So I've been stuck at home for the last week. A full week now actually.
First it was chicken pox with my youngest son. His first spot showed up on Monday night.
Then Sunday had my oldest waking up with a high fever that he's still battling, three days later.
Sick kids don't generate as much laundry as healthy ones (most times), and Mom's not leaving the house to go anywhere also don't generate much laundry.
So I've had lots of time to get some baking in, though sporadically and in short bursts.
When not with a child, what better way to pass the time (and try and keep my brain functioning) than to bake? So bake I did!
Tuesday had me in a chocolate mood. I must have been gearing up for the chocolate intensity cake that I would make Wednesday/Thursday.
I started out with Dorie's recipe for Midnight Crackles, found on page 74, which I'm sorry to say that I do not like. Which isn't to say is a bad cookie - my 8 year old moaned about how good and chocolatey these were. My husband found them a bit too chocolatey also, but that didn't stop him from putting them in his lunch. It seems to be just me who doesn't like them. I find them too strong in chocolate flavor, nor do I like the texture.
But since I was on a chocolate fixation, as well as cookie baking for the lunchboxes/freezer, I also made the Chocolate Oatmeal Drops on page 75. Again another very chocolatey cookie that didn't grab me, though I much prefer these to the Crackles. These were very brownie like, with a bit of an unusual texture from the oatmeal, and again were loved by my children.
One thing I learned from these cookies - I don't know how Dorie manages to get her yields! Each recipe says it makes about 50 cookies. I got about 30ish from both. Using a measuring scoop. Oh well.
Another note for each cookie. For the crackles, I found they worked better if I "smushed" the cookie some in my hand before putting it down on the sheet, rather than rolling it in a ball then pressing down lightly with my finger tips. Flattening them more changed the texture slightly, to one I preffered. And with the oatmeal drops, the cookies spread better on parchment rather than a silpat (I only have one of those, so I use a combination of the two.) To me this was important because I much preferred the thinner cookies over the smaller, denser cookies. I guess I just like less dense, flatter cookies.
After the chocolate overload that was these cookies and the cake, I decided to go on a different bent with baking and got brave. I decided to make brioche.
I had been drolling over the recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves (page 48) for awhile, mostly so I could make the Pecan Honey Sticky Buns, minus the pecans, (page 51.) I like sticky, cinnamon buns. However the recipe for the brioche and the buns basically requires two days. One to make the dough and let it rise, then the second to shape, rise and bake the bread/buns.
After making croissants over 3 days, however, a 2 day bread recipe seemed almost easy! So Saturday night I got baking.
Please don't ask why I waited until Saturday night to start baking bread. I don't know.
Whatever my reason, at 6pm on a Saturday night, I was standing next to my mixer making sure it wasn't going to blow up or fly off the counter. Poor Bob got very warm that night, mixing in the 3 sticks of butter into the dough.
One thing I can say about Dorie - when that woman says 2 hours rising time, she really means it! I doubted her, I admit it. After 4 30 minute rising periods in the fridge, where the dough kept growing and growing, I expected it to keep going. But sure enough, 2 hours of rising and that was it. It just stopped.
Sunday morning had me up early, a different sick child this time, making bread and buns from that dough. I was so fascinated by the dough that I had to make half of it into a loaf, and since I would only need half the dough for the buns, it was obviously fate!
No problems making either of the recipes. They are clear and precise (except that 4 pieces of dough crosswise on the bread part, but the picture helps figure it out.) In about 30 minutes I had a loaf pan filled with dough rising, and a pan of cinnamon sticky buns (raisins, not pecans though) rising as well.
I think I made one little error. I didn't use pyrex - my pyrex dish is 8 1/2 x 11, not 9 x 13, so I decided to use one of my stoneware dishes instead. As a result, my buns never did get the dark color that Dorie's do.
Color aside - lets get on with the important part: The taste!
Brioche as a plain piece of bread = a plain piece of bread. Brioche as toast = oh my this is really good toast! A bit of butter, a smear of jam (raspberry is what we had) is oh so good. It is what I would call special occasion toast. Having a bridal shower brunch? Make brioche for the toast! Anniversary breakfast in bed? Get up really, really early and make brioche toast.
The same could be said about the sticky buns. These are sweeeeeeet! Ooey gooey sweet. Icing glaze not required at all, but if you want to make them look a bit prettier.... My husband speculated that you really almost need the pecans for texture with these buns, as they are soft, and sweet. Raisins, as good an addition as they are, don't provide any crunch and have a similar soft texture. These are the kinds of buns you would want to make if you were hosting your boss for breakfast. Or your future mother-in-law.
Unfortunately the brioche part seems to get lost in the glaze, a combination of honey, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. (Okay, I added a sprinkle of nutmeg, I couldn't help myself!)
Still, if I was in the mood for something decadent for breakfast, and had lots of patience, these are a good place to start. We ended up eating them for a very, very late breakfast, almost lunch, so get up early if you want them for breakfast! If you aren't so patient, well, I have another recipe for cinnamon sticky buns that comes together much quicker (10 minutes) and makes almost as good a breakfast treat.
You'd think after 4 Dorie recipes for one week I would be done. Well I wasn't. I still had one more I wanted to make. Or rather, I wanted to make the "Playing Around" recipe instead of the original, Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake (page 310). I wanted turnovers (page 311.)
I went with Dorie's suggestion of Golden Delicious apples, but cut way, way too many. She doesn't suggest a smaller amount for the turn overs, and even though I only peeled, cored and diced 6 of the 10 apples, I still had apples to spare. Fortunately they were apples one of the children was happy to sit down and eat out of a bowl with a spoon. He even complimented me on how good the apples were.
I don't own a 4 1/2-5 inch cookie cutter, so improvised and used the lid to a small bucket of popcorn, cutting around the lid with a small knife. It ended up being just about the perfect size for making turnovers and I must remember to put it in with my cookie cutters for the next time I make them.
I will be making turnovers again, they were fun and great for snacks and lunches, though I will make other recipes before I return to this one. This recipe was good, I very much enjoyed how easy the dough was to work with, and how the crust was cookie like, but I would like to expand and try something a bit different next time.
And next time I will pay more attention to the time and smells from my kitchen. I had set my timer for 18 minutes, though the recipe called for 20 minutes, but didn't check it when I started smelling the crust. So I slightly overcooked the first three turnovers, though only on the outside edges of the crust. The rest, with my being more aware, turned out a lovely golden color.
On second though, I think I will make this crust again soon - and this time use raspberry jam instead of apples. Or blueberry jam. Oooh, never mind the jam, just blueberries.
Alot of baking for one week (with a few savory recipes as well, not mentioned here), but a productive way to spend some time while home with sick kids.
So I've been stuck at home for the last week. A full week now actually.