Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sourdough Brioche Cinnamon Buns

I’ve really liked baking with sourdough since my first attempt years ago. I have a few favorite recipes that I bake often like sourdough bagels, baguettes, and a rye and wheat combo loaf that seems foolproof. I realized that I may have gotten stuck in my habits with sourdough. I’m used to the recipes I’ve made several times, know how the timing will work, and understand when there is flexibility in the scheduling. Dare I say, I’d gotten stuck in a sourdough comfort zone? It was time to try something new, and Modern Sourdough: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Margot Bakery, of which I received a review copy, by Michelle Eshkeri was great inspiration. These breads from Margot Bakery in North London are varied in origin but all rely on great flavor from sourdough. The book also includes some cakes, cookies, and bars offered at the bakery that are not made with sourdough, but I was intrigued to find Sourdough Rye Brownies, Fennel and Feta Muffins, and Aubergine Einkorn Galettes all made with sourdough in the recipes. The Margot loaf is a round, country-style loaf with Khorasan and white bread flours, and it rests for a long, slow rise in the refrigerator before baking. There’s also Focaccia, Challah, Simit, Beetroot Bread, and even laminated pastry dough all made with no commercial yeast or other leavening. There’s even a version of Rugelach made with that laminated pastry dough that looks delicious. But, it was the brioche that got my attention. I’ve made brioche several times and in different ways in the past. Most recently, my old mixer broke and I ended making a very rich brioche dough by hand with lots of kneading. I’ve made a sourdough brioche before that was used for hamburger buns, but that recipe included some yeast in the dough. Here, the brioche is definitely rich with eggs and butter, but it was all up to the starter to make it rise. I had to give it a try. I was torn between using the dough for a Babka loaf or Cinnamon Buns. Both are made with the same dough and same filling and I’ll eventually come back to try the Babka, but a cinnamon bun craving had to be addressed first.  

The recipe itself was a multi-day process after I had fed my starter for a day to revive it. Stage one just involves feeding a small amount of active starter with the amounts of water and flour listed. Stage two mixes the Stage one starter with more flour and water, and this time a little sugar. Stage three is for mixing the brioche dough with a pause for the autolyse, a long ferment in a warm oven with a bowl of water, and then additional resting in the refrigerator to make the dough easier to handle. Once chilled, the dough was patted into a rectangle and schmeared with a butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon mixture. With every other cinnamon bun recipe I’ve ever made, the dough is always rolled into a log and then sliced into rounds. Here, the dough was cut into strips first and then rolled three strips at a time before being separated into rolls and placed in a baking dish. It prevented the dough from becoming stretched and elongated. Once the rolls were formed, they sat, covered, at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours before baking. At last, the next day, they were baked. I can never resist topping cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, and I did that here as well with a coffee-flavored frosting. In the book, a simple syrup is poured over the buns while they’re still warm from the oven for a simpler look. 

To call these cinnamon buns decadent would be an understatement. They are delightfully rich, and all the waiting time was worth it for the flavor it produced. While I have no complaints about these at all, next time I might reduce the amount of filling since it did escape the rolls a bit. But first, I need to try those brownies and the focaccia and the muffins.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts

A trip to France seems especially dreamy right now. Dreamy and impossible. But, it’s a perfect time to transport yourself through food. Melissa Clark’s Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France of which I received a review copy, is just the book for that. She was introduced to French food at an early age on trips to France with her parents, and they incorporated that food into meals back at home by using books by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. She grew up knowing New York food and French food and combinations of the two, and that experience continues to inform her cooking now. This new book is a look at how she cooks today with that mix of influences in mind. I was first struck by the scandalous abundance of cheese, cream, homemade mayonnaise, and eggs in dish after dish, but that kind of richness is a signature part of French cooking. After reading through the recipes, there are plenty of options with a leaner profile too. For a brunch dish described in the head note as “over-the-top rich and creamy,” the Twice-Baked Cheese Souffles made with leeks, herbs, gruyere, parmesan, and cream look like decadent fun. I’d also like to try the Cornmeal and Harissa Souffle with a green salad for dinner. In the Cheese chapter, the Croque Monsieur Casserole sounds like a crowd-pleaser, and latkes are shown with added gruyere in them. You’ll find some lighter fare in the Salads chapter with Classic Salade Nicoise that sticks to the tradition of good canned or jarred tuna and Shaved Zucchini and Melon Salad with Mint and Almonds for a warm weather meal. There are also soups, savory tarts, fish dishes, chicken and other meats, a chapter just for vegetables, and dessert. The Giant Prawns with Preserved Lemon, Herbs, and Brandy is one of those less-rich dishes made with an herby-lemony sauce that will work just as well with shrimp if you can’t get prawns. I’m hoping to find myself with lots of sungold tomatoes soon so I can try the Buttery Crab Pasta with Golden Tomatoes and Chervil, and The Ratatouille Sheet-Pan Chicken will make a perfect dinner for eggplant season. Most of the desserts are simple in nature like the French Yogurt Cake with Cherries and Cardamom and the Raspberry-Lavender Clafouti. I’ve marked the page for the Almond Milk Sorbet and can’t wait to follow the suggestion of dropping a scoop into a glass of cold brewed coffee. But, for now, zucchini and tomato season is in full swing, and I got started on the Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts when I saw them. 

For these petite tarts, the crusts are made in a muffin tin. I made the dough by hand, and it was left to test in the refrigerator for an hour before being divided into eight equal pieces. Each piece was rolled into a thin round and fitted into a muffin cup. It was suggested in the recipe that the dough be weighted down while blind baking either with another muffin tin on top or with foil balls. I just docked the dough and pressed it down again when I turned the pan at the halfway point. Once golden, the crusts were left to cool. Chopped zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes were tossed with olive oil, seasoned, and sprinkled with rosemary before roasting. I wouldn’t have thought to reach for rosemary here, but I’m always happy to snip a bit off the shrubs taking over my yard. While the vegetables roasted, ricotta, egg, chopped parsley and chives, and minced garlic were whisked together. I opted for a vegan ricotta since I’ve been eating less dairy lately. It’s not a strict rule for me, and I did use butter in the dough, but just a reduction overall in cow dairy. The ricotta mixture was spooned into the tart shells, the roasted vegetables were added on top, and I added chopped olives for a salty bite rather than parmesan cheese. The muffin pan went back into the oven for another 25 minutes until the filling was bubbly and hot. 

I served the tarts for dinner with arugula salad and then for brunch with eggs, and both meals were delicious. The summery taste of first of the season zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes is always so good, and the herbs in both the roasted vegetables and the ricotta filling brought bright flavors to the mix. More virtual travel through meals is definitely on the menu. 

Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France

Serves 8 

3/4 cup (97 grams) all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup (77 grams) whole-wheat flour 
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks / 141 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing 
1 large egg yolk 
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed 
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves 
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed 
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese 
1 egg 
2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and chives 
1 small garlic clove, finely grated or minced 
5 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese 

1. Make the crusts: Using the ingredients listed above, prepare the crust according to the directions on page 117, adding the egg yolk along with the ice water. Gather the dough into a ball and then form it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. (Note that this sticky dough comes together best in the food processor—which distributes the butter and egg more evenly—but you can do it by hand.)  
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. 
3. Grease 8 cups of a standard 12-cup muffin tin, leaving the other 4 cups ungreased (or use two 6-cup pans). Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, shape each one into a golf ball–size sphere, and roll each ball out to form a ⅛-inch-thick round. Press each round into a greased muffin cup and lightly crimp the edges. Nestle a second muffin pan on top of the first to help weight down the crusts. (If you don’t have a second muffin tin, crumple up balls of foil and place them in each doughlined muffin cup instead; the goal here is to keep the pastry from shrinking too much.) Transfer the muffin tin(s) to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the top tin (or foil balls) and continue to bake until the bottom of each crust is just dry to the touch, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack to cool.  
4. Prepare the filling: While crusts cool, raise the oven temperature to 400°F.  
5. In a bowl, toss the zucchini and tomatoes with the rosemary, salt, pepper, and oil. Spread the mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast it, tossing the vegetables occasionally, until they are tender and light golden, about 25 minutes.  
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg, mixed herbs, and garlic. Season with a large pinch each of salt and pepper.  
7. Spoon an equal amount of the ricotta mixture (about a heaping tablespoon) into each cooled crust. Top the ricotta with the roasted vegetables. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Transfer the muffin tin to the oven and bake until the tarts are bubbling and golden, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. I like to pop these out of the tins with a small offset spatula, but a butter knife also works. 

Thinking Ahead Dough: You can make the tart dough and chill it in the refrigerator up to 2 days in advance. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap before chilling. Tart shells: You can bake the shells up to 1 day in advance before filling them. Store them, uncovered, at room temperature.

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