The Fearless Baker: Drop Biscuits and book review

Today we created something perfect. I was torn with what to bake today for my third and final recipe from The Fearless Baker for the month, should I make the Lemon Buttermilk Glazed Loaf or some scones?! Then I looked in the fridge and noticed we had no cream but didn’t want to commit to an hour of oven baking, so I flicked through some more and came across Erin McDowell’s Drop Biscuit recipe. And ding, ding, ding – we have a winner!

My favourite scone recipe is Date and Lemon Scones that Gary Mehigan made on MasterChef Australia in its first year. The addition of lemon zest just does something to the date flavour that makes it so much richer and I love cracking one open hot out of the oven and slathering it in butter before devouring. So when I saw in the headnote that Erin’s mom would add dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips to the biscuits, I straight away declared we’re going to try these with dates and lemon zest.

The process was so simple. We chucked the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt into the food processor and pulsed it, then added the cubed butter and mixed until it resembled breadcrumbs. At this stage we added some lemon zest and the dates, the blades chopped them up for us, while the dry mix insured they wouldn’t puree. Lastly we added the wet ingredients that had been mixed together, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and mixed until the dough just came together.

Scoop them out with 1/4 cup measure onto a lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with raw sugar and ours baked in a moderate oven in 15 minutes.

Don’t they look gloriously golden and crunchy on the outside?! Inside they were soft and warm and flecked with bits of dates. I am so happy with this recipe that I don’t think I’ll go back to my Masterchef scone recipe ever again, especially since I ALWAYS have buttermilk on hand, but rarely have cream.

This book has been so fun to bake from and there are still many recipes I’d love to try – especially her pies and her cakes (including the lemon buttermilk loaf I mentioned above). There are also some raspberry ripple bars that have been calling to me and the peanut butter and jelly whoopie pies. Oh and the butterscotch blondies! Really the list could go on.

Erin’s flourless cocoa cookies I declared as the best naturally gluten free cookie I’ve had. These biscuits are incredible, and the madeleines were my first successful attempt! There’s also a peach pie that I will post about soon that was absolutely stunning.

I did have an incident in December where I *tried* to make the salted caramel swirl meringues and they failed miserably. The caramel sauce itself was good, but I think the weather was too temperamental to be baking meringues successfully and it just ended up one big flat swirly disc – there’s no photo because it was that bad. I turned it into a trifle with some stone fruit and whipped cream, but by the end of that dish, I didn’t want to look at another meringue for a long time. So I doubt I’ll try it again.

This is definitely a book worth picking up, it’s very approachable for the novice baker, but also has some recipes that look more challenging. I love Erin’s sense of humor, especially in her description of the different pastry decorating techniques. This is definitely not the end for this book on my blog – but from here on it’ll be relegated to Throwback Thursday.

To see the other two recipes I’ve tried from this book click on the links below:

Throwback Thursday: Custard Yo-Yos from Sweet

There is something about the sandy buttery texture of these biscuits that takes you to your happy place and if you are looking for the perfect indulgent treat, these most certainly are it.

I’ve been making these yo-yos since December when Food52 Baking Club was going through Ottolenghi & Goh’s baking book, Sweet. I worked out rather quickly that simply replacing the flour with gluten free flour would allow for a lovely gluten free option on the cookie platters I gave out at Christmas, and I made batch after batch of these with the first bunch of rhubarb I’ve ever purchased from the grocery store.

Well rhubarb season is over, so it was time to start experimenting with other fillings as our primary school fete is coming up and I’m looking after the cake stall and think these could be a huge hit if I get them just right. These are my first try with changing the filling, and the only thing I did was replace the rhubarb with strawberries (and I even took the time to roast them for 30 minutes in the oven).

The biscuits themselves are a mixture of gluten free flour, custard powder, pure icing sugar, salt, butter and vanilla which are then rolled into 15g balls and flattened with a fork before baking. They’re sandwiched with the roasted strawberries that have been pureed in a food processor with butter and pure icing sugar and a little lemon juice which give that delightful pink color and a tart fruity contrast to the sugary buttery biscuits.

Really they aren’t all that difficult, but they are delicate and you have to be super careful not to overbake or underbake them. I lost my first tray by overbaking which was a bit sad, but the rest came out perfectly as I adjusted the timing.

My only criticism of the recipe is that the icing is either really soft or really hard, rather than being that perfect in between. They set solid if in the fridge but can become a melty mess if you try to serve them at room temperature. I’m getting to the stage where I think I may give up on their icing recipe and look elsewhere for a solution that will be fete appropriate, as the cake stall is going to be outdoors. I do want to keep the strawberry though, as that seems to make them a bit different to the vanilla or lemon or passionfruit fillings you normally see.

Regardless of that, I love this recipe and have written it out in my recipe book for safe keeping. It’s nice to give the gluten free person in your life something that doesn’t feel like they’re compromising. These make a really sweet gift!

What I Ate Wednesday (14/3/18)

Just your typical hectic Wednesday…

Take away double shot almond milk flat white for the morning school trip

Whipped banana porridge with cinnamon and peanut butter and some frozen berries – my go to meal that can fill me up for a good chunk of time and gives me energy to keep going. Had this at about 10:30, when I finally had a chance for breakfast!

Lunch was small but that’s because I was still full from breakfast. Some wafer crackers with green olive artichoke tapenade and a medley of little tomatoes. And a refilled water bottle!

A last minute cup of tea before the school pick up run.

Pi day meant we had to eat pie! Reheated apple sausage pie with…

A simple green salad.

Dessert was bourbon rosemary peach pie with french vanilla ice cream and another cup of tea. (Both pies were made yesterday so that I didn’t have to worry about cooking today.)

The Fearless Baker: Lemon-Rosemary Madeleines

I’ve had my Madeleine pan in the freezer for over a week now, waiting for some free time to have another go at making them. And since I had lemon zest and rosemary on hand, it seemed too perfect not to try Erin McDowell’s variation from The Fearless Baker. And spoiler alert…

…they have a hump! I think I’ve finally worked out what to do with my oven to achieve that characteristic Madeleine appearance and I’m so happy that it wasn’t all that difficult after all, and the recipe was really quick to throw together.

You whisk together eggs and sugar until it’s light and frothy, add vanilla and lemon zest and then add your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt). Slowly pour in some melted butter and continue whisking until fully incorporated, then stir in some chopped fresh rosemary. I then refrigerated the mixture for about an hour and preheated the oven.

I scooped the dough using my #30 scoop and popped them into the oven (a much cooler oven than recommended) and baked them for 12 minutes. I did pull them out at 10 but they were still liquidy in the center, but 2 minutes more did the trick.

I wish they weren’t SO golden around the edges, but I’m not sure I can really correct that with my current set up. This recipe made 22 using my normal pan and the first batch I cooked at the recommended temperature and at 8 minutes they were starting to have a hump but they were already looking pretty dark. So the second batch was done at a lower temperature for longer and next time I make them I’ll try that same method!

We really enjoyed the flavour of these. I put in extra rosemary and I could have easily added more, I love the flavour so much. I have one more recipe for this book this month, and it’s an absolute beauty.  That’ll be up on Friday!

Cheese-Stuffed Crusty Loaves Bakealong

Full Disclosure: Aaron helped me with this Bakealong. My hands are super dry from brioche baking the other day and I wanted to avoid bread dough as much as I possibly could. Is it just me who has a problem with flour drying out their skin?!

I’m finding bread really easy and enjoyable to make these days. After spending months last year helping our eldest with a sourdough science project, it’s like I’ve hit a groove and I just know how to make it work. Still…Aaron did the first couple steps for me. But I whittled it down to very simple instructions for him. I never sent him the recipe, which can be found here.

The first thing you need to do is make a stiff starter and leave it overnight. It’s just flour, salt, yeast and water. Stir it together and put it in a covered container to get the magic started.

The next day you take the starter, more flour, salt, yeast and water and you put them in your stand mixer with your dough hook attached and you knead it until it becomes a smooth dough. Put it back in the covered container until it’s doubled.

That’s when I took over for Aaron. I rolled out the dough on a lightly floured surface, into a rectangle about the size of a baking sheet. Then I brushed it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and and sprinkled over 1 tablespoon of garlic seasoning and 2 1/2 cups of pizza cheese (a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan). I know I’ve made some changes here but I didn’t have garlic oil or pizza seasoning so I improvised. And we didn’t have Gruyere but I over bought pizza cheese at Costco so I figured it would work and would help with my oversupply. The recipe says that you can use mozzarella or cheddar instead so it just made sense!

Then I rolled it into a log and placed it on a baking paper lined baking sheet seam side down and started to preheat our oven with the dough on a stool in front of it to help it rise again. Once the oven was preheated and the dough had puffed up again, we cut it into four scrolls and placed them cut side up and I spread them open a bit and reworked them into rounds. Then I brushed some water over the top in lieu of a spray bottle and popped them in the oven for 25 minutes.

The result: they smell incredible and are perfect cheesy garlic rolls. Unfortunately we didn’t get them baked til bedtime so we sampled one together as a family. I think we might eat the rest when we do cheese night this weekend. I’d be interested in making it as two big loaves next time and seeing how they slice. And yes, there will be a next time.

Throwback Thursday: Toasted Brioche with Boozy Mushrooms from Simple

Throwback to April 2017, when the Food52 Cookbook Club was going through Diana Henry’s book Simple. “Effortless food, big flavours” promised on the cover, and wouldn’t you know she delivers! I’d been wanting to try this fancified mushrooms on toast for a while, but given we have a big family and young kids, it’s not all that conducive as a midweek meal, even though I can imagine that when the kids are no longer at home, this is the sort of cooking we’ll do all the time. But one of the big boys is away on camp at the moment, so it seemed much more doable, even though I still had to double the recipe!

The brioche that the mushrooms are sitting on top of is my first attempt at making brioche (I will blog about this next week) and while I used the wrong size pan so it isn’t as tall as I’d like, it was still absolutely delicious and worked perfectly for this dish.

The mushrooms themselves are a 500g packet of sliced button mushrooms and 30g of dried shiitakes that have soaked in boiling water while the fresh mushrooms were cooked in a frypan. Then you add the rehydrated mushrooms in their liquid, cook it off, then add some dry sherry and salt and pepper, and then finish with cream. I seriously didn’t even need a chopping board and knife to make this dish!

I had to go to a workshop at my daughter’s school just as I’d finished cooking dinner, so quickly took a couple bites and saved the rest for after. It wasn’t long after I left that Aaron was texting me “OMG this is so BEAUTIFUL!!!” and he isn’t wrong. This dish is fabulous and I will definitely be making this again!

I do have a few more recipes from this book on my radar to try so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more TBT posts about them in the future.

What I Ate Wednesday (7/3/18)

A double shot flat white with almond milk for the school drop offs…

…along with some wholemeal peanut butter and honey toast because I didn’t have to do the driving until after Aaron got to work – I know it’s not vegan because of the honey, but today, that’s what I wanted, so that’s what I had!

A bottle of water and a pear for morning tea after I got home…

…followed by a wholemeal raisin toast end with nuttelex and a cup of black tea.

For lunch I tried the other vegan noodle dish (and another bottle of water) that we found at Aldi a few weeks ago. Meant to be a convenience food for when I’m short on time, but seriously, there are like 4 different packets to open and you have to measure out water…it’s really not worth it. Give me pita and hummus and veggies any day!

Feeling sluggish just before dinner so had another black tea and sampled the corner piece of olive oil rosemary chocolate chip shortbread from Smitten Kitchen Every Day. Mmm…this will be discussed further soon!

Dinner was something new – bacon and egg risotto from Diana Henry’s Simple. I see another future post coming on!

Rooibos and a flourless cocoa cookie…

…and finished the day with another pear cos I can’t stop thinking about how yum the one I had earlier was, a marzipan Easter egg, a rebrewed rooibos (I usually brew my rooibos tea bags twice) and my third bottle of water (no fourth bottle today cos I’ve had so many cups of tea and don’t want to be up all night).

The Fearless Baker: Flourless Cocoa Cookies

This month, Food52 Baking Club is working through Erin McDowell’s book The Fearless Baker. I had the library order this book a few months ago, knowing that this was going to be coming up and was able to get my hands on it for about a week in December, and boy, oh boy am I excited to have it back!

I’ve made these flourless cocoa cookies a few times now, and I have to say they are by far the nicest naturally gluten free cookie I’ve had. They are like a cookie on the outside and while others have described the inside as a brownie, I’d say it’s more like a chocolate truffle – delectably rich and delicious.

People have had trouble with the sticky and thick batter, but I’ve found if you just use a handheld mixer to do the work, the trouble is virtually non-existent. And scooping the dough with a spring loaded cookie scoop keeps them uniform in size and while the shape isn’t smooth, that’s actually part of the charm.

Did I mention they have only 7 ingredients?! You simply whisk some eggs, add icing sugar, salt, cinnamon and cocoa, then stir in some vanilla and chocolate chips. You can seriously have the batter ready to go within 5 minutes. Scoop them onto a baking paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle some salt on top and in my oven they took 8 minutes to get firm without overcooking.

I have had rave reviews about these every time I’ve made them and they will definitely be staying in my cookie rotation for the foreseeable future. A good start to what should be a great month of baking!