Sourdough Waffles and Low Tide

What is a recipe for a perfect Sunday morning? How about sourdough waffles followed by a trip to the reef at low tide?

Good to eat on Sunday morning.


Not good to eat, but nice to look at on Sunday morning.

A waffle iron is a necessary contraption. Although I’m pretty good at jury rigging equipment, I haven’t quite figured out how to make waffles without one.

  

I have a Cuisinart Belgian waffle maker and I love it. The surface is truly nonstick and it makes perfect waffles if I remember a few things:

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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

I made this dulce de leche cheesecake for my daughter M’s 21st birthday. She loves cheesecake, so I was pretty sure she’d like this, and she did. It’s a great cake for cheesecake lovers. It turns out it’s also a great cake for turning non-cheesecake lovers (people who say “I don’t like cheesecake”) into cheesecake lovers (people who say “this is the most awesome cake in recorded history” — yes, these were the actual words). That makes me happy, because she is the most awesome daughter in recorded history, so I’m glad everyone liked her cake!

Dulce de leche is caramelized sweetened milk, and it is amazing. There is no way anyone can not adore it. You can buy it in jars at Latin American markets, or make your own. I used David L’s recipe. It both flavors the filling and serves as the light-colored accent on the caramel topping. I made it less dark than some dulce de leche I’ve seen, although it’s not quite as pale as it appears in my photo.

Some hints for perfect cheesecake :

  • For a smooth batter, the cream cheese needs to be very soft. Leave it out overnight, or put it in the microwave a few seconds at a time.
  • Keep the mixer on low-medium speed, to avoid incorporating too much air.
  • Scrape the bowl and paddle diligently. There’s nothing worse than noticing a lump of unincorporated cheese stuck to the bottom of the mixing bowl as you’re pouring the filling into the pan.
  • A Springform pan can allow water to seep into the crust when you bake the cake in a water bath, even if you protect the bottom with foil. A deep, straight-sided cake pan is better. Unmold it by inverting it onto a plate and then again onto a second plate. It might stick a tiny bit but this is a creamy cake so you can smooth it out with an offset spatula and no one will notice it if the cake has a topping. If it’s to be left bare, try lightly buttering the plate onto which you invert the cake, as well as the plastic you wrap it with.
  • Cool the cake completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Leaving it in the water bath helps it cool slowly and prevents cracking.
  • For clean cuts, dip the knife in hot water and dry it with a towel before cutting each slice.
  • For a completely gluten-free cake, make the crust with gluten-free graham wafers.

I’m sorry there are no photos of the sliced cake. It went too quickly.

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Brød And Taylor Folding Proofer Review and Giveaway

I’ll be honest: the Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer was not something I thought I particularly had to have. When I needed to keep my dough or starter snug and warm, I had been content with makeshift “proofing boxes”: the oven with the light on, the top of my stove under the range hood lights, or a big plastic bag with a frequently-changed bowl of warm water.

But now that I have one, I’m over makeshift. The Brød and Taylor Folding Proofer is a tool that does one thing, does it well and without a fuss, and makes my baking life easier. It’s hard to ask for more than that from your equipment, isn’t it?

Plug it in, set the temperature, nestle your fermenting dough or proofing loaf inside its cozy incubator, and rest easy. Your dough will be well-cared-for at a consistent temperature, even if the temperature in your kitchen is not very bread-friendly. And constant temperatures make for more predictable proofing times. That’s good news if you’re a control freak, or if you just like your bread to turn out well.

The proofer has a roomy, collapsible design. It has an 18 x 14.5-inch footprint and folds down to less than 3 inches thick for compact storage. The interior dimensions are 15 x 12.5 x 8.5 inches, which can accommodate a quarter-sheet pan, most 12-cup muffin pans, two or three loaf pans or oval brotforms, or two round brotforms of up to 8 inches in diameter. I can create a second layer for additional loaves by stacking two 12-inch square baking pans with Sklips. I do wish the proofer were just a skosh larger, to take a half-sheet pan (13 x 18 inches).

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Sesame Sourdough Bagels

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If you think these don’t look like the sesame bagels you’re used to seeing, you’re right. We love sesame bagels, but seed loss was putting us at risk for sprouting a sesame plantation right on the dining room rug.

Sesame Field 20020400 2 Although it is a unique and lovely look, we decided this wasn’t quite the decorating direction we wanted to be taking. The solution turned out to be simple: sesame seeds in the dough rather than on top of it. If you want to make a generic dough for several different toppings, this isn’t the way to go (try these bagels instead). But if you’re willing to commit to your sesame seeds, it works well.

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For maximally chewy bagels, remember to use high-gluten flour (or add extra gluten to your regular bread flour) and mix the dough until it’s very strong! Add the toasted, cooled sesame seeds to the dough once it’s fully mixed.

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Biscotti Picanti

We might have a new favorite snack around here. Upon reading the recipe Lien chose for the Bread Baking Babes’ fourth anniversary (!), I predicted deliciousness, because it features quite a few of my favorite ingredients: semolina, anise seeds, olive oil. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these wildly aromatic, savory (but sweet, without a speck of sugar, thanks to the anise), flaky, crumbly Biscotti Picanti (Spicy Sicilian Rusks) from Anissa Helou’s terrific book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean.

Biscotti means “twice baked,” indicating the two baking phases involved here. The recipe calls for loaves of dough to be sliced prior to proofing, then baked initially on high heat before separating the slices and allowing them to dry thoroughly in a cooler oven. Because I added a little too much olive oil (140 grams instead of 130 – 135), and probably for other mysterious reasons, my dough was much too soft to slice before baking. So I baked the three loaves at 500F for 15 minutes, then sliced them with a serrated knife (at which point, my number one taste tester sampled one and declared “I. Love. Them.”) and spread the slices out on the baking sheet to dry at 175F.

I’m not apologizing for the extra olive oil; I’ll use the same amount when I make them again, because I. Love.Them. And already my mind is awhirl with ideas for variations on this delightful snack: What other seeds and spices could we include? What about toppings? And I’m dreaming of a sourdough version, of course.

I do believe the Babes (for links, see my right sidebar) are unanimous this month in pronouncing these biscotti a winner. Please bake with us! The recipe is here on Lien’s blog. To be included in the Buddy roundup, send a photo plus a link to your blog post or photo-sharing site to Lien by February 28.

 

Parchment Love

I used to have a love-hate relationship with parchment paper. I love that it keeps all kinds of things (bagels, hamburger rolls, grissini, cinnamon rolls…) from adhering to their pans. In fact, parchment is indispensable if you bake in or on metal pans. But I hate that the rolls of paper parchment are difficult to tear off cleanly, need to be cut with scissors every time to fit the pan, and can’t be reused more than two or three times, if at all.

Since I discovered reusable parchment sheets from Regency Wraps, there’s a whole lot more love going on in my kitchen.

  • The sheets can be reused hundreds of times, according to the manufacturer. I’ve had mine for a few months and they show no signs of wearing out.
  • They’re easy to clean with a damp cloth, and a little soap if they’re sticky or greasy.
  • They are easy to cut to the exact dimensions of your pans. The uncut size is 13 x 17 inches, large enough for a sheet pan, two 8-inch cake pans, or two 9 x 13-inch pans (which are usually a little smaller than that at the bottom). It’s worth having one for each pan you use regularly.
  • Once they’re cut to size, they can be stored right in their pans.
  • They can be used in oven temperatures up to 500F. Paper burns at 450.
  • They are more “nonstick” than paper parchment. I used to need copious amounts of semolina to keep bagels from sticking to the paper. With these sheets I don’t need any.

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And here’s even more for you to love: Forget flowers and chocolate — I would love to send some love to your kitchen in time for Valentine’s Day,  in the form of two reusable parchment sheets, courtesy of Regency Wraps.

Continue reading for giveaway details…