We have been fortunate that The Captain, a recent high school graduate, has been here a few days and he knows just how it feels to have tossed his tassle-less cap in the air recently and has been sharing the excitement that comes with being an East Coast guy visiting California for the first time.
We started with a visit to Spengers, the old time fish market and restaurant that used to be on the Berkeley waterfront, although it’s a bit inland now since they did so much filling in of the bay decades and decades ago. We enjoyed some great seafood and lots of nautical memorabilia, too. The highlight was billed as an upside down apple pie. Not sure what that meant but it was delicious and came with cinnamon ice cream.
Since then we’ve been to a county fair where we took in the food, farm animals, 4H
and a horse race,
to the town of Sonoma where he checked out the old Spanish mission and its adobe bricks and ancient cactus plants, plus we had dinner with Natasha and Miss L. He’s also visited hardware stores, a roadhouse and a salvage yard with Sweetie.
Another day we went to Bodega bay for the beach and Bodega Head
views and fun,
including fun with Xam who looked like a puppy again running along the sand,
and another fish market at Valley Ford where we discovered pretty authentic North Carolina style barbecue. Leaving the coast we stopped at one of the iconic places
where The Birds by Hitchcock was filmed at the town of Bodega. Further fun included a walk in the redwoods
and a picnic overlooking a panoramic view of Austin Creek Recreation area, followed by a drive by the Russian River where we spotted dozens of folks enjoying rafting and kayaking in the late afternoon sunshine. Not all of this happened on the same day, so we’ve been getting in some just-sitting-around-reading-and-sketching-and-enjoying-hobbies time, too. The Baker’s Dog has been thrilled to have the Captain here. Lots of walks, play time and outings have kept Xam happy and a touch worn out.
One day we got into the kitchen in the morning and managed to make hamburger rolls, a braided loaf of bread and bear claws by the end of the day with sightseeing in between! The Captain did most of the work, although I found the recipes and sort of directed the action. My main job (which I assigned to myself so I wouldn’t ‘help’ too much) was kitchen wench washing all the stuff as he was finished with it and putting stuff away in the cupboards. I want one of those when I bake!
For the bear claws we went with a dough based on the dough in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice for Sticky Buns, plus my own filling recipe. The last time I made bear claws I used walnuts but this time we went with toasted almonds, plus a little almond flour. Perhaps it was the Captain’s light touch or maybe the coolness of the day and long rise, but these were outstanding and far better than the walnut ones.
I still think that the instructions for putting them together is suspect. Next time I plan to only roll the dough 8 inches wide, to put filling in sections and seal the dough between sections, then cut the claws along the fold and not the cut edge as we did this time.
The pastries will probably be bigger that way but the filling will stay put.
For the buns and braid we went with a cooked cereal recipe and modified it. Quick rolled oats was the cereal of choice.
The Captain has been fun to have around, but he has also been a big help. He met Grandma L right after he had mowed her whole yard. While he was doing that Sweetie took a header when the mower he was using decided to head down a bank unexpectedly. All is well except for some scratches but it sure startled a woman driving by on the hill. The two guys also took the old tub to the dump and had fun poking around the recycled area. Wish I had been there but someone has to show up at work now and then. We still have some fun ahead of us...and a surprise guest...with a post next week to update you.
If it isn’t too hot to bake where you are and if you enjoy a sweet, tender pastry with a nice crunchy filling, give these bear claws a try. The Captain’s outstanding oatmeal and multigrain braid and buns recipe follows.
Almond Bear Claws
Days to Make: One (1) Active/Resting/Baking Time: 15 minutes to mix, 3 1/2 hours fermentation/shaping/proofing, 20 - 40 minutes to shape and bake
Recipe Quantity: sixteen (16) small rolls
Making the Dough
6 1/2 tablespoons (3.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2.75 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter or margarine
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast*
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk (DMS) and 1 cup water (I used 1 1/8 cups evaporated milk)
*Instant yeast contains about 25% more living cells per spoonful than active dry yeast, regardless of the brand. Instant yeast is also called rapid-rise or fast-rising.
Step 1 - Making the Dough: Cream together the sugar, salt, and shortening or butter on medium-high speed in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a large metal spoon and mixing bowl and do it by hand).
(Note: if you are using powdered milk, cream the milk with the sugar, and add the water with the flour and yeast.)
Whip in the egg and lemon zest until smooth. Then add the flour, yeast, and milk. Mix on low speed (or stir by hand) until the dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, mixing for approximately 10 minutes (or knead by hand for 12 to 15 minutes), or until the dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky. You may have to add a little flour or water while mixing to achieve this texture. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Step 2 - Fermentation: Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
1/3 cup unsalted butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup diced dried figs
1 cup lightly toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons almond flour (finely ground almonds/almond meal)
¼ teaspoon salt
Melt and simmer for about 2 minutes the butter and brown sugar. Stir in the figs and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring as needed to keep fruit from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in the almonds, almond flour and salt. Cool slightly before using.
Step 3 - Form the Buns: Lightly flour a board or flat surface or counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Divide dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
Repeat procedure with remaining dough and filling.
Let rise, uncovered, until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.
If desired, combine egg yolk with water and brush the tops of bear claws then sprinkle with some sliced almonds before baking.
After baking cool on a rack. When cool drizzle on glaze.
White Glaze: In a Ziploc bag combine ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, the juice of ½ a lemon and enough warm milk (less than ¼ cup usually) to make a glaze that will drizzle out if you cut a small notch in one bottom corner of the Ziploc bag.
1 cup rolled oats, cooked and cooled
1 cup sourdough starter, or 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F) with 1 package of dry yeast sprinkled over, and allowed to proof for 5 minutes
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk at room temperature
About 1 ¼ pounds mixed flours. We used about 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour and the rest a mixture of barley, whole wheat flour and ¼ cup millet seeds, weighed to make1 pound 3 oz.
1 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the cooked and cooled grain cereal mixture, the sourdough starter or proofed yeast, the egg, butter and milk with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flours, millet and salt. Place a dough hook on the stand mixer. With the machine running on low, gradually add the flour mixture (plus the additional flour, if needed) until the dough comes together, climbs the dough hook, and cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to run the mixer on slow to let the dough knead for another 5- 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and silky.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead another minute to completely combine the ingredients. Gather dough into a ball and place in an oiled large bowl or other container large enough for the dough to rise in. Turn the dough over to oil the whole ball. Cover with a tea towel or oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a draft free warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
To make hamburger buns and a braided loaf divide dough into two pieces.
Shape one piece into a braid by dividing the dough into thirds, shaping each third into a rope, laying the ropes side by side on a parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheet and braiding the ropes, tucking under the ends. Braid loosely since the bread needs to rise before baking (and some in the oven, too!). Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a draft free warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1- 1 1/2 hours. While dough is rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush top with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water). Place baking pan into preheated oven and bake braid until golden brown. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom and is golden brown.
Take second half out of bowl and divide it into 6 pieces. The Captain weighed the pieces so that they were pretty close in weight to each other.
Bake the risen buns about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool on a wire rack once baked and before slicing either buns or braid. Makes 6 burger buns and a big braided loaf.