Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Individual Maple-Brown Butter Monkey Breads

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of March, we were sugaring. We'd tapped our trees and collected a decent amount of sap. Sap runs when it gets above freezing during the day and still drops below freezing at night. We'd boiled and bottled, reveling in this very Vermont harbinger of spring. And then it snowed 17 inches and in an instant, winter was back with a vengeance and the trees were all, "What the what?" and promptly stopped supplying us with their magnificent tree juice.

The day before yesterday, it was warm enough that we started collecting again. Huzzah! And then today, it snowed a bit and decided not to get about 20º. Boo! And then I remembered a picture my friend Nancy Hopkins, the fabulous Food and Lifestyle editor at Better Homes and Gardens, posted to Instagram. She's forever traveling the world, experiencing wonderful food moments. This one was a close-up of a small pile of ooey-gooey Monkey Bread. It seemed just the thing to drive away the "spring but not acting like spring" doldrums and a way to honor the goodness of the small bit of syrup we'd managed to make.

I gotta say, it worked.

Brown Butter and Maple Monkey Bread
For the brown butter/maple brioche
1 pound plus 2 ounces all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)
2 ounces instant potato flakes, plain and finely ground
½ ounce instant yeast (I use Red Star)
½ ounce fine sea salt
3 ounces maple syrup
4 ounces whole milk
8 ounces unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
In a large bowl, combine the flour, potato flakes, yeast and salt. Whisk together. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Continue cooking after  the butter has melted until the butter starts to brown at the bottom of the pan and starts to smell “nutty.” Take from the heat and add the milk. Allow to cool until just warm.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the eggs and the maple. Continue whisking and add the butter/milk mixture, making sure not to scrape the bottom of the saucepan but if some small browned bits join the party, don’t worry.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix with the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together. Switch to the dough hook and continue mixing, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a bowl scraper, until the dough smooths out and is concentrated around the hook. It’s ok if a small portion of the dough still sticks to the very bottom of the bowl but the sides should be clean. This can take quite some time, 15-20 minutes, for the dough to properly develop. It will be a very soft, almost sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and transfer the dough to the bowl, spraying the dough with non-stick spray and covering with plastic wrap to proof for 1 hour, to almost double in size.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cut the dough into small pieces, about 120, and lay out on parchment lined sheet pans, spacing the pieces about ½ an inch apart. Spray with non-stick spray and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Allow to proof until the pieces are puffy and barely double their original size.

For the caramel
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup unsalted butter
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients but the vanilla in a saucepan, stirring over low heat until the butter melts and the caramel becomes homogenous. Continue cooking and stirring until the caramel thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Take from the heat and allow to cool about 5 minutes, then add the vanilla extract and stir.
On a sheet pan lined with parchment, grease eight (1 cup capacity) cocottes or ramekins with butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the caramel mixture to the bottom of each. Set aside.
For the coating
1 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a large plastic Ziploc bag. Shake to distribute the cinnamon. Gently add a few pieces of dough at a time and coat in the sugar. Place a few pieces at the bottom of each prepared cocottes, being careful not to squeeze the pieces and don’t place them too closely together. Sprinkle another teaspoon of  sugar on top of the pieces and then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of caramel on top of that. Continue adding layers of sugar coated dough to the containers, sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar and then caramel until all the dough pieces are added.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is browned and a thermometer inserted into the brioche reads 210ºF.
Allow the monkey breads to rest about 10 minutes and then turn them out onto plates. Serve immediately alone or with ice cream. Make sure to serve warm.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Sugar Glider Kitchen: The Place to Learn to Bake

I perform a trick when I teach pies at my little baking school, Sugar Glider Kitchen. I do it after the class has made the perfect pie crust and I’ve left their future flaky perfection to chill in my bakery refrigerator.  I roll out my dough and start cutting it into strips. I weave the dough together, stopping now and again when a student needs to see the pattern again. Once the pattern is set, I execute a slight of hand. Voila. A perfect lattice sitting upon a jewel toned pile of berries in a blind baked bottom crust as if by magic. There have been gasps in the past when I’ve done it. It’s the pastry version of whipping a tablecloth from a beautifully set dining scene with nary a bobble. Perhaps not so dramatic but certainly more delicious. None of this trickery matters, however, if once you bake the pie it isn’t delicious.

That’s why the first part of my Perfect Pie class I take the time to explain, demonstrate, and encourage my students to get their hands dirty so that they can experience what a great pie dough feels like because it’s never “easy as pie,” is it? For some, pie dough is a baking albatross. It comes out tough or crumbly. Soggy or dry. Students have come to me, shame-faced, and admitted that they buy their pie crusts because it’s too painful to take the time to make it from scratch and have it all go wrong.

Easy to ignore a camera in the face when I'm making a lattice.

I take the time to explain that a great dough doesn’t necessarily behave like you think it should. Not at the beginning, anyway. It won’t look perfect and smooth. In fact, it often looks a little dry and what I call “shaggy.”

“Squeeze it,” I encourage.  I take it between my fingers to demonstrate.

Students, hard at work, making croissant.

“If it holds together when you squeeze it, you’re good. No more water.”

The reactions vary from disbelief to incredulity. That mess I’m calling pie dough cannot be, in fact, pie dough. But it is. And it’s a great pie dough. Flaky and tender. Don’t get me wrong. There are a few steps you have to take to transform the mess from shaggy to perfect but walking students through the process is my favorite part of the job. Better than executing the perfect lattice, in fact. But why not learn to do both? I’ll teach you how. In fact, I'll teach you how to make croissant and eclair and all manner of wonderful baked goodness. I'll be here waiting for you in Vermont when you're ready.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vegan Desserts on Wendy Williams!

In case you missed it, I was on Wendy Williams making vegan desserts from my book Let Them Eat Cake.

For the recipes, click HERE.

And ERMAHGERD! The first class at SUGAR GLIDER KITCHEN launches exactly one week from today! If you're in the Hartford, Vermont area and want to learn how to make PERFECT PIE (and who doesn't?), sign up now. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sweet Valentine's Day Treats from the Today Show

I spent another great morning sharing some of my favorite Valentine's Day treats on the Today Show. It never gets old. This time, we made surprise inside cookies and some insanely decadent yet simple truffles.

You can watch the segment here and enjoy the recipes by following THIS link for the cookies and THIS link for the truffles.

Friday, January 27, 2017

SUGAR GLIDER KITCHEN: the place to learn to bake

It's been a wee bit quiet here on this site. For that I apologize. But I've been baking up something fabulous. I've been converting my commercial baking space in Vermont into a classroom. I have loved teaching at King Arthur Flour enormously (I'll continue teaching my classes there and at other venues across the country) but I don't get to do it as often as students, or I, would like. Enter:  Sugar Glider Kitchen. Go check it out to see what the experience is all about.

I'm offering small classes of up to 12 people in all things baking. The first classes start on the week of February 22nd, my mom's birthday. I couldn't think of a better time to start the venture. To go straight to the class schedules, click HERE

You'll find everything from macaron to croissant classes but I'm also offering classes for beginners as well. Starting in April, I'll offer a Baking 101 class at the top of the month. 

I'm also offering private classes for parties of 8-12 students. Email or fill out the contact from on to set up your private class.

Macaron Class

Sunday, December 11, 2016

December's here!

Happy December! Just wanted to update you on my teaching schedule. I'll be at Stonewall Kitchens in Maine, January 6th and 7th. Learn Quick Puff and Choux! Click this LINK to go to the Stonewall site to register.

And here's a little project I worked on for my favorite little boy.

Pic by Raymond Prado

Pic by Raymond Prado

Pics by Raymond Prado


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello sweet people. I hope you're doing well. We've already had some snow at Freegrace and we are so ready to hunker down and get cuddly. But sometimes I have to travel outside of my beloved Vermont and there's no better reason than to play with my friends at the Today Show. Even better? Getting to conspire on some cake shenanigans with Duff Goldman. We put together a pie cake that we could live with and actually enjoy (because so many of the other versions are abominations).

If you missed it, you can watch the segment and get the recipe here!