Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD -- Pecan Sticky Buns

In short, the Pecan Sticky Buns for our latest Tuesdays with Dorie assignment were good, but not worth the 12-hour effort and the pound of butter it took to make them. After reading through the recipe, I decided at the outset to make only one pan of buns and to turn the other half of the dough into a loaf of brioche. I have always wanted to make brioche, so I'm glad I had this experience, but I doubt if I will repeat it.

I made the mistake of not making the brioche dough the night before baking the buns, so I had to accomplish the task in a day. I started at 9 a.m. and finished at 9 p.m. And, I skipped one step in the lamination process, to save both time and butter.

My KitchenAid was up to the task of mixing the dough for 15 minutes. I did find I had to add a bit more flour, but hestitated adding too much for fear I would throw off the proportions of flour and butter. I was sorely tempted, however, but glad I didn't cave in, for my dough was easy enough to roll after the 4-hour refrigeration. The extra flour would not have been needed.

After letting the dough rise twice (once at room temperature and once in the fridge) I was ready to laminate half of it. The other half was shaped into a bread pan as described in "Baking with Julia" by forming the dough into three balls and placing them side by side in a 9 by 5 bread pan. I let that dough rise at room temperature. The laminated dough went back in the refrigerator for half an hour.

After the 30-minute cold rest, it was ready to roll for the sticky buns. I liked the method of painting the dough with the egg wash. Although I have made sweet rolls all  my adult life, I had never used egg wash using a whole egg. My previous experiences were to either use butter, water or egg white. I used a ground pecan mixture for my nuts, a product I buy in bulk from a Mennonite store in Ohio. I was doubtful if there was enough cinnamon/sugar mixture, but after tasting the buns, I found it to be just right.

After rolling up the dough and slicing it (using the dental floss method by wrapping a length of floss around the dough, then criss-crossing the ends to get a perfect cut, I found I needed to make eight rolls, not seven. If I had cut seven rolls they would have been too tall, especially after the two-hour rise. I found two hours to actually be too much and wished I had let them rise a shorter time period. My rolls were, perhaps, overrisen as they were immense after coming out of the oven.

I first baked the brioche bread, which turned out lovely, then baked the rolls. I put the rolls in a carrying case, then drove them 10 miles north to the bakery where I volunteer. I thought, "Who better to judge the quality of these rolls but my baking companions?" Their verdict? Good, but perhaps not worth all the time and expense. A simpler sweet dough might have been just as tasty with far less time and butter involved. There was one roll left, which I brought home to my husband. He gave it a big thumbs up, even though he is not a sweets lover. He thought the brioche dough resulted in a much more tender and tasty sweet roll than a normal sweet dough would have made. So, perhaps, I will make these again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD -- Hungarian Shorbread

My first decision when I looked at the Hungarian Shortbread recipe in "Baking with Julia" for the Internet baking group Tuesday with Dorie was this: Did I really want to make the whole entire recipe? That pound of butter was rather daunting. What if I didn't like it? So, I decided to cut the recipe in half and make it in an 8-inch square pan.

I then needed to decide if I wanted to make the rhubarb filling or substitute for something else. We have a rhubarb patch in the yard, but then I reasoned that some people don't like rhubarb, and we happened to have several jars of homemade blueberry jam on the shelf made last summer from home-grown blueberres. So, I settled on blueberries.

With those decisions behind me, I started creaming the butter. I would like to make a pitch here for the Kitchen Aid paddle beater that has a rubber scraper attached to one side. This all but eliminates having to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. A friend recommended this attachment to me, and her advice was right on. For anyone who makes a lot of cookies or cakes, this beater can't be beat!

There were no quirks in the recipe, and the batter went together like most shortbread batters. I froze the dough into two balls, and after the 30 minutes of freezing, started grating the first ball using the largest hole on my box grater. I debated whether to grease the pan, but since the recipe didn't indicate one should, I didn't. I later came to regret that as the combination of shortbread dough and blueberry jam tended to stick to the sides of the pan.

I baked the shortbread on the short end of the time suggested, since I had cut down the pan size. That seemed to work out well. I then piled on the confectioner's sugar, something I realized after cutting the bars that I had overdone. But the first time one makes anything is a learning experience.

Once the bars cooled, my husband and I sampled one. Both of us loved the combination of shortbread, blueberries and confectioner's sugar. I cut the bars into 16 portions, which were plenty large. Would I make them again? Yes, without a doubt, but perhaps I would next try strawberry or raspberry jam. I still have reservations about rhubarb.