Summer Fruit Galettes

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Galettes are some of my favourite things to make: they’re free formed and require no special equipment, they can be filled with almost infinite combinations for both sweet and savoury profiles, and they’re intentionally rustic so they look good without much effort. I make them with a basic pie dough and fill them with seasonal produce, since everything tastes good in a buttery crust but the flavour is neutral enough that it complements pretty much anything.

It’s prime fruit season- my fridge is full of berries and peaches are getting started, so right now I’m using stone fruits (like peaches and cherries) and berries in everything I can. I’ve included two filling options that are fairly flexible, so you can pick and choose based on what you’ve got on hand. Just make sure you use the same total amount of fruit by weight, if you’re going to vary the fruits.

This galette is built on an American-style flaky pie crust. Right now, I’ve been using Stella Parks’ recipe from her book BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts (highly recommend the book, though the recipe is also available on Serious Eats). It includes a folding step to get extra flaky layers– she has a great video and photos on the Serious Eats website, and I’ve included photos below. She calls for low-protein all-purpose flour in this recipe, but I have a hard time finding that so I tend to use a blend of flours.

From what I’ve been able to tell, American all-purpose flours range from around 9-12% protein, while all-purpose flours in Canada generally sit at about 12-13%. That’s great for making bread and pasta, but does mean that more tender items like cakes, cookies, and pastries can end up with too much gluten (and therefore a bit tougher and chewier). Because of that, I use a blend of pastry flour (mine is around 9% protein) and all-purpose (quantities below) to get something between low and medium protein. This results in a dough that’s a bit on the stronger side- something I’m not mad about in a galette, since they’re free formed and don’t have a pan to keep their shape for them. If all you have is all-purpose, you can use that too, and I’ve included a couple of tips below.

I always keep extra pie dough in the freezer- it’s simple to make and even simpler to defrost, roll out, fill with whatever I’ve got in the fridge, and bake. This recipe makes enough crust for a double-crusted pie, which is twice as much as you need for one galette (or you could make both filling options). Just wrap the extra dough tightly in plastic and freeze for the next time you have some extra fruit or bits and bobs in the fridge you’d like to use up.

Some tips:

  • Pie crust is a type of pastry dough that relies on chunks of fat to give it a flaky texture. In order to make the crust as flaky as possible, the butter should be left in pieces that are probably larger than you think you need.
  • The act of rolling a crust flat develops gluten, which gives the dough strength but also can make it prone to shrinking and toughness- mixing the dough only enough to come together and then giving it a chance to relax between rolling and filling can help combat those things, which is especially useful if you’re using a higher-protein flour (like all-purpose instead of pastry flour or a blend of the two).
  • If your kitchen or hands are hot, the fridge is your friend- the butter should be kept cold for maximum flakiness, so refrigerate your dough at any point in the process to help firm it up if the butter starts getting soft and melty on you.
  • If you have a lot of really juicy fruit, you can prevent a soggy bottom in your galette by precooking the fruit to reduce out some of the liquid.

Summer Fruit Galettes

Pie crust

  • 100g pastry flour
  • 125g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp (10g) sugar
  • 1 tsp (4g) kosher salt
  • 227g (1 cup) butter, cold from the fridge, cut into about 1.5cm cubes
  • 115g cold water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash, optional)
  • Turbinado sugar (optional garnish)
  • Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Stone fruit filling:

  • 300g (about 2) peaches
  • 250g cherries
  • 1/4 cup (55g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp (10g) cornstarch
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Mixed berry filling (just mix any 450g total berries):

  • 180g strawberries, sliced
  • 80g blueberries
  • 100g black currants
  • 90g raspberries
  • 1/4 cup (55g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Optional: up to 1 tbsp lemon juice (omit if fruits are already tart)

To make the pie crust (photos at the end):

Whisk together both flours, sugar, and kosher salt in a medium bowl. Toss the butter in the dry mixture, separating the cubes so they all get coated in flour.

One at a time (or one in each hand), grab a butter cube and smash it flat with your thumb against your index and middle fingers. Drop it back in the bowl and repeat with the rest of the cubes, tossing to coat in flour and distribute them evenly.

Pour the water in the bowl and toss the contents around like a salad, scooping your hands underneath the mixture and pulling upwards. Repeat until the dough starts to come together and gently knead it, working it little as possible, until it comes together in one mass.

Turn the dough out onto a floured countertop. Press into a rectangle, flour the top, and roll it out into a rectangle about 10×15 inches. You can use as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking to your surface and rolling pin, just make sure to dust it off before you fold the dough to avoid incorporating it.

Brush the excess flour off the top surface of the dough. Take the short ends and fold them to meet in the centre (photos at end). If you don’t have a perfect rectangle, you can cut the bits that hang off and use them to patch up spots where the dough doesn’t meet. Fold that across the midline like a book to get a long rectangle. Fold the short sides towards each other, and cut that in half to get two equal square pieces.

This is enough dough for two galettes- you can either make two or wrap the second square tightly in plastic, refrigerating up to one day or freezing for longer-term storage.

If the dough is getting a bit melty, stick it in the fridge before rolling it out.

Roll the dough out into a large round about 4-5mm thick, transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Prepare your filling and egg wash (instructions below) and preheat your oven to 425°F. Take your dough out of the fridge. Trim any rough or dangly edges if you’d like, depending on how rustic you want it to look.

Spread the filling in the centre, leaving a 2-3-inch border of empty crust. Take the edges and fold them over the filling. Brush the folded edges with egg wash or cream (if desired), using the wash to gently glue the folds together, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar or sliced almonds.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling in the centre. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the stone fruit filling:

Prepare right before using. Slice the peaches into pieces slightly larger than you want (they’ll shrink once they’re baked). You could do 2cm-thick slices, cubes, etc. Pit and halve the cherries. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a small bowl and then sprinkle over the fruit, tossing just until everything is evenly distributed. Fill the crust and bake immmediately.

To make the berry filling:

If eaten immediately, you can make the filling without cooking. If you’re going to let it sit for a couple of hours before serving, I’d recommend cooking the filling to reduce the moisture and prevent bottom crust sogginess, especially if the berries are really juicy.

To make for serving immediately, wash and drain the fruit. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt, and sprinkle over the fruit, tossing until evenly distributed. Fill the crust and bake immediately.

To make ahead, add the fruit and half the sugar to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat. You’ll see the berries start to let out a little juice at first, then a lot. Once you’re at that stage, cook it until the juice reduces by about half, roughly 20 minutes total. Whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, and cornstarch, then sprinkle it over the mixture, stirring and cooking down for about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature before filling the crust.

To make egg wash and garnish:

Whisk together the egg, 1 tbsp water, and a small pinch of salt. Brush the edges of the filled crust lightly. You can either leave this plain for shine and a golden brown colour, or sprinkle the crust with turbinado sugar or sliced almonds.

Mixing pie dough:

Rolling out pie dough:

Scallion Pancakes

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I miss Chinese restaurants.

Not in the “I moved somewhere where I can’t find a restaurant I like” or “my favourite place closed down” sort of way. I grew up frequenting Chinese restaurants of various types but developed a soy allergy in adulthood, and my tour of favourite spots came to a bitter end after my refusal to give up soy sauce landed me in the hospital. Now, any time I want Chinese food (or something resembling it), I generally make it myself and as a result have a small repertoire of dishes that satisfy those cravings.

Scallion pancakes aren’t something I grew up eating- these are based on a northern style dish, something I didn’t have a lot of as a kid- though the flavours are familiar to me. They do have big Chinese Restaurant Energy, at least in my opinion. Full disclosure, these may not be perfectly in line with restaurant or street vendor versions, and at this point it’s a bit of a challenge to verify that on my own. My personal recipes are a reflection of my experience and relationship with Chinese food- I have a taste repertoire of a lot of great dishes I was lucky enough to try earlier in my life, but newer things are strongly influenced by my own preferences and skill set.

Because I’m the one that makes my own scallion pancakes, they’ve really come to reflect my own tastes. Since I’m a big fan of green onions, I use more of them than any one person should probably consume. There’s white pepper and sesame oil in the dough. The oil between the layers has been replaced with butter, inspired by viennoiseries but yielding a “scallion pancake made by a person who likes parathas” sort of vibe. Note that the fat can be swapped for neutral oil, an oil+flour combo, butter, ghee, chicken fat (yum), lard, etc. depending on your preferences, pantry situation, or dietary needs.

These pancakes are made using a dough rather than a breakfast-style pancake batter- the rolling technique produces a flaky, layered texture that’s slightly chewy and studded with a generous amount of green onions. The rolling method is conceptually similar to puff pastry- a lean, unleavened dough is layered with fat to separate the layers. Unlike puff pastry, the dough in question is mixed with hot water (93°C/200°F, just under boiling), which denatures some of the proteins in the flour and limits gluten network formation. The heat also allows the water to gel some of the starch in the flour, which increases the amount of water the flour can hold but thickens the dough without creating more gluten. This makes the dough a lot less springy and makes the rolling process a lot easier, since the dough is stretchy but doesn’t fight back as much as puff pastry dough does when it’s worked. The assembly is fun but a bit hard to describe- for that, I’ve included short clips at the end of the post.

If you make the dipping sauce with soy sauce, please note that my recommendations are based on a fond but distant memory, and you might need to make adjustments to suit your preferences, amount of salt, etc. I seldom measure the sauce components, and they usually contain some combination of: soy sauce (or a substitute in my case), rice vinegar, sesame oil, green onions, ginger, honey, fish sauce, mirin, sambal oelek, or whatever we’ve got in the fridge.

Scallion Pancakes

Yields 8 pancakes

Pancake:

  • 325g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 225g water, 93°C (200°F)
  • 3-4 bunches green onions (about 400g, or 5 cups sliced thinly)
  • 115g unsalted butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
  • 120 mL (1/2 cup) neutral oil (sunflower, canola, corn, etc.) for frying
  • Flour, for dusting

Instructions:

Bring water to 93°C (200°F). While that heats up, whisk together the flour, salt, and white pepper in a medium bowl. Once the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined, mix in the sesame oil.

Add the water to the dry ingredients all at once, and stir together with a spoon. The flour may appear sort of gel-like and it’ll look like there isn’t enough water for all the flour, but keep mixing and it’ll work itself out.

As soon as the dough is just cool enough to handle, turn out onto a clean surface and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and cohesive, about 4-5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for one hour.

During that hour, wash the green onions and pat them dry. Slice both the green and white parts into thin rounds, about 3mm wide. Discard the roots. Ensure the butter is room temperature, as it needs to be easily spreadable.

After the dough has rested for an hour, divide it into 8 equal pieces. While you work with one piece, keep the remaining pieces covered so they don’t dry out.

Lightly flour the countertop and rolling pin and gently press your piece of dough into a circular disk. Roll it out on the counter until as thin as you can make it, or about 9 inches (23cm) wide.

Spread about 1 tablespoon (15mL) of butter over the surface using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle evenly with about 1/3-1/2 cup of sliced green onions (example below recipe).

Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough up over itself like a cinnamon bun (clip below), ensuring the green onions are encased. You should end up with a dough log- press gently to get rid of any large air bubbles without squishing the dough.

Starting with the left end of the log, curl it in on itself like a spiral. Tuck the outer tail under the spiral if it doesn’t stay in place, and gently squeeze the spiral so it stays together.

Cover with plastic wrap on a lightly floured surface while you repeat with the remaining dough. Keep track of the order you finish the spirals in as the next step will be done in that order.

Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat with 1 tbsp of neutral oil, tipping the pan as needed to ensure the oil covers the bottom.

Going back to the first spiral you rolled, gently roll flat (pressing the rolling pin straight downward) on a lightly floured surface into a flat disk about 7mm thick. If a couple of green onions poke out, it’s not a big deal, but try not to tear the dough too much. You can roll these all at once and then fry back-to-back, or roll them out as the previous one cooks. Do not stack them unless you have plastic wrap or parchment paper between them.

Transfer the rolled out pancake to the frying pan and fry about 3 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked all the way through. When you flip, take a second to swirl it around the pan to get even oil coverage on the bottom, adding a teaspoon of oil if needed. If they take much less than 3 minutes to brown on one side, turn the heat down slightly- you want to make sure they get the chance to cook all the way through before the outside gets dark. If they take longer than 4 minutes to brown on one side, turn the heat up slightly. Repeat the rolling and frying until all are done, adding oil to the pan as needed- they can be kept warm in an oven set to low heat or in a stack under a kitchen towel.

If you’re precooking these for later use, do the frying step in a dry pan (they’ll brown a bit less) and then fry in oil for about 1 minute per side to crisp before serving. They can be frozen after cooking in a dry pan, just keep them separated with parchment paper or plastic wrap to avoid them sticking together.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce (suggestion below).

Dipping sauce suggestion:

  • 3 tbsp (45mL) soy sauce (or soy sauce substitute like coconut aminos)
  • 1 tsp (5mL) rice vinegar
  • Pinch sugar (or honey, in equal amount)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (omit if using soy sauce)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp toasted sesame seeds or 1/8 tsp sesame oil
How to assemble scallion pancakes
Rolling the pancake flat for frying

Pastry doughs: it’s all about that fat

If I could only make one category of baked good for the rest of my life, it might be pastries. It’s a bit of a cheater answer, though- pastry doughs are pretty variable, and include things like crumbly doughs reminiscent of shortbread and sugar cookies, flaky pies, shatteringly crisp puff pastries, and rich, slightly chewy croissants and danishes.

The various types of doughs have slightly different proportions and can benefit from different flour types and other ingredients like egg and sugar, but in my eyes the difference comes down to the fat.

Fat (usually butter, in my kitchen) is responsible for most of the texture in pastries, and it has a lot to do with how it interrupts the structure of the dough. Fat interferes with gluten’s ability to form networks- gluten strands can’t link up when there’s fat in the way, and this contributes to both tenderness and flakiness depending on how finely the fat is added to the dough.

Crumbly Pastry

In crumbly pastries like shortcrust and pate brisee, the butter is thoroughly incorporated into the flour. By the time wet ingredients are added (gluten forms from proteins in the flour in the presence of water), the bits of flour can’t form big gluten networks in the whole dough mass because they get interrupted by the fat. Ingredients like eggs can add to the structure with their own proteins but without the springiness of gluten. Crumbly doughs tend to bake up crisp and with fine crumbs, since the fat prevents most of the gluten from linking up with itself and holding together in large chunks.

Flaky Pie Dough

In flaky pie doughs, a lot of similar things happen with the fat but on a bigger scale. There are multiple ways of working the fat into the flour but the fat is generally left in chunks- the larger the chunks, the bigger the flakes will be. Pie doughs tend to be mixed as little as possible and then periodically rested in the fridge. Resting them after mixing allows the water to hydrate the flour, but also firms up the fat. When pie dough is rolled out, two major things happen (aside from the dough becoming flatter, of course): gluten gets developed because the dough is being worked, but the firmed up chunks of fat are flattened into thin sheets within the dough. This means that the dough gains a bit of strength, and that the thin sheets of fat form layers within the dough that block networks of gluten from one another. When the dough gets baked, these layers of dough set individually- the fat keeps them separate from one another, creating flaky layers.

Laminated Doughs

Puff pastries take that flaky texture to a whole new crispy level- rather than mixing the fat in while forming the dough, the dough is made separately and then wrapped around a flat block of fat. Multiple iterations of rolling the dough out thinly, folding, and rolling again make a staggering amount of extremely thin layers. These doughs are called laminated doughs. In this case, the dough is strong in terms of gluten, but because of the fat the layers become so thin that they’re crisp and brittle once baked. The fat (as in the other doughs) allows for separation but also air pockets- the water in the dough creates steam during baking, which expands the dough and allows it to rise. Separating the layers, the fat allows for large air pockets to form, and gives rise (hah) to a light, delicate texture once the layers set in place. Phyllo works similarly, but the dough itself is rolled thinly first and then brushed with liquid fat, rather than adding fat and rolling them together.

Laminated Bread Doughs

Toeing the line between pastry and bread are things like croissants. They’re laminated like puff pastry but the base is a yeasted bread dough. The doughs are various levels of enriched (having additions like sugar, fat, and eggs)- from slightly enriched croissants, to comparatively rich and sweet Danishes, to nap-inducing laminated brioche. They’re a little more difficult to make than puff pastry, since you have to account for yeast activity and keep the consistency of the dough and butter the same, but the fat works the same way in these. Really, they get their own mention here not because the concept is different but because I really like them. The yeast in the bread gives flavour and lift, while the fat allows for an even higher rise (as more steam gets captured within the thin layers of dough) and even more flavour. When done right, the outer texture is flaky like puff pastry but the inside is almost impossibly airy thin layers of rich bread.

A short note on which fats to use for pastry: I use butter pretty universally, unless there’s a recipe that specifically calls for a different type of fat. Shortening generally gives pastries a better texture, but I find the taste of butter is worth it. Lard is more difficult for me to find, so I don’t tend to use it at home. Note that butter is only about 80-84% fat- the rest is milk solids and water, so the different fats don’t always sub 1:1 (margarine is made with that in mind, so it’s a better sub for butter). The water content can be important in recipes, especially ones that don’t have much in the way of wet ingredients- this moisture can help the dough come together and also contribute to steam while baking to create rise.

Black Sesame Buns

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I’ve been baking a lot lately. It’s a great time of year to be baking seasonally- spring rhubarb has given way to summer berries, and I’m definitely taking advantage. I’m having a great time making tarts, cakes, and jams, and eating more strawberries than any one person should. My pie intake is through the roof. But something I keep coming back to is black sesame.

If you’ve never used black sesame before, please consider this a humble invitation to start. It’s dark and mysterious, with familiar sesame notes hidden behind an inky black coat. It’s rich but not overbearing, nutty but not dry. Black sesame lends itself incredibly well to sweets, bringing savouriness and a bare hint of bitterness to balance everything out. And it plays very nicely swirled in a rich, fluffy bun to become something that feels right as a breakfast food but also an any-time-of-day dessert.

These buns are an enriched yeast dough. They’ve got the usual suspects for bread- flour, yeast, and salt, but the eggs, dairy, and sugar keep everything tender and rich. Spreading the black sesame filling over the dough and rolling everything up creates layers of soft bun flecked with black sesame, and the (optional) icing adds another, sweeter layer that reinforces that nutty flavour.

There are two timing options for this recipe: same-day or overnight. The same-day option is pretty straightforward and takes a couple of hours (mostly inactive), depending on how warm your kitchen is. I prefer to let the dough rise overnight for 2 reasons: letting the dough rise in the fridge helps it develop deeper flavours while it’s slowed down, and this dough is easy to work with when it’s cold. You can do the overnight rise either after the dough is mixed (bulk fermentation) or after they’re shaped (for proofing)- I opt for the cold bulk fermentation and shape the rolls the next day, but if you want to do all of the work the night before and just bake them in the morning, you do you. In either case, just make sure they’re covered well (with plastic wrap or a lid) to make sure they don’t dry out in the fridge.

You can roll this dough like cinnamon buns in a 8×8 square pan, or swirl them freeform on a baking sheet. Both have their advantages-the ones baked in a pan tend to keep fresh a bit longer, while the swirls get a lightly caramelized crust on the bottom where the filling touches the pan.

Black Sesame Buns

Bun Dough

  • 190g (3/4 cup) milk, warmed to about 45 degrees Celsius
  • 2 tsp (6g) instant yeast
  • 350g (scant 3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp (3g) kosher salt
  • 50g (1 large) egg, lightly beaten
  • 40g (1/4 cup) sugar
  • 45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Filling

  • 100g (1/2 cup, packed) light brown sugar
  • 112g (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
  • 50g black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Glaze (optional)

  • 1 tbsp (8g) black sesame seeds
  • 100g powdered sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp milk
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Equipment

  • Stand mixer with dough hook
  • Rolling pin
  • 8×8 square pan
  • Food processor/mortar and pestle/plastic bag to crush seeds

To make the dough:

Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook.

With the mixer turned on to low, add the milk and the egg and mix until everything is combined and no dry flour spots remain.

Turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 2 more minutes, and then add the butter one piece at a time until the mixer running. Try to wait until one piece is mixed in before adding the next.

Continue mixing on medium until the dough is smooth and sticks to itself in a cohesive ball, about 6 minutes. When the dough is fully developed, it will be sticky but should pass the windowpane test.

Loosely shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a lid for bulk fermentation (the initial rise before shaping).

For the same day option, let it sit at room temperature until doubled in size (about 30 mins to 1 hour) before proceeding, but I’d strongly recommend putting it in the fridge for the last 10 minutes to make it easier to roll out in the next step. For the overnight option, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and then transfer to the fridge to rise overnight.

After the dough has completed its first rise- doubled in size for the same day option or the next morning, for the overnight option, sprinkle a pinch of flour over the top, punch the dough down and re-cover. Let that sit while you make the filling (instructions below) and get your work station ready: you need a clean countertop, a rolling pin, a knife or bench scraper, and a bit of extra flour for dusting.

Dust the countertop with a bit of flour. Turn the cold dough out and sprinkle with just enough flour to prevent sticking, and pat it into a rectangle.

For the “cinnamon bun” option: Roll the dough out, starting from the centre and working outwards, into a 21×12 inch rectangle. Lift the dough off the counter occasionally while you roll it out, to prevent sticking and to let it spring back a bit before you check the length.

When the dough is rolled out into the 21×12 inch rectangle, use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the filling across the top, leaving a 1 inch border along the long edge farthest from you. Beginning with the edge closest to you, roll the dough up away from you. Try to make it as snug as you can without actually stretching the dough- the idea is to make the roll neat but not so tight that it stretches.

If by now the dough has warmed to room temp and is floppy and difficult to work with, you can pop it on a tray with the seam down and stick it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to help firm it up before cutting. At this point, line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper or grease with butter.

I like to cut the uneven ends off (and bake them separately, as a snack) when I divide the rolls to make the final product neater, but that’s up to you. In either case, cut the dough log into 9 equal pieces and place them cut-side up in the square pan, 3 rolls by 3 rolls. Cover that with plastic or a clean towel and place it somewhere warm for its second rise (proofing), about 30-45 minutes.

For the “swirl” option, line a couple of trays with parchment paper. Roll the dough out to about a 27×9 inch rectangle with the longest edge closest to you. Spread the filling across the left 2/3 of the dough, all the way to the edges. Take the un-filled right third and fold it over the middle third, then fold the left third and fold it over the middle (like folding a letter to put in an envelope). Cut vertically into 1-inch strips. You can refrigerate the dough for 10-15 minutes before or after cutting, if it’s getting soft and floppy at this point.

Starting from the middle of where you want the bun to be on the tray, place one end with the cut edge up and lay it on the tray in a spiral- when you get to the end, just tuck it underneath the spiral towards the centre. Repeat with the remaining strips, leaving at least 3 inches between buns. Proof 30-45 minutes covered lightly in plastic.

When the dough is almost fully proofed, turn on your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the middle. You can check the proof by gently poking the side of a roll. If your finger makes a dent that quickly fills itself back in, it’s not ready yet. The dough is fully proofed when poking it leaves a dent that slowly fills itself back in most of the way. If it doesn’t spring back at all, then it’s overproofed and should be baked right away.

Bake the rolls for 30-40 minutes until the tops are deep golden brown, rotating once halfway if your oven doesn’t heat evenly. The middle of the buns should register at least 87 degrees Celsius, and if (carefully) poked, the middle bun should spring back and not feel doughy.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before removing and glazing. Store in an airtight container.

To make the filling:

If you make the glaze, you can toast and crush the black sesame seeds for the filling and glaze together- just set 1 tbsp of crushed seeds aside for the glaze before making the filling.

Toast the black sesame seeds in a dry pan set to medium heat, stirring constantly, until they start popping or become fragrant. Remove to a wide bowl and allow them to cool.

Crush the seeds until they’re broken up but not yet a paste- my spice grinder does this in a few seconds, or you could pulse them in a food processor or in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have any of those things, you can crush them on a cutting board underneath a heavy pan, or pour them into a sealable plastic bag and crush the with your rolling pin.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, crushed black sesame seeds, and salt, mixing until a uniform paste forms.

To make the glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar, crushed black sesame seeds, and salt together, and add milk by the teaspoon until you get the consistency you want. I opt for drizzling because the glaze is pretty sweet-make it a little thicker than pourable in that case. It should be able to run off a spoon slowly and take a few seconds to lose its shape. It’s easier to add liquid gradually to thin the glaze than to add extra powdered sugar to thicken it, so avoid pouring it all in at once. Keep covered until the rolls are cool enough to glaze, and mix it up before using if a crust forms on the top.

Orecchiette with Rapini (or other greens)

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I think I’m getting old.

And one of the biggest reasons I think that is that I’m enjoying more and more bitter foods. One of those foods is rapini (also called broccoli rabe) and it’s a regular weeknight meal in our household. If I have the time and need a bit of a kitchen-oriented workout, I’ll make a semolina dough and shape it into orecchiette- “little ears” in Italian, or “little bellybuttons” if I’m being honest with myself about how mine look. Otherwise, dried rigatoni or other short pasta does great here and dinner comes together in well under an hour.

This dish is essentially orecchiette con cime di rapa, in a style that an Italian friend of mine showed me one day. The version he showed me involved blending the blanched greens down to a puree and using it as the body of a slightly garlicky sauce with a savoury boost from anchovy. Despite the anchovy, the sauce doesn’t taste fishy at all but you can add more if you’re into that. I like to make the sauce chunky (which also happens to be what my food processor can handle), but you can blend it into a smooth sauce if you’re so inclined.

The move here as far as I’m concerned is actually in the topping. You take that savoury garlic-‘chovy base and olive oil and fry some breadcrumbs in it. Generously seasoned, it fills that salty-savoury role of a cheese sprinkle but with the bonus of crispiness. Between the chunky sauce, the savoury punch, and the textural contrast, I find it incredibly satisfying even without a lot of meat. This recipe makes a lot of the breadcrumbs since they’re probably my favourite part, but you can just make less if you plan to use them like cheese.

I’ve found that this dish is pretty flexible to substitutions. I sometimes use kale instead of rapini, different pasta types, sourdough or panko breadcrumbs, etc. since I don’t always have beautiful Mediterranean groceries at my disposal. The core ingredients (pasta, garlic, green veg, and breadcrumbs) are things I always have around, and oil-packed anchovies last pretty much forever in the fridge.

Pasta with Rapini

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (roughly 350g) rapini, thick stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 oil-packed anchovies, chopped finely
  • 450g fresh orecchiette or 225g dried short pasta
  • Approx. 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano), grated (optional)

Start boiling a large pot of generously salted water.

Trim any yellow leaves off the rapini and the bottom inch of stalks, if they’re thick. Chop into 2-inch long pieces. For bonus points, set the florets aside.

Mince the garlic and anchovies.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pieces of rapini (excluding the florets, if you’ve reserved them) and boil for one minute until the colour turns bright green. After that minute, remove from the pot and rinse with cold water to cool them down, and then drain. Return the pot of water to the stove and bring back up to a boil.

Add the cooked rapini to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it becomes a chunky puree.

Heat up another pot or Dutch oven over medium heat with 4 tbsp/60mL olive oil. Add half of the garlic and anchovies, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. A minute later, add the breadcrumbs. Keep the mixture moving in the pot for about two minutes, or until the crumbs have started to brown. Season with salt and pepper (should be slightly salty), and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, remove to a bowl and set aside.

If you are using fresh pasta that takes more than 8 minutes to cook, add it to the pot of boiling water and cook until 1 minute shy of al dente. If you’re using fresh, wait until the sauce is almost done.

Heat up the pot you used for the bread crumbs again over medium, with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the remaining half of the garlic and anchovies and stir, breaking up clumps of anchovy. If you set the florets aside, this is the time to add them to the pot and saute them until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the blended greens to the pot and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you’re using fresh pasta, add it to the boiling salted water and cook until just shy of al dente. In either pasta scenario, set aside about 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.

Transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce pot and stir to combine, adding pasta water as needed and stirring to make the sauce come together and coat the pasta.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and grated pecorino or parm, if desired.

Reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LvS6N6w7N0&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2_QRhHD48iNKjvhkHHKz77sBUvDB4QUIJM-z8xxn4y7gNYtH5m-zYiiww

Gluten: the basics

Gluten is the backbone of most baked goods, at least in my kitchen. It’s a protein that holds together breads, muffins, cookies, and more, and is derived primarily from wheat flour. In the presence of water, proteins called glutenin and gliadin link up to make long gluten strands, which then create a network with each other that can hold the air in a loaf of bread, the shape of cookies, and is what gives bagels their chewy texture. It’s what forms the unique strong-yet-elastic properties of dough that are difficult to recreate with other types of flour.

The amount of gluten you should aim for varies based on the type of item you’re making. The ideal amount of gluten depends based on the desired texture- do you need a strong network to hold buns in their shape? As weak as possible, to keep your cakes lofty and tender but not crumbly? How much gluten a baked good will have is controlled by a few factors: the most relevant in a home kitchen would be the type of flour and how much the mixture is worked.

The Flour

Flour’s total potential to create gluten is largely a function of how much protein is available to begin with. As an example, cake and pastry flours tend to have protein contents below 10%, and bread flours up to 13-14%, with all-purpose flour falling somewhere in between. The names themselves indicate what they’re intended for. Cakes and delicate pastries don’t benefit from a ton of gluten formation- it makes them tough, they shrink into themselves when they bake, and it gives cakes and muffins undesirable bubbles and tunnels. Breads, on the other hand, require a lot of gluten to hold their loft- the chewiness is pleasant, they can hold the air that yeasts (or chemical leaveners) produce, and gluten allows them to maintain a shape that doesn’t sag or crumble after being baked. Not to say that a recipe is impossible to make with a different type of flour, but it may not turn out as intended.

The Work

Flour has the potential to make gluten in the form of proteins that can link up in the presence of water, but like most reactions they benefit from a little mixing. Glutenin and gliadin exist in flour, but it takes a long time for them to find each other and link up without a bit of help. Working a batter or dough allows for these proteins to bump into each other and form bonds, which in turn creates a strong gluten network. This is one of the factors we can exploit in the kitchen to our advantage. When making a cake batter or delicate cookie, we can mix the flour in only until it’s just combined, and in doing so avoid strengthening a gluten network that would make them chewy or tough. For this, I’d recommend doing most of the mixing in a mixer and finishing it with a spatula by hand- chances are, you’ll already have used one to scrape the bowl, and will need it to move the batter or dough from the bowl to somewhere else.

In the case of a yeast-raised bread or pasta dough, we can make sure to work the dough until we get the full gluten potential of the flour- that allows for the flour to give us a chewy texture in a form that holds its shape. I’m a big fan of the windowpane test for bread doughs, where you stretch out a piece of dough thinly enough to see shadows through. For doughs that don’t lend themselves well to that test, a rough indication of gluten development would be a dough that evens out after mixing from lumpy and sticky to become smooth and cohesive.

Bread doughs will generally pass the windowpane test, where you can gently pull them thin enough to see shadows through. At that point, the gluten network is fully developed to be able to hold onto air produced by the yeast.

Strength isn’t Everything

Part of what makes gluten so special is what you might want in a romantic partner- it’s strong, but it has the ability to relax and be flexible. If it was unshakably tough, yeasted doughs would never be able to rise, pastas would never take on their beautiful shapes, and your partner might struggle to express their emotions. Initially, just-developed doughs are very plastic and elastic- they can be pulled and shaped without breaking, but are prone to springing back to their original shapes. Resting doughs allows the gluten network to relax so it’s still there, but it becomes more malleable. This relaxation is caused by the gradual breaking of the weaker types of bonds in the gluten network, but the remaining strength allows the dough to be shaped and retain that new shape. Resting also serves a similar purpose for doughs as for people- continually worked, gluten networks can become so overworked and tight that the doughs get brittle and snap or are difficult to work with, so a dough that becomes unmanageably tense can benefit from a little break. This is more of an issue when mixing doughs in a machine, but even hand-mixed doughs like for pies and pastries benefit from a little rest in the fridge.

Further factors

This is a small sample of factors that affect gluten in a baked product- things like proportions of salt, fat, water content, pH etc. also have significant roles, but those are generally already taken into consideration when developing a recipe.

Gluten is also not the only factor in the structure of a baked good, considering the existence of recipes without flour (or just without gluten). Components like egg proteins, starches, fats, and gelatin also account for a lot of structure, but gluten is probably the one I mess around with most.

Yeast doughs

Some of my favourite things to make are yeasted breads- there’s something incredibly satisfying about squishing some flour, water, salt, and yeast together to create something that’s so much better than the sum of its parts. There’s a bit more waiting involved than with something like a muffin or a cake, but the delayed gratification is well worth it (and the same can be true of sourdough, with even more waiting but even more flavour). Commercial yeast is pretty straightforward, and most yeast breads you’d make at home follow the same method:

The Straight Dough Method

As the name of the method might suggest, everything goes straight in the bowl in the same stage for mixing. Instant yeast can be added at the same time as everything, while active dry yeast should be bloomed in the water first to make sure it dissolves fully. The straight dough method is good for:

Lean doughs: usually just flour, water, salt, and yeast- no fats or sugars added. They produce crisp crusts and airy, chewy interiors like baguettes and pizza doughs. These doughs get maximum gluten development, tend to have the most dramatic rises, and tend to go stale quickly.

Enriched doughs: like lean doughs but with a moderate amount of fat and/or sugar added, they produce slightly denser breads with soft crusts. Things like cinnamon rolls and babkas are made with enriched doughs using this method. They ferment a bit slower because of the fat and sugar, both of which also interfere with gluten network development. These doughs tend to be much softer than lean doughs, and stale more slowly.

1. Mixing

Everything in the dough is mixed together at a low speed until combined, and then the mixing continues (often at a slightly higher speed) until the gluten network is developed. When making an enriched dough with this method, some of the sugar, egg, or fat may be added after the other ingredients in order to avoid coating the yeast with fat or to allow for better gluten development. Doughs in the mixing stage start off shaggy and brittle- they tear easily and look rough. As the gluten develops, the dough starts to stick to itself and becomes smooth and elastic.

You can check your gluten development by using the windowpane test: take a small piece of dough and stretch it as thin as you can- if you can get it into a thin membrane that you can see light through without tearing, it’s fully developed.

When the dough is fully developed, you can stretch it thin enough to see shadows through it. Enriched doughs can usually do this too, but they tend to be stickier.

2. Bulk fermentation (first rise)

Once fully developed, the dough is shaped into a ball and let rest, covered, in a warm place until roughly doubled (depending on the recipe). Enzymes in the flour break down the starches, and the sugars they produce are eaten by the yeast. The yeast produces carbon dioxide and ethanol (in addition to aromas from things like esters, aldehydes, and sulfur compounds). Big gas bubbles are produced by those yeasts and are trapped by the dough, causing the dough mass to grow in volume. The gluten is relaxed and the gas produced by the yeast interrupts the gluten network, which causes the dough to feel softer.

The bulk fermentation step is often (but not always) ended with a “punch down” or “knock back” step, where the dough is pressed down and degassed. This step accomplishes a couple of things. It redistributes or eliminates large gas bubbles, so the final texture has a more even distribution of gas bubbles, and the dough is more uniform for shaping. The yeasts get moved around and are put in contact with more food, as they have been depleting the sugars directly in contact with them. In larger masses of dough, it equalizes the temperature between the inside and outside of the dough. You can literally punch it if you’re starting to get hangry and realize that this is going to take longer than you thought, but it’s better to press it out a little more methodically.

3. Divide and Shape

This process can vary pretty widely depending on what’s being made, but the dough is usually divided into units (like individual buns, rolls, etc.), sometimes rounded and rested (pre-shaped), and then shaped into its desired shape. For something like pretzels, the dough might be divided into individual portions, rounded and rested, and then elongated and knotted. A single loaf of bread would be shaped, but not divided. In the case of cinnamon buns, it would be rolled out first and then divided, but is in its final desired shape by the end of this step.

4. Proofing

Proofing is the final (usually the second) rise for a yeast dough, after it has been shaped. This allows the yeasts to create more air bubbles, this time more regularly distributed in the dough. Generally, underproofing will result in a denser end product, while overproofing may leave you with an irregular texture and distorted shape.

To tell if something is fully proofed, poke it:

  • If the dough is underproofed, the finger dent will spring back quickly and fully
  • If it’s overproofed, it won’t spring back at all
  • Properly proofed dough will spring back slowly but not quite all the way

Items sitting on a tray can be shaken gently- they should wobble slightly. Clearly, checking if an item is proofed is very scientific and not goofy at all.

5. Baking

When the dough is fully proofed, it gets baked. The bubbles grow rapidly as the yeast go into overdrive before it gets too hot for them to survive, and the gas they produce expands. This rise is called oven spring. Then, the crust hardens and some of the gas bubbles that were expanding burst into each other, stabilizing the structure. The starch gelatinizes, the proteins coagulate, and the structure sets. Depending on the recipe, items may be washed before baking (brushed with something like egg or milk) for shine and colour.

6. Cooling

During cooling, the moisture in the loaf redistributes- the outside has dried considerably more than the inside, and the moisture from the inside diffuses outward. The starches also start to fully solidify. This is really the worst part, because it’s when the bread or whatever smells the best but it’s really better if you wait until it’s mostly cooled.

The Sponge Method

The sponge method is less common for home recipes, as most of its advantages are relevant to a bakery (scheduling flexibility, using less yeast, etc.) but you might use one for something like a brioche.

In the beginning, part of the ingredients (all of the yeast and some proportion of the flour, water, and sugar) are mixed until just combined and then risen (this is called a pre-ferment), and that mass is punched down and mixed into the dough. Then the steps are the same as the straight dough.

This method is good for generating flavour, since the sponge can ferment for a longer time than a straight dough. For very rich doughs (like brioche), high proportions of fat and sugar inhibit yeast activity, so using a sponge is a way to improve the fermentation since the yeast gets a head start before being mixed with the fat and sugar.

Sourdough

Sourdoughs are sort of a type of pre-ferment, but since the yeasts in a sourdough culture are different from commercial yeasts (and come with a host of other factors), they’re usually treated as a separate type. The steps in sourdough bread making are similar (sometimes identical) to commercial yeast dough steps, but there are enough variations and considerations that they warrant their own post.