baking

Galettes Bretonnes, golden butter cookies from Brittany

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[From the archives. I’m not making a lot of cookies these days, but when I do these are still big favorites. They are quite plain but buttery-good, rather like shortbread but a little less rich. They are great Christmas cookies. Originally published December 2008.]

When it comes to cookies, I like them rather plain and not overly sweet. This traditional cookie from the Bretagne (Brittany) in France is so plain and simple, that the ingredients really shine. It is made of flour, sugar, egg, and the famously delicious salted butter (beurre demi-sel) of the region. Somewhat related to shortbread or sablé cookies but not as rich, for me they are almost the perfect cookie, and very more-ish.

The salted butter is the key to this cookie’s distinctive nutty, buttery sweet-salty flavor. The best salted butter from the Bretagne and other regions along the Atlantic in France are creamy-fresh and rich, with little glistening crystals of salt still visible. If you can get a hold of really good salted butter, you can use traditional recipes and the cookies will turn out the way they should. If not, some adjustments need to be made. So, I would recommend following the variation of the recipe that meets your butter quality.

(You might see something called galettes bretonnes au sarrasin. These refer to a thin crêpe or pancake made out of buckwheat (sarrasin) flour, usually served with a savory filling. I love those too, but these article is about the cookie galettes bretonnes.) continue reading...

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Leaf shaped black sesame cookies with matcha tea icing

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[From the archives. These sesame cookies with matcha icing look and taste quite dramatic. In leaf shapes they are rather spring-like, but try simple rounds or squares for year-round appeal. Originally published in April 2007.]

Flavor wise black sesame seeds aren’t that different, if at all, from white or brown sesame seeds. But there is something about their dramatic black-to-grey color that is quite exciting. At the moment I’m quite enamored with black sesame seeds, and have been using them instead of the regular brown ones in everything from sauces to salads.

These leaf shaped cookies contain toasted and ground black sesame seeds, dark brown muscovado sugar, and whole wheat flour, and are decorated with matcha (powdered tea) royal icing. The sweetness is quite restrained, both in the cookie and in the icing. You are first hit by the tea-flavored, very slightly bitter icing, followed by the nutty darkness of the cookie. It’s an intriguing combination. They are a wonderful accompaniment to tea, black or green, hot or iced. If the ultimate cookie to you means something very sweet and gooey you may not like these. They are quite adult cookies.

I had to shoot the pictures in a hurry, because they were disappearing faster than almost any other cookie I’ve made recently.

Since I don’t have a leaf shaped cookie cutter, I just made a simple paper template and cut the leaves out with a knife. You can cut them out into any shape you’d like of course, though given the coloring leaves seem appropriate. Quite spring-like, in fact. continue reading...

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Easter Bunny Cupcakes

image: Easter bunny cupcakes

It seems that quite a few people have been trying out the kasutera/castella recipe recently, and running into problems. Castella is not an easy cake. So, since it's Easter, I thought I'd haul this out of the archives attic. These little 'rich tea cakes' are much easier to make, and while they have an entirely different texture they are really quite delicious. I hope you'll give them a try! The fondant is not too hard if you can get a hold of the glycerin, but alternatively you could use store bought Easter themed cake decorations. Originally published in March 2005, as part of the late lamented Is My Blog Burning food blog event. continue reading...

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Roulade au Chocolat Saint Valentin: Chocolate Roulade Cake for Valentine's Day

From the archives. The very iffy photo shows that it is from the very early days of Just Hungry! I look back at this with nostalgia, because not only have my photography skills improved somewhat, it reflects a time in my life when I was into a far more complicated kind of cooking than I am now. I no longer bake things like this, but if you want a pretty spectacular chocolate dessert for Valentine's Day, and have the time and patience, I do highly recommend this rich yet feathery light little confection. I've edited it slightly to be more accurate (what the heck did I mean by 'small container of cream' anyhow). Originally published on February 13, 2004.

roulade au chocholat continue reading...

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Apple crumble cake (an everyday favorite)

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[From the archives. This very easy cake is especially nice at this time of year, when apples are in season. We don't actually eat this every day, but it's one of my go-to simple sweets to make. Originally published January 11, 2006.] continue reading...

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Wine, cheese and walnut whole wheat bread using the Almost No-Knead method

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Notes on the Almost No-Knead Bread method, plus a recipe for bread with wine in the dough. continue reading...

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Homemade whole wheat pita bread, no oven needed

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Even with more than 900 (and counting) posts and almost 200 recipes posted on Just Hungry, there are still lots of things that I make all the time, but haven’t got around to writing about yet. A lot of those things take more time to write up than cook, almost. This whole wheat pita bread recipe is one of them. You do have to account for the obligatory rising time for the dough, but otherwise it’s dead easy, and your kitchen working time in total is maybe 20 minutes, 30 tops. For fresh baked bread!

The key is that the pitas are not baked in the oven. No need for preheating baking stones or quarry tiles or all that stuff. They are baked, so to speak, in a plain old frying pan. You can make them any size you want as long as it fits in the bottom of the frying pan. I like to make small, palm-sized ones for easy snacking or bringing along for lunch.

This recipe also only requires 3 cups of flour in total. I sometimes get a bit frustrated by bread recipes that call for like 6 cups of flour, since we are a small household watching our collective waistlines and there’s no way we can eat that much bread in a reasonable amount of time. Sure you can freeze the excess, but then you can quickly accumulate massive amounts of frozen bread if you bake often. So anyway, this makes 12 smallish pitas, which are gone quite quickly, especially with a resident Bread Fiend in house.

I referred to many other pita bread recipes, especially this excellent one on About.com, before arriving at this version. The cooking in the frying pan concept came from watching naan bread and Chinese flat breads puff when cooked on griddles. A griddle is not necessary though - and I think most people have at least one frying pan. continue reading...

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Banana coconut cake

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Some recipes come about from long experimentation and several tries to try to perfect them (like those darned bunnies, or my ongoing attempts to make natto at home). Others just seem to happen. We had a bunch of bananas that were rapidly turning very brown and spotty on the kitchen table. I froze some (nothing like frozen bananas as treats), and turned some into a cake.

It’s nothing fancy at all - it’s basically a pound-cake like base (but with a bit less sugar), with added cut-up bananas. The coconut part was added on a whim also. The cake doesn’t rise much, probably because of the bananas, but it’s moist, not too sweet, and very comforting. It’s perfect with a cup of tea.

So far in my life I’ve not had the opportunity to go to Hawaii (unless you count a short layover en route from LA to Tokyo) but I sort of imagine that this cake would not be too out of place there. continue reading...

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Out of love with silicon for baking

Some years ago, when silicon baking wares came out, I jumped on them with glee. No more scraping off baked on crud from the baking sheets! Muffins that popped right up with no greasing of the cups required! Easy washing up!

But these days I’ve definitely fallen out of love with silicon sheets and silicon muffin pans and the like.

About those muffin pans first: while muffins do brown on the outsides, they don’t get as crispy-brown as I’d like. They also seem to rise a bit less than I’d like.

Also, they are totallly useless for popovers and Yorkshire puddings. You can’t really heat them up, so you can’t make them piping hot and pour in hot batter. The alternative method for making popovers ‘pop’ is to start them in a cold oven, but that doesn’t work either. So I end up with flat, boring muffins of a sort, rather than high and airy pockets of trapped air and eggy, moist insides. Yes, I know I could just get separate pans for the popover and Yorkshire puddings, but I don’t have that much storage space in my not-too-large kitchen, and I like to avoid ‘single-use’ type equipment as much as possible.

As for silicon baking sheets, used to line heavy baking sheets, they do okay on the browning front. But what I dislike about them is that, after a few uses they take on an unpleasantly ‘greasy’ feel to them. No amount of washing or soaking in soapy water seems to cure that. I don’t know if I’m over-sensitive to this, but it drives me nuts. So I end up throwing them out over maybe 3 uses. This doesn’t seem too economicalor environmentally friendly to me. (Do those things disintegrate at all in landfills?)

So, I’m back to good old metal baking tins and lining my baking sheets with kitchen parchment paper. My old metal muffin pans tend to stick a bit on the bottoms, so for delicate cupcakes and such I just use paper cupcake liners. (Which means of course I avoid those individual silicon cupcake cups.) Paper, at least, does disintegrate after a while.

How do you feel about those silicon baking products? Do you love them or hate them? continue reading...

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Japanese Curry Bread (Kare-pan)

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There’s a whole category of breads in Japan called okazu pan. Okazu are the savory dishes that you eat with your bowl of rice at a typical meal, and okazu pan are little breads with savory fillings.

Since curry flavored anything is a hit in Japan, curry bread or kare- pan is one of the most popular okazu pan varieties. It’s a bun made of slightly sweet dough, filled with a spoonful of curry, breaded and deep fried. I am not sure how curry bread originated, but I am guessing it was inspired by Russian piroshki (piroshiki is also a popular okazu pan, though in the Japanese version it often contains very non-Russian fillings like harusame, thin bean noodles). Curry bread is sold at bakeries and convenience stores throughout Japan.

Making curry bread is a bit tricky since it’s deep-fried. It’s easy to make an oily, soggy lump if you fry it too long or at too low a temperature, but if you don’t fry it long enough the center part where the dough meets the filling may be raw. My solution for this is to fry it until it’s puffed and crisped, then to finish it in the oven. The other trick is to roll out the dough as thinly as you can manage without making it so thin that the curry is going to burst through.

You also have to be careful about the consistency of the curry filling. It’s most convenient to start out with some leftover curry, but it has to be reduced down to a very thick, paste-like consistency, otherwise it will run over the dough and make the dough hard to seal. If the dough is not sealed properly, the bun will burst in the oil, which ends up to be quite a mess (oil seeps in, filling seeps out).

All in all, I am not sure I would bother to make curry bread at all if I lived near a Japanese bakery, but I do on occasion get a craving for this very down to earth snack. Try it if you’re up for a bit of a challenge. This recipe is adapted from one in an out-of-print Japanese bread book. continue reading...

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Pao de queijo, the very easy way

Pao de queijo, the very easy way

Spiced chocolate cupcakes

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In the movie Chocolat, Juliette Binoche plays a somewhat mysterious woman who opens a chocolate shop in a small French village. She uses ancient Aztec spices in her chocolate confectioneries, which soon prove to have almost magical, often aphrodesiac, properties. While Chocolat is not in my top 5, or even 10, favorite food-theme movies (see here for that list), the idea of spiced chocolates has intrigued me ever since I saw it. One of my favorite chocolate bars is the Masala one made by Dolfin.

Making a spicy chocolate confection is a bit of a tricky affair though. You don’t want the spices to overwhelm the chocolate - it should just form a sort of interesting background, yet provide a bit of a surprising bite and a warm, ‘what is that?’ quality.

These cupcakes have a rich but not too sweet bisquit (cake) base, with the warmth of curry powder and the bite of coarsely ground pepper. They are moistened with a teaspoon per cupcake of mocca liqueur, which increases its intensity and pushes it into the realm of an adult indulgence. The chocolate ganache has a pinch of cayenne pepper in it. The marriage is quite successful (or so the Tasters emphatically agreed). I’m not sure if they work at aphrodesiacs, but if your sweetheart is a chocoholic, you never know… They make a terrific Valentine’s Day dessert or treat in any case. continue reading...

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No Knead Desem Bread

desem_loaf1.sidebar.jpgI’ve adapted the No Knead Bread method for making this bread as described here, for a bread that originally requires at least 20 minutes of kneading. It turns out a quite light, crispy-crust, delicious loaf. continue reading...

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Adapting the No Knead method for desem bread

desem_sliced1.sidebar.jpgLike probably everyone, or at least every food blogger, in the world with an oven and a fondness for baking bread, I tried the No Knead Bread as written up in the New York Times in November. Authored by Mark Bittman via Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, this almost perplexingly easy method of mixing up a bread dough that has that distinctive 'artisanal bread' crumb and thin, crackly crust caused a sensation in the teapot that is the world of food blogging.

As just about everyone says, it does produce a very good bread. And yet...for me it lacked that something extra special. This has a lot to do with the fact that in this country good bread is quite easy to get. Even the bread sold at the major supermarkets is not bad at all. The rather shiny, slightly gummy, open-grained texture of the No Knead Bread reminded me of pain paillase, a very popular twisted loaf bread that's widely sold in Swiss bakeries. The thing is though, pain paillase, being a sourdough bread and baked into a fat baguette shape, is tastier than the all-white flour No Knead Bread. So, I haven't baked any basic No Knead since the first couple of loaves. Besides. I'm trying to cut out white flour at the moment. continue reading...

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Sliced desem bread, showing the crumb

Sliced desem bread, showing the crumb
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A loaf of desem bread

A loaf of desem bread
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Kasutera (castella), a Japanese sponge cake, and oyatsu, 3-o'clock snack time

In my previous post about Japanese food, I talked about what makes up a typical Japanese meal, which applies to breakfast, lunch and dinner. There's a fourth meal that is very much a part of Japanese food life - oyatsu. Oyatsu is snack time, and it's usually eaten at 3 in the afternoon. continue reading...

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Fun With Brioche

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Brioche bread is so delicate, light and buttery that is just one tiny step removed from being a pastry. Plain brioche bread is delicious on its own, toasted or with loads of jam. But brioche dough also makes an ideal casing for all kinds of fillings both savory and sweet. It's my favorite dough for making anything en croute, as well as for sweet filled breads that are so nice for a brunch party. continue reading...

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What to do with Okara (Milking the Soy Bean, Part 3)

This is the concluding article of my 3-part series on Milking The Soy Bean. In Part 1, I described how to make soy milk with no special equipment, and in Part 2 I showed how to make tofu. continue reading...

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Rhubarb ginger muffins

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As if last month's IMBB muffin (and cupcake) orgy weren't enough, here is another muffin that has definitely entered my must-make list. It's yet another way to enjoy the tanginess of rhubarb, with the added twist of preserved or crystallized ginger. (I used my precious homemade crystallized ginger, but you can use the store-bought kind with no problems.) continue reading...

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Is My Blog Burning? IMBB 13: Cupcakes and Muffins Galore!

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Update posted late Sunday, March 27th: I wasn't at my computer most of the weekend, and there were a few late or inadvertently omitted entries waiting in my mailbox. They've now all been posted I think, bringing the total to 89 entries. Wow. continue reading...

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Double chocolate pecan brownie

Brownie

For Oscar night, I made these dense brownies. They disappeared very fast. The "double chocolate" part comes from the fact that there are two whole 100 gram (or 3 1/2 oz.) dark chocolate bars in it.

This is an extremely easy recipe. I don't even bother to chop the pecans with a knife; I just bash them in the bag. Same with the chocolate. For this reason, this would be a really fun thing for kids to make I think. continue reading...

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Zucchini basil muffins

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Rhubarb crumble pie

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Rhubarb remains one of the truly seasonal produce items, only available in the spring. We're now at the tail end of the rhubarb season, so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as possible. Rhubarb has a distinctive tart flavor that is really wonderful, and quite different from any "fruit". (Of course, the edible part of the rhubarb is technically not a fruit, since it's the stalk, but it's treated as a fruit in culinaric terms.) continue reading...

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Chocolate chip and almond cookies

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The usual image of homebaked chocolate chip cookies, at least in the U.S., is that of large, thick cookies with a soft, rather gooey center. The soft and gooey texture is so desired by many people that commercial cookie manufacturers even manage to maintain that in cookies that have been on the shelf for months. This to me seems very wrong. And, I don't think that gooey-soft necessarily indicates a good quality chocolate chip cookie either.

Sure, when you take the cookies out of the oven and eat them right away, they are sort of gooey and soft. But once they cool down, I prefer them to be rather crispy, even lacy, and delicate. For this reason I add a bit more butter than is normal in the traditional Toll House type of chocolate chip cookie. This makes the dough spread out more during baking, making the cookies thinner. Using slivered almonds instead of chunky nuts also makes them lighter and crispier.

If you prefer the gooey type of cookie though, use more flour or less butter.

I also use raw (light brown) granulated sugar instead of the fluffy dense brown sugar used in the traditional recipe. This is mainly because we can't get that "packed" sort of soft brown sugar here. Also, the dark brown sugar has a very pronounced molasses-like taste to me, which I don't think really fits for this cookie.

These are very adult chocolate chip cookies, because of the almonds and the dark chocolate chips. Of course kids love them also. I made these with the lemon bars in the preceeding recipe and meringue kisses for Easter, and boy were they popular. continue reading...

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Lemon squares revisited

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A while back I posted a recipe for lemon squares, a sort of cross between a cookie and a tart with a lemon-curd topping. Some people tried it out, and found it a bit too tart. I went back and fiddled around with the proportions of sweet to sour (lemon juice), and here is the result. There is more curd, which I think makes it even better. The curd is quite a bit sweeter with 1 cup of sugar, and the extra egg makes it creamier also. continue reading...

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Basics: Choux pastry

Choux pastry is what is used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, and eclairs. It is also used to make such delights such as the Paris-Brest, a giant cream puff ring filled with flavored cream. continue reading...

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Stuffed bread

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This is the other thing served at at our Oscar-watching party. Since the show went on from 2 am to about 6:30 we were quite silly, so the food had to be low-stress, no utensils, and tasty. Both this bread and the soup (in the previous entry) were a hit. continue reading...

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Homemade pizza

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Basics: pizza dough

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I have to admit, that a lot of the baking I do is quite time consuming - such as the desem bread. For me, baking bread is sort of a hobby, not something I just do for the sake of making bread, but it's not practical to bake things that require long kneading and hours of rising time frequently. But not all bread doughs like that. This dough, which can be used for pizza, foccaciaa, calzone, and the like, is very simple to make, especially if you have a food processor.

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Bagels and baguettes have to be eaten fast

There is a great article in the New York Times about bagels, the quintissential New York bread. It made me feel quite nostalgic. continue reading...

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Desem, the final chapter

This is the final chapter of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

My desem is now about three weeks old, and is quite mature. How do I know it's mature? Because, after it's been fed some fresh flour and water, it turns quite spongy within a few hours. It also dissolves completely in water, leaving no strings of gluten in my hand. continue reading...

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Desem, Second Baking

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project. continue reading...

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The Care and Feeding of Desem, Week 2

So, once you have a desem, how do you take care of it?

For the second week (that is the week after it's been born, then grown in the in the incubator flour bed), it has to be fed every day. The thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't feed it more flour than is already in it. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 8-9: The First Loaf

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

I am writing this somewhat bleary-eyed after a late night...

The process of making the first loaf of desem bread is very long, and it's easy to miscalculate the time needed. That's what I did. Here's how it went... continue reading...

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Desem, Day 7

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 6

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

The desem has spent its final day covered with flour in the incubator-pot. Today I take it out to start it on its way to being a "mother", for many delicious desem breads to come. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 5

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

The desem isn't as active today, but it's certainly moving and growing. This is how the incubator-pot looks when I opened it up: continue reading...

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Desem, Day 4

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

Yesterday I was a bit worried because the desem hadn't grown or changed at all. So I made two adjustments: I increased the amount of water in the dough a bit to make it softer, and I switched the location of the incubator/pot to a warmer location. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 3

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

The desem has been incubating for 2 days since it was born. I take the pot up from the washing machine room and open the lid. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 1

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

Time to start the desem now. The ingredients for today: continue reading...

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Desem, Day 0

I've decided to start a desem again.

What the heck is desem? Well, it is supposed to be a Belgian whole wheat bread, though my only Belgian friend d__ doesn't know about it. In any case, it appears in the best whole-grain bread baking book I've ever read, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book : A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. My Amazon review is quoted here: continue reading...

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Baking bread (or thinking about it)

I love to bake bread.

It's a very relaxing thing to do. It's messy enough to remind you of when you were little and played with mudpies and Play-Doh. It's a mindless thing, or at least the kneading part is. It can even help to get out some frustration, by banging the dough about (a good way of developing the gluten). continue reading...

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