Spiced Pumpkin Bread

November 19, 2011

Man, I love Thanksgiving! “Love” is an exaggeration. It’s an understatement, if anything. I love, love, LOVE opening my google reader and reading all the Thanksgiving recipes, drooling over photos, and scribbling down recipes, notes, and suggestions for Thanksgivings (and meals) to come. Most of the free mental space in my brain, in fact, is dedicated to thinking about Thanksgiving and food.

I have to laugh at myself here because it’s typical that, for the amount of time I spend thinking about Thanksgiving and for the amount of inspiration out there, I’ve done nothing in terms of choosing what recipes to use next week (I could feed off ideas forever; the “getting things done” part is always hardest for me). Thanksgiving is less than a week away, giving me a little bit of time, but if next week is anything like this week in terms of passing by WAY too quickly, then I’m in trouble!

So, even though spiced pumpkin bread isn’t really a Thanksgiving recipe, I felt compelled to make it and share it for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s full of pumpkin and makes your kitchen smell wonderful while it bakes. Second, it seems like a great addition to a post-Thanksgiving brunch spread! My family never did this, but I think I’m going to weasel the day-after brunch into my own Thanksgiving tradition. The bread is perfect, just another great recipe from America’s Test Kitchen! Good luck with your own Thanksgiving preparations!!!

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

(Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Cookbook)

Yields one 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf

Notes: I switched out the granulated sugar called for in the original recipe for honey, and, desirous of a less sweet finished product, added less sweetener than the original. I also threw in some ground flax seeds for good measure, but they are totally and completely optional.

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree

½ cup honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

Optional: 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

1. In a small or medium saucepan, cook pumpkin puree, honey, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg over medium high heat, stirring constantly for 5 to 7 minutes or until mixture is thick and glossy. Take off heat and cool. To hasten the cooling process, stir or whisk mixture vigorously for 5 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 ½ by 4 ½ inch loaf pan, and place loaf pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, ground flax seeds (if using), baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooled pumpkin mixture, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

4. Fold liquid ingredients into dry, taking care not to over mix. The batter will be thick.

5. Scrape batter evenly into prepared loaf pan and smooth top. Bake loaf 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with just a few crumbs attached, rotating loaf pan halfway through baking time.

6. Let loaf cool in pan 10 minutes before removing loaf and placing it on a cooling rack. Cool loaf at least one hour before serving.

Store loaf either covered tightly with plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.

Bostock. What?

February 9, 2011

My kitchen has turned into an ocean of brioche. It’s everywhere, on the counter, in the fridge, in the freezer, in my bag to go to work, you can’t escape it. I’m trying to think of different ways to use this sliced brioche that is now a day old when I see a recipe for almond cream and a pastry called bostock. After reading about this treat, the only question I can ask myself is “How have I NEVER heard about this?!”

When you google “bostock”, you come upon the same thing with each result; people tried it in a bakery, or read about it, or heard about it, then asked where it has been their whole life, and then set about making it. I love this, how a pastry can come out of nowhere, surprise the heck out of you, then make itself a part of your life. Not to go off on one of my “beauty is everywhere” tangents, but food is sometimes overlooked when talking about cultures and life and sharing, and that’s a shame because everyone has very unique palates and dishes that feel like home, which can be shared even across language barriers. Okay, done.

In my research I learned that traditional bostock is dipped in almond syrup before being coated with cream and baked. Unfortunately, I found this after putting mine in the oven. Maybe next time.

The end product wasn’t pretty, because I decided to not follow instructions and not leave a border of bread around the cream, but my goodness gracious, it was good. So good, in fact, that I just wanted to stick my face in it, and then make a billion of them to give to everyone I know. Just when you think you could get bored of something, bostock comes along and saves the day.

Haha. Don't laugh. It's delicious.

Before signing off for today, I need to make a confession. Remember, yesterday, when I said that perhaps all the extra effort in brioche dough isn’t worth it? I’m officially eating my words, after sampling the brioche buns made with dough that needs crazy amounts of attention and ingredients. There is definitely a difference, and the extra steps are worth it if you have the time and energy. I’ll be posting that particular recipe on Friday morning! Be excited! And then be excited that I’ll talk about something other than brioche!

Almond Cream

(Recipe adapted from Baking, From my Home to Yours)

Yields 1 ½ cups almond cream

Ingredients:

¾ stick, or 6 tablespoons, unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup ground almonds (almond meal works as well)

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 2 teaspoons dark rum)

Method:

1. Using a stand mixer or a sturdy spoon, cream butter and sugar until smooth.

2. Add almonds and beat to incorporate them completely.

3. Stir in flour and cornstarch until flour disappears.

4. Add egg and beat mixture until homogenous.

5. Stir in vanilla extract (or rum).

Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.

**Dorie says you can even bake this as a custard in ramekins, and I found that the almond cream spilled over the edges and baked into delightful almond cookies. The possibilities are practically endless, guys!

Bostock

Ingredients:

As many thick slices (up to and including an inch thick) of stale, day-old brioche, or challah, as desired

Almond cream

Method:

[Optional step: Toast a handful of slivered almonds on a baking sheet for 5 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.]

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Spread two or three tablespoons almond cream on each slice of bread, making sure to leave an inch thick border of bread. The almond cream spreads. [Sprinkle with toasted almonds.]

3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cream looks set around the edges.

4. Eat!

I would not try to store bostock, because it is simple to make as needed and heavenly out of the oven.

Breakfast Tuesday! My favorite day of the week! I repeat myself a lot and exaggerate… A LOT, but today I’m super excited to share my day off breakfast treat because I put some work into it and because it’s something that is crazy decadent. My favorite kind of breakfast is a ridiculous, zero nutritional value, almost-dessert, something like brioche french toast!

I won’t bore you with the details of the French toast making, because we all have our own special way of preparing it, but I will share some of my brioche experiences. The entirety of my Monday consisted of preparing three different batches brioche dough from three different people. Last week, reading the recipes, I realized that most brioche dough must sit overnight, and some even require TLC every two hours before you are ready to use it. Some you can freeze, some you need to use a sponge, some you NEED a thermometer, you name some sort of baking instruction, it was there. I’m a bit lazy and extremely impatient, so the question became, “Are all these crazy extra steps worth it for the 23 year old home baker?”

The part of me that loves projects and challenges says “Heck yes! I don’t want to settle and take the easy route!” The part of me that just wants some brioche French toast and doesn’t feel like going to the market and spending five dollars on a brioche roll says “There has to be middle ground.” Surprisingly enough, I got over the laziness and made a bunch of brioche to conduct some rigorous taste testing.

I’m still working on the loaves that need extra time, because my kitchen is freezing, but I will share the recipe for the baked loaf in the pictures. How well the brioche turned out, even though it didn’t need to sit overnight and be punched repeatedly, surprised me. It certainly rivals market brioche, and definitely trumps hugantic chain grocery store brioche.

I will let you know how the rest of brioche baking goes. I have brioche buns filled with jam, another regular loaf, a raisin swirl loaf, and some dough frozen for sticky buns. Too much brioche? Nonsense.

“Breakfast Loaf” Brioche

(Recipe adapted from Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking)

Yields enough dough for one 9 by 5 inch loaf

Note: This recipe is a whole lot easier with the bread hook of a stand mixer, but I was able to do it without, and will write the recipe without use of the mixer. If you have access to a mixer, this recipe will be a cinch!

Ingredients:

Sponge

1/3 cup lukewarm milk, about body temperature*

2 ½ teaspoons, or one envelope, active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water, around 110 degrees F*

¾ cup bread flour

*The temperature is important because the yeast will be killed if the liquids are too hot.

Dough

2 eggs, room temperature

2 egg yolks, room temperature

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

All of sponge, recipe from above

2 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup, or 8 tablespoons, butter, softened, plus extra for buttering pans and bowls

Egg Wash

1 egg, whisked

Method:

1. Sponge: In a cereal size bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water. Wait 2 minutes, then whisk again to make sure all yeast granules are dissolved. Whisk in warm milk. Fold in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon, until smooth. Cover the bowl in plastic, and let sit for 30 minutes or until more than doubled in size.

2. In the bottom of a large bowl, large enough to contain and knead all the dough, stir the eggs and yolks together.

3. Stir in the sugar, and then scrape all the sponge into the egg mixture.

4. Add flour, one cup at a time, and the salt, mixing it into submission after each addition. Mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, between 10 and 15 minutes. I suggest using your (clean) hands for this process.

5. Add the butter in three parts, continually mix until the butter is absorbed into the dough, not just melted around the outside.

6. Knead dough until it is smooth, shiny, and feels like elastic, 10 to 15 minutes more.

7. Place dough into a large, buttered bowl, then flip over to make sure top of dough is coated in butter.

8. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If your kitchen is in the 70 degree F range, 30 minutes should suffice. Once the dough has risen, you can place it in the fridge until ready to use, or use it right away. If you do put it in the fridge, make sure it comes to room temperature before shaping it for the loaf pan.

9. Prepare a loaf pan by buttering it generously. Make sure you butter the rim as well, because the brioche will try to escape over the sides.

10. Flour your hands, and remove the dough from the bowl. Round the dough by bringing the sides underneath it, tightening the skin on top, being careful not to deflate it too much. Once rounded, shape it into a loaf pan sized rectangle. Transfer dough to prepared pan.

11. Cover the pan with plastic, and let rise until dough comes 1 to 1 ½ inches above the pan. This process takes 30 minutes to an hour, again, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

12. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

13. Before baking loaf, brush top with egg wash. Be careful not to let the egg drip down the outside of the pan.

14. Bake loaf until well-risen and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

15. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before tipping it out onto a cooling rack. Let loaf cool completely on its side to avoid deflation.

Brioche is pretty much ambrosia out of the oven,  right after it cools, but you can keep it, at room temperature or in the fridge, in an airtight container for a few days. You could also freeze it for up to a month.