Baby Brioche Recipe

Before I attempt anything crazy like croissants, I though it wise to try my hand at a few simpler breads first.

Brioche is one of those breads I’ve seen used to make fancy french toast or bread pudding on TV, but I’ve never come across it in any of my local spots. I’d heard its a sweet, eggy, dense bread with a funny round puff on top that is generally cooked in a big fluted pan.

Three things pushed me over the edge to give it a go at home:

  1. These adorable mini-brioche pans (mama is the traditional one in the back)
  2. Cooking Light December 2010 Issue staring at me with a lightened up recipe for brioche rolls.
  3. This awesome Taylor Digital Measuring Cup Scale that my sis gave me for Christmas (just had to test it out and it worked like a charm!)

The recipe made way more dough than I needed for my 6 cute tins. Not to worry, I just put the extra dough in muffin tins and they actually turned out really similar!

Be forewarned, its not a difficult recipe, but there are several very LONG waiting periods.  I would suggest starting the dough the day before you want to eat it! It’s really an exercise in patience, not baking.

Here’s the recipe:

Baby Brioche Rolls

1 package of dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp.)
1/3 c. warm 1% milk (heated to 100°F)
15.75 oz. flour (3 ½ cups)
1/3 c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ½ tbsp.  unsalted butter, softened and cubed
Cooking Spray
1 tbsp. water
1 egg

Combine the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  Let the yeast dissolve for 5 min.

Add flour, sugar, salt and eggs to the milk mixture. Beat on low speed until smooth and scrape the bowl as needed.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and use it to knead the dough on low for 5 minutes. (It will look soft and elastic and the dough will begin pulling away from the bowl)

Add half of the butter at a time to the dough. Mix on medium after each addition until incorporated.

Knead the dough in the mixer for an additional 4 minutes until smooth and elastic again. Mine was pretty sticky at this point.

Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough should double in size and two fingers pressed into the dough leave an indention that doesn’t spring back.

Punch the dough down, cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 8 hours or until morning.

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (90 minutes).

Divide it into 4 equal pieces.

Cut the dough portion into 6 equal pieces and roll them into a 1.5 in ball.  Place into sprayed muffin tins and allow to rise another 45 minutes.

Mix water and egg white and gently brush the top of each roll with the mixture. This is what gives you the pretty golden outside!

Bake at 350 in a preheated oven for 14 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks. Serve with butter because it tastes amazing that way!

These are totally worth the wait.  I microwaved a little butter and spread it over each one. They were fluffy, sweet, buttery, soft in the middle and chewy on the outside!  The fluff in the center slipped over to one side on several of them, so I will skip that part when I make them again.


To-Do: 2011

My heart flutters for goals, plans, to-do lists, and perfectly mapped out calendars. That being said, I’m not a big resolution maker.  I tend to make adjustments to goals throughout the year when things don’t feel right.  This year, I’ve decided to make a To-Do list for myself instead.

  1. Bake croissants from scratch. I been dreaming of this 24 hour process occurring in my kitchen, but have yet to muster up the gumption to make it happen.  That buttery flaky goodness is calling my name and its going to happen in 2011.
  2. Trim unnecessary expenses. With all the new technology and gadgets that surface every year (and a husband who makes his living using them) it seems like there is always something new to buy or a service we can’t live without.  3 years ago I never needed text messaging and last month I was over my 200 max by 197 messages… oops.  Luckily with technology also comes lots of options for consolidating services.  I found a free app for texting that solved my problem, it just took a few minutes to get it all set up.  I’m planning to sit down and take a hard look at where our money goes and see where we can trim some excess.
  3. Get Organized. If you know me, you know that I drool over the calendar in the front of Martha Stewart Living every month and secretly wish the calendar in my blog sidebar –> included things like planting tulip bulbs, setting up a compost bin and scheduling routine times for purging unneeded items or changing the air filter on the AC.  When Jason and I first got married, I could tell you what I was doing everyday for the next month with a quick glance at my planner.  In a lot of ways, I feel like grad school zapped my long term and short term planning. 5 years is a long time and the unpredictability of experimentation led to a “take it one day at a time” strategy.  Now that I’m done, I’m ready to get back to my uber organized self.
  4. Continue my Career. Graduating in one of the most difficult economies has not made finding a specialized engineering position easy. My goal for this year is to find a position that truly uses my abilities and where I can devote my energy to solving real-world problems. I am excited to leave the academic world behind and get my hands dirty!
  5. Plan Dates. Jason and I have taken to working all day and then tackling side projects during nights and weekends. Between remodeling our house, Jason writing another edition of his book and us pursuing our hobbies (none of which are particularly leisurely), we leave almost no free time for togetherness.  We finally committed to taking a vacation this year, not on our own initiative, but because our good friends invited us. So despite job hunting and the uncertainty of moving/selling our house,  I’m planning to steal away a little more time with the hubs in 2011.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

Happy 2011!

Whew, this year has absolutely flown by. I’m doing double takes every time I see 2011 because it just looks weird!

For me, this year in particular holds a lot of milestones.

I celebrated 7 incredible years of marriage to my amazing hubby, finished my PhD, made tons of progess on the house and grew alot personally. My mom overcame breast cancer and my grandma is working hard recovering from a stroke. My first niece and nephew were born just 9 days apart! I took my first trip where I needed a passport, started this blog and began working out more regularly.

Life is sweet even through the ups and downs and I’m so thankful for all the blessings.

Cook Up Some Savings: Old Navy/Publix Deal!

Shopping is fun right?  Well its even more fun when you can score an awesome deal.  Most of my friends and family either think I’m nuts, want to get in on the savings or their eyes glaze over when I talk about my coupons and how I save money on anything I can.

I want to share an example of how I shop and let you all decide if its awesome or totally insane!

What do Old Navy & Publix have in common? Nothing really except that this week you can score an awesome deal combining their promotions!  Publix has a coupon on the very back page of their ad  for $10 off a $50 Old Navy, Gap or Banana Republic Gift Card – Um, that’s 20% off and I haven’t stepped foot in Old Navy yet!

Old Navy also gives away tons of coupons on their Facebook page each week in a little game called Barker’s Bones.  This week they have a $10 off $50 printable coupon in their ad too.

So if I redeem my $50 gift card (that I’ve only paid $40 for) I can actually get $60 worth of stuff!  I’m up to 33% off….Now all I need is a great sale.

Old Navy just so happens to have every single sweater in the store Buy One Get One Free, coats at 60% off and a TON of clearance. Ahhh!

I went today and grabbed 3 cute shirts, a tube dress for my cruise, 2 sweaters and a pair of jeans and still had 88¢ left on my gift card which they kindly returned to me in cash. My out of pocket cost was only $40 for everything shown below. The sweaters alone were $26.50 each regular price.  You could easily do something similar to pay for Christmas gifts or update your winter wardrobe.

Alright, if you think I’m nuts you are free to stop reading… if you want in on this deal head to Publix before 12/14 (12/15 if you live in FL).  If you want this weeks sale items (BOGO sweaters, 60% off coats etc) print out your $10 coupon now and head straight to Old Navy with your gift card (these are only valid til tomorrow 12/11).

If you want to wait, next week’s sale will be good too:

Layering Camis $2
Men’s Slippers $5
Performance Fleece $5
Jingle Jammies $8
Men’s & Womens Wool Blend or Frost Free Jackets $30
Coupon for $20 off $100 in the Old Navy Flyer (Hint: if you really need a lot of clothes, you could buy 2 gift cards at Publix this week and save them for this coupon next week!)

Ten Kitchen Tips: Meat

Photo Courtesy of TheBusyBrain

I have to admit, when Jason and I first got married, I was more than squeamish about handling meat.  Growing up, I was grossed out by fat, bones, skin and because my mom is awesome, she would trim up and cook my meat longer than everyone else in the family. Call me spoiled, but I was all about lean, pristine cuts (boneless skinless chicken breast, pork loin, ultra lean ground beef).  These lean cuts are not only more expensive, they can also be very dry and chewy.

Over time, I have branched out to less perfectly trimmed meats because they are typically cheaper and more flavorful. However, I’m still not a fat and gristle kinda girl.  Here are my top 10 ways to make any cut of meat delicious and save money doing it.

1.  Shop when the meat is on sale.

I have a stock up price for most cuts of meat that we enjoy.  Make use of your freezer to buy when its cheap and then use over time.

Cut of Meat Good Price Cut of Meat Good Price
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast $1.99/lb Whole Chicken 99¢/lb
Split Chicken Breast 99¢/lb Pork Loin $1.99/lb
Boston Butt $1.69/lb Pork Chops (Bone-In) $1.59/lb
Lean Ground Beef $2.99/lb Steak $4.99/lb
2.  Trim and bag into family-sized portions.

For our family of 2, that’s two chicken breasts, a lb of ground beef, or two 1″  thick pork loin medallions,  which fit nicely into a quart-sized freezer bag. If you have a family of 4, double it and use a gallon size storage bag.  Trimming the meat in advance means its ready to use, saving you time on weeknights.

3. Marinate

Marinades and dressings are one of the cheapest and easiest ways to doctor up your meat. (They are often B1G1 and have coupons too!) It requires a little bit of planning ahead, but you can pull something out of the freezer, dump some marinade in the Ziploc and throw it in the fridge overnight to thaw.  Or, if you are really organized, you could add the marinade BEFORE you freeze it and then just take it out the night before you want to cook it. My favorite marinade is sun-dried tomato vinaigrette!

4. Brine

Brining is not technique used that often by home cooks. My dad brines fish and meat before he smokes it to help it cure and flavor it.  But I learned recently that you can brine anything and it results in an oh-so-tender grilled hunk of meat.  Try a sugar brine on porkchops – just make sure you rinse or pat the brine off before you cook it (if you don’t it will be too salty).

5. Slowcook

The slowcooker is one of my ultimate time-savers. Who doesn’t love a hot meal ready and waiting for them after a long day, especially when its cool outside? This works great for cheaper cuts of meat because you always end up with a tender flavorful result. My dear friend Erica introduced us to Chicken Parisienne and its one of our go-to favs!

6. Jaccard

Most people have never heard of this tool. Actually, it looks more like a weapon.  My Jaccard has 48 tiny blades that pierce meat with spring-loaded action! Tough cuts are broken down, and marinade can penetrate better into the meat. It also evens out the thickness for more uniform cooking.  I see them at TJ Maxx/Ross frequently for $20, or you can find one at Amazon for about $25. We’ve give away several as gifts because its just that awesome!

7. Skip It

One of the best ways to save on meat is to skip it all together.  I’m not suggesting becoming a vegetarian by any means, but skipping meat just one night a week is great for your wallet and your waistline.  Also, eating low on the food chain helps save energy and natural resources (that’s the hippy in me talking 🙂 ) Try my roasted tomato pasta for a tasty meat-free dinner. If you can’t go totally meatless, try reducing your portion size at each meal instead!

8. Roast

My favorite way to cook pork tenderloin is to season and pan sear it on all sides and then roast it in the oven for a good 40 minutes. A nice crust forms on the outside of the meat and the inside stays very tender. We love this Pork tenderloin with roasted grape sauce.

9. Don’t Overcook – Pretty Please!

At first, I cooked everything to death for fear it wasn’t done (did I mention my squeamishness).  Even now, I have trouble eating a steak that isn’t well done.  But, overcooking is a surefire way to end up with a dry, rubbery piece of meat.  You can look up the cooking times for various cuts of meat and levels of doneness.  A simple thermometer lets you check the internal temp of the meat and decide if its done.

Cut of Meat Perfect Temp Cut of Meat Perfect Temp
Poultry 165 F Pork 165 F
Steak, Med 160 F Steak, Well 170 F
10. Let it Rest

Its tempting to pull a steak off the grill or a pork loin out of the oven and immediately slice it.  But there is good reason to let it sit for 10-15 minutes tented with foil.  High temps release the moisture in your meat as steam. If you immediately cut it open, that moisture is lost to the air. Oops! By letting the meat cool down some, the moisture is redistributed within the meat instead of escaping meaning a more juicy steak for you!

Sunshine in a Glass

In honor of my FL Gators playing my next favorite, SC Gamecocks, Jason and I whipped up a cocktail to demonstrate our loyalties. You’ll note its orange, and contains fresh squeezed Florida Tangerine juice. Sorry Carolina, you’ll always be my #2.

Here’s the sunshiney goodness:

3 oz fresh squeezed Florida Tangerine Juice (sub OJ if you want)
3 oz pineapple juice
¾ oz Vodka
¾ oz Triple Sec (or orange liquer)
¾ oz Peach Schnapps

Shake and serve over plentiful ice in a tall glass. Or you can split it between two martini glasses like we did.


Cures for the Shop-A-Holic

I’m a girl, which I think genetically means that I like to shop (someone back me up with the scientific evidence). But I’m also cheap frugal. Normally, I get my retail therapy by shopping with coupons – its a fun hobby of mine that has also allowed me to divide my grocery and household budget by two.  But I also LOVE shopping for home decor (think vases, lamps and other pretty stuff) and kitchen gadgets (mortar and pestles, colorful knives, cake stands).  Normally when I need this kind of retail therapy I hit up TJ Maxx, Ross or Target clearance, but even at discounted prices you are spending real money (no coupons!) and it adds up.

Jason and I instituted a rule that if we are out shopping and really like something, we have to decide right then and there where it would go in our home. This has helped us to think through whether its really needed “this would go beautifully above the loveseat” and has prevented the impulse “but I really liked it and it was on sale” type of purchases. 

But, shhh, its not that fun!

My mom also taught me that if I really love something at one of those stores, I have to snag it that day because it will be gone tomorrow. (Thanks Mom!)

So this rule has been modified a bit: Buy it if you really love it – all stores have a return policy. If you haven’t found the perfect spot for it or used it within 30 days you probably aren’t going to, so leave the tag on and save your receipt. If the vases on the bookshelf make you smile everyday for a month, then you know it was a good purchase, if not, return it and wait for something you do love to come along.

Another fun way to appease my itch to shop is snapping pics with the iPhone of things I love but don’t really have a place for. Think of it as a digital shopping adventure that helps you figure out your decorating taste so that when you do need something you know what you’re looking for. I file them away in a folder on my desktop for easy perusing. You can also come up with some great inexpensive DIY ideas this way too!

Here are some photos from my last window shopping adventure to TJ Maxx:

Colorful Candle Holders $1.99 ea

Graphic Leaf Print Lamp $29.99

Cupcake Batter Pen $5.99

I already knew this, but now you know that I like a modern aesthetic, bright colors, and have an obsession with large graphic flower and leaf prints. The candle holders would look awesome as a dining table centerpiece (they hold votive or tall candles). The lamp I would rather have two of. I’m a fan of symmetry and would love to have them on bedside night tables or end tables next to a comfy couch. The cupcake batter pen I took a picture of just because it gave me an idea. I have tons of squeeze bottles from my baking and chocolate making (you can get them @ the craft store for $1 with a 40% off coupon). I just cut a larger hole in one tip and use it for mess-free cupcake distributing and even pancake dispensing. The Amazon description for this product says if you don’t use all the batter, put the cap on and leave in the fridge until the next day! Why didn’t I think of that?

What are some ways you reign in your need to shop?

Out with the 70’s

I mentioned earlier that we are in the midst of a master bath redo – in fact, we are nearing the end of  5-year  whole house DIY makeover.  Everything from the kitchen, to the floors and even the ceilings have been updated and there’s not a single light fixture in our house that was around when we moved in.  Call us crazy, but we have really loved taking our first house, a 1970’s contemporary, and updating it to suit our needs – one little step at a time.  With everything else pretty much wrapped up, our master bath was the only eyesore left:

This was just a few days after we moved in, and as you can tell, we had already decided the wallpaper had to go (little did we know how painstaking that would be). And this obsession with brass was prevalent in all the fixtures in our home – now completely eliminated!

We have done every project on a budget. Shopping clearance and online sales, choosing smart materials and putting in the time to learn the DIY ropes.  And we’ve been rewarded with a house we love coming home to (or in Jason’s case working in).  So needless to say our approach to the master bath was no different.  I love to start with a plan, so here is a mood board I put together of the products we were able to score at a discount thanks to some good sales and some out of the box (literally -thanks Ikea!) ideas.

The demo is done, as are the floors and trim. Last weekend we painted everything a calming blue and next weekend we are onto vanity construction. This may take a while since these aren’t vanities at all. We bought two Ikea Engan dressers and will be modifying them to accommodate plumbing for the vessel sinks as well as a slate mosaic countertop.  I guess we inherited more construction traits from our dads than we thought.  Stay tuned for more DIY adventures!

1 Dough, 2 Herb & Fruit Cookies

Ok, ok. I know my blog is called ” The BakeCakery” and that there hasn’t been a whole lotta caking going on lately.  I will remedy that sometime soon, but I assure you that there has been plenty of baking.   I want to share 2 amazing cookie recipes with you. They start with the same basic dough, both contain fruit & herbs (stick with me here…) and the end result is two incredibly unique, insanely tasty cookies.  In fact, my sweet cookie-loving husband said these were “better than chocolate chip” – Now that’s love!

Basic Dough

1 stick butter, softened
¾ c. confectioners sugar
½ c. brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Cream together the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix until just incorporated.  Form a ball from the dough and cut it in half.

Sage, Apricot, Cornmeal Thumbprints

makes 20 cookies

½ basic dough recipe
1/3 c. corn meal
½ tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. lemon zest, chopped fine
¾ c. apricot preserves
20 small sage leaves

Add the corn meal, dried sage and lemon zest to the dough and mix until distributed.  Form cookies into 1 in balls and press flat with your thumb.  Place a sage leave on top of each indention and cover with a tablespoon of apricot preserves.  Bake at 350 for 11-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Cranberry & Rosemary Cookies

makes 20 cookies

1/2 basic dough recipe
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, grated
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
2o rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Add nutmeg, cranberries and chopped rosemary to the other 1/2 of the dough.  Mix until distributed.  Form into 1 in. balls and press lightly. Top each cookie with a rosemary sprig. Bake at 350 for 14-15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

I’m not sure I can really describe the taste of these. They are unlike any cookies I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried a lot of cookies.  The sage one has an extra crunch from the cornmeal, but the caramelized jam also gives it a chewy, sticky quality.  The rosemary ones look like and have the texture of a chocolate chip cookie but they taste like winter!  Here are some photos Jas took as they were coming out of the oven:


Recipe Rework: Move over Martha

Here is the long-awaited reworked version of Martha’s Peanut, Caramel and Chocolate Tart. As I was doing the calorie math on my version – I realized I left off the calories and fat of 1.5 cups of heavy cream in the original.  While my changes didn’t magically turn this into health food, you can now eat two pieces for the price of one. Here’s the side by side comparison:

Martha’s Tart My Version
Calories 1064 633
Fat 81g 34g
Sat. Fat 39g 18g

Unnecessary butter was eliminated in the crust in favor of an egg white to hold it all together.  Heavy cream in the filling was replaced with an instant pudding and whipped topping mousse. The caramel is now easier and much safer (always a plus) and has a richer buttery flavor.  Finally, I left some of the cream out of the ganache which didn’t affect the flavor, but made a big dent in the calories. If you wanted to get really excited, you could use sugar free jello and cool whip and reduced fat peanut butter.

Snicker’s Tart (Amy’s Version)


12 chocolate graham cracker sheets
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 egg white
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350º. Pulse graham crackers, granulated sugar, egg white and melted butter in the food processor until crumbs form. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-in. spring form pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set.

Caramel Sauce

1 c. brown sugar
1 c. heavy cream
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. roasted peanuts

Stir together the sugar, cream and honey and slowly bring to a boil. Cook over medium high, stirring occasionally until golden brown and bubbly (temp reaches 230F measured by a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla and peanuts. Let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully pour onto the baked crust and let cool. (Easy, delicious and safe!)

Peanut Butter Mousse

1 (5.1 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup skim milk
1 (16 ounce) container frozen lite whipped topping, thawed
3/4  c. creamy peanut butter

Beat milk and pudding mix until dissolved. Add in peanut butter and whip until blended. Add the whipped topping and beat until incorporated. Gently spread peanut butter mouse over caramel in an even layer and refrigerate 30 minutes.


1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. heavy cream

Place chocolate and cream in a medium microwave safe bowl. Microwave on half power  for 1 minute increments, stirring between, until the chocolate is melted and cream incorporated. Remove tart from refrigerator, and pour in ganache to cover surface. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or freeze and then thaw slightly before serving.