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Archive for May, 2013

Savory Brioche Pockets 059

I wasn’t really looking forward to baking savory brioche pockets, a Tuesdays With Dorie/Baking With Julia project. The recipe sounded delicious, with its filling of goat cheese and chive mashed potato, carmelized onion, and asparagus tips, folded into rich brioche dough rounds. But brioche pockets seemed like something that I’d like to taste, maybe share one, but not have a dozen of them in my house. I eventually made the full brioche dough recipe, used half of it to make six pockets and the rest to bake a brioche loaf.

At my weekend farmers’ market I had bought a bunch of fresh herbs that included chives, sage, thyme, and tarragon. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the brioche pocket recipe used both fresh chives and sage leaves, a happy coincidence.

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I had made brioche dough before (for pecan sticky buns) but had forgotten how long the dough is mixed and kneaded in the mixer, about half an hour total. It also needs two hours to rise and another six hours or overnight for chilling, so you really need to plan ahead. The resulting dough is a beautiful shiny golden yellow, supple and elastic.

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After chilling, the dough is rolled out and cut into four-inch rounds. Half of the rounds are topped with the filling components and then capped with another dough round. The edges are pinched and then folded in and pleated.

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The pockets are then brushed with egg wash, sprinkled with poppy (I used sesame) seeds, topped with fresh sage leaves, and left to rise for a short twenty minutes before baking.

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Out of the oven, the brioche pockets are golden brown and flaky, their pillow shape hinting at the mound of savory fare hidden within. They are very substantial, but I would have liked some stronger flavors. And although I added some milk along with the goat cheese to moisten the mashed potatoes, they were still a little dry as a filling encased in pastry. I think there’s a lot of potential for varying the filling, bringing them more up-to-date at the same time.

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The recipe is on pages 421-422 of Baking With Julia and can also be found on Carie’s blog at Loaves and Stitches.

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Rhubarb Baby Cakes 021

Rhubarb baby cakes are little upside-down cakes featuring a rich almost-shortbread-like cake with a topping of tart rhubarb, sweet caramel and toasty pecans. The recipe is from Baking With Julia, pages 244-246, and can also be found on Erin’s blog, When in Doubt…Leave it at 350.

I was at first unable to find rhubarb in my local food markets, although it’s supposed to be in season in spring.  I eventually found it in a large warehouse-like produce market, where I bought a two-pound bag of varied size rhubarb stalks that ranged in color from light green to pink to vibrant red. It required a lot of trimming, and I ended up with about a pound.

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The first step in this recipe is making the topping which, since this is an upside-down cake, goes in the bottom of the pan. A combination of melted butter cooked with brown sugar, bourbon and pecans, the praline-like topping adds complexity to the cakes. I substituted Amaretto for the bourbon and doubled the amount of chopped pecans from two tablespoons to four. The Amaretto flavor was lost…maybe bourbon would have provided a more assertive taste. The caramel is spread in the bottom of the pans and then topped with slices of rhubarb. I used four-inch fluted paper baking cups in place of four-inch mini-cake pans.

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Rich with butter, eggs, and creme fraiche, the cake batter mixes up easily along with sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. The resulting batter is thick, almost as dense as a cookie dough, and it was a challenge to spread it over the arranged rhubarb without disturbing the pattern.

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Out of the oven, the mini-cakes are quickly inverted onto a rack while still hot and the caramel still molten. One of them slipped and fell apart, providing a perfect opportunity for a taste test before serving for dessert. The cakes are very good…the butter cake is tender and moist with a light crust, the topping is sticky sweet balanced by the tart rhubarb and crunch of pecans, a delicious spring treat.

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