Orange clove bread

Another Samantha Seneviratne recipe here we come!

This one is fun and the recipe lends itself to your own flavor variations.  Go for it.

While generally not a huge fan of cloves, I figured what the heck, I'll give this one a try.  The "pull apart" nature of the finished product pulled (pun intended) me in.

This is a yeasted bread so put that into your planning agenda.

It's an easy dough to prepare and potentially requires a few hours (total) of rising time, depending on how warm your kitchen is.

Let's go.

les ingredients

Have a large buttered bowl ready.

Bring 120 ml (1/2 cup) whole milk to a boil (I did it in the microwave), remove from the heat and add 56 grams (1/2 stick) unsalted butter to melt it.  Let it cool to about 105ºF.

Blend 1 large egg, lightly beaten and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract into the milk-butter mixture.

the liquid and dry ingredients

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl) whisk together 130 grams (1 cup) all purpose flour, 130 grams (1 cup) bread flour, 56 grams (1/4 cup) sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

Add the milk mixture and mix with the paddle attachment ( or with a wooden spoon) until just combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed about 6 minutes until smooth and elastic (or knead on a work surface by hand for about 12 minutes).

after the mixer knead 

 I turned the dough out onto my pastry board and gave it a few quick hand kneads, formed a ball and placed it in my buttered container for the first rise.

ready to rise

My rise took about 1 1/2 hours.

During that time you can prepare the filling.  Mix 75 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar with the grated zest of 2 oranges and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.  Have 42 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature.

Blend the butter into the zest-sugar mixture, cover and set aside until ready to use.

filling's ready!

Prepare a medium loaf pan - butter it, line it with parchment and butter the parchment.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface, give it a knead or two and roll it into a 9" square.

Spread the filling over the dough . . . .

then cut into 4 strips . . . .

and stack the strips on each other, filling side up (isn't this fun?!).

Then cut the stack into 4 piles . . . .

and line them up on their sides in the prepared loaf pan.

Love it!

Now it's time for the second rise so cover the pan lightly with plastic wrap, put it in a warm spot and let it rise until it reaches to just under the lip of the loaf pan.  About an hour.

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

I forgot to take a picture before I popped it in the oven so I quickly snapped a shot at the start of the bake.

Bake until nicely browned and puffed, about 30-35 minutes.  If the center sections seem soft, bake a few minutes more.

et voila!  C'est fini!

I must say the aroma during baking was delightful, clove or not.  I couldn't wait to give it a try.

First let it cool about 15 minutes, then lift it out by the overhanging parchment and finish cooling on a rack.

The sections pulled apart easily.  The interior had a soft, tender, sort of sweet-roll-like characteristic and the orange-sugar filling added just the right citrus note.  And the clove wasn't bad either!

Steve liked the texture but didn't care much for the clove.  Oh well.

I like the dough for sure - easy to mix and handle and nice texture.

Next time I'm thinking of replacing the orange zest with lemon zest and the clove with perhaps a bit of coriander and ginger.  And maybe buttermilk instead of milk.  One could throw in some chopped dried cherries, raisins or apricots too, depending on your flavor profile.  Or some finely chopped nuts.

You make up your own and have some fun!  You can do it.

Chocolate, cherry, black pepper bread

As I move on through some of the recipes in the new sugar and spice by Samantha Seneviratne, I continue to find many of her ingredient combinations enticing (and intriguing).  This one contains chopped dark chocolate, dried tart cherries and freshly ground black pepper, an idea that came to her after a glass of dark red wine that left her with those particular nuances of flavor.

 Although the title calls this a bread, Samantha then proceeds to call it a cake in her short intro to the recipe.  Call it what you will, the process is still the same.  Essentially a quick bread, the preparation is straight forward.

When doing the mise en place, pay attention to the room temperature ingredients (butter, eggs, sour cream, whole milk) since the mixing of the batter proceeds more smoothly when these things are indeed at room temp.  So plan accordingly.

Chop the chocolate and dried cherries and grind the black pepper ahead too.  

Always read the recipe through before starting, right folks?!

So get everything ready and mix away.

les ingredients

Heat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour a medium (4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch) loaf pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together 260 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream 113 grams (1 stick) room temperature, unsalted butter with 170 grams (3/4 cup) granulated sugar; beat this for about 3-4 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Add 2 room temperature eggs, one at a time, plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Add half of the flour mixture and combine on low speed, then add 1/2 cup room temperature sour cream and 1/4 cup room temperature whole milk and blend.

Add the remaining half of the flour mixture and blend until just combined.

Fold in 65 grams (about 1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (choose what you like in the 50-64% cacao range) and 113 grams (about 3/4 cup) chopped dried tart cherries.

Place the batter in the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with raw sugar.

ready for the oven

love that sparkly crunch!

Bake this until golden brown and a cake tester poked into the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 50-60 minutes.

After a 15 minute cool down in the pan . . . .

turn it out onto a rack to finish cooling.


Of course Steve and I just had to do a taste test while it was still a bit warm, so I sliced into this chocolate and cherry studded beauty.

The crust was crisp and crunchy from the raw sugar, the interior moist with a dense crumb and the flavor divine with a delicious combo of chocolate and cherry.  The black pepper hit me on the finish -  a nice tingle on the tongue.

I must admit I was a bit shy about using the full 1/1/2 teaspoons of pepper in the recipe, but Steve encouraged me to go for it, being the savory chef in our home kitchen (and a prolific pepperer to boot).  He even suggested I add more.  Imagine that!

At any rate, for the first go-around with this recipe I found the peppery-ness to be subtly just right, but next time I won't be so shy.

Good stuff indeed.

Now just imagine it served warm with a scoop of creamy vanilla or chocolate ice cream and some chocolate crumble.  Oh yes.

Pistachio and chocolate butter cake from Samantha Seneviratne

A post holiday gift to myself was the book the new sugar and spice - A RECIPE FOR BOLDER BAKING by Samantha Seneviratne.

Many of the recipes have caught my eye.  My first trial from the book, coffee cardamom shortbread, was a definite success.

Next up is the cover recipe for pistachio and chocolate butter cake, highlighting the use of pistachio paste, cardamom and chocolate chunks (and butter, of course).

The butter, eggs and milk should be at room temperature.

Butter a 9" springform pan and heat the oven to 350º.

Do your ingredient mise en place . . . .

les ingredients
and let's go!

Whisk 223 grams flour, 7 grams baking powder, one teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (hard to see, but it's there on the left side in with the flour) and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.

Cream 113 grams/1 stick room temperature, unsalted butter with 75 grams granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add two eggs, one at a time, then blend in 198 grams pistachio paste.

Add the flour mixture alternately with 120 ml milk in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Fold in 85 grams chopped dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 56% and 72%).

Put the batter into the springform pan and smooth.  Sprinkle 35 grams coarsely chopped pistachos over the top.

A very straight forward cake batter preparation.

ready for the oven

Bake for about 30-40 minutes.

just out of the oven

How did this work out?  Well, this is one case where it's important to pay attention to what's going on in your oven.

I baked this for a good 50-55 minutes since the center was still loose after the first 30-40 minutes.

At that point all the signs of doneness were there - a tester inserted in the center came out with moist crumbs, the top was nicely browned, there was no central jiggling when I lightly shook the pan, and it felt firm in the center.  Plus the aroma was enticing!

BUT!  Once this cake cooled it sank significantly in the middle and was still not thoroughly baked through in the center.  Disappointing.  You pay attention, you think it's done, but then . . . .

Perhaps the fact that my springform pan was sitting on an insulated cookie sheet kept the oven heat from getting properly into the center - who knows!

However, all was not lost.  I simply cut out the center goo, sliced the cake and served it with Samantha's roasted banana ice cream (see my next post!).  Pretty tasty indeed.

The cake is dense and buttery with a lovely cardamom-pistachio-chocolate thing going on.

If I were to do this recipe again, I would bake the cake in small flexi-molds or individual cake pans.  The baking time would be less, and the smaller portions would bake through more evenly.

Live and learn.  That's what it's all about.

Coffee cardamom shortbread

A new shortbread recipe.  Yay!

Cardamom is a spice I haven't used very often.  This tasty version of my favorite type of cookie is from Samantha Seneviratne's book the new sugar and spice - a recipe for bolder baking.  She provides great descriptions of the origins, uses and storage of various spices.

Samantha tells us that "Native to India, green cardamom, Elettaria cardamomum, is the fruit of an herbaceous perennial bush of the ginger family".  The pods are harvested and dried, and the dark brown seeds found inside are ground for culinary use, either savory cooking or baking.

It is generally recommended that one buy whole cardamom pods which have a much longer shelf life than ground cardamom.  Remove the seeds from the pods and grind only what you'll need for a particular recipe, since once the cardamom is ground it will lose some of its fresh flavor and pungency.

I remember one of the chefs I used to work with at Gracie's restaurant in Providence RI always toasted the cardamom pods first to bring out the flavor even more.

Samantha recommends using a light or medium roast coffee, so I chose Starbucks Veranda blend.  I ordered my green cardamom from Spice Jungle, the same folks who run Beanilla, my favorite source for vanilla beans, extract and vanilla fleur de sel.

One thing I noticed right away as I read through the recipe was the higher ratio of butter to flour than most typical shortbreads.  I was intrigued.

Let's go!

First I toasted the 20 pods which, according to the recipe, were to yield about a teaspoon of seeds or 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom.

Then I removed the seeds from the pods . . . .

and ground them in my spice grinder with 2 teaspoons of the Verona blend coffee.

The process is a bit fussy but not a problem if the result is a freshly ground spice with maximum flavor!

les ingredients

In a medium-large bowl whisk together the ground coffee/cardamom mixture (seen in the forefront on the left in the above photo), 33 grams/1/3 cup confectioners sugar, 50 grams/1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 162 grams/1.25 cups all purpose flour (seen on the right above).

Samantha adds the 169 grams/3/4 cup unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beats with an electric mixer on medium speed until the butter is blended in.

I chose to sand the butter in by hand and realized just how buttery this dough is.  Oh boy.

Press the dough into the pan (9" fluted tart or springform pan in the book - I chose my rectangular straight sided tart mold simply because I like it).

Freeze for about 15 minutes.  It firms up and stabilizes the butter.

Heat the oven to 325º F.

pressed into the tart mold and chilled for baking

Bake for about 40-45 minutes.  The dough should look dry and be nicely browned.

Oh the aroma!

just out of the oven

While the shortbread is still warm cut it into shapes of choice.  I like the baton size so I cut down the middle long ways and then cut narrow strips.

lettin' em cool

The flavor is unique yet scrumptious, offering notes of citrus and spice, and I can appreciate a certain gingery warmth.  The texture is crisp yet tender with a buttery crumb.  A keeper.

Steve even liked them.

Yes indeed.  Thanks Samantha.

A pastry year in review and looking ahead

Wow!  It's already January 4 (one of Steve's favorite lines after the new year is "this year is flying by!), and I'm excited about a couple of recently purchased pastry books, compliments of a Schuler's gift certificate from my book lover husband.

Here's a little new-book-preview before I look back at some of the favorite things that I baked in 2015.

Dominique Ansel's The Secret Recipes caught my eye, not because of his cronut fame, but because he shares the history of his pastry profession as well as some of his innovative recipes.  I've just started working my way through the book, and I'm already inspired.

Samantha Seneviratne's the new sugar & spice spoke to me since I'm always trying to think a bit outside the box when it comes to spices and flavor combos.  And her stories of family life in Sri Lanka only serve to enhance the collection of recipes that focus on specific spices such as cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and more.

And so I look forward to plunging into some new baking adventures.

The cover recipe of Samantha's book is first on my list - pistachio and chocolate butter cake.  Of course I must get some cardamom in the house!

Dominique's "magic soufflé" looks really interesting (and challenging) - brioche dough wrapped around a chocolate ganache filling - man oh man, that should be fun.  I love doing new things with brioche dough, so stay tuned folks!

Now here's a brief pictorial of some of the favorites from this past year.

Galette des rois . . . .

served with chantilly, toasted almonds, fresh citrus and caramel drizzle.

My first English muffins . . . .

served toasted with butter and jam.

Brioche craquelins . . . .

oh so citrusy and crunchy with a crumb to die for.

 Chocolate génoise entremet . . . .

Golden raisin toast apple tart . . . .

Millefeuille chocolat . . . .

 Tarte aux fruits rouge pistache. . . . 

Cannelés bordelais . . . .

Crunchy topped choux  . . . .

Rustic summer crostata . . . .

Gateau Breton . . . .

au naturale
and . . . .

avec crème d'amandes et confiture
Tea flavored shortbread . . . .

Thanksgiving citrus cream tart . . . .

And last but not least a Christmas coconut cream tart . . . .

But I simply can't sign off without a reminder of the perennial favorites . . . .

croissant et pain au chocolat

chausson aux pommes

croissant aux amandes


Here's to a fantastic year of baking and pastry for 2016!!