Monday, August 29, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Vanilla Salted Buttery Breakups

Be not ashamed of mistakes and, thus, make them crimes. —Confucius (551–479 BC)
My Secret Recipe Club assignment this month comes from the Bright Morning Star food blog. The powers that be in the club assign a blog from which to make a recipe, but participants can chose any to make. The blogger then reveal the results for everyone else to see.


Bright Morning Star is inspired by the cuisine of the Goa region of India. Portuguese occupied that area from 1510 to 1961. I decided to make Vanilla Salted Buttery Breakups — it doesn't appear to be Goan — because I need some baking practice. Besides, few can resist dishes that combine vanilla, sugar and butter.

I made a couple of small changes to the recipe. First, I used Madagascar vanilla extract rather than vanilla sugar, which is not a big change. The ingredient came with a bonus, not only flavoring the dough but also wafted the scent of vanilla through my entire house.

I chopped the butter into small pieces, added them into the batter and continued to cut the butter into the dough with a regular fork. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

Second, I made the dough totally by hand. I don't own a large food processor to do the dough work for me. In hindsight, I might have been able to use the dough setting on my bread maker.

I used a fork to cut the butter into the flour. Bakers and chefs more than a century ago used that technique, and it worked just fine. My wrist got quite the workout.

A mistake while rolling the dough didn't affect the flavor but resulted in a botched first batch. I rolled out the dough way too thin. When baked for the recommended minimum half-hour, parts of the dough got were nearly burnt and very crispy.

At the time, I really thought I had made a big mistake, but I took my "mistaken" breakups to a potluck anyway, apologizing the whole time for their appearance. As I tell everyone regularly, I'm not much of a baker.

Yet after receiving some positive feedback on the vanilla and butter taste, I downgraded my big mistake to a small one. Looks don't matter as much as character, and that original batch had good character.

The second time around, I did everything correctly. The proof is in the photos.

Second time's a charm. I didn't use a heavy hand with my rolling pin this time around. A chef's knife did a good job with the crisscross cut.  (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

The egg yolk glaze is next. I brushed it on with a silicone brush, normally used for BBQ basting because it can withstand very hot temperatures. But I use it anytime I glaze or baste because it cleans up more easily than conventional brushes. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

Once it came out of the oven, it looked too pristine to break up. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

The Celtic grey salt gave it an interesting twist in color, texture and flavor. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)
The final product. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

Vanilla Salted Buttery Breakups

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon French gray sea salt (sel gris) or kosher salt (I used Celtic grey salt.)
5 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into small pieces
2.5 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, beaten, for the glaze
  1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Drop in the pieces of butter. Cut them into the mixture with a fork until it looks like coarse meal. Don't worry about making the butter pieces the same size.
  3. Slowly add the cold water, and work it with your hands until the the dough forms a ball.
  4. Scrape the dough ball onto a work surface covered with plastic wrap/film. Flatten the dough on the plastic with your hands. 
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic, and roll it to about 1/4 inch thick. If you do most of the work with your hands, all you have to do with the rolling pin is smooth it a little. 
  6. Chill it for about one hour in the refrigerator. (I chilled it overnight and baked it the next morning, which worked just fine.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C).
  8. Take out dough from refrigerator place it directly onto the baking sheet, so transferring later doesn’t make it cumbersome.
  9. Use a chef's knife to decorate the cookie in a cross pattern. 
  10. Brush the top surface of the dough with the egg yolk glaze. 
  11. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
  12. Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden. If you roll the dough too thin, 30 minutes will be too long.
  13. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookie to cool to room temperature before breaking it into pieces. Size doesn't matter, I promise.

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