Rose's Best Flaky & Tender Pie Crust

I have many recipes for pie crust but through the years, this is the one I turn to the most often quite simply because it has a wonderful texture and also a wonderful flavor.

This recipe makes 312 grams, enough dough for one 9 inch pie or tart shell, and can be doubled to make a double crust or lattice pie.

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Food Processor Method

 1) Process flour, salt, and baking powder to blend.

 2) Add cream cheese and process until coarse.

 3) Add butter cubes and pulse until peanut size.

 4) Add cream and vinegar and pulse until butter is the size of small peas.

 5) Scrape dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use latex gloves or cover hands with plastic bags and press dough until it holds together in one smooth flat disc.

6) Wrap, and refrigerate 45 minutes before rolling.

Notes:

* Baking powder containing aluminum has a bitter flavor. Most health food stores and many supermarkets carry the calcium variety. You can eliminate the baking powder and double the salt but the crust will be less tender.

* If not using pastry flour to achieve the same tenderness use 2/3 bleached all-purpose flour and 1/3 cake flour or 1 tablespoon of sugar

* I like to roll my pie crusts no thicker than 1/8 inch and preferably between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick.

When Tragedy Strikes Your Mousseline Buttercream

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This is truly the queen of buttercreams: silky, buttery, light and airy, and a bit temperamental. Combining the Italian meringue with the butter is the tricky part. It is essential that the two mixtures have near the same temperature. And sooner or later it happens to everyone: Instead of becoming a beautifully emulsified satiny texture, it starts to curdle and separate. Your heart drops and panic sets in--all that expensive butter and time....But all is not lost. Here are some tips and also a solution should all else fail:

Use an instant read thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the mixture is between 65° to 70°F/19° to 21°C and adjust as needed. If not using a thermometer, try adjusting with just a small amount of the buttercream.

If all else fails, with your hands, squeeze out the liquid that has separated and pour it into a large measuring cup with a spout. On high speed, beat the remaining butter until it becomes smooth. Then gradually beat in the liquid. The resulting buttercream will be less airy but perfectly emulsified and silky smooth.

Note: You will have a higher degree of success if using high fat butter.
Also, it works best to add all the meringue to all the whipped butter rather than the reverse. This technique is detailed in Rose's Heavenly Cakes and The Baking Bible.

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Gingerbread Competition at Mohonk Mountain House 2017

When I think of something being constructed out of gingerbread, I always think of a  house. Although Rose took house building to the extreme with her made to scale Nôtre Dame Cathedral, in Rose’s Christmas Cookies, with 10 pages of architectural drawings. So when Nina Smiley asked if we would like to judge a gingerbread competition at the magical Mohonk Mountain House, of course we said yes!

Rose and Mohonk Mountain House built from 1869-1910 by the Smileys

Rose and Mohonk Mountain House built from 1869-1910 by the Smileys

This was their second year for holding the competition, which had 3 divisions: for juniors (ages 10-17), adults (ages 18 and over), and their employees, with over 60 entries. Some guidelines were: that the entry had to be on a base up to 2 feet square, less than 2 feet high, and edible for all exposed surfaces. A key guideline was that gingerbread had to be exposed for 50% or more of the surfaces.  What we discovered, as we walk around the rows of entries, was that this was way beyond ginerbread houses--it was a competition of highly artistic and imaginative gingerbread displays.

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We were surprised and delighted by the imagination and ways in which the competitors used gingerbread, in both cookie and bread forms and beyond. Besides us, there were several judges including chefs, Mohonk’s own talented pastry chef, the mayor of Kingston, and others.

 Rose called my attention to one of the most displays by Vanessa Greeley, who had worked for years in the finance world before making a career change to run her own specialty cake decorating business. She stopped by our book signing table and Rose asked her how she came up with the amalgamation of gingerbread and chocolate, which was the composition for Mr. and Mrs. Moose. She explained that her goal was to give adequate structural support while maintaining delicious melt in the mouth quality. Clearly her analytic approach from her prior occupation came into play. We gave her high marks, for its uniqueness and precision.

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The winning gingerbread display was Flower Tower, which was sculptor Matt Maley’s first ever dive into making a gingerbread constructed display. Along with his prize from Mohonk House, Rose gave him an autographed Pie & Pastry Bible.

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Other works of art by their title in the order below.

WInter is Coming-3rd place, Lighthouse-Viewers' Choice, Bah! Humbug-2nd place, Night before Christmas

The Artful Baker (and What Am I Doing in a Turkish Magazine!)

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A few weeks ago, Cenk Sönmezsoy, author of the stunning new book The Artful Baker, sent me this feature on him in the Turkish magazine “InStyle.”

I was shocked and delighted to see a photo of me on the page, surrounded by cherries, shorts, a t-shirt, and brownies, and immediately went to Google translate which shed no light on why I was pictured there, as it only listed food writer under my name.

I immediately wrote to Cenk to ask him, but no sooner did the email go off than I realized that I was amongst what I perceived to be some of Cenk’s favorite things. Here was his exact response:

“The magazine sent me a list of questions, one of which was who I'd like to have dinner with and why. My answer was: The author of several legendary cookbooks like The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum. I could talk to her about cookies, cakes and tarts for hours on end.

They also asked me which ingredient I've been baking with most frequently (sour cherries; but I think the cherries in the photo are sweet cherries) and what I like to wear when cooking and baking (an oversized t-shirt and shorts).”

I am honored to appear in this magazine featuring one of most eloquent and talented bakers in the world.

 

Extra Helpings--A New Website for Extraordinary Crafts

Holiday Ornaments to hang on your tree or ring in the new year!

Holiday Ornaments to hang on your tree or ring in the new year!

My dear friend Miro Uskokovic, the amazingly talented pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern, has just announced that his wife Shilpa has launched her site Extra Helpings.

Miro is justifiably very proud of Shilpa, who collaborated with her mother to create "a site that sources home and lifestyle products from struggling artisans who are working tirelessly to preserve craft traditions that are endangered due to rapid globalization and general corporate greed." And, as a died in the wool craftsperson, I am delighted to share this with you! 

Shilpa's mother, Raji, sits on the board of an internationally recognized non-profit organization that works with artisans throughout India. This gives her access to the best crafts people! Shilpa and her mother have personally met with all the artisans and hand selected items that are beautiful, useful and fairly priced.

Shilpa sent me an exquisitely crafted small, but heavy, rolling pin to add to my special collection of pins from around the world. I hope you will visit her site and enjoy viewing some of the beauty that still exists in this world. 

 

Pane Nero in the Food Processor

Beautiful crumb but loaf has an irregular shape due to my not letting it rest 20 minutes before shaping because i was so eager to bake the bread and see the results!

Beautiful crumb but loaf has an irregular shape due to my not letting it rest 20 minutes before shaping because i was so eager to bake the bread and see the results!

My friend, Charlie Van Over, introduced me to food processor breads many years ago. He has been so successful with this technique he even designed a huge commercial processor to make baguettes.

The food processor isn’t necessarily ideal for all breads, for example a multi grain would powder the grains but they could be added by hand after processing the dough. A very sticky dough such as brioche could work but it is so sticky it’s a nuisance to remove it from the bowl and blades.

I’ve been trying other breads I’ve perfected using the food processor with excellent results, in fact, the texture of the Pane Nero, which was posted a few weeks ago, is more dense and the loaf 3/4 inch lower than the one made in the processor. Also, I increased the honey by 1-1/2 times—the first time by mistake and liked the 1/4 inch extra rise and slightly moister texture so added it to this recipe.

Even if you don’t make this exact recipe, it will give you the technique of trying out the food processor for other ones.

Oven Temperature: 450˚F/230˚C, then 400°F/200˚C

Baking Time: 40 minutes

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Note: Pane Nero flour is organic and, as with all organic wheat that has not been sprayed with any sort of insecticide, it is advisable to freeze it for 48 hours when it first arrives to ensure that it remains bug free. It will remain fresh for well over a year in the freezer, and for up to 3 months refrigerated. It is available from Gustiamo.

Equipment: A 9 inch by 5 inch (7 cup), or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan if not adding the starter, coated lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.

1) In a food processor bowl add the bread flour, pane nero flour, non-fat milk powder, and yeast. Process 30 seconds to mix. Pulse in the salt.

2) Cut the starter into a few pieces and add it to the bowl. Process for about 15 seconds until combined

3) Add the honey and oil and, with the motor on, add the water. After it comes together process for 45 seconds. The dough should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and pulse it in. If the dough doesn’t clean the bowl add a little more flour and pulse it in.

4) Scrape the dough into a 3 quart/liter bowl or rising container which has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. It will weigh a little over 1 pound/ 992 grams.)  In a rising container with markings it will be 1 quart/liter. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be.

5) Let the dough rise: Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 80˚F/26˚C) until doubled in size (to 2 liters), a little over an hour.

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Stretch the dough and give it a package fold (pull out the bottom and fold it to the center, then the same with the left side, right side, and top), round the edges and return it to the bowl, smooth side up. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be (about 3 quarts) and allow it to rise until it reaches this point, about 1 hour. (Or dimple and shape it into a loaf after it has rested 20 minutes; set it in an oiled zipseal bag; refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for about 1 hour or until risen full as indicated in step 4 before baking.

4) Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, smooth side down, and press it gently to flatten it. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary to keep it from sticking. Allow the dough to rest covered for 20 minutes. Dimple it all over with your finger tips to eliminate air bubbles, shape it into a loaf, and place it in the prepared loaf pan. It will fill the pan no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in--about 45 minutes.

5) Preheat the oven: 1 hour before baking set a cast iron pan lined with foil onto the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C.

6) Bake the bread: Spritz the top of the dough with water. Quickly but gently set the bread pan onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door lower the temperature to 400˚F/230˚C, and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will register about 205˚F/96˚C. After the first 20 minutes of baking tent loosely with foil and rotate the pan half way around for even baking.

7) Cool the bread Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.

A Christmas Message

A Christmas Story

 When I was a young child, my great aunt Polly Horwitt Kozma gave me this treasure of a little book written by her mentor Eleanor Roosevelt and published by Knopf in 1940.

 What was most extraordinary about this gift was that Polly was the daughter of a rabbi and yet, in the years shortly past World War II, she had chosen to give a book with the message of Christ’s love to her Jewish orthodox sister’s granddaughter.  But Polly was a woman of the world. In fact, she went on to win the Eleanor Roosevelt award as a member of the American Association for the United Nations.

 How fortunate I was to have had my great aunt Polly as such a shining example of intellectual and spiritual values.

 

Welcome to Our New Home on Squarespace

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Banner photo by Woody Wolston

Portrait Photos by Matthew Septimus

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Truly it was like building a new dwelling. Our long-time and brilliant Travis Smith, blog master of Hop Studios, and his dedicated assistants Chris Townsend and most of all Jeslen Bucci, who managed the difficult task of uploading 12 years of blog postings with thousands of images. Woody did this stunning design, and some of the text, and I redid all the links for products and fuller descriptions of each book and all of the special features such as featured bakers. Above is just a sampling of over 20 individual pages, which link to Youtube, my books, products, and, of course, the blog.

Thanksgiving Pies from Gramercy Tavern

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Pie Contest # 5 2017 "Fifth year and a big one," Chef Miro Uskokovic informed us about the annual staff pie contest to welcome in the holiday season at Gramercy Tavern. This was to be our fourth invite to judge the talented staff's pies. And the great news is that for the first year, Miro is making two fabulous pies available for sale from Gramercy Tavern for Thanksgiving: Spiced Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie for pick up on either Tuesday 11/21 or Wednesday 11/22. You'll need to order right away as I'm sure there will be a great demand. Ten judges this year, including executive chef, Mike Anthony, general manager Scott Reinhardt, pastry chef/author/director of the baking programs at the Institute for Culinary Education (and dear friend) Nick Malgieri, Merrill Stubbs co-founder of Food 52, and Emily and Melissa Elsen, owners of Four & Twenty Blackbirds Bakery. After taking our seats once again at the 15 foot long table, in the very familiar banquet/meeting room, Miro went over the criteria for this year's judging. Although we had a scoring card, it was to be used only for taking notes, as we would all have our say after a fork full of the last pie tasted to choose the Best Overall Pie and the Most Creative Pie. And this year, all entries had to be made in a pie plate as opposed to a tart pan. Also this year both winners (and the judges!) would receive the same generous gift: a prized blender from sponsor Vitamix. Each contestant was to bring out her or his creation, give the story behind the pie, and then answer our questions as we tasted the pie. The highest number of entries ever, 22 pies, were presented, dissected, tasted, talked about, and a whole pie shown to each of us by Miro and then placed on the table and discussed some more. Miro gave us two breaks to calm our taste buds and give our tummies a temporary relief. Since in most prior years a cream pie beat out the rest, this year was a cavalcade of mostly cream pies. A couple of entries were from the front staff. Also, we were delighted that for the first time Scott was one of the judges. Nick, as always, was a delight, with his charm, honesty, and spot on critiquing of the pies. With all pies tasted, chef Mike gave his choice for his favorite--the Pomegranate Pie--and it made the move to the other end of the table to be with seven of its favored peers. This year, it was extremely hard to decide whether to go with something more unusual or an upscale version of a standard. We discussed, debated, and decided on our winning pies. The awards presentation was done during the staff's family style dinner before the evening crowd. By the time we joined the staff, there were mostly just remnants of those 22 pies on table 61. The Best Overall Pie for this year was made by Heather Siperstein. It was a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cream Pie with a whipped cream topping, adorned with chocolate and peanut butter candy pieces. It will be featured on the Gramercy menu at some point in the near future. The Most Creative Pie was awarded to Amanda Taylor for her Figalicious Pie. She was thrilled to receive my signature series Synglas, non-stick rolling pin by American Products Group. I autographed a Pie & Pastry Bible for Heather, which Miro accepted in her behalf. All of us were then invited to my favorite table at the front of the Tavern to enjoy some of Gramercy's wonderful appetizers and a glass of wine or beer with Miro. Epilogue, next morning: Day prior: a wonderful lunch, consuming close to a half of an entire pie, and enough appetizers to make for light dinner. But to my relief, my scale was kind--it showed me that I actually lost a pound. (The new "pie diet" is born! We hope to be there for Miro Pie Day #6 next year.

The Fearless Baker by Erin McDowell is Born!

ERIN.jpegThis is a big year for major baking books. I remember exactly 29 years ago it was the same when The Cake Bible was published and the category itself got huge attention. Erin is going to benefit from being in the company of so many distinguished authors both old and new and they will be proud to have her as a member of the baking cookbook community of sister (and brother) bakers. Not only is Erin a gifted baker, she is also a professional food stylist and so, of course, the photos in this book are drop dead gorgeous. Erin was the food stylist for my upcoming book. Here's my favorite photo of the two of us taken during the photoshoot this past April: 1.jpg I couldn't be more proud to be the writer of the foreword to Erin's first book. And here it is so you don't even have to wait until the book arrives to read it: Foreword to The Fearless Baker When I learned that Erin McDowell was writing her first baking book, my immediate response was Yes! quickly followed by Of course! I had met Erin when she was involved in the baking and styling of the photographs for my book The Baking Bible. We spent two intense weeks in a rented studio in upstate New York, baking, styling, discussing, and getting to know each other. Not only did Erin make delicious, nourishing lunches for the entire team every day, her sunny disposition helped set the tone. I taught her how to make a special border on a tart, and she demonstrated how to make the most luscious, voluptuous ganache and buttercream swirls on cakes. Reading through this book, I am struck by how eager Erin is to explore new ideas and inspirations and how open she is to learning. One of the secrets to being a great baker is to have love in one's heart and love for the profession. And one of the secrets to being a great baking author is having a true desire to share. Erin is gifted with both. Her written instructions are a model of clarity and a perfect reflection of her delightful and joyful spirit. And her writing style is so friendly, fun, and unpretentious that it makes baking more approachable than ever. I didn't have to test recipes from this book in order to sing Erin's praises, because having seen her in action, and having tasted the results, was proof enough of her expertise. I tested four of the recipes just because they were so alluring I couldn't resist. The rhubarb cheesecake, which imaginatively replaces lemon juice with rhubarb puree, is topped with stunning ribbons of rhubarb. It's exceptionally delicious, and it leaves a surprisingly bright, fresh finish in the mouth despite the richness of the cream cheese. Chocolate puff pastry is something I'd never actually made before, but when I saw the photo for this book, I couldn't resist the challenge. Yes, it is "hard," as Erin realistically indicates at the top of the recipe, but it is an empowering experience, and success is guaranteed if one follows her excellent instructions. And her technique for making puff pastry results in the best palmiers I've ever made--or eaten. Erin writes, " is book is intended to educate you on the whys and hows of baking in an approachable way. If you understand those basics, you can become fearless--and potentially tweak your own recipes to suit your whims, the way I do." I relate to this goal 100 percent. In fact, this is shades of the young me, at the start of my own cookbook-writing odyssey. It is inspiring to see the fine and exciting work of this prize representative of the new generation of bakers. I am honored that she claims to have used my books as a launching pad to her baking education. And I am certain that Erin Jeanne McDowell will continue to march to the beat of her own drummer and rise to ever greater heights of discovery and baking excellence. The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro

My New Breville Oven & an Exciting New Technique for Melting Chocolate

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It's been over five years since I wrote about my first Breville oven, calling it the perfectly even oven. My test was to pipe a spiral of cream puff pastry to see how it browned and it was perfectly even. I have been so enamored of this oven, I have since purchased one as a wedding gift and another to have in my weekend home. A few weeks ago, I discovered the latest model, the Smart Oven Air. When I learned about the extra features this newer slightly larger model offers I had to have it. And I'm totally smitten! I've even put it to use for a newly developed terrific technique, which I will share at the end of this posting. First: here are the new features that I most value:

  • An oven light that can be turned off or on at will (oh joy!)
  • Two oven racks
  • A dehydrating setting and mesh basket (I'll be using this for my citrus powder)
  • A proofing setting for bread dough between 80°F/27°C and 100°F°/38°C

(I tested it and it holds true to temperature with no more than 3°F fluctuation.) Now here is my great new discovery: Anyone who has ever tried to melt white or milk chocolate without stirring it constantly, has learned the hard way that it will seed. This is caused by the milk solids in the chocolate. And there is no way of restoring the little specks of hardened milk solids. But, if you heat the chocolate at 100°F/38°C it will melt gradually to be as smooth as silk. In short, you can place it in a container in the Breville, turn it to the proofing setting, set the temperature to 100°F/38°C, and leave it to melt on its own. Breville BOV900BSS The Smart Oven Air, Silver

Pastry Chef Par Excellence Randy Eastman

aIMG_2765.jpgThe last time I saw my friend Randy, was almost 20 years ago, when he volunteered to make all the desserts for the launch of my book The Pie and Pastry Bible. I never forgot his sweetness, generosity, and incredible skill. For the past 17 years, prior to being pastry chef at the Metropolitan Opera Dining Room, Randy has been pastry chef at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Growing up in New York, I spent many a Sunday with my cousin Joan and uncle Bernard, either at the Museum of Natural History or the Met. So it was a very sentimental visit, sitting in the main dining room, with a spectacular view of the obelisk, the park, and the dearly familiar Central Park West skyline. But the best part was when Randy came to the table. IMG_2755.jpg Woody and I had shared a light lunch to ensure that we would have plenty of room to enjoy the sampling of desserts which Randy presented to us. My top favorite was the caramel glazed banana sundae IMG_2772.jpg but a close second was the perfectly silky and delicious chocolate Gianduja custard. IMG_2769.jpg Randy and I had an equally delicious catch up, exchanging news of mutual friends and family. We promised each other that we would not let so many years go by again without reconnecting.

A Wonderful New Sandwich Loaf

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18.5% PANE NERO FLOUR

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I fell in love with durum flour years ago on a trip to Sicily when I discovered that it was responsible for the golden color and sweet nutty flavor of the bread. I had been using it for pasta, adding a little bread flour to give it more elasticity and loved the firm al dente texture and delicious flavor. So when Beatrice Ughi of Gustiamo sent me a bag of the Pane Nero flour they just started to import I couldn't wait to try it for bread baking. (Gustiamo is a terrific site for many wonderful products from Italy) This flour, called Pane Nero, is a blend of 30% Tumminia, a whole ancient grain, and 70% durum semolina. It has a heavenly aroma and is the color of golden sand. I jumped right in and tried my recipe for no knead bread using 100% of this flour. I added 75 grams of my old sour dough starter to give it more structure and I needed to add 50 grams -almost 1/4 cup more water and the resulting loaf, though it rose well, had no oven spring and was too dense and hard.

100% PANE NERO FLOUR NO KNEAD BREAD

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So I tried it with my favorite whole wheat loaf, which uses bread flour and 18.5% whole wheat flour. You can see in the photo below how much less dense the whole wheat flour is than the pane nero flour at the top of this posting.

18.5% WHOLE WHEAT

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I replaced the whole wheat flour with equal weight pane nero. I also added my usual firm sour dough starter (I freeze the leftover starter every week after feeding it, so it is not replacing commercial yeast but rather it contributes to the structure, shelf life and flavor). A whole new bread was born--a new favorite! Not only is this bread exceptionally flavorful, it has the perfect degree of density, making it possible to accommodate spreads without tearing, and not squishing down when making a grilled cheese sandwich on a panini press.

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Note: pane nero flour is organic and, as with all organic wheat that has not been sprayed with any sort of insecticide, it is advisable to freeze it for 48 hours when it first arrives to ensure that it remains bug free. It will remain fresh for well over a year in the freezer, and for up to 3 months refrigerated.

Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C

Bake 35  to 45 minutes

Makes:  One 9 inch by 4-1/4 inch high loaf

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Equipment: A 9 inch by 5 inch (7 cup), or 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan if not adding the starter, greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. A baking stone or baking sheet.

1) Soak the Starter: In a mixer bowl, place the water and cut or tear the sponge into small pieces into it. Add the honey, cover and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. In a large bowl whisk together the bread flour, pane nero flour, non-fat milk powder, and yeast. Add about 300 grams/2 cups/300 ml to the water mixture and whisk until smooth and the consistency of a thick pancake batter. (This is to distribute the pieces of starter evenly.) (If using a bread machine place the water and honey in a medium bowl. Tear the starter into the bowl,in a few pieces, and stir it together until soft. Scrape it into the bowl of the bread machine. Whisk together the two flours, milk powder but not the yeast, oil, or salt and sprinkle the mixture on top. Let sit covered 30 minutes to 1 hour.)

2) Mix the dough: Add the rest of the flour mixture and, with the dough hook, mix on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened to form a rough dough. Scrape down any bits of dough. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead the dough on low speed (#2 Kitchen Aid) for 7 minutes, adding the salt after the oil is mixed in. (If not using the starter, use only 1-1/2 teaspoons/9 grams of salt.) (In the bread machine, mix it for 3 minutes and then autolyse--let rest--for 20 minutes. Add the oil and knead for 7 minutes, adding the yeast after the first minute and the salt after the yeast is mixed in.) The dough should be sticky enough to cling to your fingers. If it is not at all sticky spray it with a little water and knead it. (The dough should weigh about 986 grams/ a little over 2 pounds--about 1 quart/liter).

3) Let the dough rise: Place the dough into a 3 quart or larger dough rising container greased lightly with cooking spray or oil. Press down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 80°F/26°C.) until doubled in size (to 2 liters), about an hour and 10 minutes. (at 75°F/24°C 2 hours + 15 minutes.) Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, remove the dough to a lightly floured counter. Press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Stretch the dough and give it a package fold (pull out the bottom and fold it to the center, then the same with the left side, right side, and top), round the edges and return it to the bowl, smooth side up. Again, oil the surface, cover, mark where double the height will now be (3 quarts) and allow it to rise until it reaches this point, about 1 hour. (Or dimple and shape it into a loaf after it has rested 20 minutes; set it in an oiled zipseal bag; refrigerate it overnight and bring it to room temperature for about 1 hour or until risen full as indicated in step 4 before baking.

4) Shape the dough and let it rise: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter, smooth side down, and press it gently to flatten it. It will still be a little sticky but use only as much flour as absolutely necessary to keep it from sticking. Allow the dough to rest covered for 20 minutes. Dimple it all over with your finger tips to eliminate air bubbles, shape it into a loaf, and place it in the prepared loaf pan. It will fill the pan no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cover it lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until the highest point is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the sides of the pan and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in--about 45 minutes.

5) Preheat the oven: 1 hour before baking set a cast iron pan lined with foil onto the floor of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.

6) Bake the bread: Spritz the top of the dough with water. Quickly but gently set the bread pan onto the hot stone or hot baking sheet and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door, lower the temperature to 400°F/230°C, and bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will register about 205°F/96°C. After the first 20 minutes of baking tent loosely with foil and rotate the pan half way around for even baking.

7) Cool the bread: Remove the bread from the oven, unmold it from the pan, and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, top-side up.

The Artful Baker

front.jpgThe Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From an Obsessive Home Baker I'm delighted to introduce you to someone you will be so happy to know--my new kindred spirit: Cenk Sonmezsoy, (pronounced Jenk) from Turkey. You may be familiar with his blog Café Fernando, and that is how I first met him. What captured my attention several years ago, in one of those rare "why didn't I think of it" moments, was when I noticed a posting about how to line a round pan with a flat sheet of parchment. He simply crumpled the parchment and, of course, it readily conformed to the shape of the pan--brilliant--a man with imagination in his fingertips. cenksonmezsoy.jpg Proof to me of our being on the same page: from the head note of Cenk's Double Chocolate Bundt Cake: "It's just my nature to continually retest until I've explored every nook and cranny, which sometimes results in my preferring a new version. I have yet to decide whether this compulsion is a blessing or curse, but knowing that I have done everything I can to perfect a recipe is the only way I find comfort and peace." I could have written this exactly the same way. In addition to being a skillfull technician of his trade, Cenk is an artist of exquisite taste, and an excellent and informative writer. His instructions are precise and complete. His book, appropriately titled The Artful Baker, is coffee table worthy, but you will want to bring it into the kitchen, cover the pages with a protective plastic sheet, and bake the hell out of it. I've already made two recipes: the Sour Cherry & Almond Upside-Down Cake, because he said it's his favorite in the book, and the Tahini & Leblebi Swirl Brownies made with roasted chickpea flour and tahini, because the flavor combination so intrigued me, not to mention the stunning photo. We had many thought provoking email exchanges discussing, among other things, the comparative sourness of Turkish sour cherries to the American variety. I suspected that the American variety is more sour so I added extra sugar. The remaining cherry glaze was fantastic when drizzled onto vanilla ice cream. The almond cake is a high achievement in perfection of texture--surprising for a layer cake so low in wheat flour. The sour cherry topping for this upside down cake led to the following discussion about sweetness levels, and my impression that Turkish desserts can be cloyingly sweet. Cenk wrote: I also think that Turkish desserts are overly sweet and definitely share your sweetness sensibility. I'm always conscious about the amount of sugar I use in recipes, not from a caloric standpoint, but to achieve a balanced taste and optimal texture. That said, there are Turkish desserts (including some from the baklava family) that aren't overly sweet. c03_078.jpg Another example of Cenk's writing style and generosity of spirit: Have you tried brownies made with sarı leblebi (double-roasted hulled chickpeas) flour before? Sarı leblebi is a beloved Turkish snack, available at every kuruyemişçi (specialty shop selling dried nuts, seeds, and fruits), sometimes roasted right by the entrance to entice customers with its toasty smell. Roasting the chickpeas twice, chars them in spots, giving them an intensely toasty flavor. Sarı leblebi is available on line but you can substitute roasted chickpea flour (also called roasted gram flour or besan), found in Indian or Burmese food shops. Alternatively, you can roast regular chickpea flour in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until it is lightly browned and smells nutty. c02_070.jpg And Cenk sent me a bag of both the sari leblebi and the chickpea flour through Amazon. The resulting brownies: chewy, fudgy, slightly cakey as well, with a dusky earthy quality underlying their chocolaty flavor. The first day they were a bit fragile, but after resting overnight, the texture became much firmer and fudgier, and the flavors were enhanced. Cenk is one of the most original authors whose work I have ever encountered. Even the way he places raspberries on a tart is unique I've never before seen them arranged open ends up and I love the effect. c04_105.jpg So it is all the more to his credit that to my delighted surprise I found myself listed in the acknowledgement page of his book as one of his "baking heroines." I love that Cenk shares so much in this book of his personal background, his thinking, his creative process. I have never met Cenk in person but I feel that through his work, I have a strong sense of who he is, and I am about to find out at his book party in NYC at ICE! He is on book tour this month of October around the US, and his schedule of events and appearances will be listed here on his blog. If youi're lucky, he may be coming to your city. Even if you never plan to bake a thing in your life, you will love having this book because it will give you a glimpse into a very special baker and his baking paradise.

Buona Italia to Open in Chelsea Market

Nocciola.jpgNocciola (hazelnut praline ice cream) on the back porch for lunch. Yes I know it's Fall but it's 89°/32°C and this fabulous ice cream called to me from the freezer. I made it yesterday for dear friends who were visiting from Philadelphia. I promised that if the Agrimontana praline paste arrived from Europe in time I would make the ice cream. This praline paste is made with hazelnuts from the famed Piedmont region of Italy--60% pure hazelnuts and 40% caramelized sugar. It has no equal. Mariella.jpg My dear long-time friend Mariella Esposito, of Fante's, and me enjoying the ice cream and sunset last night. Nocciola is her husband Lee's favorite, which is why I made it. This Thursday, September 28, Buon Italia will be opening in Chelsea Market in New York City but they also have an online site. And they carry, among other things, the Agrimontana praline paste and their 100% pure pistachio paste. Those of you who love these flavors of ice cream will be nothing short of astounded at the difference these quality ingredients make! And for those of you concerned about my summer-long defection to ice creaming, i'll be back to baking, mixing the dough for a pane nero this very afternoon (posting to come about this special Sicilian flour imported by Gustiamo).

How Sweet it Is

FullSizeRender.jpgSWEET.jpg Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi Yes, these are both the same book, but the first photo is the UK edition and it's the one that Yotam Ottolenghi sent me with the loveliest inscription from both him and co-author Helen Goh. As a huge Ottolenghi fan (I sent both my brother and his wife, and my cousin Joan to his restaurant when they were visiting London--wishing it could have been me) it means so very much to me to be credited in this gorgeous book for my contribution on page 181, which is an adaptation of my "Perfect Pound Cake." Their version has both cardamom and coffee, and I'm really looking forward to trying it because cardamom is my favorite spice and coffee my favorite beverage! I'm also delighted to see that the "Lemon Poppyseed Cake" is the one Helen would take to a desert island, because that happens to be my signature cake as well. And I'm dying to try the "Take-home Chocolate Cake," on page 152, because the descriptor "the world's best chocolate cake" always calls to me. Having cooked from Yotam's savory books, it is really exciting to be in possession of his first book devoted to sweets--after all, he started off as a pastry chef! I hope some day to meet him and Helen in person and in the meantime, I cherish their book.

Orange Appeal

Orange_Appeal.jpgOrange Appeal: Savory and Sweet When I was growing up, my grandmother, who lived with us, squeezed me fresh orange juice every morning for breakfast. Nowadays, when I go to a restaurant for lunch, and don't want to fall asleep for the rest of the afternoon, I decline a glass of wine in favor of freshly squeezed orange juice if they have it. My husband tells me that the moment an orange is squeezed the vitamin C flies right out. I drink it quickly because it is so delicious. I don't really care if it's healthful or not! To me, the flavor of orange is an irresistibly satisfying balance of sweetness and zinginess. I have used it in just about every one of my own books. ("Orange Glow Chiffon" and "Love of Three Oranges" springs to mind, not to mention "Orange Buttercream.") So you can imagine how excited I was to meet Jamie Schler this past April, at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Kentucky, and to learn that she was about to publish her first book Orange Appeal. If that isn't a sexy title I don't know what is! Jamie grew up in Florida, where, when it came to oranges, she had a lot more than a glass of orange juice every morning. She now lives in one of my favorite places in the world--Chinon, France, where she and her husband own Hôtel Diderot. Diderot.jpg When Orange Appeal arrived, it was a hard choice which two recipes to make as soon as possible so that I could share my thoughts about the book with you. Since I'm virtually surrounded by sweets every day, my first choice was a savory dish: "Orange-Braised Belgian Endives with Caramelized Onions and Bacon." She writes: Searing gently caramelizes the endives, braising in orange juice tames the bitter bite leaving just a hint of piquancy that marries well with the sweetness of the orange and the smoky, salty finishing touch of the caramelized onion and the lardons or bacon. And it was so fabulous I wanted to lick the plate (I used my finger to be polite since I wasn't alone). I will be making this dish again and again and again. Endives.jpg I happen to adore financiers--the little two-bite egg white, almond flour, and butter cakes that are tender and flavorful so how could I resist one made with orange zest and orange flower water, and yes--they were divine. FullSizeRender.jpg Jamie and her wonderful new book have become cherished friends and I look forward to the day when I can visit her in her paradise in Chinon. Meantime, there are lots more recipes to try. Mussels, orange juice, and fennel next in the hopper! You can also visit her on her website. JamieSchler.jpg

It's about TIME

TimeStack_Red-01.jpgTimeStack by Thermoworks is the ultimate timer. I've always wanted a timer that had mutliple time settings but feared I would get confused as which was timing what. The TimeStack quadruple timer has 4 time settings, each with a different sound, but the best part is that there is a voice recorder so that you can record your own message for each time setting. For example: Check the risen bread!, or Preheat the oven! The TimeStack has many other useful features. There is a back light button and also an adjustable volume button. And it comes in 9 attractive colors. Some great engineering went into the design of this sturdy and superbly functional timer. It will time up to all of 99 hours! You will love it!