Baked Donuts

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A few weeks ago a couple of friends came down from Chiang Mai and so I invited them over for brunch.  Since they don’t have an opportunity to enjoy good old fashioned American breakfasts that often, I decided to make something special for them: baked donuts.  (Recipe here at 101cookbooks.com)

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Left: the dough about half-rised; Right: freshly-cut donuts starting the second rise.

Baked donuts start out very similar to their more common, Krispy Kremed cousins.  They are a basic yeast dough that is allowed to rise, is rolled and cut out, and then allowed to rise a second time before cooking.  But instead of going through the hassle of deep frying (and having your house smell for days afterwards), you put them into the oven.  While you can glaze them, I opted for a brush of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar.  The end result is fluffy and delectable – different from deep-fried donuts but still very enjoyable – and with the cinnamon-sugar, it has a classic element.

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We couldn’t be bothered with a tripod so as to fit all three of us into a single picture.

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For dessert, I thought it would be nice to do something refreshing and relatively healthy.  It was a bit of a splurge to buy raspberries and blueberries, both of which are imported, but they were really sweet and juicy.  Paired with a bit of natural yogurt and homemade granola, the berries made for a very celebratory parfait and a tasty concusion to a special brunch.

 

My Almost No-Knead Bread Recipe

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My cousin Jane recently asked me to share my recipe for almost no-knead bread, which I’ve adapted from a recipe in Nancy Baggett’s “Kneadlessly Simple” cookbook and techniques from Cooks Illustrated.  This weekend I completed a video showing the recipe.  For your enjoyment:

 

Baking with a Banneton

On my trip to the US in early December, my friend Mabel gave me a gift she had been holding for some time: a pair of banneton.  These wicker baskets are used by the French when proofing bread dough – after it is shaped and is undergoing its final rise before baking.  At some point in the past I had mentioned that I’d like to find some banneton and when she saw them, she purchased them for me.  Since December I’ve had the opportunity to use them a few time and thought I’d share the results.

The video is here, a nice, succinct two-and-a-half minute piece.  If you cannot view, pictures are below.  Link to the video is here.

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The banneton is traditionally made of wicker, although some modern ones are made of plastic.  The purpose of the wicker, though, is that it wicks moisture away from the surface of the dough, making for a better crust.

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Proper flouring is essential, otherwise the dough may not want to leave the cozy nest of the banneton once it is finished proofing.  After reading a few online baking sites, I decided to go with the suggested mix of all-purpose wheat flour and rice flour.  This worked very nicely and I’ve had minimal troubles with sticking.  It was also a neat way to use up some leftover rice flour.

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After removing the dough from the banneton, you can see the lines left by the wicker.  A few slashes to help the loaf expand and then slide it into the hot oven and onto a baking stone.

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The end result is very beautiful and, I must say, rustic-looking.  Not sure to what extent I can tell if the crust is really any better.  I create a steam bath in the oven with a small tray of boiling water, so the environment is going to be about as conducive to a good crust as this home-use oven will allow.  Nonetheless, Tawn and I have been enjoying the results, especially when it is time for panini!  Thanks for the thoughtful gift, Mabel!

 

A Little Weekend Food Porn

While my third attempt at macadamia nut cream pie chills in the refrigerator, I thought I’d share a few pictures of other things I’ve recently cooked.

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In Hong Kong, my host Dr. Chris prepared a sesame seed encrusted salmon served on top of cold soba noodles for his dinner party.  The next day I asked if he would send the recipe to me and he hasn’t yet got around to it.  However, since I was his sous chef, I was able to recreate the dish pretty closely.  The secret is that the skin side of the salmon is given an egg white and soy sauce wash so the seeds adhere and form a nice crisp crust.  You can see the original here.

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I also did some baking.  Leftover white bread, which Tawn had bought while I was in Hong Kong and subsequently forgotten in the refrigerator, was reconstituted as a bread and raisin pudding.  Could have used some more egg, but was still quite tasty.  A loaf of half-rye bread is in the back, along with a few dozen oatmeal raisin cookies.  I brought those along for a dinner with friends at Soul Food Mahanakorn (since they haven’t much on their dessert menu) and then gave the remainder of them to the restaurant staff.  Good way to make friends!

Have a nice Saturday.  I’ll let you know how the pie turns out.

 

Dinner with the Mac Cream Pie

Before leaving for Hong Kong, I wrote about my second attempt baking a macadamia nut cream pie.  I didn’t, however, share the rest of the meal.

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Preceding the pie we had a nice mixed green salad along with homemade focaccia bread based on a recent Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

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Served with a main course of braised pork with star anise, ginger, and bok choy, the same recipe I made a few weeks ago, served over rice.  This dish is getting better each time as I’m figuring out how to build a more complex flavor out of the stew.  Finishing with some soy sauce and some chopped garlic in chili oil definitely moves it forward a few steps.

 

As Bangkok Burned, I Baked

In times of fiery stress, we all find different ways to cope.  Nero played his fiddle (supposedly) while I turn to baking.  Truthfully, I started my baking well before the Red Shirt leaders had surrendered and the angry crowd turned into arsonists.  But I knew the army was making their move on the protest site and also knew Tawn and I would be stuck at home for the next few days, so a little bit of preparatory baking seemed wise.

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The finished products: granola, oatmeal raisin macadamia and oatmeal chocolate chip macadamia cookies, and a loaf of rosemary-olive bread.

 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Based on a recipe for Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries in the May/June 2005 issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I omitted the cherries and then divided the batch in two, half with chocolate chips and the other half with raisins.  And instead of pecans I used macadamia nuts.

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6.25 oz all-purpose flour, .75 teaspoon baking powder, .5 teaspoon baking soda, and .5 teaspoon salt, whisked together.  Mix together in a separate bowl 3.5 oz old-fashioned rolled oats, 4 oz nuts (pecans, but I used toasted and chopped macadamias), 5 oz dried and chopped sour cherries, and 4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate.  I used regular raisins and chocolate chips in place of the cherries and chocolate chunks.  Improvise!

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Cream together 12 tablespoons of soft but still cool butter and 10.5 oz of dark brown sugar.  Once combined, beat in one egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

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From there, add the flour until incorporated but be sure not to over-work.  Finally, add the mixture of oats and add-ins.  Before doing this, I divided my dough between two bowls, adding nuts and chocolate chips to one and nuts and raisins to the other.  But heck, you could combine all three together!

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Scoop out heaping tablespoons of the dough, forming a ball then mashing it slightly.  Cook in a 350 F oven for about 12 minutes, rotating to ensure even baking. Take out of the oven while the centers of the cookies still look a little undercooked.  Let sit on the pan for another five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  The cookies will remain soft and chewy this way, which is how I like my oatmeal cookies.  Cook for a few minutes longer if you prefer them crispy.  As my grandmother used to say, the world would be a boring place if we were all alike.

 

Rosemary Olive No-Knead Bread

I love making no-knead bread.  It turns out every bit as nice as artisanal bread and it fills the house with a wonderful aroma.  Oh, and it is easy because you don’t have to knead it!

I make mine with 20.5 oz of flour, roughly and even split between bread flour and all-purpose flour.  You could substitute whole wheat for about half the flour, but up the yeast a little.  I mix into that a scant 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and .75 teaspoon of yeast.  I stir it thoroughly and also add the chopped leaves from a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.  Dried rosemary does not work here.  Next, add one can of cold beer and stir the dough together.  You may need to add a little extra water, but only enough to pull together a pretty dry and stiff dough.  At this point you can add about a 1/2 cup of chopped olives, preferably kalmatta.

The secret to no-knead bread is time.  I fold the dough over a few times just to make sure there are no dry pockets and then coat it with a little bit of olive oil.  Put it in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, a lid, or aluminum foil.  Then put it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, folding it over once during the time.  This is when all the magic happens.  The dough kneads itself, forming beautiful, elasticky protein strands. 

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Then, take the dough out of the refrigerator, turn it over on itself another time or two, then place it covered in a cool room for another 8-12 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  Shape the dough into a loaf, deflating gently, and place on a parchment lined pie pan or oval casserole (if you want an oblong shaped loaf).  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature for another 2 hours or so until doubled.

Preheat a 500 F oven, preferably with a pizza stone in it to moderate the heat.  For the best effect, preheat a Dutch Oven (with lid) in your oven and, when ready and working very carefully, transfer the parchment paper with the dough into the Dutch Oven.  Spritz a half-dozen times with water and then place the lid on, returning to the oven.  After ten minutes, lower the temperature to 425 F and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until an instant read thermometer measures 210 F in the center of the loaf.  If you don’t have a Dutch Oven just cook it on the breadstone or on a baking sheet.  Will still turn out nicely but probably not as crispy a crust.

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Use extreme caution when handling the Dutch Oven as it will be very hot.  Lift the finished loaf out using the parchment paper and let cool on a wire rack. 

 

Granola

A few years ago when I was still living over on Asoke Place I got into a granola-making kick.  It is easy to make and relatively healthy, especially because you can control what goes into it.  Tawn wanted to have some granola and yogurt as a change in pace to our usual breakfast of oatmeal, so I pulled up Alton Brown’s recipe from the Food Network and made a few changes.

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Mix 3 cups rolled oats, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup cashews (which I substituted with pecans), and .75 cup shredded coconut.  You can also add wheat germ or other whole grains here to have some variety.

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In another container, mix .25 cup vegetable oil, .25 cup maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener, I suppose), and .25 cup brown sugar.  I realized later that the brown sugar is supposed to be mixed with the dry ingredients but it seemed to work this way, too.  Please note that Mr. Brown’s recipe called for an additional 2 tablespoons of both sugar and syrup, which seemed a little too sweet for me.  In fact, you could substitute a little orange juice for some of the maple syrup to good effect.

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Pour the sugar-oil mixture over the dry mixture and stir for several minutes with the spoon until the mixture is evenly moistened.  Note that it will still seem pretty dry; you don’t want it sopping wet!  If you would like, you can sprinkle on some cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or ground clove to give it a little spice.

Then bake in a 250 F oven on some baking sheets, stirring every ten to fifteen minutes, for about 75 minutes or until there is a nice even golden color.  After the mixture has cooled you can mix in 1 cup of raisins and/or other dried fruit to taste.  Store in an airtight container once completely cooled.

 

Well, some might criticize me for doing something as trivial as cooking in the midst of Thailand’s worst political crisis in fifty years, but it seems to me that there is only so much depressing news a person can take.  After a while, it becomes an echo chamber and you just get overwhelmed by the rehashed images, sounds, and stories.  Best to do something productive in the kitchen, which nourishes both your soul and your body.

 

Loaves and Fishes

While I haven’t posted any pictures in a while, rest assured that I have still been cooking.  In fact, Tawn even got in on the act.  Below, top row: Kalmata olive and rosemary bread; Bottom row: Golden raisin bread.

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After returning from my Sunday morning bike ride (more about that soon), Tawn prepared a nice brunch from one of Ina Garten’s cookbooks.  Tomato and feta cheese salad with cilantro and onion; and smoked salmon toasts with egg salad.

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Yummy, huh?  It Thai, we say it is น่ากิน (nâa gin) literally, eat-able or “looks delicious”.  Along the same lines, some other handy Thai adjectives include น่ารัก (nâa rak) literally, love-able or “cute”, and น่าเกลียด (nâa glìat) literally, hate-able or “ugly”.