Monday, November 2, 2015

Cream-filled brioche buns: deception donuts

This whole idea is deceptive, start to finish. It's a complex recipe...but it's just a few simple components + time. It's filled dough...but the dough is no-knead. It's two basic, classic recipes combined, but the person I stole it from  - The Salty Tart's Michelle Gayer, via this article - mentions sort of making it up. It's simple, especially in the light of the reign of the Salted Caramel Mocha Red Velvet Oreo Cake Pop style of food blogging (which, I mean, no disrespect - I made an unholy dessert mashup  on the same weekend I made these and no I don't want to talk about it) and I also wondered about throwing in some blueberries, or a slick of ganache, or any number of sharp or tart elements, thinking it'd be too plain and sweet. I took Gayer's advice and left well enough alone, and I'm so glad I did.

Lede sufficiently buried, let's move on: this is a recipe for sorta-brioche filled with pastry cream, baked, and rolled in butter and sugar. It looks like one of those filled donuts, it tastes like...if one of those filled donuts got in a fight with a cream puff and they emerged as one, superhero-style.

You can use any brioche dough and any pastry  cream recipe you liked. This is what I used. The name brioche should be taken with a grain of salt - barely any egg! - but I liked the no-knead, no-mixer component with my impatient baby.

Cream-filled brioche buns
Makes 8 large rolls.

Adapted from the challah recipe in Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day. Makes a very easy to use, playdoh-like dough once chilled.

1 C warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 egg and 1 yolk, lightly beaten
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Splash of Grand Marnier, kirsh, brandy (optional)
3 1/2 c (440g) flour
1/2 c butter, very soft

Beat water, yeast, salt, eggs, flavorings, and sugar together. Add flour and mix until incorporated. Add butter in slices, beating or punching or wrestling until combined. Let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. Dough can be used immediately at that point, but it's much friendlier cold, when the butter has solidified. Refrigerate for a few hours or up to 5 days (hint hint: overnight. On a Friday.)

Pastry cream:
Adapted from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day.

2 cups milk
1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp butter
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (OR: vanilla bean. I have the feeling this would be a million percent better.)
Splash of grand marnier, brandy, kirsh, etc (optional)
1 egg
3 egg yolks (make meringues, macarons, or gross low-cal omelettes with the whites!)
3 tbsp cornstarch

Bring the milk, butter, salt, and half of the sugar to a simmer and turn off heat. Add vanilla and optional booze and set aside. Whisk remaining sugar with cornstarch and then eggs, beating to a paste. Slowllly add warm milk mixture, whisking constantly (a great use for your stand mixer if you have one!) until combined. Put the mixture back on the stove and bring to a boil, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes. It will thicken up considerably! Press through a sieve to remove any lumps (or just mix really well if you're less worried).

To finish:
A few tablespoons melted butter
White sugar (bonus for vanilla sugar!)

To assemble: Sometime within the next few days: divide dough evenly into 8 balls. Roll the first ball into a circle about 1/4" thick, and dollop a spoonful of pastry cream. Wet the edges of the dough circle with water and pinch them up to seal. Use whatever method you like - I went with sort of a soup dumpling gather, but it doesn't matter as long as it is definitely sealed. Pinch and smoosh to make sure - this is super important!!
Place with a generous amount of space on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Let rise until they about double in size (30-40 minutes) and bake in a 350 oven for 20ish minutes, or until golden brown.
Move to a cooling rack and brush with melted butter. Roll/dip/sprinkle with sugar. They should look like sugared donuts! Let cool for a few minutes, but not too many - they are lovely hot. Devour with coffee, with bourbon, with bacon and eggs and fruit, or just standing in your kitchen.

The only thing I'd consider adding to these is a handful of blueberries, preserved sour cherries, a pinch of cranberry sauce, or a bit of  very sharp marmalade...something fruity and flavorful. I don't think they'd be better, but they'd also be very nice. I want to try Lunds 'holiday preserves' or whatever it's called (I think it's cranberry, pear, and orange) for Christmas morning.

(I also want some right now, but you know.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The frosting files: Unnecessarily opinionated base recipes

Yeah, sometimes I go on frosting spirals. Here are recipes, with notes on pros and cons and how I personally like to use it. I wanted to put them all in one place for future reference, and maybe possibly save someone the work...although, I mean, frosting research is pretty much the best kind of research so you know, don't let this stop you from, uh, experiments.

Also: I don't have a stand mixer, so all of these are either with a hand mixer or just by hand.

1. Regular ol' American buttercream

You know the drill. I'm not putting a recipe here. Mix some butter, some powdered sugar, thin with some milk, throw in some flavorings. 
Pros: Fast, reliable, sturdy, endlessly customizable. Pipes, crusts, and holds shapes well. Easy to keep all of the ingredients on hand. Sweet and tasty. Stands up well to strong flavorings like cocoa powder and lemon juice. This isn't fashionable to say, but I like the mouthfeel of classic homemade mom frosting.
Cons: Can be stiff, once you add too much milk there's no going back, Very, very sweet by necessity - it's entirely made of butter and sugar. Gritty in that fine powdered sugar way. Can be hard to push through the piping bag. 

I like to use this for between layers, as it can be as thick as you need it to be. Classic and very easy.  You don't need a stand mixer, although that'll make it lighter and smoother and much easier. 

2. Light and fluffy whipped cream cheese/stabilized whipped cream

1 oz block cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar (whiz it in the food processor/blender if you're nervous about it dissolving but honestly it's just fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
Pinch of salt

Throw it all in the mixer. Mix it until it's whipped. Use more or less sugar to taste - taste it when it's incorporated but before it's really gotten whipped, so you don't overwhip it or have grit in your frosting. I like what the almond adds, but less is more unless you're actually wanting almond cream cheese frosting.

Pros: Super light and fluffy! A little denser than whipped cream. Lovely piled on anything. None of the structure comes from the sugar, so this is the ideal frosting for anyone who "hates frosting" because "it's too sweet." Not runny and heavy like cream cheese buttercream. Good slathered on a single-layer cake, dolloped on cobblers, and as the cream layer in a fresh fruit cream pie (don't bake it!)

Cons: Not for decorating. This is fluffy and light, a very stable whipped cream, not for precision or 'gluing' things together. Needs a thick layer, or it'll sorta start to soak into a cake left overnight. Not ideal for piping, but you probably can. Use caution with it as a weight-bearing filling, but good for something piped in. Best used fresh.

3. Cheater's Swiss meringue buttercream

Okay DON'T JUDGE ME and don't knock it until you try it. I've spent hours fussing with making real Swiss meringue buttercream, successfully and unsuccessfully, and remember noticing that the egg white + sugar mixture tastes remarkably similar to marshmallow fluff. I gave it a shot, and...yep.

1 regular jar (not the big jars...sorry, don't remember the oz) of marshmallow fluff
16 tbsp cold unsalted butter (two sticks), cut into slices
Salt, to taste
Flavorings - at least some vanilla

Dump the fluff in a bowl and mix in the butter a few cubes at a time. Eventually it'll get fluffy and silky. If it breaks, add more butter! I like to use unsalted and then salt to taste but do your thing. Add in flavorings to your heart's content - I just threw in probably half a cup of dulce de leche and several tablespoons of cream cheese and it's totally fine. If you want chocolate, do melted cooled chocolate, not cocoa powder. Google 'swiss meringue buttercream' + your desired flavor and I promise someone will have you covered. Nutella! Raspberries! Peanut butter! Bourbon! Doesn't taste particularly like marshmallow, but I'd add a bit of vanilla at least or it's vaguely reminiscent of a rice krispy bar.

Pros: All the same ones as SMBC, plus almost instant. So, so silky and light and creamy. Easy to pipe, holds it's shape, perfect for topping cupcakes. Can be used as a filling as well. Incredibly stable and easy to flavor. No muss, no fuss, two base ingredients. Buttery and smooth, keeps well, I've even heard it can be frozen (but haven't attempted.) An awesome hack for a classic frosting. If you grab some gel food coloring, you can do pretty much anything you want with this.

Cons: Must be at room temperature for serving or it feels and tastes like cold butter, so needs some lead time out of the fridge if made in advance. Can't go too warm, or it can be a bit greasy.

4. Cooked flour frosting (roux frosting/grandma frosting)

Just use the Tasty Kitchen recipe. I haven't made this in several years, but it was my gateway to frostings other than American buttercream.

Pros: Light and fluffy and creamy, not gritty, less sweet, since the structure comes from the roux and butter. Fun to make and very tasty. More neutral than the tangy whipped cream cream cheese, but similar texture.

Cons: Does not last well - seriously. Gets weird if you frost the cupcakes and keep them in the fridge overnight. Can be bland. I like the taste and mouthfeel of this frosting a lot, but I haven't made it in at least four years because I can't handle the whole doesn't-last-well thing.

5. Ganache

Rich, dark, truffle-y. No really, this is what truffles are made of. It's chocolate + cream or butter and the ratio is variable based on what you want to use it for. A little corn syrup (don't faint, you totally eat candy) can make it a bit chewy and elastic, which is nice when pouring over a cake. Use super dark chocolate if you're one of those. One made with butter will completely firm up when cool, obviously, since both ingredients are solid at room temperature.The Kitchn has a good post. So does Joy of Baking,

I like to spread a slick of this over cupcakes, and then top them with a different frosting. It's easier than cutting out the middles and filling them, and is a nice even layer of tasty chocolate surprise. Great for when the cupcakes just seem a bit plain.

Pros: Rich, tasty, elemental chocolate. Great for filling, and as a glaze or drizzle. People get super into it.

Cons: Very very intense and can overwhelm a dessert very easily. I mean, it's pure truffle, which are eaten in small portions for a reason. Can be finicky with the texture - lovely and shiny when it works but easily becomes messy and dull.

ADDITION 5/25/2017:

6. Chocolate whipped cream

What it says on the tin. Delicious and more stable than regular whipped cream.

6 oz chocolate, chopped. Dark, milk, white, whatever goes with what you're making.
2 cups heavy cream
dash salt

On the stove or in the microwave, heat cream until hot but not simmering. Pour over chopped chocolate and salt in a heatproof bowl and stir to combine. Allow to sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate, then stir until smooth - there should be no flecks or chunks of chocolate. Chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight - it needs to be super cold or it won't whip. When ready to use, whip just short of stiff.

Pros: Delicious, light, smooth, easy, weirdly impressive. White chocolate makes for a great stable whipped cream, dark chocolate is surprisingly intense, and milk chocolate is sweet and creamy.
Cons: See #2. This is a little more stable but not much.

Okay! Eventually I might put up some of my favorite variations, but these are the base recipes I use.