Pommes Dauphine

Country of origin: France

Pommes dauphine (little dolphin princesses, I like to think) are little potato dumplings – but with a difference. When you bite into one, you go through the crispy outer shell with soft airy potato inside. They are a more sophisticated cousin of the potato croquette, and a bit more exciting than pommes duchesse, which just has egg added to mashed potato. So what’s in them? Mashed potato mixed with choux pastry, formed into little balls and deep fried.

Sadly I ate them all, plain, as they were cooked, but they would be a delicious accompaniment with meat, fish, nut loaf or vegetables, and a sauce.

This recipe was very easy to follow and made about 16 small dauphines. The recipe forms the dauphines with two tablespoons of mixture, but my deep fryer is far too small to cook that size properly, so I made mini-sized ones, using about a teaspoon of mixture. Also, be very careful as you get to the end of the frying time, they have a tendency to burst if cooked too long:

I think you could also make dauphines from sweet potatoes, celeriac or parsnip, ensuring that as much moisture is removed when cooking them. Maybe this is dangerous territory, but I’m also thinking pumpkin, a bit of cinnamon and sugar in the choux…Thanksgiving dauphines?

Tips:

– After forming the mixture of mashed potato and choux pastry, put in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so, to firm it up; it will be easier to form into balls for the frying.

– Flour the palms of your hands when forming the dauphines, it will stop the pastry sticking to you.

– Use the first dauphine as a check for your temperature and seasoning. You want them golden brown and cooked through.

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Kugelhopf/Gugelhopf

Country of origin: Germany/Austria

I’m not really sure what the origins of this yeasty brioche-y cake are, but kugelhopf/gugelhupf most probably comes from Germany/Austria and rumour has it it that it was popularized in France by Marie Antoinette. In any case, it’s a delicious, fluffy and rich bread, sweetened mainly by plump raisins and a sugar syrup. It’s delicious as a snack, with coffee for breakfast or – dare I say it – made into a super-rich French toast after a day or two!

In my excitement to make these, I ordered what I thought were mini silicone kugelhopf molds without checking their size, and was shocked when they arrived in über-mini size! I went with it though, and on the whole was happy with the way the teeny kugelhopfs came out: golden and sugary on the outside, fluffy and studded with drunk raisins inside. The only downside is that they were a little on the dry side, especially the next day. This may have been because I went overboard in the flour department while forming the dough.

The recipe I followed was from Ladurée’s Sucre book, which really deserves a post of its own. I won’t gush too much, but it’s a nifty little book that looks the part too, beautifully bound in pale green velvet. It covers all the basics, as well as recipes for a long list of classic sweets like the brioche, éclairs, fruit tarts, ice creams and macarons.

There are many variations of kugelhopf recipes around, some using a yeast starter sponge, some not. Some recipes use all-purpose flour, while others call for cake flour or even bread flour. David Lebovitz’s post follows the recipe from A Baker’s Tour by Nick Malgieri, which starts with making a yeast sponge at the beginning and also includes chopped almonds in the dough. Another excellent post is from the translator of the Ladurée Sucre recipe book. Finally, this post follows Bo Friberg’s recipe from the The Professional Pastry Chef. The post also gives a comprehensive comparison of kugelhopf and it’s cousin, the pannetone.

Before you begin with the dough, you need to hydrate the raisins, by soaking in water or rum. The dough is fairly straightforward to make, it’s just the proofing stages that take a while. Cake flour is mixed with yeast, sugar, salt and eggs. After this mixture is kneaded, butter is added and it’s kneaded again. However, I found the dough extremely damp and hard to work with, so had quite a bit of extra flour.

Proof until the dough doubles in size:

Knock back one more time and refrigerate for two and a half hours. Next, butter the molds and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Measure out 35g for these mini-mini versions, roll into a small ball, flatten slightly and after flouring your finger, make a hole through the middle and place in the mold (prettiest-side down).

They are then proofed for a third and final time, at room temperature (again, I cheated and used a slightly warm oven instead). They will double in size and are now ready to be baked for about 15 minutes. I had some leftover dough, so used a muffin tin to bake muffin-hopfs. You can see below that the metal tin cooked these quicker and they came out a bit too brown:

All that’s left is to brush the little kugelhopfs with sugar syrup. The Ladurée recipe adds ground almonds to simple syrup, lending more texture as well as flavour. The recipe also recommends brushing the glazed kugelhopfs with melted butter to lock in moisture.

Now that I’ve attempted kugelhopf, I’m excited by the prospect of trying pannetone and stollen and all sorts of other Christmas-y goodies!

Tips:

-You don’t need to butter silicone molds in general, but if it’s the first time you’re using them, you should.

-Perhaps use a machine to knead the dough, as I think the warmth of my hands may have over-warmed the butter.

Onigiri

Country of origin: Japan

Onigiri are little balls of rice, stuffed with some kind of filling, for example, umeboshi, the tasty salty/sour plums, pickled with shiso leaf. They are portable, pretty virtuous in the health department and easy to eat, so are ideal for a packed lunch or picnic. They have been recorded as far back as the 11th century, when rolling the rice into balls made it easy to handle and eat.

They are a real doddle to make, you cook the rice, preparing the filling(s) in the meanwhile and then form into shape and wrap in nori seaweed.

 You can mix half white rice and half brown, but be warned that it won’t be as beautifully sticky as pure white grains.

Once the rice is done, while it’s still hot, put some on a piece of cling film, and pop your filling(s) of choice in the middle.

Grilled teriyaki salmon below, and then avocado:


Put a tad more rice on top and then wrap with the cling film to form a rice sphere, rolling around and squeezing a little,to pack it tightly.

Unwrap and then on another plate, roll in your coating of choice (I used sesame seeds and a little salt, but you could buy or make your own furikake* as well).

Tips

-For a delicious nutty-taste, use half white sushi rice and half brown

-Black and white sesame seeds will give a lovely contrast as a coating, as in Heidi Swanson’s Sesame Almond Brown Rice Balls

*To make your own furikake, take some nori seaweed and shred up into tiny pieces, add shredded or ground bonito flakes and sesame seeds, voila. This can be stored and is delicious sprinkled on some plain steaming sushi rice.

Bread

I love bread. I really really love bread. Especially still warm, buttered and sprinkled with a little salt. Mind you, I don’t stop there, give me dark dense rye bread as well, cold with salmon and cream cheese, or the white sliced supermarket kind, toasted, with strawberry jam. So you’d think by now that I would have attempted to make it, but I have been fabricating excuse after excuse: don’t have enough time, will be too difficult, what will I do with all that bread, the house is too cold for the yeast to rise, I don’t have a professional oven, pigs can’t fly…

Well, today was the day. I made simple white bread. A fantastic farmer/baker/all round foodie gave me this recipe and I am happy to say that the bread came out really well, apart from some slightly too-brown rolls, see below.

It does take a while, but you don’t knead (come on, it had to be done) that much hands-on time, more waiting while the dough is proofing several times. The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg is a most excellent reference and whilst its encyclopedic information on all things bread is too much to memorise, it’s gives a detailed explanation of what’s happening at each stage of the bread-making process.
The recipe is as follows: a one-step method to mix the yeast, sugar, warm milk, all purpose flour, butter and a little of the bread flour. You let this mixture rest in a warm place to get the yeast fermenting, then it’s knocked back a little, and the remaining bread flour and salt are added. Knead for about ten minutes until you have a soft but not-too-sticky dough. Once again, the dough is rested, this time until it doubles in volume (very good tip in the recipe about using a straight-edged container to do this in) and then the dough is portioned and panned. Lastly, the final proofing, and the bread goes into the oven.

I did use a baking stone, not to cook the bread directly on, but placed underneath the loaf pan and one of the baking sheets. Unfortunately, there was not enough room on the stone for all the bread, and since I wanted to cook it all at the same time, I had to put my rolls separately at the bottom of the oven. The undersides were almost-burned but I think that’s because I cooked them slightly too long.

The recipe is for three loaves, so you can either make them and freeze the surplus or make different shapes like I did. Use these times and temperatures for small rolls. I hope to have many more bread adventures with whole wheat, sourdough, baguette, challah and pumpernickel.

Tips:

-If you have a cold kitchen, either increase proofing times (apparently this makes the bread even tastier) or cheat like I did and heat the oven ever so slightly and use that as your proofer. Also, warm the milk to 100 degrees Farenheit to help the yeast along, but don’t go warmer than.

-It’s a small thing but after the second proofing, once you are about to portion and shape your bread, do tap any large air bubbles out, so that you have no big air holes in the bread (a real pain in a sandwich situation).

-I’m not sure it’s wise to open the oven mid-cooking, but given that my bread rolls are not all the same golden brown, I would rotate the tray next time to get an even colour.

-Resist the urge to break into that hot fresh-from-the-oven bread, as you’ll interrupt the final cooking stage. I was amazed to learn that when you take the bread out of the oven the outside temperature can be double that on the inside. While the bread is cooling, moisture leaves from the inside and the temperature of the inside and outside starts to become equal. It’s this that makes the starches start to solidify.