Sunday, April 27, 2014

English Digestive Biscuits--ABC Bakers

Fresh from the oven!
This is my first "bake-along" with the Avid Baker's Challenge group.  I've seen what they have baked, and I like the variety.  The different items should get me out of my comfort zone to try new recipes.

It's a plus that I already have "met" many of the members of the group over the years in other baking groups!  We have all helped each other.  What a wonderful feeling of support.  My baking skills have definitely grown over the years with their help.

I am also excited to be baking some of the King Arthur Flour recipes.  Their flour is great, and I love the friendly baking help I get from their bakers' hotline.

But "digestive biscuits?"  What are they?  "Biscuit" is the English name for American "cookies."  Actually, as this video states, they were invented to help reduce flatulence!!!

Armed with this information, I set up all my ingredients --mise en place (my mice are all in place, LOL).  This helps avoid running all over the kitchen while I assemble the ingredients.
Ready to bake.  I won't have to run all over the kitchen now
 I made some changes to the recipe: 
  • White Whole Wheat flour, because that's what I had on hand
  • Mostly margarine, to use it up, part butter.
The margarine required me to add more flour, since it has more water content than butter.  Also, I refrigerated the dough for awhile to firm it up more.  I knew this before I began, so I wasn't surprised when the dough felt too soft.  Adding too much flour would make the cookies biscuits dry.

I used a round cutter that was easy to reach on the shelf.  Here's why I didn't go into my cupboard that holds my cookie/quick bread baking supplies for other shaped cutters:
Is there ever enough room in a kitchen?
My friend, Donna Nave ( her blog is ) has introduced me to cake baking, and I am hooked!  I never saw a hobby with so many accessories!!!  Thus, the full cabinet; and an addiction to cake baking, LOL.

Note, this does not include the large tart and mini tart pans I bought after our group member, Karen Kerr, posted the cheddar mini tarts she made for this group.  They are in the pie materials cabinet.  And it doesn't include the double cabinet for my bread supplies. 

Back to the recipe--
Making this dough is very much like pie dough.  You crumble in the butter/margarine until it's the size of small peas.  The dough is kneaded, then rolled out thinly.  The biscuits are cut and placed on a cookie sheet.  Holes are pricked in them so they stay flat.  They were baked at 350 degrees for 16 minutes.

We think they are yummy!!!

The dough looks crumbly until the dough is kneaded for a minute

Rolling the dough until it's 1/8th inch thick

Using parchment paper so my pans don't get greasy!

Enjoying some biscuits with tea and my date spread

Some of the group members have heard about my yummy date spread.  It's very versatile--you can spread it on toast, form it into balls to serve with cheese, or even cover those shaped balls with chocolate!  It's a recipe I modified by a gourmet cook, Judy Zeidler.:

Date Spread

  • 8 ounces ( 1 Cup) pitted dates, chopped
  • 1.5 ounces (1/4 Cup)  raisins, chopped
  • 1/4 cup very sweet wine
  • 2 ounces walnuts, ground (1/8 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (you can vary this amount)

Place dates and raisins in a bowl.  Mix in the wine, then walnuts and ginger.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

This video made the job of pitting dates super easy.  Be sure to cut the dates with either a wet knife or a knife coated with vegetable spray.

Since this is a "digestive biscuit," a way for Victorian English to get more fiber in their diets, I thought I'd run this recipe through my recipe software.  I made 28 biscuits from this recipe.  The nutritional data is:

Per Serving: 102 Cal (58% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 37% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 4 g Sat Fat; 2 g Mono Fat; 10 g Carb; 1 g Fiber; 3 g Sugar; 17 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 20 mg Sodium; 18 mg Cholesterol

That's 3 Point Plus on Weight Watchers.  That's pretty high for a snack, in my opinion.

Of course, many things are better with chocolate:
Biscuits and date balls with ganache

I had some ganache left over from a chocolate torte.  I asked the woman on the King Arthur Baker's Hotline if ganache would work for covering the biscuits and date balls.  She said that it wouldn't get hard enough; I should try just melted chocolate.  My husband's reply was, "Who cares, it's chocolate!!!" 

Of course, the nutritional information of the chocolate covered treats would differ from that stated above.  :)

If you want more information about this recipe, check out:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Bit of Brioche--Small Batch Bread Baking

A Bit of Brioche--Small Batch Bread Baking

Yield, 8 - 9 ounces of brioche dough

3 large muffin size rolls


6 cupcake size rolls

Why bake bread in small batches?

  • The fun of baking bread, without a lot of leftovers to tempt you and your waistline.  
  • Great for two-person households. 
  • Less fuss than making a whole batch.  Some recipes can be hand-mixed in a bowl.  Faster measuring.
  • You can start this recipe in the morning, and have fresh bread for dinner.
  • It's possible to bake these in your oven either before, during or after using the oven for something else to save energy. If your toaster oven is large enough, you can probably bake a small batch there (would suggest rotating the pan, as toaster ovens don't have good air circulation).
  • Your kitchen will smell great!

Although many brioche recipes were researched, this recipe was adapted from Peter Reinhart's wonderful book, "The Bread Baker's Apprentice."  There's a larger proportion of egg yolk in my version of this recipe, which makes it much richer.  The final rolls are light, sweet, and buttery.

RECIPE (Step by Step pictures following recipe)


2 TBSP                  Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 tsp                    instant yeast
2TBSP                   whole milk, lukewarm (90-100 degrees)                   


1 egg + 1 yolk        slightly beaten
13 TBSP                 unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 tsp                  granulated sugar
1/4 tsp                     salt
1/4 Cup                   unsalted butter, room temperature

EGG WASH (Optional)--1 egg + 1 TBSP whisked together

Start by making the sponge:
The sponge for this size recipe is quite small.  You can even mix the sponge in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Stir together the flour and the yeast, then add the milk.  Be sure to mix well, so all the flour is added.  Cover the sponge with plastic wrap, and place it in a warm spot for 30 minutes.  I put it in my microwave, with a hot cup of water.  After 30 minutes, the sponge will rise slightly.  It will be bubbly and very sticky.

Make the dough:
Place the egg, yolk, and sponge in the mixing bowl of your stand mixture.  Mix on medium speed for a minute until it's smooth.  I tried using a  hand mixer, but the dough gets very stiff after adding the flour later on.  It was too much for a hand mixer; it began smoking!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes.   The dough will be very stiff.  If you are stronger than I am, you can mix the ingredients by hand to lessen cleanup.  You won't need to knead the dough!

Cover the dough  with plastic wrap, so it doesn't dry out, and let it rest for 5 minutes to let the gluten start to develop.

After 5 minutes, add the butter 1/3 at a time, making sure it gets well incorporated after each addition. The dough will soften up considerably when you add the butter.  You'll probably want to scape down the dough from time to time to make sure everything gets mixed.  Continue mixing for a few minutes more to make sure the dough is very well mixed.  The dough will be soft and sticky.

Place the dough into a wide oiled bowl or onto an greased cookie sheet, turning it to coat the dough. The dough is easier to handle when it is cold, so flatten the dough to help it get colder easily.  Place plastic wrap right onto the dough so that it doesn't develop a skin.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight to firm up. It was much easier removing the dough from the pan that had been refrigerated overnight.  It was less sticky.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and put it on a lightly floured work surface.

For smaller rolls, shape the dough into 6 pieces, about 1 1/2 ounces each. Place them in a cupcake-sized muffin pan (1/2 cup size).  For larger rolls, cut the dough into 3 pieces, and place in larger muffin pans (2/3 cup size).  You will want to fill the cups only half full, to allow for rising.  If you have the petites brioches fluted pans, you can probably make one or two less of the cupcake size to make a tete on each remaining roll.

Let the dough rise for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, about a half hour before baking.  Put a rack in the middle of the oven.

The egg wash is optional.  I did 3 test batches for this recipe.  I didn't use egg wash on the first two batches.  I got a soft crust on top.  When I added egg wash on the third test, I got a crisp crust on the outside.  Both are good; it depends on your preference.  I was going to do a fourth test of turning down to temperature to 375 degrees (the higher temperature to encourage more rise).  However, now we have a lot of tempting bread around the house; it's no longer a small batch!  :)

If you brush with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayefor 15 minutes more.

When you bake the larger rolls, 3 cups will be empty.  Fill the empty cups halfway with water to prevent warping of the pan.

Bake 10-12 minutes, in the center of the oven, until thermometer in center registers 180 degrees.

Remove the rolls as soon as they are done.  Let them cool on a rack for about 20 minutes (if you can wait, LOL)

I hope you enjoy making your rolls, and eating them!  I decided to place all the pictures after the recipe so you can copy the recipe easier.  I'd love to hear your comments!!!



Mixing up the sponge--easy to do in small bowl or measuring cup


A quick way of softening butter--place in bowl of hot water


The sponge gets bubbly and rises some after 30 minutes in a warm spot.


The sponge is very sticky!

The dough is a bit shaggy and sticky after all the mixing is done



1 1/2 ounces looks like this!  Filling the cups halfway full for small rolls
They rise beautifully in 2 hours


Large rolls--makes 3 rolls, three ounces each

The one on the left is baked without egg wash, and longer.  The right one has egg wash

The finished rolls, these are with egg wash
The inside of a roll, egg wash used here--YUM!!!