Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies
Makes 2 dozen blondies
I’m not always fan of blondies. I often find them to be too sweet, but these are different. First, they are made with salted butter. Then they are dotted with raspberry jam, which is a bit tart, and sprinkled with sea salt, so they have a nice balance, and in my opinion, they really break the blondie mold.
Note: You will need an 8- x 12-inch baking pan to make this.
Nonstick cooking spray
All-purpose flour - 2 cups - 240 grams
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon - 5 grams
Milk chocolate - 8 ounces (1¼ cup milk chocolate chips) - 226 grams
Dark brown sugar - 1½ cups (lightly packed) - 300 grams
Large eggs – 2 - 100 grams
Salted butter, melted and cooled slightly - 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) - 226 grams
Pure vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons - 10 grams
Raspberry Jam (page 350; or store-bought) - ½ cup - 145 grams
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon; optional) - 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
Arrange the oven racks so one is in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Spray the bottom and sides of an 8- x 12-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside.
Unless you are using chocolate chips, chop the chocolate into ⅜-inch pieces. Pass the chocolate through a fine-mesh strainer to sift out any dust and discard the dust.
Make the batter
Combine the brown sugar and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and lightened in color. Gradually add the butter, stirring with the whisk as you add it and taking care that it doesn’t slosh out of the bowl. Use the whisk to stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and fold it in with a rubber spatula until almost no flour is visible. Add the chocolate and fold it in until the chocolate is evenly distributed and no flour is visible.
Bake the blondies
Using a rubber spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Use the spatula to get the batter into the corners of the pan and to smooth out the top. Drop in the jam in ½-teaspoon-size drops, distributing it over the surface of the batter. Draw a small paring knife back and forth through the batter, running it through the jam across the length of the pan and then back across the sides. Sprinkle the salt, if you are using it, over the top.
Place the blondies on the center rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the batter has puffed up, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Remove the pan from the oven and put it on a cooling rack; let the blondies cool to room temperature in the pan. Use a large knife to cut the blondies into 24 equal pieces.
The blondies may not look completely set when they come out of the oven. Not overbaking them is the secret to a moist, chewy texture.
Store the blondies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
New York Cheese Danishes
Makes 16 to 18 Danishes
These are New York Danishes, not to be confused with European-style Danishes, which are made from a dough similar to croissant dough, making them crispier and flakier. New York Danishes are softer, with a homier feel. They are about the size of a sticky bun, so there is a lot of filling relative to the amount of dough, which I like.
Note: You will need one large disposable pastry bag.
For the filling
Cream cheese, softened - 8 ounces - 226 grams
Granulated sugar - 1 tablespoon - 13 grams
Large egg yolk - 1 - 17 grams
For the dough
Master Recipe for Laminated Babka Dough (page 190) - 1 recipe
All-purpose flour for dusting
For finishing the Danishes
Large egg - 1 - 50 grams
Fine sea salt - big pinch
Apricot jam - 2 tablespoons
Water - 1 teaspoon
Make the filling
Put the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor fitted with a metal blade) and mix on low speed to combine; don’t mix longer than necessary as you don’t want to aerate the mixture. Add the egg yolk and mix until it is blended in, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Transfer the filling to a large disposable pastry bag and refrigerate for about 2 hours,
until the filling sets up, and for up to 2 days.
Roll out the dough
Remove the laminated block of dough from the refrigerator and set it on the counter to rest for 20 to 30 minutes, until you can feel that the butter layers inside the dough are just becoming malleable (but not soft) when you bend the block slightly.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour. Remove and discard the plastic wrap and place the dough on the floured surface with the long edge parallel to you. Lightly dust the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out to a rectangle that is 18 inches from side to side and 12 inches from top to bottom, dusting with flour as needed. (If the dough is springing back before you can roll it to those dimensions, transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes to relax the gluten. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and continue rolling it out until you reach the correct dimensions.) Using a pastry wheel, trim the top, bottom, and sides so you have clean, straight edges. Use the trimmings to make Baked Trimmings (page 129) or discard them.
Using the pastry wheel, score the dough at every inch mark on the top and bottom edges. Using the straightedge as a guide, cut the dough into 16 to 18 (1-inch-wide) strips.
An unfloured surface gives you the surface tension you need to twist the dough. If the dough is sticking to the surface, which it will if the dough is warm, flour your hands.
Pick up one strip and lay it horizontally on a section of your work surface that has no flour on it. Twist both ends in opposite directions several times until the length of the strip is completely twisted. Place both hands gently on the twisted strip and move one hand toward you and the other hand away from you to get one more twist into the strip. Pick up the strip and coil it into a tight spiral. Bring the outside end of the coil underneath the Danish and pinch it together with the end that is at the center of the Danish. Place the Danish with the pinched coil underneath on one of the prepared baking sheets. Continue shaping the remaining Danishes in the same way, putting them on the baking sheets, with 2 to 3 inches between them, as you work.
Cover the baking sheets with damp, lightweight kitchen towels and set the pastries aside in a warm place to proof for 1½ to 2 hours, until they look puffy.
Finish and bake the Danishes
Arrange the oven racks so one is in the top third of the oven and the other is in the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Whisk the egg with the salt in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Brush the wash over the surface of each Danish; discard the remaining egg wash. Press both of your thumbs into the center of each Danish to create a flat-bottomed crater about 1½ inches wide.
Remove the pastry bag from the refrigerator and cut a ¾-inch opening at the tip. Pipe a heaping tablespoon of the filling to fill the center well of each Danish.
When you have filled all of the Danishes, use wet fingertips to dab down any peaks of cheese that were created during piping, as these will burn in the oven.
Place one baking sheet on each oven rack and bake the Danishes for 18 to 22 minutes, until they are golden brown and the cheese has puffed up (but not so long that the filling cracks), rotating the baking sheets from front to back and from one oven rack to the other halfway through the baking time so the Danishes brown evenly. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and place them on cooling racks to cool while you prepare the apricot glaze.
While the Danishes are cooling, combine the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking, to melt the jam and make a smooth glaze. (Or place the jam in a bowl and heat it in a microwave for about 30 seconds, until the jam liquefies.)
Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze onto the tops of the warm Danishes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I tend to be conservative about how much glaze I put on any pastry. Supposedly it seals the pastry, keeping it from drying out, but mostly it makes the pastry shine and sparkle and look beautiful. Don’t overdo it. For me, the most important thing in a pastry is the way it tastes, not the way it looks.
Master Recipe for Babka Dough
Makes enough for 2 babkas
There is nothing difficult about making babka, but what it does require is time. You do have to let the dough ferment, which develops its flavor. Then, because it contains so much butter, the dough must be chilled before it is rolled out and formed, otherwise it will be too sticky to work with. Then once it is filled and shaped, it has to proof, which gives it its lift and lightness. These steps take time. Although in theory babka could be made from start to finish in one day, for practical purposes, when I make babka at home, I spread the project out over two days; that way I am not waiting around while I take the dough through these steps.
This recipe makes enough for two babka loaves. If you don’t want to make both loaves at once, refrigerate the second half of the dough for up to 3 days before you make your second loaf. I laminate this dough to make Blueberry Blackberry Cheese Danish Braid (page 193) and New York Cheese Danishes (page 201); you’ll see this recipe with additional ingredients and instructions in the chapter on laminated pastries (page 118).
All-purpose flour - 3¾ cups plus more for dusting - 450 grams
Granulated sugar - ½ cup - 100 grams
Instant yeast - 1 tablespoon - 9 grams
Fine sea salt - 2 teaspoons - 12 grams
Whole milk - 1 cup - 240 grams
Large egg - 1 - 50 grams
Large egg yolk - 1 - 17 grams
Unsalted butter, cubed and softened - 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) - 141 grams
Nonstick cooking spray
To clean a dough hook when making yeasted dough, wet one hand, shake off any excess water, and then very quickly swipe the dough off the hook in one fell swoop.
Make the dough
Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl and stir with a whisk to combine the ingredients.
Place the milk, egg, and egg yolk in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes to create a homogenous dough. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 to 8 minutes, until the dough is completely wrapped around the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still running on medium speed, add the butter and mix on medium speed until the butter is completely mixed in and no butter chunks remain, 5 to 10 minutes, stopping to wipe the dough hook clean once or twice with a wet hand. (The time will depend on the softness of the butter.) Turn off the mixer.
Ferment the dough
Remove the bowl from the mixer and wipe the dough hook clean with a wet hand. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to allow the dough to ferment for 2 hours, turning the dough after 1 hour. To turn the dough, uncover the bowl and use a wet hand to fold the top edge down two-thirds and fold the bottom edge to meet the top edge, so the dough is folded like a letter. Fold the sides inward in the same way to form a sort of ball, then re-cover the bowl.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Lightly dust a large flat work surface with flour. Uncover the bowl and transfer the dough to the floured work surface. If you are making babka with the dough, use your hands or a bench knife to divide it in half. (Each half will be approximately 500 grams.) If you are making New York Cheese Danishes or the blueberry blackberry cheese Danish braid, leave the dough in one piece.
Even when it seems like I don’t have room in my refrigerator to place a baking sheet, I move things around and often balance the baking sheet on top of things to make room in whatever way I can.
Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and use your hands to gently coax and pat the mound or mounds of dough into even squares. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill the dough for at least 2 hours, until it feels firm. (If you are making the dough in advance, remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator after 2 hours, wrap the baking sheet in plastic wrap so the dough doesn’t dry out and develop a skin, and return it to the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
Wrapping dough in plastic after it is chilled prevents it from sticking to the plastic wrap
Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Weller. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.