All posts by Cocofancy

Brioche dough for beignet and cinnamon rolls

I discovered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day a couple of years ago, and I have never once regretted getting it. I am sometimes confused and perplexed by their instructions (you’ll see an example of that in this post), but for the most part they are spot on.

The idea behind the book is that one can have freshly-baked bread whenever they want it as long as they make bulk dough recipes. It pretty much works out that if you make a bulk batch of, say, honey wheat bread on the weekend, you’ll have fresh bread to accompany dinner throughout the week. And the recipes are really nicely scalable, too, in case you don’t necessarily want to have a five quart bucket of dough sitting in your fridge.

I haven’t yet played around with all of the recipes – I feel the need to master the few that I have tried before trying more complex ones. My dough is almost never just right – I tend to worry that I will over-rise it, so my tendency is toward under-risen dough. It tends to come out dense, rather than that nice almost fluffy texture you’ll find in a good baguette. Once I figure out how to make it rise appropriately, I will surely celebrate on here and all the interwebs will know that I can finally make a good loaf of bread.

In the meantime, I have discovered the following recipe for brioche dough in the book, and it’s amazing. It’s my go-to dough for cinnamon or any other type of swirly-roll and beignets. This morning I’m making spinach turkey and cheese rolls because we have some spinach that isn’t quite as happy as it should be. Mikal has also promised to make caramel rolls with my failed caramels if only I would make the dough. The dough is made – and already niftily portioned out into batchy-clumps for easy use.

Brioche Dough

from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Note: The original recipe as posted makes four 1 lb loaves. Considering I forget it is sitting in the fridge half the time, I tend to halve the recipe – it’s a pretty easy split. 

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tbsp Kosher salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
7 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Mix the yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with the dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with the dough hook). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour. The dough will be loose but will firm up when chilled; don’t try to work with it before chilling. (You may notice lumps in the dough but they will disappear in the finished products.)

Loosely cover the dough and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours or until the dough rises and falls. Stick dough into the refrigerator to chill and firm.

You can use the dough once it is chilled to the point of being firm enough to handle comfortably. I tend to put it in overnight – the first time I made it I under-chilled it; really bad idea, seriously messy and sticky.

From here the dough can go a few different places. To make the spinach rolls, I took about a third of the half-batch I did, rolled it out to about 1/8″ thick, and sprinkled with garlic powder, cayenne, grated cheddar cheese, turkey sandwich meat slices, spinach, and more cheese. It will be a bit annoying to roll together, but I rolled and sliced them and put them into muffin pan cavities. I have never been one for pulling cinnamon rolls out of a pan – too sticky/messy and they tend to look less than perfect once they are out of the pan. With the spinach rolls, it just makes more sense to do singles anyway. Also, if you notice that the dough is a bit hard to handle (warmed, that is), you can chill it before attempting to slice it.

Once the rolls are cut and roll-ish, loosely cover and let rise for an hour if chilled, 40 mins if you were brave and let the dough warm up before rolling out. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake for ~40 minutes or until yummy-looking.


Sadly, I took the rolls downstairs to the office before getting a picture of them – and of course they have been devoured. Why do I do this every time and expect to miraculously get different results? Because I am crazy.

Perhaps I will have the opportunity to share pictures of the caramel rolls Mikal will make. (hint)

Eat your heart out

Yes, I do realize this is a bit late for V-day. Which is kind of funny, as I was attempting to get everything done so that I could get this post up before V-day. Oh well. I figure I’ll share it with you anyway because these chocolates were pretty kick-ass.

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Making your own chocolates is actually pretty easy – all you need is chocolate, really, and whatever filling/random items you want to add to it. I use Dove dark chocolates for a few reasons – I find dark chocolate a bit easier to work with when tempering because it takes form nicely, and seems a bit less finicky than milk chocolate; it was also an amazing price at Grocery Outlet, which made me very happy.

I’m still getting used to tempering chocolate. It seems that my first batch or two turn out really nicely, but when I go for more than that I either become less vigilant about the temperature and stirring, or I attempt different things and they go all sorts of wonky. Mikal and I ended up talking a lot about this particular batch of chocolates, and my difficulties with time management and project management in general. One of the things he suggested was attempting smaller batches of chocolates and confections so that I’m not wasting or making him eat such large amounts of fail on my way to getting my technique down.

An additional tool I discovered in an old catalogue from Matfer Bourgeat would be totally awesome and would help me make smaller batches more easily:

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The one thing that has been keeping me making larger batches has been that the new thermometer I bought has a sensor about an inch from the tip – this is a vast improvement from about two to three inches from the tip, but it still requires quite a bit of liquid in order to accurately gauge temperature. With a spatch that has a thermometer in it, I wouldn’t need nearly as much liquid, and I could make smaller batches for testing purposes. I would love to get my hands on one of these.

Mikal recently acquired a new lens for the camera, so we ended up taking quite a few shots trying to get acquainted with the different focal points. It has a wonderfully shallow depth of field, but it is very different from the lens we received with the camera. I don’t have the camera in front of me so I won’t try to say which lenses we have. Anyway, I’m used to having to get about four inches away from my subject for a macro shot of any decency; with the new lens I don’t have to get that close – in fact it’s a very bad idea.

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This is the back-side of the dark-chocolate almond bar I made. I used almond slivers because my mold isn’t deep enough to accommodate whole almonds.

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A front view of the bar.

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My first attempt at the bar, along with wrapped bars.

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I managed to procure this particular candy mold a couple of years ago, and I love it. I have found, though, that dark chocolate is quite hard to take a picture of and get adequate detail. In case you can’t quite make it out, those are about as anatomically correct of hearts as one can make with chocolate. Well, as one can make with a chocolate mold. These are filled with raspberry creme filling.

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And for some not-so anatomically correct hearts filled with peanut butter.

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More experiments with the camera. It was fun, but somewhat infuriating.

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Along with these items, I also made a bunch of chocolate shells filled with whipped cream and strawberries. Those were a hit 😀

Decadent Chocolate Mousse Cake

I have a friend who is amazingly pregnant – she’s about a month from her due date and at the point of just wanting to get it done. My first thought upon hearing this from her: “Baked goods fix everything.” I inquired what she would have me bake and she asked for a chocolate cake. The first thing that popped into my mind was my favorite cake, the spiced chocolate torte. Fearing that might be too rich, I looked through a couple of books and settled on chocolate mousse cake from French: The Secrets of Classical Cooking Made Easy.

Who on earth thought up baking mousse? The mousse in this cake is not simply filling, it is the cake bits of the cake as well. Really! I would never have dreamt doing anything to mouse except savoring it slowly in its chilled magnificence, but obviously someone decided to stick it in the oven.

In actuality, the cake part of this comes together much in the same way as a soufflé, and shares pretty much the same ingredients put together the same way. Makes me wonder about doing soufflés…..

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Chocolate Mousse Cake

from French: The Secrets of Classical Cooking Made Easy

for the cake:
10oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)

for the ganache
1 c heavy cream
8oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter two 8-9″ springform pans and line the bases with buttered baking parchment. (I don’t have two springform pans of the same diameter, so I used my newly acquired baking pans. I would probably have been just fine if I had put the parchment on the bottom. One cake came out just fine, the other fell apart a bit.)

In a pan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks until completely blended. Beat in the brandy or rum, if using, and pour into a large bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally.

In a clean bowl, using and electric mixer, beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed and continue beating until they form soft peaks, then stiffer peaks that just flop over a little at the top.

Stir a large spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites until they are just combined (a few white streaks are fine).

Divide about two-thirds of the mousse between the two prepared pans, smoothing the tops evenly, and tap gently to release any air bubbles. Chill the remaining mousse.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed; the cakes will fall slightly. (Even with this warning, I was rather startled to find that one of my cakes had decided it was a volcano. Luckily enough it did fall back into place, only leaving a few fissures.) Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the pans and leave them to cool completely. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pan bases and peel off the papers. Wash the cake tins.

To assemble the cake, place one layer flat-side down in one of the clean pans. Spread the remaining mousse over the surface, smoothing the top. Top with the second cake layer, flat-side up. Press down gently so the mousse is evenly distributed. Chill for 2-4hrs or overnight.

To make the ganache, bring the cream to a boil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate all at once, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in the brandy or rum, if using, and beat in the softened butter. Set aside for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly.

Run a knife around the edge of the assembled cake to loosen it, then remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, over a baking tray. Pour the warm ganache over the cake all at once, tilting gently to help spread it evenly on all surfaces. Use a spatula to smooth the sides, then leave to set. (This is the time I put the Dove hearts around the edge, mostly to obscure any irregularities in the visual texture.)


As far as I know, the cake went over pretty well. My friend took one look at the cake and said, “That is ridiculous.” Yes, fabulously ridiculous, and that’s how it should be.

I am really excited for next week. I recently acquired a V-day chocolate bar mold, so I will be trying my hand at that. Because I only got one, though, I will also be making more of the heart chocolates I made last year because I don’t trust myself to keep the chocolate in temper for as long as it would take for the bars to set individually.

On top of that, I plan to make a really amazing tart I saw posted on BonAppetit’s Facebook wall a few days ago – something about chocolate and almonds and coffee beans and caramel. Sounds absolutely divine, which is as it should be for Valentine’s day.

Another day, another failed caramel experiment

I cannot seem to get this caramel thing right for beans. I attempted another batch last night, this time doing the sugar syrup by itself, then adding the cream and butter. I did heat the sugar syrup to over 300°F – the particular recipe I was following had the base caramel recipe at the top, and then three variations. The first variation is the kind I have had most success with, initially heating to 245°F then going on to add the cream. The second variation is the one I tried, called “old-fashioned caramels,” and it said to heat the syrup to 310°F the add the cream. The bit that threw me off is that the base recipe at the top tells you how to do the base sugar syrup, and the variations tell you what to add to that. Unfortunately, I was following the base recipe a little too closely, because it says to heat the sugar syrup to 340°F initially – a good 30°F over what it should be. Guess who was watching Enterprise trying to not watch a pot of sugar boil? Me. I actually let it get high enough without me staring at it, only to realize I had gone past my mark. Mikal talked me into finishing this batch because it couldn’t hurt. He had already bottled up the first fail batch of sauce to use in dinner tonight, and said that if it fails we will simply have more caramel in jars.

I went ahead, and it looked last night like it might actually turn out…. The top of it was actually firming to the touch. It is still somewhat firm to the touch on top, but it just didn’t set. I keep forgetting to do the ice bath test since a couple of batches ago. I guess it’s a good thing I bought more whipping cream last night.

Update on Christmas Confections Part III

I have attempted a third batch of apple cider caramels, this time taking some advice from this site. This is where I got the information for increasing the temperature of the initial syrup heating to 300°F. It also told me not to stir it. I was very concerned about that, as I was convinced it would explode in a ball of burnt sads.

So far, it hasn’t. It is currently sitting in its pan, chilling out on the counter. I am letting it cool as much as possible before covering it with plastic wrap for the night. I’m hoping that it sets to a nice consistency, but that it isn’t too hard. That was my main worry.

We will see. I will likely issue another small update, either a hey-lookie-I-have-awesome-caramels dance or a there-will-be-a-fourth-trial /sigh.

UPDATE: This batch didn’t turn out at all. I attempted to use the same recipe I had been using because it tasted so good, but there were a couple of differences in method beyond the temperature thing. First of all, the second recipe has you save all your cream to add at once, rather than putting 1/3c in the sugar syrup; additionally, it has you melt the butter in the cream so that it can be added all together gradually, as it does bubble up. I will do a bit more research on it, perhaps try the second recipe and see if that works. I checked the CIA version, and it uses sweetened condensed milk rather than whipping cream, and it adds everything at once and uses similar temperatures to the initial recipe, so I don’t know if they will come out too soft again. Will have to look and see.