Just Baked: Chocolate Swirl Buns

“When you select the right kind of chocolate it is like giving your insides a hug. Everyone needs a chocolate hug.” — Jean Kelsey 

After two weeks of feeling ill during the second half of February, I felt the need to make some bread. I wanted the therapy I get from working with dough and needed the comfort of a house that smelled heavenly from bread in the oven.

I wanted something easy like a cinnamon roll, but I did not want cinnamon this time. I was torn between wanting a sweet bread or savory bread. To be honest, I was leaning towards making a cheesy garlic bread. However, having no food processor in my kitchen and having an aversion to handling real garlic (I hate the smell it leaves on the hands), I decided to use my last Beryl’s Dark Compound Chocolate bar.

For the recipe, I was initially looking at recipes for babka. However, it involved too many steps and too much time to get the dough ready. I wanted something quick and easy for an impatient amateur like me. My search led me to Donal Skehan’s recipe.

52932105_828408607498314_5062651940920360960_nThe dough was easy to make and to handle. For the first time, I did not use my hand mixer and its dough hook attachments! Instead, I used my hands to knead for about ten minutes or more. It felt like a workout but it was so satisfying to knead the dough. It was like working with slime or clay.

The more tiring part of this bread making activity is chopping the dark compound chocolate bar. I need to invest in bigger and sharper knives. Anyway, I made sure to leave some big chunks of chocolate because I was worried they’d melt too quickly and burn of I chopped too finely.

IMG_0932Donal’s recipe was a pretty simple recipe that is easy to follow and difficult to mess up. Honestly, the only things that worried me in this recipe were the use of dark chocolate and my lack of ground cardamom.

You see, I like my chocolate more milky than dark. I like white chocolate best of all. Dark chocolate never appealed to me despite being closer to what real chocolate is.

I also do not like cardamom. However, Donal emphasized the difference it will make in the dough. Thankfully, I did not have ground cardamom on hand so I had valid excuse to skip it. I would like to try adding some in the future though. That is, if I can find ground cardamom in my country because even the ones not in powder form is already tough to find (hooray to another excuse for me to skip it!).

I badly need practice on twisting dough. No matter how hard I tried, I could not replicate Donal’s technique of twisting the dough. I did my best though. Holy cow, that rhymed!

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The breads puffed up more in the oven. The house smelled so good while the butter, sugar and chocolate flavors were marrying.

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Despite not looking perfect, I was so proud of myself! The buns were great when eaten a few minutes after being taken out of the oven. Surprisingly, the chocolate was not bitter. I was so afraid to try it and not like it because of the dark chocolate. I was wrong. I loved it so much!

I hope you give Donal’s recipe a try. Until then, I hope you stick around and support me as I try more recipes in the future.

 

 

 

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Just Baked: Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

“Anyone who gives you a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven is a friend for life.” ― Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?

I am forever in love with the smell of cinnamon and sugar whether they be on my pretzels or on my snickerdoodles. Still, nothing beats warm, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls that fill the house with a heavenly scent.

With humidity at only 58%, I decided it was time to once again attempt making cinnamon rolls. I had all the ingredients at home to make this treat and it was my chance to use my pastry mat from Hong Kong.

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My first attempt a few months ago was a disaster because no matter how long I kneaded the dough and how much additional flour I put in, the dough was too bloody sticky and soft that I was not able to do anything about it except to just make a cinnamon loaf bread. Hey, it was still so yummy despite being in a different form! Too bad I forgot the recipe I used at that time.

For my second attempt, I followed the recipe of Anna Olson from her Oh Yum YouTube channel. Her recipe looked easy to make for an amateur like me. My only problem was I only had a hand mixer. I figured that if I was able to make Hokkaido milk bread using it, I should be able to make cinnamon rolls with it too.

Oh dear. The dough was still just as sticky as the last time I made it. I think I consumed 60 minutes kneading the dough, alternating between my hand mixer and my own hands.  I also added what seemed like 1/4 cup of flour because everything was freaking sticky! I do not know if it was my flour or if I was simply unlucky because I could not achieve the smooth, baby’s bum texture of dough like I see bakers on YouTube get.

68165312_unknownWhen I finally decided to give up with kneading because my arms were needing some rest already, I placed my dough in a lightly oiled bowl and covered it to let it rise. I left it alone for 90 minutes while I prepared the cinnamon sugar filling and the goo.

The goo! Oooh, it smelled wonderfully of butter, sugar and maple syrup! I added walnuts and raisins in the pan with my gooey syrup mixture because I am fond of cinnamon rolls with fruits and nuts. They give the buns some texture that I absolutely love. That being said, I do not get why A LOT of people hate raisins.

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I enjoyed beating this bad boy.

My favorite part about making bread is that I get to punch the dough as part of the degassing step. Boy, it’s therapeutic when I get to punch it and shout “Bam!” With this dough, I especially wanted to beat the gas out of it because it gave me a hell of a hard time kneading it. Thankfully, it was no longer too tacky after proofing.

Rolling out the dough into a rectangle shape so I can spread the filling was not as difficult as I was prepared for. The best part? I was able to roll the whole thing into a log! I was getting more and more excited because at this stage, I was far better from how it was during my first attempt. This looked promising!

Using a cooking twine, I sliced twelve pieces that were of uneven sizes. Yeah, I still have to improve a lot on that part. At least the twine made sure I didn’t squish my buns unlike if I used a knife. I have to thank Mom for the twine because there was no way I was using mint-flavored floss on my hard work.

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I let the buns proof for another hour before finally baking them for 45 minutes at 350ºF. Oh my gosh! They look adorable sitting on that puddle of goo!

Oh my gosh! Achievement unlocked! I did it! I made my very own cinnamon rolls and I did not use store-bought dough.

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Okay, happiness aside, I admit finding the amount of goo too much for the buns. I would probably use just half the recipe next time because I am not fond of overly sticky and soggy cinnamon rolls. After flipping the buns out, I poured around 3/4 cups of excess goo in a jar to keep and use for something else. I think it would be nice to pour on pancakes.

I also find that the buns browned a little darker than what I was aiming for. I was afraid the bottom half weren’t baked yet despite the tops already browning so, I held on to the last 5 minutes of the baking time. Perhaps lower temperature and longer baking time on my next attempt?

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I am so proud of myself today despite the uneven sizes of the buns and the excess goo. It’s okay to have a lot of room for improvement because it only means more adventures in my kitchen. On my next attempts, I want a tighter roll, more filling, less goo and finally, even slices.

For now, I shall be enjoying this gooey, sticky fruit of my hard work.

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A Merry Berry Breakfast

“One should not attend even the end of the world without a good breakfast.”  -Robert A. Heinlein

Last August 21, my country celebrated two holidays: Ninoy Aquino Day and Eid al-Adha. We were actually hoping for Eid al-Adha to be celebrated on the 22nd like the rest of the world, I think but even just one day of rest from work is already very much welcome.

I took the opportunity to go through the ingredients I had at home and realized that my whole wheat flour isn’t gonna last for long. I needed to bake it into something despite my and my mom’s lack of fondness for whole wheat bread. Initially wanting raisin whole wheat bread, I realized we only had dried cranberries at home. So whole wheat cranberry bread it is.

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It has risen!

I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour and just simply tossed in a handful of cranberries. The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows:

  • 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Himalayan salt
  • a handful of dried cranberries

I had a fun time kneading the dough using my handheld mixer with dough hook attachment. Eventually, I started using my hands to incorporate the cranberries into the dough. It looked so cute while it was proofing!

While waiting for the dough to proof, I decided to bake the frozen blueberries and strawberries that I bought on a whim. I discovered the Sunny Morning Muffins recipe the day before and just knew I had to bake a version of it! From the name alone, I was expecting the muffins to be as bright as the sunshine in deliciousness!

The ingredients I used after tweaking are as follows (2 batches):

  • 2 cups strawberries, chopped
  • 2 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (the nuts I got were salted already so I reduced the salt by half)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups chopped salted cashew nuts (the only one available at the time)

The muffins were fairly simple to make. You just combine all the ingredients and that’s it! No special method of folding or mixing. What took me long was filling my muffin tray (one that makes 24 mini muffins) and ensuring that each well will have enough berries and nuts.

For step-by-step procedures, you may click on the link to the original recipes.

After hours of baking, I had a large loaf of bread and about 5 dozens of mini muffins. What should have been the last dozen on mini muffins, I made into four larger ones.

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The whole wheat bread turned out to be really soft. It tasted pretty much just like plain bread; nothing extra special. The cranberries just added some tartness and sweetness to it. As much as I enjoyed making it though, I really cannot find it in me to love the texture of whole wheat bread when eating it.

But, the muffins! They were really, really good! They were soft but not mushy. The combination of strawberries, blueberries and cashews in one bite was awesome! The berries were not too sweet and were a just a tiny bit tart, giving balance to the sweetness from the sugar and the banana. Also, it was a good thing I used half the amount of the salt required due to the cashews already being salted.

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If anyone knows how to make whole wheat bread without the gritty texture in the mouth, please let me know! I’d be so happy to learn.

Just Baked: Hokkaido Milk Bread

“All sorrows are less with bread.” -Miguel de Cervantes Saaved

I have been itching to make bread again after the success of my attempt at making wheat bread using the turbo, no-knead method. As good as that bread was, it was the type that you finish within the day you baked it. With only water as the hydrating ingredient, the bread could turn out to be tough the following day.

While trying to feel sleepy one night, I searched for bread recipes that called for milk and eggs because my favorite loaf of bread from Goldilocks, a famous chain of bakeshops in the Philippines, was made with those two ingredients included. I figured, those two will give me soft, fluffy, and yummy bread that will not be hard or tough the following day.

From my search, I found the Fluffy Asian Milk Bread (Hokkaido Milk Bread) recipe from Pai’s Kitchen. Her ingredients were pretty straightforward and she had a video to show how it’s done as well. Remembering I had dough hook attachments to my electric hand mixer, I figured that I can do it too.

Her recipe starts out with making the tangzhong, also called as roux. It could be made with flour and water or milk. I like that Pai’s recipe used milk since I think that will help enhance the flavor.

The tanzhong’s purpose is to be able to put in much liquid to the dough without making it too sticky. Also, the roux will help lock in moisture that will allow for a bread that remains soft and fluffy even after a day or two.

I added 20 grams of flour to 120 ml full-cream milk/whole milk.

I mixed the flour in the milk until dissolved. Then, I went to my stove to heat the mixture up, mixing continuously trying to prevent the milk from burning. For some reason, the mixture thickened in around ten seconds and I was close to burning it. My induction stove can be difficult to work with at times. Oh well.

But, my tangzhong still turned out okay. I dumped it in my 120 ml evaporated milk to cool down faster.

Meanwhile, I prepared my 320 grams flour (I just used all-purpose) and 2 tsps of instant yeast.

I added one egg to the milk and tangzhong mixture after it has cooled to prevent the egg from scrambling. Then, I poured it into my dry ingredients.

I used my hand mixer with dough hook attachments to mix the dough until there’s not much dry flour left. I covered it with a tea towel, as instructed by Pai, for 20 minutes. This is the autolyse method, aimed to help making a dough that’s easier to work with.

After 20 minutes, I proceeded with kneading the dough using my electric hand mixer, adding my 2 tbsps of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt gradually while kneading.

I had to stop every now and then not only to rest my mixer’s engine, but also to remove the dough from the dough hooks to ensure even kneading. I had to this a couple of times until I got a dough that clings to the hooks and do not separate anymore. Then, I added 56 grams of butter a little at a time until the dough absorbed it all.

However, my dough remains sticky no matter what I did and how long I kneaded with the machine. I also could not achieve the smooth baby bum texture. I decided to get a little bit of flour and kneaded the dough with my hands inside the bowl. That helped a bit but it still wasn’t the baby bum look that I was aiming for.

Anyway, I got tired of the kneading and the windowpane and poke tests were pretty much showing it’s okay. I decided to call it a day and just get on with the rest of the process. I really need that Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

I placed the dough in a clean bowl that was oiled to prevent sticking. I made sure to coat the entire exterior of the dough before I covered the dough with cling wrap. I covered it additionally with a tea towel and placed it on a warm area to proof.

At around 20 minutes, the dough has already rise . Look!

I was excited for the rest of the steps. After 40 more minutes, it was just huge!

I poked the dough, degassed it, and kneaded it a bit. I then started making 60 gram chunks until I arrived 12 buns with exactly the same weight.

The buns on the first tray had already started the second proofing. Hence, it looks bigger than those on the left. I covered the trays with cling wrap and then with a tea towel to proof for 45 minutes more.

Ah!!! Soooo big!

I popped them in my oven that was preheated at 190°C. But, as soon as they got in, I lowered the temperature to 175°C.

I baked them for 15 minutes and they went out golden brown with a hollow sound when tapped. They were so cute!!!

I just to try one as soon as it cooled a little bit so I would not burn my hands. Look!

It was fluffy, it was soft, and it was yummy! It went really well with butter. The best part? It was still as soft the following day and even the day after!

I’m excited with what else I can do with this base dough. Maybe a custard bun? Or maybe I can fill it with meat? Ooooh! I am so excited!

I shall endeavor to achieve that baby bum texture the next time I try it. What an arm and hand workout that will be!

My Not-So-Wheaty No-Knead Turbo Wheat Bread (Whew!)

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” -James Beard

I have baked cookies, muffins, cakes and cupcakes. Yet, I have never tried making bread. You know, that bread you use for sandwiches and toasts. The thought of using yeast scared the carbs out of me.

My Aunt Lory’s the first person I met who made bread at home. I loved her bread so much that I asked for the recipe. Hers is a no-knead version too but has to proof for 18 hours. I am not that patient. Hahaha…

I looked for videos online on the no-knead method of making bread when I came across Steve’s YouTube channel, ArtisanBreadWithSteve. I watched him make bread using his no-knead turbo method and was hooked on how easy the recipe was to make. Plus, I only had to proof the bread for an hour and a half. It’s the perfect waiting time for impatient people like me!

What’s also great is that it only used four ingredients: warm water, active dry yeast, salt and flour. I made sure my yeast did not touch the salt until they were in the water.

Also, because I am stubborn and could not be bothered to buy bread flour, I used 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of fine whole wheat flour instead. I wanted to see if it will work just as well.

I heated my glass bowl in the microwave for one minute on high. Then, I added in all the ingredients just as shown in Steve’s video.

The dough was a little bit tough to combine. I used a lot of elbow and shoulder grease. I believe it’s my fault for using wheat flour because it seems like it absorbed the water quicker than I had time to mix them all together. Nevertheless, I had fun. Next time, I will use my hand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Once the dough has been mixed well, I covered my glass bowl with cling wrap and covered it further with a dishcloth. Then, I put it near the window where the sun shines through.

Instead of one and a half hour, I let it proof for one more hour.

It grew to twice its original size! I proceeded to do the degas, stretch and pull method before transferring to my loaf pan. I let it proof for another 30 minutes. During the last 15 minutes of proofing time, I pre-heated my oven to 204°C.

I let the bread bake for forty minutes. I was not used to this waiting time because my cookies took only 8 to 12 minutes to bake while my muffins only took around 20 to 25 minutes. Having made it this far, I waited for the 40 minutes to be over.

It was amazing!!! I tapped on the top with a butter knife and it did sound hollow, meaning it’s done. The top was crispy/crunchy but the bread inside was so soft! It went well with garlic butter!

Another item off my bucket list! I’ll try my aunt’s recipe next. 18 hours, just you wait!!!