SUMMARY – somewhere between a danish and croissant. Not too sweet. Layers of butter. Completely awesome still warm. Still better than anything from the store the next day.

I can’t believe this is the last Alpha Baker recipe! Of course Marie saved the cover recipe for last. She probably thought no one would continue baking if we made the kouigns first.

Looking over the baking projects, the one recipe that I constantly make is the Irish Cream Scones.

I’ve made scones for family, friends, neighbors, visitors, co-workers and the gals at the corner store. My students made versions of them in both of my baking classes this past fall.

A maple walnut version of them (using maple syrup, walnuts instead of raisins, adding some cinnamon) won me two fair blue ribbons and a second place prize from a maple festival.

My other go-to recipe (chocolate peanut butter cupcakes) is from a different cookbook author who I won’t mention (but she is addicted to baking and candy ;). Party coming up? Cupcakes are requested. The same cupcakes also netted me two fair blue ribbons.

 

This recipe might be the scone and cupcake equivalent.

 

First, butter. A half-pound of butter. I cheated and used a brick of Kerrygold so I wouldn’t have to mess around with squishing butter together. Totally worth it!

Second, the dough is a joy to work with. It’s soft and rolls nicely. Unlike pie crust.

Third, they lasted less than 24 hours.

Forth, I was asked if I was making them again this weekend.

Last, they are just plain over the top amazing.

I have made croissants from scratch. Kouigns are even better. Its the sugar layer. Just enough sweet to carmelize without creating too much sticky.

Now I want to play around with the recipe, and see if I can incorporate a layer of something else in the second turn. Like chocolate. Or almonds. Or hazelnut.

Before I try that, I have another dilemma.

Do I make these for Christmas breakfast at the parents house? And then discover that scones are no longer good enough?

Or do I make them just for my house? Since we have no problem polishing off a batch.

I only wish all my problems were like this.

I hope everyone had as good a time baking through the Baking Bible as I did. Marie and Rose – I can’t wait to bake with you again!

I have been baking. Quite a lot, actually!

frozen-lime-meringue-pie

I made the Frozen Lime Meringue Pie into cupcakes and I made the Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake. Both recipes turned out great! But obviously I didn’t post about it.

chocolate-mousse-cake

I was planning on making other recipes, but that didn’t happen either.

king-arthur-flour-building

What have I been doing instead?

Work has been crazy busy. But in a good way. I have been doing the communications and marketing work I have wanted to do for years!

workbench-setup

My MS symptoms have been up and down. I have been mostly feeling pretty good, but sometimes not so much. Then I have to conserve energy, and Alpha Bakers is something that doesn’t get the attention I would like to give to it.

pasta-frolla-dry-ingredients

More exciting though is I have been teaching baking classes through Adult Continuing Education at my old high school. Teaching has been great, and I will be talking about it.

And, for my 50th birthday, which was back in July, I decided that instead of a big party, I wanted to take a baking class at King Arthur Flour in Vermont. Last Sunday, my mom and sister and I drove two plus hours to Norwich Vermont for their More than a Mouthful: Pastry Miniatures class.

cutting-in-the-butterAlthough the class was not quite what I was imagining (I was thinking petit fours and financiers), the items we made were really good, a little challenging, and I got to geek out with the instructor when she was talking about the different protein / gluten levels in flour.

filling-tartlet-tins

The first recipe we made was for pasta frolla, which is a press-in tart crust, scented with orange oil.

baking-injuryMaking the dough was simple, but then we had to press the dough into these tiny tartlet pans! The largest dimension on any of them was 1 1/2 inches.

And some of them had sharp and point edges! My poor sister ended up cutting her finger on one of them and bled all over her side towel and apron. Granted, she admitted that she could cut herself on a dull butter knife, but still.

When I first saw the pans I thought “OMG how cute!” By the end of the day, I was like “OMG no way I am making this tart in tiny tins again!”

So after the whole tartlet tin filling and bleeding thing, our next project was a chocolate almond cream filling.

This was not a cooked pastry cream. We made it in the food processor.

filled-tartlet-shells

It had butter, sugar, eggs, yes, but also included almond flour and chocolate. And it was baked in the unbaked tartlets.

The filling was really good. I kept eating it raw!

finished-tartlets

4-small-tartsWe finished the tartlets with melted chocolate and toasted almond slivers.

I will make this recipe again. But in a full-sized tart pan, or in the comes in a pack of 4 smaller tart tins. Like these!

Here are the recipes from the Baking Education Center at King Arthur Flour. I tweaked them a little bit based on my notes from the day.

Crust – Pasta Frolla

This dough is a middle ground between pie crust dough and Pâte Sucrée

Ingredients:

¾ cup (3 oz) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (3 oz) pastry flour

¼ cup (1¾ oz) sugar

¼ tsp salt

½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

optional: 1/8 tsp orange oil, or zest from ½ lemon, orange or lime

Directions:

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in the egg, and extracts and oil or zest and combine well, until a dough forms.
  4. Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes, or immediately press into tart pan, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling or baking.

Leftover pasta frolla can be rolled into a log and cut into cookies. Bake ~10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Filling – Chocolate Almond Cream

Ingredients:

½ cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup (3½ oz) sugar

2 eggs at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (4 oz) almond flour

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, combine the butter and sugar.
  2. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse until just combined.
  3. Add nut flour and chocolate and pulse until combined.
  4. Spread into prepped tart shell or refrigerate.

Assemble:

For mini tartlets, fill with ~ 1tsp of chocolate almond cream, bake ~10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cherry Sweetie Pie

SUMMARY – plum puree gives this cherry pie a little something extra. The filling stays in the crust and is not runny, even when warm.

frozen-butter-cubes
The great thing about pies is that you have to make separate components for them – the crust and the filling. Then you have to assemble it, bake it, and cool it.

butter-into-processor
Which is awesome if you aren’t in a hurry for a pie. Annoying if you want homemade pie immediately.

plum-puree
Thankfully, I was not in a hurry for pie.

fruit-ready-to-cook
I worked on the crust Sunday, made the filling Monday, assembled the pie on Tuesday morning, baked it when I got home from work, and ate some Tuesday night with ice cream. Perfect!

ready-to-roll
Of course, I have observations about this pie.

crust-rolled-on-cloth
I liked the idea of adding plum puree to this for some extra tartness. The plums I got were reasonably soft, juicy and peeled easily. But they lacked flavor.

bottom-ready-for-dish
They were not farmers market plums, the ones you have to eat outside because they are so juicy.

filling-into-waiting-dish
If I made this pie again, I would probably cheat and buy some organic plum baby food. Because the plums in it would probably be better than supermarket plums, the pureeing is already done for you, and I don’t have to remember to hit the farmers market.

cut-lattice-strips
I used frozen cherries, too. Because, well, pitting. It was a bag of mixed sweet and tart cherries. Not exactly what this recipe called for. Actually looked pretty good; the cherries weren’t all icky-looking like Marie’s canned sour cherries.

lattice-completed

I also wanted to try a fancy lattice top. There’s one with thick and thin dough strips that looked really cool. But I couldn’t find a ruler to use as a cutting guide. Plus my crust dough was rather stiff. I didn’t want to risk messing it up. And, this is the second lattice-topped pie that I have made in my life. I went with the regular non-fancy lattice top. And the strips still broke.

pie-with-ice-cream
Considering the presence of tart cherries and lackluster plums, this pie was a success. I did get feedback that it was a little tart. I liked the tart flavor. And … there is now pie left.

pie-a-la-mode
Ah, the power of pie.

last-piece-of-pie

Rum Raisin French Toast
SUMMARY – better than any store-bought bagged raisin bread. Great texture and crumb made the raisins really shine.

bubbly-dough
Like Marie, I only made the bread.

partly-mixed-dough
Why?

first-rise
Because you have to use stale bread for the best French toast. You could use fresh bread, but it doesn’t soak up the egg custard as nicely.

start-the-shaping
Which means that you have to leave bread around for a few days.

filling-spread
This raisin bread was probably the best raisin bread I have had. And I have eaten a lot of bread with raisins in it over the years. (Raisin bread is one of the few ways I will eat raisins in baked goods by the way.) Paska, challah, store-bought in a bag, I’ve eaten it and even made it. Hands down, this was either the best ever or at least the best in recent memory.

loaf-shaped
I was not the only person in the house that really loved the raisin bread. Everyone loved it and had buttered slices for dessert!

loaf-cooling
I ask you, what sane person or household would leave home-baked, yummy raisin bread around long enough that it got stale enough to make it into French toast?

sliced-loaf
The last piece was devoured about a half hour ago. No, French toast will not happen with this particular raisin bread. Unless I make 2 loaves and hide one. Hmmm.

loaf-closeup

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart

SUMMARY – Soft, crumbly crust topped with a smooth and creamy filling and chocolate glaze. The hazelnut praline was distinct and well-balanced. The bonus of a press-in-the-pan crust means this is a dessert to make again!

boiling-pot

Oh em gee. This tart was awesome!

boiled-hazelnuts

I’m not just saying that just because I didn’t have to roll out a crust. Which, by itself, was awesome.

skinned-hazelnuts

Even though I had to make hazelnut praline, which wasn’t so bad except for the getting the skin off the hazelnuts.

completed-paste

I couldn’t boil the hazelnuts long enough to make the skin easier to remove, because the baking soda made a lot of foam in the pot and I had to keep taking the pot off the burner.

crust-construction

But once I got the skins (mostly) off, and toasted, and covered with caramel, they ground down into this paste that would have been good enough to eat with a spoon. Oh, wait … I did eat that last bit of it with a spoon. Shhhh!

dough-in-pan

So the hazelnut praline was, in itself, awesome, in spite of adding an extra component to the tart construction.

mousse-filling

The tart crust was really good too. Soft, flavorful, food processor friendly. I baked it and it did puff up like Rose warned. But then it sunk back down and it was perfect. It would make really good cookies too, with a whole egg.

whole-tart-landscape

The mousse layer was also, dare I say it, awesome. And easy. I veered slightly off Rose’s instruction with the last whipped cream addition. I underbeat the whipped cream. I scraped it into the other mixing bowl with the cream cheese, praline paste and brown sugar, and beat it more. That worked out just fine.

whole-tart-top

Ganache? Easy! Tart assembly? Easy.

cutup-tart-top-closeup

I skipped the candied hazelnuts, because I put all the hazelnuts into the praline. I used nonpareils instead, which are still sugar.

cutup-tart-side-closeup

Everyone who had some loved this tart. And I didn’t feel too bad about giving away slices because they didn’t look like leftovers. Awesome!

Mini Gateaux Breton

SUMMARY – buttery, nutty and tender, these tiny cookie gems will impress even your most fussy aunt or mother-in-law. Double the recipe because these will disappear quick.

toasted-almonds-sugar-in-processor

These cookies were so good and so easy!

processed-sugar-almonds

I, like Marie, didn’t have the exact correct pan. I did a little digging through my pantry, and found a super-mini bundt pan that I must have bought specifically to make these cookies. I don’t remember what I actually bought it for!

finished-dough

The hardest part about making these cookies was finding good butter. I went back to PriceRite to get more high-fat European style butter for $1.99 for 7 oz, but of course they were out. I got some Kerrygold Irish butter from the coop instead.

mini-mini-bundt-pan

The dough came together easily. My smallest cookie scoop makes 10 gram dough scoops so I didn’t have to scale every single cookie. Of course I did scale a few of them to make sure how much to fill the scoops. I didn’t care much if some cookies were 12 grams instead.

scooped-cookies

I sprayed baking Pam on the pan indents, plus dropped the dough balls onto a floured plate, and dusted my hands with flour. to roll them.

dough-in-pan

The cookies didn’t stick at all. I over-baked the first batch a little, but the cookies still didn’t stick. No need to work them out with a needle or skinny knife. Yay!

finished-cookies

I didn’t use my pinkie finger to press the dough in, I used the flat end of my big whisk. It worked. The last batch I forgot to press into the molds. The design was looser but still visible.

closeup-finished-cookies

These cookies are so cute! Like Barbie bundt cakes.

tops-of-cookies

I will make more of these, and double the recipe. Maybe dunk them in some melted chocolate. Mmmmm. These might also be good made with almond meal instead of flour. I might have to try that, too.

Summary: a starter plus two risings make a surprisingly light, well-flavored and tender fully whole wheat walnut bread.

bread-crumbI don’t like homemade whole wheat bread.

It’s either flavorless or bitter. It’s dry and weighs as much as a cement block.

I don’t like making it either. You either have to trust the market to have reasonably fresh flour (which it usually doesn’t) or drive to your local coop and buy it in bulk because their turnover is better.

This bread changed my mind.

It was full of great flavor, light, tender and really, really good. Plus it had nuts and who doesn’t like nuts?

I did cheat a little. Or maybe a lot. I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour. Yes it looks white to start but it does bake up a little darker. Plus it’s what I had on hand since I don’t use the other whole wheat flour enough to keep it around. I’d rather use my freezer real estate for other things, thank you very much. I made a couple of other changes that you will see later on.

But first, the starter.

wholewheat-starter

My only deviation from the recipe was to mix the water, honey and yeast together first, and let them get acquainted a little before adding the flour. I had regular yeast, not instant, so I thought blooming the yeast first would give it a kickstart and make sure there was some yeasty activity going on under the blanket of flour.

starter-coveredI have never used this particular technique for a starter. The closest I have come was using sourdough. But I think I may try this the next time I make bread, or even pizza dough.

I also let it sit in the bowl a bit longer than called for, only because it was Sunday and I had other projects going on, i.e. laundry 😉

starter-bubblingIt was a little hyperactive from sitting on top of the fridge. But it smelled really good!

roasted-walnuts-sesame-seedsI had already toasted the nuts. And now I know you can skin walnuts like hazelnuts! That is completely awesome. There’s some sesame seeds there too.

Since I didn’t have quite enough walnuts and no walnut oil, I added sesame seeds and used a bit of toasted sesame oil with plain canola oil. Yes this was a “clean out the pantry” baking project.

nuts-addedThe dough came together nicely and it was really sticky. Rose wasn’t kidding about that!

Several hours and two risings later, the dough was looking pretty good.

after-1st-risingIt was still sticky so I was generous with the bench flour.

loaf-formationI formed it up into a loaf. I didn’t work it that much at that point. I just tried to form it up so it would rise evenly.

loaf-ready-for-ovenInto the loaf pan. At that point it was pretty late on Sunday. So I popped it into the fridge to rise overnight. I have had good luck with that in the past. And from sad past experience, I knew I would probably be up early on Monday so I could bake it then.

In this case, when I checked it Monday morning, it really didn’t rise too much in the fridge. I left it in a warm spot while the oven heated up. It didn’t help. I put it in the oven on a baking sheet with a handful of ice cubes anyway.

The whole house smelled like the best bread ever. I guess that’s my reward for getting up early!

baked-loaf-dishAlthough it didn’t rise as much as I wanted, it looked really good coming out of the oven. The crust was going to be soft because I baked in glass. I didn’t mind that.

Before I left for work, I put it on a cooling rack.

baked-loaf-coolingAfter work, I came home to a great snack!

baked-loafIt sliced nicely, since there was no tough crust to break through. Even my household white-bread eaters liked it!

bread-slicesI will definitely using the starter technique again. And probably making more of this bread.

—–

BTW I am very glad this weekend is a make-up weekend. I have fair competition baking to do!

This year I am entering pecan coffee cake, champagne-raspberry cupcakes and carmel-glazed peanut butter cookies.

I will be sharing pictures with everyone, and please keep your fingers crossed!


This post is part of the Alpha Bakers bake along. It’s an online project where a group of food bloggers bake our way through The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Most of the recipes made during this project will not be shared. If you see something amazing and want to know about the recipe please let me know. You might want to get the book for yourself, or at least check it out from your local library before deciding.