Food is central in Catalan life. Tapas bars and casual cafés serve pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) already assembled, but some restaurants merely deliver the components to the table: a piece of chewy bread grilled over a wood fire, a perfectly ripe tomato, fine salt, and local extra-virgin olive oil. Such a simple combination depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients—they have to be perfect. The instructions here are adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Paula Wolfert’s World of Food, with her permission. This is the perfect appetizer for a casual late summer meal. Eat with a knife and fork!
As soon as the weather starts to warm up I start thinking about the upcoming preserving and pickling season. I already picked up a couple of gallons of distilled white vinegar at the supermarket a few weeks ago, and yesterday I saw that strawberries were on sale, so I bought a couple of pounds. What you see above is the result of those 2 pounds of strawberries and a little more than a pound of sugar: almost a quart of really fresh tasting strawberry jam. I've been making jam and preserves of different kinds for almost 50 years but I have to admit that I've really refined my methods for sweet preserves like these only in the past couple of years.
Here are my "rules" for making great fruit jams and loving both the process and the results:
Make small quantities; a few pounds of jam cooks up in a matter of minutes and then you're off and running to other necessary projects without devoting an entire day to the jam.
Don't be a slave to jelling; I cook my jam and marmalade to 220 degrees F - it's a soft set and not jelled hard at refrigerator temperature.
For the same reason I don't pressure seal the jars after they're filled. I fill the sterilized jars with boiling jam and close them with a new sterilized dome lid and ring. Technically they're not entirely safe, so I label them to be stored refrigerated.
While we're making rules, here's all the equipment you'll need:
An enameled iron or other non-reactive Dutch oven. Your preserving pan should be squat rather than tall and narrow to allow for maximum contact with the heat. 6 to 8 quarts is ideal...
A stainless ladle, a silicon spatula, an instant-read thermometer are all essential.
Jars - standard Mason jars like the ones above, or recycled ones. Yes, recycling is a no-no to the safety experts, but if jars and lids are sterilized and the jars refrigerated after cooling, the risk is almost non-existent.
A jar funnel, either a standard one or a homemade one that I used in the photos below. A jar funnel you buy perfectly fits the top of a standard Mason jar. But if you're using recycled jars, frequently the tops are more narrow than a standard canning jar. My $1. solution was to saw off the end of a plastic funnel; now I hardly ever use my fancy stainless steel funnel.
Here are the steps in making the jam. The full recipe follows at the end.
Starting the jam
Here you have the rinsed and hulled berries crushed with a potato masher with the vanilla bean and seeded lemon half. The lemon imparts some flavor contrast as well as some pectin for a soft set once the jam has cooled.
Adding the sugar
Add the sugar all at once before beginning to cook the jam.
Full rolling boil
Bring the jam to a full rolling boil, stirring occasionally.
Decrease the heat to medium/high and cook, stirring occasionally.
220 degrees F
Continue to cook until the temperature increases to 220 degrees F.
Ready to jar after skimming.
Filling the jars! This took about an hour from start to finish.
EASY STRAWBERRY JAM
2 pounds ripe strawberries
1 vanilla bean
1/2 lemon, quartered and seeded
2 1/2 cups/18 ounces granulated sugar
3-4 half-pint capacity jars
Bring a large pan of water to a boil and immerse the jars in it to boil for 2 minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars and place them upside down on a pan lined with paper towels to drain. Keep the pan of water for sterilizing the lids later on.
Rinse the berries in a colander under cold running water and drain them well. Use the point of a paring knife to remove the hulls.
Place the berries in a non-reactive pan that's about 6-quart capacity and crush them with a potato masher. Stir in the vanilla bean, lemon, and sugar
Place the pan on high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; at the boil, decrease the heat to medium low.
Continue cooking the jam until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F.
Off heat, skim and foam from the surface of the jam.
Reheat both the jam and the pan of water to a simmer. Quickly fill each jar through the funnel to 1/4-inch of the top and cover the jar with a sterilized lid. Screw on the rings and let the jars cool to room temperature.
Label and date the jars and remember to include "store refrigerated" on each label.
For the cherry filling, combine the cherries, any accumulated juices, the sugar, and almond extract in a nonreactive saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Mix the cornstarch and water and stir in 1/2 cup of the hot cherry juices. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir the cornstarch mixture into the filling.
Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook, stirring, until the filling thickens, comes to a boil, and turns clear, about 2 minutes.
Scrape the filling into a bowl, press plastic wrap directly against the surface, and cool it to room temperature.
Set a rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 325°F.
For the almond meringue, half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile whisk the egg whites, salt, and sugar together by hand in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the mixer bowl over the pan of boiling water and whisk gently but constantly until the egg whites are hot (140°F) and the sugar has dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the meringue on medium-high speed until the egg whites have risen in volume but are still creamy in texture. Overwhipping will make the meringue dry and grainy.
While the meringue is whipping, spread the cooled cherry filling into the tart crust.
Once the meringue is whipped, fold in the sliced almonds by hand. Spread the meringue over the cherry filling, making sure to touch the meringue to the side of the tart crust all around. Sprinkle with the reserved almonds
Bake the tart until the meringue is crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.
Cool the tart on a rack, unmold it, and slide it onto a platter to serve.
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, optional
2 large egg yolks
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar on the lowest speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until well mixed, then increase the speed to medium and beat until lightened, about 3 minutes.
Add the extracts, then the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until the mixture is smooth.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and beater and beat in the flour mixture on the lowest speed.
Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it together 3 or 4 times to make it smooth.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces, form them into disks, and wrap each one in plastic. Chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling.
To bake, roll the dough and place in a pie pan. Chill while you preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spread the Almond Biscuit Batter (see below) into the crust. Bake until the dough is golden and baked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
ALMOND BISCUIT BATTER
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup ground almonds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Whisk the flour and sugar together in a medium bowl; add the eggs and whisk smooth.
Whisk in the salt and vanilla, then use a small rubber spatula to fold in the nuts and butter.
An old-fashioned American bakery and diner favorite, coconut cream pie has all but disappeared from retail bakeries and menus. This version intensifies the coconut flavor with Thai coconut cream added to the filling.
Makes one 9-inch pie, about 8 servings
One blind-baked 9-inch piecrust made from Flaky Buttery Dough (see below), fully baked
COCONUT CREAM FILLING
2 cups whole milk, divided use
1 cup unsweetened Thai coconut cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1 envelope/7 grams unflavored granulated gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to a soft peak
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, lightly toasted
For the filling, whisk 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the coconut cream, and sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch and egg yolks. Sprinkle the gelatin on the water in a small bowl and set it aside.
When the milk mixture comes to a boil, whisk about a third of it into the yolk mixture. Return the remaining milk mixture to low heat and bring it back to a boil. When it starts to boil, begin whisking, then whisk in the yolk mixture. Continue whisking constantly until the cream thickens and returns to a boil, about 2 minutes.
Off the heat, whisk in the softened gelatin and the vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface of the filling and refrigerate for 30 minutes, then continue cooling it at room temperature (if left in the refrigerator, it will set solid before the whipped cream is added). Once the filling has cooled, rewhip the cream if it has become liquid, then quickly fold it into the filling. Scrape the filling into the cooled piecrust, doming it slightly in the center. Chill the pie to completely set the filling. After an hour or so, cover the pie with plastic wrap if you’re not finishing it right away.
To finish the pie, whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar to a soft peak and spread it on the filling. Generously sprinkle the cream with the toasted coconut.
FLAKY BUTTERY DOUGH
Makes enough for 2 single-crusted pies or 1 double-crusted pie
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large eggs
Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor; pulse several times at 1-second intervals to mix.
Add the butter pieces and pulse again 3 or 4 times. Use a metal spatula to scrape the side of the bowl and mix the butter pieces throughout the flour.
Pulse again 3 or 4 times.
Using a fork, beat the eggs to break them up, and add them to the bowl. Pulse again until the dough almost forms a ball; avoid pulsing too much, or the pieces of butter needed to make the dough flaky will become too small.
Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and quickly press it together.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces, form them into thick disks, and wrap each one in plastic. Chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling.
To blind bake, roll the dough and place in a pie pan. Chill while you preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line crust with parchment and dried beans or pie weights. Bake until the dough is set and no longer shiny and raw looking, about 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake until golden, about 15 additional minutes.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped candied orange peel
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
3 large oranges
1/2 cup high-quality orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1/3 cup Orange Syrup, above
1 cup apricot preserves
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Candied orange peel
Three 12-cavity miniature muffin pans, buttered
About thirty-six 2-inch babas, 18 to 24 servings (see Note)
A baba should be a buttery, yeast-risen cake, low in sugar, soaked in a seasoned syrup to flavor it and make it moist. Unfortunately, what most pastry shops prepare are rather large, fine-textured babas that develop an unattractively sodden texture after they are soaked, in what is usually a syrup flavored with inferior liqueurs or fruit juices. So, most people look at a baba and flee.
These babas are quite different from those described above. They are tiny, so their rich sweetness is a pleasant mouthful; they are a bit coarse-textured, so they don’t become soggy after being soaked; and the syrup is flavored with orange liqueur and orange juice, which contributes a fresher taste than the usual rum and spices.
I first made these babas for a dinner at the James Beard House in New York in honor of Marcella and Victor Hazan, the Italian food experts. The dessert was a selection of miniature pastries, including the babas. I held my breath as the dessert was served (I was sitting next to Marcella and she had only played with most of the food that night). But after tasting the baba she leaned over and said, “Can you send me the recipe for these babas? I love their coarse texture.” I enjoyed my dessert after that.
To make the sponge, in a small saucepan over a low flame, heat the milk until it is just warm, about 110 degrees. Remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl. Whisk in the yeast, then stir in the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for about 20 minutes, until the sponge is well risen.
To make the dough, combine all the ingredients except the flour and candied orange peel in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until mixed, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and sponge and beat again, scraping the bowl and paddle often, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Beat in the candied orange peel.
Place half the dough at a time in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tube. (Using a pastry bag makes filling the pans much easier.) Position the tube about 1 inch above one of the cavities in the pan and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of the dough into it, filling it about half full. Using a buttered spatula or finger, sever the dough from the end of the tube. Repeat until all the cavities are filled, refilling the bag with the remaining dough when the first batch is finished. Or fill the pans with a tablespoon, pushing the dough off the spoon with your finger.
Cover the filled pans with buttered plastic wrap, buttered side down, and allow the babas to rise at room temperature until they’re doubled, up to 1 hour.
After they have begun to rise visibly, set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
Bake the babas for about 20 minutes, or until they are well puffed, a deep golden brown, and when lifted feel light for their size. Unmold onto a rack to cool.
To make the syrup, combine the water and sugar in a large nonreactive saucepan. Use a stainless vegetable peeler to strip the zest from the oranges in large pieces. Add to the pan and bring the syrup to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow the zests to steep in the syrup for 5 minutes. Remove the zests with a slotted spoon. Squeeze and strain the juice from the oranges and add to the syrup. Return the syrup to a boil and add the orange liqueur. Remove and reserve 1/3 cup syrup to make the glaze later on.
To soak the babas, place 6 at a time in the saucepan and push them down into the syrup with the back of a skimmer or a slotted spoon. As soon as they appear to inflate slightly, remove them from the syrup to a rack set over a platter or nonreactive pan to drain. Repeat with the remaining babas. Reheat the syrup several times if necessary (if the syrup is not boiling hot, it will not penetrate completely). Cool the babas while preparing the glaze.
To make the glaze, combine the reserved 1/3 cup of syrup with the preserves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly thickened, then strain into a bowl to remove the pulp. Using a soft pastry brush, paint the babas with the glaze. Allow the glaze to cool and set, then arrange the babas on a platter.
To finish the babas, in a bowl, whip the cream with the sugar until it holds soft peaks. Use a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tube to pipe a rosette or spoon a dollop of the cream onto each cooled baba. Top the rosette with a piece of candied orange peel.
Note: Thirty-six babas seems like an enormous quantity, but the babas are tiny—and the recipe does not call for large quantities of ingredients. If you wish, prepare all the components—the babas, syrup, and glaze—and freeze them. Finish in several batches.
Fragile and delicate in the extreme, these cookies are a labor of love to make because you need to bake them one pan at a time on the middle rack of the oven. If you have a double oven, start to bake another pan a couple of minutes before the first pan is ready to come out. These spread best on a bare buttered pan; brush the pans with very soft but not melted butter. If you don’t mind cookies that are a little thicker, you may use silicon mats to bake them.
Makes about 30 cookies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
3 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans, buttered with soft butter
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
In a small mixing bowl, use a medium rubber spatula to stir together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the egg and beat until smooth.
Add the flour and almonds and stir smooth.
To save time, deposit all the batter on the pans right away. Drop level measuring teaspoons of the batter onto the pans at least 3 inches apart in all directions. Put 10 to 12 mounds of batter on each pan.
Bake one pan of cookies until they have spread, come to a simmer on the pan, and are deep golden in color, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and immediately place another pan in to bake.
Let the cookies cool for about 20 seconds, then slide a wide thin-bladed spatula under the edge of the cookie closest to you and gently work the spatula back and forth to pry the cookie off the pan and move it to a parchment-covered pan or wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining cookies. Don’t get nervous, but you have to do this quickly while the cookies are still warm or they’ll shatter when you try to lift them from the pan.
Celebrate the Queen’s birthday with this very British cake. It bears the original German name of the family now known in Britain as Mountbatten. The batter is divided in half and cocoa is added to one portion of it. After baking, the two cakes are cut into even bars and stacked up checkerboard-style. Thanks to Kyra Effren for sharing her expert knowledge of British baking.
2 cups cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa, sifted after measuring
3 tablespoons milk
8 ounces almond paste
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
Two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans, buttered and the bottoms lined with rectangles of parchment paper
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle on medium speed until very light and smooth, about 5 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift the cake flour into a bowl and stir in the baking powder.
Stop the mixer and add a third of the flour mixture to the batter. Mix on lowest speed until the flour is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining second and last third of the batter. After all the flour has been added, let the batter beat on lowest speed for 2 additional minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and put half the batter into another bowl.
Mix the cocoa and milk together and stir the cocoa mixture into one of the batters. Scrape each batter into a separate pan and bake until well risen and a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake emerges clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Unmold the cakes to racks to cool completely.
To make the marzipan, cut the almond paste into 1/2-inch pieces and combine in the bowl of an electric mixer with about half the confectioners’ sugar. Place on mixer with paddle attachment and beat on lowest speed until the almond paste absorbs the sugar, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the remaining sugar in a stream and continue mixing until the marzipan looks like very fine crumbs. Add the corn syrup to the bowl and continue mixing until the marzipan begins to form larger crumbs. Remove the bowl from the mixer and pour the marzipan out onto a work surface. Knead the crumbs together until they form a firm dough, adding a drop or two of water if the mixture seems too dry. Wrap the marzipan in plastic wrap.
After the cakes have cooled, trim the sides straight and cut each cake into a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch slab. Cut one cake down the middle to make two 9 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch bars. Repeat with the other cake.
To make the glaze, place the jam in a medium saucepan and heat it over medium heat until it is slightly reduced and no longer sticky, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Assemble the cake on a piece of parchment paper. First brush some of the glaze on the side of one of the plain cake bars and press a bar of the chocolate cake against it so that you have one white bar and one chocolate bar, side by side.
Paint the top of the white bar with the glaze and place the second bar of chocolate cake on top of it. Paint the side of that second bar of chocolate cake and the top of the bar of chocolate cake on the bottom layer with the glaze and place the last bar of white cake in place. Now you should have two layers of alternating colors, like a checkerboard.
Roll out the marzipan to a 10 x 22-inch rectangle, dusting the marzipan and the work surface with a little cornstarch to keep it from sticking. Brush the glaze on one side of the cake and invert the cake so that the glaze is on the bottom. Position the cake so that it is 1 inch from one of the 10-inch sides of the marzipan. Paint the remainder of the outside of the cake with the glaze and wrap the marzipan around to cover the whole cake, trimming it evenly where it meets the other end of the marzipan.
Slightly reminiscent of a French gâteau breton, this dense cake is perfect with a glass of sweet wine or a cup of tea. As a dessert, it would need to be dressed up with some fruit or berries.
Makes one 9-inch tube or Bundt cake, about 16 slices
2 1/2 cups blanched almonds, very lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
5 large eggs, at room temperature
One 9-inch (10-cup) tube or Bundt pan, buttered, coated with fine dry bread crumbs, and sprayed with vegetable cooking spray
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325˚F.
Combine the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse repeatedly until the mixture is a fine powder. Invert the work bowl to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon to the bowl and mix on lowest speed for 1 minute.
Add the butter and mix until absorbed.
Add the lemon zest and 2 eggs and mix until absorbed. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Add another 2 eggs and repeat, beating for 1 minute after they are incorporated. Add the last egg and repeat.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake until it is well risen and deep golden and the point of a thin knife inserted between the side of the pan and the central tube emerges clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then unbuckle the side of the pan and slide the cake from the pan base to a rack to cool.
Serving: This is best as a tea cake. Serve thin slices; a spoonful of lemon curd to accompany it wouldn’t be bad, either.
Storage: Keep the baked cake under a cake dome or wrapped in plastic at room temperature. Double wrap and freeze for longer storage. Defrost and bring back to room temperature before serving.
Back in the 1990s, we used to have a demonstration class every afternoon at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School. Occasionally the chef garde-manger or the pastry chef from the celebrated restaurant Le Cirque would do one of them. José, the young French pastry chef, once made this lovely take on a shortcake. I made it for a class soon after I tasted it and have always wanted to share the recipe as a memorial to his talent, because José passed away very young.
Makes one 9-inch cake, 8 to 10 servings
1/2 batch Brioche Mousseline Dough (see below)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons orange liqueur, divided use
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 half-pint baskets fresh raspberries, picked over but not washed
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
Round the brioche dough to a sphere and let it rest, covered, on the work surface for 10 minutes. Butter a 2-inch deep, 9-inch round pan and line it with a disk of parchment.
Use the floured palm of your hand to evenly press the dough into the pan. Cover and let the dough proof until it almost doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Set a rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Bake the cake until it is well risen and deep golden, with an internal temperature of 200°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Unmold and cool it on a rack.
Meanwhile, make the filling by whisking the granulated sugar, flour, and salt together in a nonreactive saucepan. Whisk in the milk and the yolks. Place the pan over low heat and whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Off the heat, whisk in 3 tablespoons of the orange liqueur and scrape the pastry cream into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface and refrigerate until cold.
Use a sharp serrated knife to split the brioche cake horizontally into 2 layers. Place the bottom layer on a platter, cut side up, and sprinkle it with half of the remaining orange liqueur.
Whip the cream and fold it into the cooled pastry cream. Spread half the cream on the bottom layer. Top the cream with the raspberries, then spread the remaining cream over the berries.
Sprinkle the cut surface of the top layer with the remaining orange liqueur, then invert the cut side onto the filling.
Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.
BRIOCHE MOUSSELINE DOUGH
Makes 2 pounds, enough for about 12 individual brioches or one 9-inch round loaf
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons fine granulated active dry or instant yeast
1/3 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to 100°F
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
Stir the sugar and yeast together in the bowl for a stand mixer, then whisk in the cooled milk. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk again. Whisk in the eggs.
Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour, making sure not to leave any in the bottom of the bowl or stuck to its sides.
Using the dough hook, beat the dough on the lowest speed until it comes together but isn’t completely smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Begin mixing again on low-medium speed and sprinkle in the salt. Add the butter in 8 or 10 separate pieces, then let the dough mix until it completely absorbs the butter and becomes smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough doesn’t absorb the butter easily, stop and scrape down the bowl and dough hook every couple of minutes. Once you see that the butter is on its way to being completely absorbed, increase the speed to medium for about 1 minute.
Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl, turn it over so that the top is buttered, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until it doubles in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature.
Once the dough has fermented, scrape it onto a floured surface and give it a turn: press the dough into a fat disk and fold one side over the center, then fold the other side over both. Roll the dough down from the top to form an uneven sphere. Place the dough back in the bowl (butter the top again if necessary) seam side down and cover it again.
Refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours or until it rises again and then chills down. It’s now ready to use in the recipes that call for it. You can leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight, but you should bake it within 18 hours of beginning to mix it.
Perfect as is or lightly toasted, this bread makes wonderful tea sandwiches or more substantial ones.
Makes one 9 x 5 x 5-inch loaf
1/2 cup warm tap water about 110ºF
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) fine granulated active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 2/3 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 or 5 pieces and softened
1 loosely packed cup coarsely grated Swiss Gruyère
1 cup walnut pieces, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces and lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, optional
One 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan, buttered or oiled
Once the milk has cooled, pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and whisk in the yeast. Wait 1 minute, then whisk again to make sure the yeast is completely dissolved. Whisk in the cooled milk and the sugar.
Use a large rubber spatula to stir in about half of the flour. Stir in the rest in 3 or 4 additions to form a rough dough in which there is no longer any unmoistened flour.
Place the bowl on the mixer and use the dough hook to beat the dough on medium speed until it’s somewhat smoother but not perfectly smooth, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
Mix the dough on low/medium speed and sprinkle in the salt, then add the butter a couple of pieces at a time. Continue mixing, increasing the speed to medium until the dough is smoother and more elastic, about 2 additional minutes. On low speed, beat in the cheese, nuts, and optional pepper until well dispersed throughout the dough.
Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it is increased about 50% over its original size.
Invert the dough to a floured surface and press it into a thick disk. Fold one side over the center, then fold the other side over that. Roll the dough down from the top, jellyroll style, to the other end.
Repeat step 6, turning the dough 90 degrees before you fold it.
Return the dough to the bowl seam side down and cover. Let it ferment until fully double, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Invert the dough to a floured surface and pull it into a rectangle about the same length as the loaf pan. Tightly roll down from the top and seal the edge, pinching it in place. Place the dough into the prepared pan seam side down and cover it with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap. Let the loaf proof until it comes an inch above the rim of the pan, about an hour.
Once the dough is almost to the top of the pan, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Once fully proofed, uncover and bake the loaf until it is well risen, deep golden, and has an internal temperature of about 200 degrees.
Unmold the loaf and cool it on its side on a rack. Wrap well and store at room temperature or freeze.