I was chatting with a colleague this week about cooking and baking and cookbooks. He said he inherited a cookbook and maybe should find it and cook from it. When I told him I have 50+ cookbooks he asked “how do you know which recipe to use?” That question has been haunting me all weekend. I wanted to bake bread. I wanted to bake cookies. I needed to make quiche for a church event. Which recipes to use? I was perusing several cookbooks and found there are too many choices. I make a list for each cookbook on what I want to try and then go to the next book. Reading cookbooks has always been enjoyable but having too many is like 31 flavors and asking a toddler to choose chocolate or vanilla!
I was reading and rereading through my Fleischman’s Yeast Bread booklet. This has been used for so many years that the cover is no longer attached. Choices, choices, choices! I thought about making the sour dough starter. I thought about making Lucia buns and a chocolate yeast cake. After an hour or so I settled on the Apple Crumb Coffeecake. We have some older apples that need to be used. So after several cups of coffee and cookbook browsing on a lazy Saturday morning I bake.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (equivalent to one package active dry)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs at room temperature
2 large apples, cored, peeled and sliced
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter
In mixer bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and yeast. In a Pyrex glass measuring cup put the water, milk, and 1/3 cup butter. I nuke this in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until 120 degrees. I use a thermometer as I have been known to kill yeast with too hot liquids. Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients and beat two minutes on medium speed. I am using the regular paddle and not the dough hook for this. The recipe is in the section on “no need to knead”. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. I used the total of 2 1/4 cups at this point. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Spread evenly in a 9 inch square pan that has been greased or sprayed.
Meanwhile I am cutting up apples and sprinkling a bit of lemon juice on them. Arrange these on top of the batter in the pan. I have not yet made the crumb topping either. So I melt the last 6 tablespoons of butter (not the best way to make crumb) and add the 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. This makes a paste vs. a crumble and I diligently spread this onto the apples. Cover and let rise for about an hour. It should double in bulk.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Looks good. Mine bubbled up a bit on the edges due to the melting of the butter in my crumb/paste.
Next on the baking list was quiche. My standard quiche is 4 eggs and 2 cups cream/milk/half-and-half per 9-inch pie. Add whatever else you fancy, cheese, onion, bacon, etc. Here’s the final product:
I had a baking weekend! Two types of bread and custard tarts. I have been fascinated by custard tarts ever since being a devotee of As Time Goes By on PBS. Lionel’s favorite was custard tarts. These pastry treats are not easily found in my grocery bakery. Nor are they a staple in many of my cookbooks. What type of custard is to be used? My two French cookbooks had several types: patisserie, baked, Chantilly, anglaise. I had recently made a pumpkin pie which is essentially a custard pie. Should I pre-bake the tart shells or could I bake the custard and the pastry at the same time? So I got out several cookbooks. I looked at the custard/pastry cream recipes. I had to choose what to do. So here’s what I did.
The Art of French Cooking suggested pastry cream for tarts. These recipes are a bit fussy. French Feasts instructions are not always clearly written. So that left (not really, I have over 50 cookbooks) Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. And his pastry cream recipe was simple and not fussy at all. The only change I made was to add the zest of one orange.
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 eggs or 4 egg yolks (I used two eggs)
2 cups cream, half-and=half, or whole milk (I used light cream)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest from one orange (my addition)
orange marmalade for glaze (my addition)
4 tart shells; I used a refrigerated pie shell and cut it into four to line four individual tart pans. Pre-bake these.
Do you notice a theme of “2s”?
In a saucepan combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl mix the eggs with the cream. Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients over medium heat for about ten minutes whisking constantly to prevent lumps. This will thicken. The test for readiness is when the mixture coats a spoon and when you draw a line through the coating the line will hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in butter and extract and zest. The butter will melt. Let this cool to room temperature before filling the shells.
I filled the four tart shells and had a cup of pastry cream leftover. I think this amount of cream would fill a 9 inch pie, or 2 more individual tarts. I then melted a small amount of orange marmalade to spoon onto each tart for added orange flavor and to make them pretty. I then grated a very small amount of dark chocolate on top. Chocolate curls would have also been nice. I put these in the fridge to set for about an hour. I then popped them, carefully, out of the tart pan and placed them on a platter to serve.
And here are pictures of the breads. These were not so successful. Eaten when first baked but then left alone. They seemed underbaked and either overproofed or underproofed. I think I will buy fresh yeast before trying bread again.