Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Brownies are one of my go-to desserts to make because they're so easy, delicious, and freeze well.  I've tried many recipes and this one is by far the best: it's creamy without being undercooked, dense, and chocolatey without being overpowering.

Quality chocolate is important.  My favorite baking chocolate is Scharffen Berger, but Callebaut is cheaper and also works well.

Recipe adapted from Scharffen Berger

Chop and melt in a double-boiler on very low heat (use a metal bowl placed over steaming water)
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. semi or bittersweet chocolate 
Stir occasionally to prevent the chocolate from burning.

In another bowl, whisk together:
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. bourbon or rum (optional)
Now, combine the following:
  • Melted butter/chocolate mixture
  • Egg/sugar mixture
  • 1/2 c. AP flour
Pour into an 8"x8" aluminum baking pan lined with foil or parchment.  Sprinkle pecans on top if desired.

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, but check after 16 minutes to make sure you don't overcook it.  Brownies should be set on top but moist inside.

Remove from the oven and chill in an ice bath until the pan is no longer hot.  This stops the cooking and ensures an even texture.

Freeze any leftovers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Unfortunately I'm writing way after the fact. Pretty much all there is to say is that I made croissants and they were darn tasty. You'll notice the shape is a little funny... I didn't cut them correctly so when they rolled up they weren't quite right. You're supposed to cut them like this:


...not into right triangles as I did. The basic procedure was to laminate the dough by filling with butter and folding, rolling, folding, etc. By the final fold the layers were so thin they wanted to rip, but it came out fine.

I'm not sure what recipe I used, but it might be this one:
The one thing I know for sure is that I used my sourdough starter. To use starter instead of commercial yeast I generally put in about a 1/4 c. of the starter and try to roughly add flour or water to make the consistency of the final dough right. It seemed to work well enough.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Yeast Starter

I'm trying to capture some wild yeast so that I can leaven and ferment dough. It's not so easy though. I followed instructions in my book, "Crust and Crumb", and everything's all bubbly but it doesn't look so healthy. Here's what it looks like now:

I've published pictures from each of the first 5 days of creating my starter on my picasa album:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pizza attempt 19

I've just been doing more of the same as far as pizza goes, since my pies have been coming out good. I'm now trying to just learn more since I know I have a pretty good recipe. With this pie, the point worth mentioning is that the middle was a little soggy. Sometimes I thought that meant it was undercooked, but I realize now that it's because the sauce is too wet. When I make the sauce, I strain out clear liquid which makes it drier. You can see in the final picture how the middle is a bit soggy.

Another point is that not all cheese is created equal. Sometimes when I slice the mozzarella, it melts in place and you can see discrete circles of cheese on the pie. Other times, it all melts into one contiguous blob of cheese. I'm not sure what this means though.

From now on I will only post about pizza if there's something worth noting. I just make too much pizza to write about!

Dough out of the fridge and rested for 2 hours

Stretched out on my peel

Loaded up

Soggy middle


Monday, September 10, 2007

French Baguettes attempt 1

I get pretty excited--maybe a little too excited--about good bread. After I discovered it's possible to make good pizza, I thought why not bread? I made this recipe out of the same book I made the last pizza: "Crust and Crumb" by Peter Reinhart. It has two formulas for French Bread: one "easy" way, and a second way using Pâte Fermentée (old dough). I'll include the recipe for the first easy way. This is the method I used for my first loaf. It was very good! The crust was crispy and chewy with a moist crumb.

3 1/2 c. (453 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 c. (453 g) unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. (19 g) salt
1 tsp malt powder or brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 2/3 cups cool water (65 to 70 degrees)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
  1. Combine the flours, salt, malt, and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Add the water, and stir with a large spoon until the flour is gathered and the dough forms a ball.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Knead in extra flour or water (just a few drops at a time) if necessary to achieve this consistency. The dough is fully kneaded when it passes the windowpane test.
  4. Place the dough in a large clean bowl that will hold it when it has doubled in bulk. Mist the dough lightly with cooking spray. Cover the bowl (not the dough) with plastic wrap or enclose it in a plastic bag, and let rise for about 30 minutes. It should just begin swelling.
  5. Knead the dough for 30 seconds, form it into a ball, and re-cover the bowl with plastic. Allow it to rise for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

  6. Scale, bench, and shape the dough into loaves or rolls as described below. Place them in pans or baskets. If using pans, line them with parchment paper and dust them with cornmeal or semolina for texture; if using baskets, mist them with cooking spray and dust them with rice flour or bread flour to prevent sticking.

    Scale the dough using a kitchen scale. You can save 1/3 of the dough for a later batch (discussed in a later blog entry). Here's the short version of how to shape into baguettes: shape the dough into balls and rest for 20 minutes. Then shape into a football and rest for 3 minutes. Flatten into a rectangle. Fold the bottom up 1/3 of the way, and fold the top down over top of it (see picture). Seal the seam, stretching the dough around the rest of the baguette. Then roll the baguette outwards. Rest and flatten into a rectangle again, and repeat the fold.
  7. Lightly mist the top of the shaped dough with cooking spray to prevent sticking, and place the pans or baskets inside a large plastic bag. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Place the shaped dough in the fridge overnight, making sure the bag is loose but closed to prevent drying. [I didn't have a bag big enough so I covered loosely with plastic wrap.]
  9. The next day, remove from the refrigerator but leave it in the bag. The dough should be 50-75% larger than when it went in. If so, let it sit out 1 hour to take off the chill. If not fully risen, let it sit out 2-3 hour until it completes its rise.
  10. Prepare the oven for hearth baking by placing a steam pan on a lower rack. Preheat to 475 degrees F (allow about 30 minutes to heat fully). Fill a spray bottle with water.
  11. Remove the dough from the plastic 15 minutes before baking to allow the surface to dry slightly. Just before baking score the bread about 1/4" to 1/2" deep. Put the loaves in the oven. If they were on parchment paper, leave them on the paper. Then pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the empty steam pan and spray water on the oven walls and the bread with water.
  12. After 2 minutes spray the oven walls and the bread again. Repeat in 1 minute. Then lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
  13. Wait 10 minutes and rotate the bread if necessary.
  14. When the bread has developed a rich, golden brown color--this will take about 25 minutes total for loaves and 15 minutes total for rolls--turn off the oven or lower to 350 if you plan to bake again. Leave the bread in the oven an extra 5-10 minutes, until it seems on the verge of overbrowning.
  15. Remove the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool thoroughly before eating, 60 minutes for loaves, 20 minutes for rolls.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pizza attempts 17 & 18

For this pizza I used the same recipe as last time. I really liked the way the crust had a nice flavor and texture just from the addition of a poolish. This time there isn't much to report on except I fried some bratwurst and used that as a topping. Highly recommended. Pizza 18 was a little undercooked and had a slightly soggy middle as you can see in the cross-section shots. I might have tried to make it too thin, and it could have stayed in the oven longer anyway. It also is more difficult to slide the pizza off the peel and into the oven, especially with the crust so thin and wet. Pressing down on the toppings with your hands is a must or else the sausage will fly all over the place when you try to "shuffle" the pizza off the peel. However, pressing down makes the dough more likely to stick. It's important to shake the pizza peel during the pizza making process to make sure the pizza is still loose.

Pizza 17: Nice crust throughout

Pizza 18: bird's eye view

Soggy crust in the middle of pizza 18

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pizza attempts 13 - 16

These were my best pizzas yet. I used a different recipe, from a book called Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart. It's pretty similar, except it uses a poolish (a preferment similar to a yeast starter). The dough was also wetter. Since the recipe isn't online, I'll give it to you here:
  • 300g (2 1/3c) unbleached bread flour
  • 10g (1 1/3tsp.) salt
  • 1/6 tsp. instant yeast
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 123g (about 1/2 cup) cool water (65-70 degrees)
  • 189g (3/4c + 1Tbsp. + 1tsp.) poolish-style sponge
A few notes about this recipe:
  • I've multiplied the recipe by 2/3, since that makes about two 12" pizzas.
  • I've converted to grams, but also show the volume measures. This shows how easy it is to use grams and change the quantity of any recipe (I know I don't want to measure 0.83 cups of something). Weight is much more reliable than volume!
  • I reduced the olive oil. The recipe calls for 1/3c. of olive oil (scaled down) and that seemed like a lot to me, and olive oil is expensive. I didn't see any reason to use that much. If you do, let me know.
For the poolish, mix 510g (4c) flour, 4c water, and 1/4 tsp. instant yeast. Beat until smooth, then cover and rise for 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight and use, or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. This is a preferment; it is often used in bread and will contribute great flavor to our dough.

To make the pizza dough, mix all ingredients--using only 200g (2/3) of the flour--until just combined. Cover and rest for 15-20 minutes. This is the autolyse (no, I don't know how to say it either) and it will help develop the gluten. Then, I use the same technique as before. I use my hand mixer with the weird spiral dough attachment to mix for 8 minutes, then I gradually add in the rest of the flour in about 5 minutes. Once the flour is all added, it's too dry for my hand mixer so I knead by hand until it passes the windowpane test. It's very difficult to knead this dough by hand, but try to use as little extra flour as possible.

To do the windowpane test, pull off a small piece of dough and toss in flour. Gently flatten and stretch, like you're making a tiny pizza. The dough should stretch to paper thin without tearing so you can almost see through it. If the dough tears first, keep kneading.

After kneading, make a ball by stretching one side and tucking the sides under itself, kind of like tucking a jellyfish's legs into the bottom. Spray oil in a bowl and place the dough in. Spray oil lightly on top of the dough and cover with plastic. Let this rise for about 2 hours. You're looking for it to rise to about 1 1/2 times it's previous volume. The book says to rise until bubbly for about 3 hours, but I think this is too much. Refrigerate for a day or two.

On pizza day, remove the dough from the fridge. Divide in two and make two balls. I put one back in a bowl to rise and the other goes in the fridge in a plastic bag sprayed with oil. I let the rising dough get to room temperature. Depending on how much the dough rose before refrigerating, the dough may have to rise more again. In any case, I'd get it to at least room temperature. Turn on your oven at least 30 minutes before you think the dough will be ready, enough time to preheat your stone and get the oven as hot as possible. Then it's time to make the crust. Toss the dough in flour and flatten with the heel of your hand. Slowly stretch it out and either toss in the air, or stretch in the air, or stretch with your knuckles, or stretch on the pizza peel. You may have to rest the dough for a few minutes if it wants to shrink back again. Place on the peel and load with toppings. Give the peel a shake before you put it in the oven to make sure the dough isn't sticking. It also may help to press the toppings down on the pizza so they don't fall off when you're shoveling the pizza in the oven. Put the pizza on the stone and bake.

My pizza bakes for 4 minutes. You may want to rotate it halfway through cooking. Here are more pictures:

The dough before decorating. You can see that it was still bubbly in the middle--this made it hard to make the dough thin.

It was hard to get a picture before it was eaten!