Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cake

peanut butter chocolate cake
I love making birthday cakes. While I don’t have a problem with having a little dessert every day, I do think there’s unique joy in having something made just for you on your special day — hopefully with your tastes and preferences in mind.

This cake was for my father-in-law’s birthday. He’s one of the most non-picky eaters I know; but while he eats everything, he especially likes chocolate and nuts. This was for a small family celebration, so the cake is quite small: two 6-inch layers. If you want to make it into a double layer 8-inch cake, refer to the original chocolate cake recipe and make 1.5-2x the frosting (this recipe makes a generous amount; I gave this cake a fairly thick layer and still had enough leftover to frost 20 mini cupcakes).

Some notes on the frosting: I’ve had mixed experiences with Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC); although I’ve made it sort of successfully in the past, to be honest I didn’t really like the flavor of it before — it just tasted like sweet butter. (Which I guess it is.) This time was different, for a couple of big reasons:

  • I borrowed my sister-in-law’s stand mixer. It still took awhile to make the frosting, but my hand didn’t feel dead at the end. My previous attempts at SMBC were with a hand mixer; it’s possible that way, but the stand mixer really does make the process way easier and more enjoyable, IMO.
  • Peanut butter and cream cheese. They go so well together, and in this case they combine to make the fluffiest, silkiest, and most tasty peanut butter icing I’ve ever had. I’m generally not a huge icing person, but I could have eaten it straight with a spoon. The brown sugar added a little something something too; a nice depth of flavor that reminded me of honey roasted peanuts. Yum.

I’ve read a lot of SMBC tutorials and recipes (see here, here, and here just for starters), and they vary pretty widely on the ratio of egg whites to sugar to butter. I aimed somewhere in the middle, and chose to be conservative in the sugar amount since I prefer my icings not too sweet. There also seem to be varying opinions on how much cream cheese works in this type of icing, and I know some people have trouble with cream cheese SMBC breaking because of the water content of the cream cheese. I went for a half-butter, half-cream cheese ratio, and kept a couple extra tablespoons of butter on the side in case I needed it to help emulsify the mixture. In the end, I did end up using the extra butter. I also refrigerated the icing for about 10 minutes during that scary curdling stage, then just kept whipping at a low speed and it eventually came together. My advice is to just be patient and not panic; read a few tutorials on how to fix broken buttercream ahead of time so you know what to do if and when your icing reaches that stage. This is honestly one of the tasiest frostings I’ve ever made so I do hope you give it a try!

To add a little texture, I made some peanut brittle for garnish. This was my first time making peanut brittle, which was exciting because I got to use my brand-spanking-new candy thermometer! Last year I attempted making soft caramel candies a couple of times and failed; later I realized it was because my thermometer was a good 15 degrees off…basically the difference between delicious and burnt. The lesson here is: check your thermometer’s calibration by putting it in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil. It should register 212F / 100C when the water boils. Hopefully that’ll save you a few burned batches of sugar!

peanut butter chocolate cake from above

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake with Maple Peanut Brittle

Makes one 2-layer, 6-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Midnight Chocolate Cake

A half batch of this recipe, baked in two 6-inch pans, with the following changes:

  • Use half all purpose, half cake flour
  • Use black cocoa for the cocoa powder
  • Start checking for doneness around 25 minutes

For the Maple Peanut Brittle

Recipe adapted from Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes

  • 55g / 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 110g brown sugar / 1/2 c (I used light)
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c light corn syrup
  • Heaped 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 150g / 1 c roasted, unsalted peanuts

For the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 135g egg whites, room temperature
  • 220g light brown sugar
  • 150-180g butter, cut into cubes, at cool room temperature
  • 150g cream cheese, cut into cubes, cool room temperature
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Smooth creamy peanut butter, such as Skippy or Jif, to taste (I used three large spoonfuls)
  • Pinch of salt, to taste

To finish

  • Chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • Various chocolate candies (I used bite sized Snickers and some white chocolate covered almonds)

Method

Make the Maple Peanut Brittle:

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat and set aside.
  2. Combine the baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Have your peanuts measured and ready to go as well.
  3. Combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the mixture reaches 298F / 149C on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. Fold in the peanuts and pour the mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet (work quickly as it does harden rather fast).
  4. Let the brittle cool completely (about an hour) before breaking in pieces to use for decoration. Store leftovers, layered between pieces of parchment paper, in an airtight container.
  5. Note: To easily clean your sugar work pans, fill with water, cover, and bring to a boil for several minutes. It’ll melt the sugar right off.

Make the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  1. Place egg whites and brown sugar in a heatproof bowl (such as the bowl of your stand mixer) and whisk to combine. Set bowl over a pot of just simmering water to create a double boiler and whisk until mixture reaches 140-160F. Don’t allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.
  2. Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the egg white-sugar mixture on low for a couple of minutes and gradually increase the speed to medium high. Continue whisking until the meringue reaches glossy stiff peaks and both the meringue and the bowl are at room temperature (about 10 minutes).
  3. Switch out the whisk for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, add the butter one cube at a time. Wait until the butter is completely incorporated before adding the next cube. When the butter is incorporated, repeat with the cream cheese.
  4. Continue mixing on low until the mixture is smooth, then add the vanilla, a pinch of salt, and peanut butter a spoonful at a time (to taste). Taste and add a touch more salt if the mixture tastes too sweet. Mix on medium speed for a couple minutes, or until the buttercream is smooth, silky, and fluffy.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Level your cakes if desired. (Note that this chocolate cake is very tender and moist, so I highly recommend working with them chilled.) Set your first cake round on a cake board and spread a generous amount buttercream evenly over the top, followed by a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Set the second cake round on top and spread a thin coat of buttercream over the top and sides to trap all the crumbs. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 20 minutes.
  2. Add a thicker layer of buttercream over the top and sides, using an offset spatula and icing scraper for evenness.
  3. To get the “rustic” look, use an offset spatula or back of a spoon to create random swoops.
  4. Top with chopped peanuts and peanut brittle if desired. If you’re not serving the cake right away, store in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving. Just before serving, garnish with peanut brittle and candies. (Don’t put the brittle on too soon or it may soften and weep.)

Curry Udon and Cooking with Kids

curry udon

As I near the halfway point with pregnancy #2, I’ve been trying to imagine how I’ll do certain things with two little ones in tow. No joke — at each store I’ll try to figure out where I’d park and if I’d put one kid in the cart and carry one, or stick the carseat in the cart, or if Marcus would maybe be responsible enough to walk quietly beside me (one can dream!). Sometimes I feel a little panicky, but then I remember my mom had five kids under 9 at one point. We may not have gone out much but we weren’t hermits. Just like toting one kid around was an adjustment, two will be too — but with God’s grace we’ll get there.

One of the concerns I had when I was pregnant the first time around was if I’d have time to cook and bake. I’ve always enjoyed preparing dinner and considered it a relaxing part of the day. To be honest, it’s taken me longer to “figure out” how to cook with a kid than it has to bake with one (because I usually just wait until my husband is home before I attempt any involved baking). And by “figure out” I mean that I haven’t really. As soon as I think I’ve got a schedule down, something changes — first it was Marcus not napping at that time, then it was him starting to climb on things whenever I was in the other room. You get the idea. If I’ve learned anything in the past 18ish months it’s that parenthood requires constant adjustment. No matter how many kids we end up having I’ll never have it “figured out,” and that’s ok. As my mom told me early on, when I was voicing my frustrations about not having enough hands: “Oh, you know, sometimes the house just won’t be clean. You do the best you can.”

Hopefully I haven’t painted this bleak picture where it sounds impossible to get things done with a kid! It’s just different, and I’m still learning. Some of the adjustments I’ve made since having a kid:

  • Divide meal prep into 15 minute increments. Chop vegetables during naptime; prepare marinades/sauces while the kid is eating; etc.
  • I don’t freeze a lot of cooked meals, but if I cook a batch of beans I’ll make a triple portion and freeze extras for quick additions to soups and stews.
  • Make batches of hard boiled eggs and granola at the start of the week for quick meals.
  • Always have frozen dumplings on hand.
  • Have a recipe base of quick meals that you can easily customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand. (Notice how many times the word “quick” has shown up? Lol.)

Curry is one of those quick meals that shows up in some variation on our dinner table every couple of weeks or so. We live right next to a little Japanese grocery store, so we always have a box of Japanese curry roux in the pantry. Most of the time we eat it over rice, but the other week I decided to switch it up and make it with udon noodles (another constant pantry item). It. Was. So. Good! The preparation was slightly different, but about as quick as how I make curry over rice. For the udon version I use less curry roux but dashi stock instead of water — this makes for a slightly thinner but still flavorful sauce that easily coats the noodles.

Curry Udon

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 3 cups dashi stock (homemade, or using dashi powder)
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • About 1/2 in. ginger, peeled, sliced, and minced
  • 1-2 c sliced vegetables of choice (my favorites are carrot, celery, and mushroom)
  • 3/4 lb your choice of meat/seafood, sliced if needed (I usually use chicken or a package of fish/beef balls)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 pieces/blocks of Japanese curry roux
  • 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
  • Salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste
  • 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 3 packages udon noodles (about 600 grams)

Method

  1. Prepare your dashi stock.
  2. In a large frying pan or saucepan, heat oil on medium high. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, season lightly with salt and sugar, and saute another 3-4 minutes. If you’re using an uncooked protein, add it at this point and increase the heat to high. Saute until the meat/seafood is almost cooked through.
  3. Add the dashi and mirin and bring to a boil. (If I’m using beef/fish balls, I add them once the stock has come to a boil.) Skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the curry roux. Once the curry has dissolved, put the pan back on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened to your liking. Stir occasionally to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  5. Taste and add soy sauce, salt, and white pepper if desired.
  6. Prepare your udon noodles according to the package instructions. Serve curry sauce over the udon noodles and garnish with green onion, if desired.

An everyday sourdough loaf

everyday sourdough

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how music taught me to bake bread. Since that time, sourdough baking has wormed its way into our everyday life. I bake bread two or three times a week; sometimes I’ll include sourdough in pancakes, crackers, tortillas, pie crust, or even cake. Partially it’s thanks to my son, who absolutely loves bread and wakes up almost every morning asking for it; partially it’s because it’s just so fun! I find bread especially satisfying to make because, at the root, it’s a very simple product: just flour, water, and salt (and your wild yeast). Watching these few ingredients transform into a delicious, nutritious loaf is one of life’s little pleasures. And once you start exploring different types of flours and grains, you realize that there are so many possibilities even with these limited ingredients! However, today’s recipe is for a simple, ordinary, everyday sourdough loaf. It’s versatile (I love it smeared with peanut butter or as a base for fancier toast toppings), and it uses ingredients I normally have stocked in my kitchen.

But before we get on to the recipe, I wanted to answer one of the questions I get fairly often: “How do you fit sourdough bread baking into your day, especially with a little kid?” When you first start baking with sourdough, admittedly it can seem a little overwhelming. Recipes look complicated, and the time schedule seems restricting. But I actually think that making bread is one of the most doable baking hobbies you can undertake with a small child. The actual hands-on time is quite small:

  • Preparing the starter (2 minutes)
  • Mixing the loaf (5-10 minutes)
  • Folding the loaf (less than 1 minute per fold)
  • Shaping the loaf (5 minutes)
  • Scoring and baking the loaf (about an hour, though most of this time is just waiting for the bread to bake)

I usually plan my bakes on days when I know I’ll be around home, but I’m also a big believer in not letting a bread’s schedule run your life. So here are some things to keep in mind when fitting bread-baking into a busy day.

  1. Temperature plays a huge factor in rising times. Warmer temperature: faster rise; cooler temperature: slower rise. I do most of my bulk-proofing in a cozy little corner of my kitchen, and I know a typical loaf like the recipe below takes about 3.5-4 hours to bulk ferment. If I want to slow this down, I’ll put the loaf in a cooler part of the house to ferment. You can also play around with refrigeration for part of the bulk fermentation; it’s not something I do often but I know many bakers use this method successfully. On the flip side, if you find your loaf is sluggish, try moving it somewhere warmer (the oven with the light on is a good place), or try mixing your loaf with slightly warmer water. You don’t want to get your dough too warm, though — somewhere around 78-82F is a pretty happy place.
  2. It’s not a big deal if you miss a fold. There are often times when an appointment runs late and I don’t get the planned number of folds in/fold at the schedule I intended. No biggie. As long as your dough is strong and fermented enough by the end of bulk fermentation, you and your bread will be fine.
  3. Bake often. Familiarity aids speed. I use my starter fairly often, so I have a daily routine of feeding and am familiar with its fermentation schedule. This helps me know approximately when it’ll be ready to use and my rising times are pretty consistent because my starter is healthy. Plus, baking often helps me be able to judge more accurately how fermentation is progressing and whether I need to manipulate it depending on that day’s schedule.

OK, enough talking and on to the recipe!

This is a basic everyday loaf I’ve been playing around with for a few weeks. I wanted a versatile bread with a decent amount of whole grains for flavor and nutrition. At 30% whole wheat, this bread is hearty but still quite soft and light, thanks to a decent amount of water and a touch of oil and honey. It’s stays fresh for several days and makes some fine toast. I’ve used different types of whole wheat with this formula — red fife, stoneground, sprouted — and they have all worked fine (you may need to adjust the water amount to suit your flour). It’s an everyday loaf; use what you have lying around!

Other news:
I was honored to be interviewed for a Reader’s Digest article about smartphone photography for Instagram. Check out the article for some of my everyday tricks, plus advice from some actual photographers!

everyday sourdough - crumb

everyday sourdough - half

everyday sourdough - boule

An everyday sourdough loaf

Makes one ~750g loaf

Ingredients

  • 260g Bread/AP flour — I usually use a mixture, but a slightly higher amount of bread (70%)
  • 111g Whole Wheat flour (30%)
  • 304g Water — reserve about 50g for mixing (82%)
  • 67g Mature, Ripe Levain @ 100% hydration (18%)
  • 8g Salt (2.2%)
  • 15g olive oil (4%)
  • 15g honey (4%)

Method

  1. Mix together the flours and water (reserve 50g for mixing later) and autolyse (rest) for 1-3 hours, covered with a tea towel.
  2. Add the mature starter and about half the reserved water and mix until the starter is incorporated. Rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and pinch in. If the dough feels like it can handle it, add in the remaining reserved water and mix to combine. Add the oil and honey and pinch in to combine thoroughly. If you did a long autolyse, the dough should be decently strong at this point and you shouldn’t need to mix too much (maybe 1-2 minutes). If it feels weak, do a couple minutes of stretch and fold or slap and fold so the dough is moderately developed. It will continue to strengthen through bulk so it doesn’t need to be smooth at this point. Transfer the dough to a clean and lightly oiled container and cover with a clean tea towel.
  4. Bulk ferment in a warm place for 3-4 hours with stretch and folds every half hour for the first 1-2 hours. If after the second set of folds the dough seems quite strong, skip the last two folds and let the dough sit for the rest of bulk. Bulk fermentation is done when the dough has increased by 30-50%, you can see fermentation bubbles along the bottom and sides of the container, and the edges are domed where the dough meets the container.
  5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and gently preshape into a round. Cover with a bowl or lightly oiled plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes.
  6. Prepare your basket (or other proofing vessel) by lining with a lint-free linen/cotton tea towel or lightly dusting with rice flour. Lightly flour your work surface and the rested round. Flip your preshaped round and shape as desired (boule or batard). Transfer to the prepared proofing container, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 10-14 hours (or overnight).
  7. An hour before baking, preheat your oven to 500F (550 if it goes that high). You can bake this loaf in a Dutch oven (which you should preheat with the oven), or use your preferred method of steaming. (I bake my loaves on a pizza stone and cover them with a large foil roasting pan for the steaming portion of baking.) At this point, I also like to uncover my loaf (i.e. remove the plastic, but keep it refrigerated). This dries out the surface a little which I find makes scoring easier.
  8. When the oven is ready, invert your loaf onto a piece of parchment on a pizza peel. Score as desired, then transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 500F. Bake with steam (or covered) at 500F for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 450F and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the cover / steam pan and bake for another 15-25 minutes at 450F until your desired doneness, rotating a couple times for even baking. When finished, the crust should be nicely browned and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before cutting.

Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

matcha black sesame mousse cake

This matcha black sesame mousse cake is what I’d call a happy accident. Originally I’d planned to make a black sesame cake with matcha mousse, but the black sesame cake just was not cooperating. (Still in search of a good black sesame sponge cake; I’m all ears if you have one!) After two failed attempts and a dangerously low number of eggs left, I decided to abandon ship and go back to my tried and true sponge cake, this time with a matcha twist.

So then it was on to find a black sesame mousse recipe. My criteria were that it had to use black sesame powder (because that’s all I had) and be pregnant-lady friendly (i.e. no raw eggs); this recipe fit the bill. It worked out beautifully — a nice, pillowy, not-too-sweet mousse with a present sesame flavor.

To add some sweetness and texture, the cake is finished with matcha white chocolate ganache, matcha meringues, and black sesame brittle.

I know there are a lot of steps, but really — it looks more complicated than it actually is. Most steps are easy and don’t take long to complete. The assembly is done Momofuku Milk Bar style, which makes getting the nice crisp layers…wait for it…a piece of cake. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) Cake disasters aside, I honestly enjoyed both making and eating this cake. The matcha + black sesame combo is a classic flavor combo for good reason; and this iteration of it is light and elegant.

A few notes:

  • Originally I thought I’d whip up some of the matcha white chocolate ganache for decorations, so I made the ganache using a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to cream. In the end I didn’t need the whipped ganache; had I known this I’d have gone with a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream for a thicker glaze. Either will work; it just depends on the thickness/look you prefer.
  • Some of the elements (cake, meringues, brittle) can be made in advance. I wouldn’t do the meringues and brittle more than a day in advance, though, as they will lose some crispness — especially if the weather is humid.

mousse cake top

Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients

For the Matcha Sponge

  • One recipe of this sponge cake; replace 5g of cake flour with 2 tsp matcha powder
  • Simple Syrup

For the Black Sesame Mousse

Recipe from Grace’s Kitchen (make right before you’re ready to fill the cake)

  • 150 g whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 70 g sugar
  • 4 tbsp black sesame powder
  • 10 g gelatin powder
  • 50 gm water
  • 300 gm heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks (keep refrigerated)

For the Matcha Meringues
(Adapted from Meringue Girls)
Note: This makes a big batch of meringues, way more than you will need just for decorations. You could easily quarter or halve the recipe; I just made a lot because I was giving some away.

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 150g egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp matcha powder

For the Black Sesame Brittle
(Recipe from The Little Epicurean)

  • 25 grams glucose, or light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp water
  • 65 grams unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80 grams granulated sugar
  • 50 grams toasted black sesame seeds

For the Matcha White Chocolate Ganache

  • 60 g matcha white chocolate, chopped (or plain white chocolate, plus 1/2 tsp matcha powder)
  • 30-60 g heavy cream (use up to 60 g if you want a thinner glaze)

For assembly

Method

Make the Black Sesame Mousse:

  1. Mix gelatin powder and water in a small bowl. Set aside to bloom for about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat milk and cream cheese over medium heat in a small saucepan, whisking to combine smoothly. Add sugar and black sesame powder and mix well with a whisk to make sure the mixture is lump free.
  3. Heat the gelatin mixture for about 10 seconds in the microwave, or until the gelatin is dissolved.
  4. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and immediately stir in the gelatin. Allow to cool briefly. Fold in the whipped cream in three additions. Use immediately.

Make the Matcha Meringues:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment, pour in the caster sugar and heat it in the oven for 7 minutes (or until the edges crystallize). Heating the sugar helps to create a glossy, stable mixture. Pour the egg whites into a mixer and whisk them slowly, allowing small stabilizing bubbles to form, then increase the speed to high until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
  2. Take the sugar out of the oven, and turn oven down to 210F (leave the door open to help speed this up). With your mixer on full speed, very slowly spoon the hot sugar into the beaten egg whites, making sure the mixture comes back up to stiff peaks after each addition of sugar (don’t add any crystallized bits). Once you have added all the sugar, continue to whisk on full speed until you have a smooth, stiff and glossy mixture. You should continue to whisk for at least 5 minutes once sugar has incorporated. Feel a bit of the mixture between your fingers; if you can still feel the gritty sugar, keep whisking at full speed until it has dissolved and the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy. Sift in the matcha powder and whisk just until combined.
  3. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag with the tip cut off. Pipe out your kisses onto your prepared sheets by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. For decorative purposes, I like to make meringues of different sizes; just keep in mind they’ll finish at different times; so you may want to pipe smaller meringues on one tray and bigger ones on the other.
  4. Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until the meringue bases come cleanly off the parchment paper. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Make the Black Sesame Brittle

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet with a Silpat. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine glucose, water, butter and salt. Set over medium heat and cook until butter has melted. Stir as needed to ensure even heating.
  3. Once mixture is liquid, add sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in sesame seeds. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until sugar is boiling and has turned amber brown. Let cool to room temperature to allow brittle to set and harden. Once cool, use your hands to break up the brittle. Store in an airtight container.

Make the Matcha White Chocolate Ganache

  1. Place the chopped matcha white chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Warm the cream in the microwave until steaming. (Note: if you’re using matcha powder, sift this into the cream before heating and make sure to whisk so no lumps remain.) Pour evenly over the chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute before stirring to combine. Allow to sit at room temperature until it drizzles off a spoon slowly (you can also stick it in the refrigerator to speed the process up).

Assemble the Matcha Black Sesame Mousse Cake

  1. Use the pastry ring to cut out 2 six-inch cake rounds. (The rest of the cake is extra; use it to make a trifle or just snack on it.) Wash and dry the pastry ring and line it with acetate. Place on top of a 6-inch cake board on a quarter sheet pan.
  2. Brush the first cake round with simple syrup and fit it into the bottom of the pastry ring. Pour in half the black sesame mousse. Freeze for 10-15 minutes or until the mousse is set.
  3. Put the second round of cake on top of the mousse and brush it with simple syrup. Nestle a second round of acetate between the pastry ring and first acetate round.
  4. Pour the remaining black sesame mousse over the second cake round. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set.
  5. Freeze your cake for at least 20 minutes before applying the matcha white chocolate ganache (this will keep the ganache from melting the mousse). Set the cake on an upturned bowl on a plate or baking sheet (to catch any drips). Remove the pastry ring and acetate. Using a spoon, drizzle the ganache along the edges to create a drip effect, then spread a layer over the top. At this point, you can affix the cake to an eight-inch cake round for easier moving. Refrigerate immediately to set.
  6. Right before serving, decorate with matcha meringues and black sesame brittle. I also used some crushed up meringues and black sesame seeds. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

mousse cake angled

Salted Caramel Pear Pie

With another Pi Day on the horizon, it was time to scratch my pie-baking itch. I really wanted to make a fruit pie; and while spring may technically be on the horizon, here in sometimes-it-snows-in-May Toronto we’ve been on a decidedly wintry kick. Ergo, no good looking rhubarb / berries in sight. I did, however, spot some delicious looking pears at the market; and since I haven’t gotten to bake with pears as much as I’d like this pear pie was born.

I adapted this recipe from Yossy Arefi’s Sweeter off the Vine: Fruit Desserts for Every Season. Yossy’s recipe uses a homemade creme fraiche salted caramel sauce, which sounds amazing; but I just used some leftover salted caramel sauce from a previous baking project. I decided to add some of the tang back in by using sour cream in my pie crust. A bit of dairy is a lovely addition to a pie crust — it adds depth of flavor and tenderness. You can also use buttermilk or yogurt if you don’t have sour cream.

Speaking of pie crusts, here I detail pretty much how I make all my pie crusts nowadays. The method may seem a bit involved, but it really doesn’t take much more time than a “normal” pie crust and you end up with a lovely, flaky crust that’s a dream to roll out. I credit The Bojon Gourmet for these crust “tricks;” she has an awesome, detailed tutorial that I highly recommend! I typically replace about 1/3 of the flour in my pie crusts with whole grain flour for flavor (health benefits are just a plus!); you could substitute rye or whole wheat for the spelt or use a combination; or just go all AP if you want.

I added one step to the filling, which is to macerate the fruit with the sugar and lemon juice and reduce the resulting liquid down to a syrup. (I frequently do this with other fruit pies to concentrate the flavors and avoid a soggy bottom crust.) My pears didn’t give off a ton of liquid so you can probably skip this step if you’re pressed for time or don’t want to bother.

My friends and I really enjoyed this pie. It’s lightly sweetened and warmly spiced, and the pears keep their texture nicely — they soften, but still retain some body (I personally don’t like an overly goopy filling so this is right up my alley). This is definitely a winning alternative to a typical apple pie and I can see this making an appearance at a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in the future!

Salted Caramel Pear Pie with a Spelt Sour Cream Crust

Makes one 9-inch Pie | Adapted from Sweeter Off the Vine

For the Spelt Sour Cream Crust:

  • 240 g all purpose flour
  • 100 g whole spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 255g very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 c sour cream, very cold
  • 1/4 c ice water, plus more if needed

For the Salted Caramel Pear Pie Filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I used a mix of d’Anjou and Bosc)
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 32 g / 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 cup salted caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling (I like this recipe)

To Finish:

  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water or milk
  • 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar

Method:

  1. Make the pie crust: Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat. Working quickly, press the butter into flat sheets, occasionally tossing with the flour to make sure each piece is coated. The butter pieces should range in size from a dime to a quarter.
  2. Add the sour cream and 1/4 c ice water and use your hand or a wooden spoon to gently combine. If the dough seems dry, sprinkle more ice water on 1 tsp at a time until the dough just comes together. Your dough is ready if you can pick up a handful and it stays together. At this point the dough will still look quite rough and shaggy.
  3. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I like to use a Silpat), divide into`12 roughly equal portions, and fraisage each piece across your surface using the heel of your hand or a bench scraper. The idea is to create streaks of butter within your dough. Pile the fraisaged pieces and pat into a rough rectangle. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or until cool but still pliable.
  4. Using a lightly floured rolling pin and flour on your surface as needed, roll the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Fold into thirds like a letter, brushing off excess flour before folding. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding. (Refrigerate 10 minutes between turns if the dough feels warm or sticky at all.) At this point the dough should be quite smooth and easy to roll. Then loosely roll the dough up like a jelly roll, starting from a short end. Cut into two equal pieces, wrap each portion in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
  5. Prepare the filling: Combine pears, sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover and allow to macerate at room temperature for at least half an hour (or up to several hours).
  6. Grease a 9-inch pie plate. On a lightly floured surface (again, I like a Silpat for this), roll out one portion of your dough into a rough circle about 12 inches in diameter, about 1/8 – 1/4″ thick, working from the center out and rotating a quarter turn with each roll. Flip the dough occasionally and lightly flour to ensure it doesn’t stick. Transfer the dough to your prepared pie plate (if you’ve rolled on a Silpat, this is as easy as flipping the whole thing over your pie plate, peeling off the Silpat, and easing the dough in), trim the overhang to about 1 inch, and refrigerate until needed.
  7. Roll your other piece of dough as the first. If you’re doing a lattice top, use a ruler and pastry cutter to cut your strips. Refrigerate until needed.
  8. Put a colander over a saucepan and dump the macerated pears in. Boil the remaining juices until syrupy, pour into a small bowl, and set aside to cool. Combine the flour and spices and toss with the pear slices.
  9. Neatly arrange about half the pear slices into your bottom pie crust, trying not to leave any gaps. Drizzle with 1/4 c salted caramel sauce. Add the remaining pears and drizzle with the reduced juices and the remaining 1/4 c salted caramel sauce. Top with the other half of the crust as desired, and crimp the edges to seal. Freeze for about 15 minutes, or until pastry is firm.
  10. Preheat oven to 425F with a rack and baking sheet in the bottom third of the oven. Prepare the egg wash. When the pie is ready to be baked, lightly egg wash the entire surface, being careful not to drag any of the filling onto the top (it will burn). Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  11. Transfer the pie onto the preheated baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is well-browned and the filling is bubbling. Rotate the pan halfway through. If the pie is browning too quickly, lower the heat to 375F after half an hour and/or tent with foil to prevent burning. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Sourdough Burger Buns

I know it’s a little early to be thinking about BBQ season, but here in Toronto winter has been surprisingly mild. So mild, in fact, that we actually pulled out the grill out a couple weekends ago!

My husband really enjoys BBQ’ing, and one of his specialties is homemade burgers. It’s been my goal to find a homemade burger bun recipe to contribute to the mix, and this is it! I actually started making the yeast version of these awhile back, but now that my sourdough starter is nice and healthy I wanted to convert the recipe to SD. The sourdough adds a subtle tang, and also helps keep these buns fresh a little longer.

These buns are light brioche style, so they’re slightly eggy but not too rich. They’re soft, but sturdy enough to hold hefty fillings without disintegrating into a sloppy mess. I love them lightly toasted so you get the outside crunch plus the soft interior — the best of both worlds!

I’ve broken this recipe into a two day process, though you could probably start these in the morning and have them ready by dinner. In the bulk fermentation step, just let the dough roughly double in size before proceeding.

Sourdough Burger Buns

Makes 8

Ingredients

  • 354 g flour (I use half all purpose, half bread)
  • 110 g heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 110 g water, at room temperature
  • 37 g sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 8 g salt
  • 35 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125 g mature liquid sourdough starter
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water or milk)
  • Sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt and butter and autolyse (rest) for 1 hour. I find it easiest to combine the wet ingredients in a jug and mix it into the flour using a rubber spatula.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing in the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic, and allow to rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 equal parts, and roughly shape as balls. Cover with oiled plastic and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  5. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. When the hour is up, reshape each portion into a tight ball and flatten gently into a disc. Arrange on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. Cover again with oiled plastic and allow to rise again at room temperature until puffy and nearly doubled. (I needed to run some errands so I put the dough in a cool part of the house and let it go for 5 hours. In a warmer room I suspect it would take 3-4 hours.)
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F and set an old cookie sheet on the floor of the oven. Brush each bun with the egg wash, followed by a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
    Transfer the buns to the preheated oven and immediately pour a cup of hot water into the baking sheet on the bottom of the oven (be careful! Wear oven mitts and use a long-spouted kettle if possible). Bake buns for 18-20 minutes or until rolls are nicely browned on top, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Cool on a rack completely.

Quick Leek and Potato Clam Chowder (Dairy-Free)


My husband is an excellent cook, and he had always planned on wooing his future wife with creamy, New England-style clam chowder. So when he found out while we were dating that I was lactose-intolerant his dreams were dashed. However, determined to produce some type of chowder I could enjoy, he came up with a leek and potato version that has become a wintertime staple in our house. It’s quick and hearty, and enjoyed by both the lactose tolerant and intolerant. Because the ingredients are quite simple, the key to success with this soup is to season in layers and to not overcook the potatoes — they should be tender, but still have some body to them. You can puree this soup if you want it smooth, but I prefer to just mash it with a potato masher, leaving it a bit chunky.

Quick Leek and Potato Clam Chowder (Dairy-Free)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4-5 medium leeks, rinsed and white parts chopped into half-moons (about 6 cups, chopped)
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 quart chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
  • 1 10 oz. can baby clams, liquid included
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, sugar, and pepper
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of Old Bay

Optional garnishes:

  • Chopped scallions
  • Bacon bits*
  • Sour cream

Method:

  1. Heat a couple glugs of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onions, celery and garlic and saute until the onions are softened, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper.
  2. Add the leeks in 3 portions, seasoning each batch generously with salt, sugar, and pepper and letting it wilt down before adding the next batch.
  3. When the leeks are softened, add the potatoes, broth, juice from the clams, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  4. If you want a smooth soup, puree using an immersion blender or food processor. If you prefer it chunky, use a potato masher to mash the soup to your desired consistency.
  5. Add the clams, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay. Taste to check for seasonings.
  6. Serve with optional garnishes, a green salad, and a loaf of crusty bread.

*Note: if serving with bacon bits, I will first fry the bacon until crisp in the soup pot; then use a portion of the drippings to saute the vegetables.

Meyer Lemon and Raspberry Scones

lemon raspberry scones

Scones are one of those coffeeshop items that I love to order but often find disappointing. Either they’re too cakey or over-the-top heavy. My ideal scone is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, slightly sweet but able to withhold a generous amount of jam/curd/clotted cream. After yet another recent disappointing scone purchase, I decided it was time to scour the interwebs and find a go-to scone recipe for myself.

It’s not too often I succeed on the very first try, but, boy, were these good scones. I based them off the very well-reviewed Royal Wedding Scones on Food52. Lemon and raspberry is a favorite combination in this household, but you could easily change up the fruit and spices based on season and preference.

Scones are definitely best the day you make them (preferably while still a little warm from the oven), but you can freeze these unbaked and bake straight from frozen (you may need to add a few minutes of baking time). I’ve also had success freezing baked scones and reheating them in a 350F oven for 12-15 minutes or so.

Meyer Lemon and Raspberry Scones

Adapted from Food 52 | Makes 8

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups / 313g AP flour (I’ve successfully replaced about 1/3 of this with spelt flour)
  • 1/4 cup / 50g granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons / 86g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • Zest of 1 meyer lemon
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream, plus more for brushing on tops of scones
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Method:

  1. Line a 6-inch round cake pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.
  2. Put sugar and lemon zest in the bottom of a large bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar to release the oils.
  3. Add the remaining dry ingredients to the sugar-zest mixture and whisk to combine.
  4. Add the cold butter to the dry ingredients and cut it in using a pastry cutter or your fingers. You should have varying sizes of butter pieces, ranging from pea to nickel shaped.
  5. Gently fold in the frozen raspberries.
  6. Combine the wet ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, gently folding in with a fork. Do not overmix.
  7. When a shaggy dough begins to form, dump the contents onto a lightly floured surface. Gently fold the dough onto itself just enough so it becomes a cohesive mass. Transfer to the prepared cake pan, cover, and freeze for about 30 minutes or until slightly hardened.
  8. While scones are chilling, preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. When scones are chilled, invert round onto a lightly floured surface and cut like a pie into eight wedges. Transfer to prepared sheet pan. Lightly brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Scones are done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugared Cranberries

red velvet cake

I really enjoy making birthday cakes for my friends. Partially this is because yes, I do like making cakes but when it’s for someone you know you have a chance to think about what that person likes and dream up something special just for them.

This cake was made for a good friend who I’d been told was especially fond of red velvet cake. Truth be told I didn’t have a red velvet cake recipe I liked (most are too oily or taste like a weak chocolate cake…but red), but after scouring the interwebs for a bit I came upon this recipe. The author addressed all my red velvet concerns so I gave it a go.

After trying the cake, the birthday girl told me, “Wow, I actually really like this red velvet cake!” This surprised me because, well, I figured she always liked red velvet cake since it was her favorite. It turns out she thought red velvet cake was interesting because so many western people were fascinated with the flavor, and when she moved to Canada it was something she looked forward to trying. But she didn’t actually really like red velvet in particular. Except for this one!

Anyways, I loved this cake too and I’m not a huge red velvet person either; I thought the texture was perfect and it baked up beautifully. I dressed this simply with my go-to cream cheese frosting and some sugared cranberries, which has been my garnish of choice this season — they’re quick and easy, and they taste good too!

Finally, I got the news yesterday that my instagram account was included in Saveur’s list of 20 Favorite Food Instagrams of 2016! It was quite a surprise and I’m honestly shocked to see my name next to some insta-stars. I’ll admit, I was a bit of a latecomer to the insta-game (Snapchat in 2020, anyone?) but it’s become my favorite form of social media and the source of a lot of my kitchen inspiration. I’m happy to share a little of what I do there, the successes and the failures — and am grateful for the many talented people I’ve met along the way!

Now for some cake!

sugared cranberries

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sugared Cranberries

Makes 1 3-layer, 6 inch cake | Serves 8-12
Cake recipe adapted from Cake Paper Party

Ingredients:

  • 85 g butter, room temperature
  • 58 g vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (or 1.5 eggs — crack the second one, weigh it, and add half), room temperature
  • 85 g AP flour
  • 70 g cake flour
  • 1 T natural cocoa (not dutch process)
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c buttermilk, room temperature
  • 60 g sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 T white vinegar
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 T red food coloring (preferably gel) or red velvet essence (I used essence)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 3 6-inch pans.
  2. Beat butter, oil and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.
  3. Combine buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar and vanilla and whisk to blend.
    Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and stir on low until just combined. Add half of buttermilk mixture and stir until it is just incorporated. Add remaining liquids and stir to combine.
  4. Gently stir in red food coloring and mix for about 30 seconds, scraping down once.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Cool for at least 15 minutes in the pans before turning out onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting. (I recommend freezing the cakes, wrapped in plastic, until firm before assembly as this cake is quite tender.)

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 225 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 270 g powdered sugar, sifted
  • 300 g cream cheese, COLD and cubed

Method:

  1. Beat butter until pale, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until frosting is very pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add cream cheese and beat until just smooth. Beat on low for a minute or two to get rid of any air bubbles. Best used immediately.

Sugared Cranberries

Ingredients:

  • A couple large handfuls fresh cranberries
  • 1 egg white, beaten (I use pasteurized)
  • 1/2 c sugar, preferably caster (you can grind granulated sugar in a food processor, or just use granulated — caster will give you a more “snowy” effect)

Method:

  1. Spread out a piece of parchment paper big enough to hold all the cranberries in a single layer.
  2. Coat the cranberries with the egg white set them on the paper to soak up some of the excess liquid (if they’re too wet, the sugar will clump).
  3. Toss the cranberries in the sugar and set them back on the parchment to dry completely before using and / or eating!

To Assemble:

  1. Level your cakes (this is easiest to do when they’re completely cool; I like to stick them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes right before assembly). Choose a layer for the bottom and put bottom-side down on a cake board.
  2. Spread about a 1/2 cup of icing evenly over the first layer. Repeat with the next two layers. Add a thin layer of icing over the entire cake. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to set the crumb coat.
  3. When the cake is chilled, add a second, thicker layer of icing over the entire cake. You can keep the sides smooth, or use an offset spatula / butter knife to create the swirl effect. Hole the spatula at a 45-degree angle to the cake while spinning your turntable, slowly, all the while slowly dragging your spatula to the top. Repeat on the top, starting from the outside and drawing your spatula in to the center.
  4. Decorate with sugared cranberries and a few sprigs of rosemary, if desired. Keep the cake refrigerated; bring to room temperature about an hour before serving.

red velvet cake 2

Sourdough Hokkaido Milk Bread Twists

cinnamon raisin twist bread
One of my latest bread obsessions has been the twisty loaf. I’ve been wanting to try making those babka-esque twists that are all the rage these days, because who can resist a little swirly and pretty? Clearly, not me.

Twist breads are great for the holidays. They’re surprisingly easy to shape and faster than making a bunch of rolls; they can be equally appropriate for Christmas brunch or a potluck dinner; they double as decoration. Plus, they’re a chance to flex your culinary creativity — change up the fillings to suit your tastes and/or fridge contents!

apple1

After making a fair share of these guys I’ve learned a few tricks that can really help your twist breads shine in looks and flavor! While I did all my testing using my sourdough hokkaido milk bread recipe below, you should be able to use your favorite enriched bread dough (i.e. babka / challah / cinnamon roll / non-sourdough hokkaido milk bread dough, etc.) to make a twist bread. I would recommend a dough that is soft but sturdy enough to be rolled out fairly easily. My trusty pumpkin version of this bread works equally well as a base, and I’ve included a couple other flavor variations below as well.

Twist bread tips:

  1. Don’t roll your dough too thin.
    I tried rolling my dough various sizes, and finally settled on an oval of about 10″ x 12″ as the ideal size for my loaf pan. I follow a process very similar to this one. You can roll your dough thinner to get more of a swirl, but (at least for my recipe) the bread will be more dense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; but personally I prefer fluffier bread to more swirl. The nice thing about the oval shape is that the ends don’t get too thick when you tuck them under. (I never bother trimming the ends.) It’s also easy-peasy to fit the loaf into the tin; no double-helixing / multiple criss-crossing required.
  2. Don’t rush the proofing. Enriched breads take extra long to proof, whether or not it’s sourdough. In my room-temperature kitchen, this recipe takes at least 6 hours for the final proof. I’ve tried rushing it and the texture just wasn’t the same. I know mine is ready when the loaf has puffed to fill the pan almost to the top.
  3. Thick, strongly flavored pastes work best for fillings. For ease of rolling and the best swirl effect, a thick paste works better than lots of chopped up ingredients. I tend to not measure my filling ingredients; but in general I use roughly 1/2 a cup of filling per loaf. Again, I opt for a less-is-more approach here: too much filling can weigh the bread down, making it more dense and cakey. You may have to experiment a bit to find your ideal filling-to-bread ratio, but that’s half the fun.

    A few ideas for fillings: fruit and nut butters, thick jams/compotes, cream cheese + fruit curd, pesto, grated cheese, etc. This is a great place to use up some of those half-eaten jars of jams and spreads. If I want to do a fruit filling (such as cinnamon raisin), I’ll rehydrate dried fruit in boiling water for an hour or so, drain, then pulse in a food processor with a healthy amount of cinnamon sugar and softened butter. I do find it helps to incorporate the butter into the paste rather than layer it, especially if you are doing a sweet loaf. Otherwise the sugar can turn into syrup and leak out, resulting in a sticky bun situation.

  4. Bake and cool fully. It can be a bit tricky to judge when these loaves are finished, as the filling can hide bits of uncooked dough. Your best bet is to check the internal temperature: it should register at least 195F. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out cleanly. Also keep in mind that if you’ve rolled out your dough thinner to start with and/or used a lot of filling, your bread will take longer to fully cook. When in doubt, let it go a few minutes longer, and tent with foil to keep the top from burning.

    Also, cool your bread fully to room temperature before serving. This helps the bread fully set and avoids that icky gummy taste that comes from slicing too early. Better to fully cool, then gently rewarm for 5-10 minutes than cut too soon.

  5. Glaze it! A healthy dose of simple syrup (1 part sugar dissolved in 1 part water) applied to your loaf right after baking adds an attractive shine and keeps your bread tasting fresher for longer. Be generous — about a 1/4 cup for sweet loaves, a little less for savory. Warmed jelly or honey also works (you won’t need as much), but if you’re planning on having your loaf around for more than one day simple syrup is your best option. Right after glazing is also a good time to add any garnishes: toasted seeds / nuts, finely chopped herbs, pearl sugar, etc.

Time to get twisting!

fullsizerender-11

Sourdough Hokkaido Milk Bread

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf | Makes one 8.5″ x 4.5″ / 9″ x 5″ loaf

Levain Ingredients

  • 18 g mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 30 g milk
  • 56 g bread flour

Mix and ferment at room temp (73F) for 10-12 hours. When ready it should be puffy and domed and you should see large bubbles if you pull back the top.

Final dough ingredients

  • 276g bread or AP flour (I used half bread flour and half AP flour for a balance of chewiness and volume)
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 34g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 6g fine grain sea salt
  • 101g whole milk, room temperature
  • 86g cream, room temperature
  • 20g milk powder
  • All of the levain

To Finish

  • Egg wash (1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water or milk), for brushing
  • Filling of choice, approximately 1/2 a cup
  • Simple syrup, for glaze
  • Optional garnishes (toasted nuts, seeds, herbs, etc.)

Method:

  1. Mix together all final dough ingredients except the salt and butter until just combined. Cover and autolyse (rest) for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Add salt, and knead dough until gluten is moderately developed. The dough will start out sticky and rough but should gradually come together and feel quite smooth and stretchy. Add butter in two batches, mixing the first completely before adding the second. Continue kneading until the gluten is very well developed and the dough passes the windowpane test as demonstrated here. The dough should be smooth and supple (and quite lovely to handle!). This will take quite some time, especially if done by hand. Consider it your arm workout for the day!
  3. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover, and bulk rise at room temp (73F) for 2 hours. The dough will be noticeably expanded, but not doubled. Fold, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, take the dough out and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Rest for one hour, covered by lightly oiled plastic.
  5. Grease and line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of at least 2 inches on the long sides (for easy removal later).
  6. On a lightly floured surface (I prefer a Silpat), roll out the dough into an oval roughly 10 x 12 in. Spread your filling evenly over the surface, leaving a 1/2 inch border along one short edge. Turn the dough so the short end without the border is facing you. Brush the opposite end with water, and gently but tightly roll up like a jelly roll. Once rolled up, roll gently back and forth a few times to seal. Transfer the log to the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up (optional).
  7. If desired, trim about 1/2 an inch off each end (I don’t bother because I don’t mind if the ends don’t have filling; but if you do, trim them). Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise. Place the two sides next to each other, cut side up. Gently pinch the tops together and twist the two together, keeping the cut sides up. Transfer twist to the prepared pan. (See here for a some helpful pictures.)
  8. Cover with plastic and proof for about 6 hours at room temperature. When ready, the dough should look very puffy and have risen to the top of the loaf pan.
  9. When the loaf is nearly finished rising, preheat the oven to 400F and prepare the egg wash. Just before baking, brush the surface lightly with egg wash.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then turn the oven down to 375F, rotate the pan, and bake for about 15 more minutes or until the loaf is well browned and registers at least 195F in the center. If the loaf is browning quickly, tent with foil. (I cover mine for the last 10 minutes or so.)
  11. Immediately after taking the loaf out, brush all over with simple syrup and top with garnishes, if desired. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Dough Variations

  • Matcha: replace 10g of flour with 10g culinary grade matcha powder. Pairs well with chocolate and black sesame fillings.
  • Eggnog: replace the milk with full-fat eggnog, decrease the sugar to 34g, and add some freshly grated nutmeg to the dough. Pairs well with cinnamon sugar and cranberry fillings.

apple3