I made that!

The day of the graham cracker.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it! by brandi on December 31, 2008

Today is a good day for a graham cracker. And I really wanted to make my own.


It was kind of a sticky dough, and I was being impatient. So I didn’t let it hang out in the fridge long enough before cutting it into cracker sized pieces.  Hence, trapazoidal crackers.


They actually look like graham crackers! And taste like them! A tad overcooked I think, but delicious – with a cinnamon sugar coating on top.


But what to do with all these graham crackers?


Oh yes. We went there.

GRAHAM CRACKERS RECIPE (from Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries of  La Brea Bakery”):

2 1/2 cups plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp kosher salt

7 TBSP (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen

1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover

5 TBSP whole milk

2 TSP pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

3 TBSP granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

– In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

– In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

– Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

– To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon, and set aside.

– Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

– Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

– Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll. Dust the surface with more flour and roll out the dough to get about two or three more crackers.

– Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a toothpick or skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

– Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.


Project: Cinnamon Buns

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on December 18, 2008

I’m supposed to be on a plane right now, heading to Alabama for holidaying with the family. The Chicago airport had other plans for me (I KNEW not to fly through Chicago in winter, but I forgot…..argh). So to take advantage of this unplanned day of relaxation, I’m experimenting with a cinnamon bun recipe.


Filling the dough with cinnamony goodness before rolling it up.


Such cute little bunnies!


I call that one!


Sticky sticky heavenly stickiness. With sticky caramelized sugar on time. Thank goodness Megan conveniently showed up to help me & John eat them. And Bobby. And Pantea. And Scott & Brian…hmmm…I think people like cinnamon buns.

Some xmas candy.

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, The Candy Store, Yes We Can! by brandi on December 17, 2008

Yesterday I woke up with a head cold. It was sad. But instead of lying under the covers all day, I invited Pantea over for a holiday cooking marathon. Xmas presents: check.


Of course no holiday baking is complete without some brittle.


And some pretty good peanut and sea salt brittle, if I do say so myself.


And pear butter. Deliciously spicy pear butter.  Liquid pie I call it. This year is all about pears for me. Pear & molassas upside down cakes, pear pies w/ pecan crust, pear and ginger crisps…I just can’t stop.


Yes, it’s bacon. Candied bacon. And yes, I cut it up with scissors.


That’s right. Candied bacon toffee. With sea salt and a hint of cayenne. The piece de resistance. My new favorite candy. EVER.

It’s marmalade time!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Yes We Can! by brandi on December 16, 2008

Lemon marmalade that is. For xmas presents.








Actually kinda bitter for my taste. But I think I know a few people who will be into it.

Because everything’s better with bacon cornbread

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too by brandi on December 15, 2008

Occasionally I like to trade dinner for a Top Chef Marathon with my old roomies. It was a night just like that. And there was a request for cornbread. I’ve had my eye on Peter Reinhardt’s recipe from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”, so i gave it a shot.


First roast some bacon.


And then bake it on top of the cornbread.


And viola! The perfect winter dinner. And by that I mean chili. But vegetarian chili for the delicate among us.


1 cup (6 oz) coarse cornmeal
2 cups (16 oz) buttermilk
8 oz bacon (approx. 10 slices)
1 3/4 cups (8 oz) flour
1 1/2 Tbsp (.05 oz) baking powder
1 tsp (.25 oz) salt
1/4 cup (2 oz) white sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz) brown sugar
3 eggs
2 Tbsp (1.5 oz) honey
2 Tbsp (1 oz) butter, melted
2 1/2 cups (16 oz) corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp (1 oz) bacon fat or vegetable oil)

– The night before making the bread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.

– The next day, fry the bacon or cook it in the oven. Drain off the fat into a can or bowl and save for greasing the pan. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it into coarse pieces.

– Preheat the oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and brown sugar. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Dissolve the honey in the melted butter and then stir the warm honey-butter mixture into the eggs. Add this to the soaked cornmeal mixture.

– Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the batter is blended and smooth. Stir in the corn kernels until they are even distributed.

– Place 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in 10 inch cake pan or a 9×13 inch baking pan. Place the pan in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the fat gets very hot. Remove the pan, tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top, gently pressing them into the batter.

– Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes, until the bread is firm and a tester comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. For muffins, fill muffin tins to the top and bake at 350 F for the same amount of time.

A little late, but…Pre-Thanksgiving Day Pie Extravaganza!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on December 14, 2008

Since alot of us go away to be with our families on Thanksgiving, every year my friends get together a couple of weeks before to celebrate with each other. It’s a great big pile of different family traditions and recipes. I, of course, make pies.


Getting my trashy on with a the good old Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe. I promise, I don’t normally bake things out of cans. I also promise that it was organic pumpkin.


Turned out a very pretty pie. I do love pumpkin pie.


Sleepy pie (AKA Hazelnut Espresso Pie).


Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Celebrating with Cake! by brandi on December 10, 2008

For a dual birthday party for Megan & Leila I was in charge of the cupcakes. Since it’s deep in winter, the flavor options were a bit limited (especially since a certain Megan doesn’t like ginger). But lemon is always a winner, and I’ve been craving coconut milk. And well, there’s always room for caramel.


And coco-lem-amel was born! Lemon cake covered with caramel sauce, coconut milk buttercream and toasted coconut flakes. Really just fabulous.


A little drippy maybe, but who minds a sticky mess of a dessert? Not me…


Posted in Playing With Yeast by brandi on December 4, 2008

Today I made ciabatta!


Since I’m really new to bread, I spent alot of time staring at it. I don’t think I got the shape right, and the crumb was tighter than it was supposed to be, but not bad.


And went really well with my curried butternut squash soup!

Pie Workshop

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Certified Pie Ninja by brandi on December 2, 2008

Jimmy mentioned he was looking to learn some tips on making good pie. Naturally I couldn’t resist a day of pie making and wine drinking. We made a 4 pies: 2 apple (1 with a laminated crust and one with a regular crust), 1 banana cream & 1 lemon meringue. Here are some photos of the apple, since the others were more…well, they had good personalities.


Rolling the laminated dough.


Shaping the dough.


Filling the dough with apples.


And there she is, our apple pie. There’s something about the process of making pie that makes me feel like I just gave birth to something precious. Not too precious to eat, but definitely worth staring at lovingly.

Brioche Man!

Posted in Playing With Yeast by brandi on December 1, 2008
Meet Mr. Brioche. The bread that started it all for me. And by “all”  I mean this blog.

As charming as he was, we had to eat that brioche. And he was mighty tasty.


BRIOCHE RECIPE (Peter Reinhart):


1/2 cup unbleached bread flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm whole milk


5 large eggs, slightly beaten

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour

2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg, whisked until frothy, for egg wash


– Stir together the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk until all the flour is hydrated. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for 20 minutes, or until the sponge rises and then falls when you tap the bowl.


– Add the eggs to the sponge and beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add to the sponge and eggs and mix for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes to allow the gluten to develop. Then, while mixing on medium, add in the butter one quarter at a time, allowing the butter to be fully assimilated before adding more. Continue to mix for about 6 minutes more. You will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl during this time. The dough will be very soft and smooth.

– Line a sheet pan with parchment and mist lightly with spray oil. Transfer the dough to the sheet and spread it to form a large rectangle, about 6 inches by 8 inches. Mist the top with spray oil and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Put this in the refrigerator and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

– Remove from the fridge and shape while very cold. If it warms up or softens, return it to the fridge. No matter what shape you do, only fill the molds or pans half way to allow for expansion during proofing.

– Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Proof the dough until it nearly fills the molds or loaf pans, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently brush the tops with egg wash. Cover the dough with plastic wrap that has been lightly misted with spray oil. Continue to proof for another 15 to 30 minutes.

– Preheat the oven to 400F for petites brioches a tete, or 350F for larger shapes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes for petites brioches a tete, or 35 to 50 minutes for larger shapes.

– Remove the brioches from the pans as soon as they come out of the oven and cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes for small brioches and 1 hour for larger shapes before serving.