Last weekend, a cousin reached out to see if I made pulla, a Finnish cardamom sweet bread. My experience with break making is limited as I’ve only made challah and a cranberry bread before. Breads take a lot of time. Longer bakes like breads are definitely harder to work into a schedule. After reading over the recipe she sent over, the pulla seemed simple enough to make and I already had the ingredients on hand. Sure! Let’s give it a go.
The recipe states that the prep takes 3 hours and the cook time is 25 mins. So you’re basically devoting half a day to the process, but it’s broken up as much of the time is waiting. The act of making the dough is quite easy and it came together really well. I had never heard of or tried pulla before, and as soon as I started to smell the aroma from the oven, I knew I would be in love! The flavor in this bread is so good! The cardamom isn’t overpowering, the structure of the bread is light, and the crust is golden perfection. After communicating my success, the cousin informed me that not only is this bread traditionally dunked in coffee (being a tea drinker, I opted for some chai to compliment the cardamom) but it can also be made as rolls with a sweet icing on top! I promise not to go crazy making pulla all the time now, but it is now one of my favorite breads.
3/4 cups milk, warmed to 110°F
1/4 cup water, warmed to 110ºF
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 package)
4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt (I always leave the salt out of recipes when I make them)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg beaten w/1 Tbsp water (egg wash)
coarse sugar and sliced almonds (topping)
In a large bowl, combine milk, water, and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let stand for five minutes, until foaming. Add 2 cups of flour, the eggs, cardamom (and salt). Mix until smooth. Add the butter and mix until combined.
Knead the dough in the bowl, adding enough of the remaining flour to keep it from sticking, until the dough comes clean from the sides of the bowl and doesn’t stick to your hands. (I did not end up using all of my flour)
Shape the dough into a ball in the bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Let the bowl rise in a warm, draft-free place** for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled. (Mine more than doubled in an hour.)
**To create your own proofing box, turn on your oven to 250ºF. Once the oven gets to that temperature, turn it off. Place a bowl of water in the oven to keep moisture in the air. Place your covered bowl of dough in the oven with the bowl of water. Close the oven door and wait.
Once risen, knock back (punch the dough down to knock air out of it) the dough and divide it into three strands for a braid. Roll each strand into a 20″ snake. Braid the strands and place the braided loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar and almonds, if desired. (You can get pretty heavy-handed with the sugar or you can go light. The extra sweetness is delicious!)
Let the loaf rise for 30-40 mins or until doubled in bulk (30 mins did it for me). Near the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 375ºF. Bake the bread for 25-30 mins, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped (25 mins did the trick in my oven).
Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting or tearing apart. Bread will keep for one week on the counter in an airtight container.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making a traditional ice cream sandwich, but didn’t really carve out the time to do so. This week, a video from Delish.com came across my feed and I had to try it. They made red velvet ice cream sandwiches using a box mix. I had a box of devil’s food mix sitting in my pantry and some mint ice cream in the freezer and decided to give it a go.
This recipe takes almost no time on task to whip together. While my sandwich ends were more thin and cookie-like and less thick and cake-like, they made for a very tasty treat!
One thing to note, the recipe in the link has fewer details than the video. The butter should be melted. I creamed some softened butter for mine which may have played a role in the cookie vs cake texture.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Chocolate Mint Ice Cream Sandwiches (using a red velvet ice cream sandwich recipe)
1 box cake mix
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 gal ice cream, softened (apply as much as you like. I prefer a thinner ice cream layer, so I only used about half a carton)
Preheat oven 350°F. Line a large rimmed pan baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine mix, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix until evenly combined (mixture will be thick).
Spread the batter onto the prepared baking sheet. My batter was quite thick and I found it easier to drop globs on different parts of the pan and using an offset spatula to slowly work it around until there was a smooth and somewhat even layer of batter across the pan.
Bake until set (about 18-20 mins).
Let cool in the pan completely, then cut the cake in half across the middle to make two large rectangles. Spread ice cream onto one half and then place the second half on top to form one large sandwich. Freeze until ice cream is firm (about 2 hours) then slice it into bars (should yield about 12 depending on size of slices). Serve immediately.
Dome molds seem to be growing in popularity lately. You can use them to make domes or spheres using cake or chocolate or mousse. There are a multitude of combinations that the dome molds can be used for, so I needed to try them. I found a set of three silicon molds of different sizes on Amazon.
I wasn’t sure what my first experiment in the molds was going to be until I realized that Pi Day was coming up and I was planning on making a French silk pie anyway. Why not put it in a dome?
Tempering chocolate without the aid of a chocolatier.
First things first. I had to find out whether my circle cookie cutter was going to be the right size. The circular disks of pie crust needed to fit within the sphere so that they would be covered. They ended up being a perfect fit for the largest mold! Now, it was on to pie!
I decided to use the French silk pie recipe I had made previously. It worked out really well and seemed like it would be a good fit for this experiment.
The crust was prepared following the recipe and instead of placing it into a pie dish, it was pressed out onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. I didn’t press it out too thin since I wasn’t sure how much the crust would break to begin with, but this crust held up pretty well and I definitely recommend pressing it out so that it’s not too thick. The thickness of my disks resulted in the crust being difficult to cut through with a fork. The crust was easy to work with after it had cooled a bit but wasn’t at the point of being completely cool. The butter was still soft, making the surface workable, but not so tough and crunch that it broke. Using the cookie cutter as you would with sugar cookie dough, I was able to get several disks out of the sheet. The leftover pie crust worked well as either a snack or was crumbled to use as a topping.
Oreo pie crust cutouts
Oreo pie crust disks
Setting the disks aside, it was time to try my hand at the chocolate domes. For this round of tempering, I used Baker’s milk chocolate baking bars. Now, tempering chocolate is a very frustrating process until you learn how the chocolate you’re using works. Even then, things like temperature and humidity (i.e., the weather that day) can destroy your process. Other details, like the % cocoa, the type of chocolate (milk vs. dark vs. white vs. semi-sweet, etc.), and the brand of chocolate all impact the way the chocolate behaves and the temperatures it prefers for tempering. In 2017, I took part in a tempering class offered by a local shop, The Secret Chocolatier. The class was fun and very informative and they send us home with treats we had made and notes for when we wanted to try this on our own. My notes sat in my binder for two years before I decided to try tempering again. I decided to use the temperatures on the notes as a guide, a place to start, since they had worked well before. The chocolate we tempered in class was a darker chocolate whereas the one I was tempering was milk chocolate, so I wasn’t expecting it to turn out perfectly.
To temper the chocolate, I broke apart two 4 oz. bars of Baker’s chocolate. This would give me enough to melt and enough to use as seed. I prepped my double boiler by adding a 1/2″ of water to the bottom and set the stove temperature so that the water was barely simmering. To melt the chocolate, I placed 1.5 bars into a metal bowl and placed that on top of the simmering pot. It didn’t take long for my thermometer to show me that I had the heat up too high as the temperature zoomed past the 115°F I was aiming for. Note: the process I am about to describe is not how to temper chocolate. Typically, if the temperature gets too high, it’s best to scrap the chocolate and start over. I decided to cool it back down and reheat it. After adjusting the burner temperature to low/medium-low, I placed the bowl back over the pot and got the chocolate heated to 115°F. Removing the bowl from the pot and placing it on a pot holder on the counter, I stirred the chocolate until it reached 88°F. Then, I added a piece or two of the remaining chocolate. This was error number 3. I had misread my notes from the chocolatier on when to add the seed. As soon as I realized my mistake, I popped the bowl back on top of the pot to reheat the chocolate to 115°F. Even when you temper correctly, there can still be a lot of this back and forth, so it’s always good to have extra seed chocolate on-hand. After getting the chocolate back up to 115°F, the bowl went back to the pot holder and, this time, I added a piece of seed chocolate immediately while stirring. The seed chocolate helps to bring the temperature down and get the crystals in the sugar to play nice. After adding two pieces of seed chocolate and stirring, the chocolate reached 88°F. It was time to pop the bowl back on the pot for a very brief stint to get the chocolate heated up to 90°F. After hitting that temp, the bowl was removed once more and the chocolate was ready to be placed into the molds.
At first, I tried using a silicon pastry brush I had on hand to paint the molds with chocolate. The chocolate and the brush did not get along. I have seen others use a paint brush instead of silicon to do this, so I will be looking into getting a small one of those for food purposes and future chocolate experiments. Since the brushing technique was not working, I used a spoon to place a good amount of chocolate in each sphere and rub the chocolate on the sides. Then, by lifting and tilting the mold, I worked on getting as even a coating as I could. Once satisfied, I turned the mold upside down to let the extra chocolate drip out (be sure to do this over a baking sheet or paper towel or some other surface that is the length of your mold). Once there was no chocolate pooled in the bottom of the mold, I set the mold aside to let the chocolate set. In my excitement, I used the rest of my melted chocolate to make solid chocolates in the smaller sphere mold. Only after I had started cleaning up did I remember that I should have probably saved some of that chocolate to re-temper and add a second or third coat to the large spheres so that they weren’t too thin. Since this was a rough draft, I decided to see how the thin spheres played out and made a note to make them thicker next time.
Once the chocolate spheres were set, I started popping them out of the mold. They broke apart at the edges since they were so thin and they were somewhat in temper, but they were still spheres!
Now that both the pie crust disks and the chocolate domes were successes, it was time to make the pie filling! There was no variation on the filling. I made it the same way I had before. Once the filling was made, I spooned filling into each upside-down dome. It was surprising that the thin dome held the filling as well as it did! I was expecting it to break or collapse under the weight. Once I saw it held, I filled the dome up and placed a sphere on top. In my final concept, I would build these in the mold and then use some of the tempered chocolate to seal the dome. For this experiment, I skipped this step as I was more interested in seeing how the parts worked and how the different chocolates worked together. I placed the dome, still on its head, in the fridge for the pie filling to set. As soon as that clock hit the 3-hour mark, I had to pull one out! Holding my breath, I flipped the dessert over and it held together beautifully!
All of this chocolate needed a whipped cream topping, so I sprayed some Reddi Wip (check out their coconut milk whipped cream option!) on top and sprinkled some of the crumbled pie crust. Time to cut in and see how this idea worked!
The milk chocolate dome ended up being a good compliment to the dark chocolate Oreo crust and the semi-sweet pie filling. A dark chocolate would work well, too. Surprisingly, the thin chocolate dome worked really well, too. It was fairly easy to break through while eating and held the dessert well. The two take-aways from this rough draft of a dessert were to make the crust thinner for easier cutting while eating and to make the dome slightly thicker so that it doesn’t break as easily.
This was a delicious success! And now I’ve worked out all of my panic and second-guessing in my first solo outing of chocolate tempering. It can only improve from here!
Some days more than one experiment fails. This trial saw two fails in one day! The idea behind this bake was to try my first recipe for my long venture down the road to figuring out my ideal cannoli dip/filling. Unfortunately, the recipe I tried turned out really runny and had way too much almond extract. I hoped the filling would firm up in the fridge but no luck. I still tried to salvage it by scrambling and throwing together a chocolate ganache to maybe lock in the filling, but I ended up only adding half the amount of chocolate necessary so that, too, turned out too runny. Instead of ending up with a tasty cake experiment, I ended up with a few lessons learned. #weKeepItMessy
Cannoli dip from Cookstr.
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (I used Polly-O which did not require straining)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
Mini chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
Combine ingredients and place in the fridge to set.
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz chocolate (I used only 2 oz of semi-sweet chips)
Place chocolate into a heat-safe bowl. Heat cream in a small pan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Pour hot cream directly onto the chocolate. Let sit for 2 mins to let the chocolate melt. Stir until smooth. Pour onto cake.
Pies are a pastry that I am very new to and need more practice on. This experiment is a great example of why practice is good with baking. The crust is a common combination of crushed Oreos and butter. The amount made a very nice thick crust*. The filling is not my recipe but I do not have source information for it, so this is posted without proper sourcing. I will update this post should I find the information.
Mix cookies and butter together. Press into 9” pie plate. Be sure to press crust up along the sides of the plate. (*I forgot this step so all of my Oreo mixture was on the bottom of the plate.)
Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely. I left mine on the cooling rack for a while and then placed it in the fridge while I made the filling.
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp water
8 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes and softened
With electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to stiff peaks – around 2-3 mins. Cover the bowl and place the whipped cream in the fridge.
Combine eggs, sugar, and water in a large, heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan filled with 1/2” of water that is barely simmering. Don’t let the bowl touch the water. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until egg mixture is thickened and registers 160F – around 7-10 mins (mine took 11 mins to reach the proper temperature). Remove the bowl from the heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature – about 8 mins.
Add the chocolate and vanilla extract to the cool egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter a few pieces at a time until well combined.
Using a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape the filling into the pie shell and refrigerate until set – at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings or sprinkles.
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine and whip until it reaches desired consistency.