Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brioche Odyssey Pt. 4

Faithful Reader, several days have passed, and my blood sugar levels have returned to normal.  Now I can tell you how those beautiful little Sticky Buns came into being.

The final three hours fly by because the pay-off is so big.  The dough is ready to be rolled into a long rectangle and brushed with egg wash.  A sugar mixture with cinnamon and chopped pecans is sprinkled over that area and lightly pressed into the dough with the rolling pin.  Next the dough is rolled into a log, like a spiral in jelly-roll shape.   It is wrapped in plastic wrap twice and allowed to rest in the freezer for at least 45 minutes.  At this point, the dough can be kept rolled and frozen for at least 30 days in a standard home freezer and up to three months in a sub-zero freezer.  This is a great project to make a lot of and keep frozen, ready to go for weekend treats!  In fact, I've only baked one roll of this two roll batch.  Maybe this weekend I'll bake up the second batch....hmmm.  Sounds tasty!

So, when ready to bake the Sticky Buns, remove the log out of the freezer and once it has rested at room temperature for about 15 min, you slice it and press some more pecans into it before putting them into the prepared cake pan.  Oh, did I forget to mention that you prep these pans by pushing a whole stick of that high-quality butter into the bottom of a cake pan and then you sprinkle brown sugar and any extra chopped pecans you might have leftover.  Also, I add a dash of salt to this base of the bottom of the pan to bring out the sweetness a little bit more.  Holy Moly!  This is not a low-fat treat!

Can you guess what happens next?  The lazy Brioche must rest again.  But this time, it isn't just resting.  It is proofing and will double in volume.  That will take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on your conditions.  Good proofing conditions are a warm, moist environment around 95 degrees.  A gas oven with just the pilot light on is a perfect place.  Then it is time to bake.

In Julia's Book it says to bake these guys for about 30-40 minutes but I say it can take almost twice the amount of time listed, especially if you like a well-baked bun...not all mushy and doughy, but cooked all the way through.  For Pete's Sake!  We've come this far for this long, don't blow a fantastic treat by under baking.   If they don't look golden enough on top, keep them in the oven another 5-10 min and check again.  Remember, that top you are looking at is really the bottom because the presentation side is the side with all those pecans and butter and sugar that were pushed into the pan.  

When they are pulled out of the oven,  flip the pan over right away onto a cake pedestal to let them cool, like in the photo below..  But be careful!  That beautiful, sticky, dripping caramel dripping over the sides of the Sticky Bun is crazy hot and will burn you really bad.  These taste best when they have cooled completely.  I only know this because I have tasted them, personally, at each stage of cooling.  I recommend having a little snack of something nutritious so you won't feel so guilty before you pound down half-a-dozen of these bad boys! Seriously, you must let these cool ate least 20 minutes before even thinking about tasting.  The cooler the temperature of the dripping caramel, the better it is going to taste.  It will be worth it.  Trust me.

The only photos I have left are of an empty cake plate.  That little batch lasts about 20 minutes in my household.  We all can easily put away 3 or 4 without blinking, or breathing.  More is better.  Always. 

Overall, I'm pleased with this batch of Sticky Buns.   In my next batch, I'm going to not roll, fold and rest as many times so I can have larger leaves of pastry to pull apart and fold into my mouth.  Taking that into consideration, I would grade this batch a solid A.  These are great  Sticky Buns and I think the next batch is going to be even better.  Maybe even an A+.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Food Porn...beware before viewing...

Brioche Odyssey Pt. 3

Why Brioche?  What is so special about this eggy-buttery flaky dough?  Other doughs are similar but lacking in depth of flavor.  Puff pastry and Danish dough are made in similar fashion using the roll, fold, turn and rest technique to incorporate butter which creates the leavening agent to rise and make so many thousand flaky layers.  Puff and Danish dough are like flaky pie dough on buttery steroids. There is no yeast, milk or egg in the original sponge or starter so it has less flavor and more incredible texture.   When first starting Brioche, there is an awakening of the sleeping yeast with a tasty snack of sugar (lactose in the milk), eggs, flour and in a warm safe environment.  That first step is what all the difference is in flavor. Yeast changes everything. Brioche has one the ability to transform itself into a tasty roll or loaf and still become an incredible pastry or breakfast treat.  It is versitile and undiscovered.

On a spiritual level, this dough reaches into my inner core.  It requires patience, discipline, faith and prayer to know that all your efforts will pay off.  For me, it is my personal Lord of The Rings trilogy.  The goal is identical: Save mankind from the horrors of___(insert demon here.)______.  My spiritual mission is to save the world from the torture of eating terrible sticky buns.  Of course, my bigger goal is to make a Brioche dessert that is good enough to make Julia Child cry, but I don't think any of us really know this mysterious dough so this is also an opportunity to start thinking about pastry in a new way.

The discipline: Roll, Fold, Turn and Rest.  When it is time to add the butter after the cold rest, we need to prep the butter by beating it from a cold state to a cool, play-dough type texture.  That butter needs to become a similar texture as the baby-ass soft dough coming out of the fridge.  Also, as we pull the dough in and out of the refrigerator, we want to work quickly so we don't start any proofing, so make sure your kitchen is a little on the cool side.  If it is 90 degrees outside and humid as hell, don't try to roll, fold, turn and expect to have spectacular results.  If you have a chilled marble, that is an ideal working surface.  It will buy you some time.

Most recipes are ready to use the dough at any point this moment forward.  In fact, some Brioche recipe are ready to go without the addition of the extra half-pound of butter rolled, folded and rested that means, if you are an eager beaver, go ahead and Brioche yourself out!  That cuts this whole time process by maybe 10 hours (you will still need to chill, roll, proof before you're not gaining a ton of time.)

Before I drift too far from the Lord of The Rings reference or rather, the elephant in the room...I'd like to mention that I did in free, long-hand writing, draft out a three page epic of my battle with the Butter Ogres.  Yes.  I am a LOTR geek.  What I found most surprising as I freely wrote about the Butter Ogres and their wicked ways in Brioche Land, was how quickly my imagine added Dwarves, Elves and demonic monsters.  600 words in and I took a step back, my hand cramping from dark descriptive references, I saw who I really am.  Through the patient waiting for this dough to move through its process, I have been able to go a little bit further into my dark side and embrace my inner Geek.  Thank you Brioche.  NOTE: If you would like to have me post this private battle butter, then email me at or post a comment here and maybe I will do it.

Each roll, fold, turn and rest adds about 50 layers of flakiness so this is why this step is so important.  It adds to the buttery quality of the dough and each layer is a little morsel of heaven.  You can roll, fold, turn and roll, fold turn then rest for at least 30 minutes before starting where you left off to roll, fold and turn, roll, fold, turn and rest for 30 min. 

After a good rest for me and the dough (at least 4 hours from the last roll, fold and rest) it is time to turn this canvas into something. It is time to make this hunk of dough into a master piece.  Sweet Sticky Buns, here I come!

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brioche Odyssey Pt. 2

If years of telephone calls with my mother have taught me anything, it is that morning television has all the answers to life's issues.  My mother is a little A.D.D. and she has remote fever.  As soon as there is a break for commercial she is flipping back to the Today Show from Good Morning America, but don't mention that CBS show because she does not like it.  If you have a spare 45 minutes, I am sure she would be happy to tell you all about it.

Thank you Robin Roberts, Meridith Vieira, and Ann Curry for all your  "How To:" tips that my mother has recorded for just such an occasion.  Mother keeps a note pad by the television and take frantic notes for future telephone calls.  Part of our weekly updates are the highlights or bullet points from the list appearing on the TV screen.  She doesn't always get all the information down on paper or sometimes she forgets to write down the topic so she only has a list of items, so for me, it is more of a test of patients and hope for a glimmer of understanding from the cryptic clues of why she thought I might be interested in black trench coat, back A-line skirt, white button-down top ,etc...what the hell is this about?  Oh yes!  The "Ten closet must-haves for summer!"  Ta Da!  God bless you mother.  I do appreciate those lists!

Like a good daughter, I am doing all those things you are supposed to do when you suddenly find yourself unemployed and with limited resources.  I've set my career goals high in the sense of personal freedom and personal integrity and the task of work I've chosen is fun and passion filled.  I've taken positive steps towards my goal and it is working out so far.  I have an interview for the Wine Intern position at an awesome wine shop to bump up my knowledge.  I've applied for Unemployment and am awaiting a ruling. I've updated my resume and am frequently and regularly checking job options, bulletin boards and alumni job sites.  I've contacted friends in the industry and let them know of my situation and that I am looking for employment.

And I've made Brioche dough.  I am not sure on which show they say to make Brioche...okay.  Maybe no one tells you once you find yourself suddenly unemployed, it is time to make desserts good enough to make Julia Child cry.  That is my culinary goal.  I want to bring giant, wet crocodile tears to Julia Childs old, sad powder-blue eyes.  Unfortunately, Julia Child is dead.  Who could ever fill her shoes as to making a master brought to tears over a magnificent dessert?  For now, it is going to have to be me.  I must channel  the spirit of Julia through this dough.  I must be moved to tears. I must satisfy my inner-Julia and I must make the most awesome Brioche ever!

Let's go!  Please feel free to grab your "Baking With Julia" cookbooks for this segment of our program.

I am using the Brioche recipe in the Baking with Julia" cookbook published way back in the day of 1996 by Dorie Greenspan, who just happens to be one of America's best baking/cookbook author in my opinion.  And I would like to clarify that I am in no way trying to rip off any lame Hollywood movie or book like Julia and Julia.  If you know me at all, you know that I have been a passionate baker since my first poison Popsicle which I made at age 8.  I received a lot of answers about my path in life at the age of 8 years old and baking has always been one of my most favorite forms of expression.  Another thing about me is that I don't collect cookbooks or baking books.  I am really stingy when it comes to buying cook books because I have been so screwed in my day by books that don't deliver on their glossy photo promises.  Many years ago at the Culinary Institute of America, (CIA) I picked up some gems of secretes from the Chef-Instructors and one of my favorite is to NEVER buy a cookbook without first testing a few recipes yourself at home in your setting.  In the old days, I would copy a recipe out of a cookbook at the Library and try it at home.  Later, Barnes and Nobel became a great resource before the internet made it possible to find many many recipes.  .  Testing a cookbook before purchasing it has saved me a lot of heartache and money.  I highly recommend it.

I've made this basic Brioche dough on pages 42 and 43 now that the dough has rested for 18 hours or more (my notes, not theirs!) it is time to move forward.  I am torn about what to do next with this dough and I haven't started a back-up batch yet.  It is good to see what stresses me out because I start to worry that I won't have enough dough to do what I want to do!  But I have time, so I must start another batch today!

My first Brioche desire is:  Pecan Cinnamon Sticky Buns.  Holy mother of god.....when I first made this recipe I devoured four of these puppies in one breath.  Note: Food Porn photo of these amazing Sticky Buns is in the "Baking With Julia" (BWJ) page 172 and 173.  The sweetness of these caramelized pecans made me fall-down and wet my pants, no lie...they were that good.  These Sticky Buns inspired me to start the Brunch Club in Brooklyn.  The Brunch Club is a weekly gathering of people who are interested in food who want to try these dishes I'm making and talk about food with other foodies.  There is a donation that goes towards ingredients and efforts.  It's a great way of connecting with others who have the same interests and it is a great way to taste my buns!

Back to the Brioche.

Another thing I do with my cookbooks is I write all over the pages when I am making stuff.  Some authors like their desserts much sweeter than my tastes and I usually change quantities after the first try.  I take that follow-the-direction approach on the first time making a dish and then alter as see fit.  It takes a little courage to write in the pages but the notes are a life-saver.  On page 190 of BWJ, the rested Brioche is the canvas for these flaky wonders.  I'm feeling adventures today and I'm going to divide this dough and make half the way the instructions say and the other half with a twist.  What is CRAZY about this recipe in the baking world is that it is taking a buttery Brioche dough and adding MORE BUTTER!  Folding it in in layers like a puff pastry or Danish dough.  Who ever thought of this technique was a frikking genius.  So let's take a moment to pay homage to the mighty dough gods.

Instead of folding a traditional organic, unsalted butter into the folds of the Brioche dough, I am taking the butter and making a slightly sweet compound with cinnamon and sugar and then folding that into the dough to add slightly sweetened, cinnamon layers in addition to the caramelized pecans to be added later.  See, crazy does as crazy sees...and when I sees someone fold butter into Brioche dough, well, it moves me to a new culinary place.

So that is the next step.  I am adjusting the recipe and adding the slightly sweeteened cinnamon butter to the dough, folding it like a business letter, rotating the dough one quarter a turn, rolling it carefully out careful to not over-roll on the folded layers, folding it again like a business letter and wraping it in plastic.  Now the dough must rest for at least 30 min before doing anything else to it.  This is Brioche's secret.  You work it a little, you let the dough rest and recover.  This is why making a double batch is such a good idea so you can make other items while one batch of dough is resting.  Another batch can be doing something else.  But not everyone is unemployed like me.  It only seems like everyone is unemployed!   This is the time when we work the dough a little, let the dough rest a lot.

After the afternoon nap, it is time to fill the dough which means rolling it out again and rolling in more sugar, butter, cinnamon and chopped pecans.  I like to roll the dough pretty thin and try to make mini size Sticky Buns so I can eat more of them and think that I'm consuming less.  Once they are filled and rolled into a tube, the dough must rest for another 45 minutes.  This is why Brioche rolls in most bakeries are $2.75 each!  Look at this, we are on day 2, at least 28 hours into operation by now and this dough must rest and it is preferred if the dough is frozen for at least 45 minutes.  Then AFTER the dough is frozen and more butter is put into the pans and layered with whole pecans, this dough now must RISE FOR TWO HOURS!!!   Do you see how much time these frikking buns take?  I mean, maybe I am crazy to make this dough...but the pay off is so sweet.  Okay.  Moving forward.  Honestly, I can only say thank you Unemployment for granting me the ridicules amount of time that it takes to make this flaky, buttery sensation.  Thank you, thank you thank you!

So that is where we are.  The dough is filled, rolled, rested, rolled again and filled again, rested again and in the freezer waiting for yet another day so they may be cut, proofed and baked so I can finally taste this dough to see if 36 hours of my time has been well spent.

To do:  File my Unemployment claim today.  Complete stage two of the Brioche (and start a second batch to be ready tomorrow too!)  Oh lord, thank goodness I am unemployed so I have enough time to finally do Divine Work!  Pray for me people, that my unemployment is awarded to me as I continue to look for a job and make Brioche.

When in doubt, roll, fold, and rest.  Roll, fold, and rest.  Roll, fold, rest.

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If it is Wednesday, it must be Brioche

The doctor said I never looked better.  My skin was glowing, I was tanned, rested, blood pressure was slightly below normal (which is where I like it) and I'd lost five pounds in two weeks.  I knew a couple of weeks away from work would rejuvenate my soul the new problem I faced was how could I ever go back to that corporate job?  In two weeks so many events happened in perfect divine order that there was no way for me to return.

Dr K told me for me to maintain a healthy state of mind, I needed to start taking  anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication in addition to adding psycho therapy to my weekly activities to keep me well and perform at my current job in Corporate America.  After much contemplation I decided to take the leap and opt to NOT take the blue pills to keep me "sane" to stay in a mediocre job accepting mediocre pay for the idea that having health insurance is the most important goal in my life.  It was an easy decision if I treated it like any other big decision in my life.  I took a deep breath and opened my mouth waiting for my heart to speak and it said Hell No!  I will Not accept this lifestyle as my own!  Where is Linda?  Where did she go?  Is she ready to jump off this hamster wheel and see what life has to offer her?

Hell Yes!

When Dr. K heard my decision she said that she could not then write me a note releasing me back into the workforce so I must walk my truth now.  Here's the part I love the most: My doctor agreed that you must be crazy to take the medication.  Crazy is a harsh term still in this day and age, conjuring images of people living in drab prisons over medicated playing checkers or watching daytime television.  Today's crazy is roaming the streets buying fruit and talking into their headsets....sometimes without a phone attached.

Yes, I am more of today's kinda crazy to jump into the unknown of how I will support myself.  Will it be through following my dreams?  Writing, cooking, baking, walking, loving life?  I have some big picture ideas for myself and know that no matter what the vision, the first step is the first step.

So here is today's first step.  I'd love to be waiting tables at an awesome restaurant with fantastic food, a fun staff in a great area of the city making tons of cash so I can do lots of other stuff.  I have a lot going for me to get me into that dream restaurant job so to strengthen my wine knowledge, I've applied to be an intern at a fantastic Brooklyn wine shop!  My interview is early next week and I will be working once a week helping out in the store (playing wine shop!) and learning about a ton of wines, vineyards, grapes, storage, bargains and finds! While I study for my interview and review my CIA Alumni job site and Craigslist for a juicy job for me, I have started a batch of Brioche.

I have a lot of time on my hands now and Brioche dough takes a good 30 hours to make.  You can rush it to do it in 18 for sure, but the dough is so much better if it takes its good sweet time on that second and third rise.  Brioche is the only dough that made me want to have a baby only so I could pick it up and smell it's baby-soft ass and think about the buttery soft Brioche dough just after it's second rise. sweet and is worth every hour of devotion.

Today has been the first 18 hour process of the dough.  I am following using my baking bible, the "Baking with Julia" cookbook...and I am recording the Baking with Julia program on my local PBS twice a week to stay inspired!  The dessert made from this basic Brioche dough made Julia Child cry.  I want to taste what was so damned good that it made Julia Child actually get chocked up and have tears pool into her eyes as she had no words to describe the perfection in her Zablignoe cream topped slightly stewed stone fruit in a magical white sauce (no kidding!) all sitting on a perfectly baked Brioche tart with Creame Fraische custard.

Yes!  I will make it!

The yeast has proofed and there was confirmation of a dough forming although it was a little scary for me today.  This yeast was SLEEPY!!!   It did not want to proof at first, but on a cool, humid morning that is to be expected.  I gave it some extra time and slowed the process down a little bit more.

That is the divine secrete of Brioche dough.  I think it is a lot like a good man.  If it ain't doing what it is supposed to be doing, just give it a little bit more time.  If it doesn't come around, get rid of it and start over.  But if you are a little patient, and give it some extra time to do whatever it has gotta do, it usually pays off right away.

The second rule of thumb with Brioche is you gotta beat the hell out of that dough.  This is when those three hundred dollar mixers come in handy.  They have industrial engines for exactly this reason.  My only complaint is that you can only make 1-2 times the recipe at a time and then you must let your mixer rest for a good 4 hours or until completely at room temperature.  Brioche is a very communicative dough speaking to you through the loud whirl of the mixer.  Maybe it is Stockholm Syndrome that makes you immune to the noise...but in the white noise there is a language that emerges through the whine of the motor, an almost slapping whipping whining voice as the birth of a great dough requires a little rough loving.

After the smooth slapping dough is perfected then you add about a half a pound of softened excellent quality butter.  The more fancy-pants, the better.  Do not skimp on milk-fat content or cost because butter is the star in this operation and the secret ingredient!  When the butter is added at this stage of dough development, it is gonna make it look like a White Hot Mess!  No Lie!  You are going to think you have made the biggest culinary fawk-up of your life and you are already nearly 2 hours into the operation and you haven't even started the second rise yet!  Yikes!

Hold tight, Nelly!  Do not fear.  Refer yourself to above where I mention to beat the hell out of this dough and it will work for you.  Treat it like your man.  Give it a little space and some faith that it can RISE up to the occasion and all will work out.  And if you need to sprinkle a little extra tablespoon of flour on that sucker, then sprinkle away my friend.  Sprinkle away.

Because it will return to you and you will put it gently in its buttered bowl and let it rise for a couple of hours. And during that time it is back to job searching and showering getting ready for the day.  By lunchtime, the kitchen is clean and the dough has competed its first major rise (or really the 2nd rise) where it is baby bottom smooth and makes me crave more Brioche dough. 

After being so rough with our beloved Brioche, he now requires a gentle hand in deflating the poof from the rise, and gentle but firm reshaping and a little kiss on its cheek (through the plastic wrap, of conjugal visits yet!) and into the refrigerator he goes to rest for a full18 hours.  I think this part is critical because the first slow, cold rise (which is what is happening to that dough right now in the fridge) is where so much flavor is developed during this process.

Tomorrow I will be making two different treats out of the mixture and starting a second batch so I always have Brioche available.  I am so in love with touching this dough!

So much love,
All the way from over here...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Linda in Cupcake Land Prelude

Once upon a time, in a place far, far away there lived a peaceful tribe of people on the beautiful island of Manahatta.  One day, the chief awoke from a disturbing dream. Buffalo woman came to him performing the sacred spiral dance and he felt the herd run far far away clearing a gigantic path for any who wish to follow.  When the dust settled, there were many dead.  Those who remain stood in shock.  As the sun rose, the Eagle called out to the Red Man, calling him towards the sunrise.  To remember that the beginning will come.  The destruction will end.  The abundance will begin.  And as the dream ended, the chief found a feather by his head as a physical reminder to stay connected to Eagle. 

Then a few years passed......

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear Jet Blue....

 Dear JetBlue,

I had a family emergency and had already booked my flight to Seattle for Aug 4th but needed to change my flight at the last minute to a week before the original booking date.  I realized that there would be fees and charges and I was not upset when I was charged my added fee because I had to leave, but what I was not prepared for was paying for the extra leg room 3 times. 

Lynda Nunez was the ticket agent who was so very helpful when I noticed I was charged a THIRD TIME for extra legroom for my seat (3A) and she did not know so she called customer service for me while I was waiting to check my bags...and let me say right now....  Lynda Nunez (a perfect stranger to me) is a great employee and I'd hire her in a second!

After 10 min on the phone with customer service, she assured me that $120 would be taken off my bill and credited to my debit card since I had been charged the first time $60 for the extra legroom on seat 3A then, when I changed my flight, I paid again for the exact same spot of 3A and $60 for the extra legroom and when I checked in for my flight at the kiosk, I was charged another $60 for my seat on 3A at JFK to check-in. NOTE: I was not allowed to proceed before I was charge A THIRD TIME $60 for the luxury gift of sitting in seat 3A.

How many times is appropriate?  I am six feet tall, a woman, and I am accustomed to being paid less tan a man at my job for equal work, but seriously... $180 for 6 inches?  For a seat???

 I have LOVED Jet Blue!  I've loved the coffee, the comfy seats, the awesome flight attendants, the smooth take-offs and landings but this is too much.

Poor Lynda Nunez assured me my $120 would be refunded and back on my debit card before the family emergency was over and as I gaze at my updated bank statement, my belief in Lynda's truth diminished.

But please know, she did a great job and I did not become dissatisfied until now as I see her guarantee was no fault of her own.

Do I sound angry?  Sure.  I am angry.  I'm pissed off that I have to pay 3 times for 6 inches of room. 

Will I fly Jetblue again? That is hard to answer.

I just discovered that Alaska Airlines has a direct flight from Newark to Seattle!  How exciting!  And it costs me the exact same price to get from my home to JFK as it does to Newark, NJ.

Will I check their airfares first and book with them next time?

You tell me.......

Jet Blue, how should I continue our relationship?  For the past few years, I've thought we had a good thing going on, but now I see what you can do to me and I don't know if that is what I need in my life.

So, JetBlue.  You tell me.  What do YOU think I should do?  I tell you, Lynda Nunez wants me to fly with you again....but maybe you don't value her service and dedication the same way you don't value me and my loyalty.  Maybe I should ask Lynda Nunez if she would prefer being a manager at one of my cafes?  She really did her best to make me feel satisfied and when I

I don't know....why should I fly with JetBlue again?  Do you have $120 good reasons why I should ?

Thank you,
Linda Silberman