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.

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.

My new pan after baking

Let’s Celebrate National Lipstick Day!

As I write this quick post, National Lipstick Day is coming to an end—this cause for celebration would have gone unnoticed by me without the wonderful staff at the Sephora store in Santa Monica where I took a smoky eye class last night. That is a story for another day. In order to have your lipstick look great, it is imperative that you have moist, chap free lips. You might say that I am a connoisseur of lip balms and scrubs – there are many of these products that I really like but none of them solved a serious problem.

See back at the beginning of the year, I found myself in a rather desperate situation. I will save that long story for another day too (my story backlog is growing quickly), but the abbreviated version is that I found myself spending 3 weeks in the hospital – six days of which were in Critical Care following emergency brain surgery. During this time my lips became extremely dry and chapped to the point where nothing seemed to improve the situation. When I was released, I discovered a lip mask that turned things around with visible improvement after the first use.

My endorsement of this product is whole-hearted, sincere, and provided without any compensation from the manufacturer. The hero product in this story is FlashPatch Lip Gels by patchology – they have become part of my regimen (I use them twice a week now) and I have repurchased them as my supply is running low. I buy them from Dermstore, and a jar of 24 retails for $50 US. Yes, they are pricey, but Dermstore has periodic sales and the sale savings can be anywhere from 20-30%.

IMG_1554Here is a photo of the lip gels with three recent lipstick purchases that I’m loving right now.  From left, Charlotte Tilbury‘s Secret Salma, Tom Ford‘s Sunset Boulevard, and Anastasia Beverly Hills Grape Jelly (from the limited edition summer lip gloss set).

I hope you had a great lipstick day –remember it isn’t just about the lipstick. When combined with a great lip care routine, lip primer and pencils your lips can look and feel fantastic!

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!