap. In the interest of full disclosure, I did lightly grease the pan before pouring the topping but nonetheless I was impressed with the ease of cleanup. The retail price at Bed Bath and Beyond was $21.99 and I used a 20% off coupon for a net price of $17.59 versus a retail price of $34.95 for the Williams-Sonoma offering.

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My new pan after baking

How to cook a stand out stir fry

I find that stir-fries are a great staple in my weekly menus – they are easy to prepare, and are a great way to use up bits of excess produce.   I will often prep my ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate them to speed things up in the evening. For these dishes to stand out in my opinion, you need two really important things working in your favor. One is proper cooking technique, and the other is a great sauce. If you get those two things right, you can create extraordinary stir-fries with very ordinary ingredients. Honestly, I have had dinner guests rave about my stir-fries, proclaiming them to be the best they’ve ever had. Let me clue you in on how this came about.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to take a cooking class at Sur La Table with Hugh Carpenter.   Hugh has authored a number of cookbooks, one of which is titled Wok Fast (now out of print). wok fastI use this book just about every week, but I don’t think I’ve ever made one of his entre recipes. So why then does this book get opened almost every week? It is really all about the sauces and marinades. Once you master his cooking techniques and stock your pantry as he describes in the opening pages of the book, he offers up 26 recipes for sauces and marinades that will rock your stir-fry world. In fact I have made 24 of the 26 recipes (many on a repeat basis) over the years.

For a great entre, all you need in terms of ingredients are a sauce, a protein, and 3-4 fresh vegetables. For my sauce selection, I think about sweet versus savory, and which flavor profile will best compliment my other ingredients. For this yummy production, I used Carpenter’s Really Risque sauce which combines Chinese rice wine and tomato sauce with common Chinese condiments (oyster and hoisin sauces), sesame oil, pepper and cornstarch. I usually combine my sauce ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup in advance, but always wait to add the cornstarch until the last minute. By the way, I always have a good supply of common Asian sauce ingredients on hand. Here in LA, all of these ingredients can be found at virtually any grocery store with one exception. shao xingChinese rice wine, also known as shao xing is the one ingredient that is hard to come by. The only local source is a large Asian grocery chain in the LA area called 99 Ranch Market. Their closest store is a half hour away with good traffic, and language can be an issue when wandering the aisles in search of an item. When I go there, I splurge and buy two bottles to postpone my next trip. Shao Xing typically sells for less than $2 per bottle.  If you can’t find Chinese rice wine, you can substitute a dry cooking sherry.

Carpenter recommends using no more than three veggies, but I typically use onion with three other veggies. I think of the onions as being an essential freebie. The veggies should be cut in consistently sized pieces for quick, even cooking and you also should consider quick cooking versus harder, longer cooking veggies when doing your prep work. In practice it means that you may need to give some of your vegetables (think carrots versus zucchini) a head start. I often use shrimp as my protein because I love shrimp, and it is relatively inexpensive (as low as $5.99 per pound) at my local grocery store. I will use other meats from time to time.

Note that prep work is critical since when stir frying over high heat you don’t have time to go search for a missing ingredient.   When you are ready to cook, you need to be ready to quickly do three stovetop steps. Remember that you really need to stay by the stove with your implements in hand to toss constantly – I use a couple of wooden spatulas. First, partially cook your meat and then remove it from the pan so that you can begin to cook the vegetables. Once they’re almost done, your third step is to put the meat back in the pan to finish cooking and add your sauce. The sauce will thicken quickly due to the cornstarch. Have your rice and any sides ready and waiting to serve. Qǐng màn yòng which translated means enjoy your meal!