It's a combination of economic shock, finals and general sloth that has made me not post. That doesn't mean I haven't been baking - I have, but nothing new. I've been trotting out my chocolate chip cookies, Carrot Orange Cupcakes, Jam Crumb Cake and all sorts of other goodies.
There will be baking and recipes to come, I promise.
I also made a Lemon Tart, which ended up being a Lemon-Lime tart because I had some limes that were going bad. How does a lime go bad? Ok, I was going to make a stupid joke here, but I'm not.
And here's my modified recipe, taken from The Joy of Baking
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup + 2 TBSP confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
7.5 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon and lime juice (approximately two large lemons and two limes)
3 large eggs
2 TBSP Lemon Zest
2 TBSP Lime Zest
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/3 cup of superfine sugar
1 TSP of cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit. Grease a 12 inch tart pan.
Mix together the ingredients for the crust in a food processor or you can mix them in by hand until the crust begins to come together into a ball. Once this happens, press the crust evenly into the greased tart pan. Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill.
When the pastry is completely chilled, bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.
In your mixer place the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add sugar and beat until incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. Add remaining ingredients (reserve 1 TBSP of the lemon and lime zest mixture) and process until well blended and smooth. Pour filling into pre-baked tart shell and bake for approximately 25 - 30 minutes or until filling is set. Transfer tart to a wire rack to cool and then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour.
For the topping, simply whisk together your heavy cream, cornstarch and sugar until stiff peaks form. Top the completely cooled tart with your topping and sprinkle on the remaining lemon-lime zest.
This turned out to be a little tarter (no pun intended) than I would presume the original recipe was. I think it's because of the addition of the lime juice. But I like it, it's kind of like a key lime tart without having to use the key limes.
Dolores, of the blog Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity
Alex, from Blondie and Brownie
Jenny of Foray into Food
and for all those with gluten-free challenges (which thankfully I don't have), the hosts turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go
Now on with the challenge! The actual recipe came from this site and was authored by Shauna Fish Lydon. You can find the recipe and instructions at website.
I was going to link to her name and bio, but this post has too many links and not enough cake in it yet.
The cake itself was relatively easy to make; however, the actual baking time was a half an hour longer than originally stated in the recipe, which did cut into baking time for other Thanksgiving treats. I was happy to see that the longer time didn't mean a messed up cake. Take a look for yourself,
Another thing I got to use in this challenge was my brand-spanking new candy and deep fat fryer thermometer! I was pleased to see that the "brown and smoking" sugar and water mixture needed for the caramel syrup was actually registered on the thermometer as "soft crack." My brothers got a kick out of that description.
In any case after much boiling and melting and mixing and baking, I ended up with this,
My only additional step that wasn't in the recipe was making a wash of dark rum and vanilla and brushing it all over the cake to add a little punch to all the sweetness.
So I trolled the Internet, my fingertips cookbook and found the following recipe on epicurious.com. I decided to change the recipe around a little with the flavorings, and I didn't have large eggs so I found that substituting 2 Jumbo eggs for 3 large eggs did not damage the integrity of the recipe.
So here's what I made:
And here's the modified recipe!
Carrot Cupcakes with Orange Icing
2 cups of grated carrots
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Dash of allspice
Zest from a large orange
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Jumbo eggs (or 3 large, as the recipe says)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line muffin cups with paper liners.
Coarsely grate enough carrots to measure 2 cups using large teardrop holes of a box grater.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a bowl.
Whisk together oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, grated carrots, orange zest and vanilla in a large bowl, then stir in flour mixture until just combined. Then add raisins and fold into batter.
Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on rack, about 1 hour more.
Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Whisk in zest and 2 tablespoons juice until smooth. If icing is too thick, add more juice, 1 teaspoon at a time. Dip top of each cupcake into icing, letting excess drip off.
I used mini muffin pans and they are cute, bite-sized and perfect for your next holiday party, or just to parcel out during the week for yourself. Mini bites means mini guilt. (ha!)
Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies (courtesy of Epicurious.com)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces), divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl in microwave, stirring twice, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly.
Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).
Place 1/2 cup sugar in bowl. Roll 1 rounded tablespoon dough into ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly. Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool on sheets on rack 10 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.
Note: These cookies are good with a little cup of espresso, or just when you need a pick-me-up.
In any case, during my feverish devouring of the words, I started to think about returning to my earlier baking roots. Back when, in the sweltering heat of the Tropic of Cancer, I'd make stews, cream-filled cakes and other items that normally would be better suited for a cooler climate. Back then, I was cooking to cope with the homesickness I was feeling and escaping into complicated recipes. The results weren't always on point, but the process was so much fun. Something that I remembered while reading Julia Child's memoirs.
In any case, something that I've been wanting to do recently is to make a proper cake. I've noticed a trend towards cookies and cupcakes, and smaller dessert items. I think one of the reason could be that people are actually thinking of what they put in their mouth (I could be completely wrong with the amount of fast food commercials that tempt me with sauce-drenched batter-fried chicken). So I picked up my Cake Bible and made an All-American Chocolate Cake.
The result was a rich and chocolaty cake, without being too fudgey. I filled it with her recipe for stabilized whipped cream and frosted it with a simple Peanut Butter Frosting that I swear tastes like the filling of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup®.
I am not going to reproduce the cake recipe here because I do feel that every baker should have The Cake Bible on their cookbook shelf, but the frosting is something that I feel compelled to leave here.
Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting (courtesy of Allrecipes.com)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer.
Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and easy to spread.
Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.
Notes: Once you fill and frost the cake, it keeps on the counter-top for at least 3 days. If it lasts longer than that (yeah, right), put it in the fridge to keep the stabilized whip cream filling from spoiling.
Sometimes, you need to keep a few recipes up your sleeve that you can whip out and not only have something warm and wonderful for dessert, but also soothe that bruised ego when your last dessert was a flop. Apple pie happens to be the one I keep right above the cuff.
I love apple pie. I like it plain and warm, warm with ice-cream, or just cold for breakfast. It's something I learned to make from watching my mother make it over and over again when I was a child. Apple pie for me, like so many people, is home and happiness.
I am not posting my recipe because it's no better than my mom's or anyone's mom's apple pie recipe. I think something like apple pie is personal and everyone has their own secret spice to add.
Mine is love. (Yes, corny, but so true.)
I recently made a Concord Grape Tart - the photo of which I fell in love with during my perusal of the last Martha Stewart Living magazine I received. I imagined a golden brown crust with the royal purple fruit filling bubbling through and then the taste would be a concentrated grape jelly enveloped in a crisp, buttery crust.
What ended up happening was that I got impatient. The recipe, although extremely simple, called for a lot of prep and cook time. There was boiling, and straining and cooling and stirring of the Concord grape filling. Then the crust – well let’s say after I had to put the damn things in the freezer for a third time, I had enough.
I stirred my filling one last time, I removed my crust semi-frozen, put everything together and plopped the darn thing in the oven.
40 minutes later, what I pulled out of the oven was a far cry from what the picture promised. I had a pale, listless crust with the filling oozing all over the place. The taste was too sweet for my palette and even when completely cooled, the filling refused to remain jellied.
So what did I learn? I learned that in my quest for simple recipes that anyone can whip up in an hour or so, I’ve forgotten that sometimes, you need to spend time with your recipe in order for it to turn out perfect.
Haste, in this case, did make waste.
After taking my first bite, I had to spit it out. I know that people have food allergies and lifestyle choices that make it difficult for them to have a regular chocolate cake. But this was really awful and very sneaky. It was my fault for just pointing at it and telling the bakery counter person "I want that one," instead of actually asking what it was, but it looked so innocuous. Now I always ask.
The point of the story above is that since that mistake of a dessert happened, I've been wary of anything that called itself, say, a "chocolate chip cookie" but didn't actually have any chocolate in it.
However, I feel that I have been prejudiced because when faced with the task of creating a vegetarian cookie for my mom, I realized I'd have to put my prejudice aside and attempt to do my best in baking. And you know what? I actually did!
I made these Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies (which later turned into Vegetarian Peanut Butter Cookies because I added chocolate chips), which I ended up devouring more than anyone else.
So here's a recipe that you can make for the dietary restricted people in your life:
Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from a recipe found on Cooks.com)
1 cup shortening
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used a low sugar, low sodium variety)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of buttermilk (see substitution in previous blog post)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips (optional)
1)Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets.
2)Cream the shortening with the brown sugar until lighter in color. Add peanut butter and beat well. Add buttermilk and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes.
3) Mix in flour, baking powder and salt until a smooth batter is formed. Now, if you're only vegetarian, you can add the chocolate chips. If you're vegan, add carob chips or chopped nuts or just leave it plain.
4) Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter, one-inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until the cookie looks set and is a light brown.
Enjoy with a cold glass of milk, see picture for instruction.
I might have mentioned in a previous post (or not) that I go to Boston quite a bit. When I go there, I end up spending a good amount of time in the North End and a good amount of money in the various bakeries and other food related establishments there. Needless to say, I wear my "comfortable clothes" when I head to the North End.
There's this one unpretentious bakery I go to (I don't remember the name, just the location) where I buy Whoopie Pies from and cart them back to NYC for my brother's to devour. The other day when I was thinking of marshmallow treats, I thought about attempting to make these overblown versions of Oreos and found myself a pretty sweet recipe on my favorite recipe site - epicurious.com.
Of course, I modified it to meet the needs of my pantry and I think they came out pretty swell.
My brother's declared that they were 10 times better than any Whoopie pie they've had. So I guess I have some extra space in my duffel bag the next time I go up to Boston.
So here's the recipe (modifications included):
For Pie part:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's here, but epicurious liked fancier Dutch-processed cocoa)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 pint of heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating well. The alternatively add buttermilk mixture and dry mixture, beginning and ending with the dry mixture until the batter is smooth and well incorporated.
Spoon 1/4-cup mounds of batter about 2 inches apart onto 2 greased large baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes until the cake is set. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
To make the filling, simply whip the heavy cream, vanilla and sugar until very stiff. Refrigerate until use.
To assemble, simply spread the filling on the flat side of one cake and sandwich together. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate until you get time to.
* If you don't have buttermilk on hand (like most people) you can make it by mixing together lemon juice and whole milk. It also works with 2%, but you get a more buttermilk like substance with whole milk. What I did for this recipe was use 2 TBSP lemon juice and added enough milk to make the 1 cup.
Due to my current lack of baking thanks to my increasingly busy schedule, I’ve been eating other people’s baked goods.
Last night it was torrone from Modern Pastry. I don’t like nougat, BUT – this place makes me a nougat-lover. I have a long-distance relationship with the nougat from this shop as I live in NYC and my wonderful nougat is housed in the shop in Boston, MA. I was up in Boston recently and came back with almost two pounds of the stuff. Yes, I know, I’m crazy.
There’s something about the texture and flavors of this particular torrone that makes it so melt-in-your mouth wonderful.
So I think I am going to be making something marshmallow related this weekend because nougat is marshmallows that had a lot more syrup and other goodies added to it.
I have baked hundreds of Chocolate Chip Cookies in my career as an amateur urban baker and recently, I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been adding blueberries, orange extract and now modified the standard Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe to make it even chocolatier!
So without further ado, here’s what I did:
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 dark drown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp of good vanilla
1 tbsp of strong coffee or espresso (whatever you have leftover from your morning brew)
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of good cocoa powder (I like Ghirardelli)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit. Grease two cookie sheets
Cream the sugars and the shortening together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the vanilla and coffee/espresso and mix well.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and gently mix/fold in. You don’t want to over beat because that will lead to a tougher cookie.
Mix in the chocolate chips into batter.
Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets before chowing down.
Makes 2-3 dozen cookies depending on how you size them.
Although my oven is only a couple of years old (as opposed to the archaic devices found in most NYC dwellings), it seems to have taken on the quirks of an older appliance. This means that the heat is distributed unevenly. So here’s a tip: When baking something like cookies, where your cookie sheets don’t both fit on one oven rack, alternate the sheets every 7-8 minutes until your baking time is up. This ensures an even batch of cookies every time. You can also invest in a brand new convection oven, but I think my trick is cheaper.
Classes have started again and have readily usurped areas of my life I had in the previous month cleared. Suddenly my job upped the dronage factor and I’ve been bombarded with projects. And in an effort not to return to hermit-tude – I’ve been actively keeping up my social life.
So when does one bake? Well…for me, in the small moments in between when I want to feel better or make other people feel better. I might have mentioned this before, but baking is more than just making something sweet/savory/delicious to satisfy a food need. It’s to satisfy the soul. I know, corny, but the sentiment has been repeated in many a forum. Being able to pull something warm and good from the oven (toaster or otherwise) and making someone smile in the process is what it’s all about for me.
The title of this post is inspiration – so here are some of the things that inspire me to bake:
3) Visiting pastry shops
4) Fresh fruit
5) My love of chocolate
6) The technical process that is baking
7) Being able to satisfy my sweet tooth without having to leave the house.
What are some things that inspire you?
What really got my notice about the article was not that cupcakes were being marketed as the next "donut," but rather one of the responses to the article by a reader. A person by the moniker cake eater stated,
"It is ridiculously easy to make good cupcakes yourself."
And with that in mind, I went ahead and decided to make some myself.
Personally, I am not a cupcake fan. The fact that the surface-to-interior ratio is larger than a cake, they tend to dry out quicker and then all you have is a dry piece of cake with lots of sugary frosting on top.
So I decided to make chocolate cupcakes, and fill them with some whipped cream à la Hostess Cupcakes style and then top with the remaining whipped cream.
And voilà, some pretty kick-ass cupcakes, if I may say so myself! I think the key is to use a fat-heavy frosting and filling to keep the cake moist. If you load it with sugar, you're not really helping the cupcake.
I found through this exercise, that cupcakes are ridiculously easy to make. You can make a lot in a short amount of time. And what you can't finish eating after a mini-binge, you can easily store in an airtight container. Since these cupcakes were frosted and filled with a heavy cream, err, cream - I kept the left-overs in the fridge. If you decide to forgo the homemade filling/frosting and use good ol' boxed, you can keep the cupcakes out of the fridge.
So here's my modified recipe for Chocolate Cream-Filled Cupcakes - try 'em, you might just save yourself a trip to the overpriced bakery in your neighborhood. ;)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup Ghiradelli baking cocoa powder
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.
In a bowl mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar (white sugar, not confectioner's) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Alternately add the dry ingredient mixture and the milk to the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture. Make sure that there are minimal lumps in the batter once everything is incorporated.
Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Set cupcakes aside and let cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, simply beat the heavy whipping cream, vanilla and confectioner's sugar until very stiff. Refrigerate until ready for use. Tip: This is something every cookbook will tell you and yes you should listen to them - chill your bowl and whisk/beater attachments before beating your whipping cream. It makes for a stiffer product.
When the cupcakes are completely cooled, you fill them! How? Take a round frosting tip and insert into your frosting bag. Fill bag with the now whipped cream and secure.
Poke the tip into the top of the cupcake and squeeze the filling in for about 5-7 seconds. If the cake ruptures, well...you know you've squeezed too much in.
After filling the cupcakes, use the remaining whipped cream to top them. I simply swirled the top, but you can add the "frosting" any way you like.
So, I finally conquered the pancake this past weekend.
Oh I know you can grab the box mix, maybe add some chocolate chips or blueberries to the batter and call it a day. I mean they still taste pretty good and I know for a fact that they will be appreciated by anyone you make them for.
I used to make pancakes from scratch when I was living on the other side of the planet and the convenience of boxed mixes was not available. They used to come out pretty decent. However, until recently, my pancakes were coming out either chewy, or flat or rubbery.
I figured I'd try something that usually I reserve for when I make waffles - instead of eggs (yolk and all) I used well beaten egg whites. My pancake recipe calls for 2 eggs per batch, so I substituted 4 egg whites, stiffly beaten. I also mixed the dry ingredients first, the wet ingredients next (milk and fat in this case) and finally, I folded in my egg whites.
Needless to say, the pancakes came out perfect and now I feel that all is right in the world again. Featured above are Blueberry Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Syrup.
1/2 cup of fresh blueberries
1 tsp of fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of light corn syrup
Mix all ingredients together in a heavy saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil, mixing well then lower the flame (or whatever your stove happens to use as heat) to medium-low and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Serve either warm or cool on your treat of choice.
In this challenge, we were inspired not only by our hosts - Meeta K and Tony Tahhan, but by their inspiration, Pierre Hermé. A lot of linking, I know, but it goes to show you that baking on the internet is baking nonetheless.
Anyways, back to me and my attempt. I decided to forgo the chocolate filling and stick with a traditional pastry cream, which I added some dark Colombian rum to along with the vanilla. I liked the addition of the rum because it disguised the otherwise eggy flavor of the pastry cream.
My chocolate glaze was not as successful, even with the addition of light corn syrup and some solidifiers (e.g. 1/2 TBSP cornstarch). Still, after a good chill in the freezer, it thickened up enough to do the trick and I think the bitterness of the syrup (because I didn't add a lot of sugar) complements the light sweetness of the cream and the slight egginess of the pate a choux.
And here they are in their dripping glory:
I'm actually alright with them being a little fat. I guess my next batch will be skinnier. A trip to Zabar's for the proper tools will be in order!
All in all, I'm glad that I was able to participate - stay tuned for more Daring Baker's challenges conquered by yours truly!
After perusing the aisles of my local green grocer, I found some ridiculously cheap strawberries and blueberries. So without another thought, I grabbed some and some heavy cream. I thought I was just going to make a simple berries and cream dessert (essentially washed, sugared berries with lots of fresh whipped cream on top).
Instead I made this:
I found through making a Berry Shortcake how easy it is to make a simple dessert look so pretty.
Sometimes, architectural arrangement (i.e. stacking correctly) and interesting layout (i.e. arranging the berries in circles on top of a dollop of whipped cream) leads to a very attractive presentation.
Too bad it didn't last too long for admiration. ;)
Yes, I realize that the title of this post is a lame comparison to one of the Fantastic Four's member's cheesy catchphrase. I thought it was cute.
Moving away from comic books and onto cobbler - I finally just went to my local greengrocer and bought some of those in-season yellow peaches and blueberries. Very reasonably priced and incredibly well-ripened. And guess what? I made that Blueberry-Peach Cobbler recipe. I found that I didn't like the cobbler topping too much. It was too sweet and there wasn't enough rise on it. My family on the other hand was all praise, but what do you expect from your family?
I am going to make mini-cobblers and experiment with different toppings - maybe add a little less sugar, or substitute the white sugar with brown sugar. Perhaps I'll use baking soda instead of powder to get a higher rise.
Stay-tuned for more action packed, err, cobbler action?
Well - I made my first sale yesterday. I sold two dozen lemon bars and two dozen cardamom cookies to a brave classmate of mine. They will be part of a bridal shower (or baby shower, I forget) and I hope that there will be feedback - I welcome positive and negative!
I think I need to expand my repertoire of "ready to bake" recipes because only then can I truly start to market myself as a viable baker.
Oh, and here's some packaging I picked up at the 99 Cent store, pretty neat right?
Keep on bakin'!
Maybe some bakers (mass produced or otherwise) tend to go for looks more than actual taste? I mean, a Chips AhoyTM Cookie looks pretty tasty, but it’s not a good as one straight from the oven. And some of these bakeries have pretty cookies with ‘meh’ taste.
Since I’ve been baking, I usually care more about the content of my goodies than the final execution. When things come out looking pretty – I find that to be a bonus, and as a result am a little happier with the outcome. Not that I get to enjoy them looking pretty for long. (Can I toot my own horn any louder?)
So I was thinking, that since the weather has been really nice lately and although it’s heresy to say I’d rather be outside drinking a beer than inside baking a 3-tier cake, I’m also thinking about presentation.
One thing that would be great is to maybe take a class or two on decorating – that way I am not only outside and meeting other baking-minded people, but I’m learning to make my cookies, cakes and cream puffs cute! (The alliteration was intentional.)
I think I just might do it!
Updates of my decorating prowess will be posted in the future, so stay tuned!
Plums start their season in May and keep on going till October. However, July and August seem to provide the juiciest fruit, as well as a whole array of colors. I love my green grocer because they keep a really good variety of seasonal fruit on hand and price them accordingly.
So here’s what I ended up making:
And here’s the super easy recipe so you can attempt it as well! And it’s another foolproof recipe (I’ve found) – one of those easy to assemble, easy to bake and it looks really special.
I made it for dessert yesterday, but I see it being a hit at brunch as well!
Green Plum Dessert Cake (adapted from recipe from Cooks.com)
2 cups fresh tart green plum halves
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup dark brown sugar
Sprinkle of vanilla powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp. lemon extract or 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. fresh salt
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp granulated sugar mixed with ¼ tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp lemon rind
Preheat oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.
Arrange the halved and pitted fresh plums in the bottom of a greased baking pan (7x11inches or 9 inch square). Sprinkle with white and brown sugar mixture.
In a bowl, cream together thoroughly the butter, lemon extract or juice and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each is added. The mixture should be a light lemony color with the consistency of a good frosting. Just don’t go licking this “frosting” – raw eggs people!
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder in a separate bowl. Add to wet mixture. Stir until well blended. Spoon batter over the plums. Sprinkle the top with sugar and spice mixture (the second one)
Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake pulls away from sides of pan. Serve warm or cool, topped with your favorite topping – I like fresh whipped cream with no sugar added. My mother likes vanilla ice-cream.
I'll also show you how little hardware I used, which is key when you don't have much space to work with.
First you need to grease and line a jelly roll pan. I like to line with parchment paper, because then the outside of the cake doesn't become as hard as if you only greased and floured the pan.
Next, I made my yellow cake batter, using my trusty hand-held Sunbeam mixer. It's surprisingly powerful and does the trick when I want to whip up something quickly. If you don't want to make the batter from scratch, just use boxed mix. I like to add a little vanilla powder just to make the cake taste richer.
Next, pour the batter into your jelly roll pan and pop in a 350 deg oven (Fahrenheit) for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is springy to the touch and has an even golden color. Or you can use the toothpick test.
This is what it's supposed to look like.
Now, while the cake is cooling, you might want to make the cream. It's super easy - 20 oz. jar of marshmallow fluff, 1/2 of unsalted butter, 1/3 cup of confectioners sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla powder. Just whip it all together and pop it in the fridge while your cake is cooling. Easy as whipped cream.
Next, you'll want to assemble the Twinkies. First, turn out your cake onto a clean, dry surface. You might want to line the surface with cling film so that it doesn't make a mess. Clean off any rough edges or hard areas on the cake and brush off any crumbs.
Measure and cut the cake in half width-wise. Take out that cream filling and spread evenly on one half, making sure that you leave about a 1/2 inch of the edge of the cake without filling. Place the other half on top of the cake and then using the cling film, wrap the cake up tightly.
Place the now filled cake into the fridge for about an hour. This will let the filling spread out and the flavors to blend. Not to mention, it'll make it easier to assemble.
Take the cake out of the fridge and unwrap. Cut the cake into even pieces - I got 12, but you can get more or less depending on your cutting skills. Mine are only so-so.
Wrap each piece with a good amount of cling film, and let refrigerate overnight, or for as long as you can stand. What you'll end up with is something that looks a little like this:
Pretty neat, right?
And let me tell you, not one was left. My classmates loved them and my professor gave them two thumbs up. Score!
I realized that I’ve been peppering my blog posts with one or two tips for bakers and I thought it would be a good idea to simply consolidate all of them into one easy to read post.
Tip: Don’t keep opening and closing the door of your oven. Not only are you releasing hot air into an already hot and claustrophobic kitchen (assuming your kitchen is tiny), you are wreaking havoc with the internal temperature of your oven. Even baking requires even temperatures. Resist the temptation!
Tip: When making a crumble topping, add the liquid fat (usually melted butter) a little at a time so that the mixture can "clump" and not become a smooth paste. The best utensil to use is your fingers, although a fork will be just fine if you just got a manicure.
Here are some previous posts that have cool tricks (well, I think they are cool) on how to bake specific items. They also can be used in most day-to-day baking (that is if you bake daily):
Baking in the summer
Chocolate Chip Cookies anyone?
I love my lemon bars, I really do.
•Washing dishes is not evil, it’s useful to keeping that tiny counter top free of clutter and also minimizes on the amounts of pans, dishes and bowls you need.
•If pies are your preference, but you don’t have a lot of cool space to roll out dough, think about getting a marble slab to put on your counter top. Not only is it the perfect place to roll out dough, it doubles as a work surface for your everyday needs. Here’s a link to where you can find a counter top to match your counter.
•Start keeping a list of recipes you can make under an hour – the less time you spend in your kitchen baking, the less discouraged or frustrated you’ll be with its size.
•Buy a good multi-purpose food processor. When I was living abroad in a little tropical country, I didn’t have access to all sorts of baking implements. What I did have was a really good Braun® food processor, which had attachments for folding dough, whipping cream and mixing. I also was able to use it for regular food processor purposes.
•Learn to organize – a clean, well-organized kitchen is perfect in any space.
Stay tuned for more tips, tricks and techniques as I think of them and as always,
I have noticed the peaches getting riper on my grocers fruit bins and there seems to be an insane amount of blueberries for really reasonable prices. So it got me thinking about blueberry and peach cobbler.
A cobbler is basically a crust-less pie with a biscuit-like topping. It doesn't require a lot of baking (so you aren't heating up your kitchen more than you have to) and it doesn't require a lot of equipment or counter space to roll out dough (perfect for a tiny kitchen in an urban space).
The biggest equipment you'd need to make a summer-fruit cobbler is probably the large mixing bowl.
So without further ado, here's a simple cobbler recipe:
Blueberry Peach Cobbler
2 ½ cups of peeled and sliced yellow peaches (you can substitute frozen if you don’t have fresh)
2 cups of blueberries, washed
½ cup of granulated sugar
¼ cup of light brown sugar
1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp of lemon juice (fresh or not)
4 TBSP of butter
¼ tsp of nutmeg
1 tsp of good vanilla
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 oven proof baking dish
1 large mixing bowl, 1 smaller bowl
Pre-heat oven (or fancy toaster oven in my case) to 350 degrees. In your ovenproof baking dish, mix all the filling ingredients, except butter, until well combined. Spread out evenly in dish and dot with butter.
In your large mixing bowl, whisk together butter, eggs and vanilla. In smaller bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and fold together until just combined and there are no lumps.
Spread topping over fruit filling (it doesn’t need to cover the entire top of the filling). Bake for 30 min to 45 min, or when crust is well browned and filling is bubbly.
Serve with some Cool Whip® or just cooled.
Tip: Don’t keep opening and closing the door of your oven. Not only are you releasing hot air into an already hot and claustrophobic kitchen (assuming your kitchen is tiny), you are wreaking havoc with the internal temperature of your oven. Even baking requires even temperatures. Resist the temptation!
I did a mock interview for class where one of the questions that I was asked was – what’s the quickest, easiest recipe an “urban baker” can make in their tiny kitchen.
I replied, “Jam Crumb Cake.”
And I know that I am right. It’s the simplest one-bowl cake recipe I have come across and every time I’ve made it, it’s taken under an hour and has come out perfectly each time. I like to think that it’s the most versatile cake that anyone can make. And it’s completely customizable, something that anyone living today is extremely familiar with.
So before I continue to rhapsodize about the customizability of the Jam Crumb Cake, here’s the recipe:
Jam Crumb Cake*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves
For crumb topping
1/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ cup of butter flavored shortening
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9-inch square or round cake pan.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk together shortening (softened), milk, and egg in a large bowl, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined. Pour batter into cake pan. Dollop jam all over surface, then swirl into batter with spoon.
Make crumb topping:
Whisk together butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt until smooth. Stir in flour, then blend in shortening with your fingertips until incorporated (tip: add the liquid a little at a time so that the mixture can "clump" and not become a smooth paste). Sprinkle crumbs in large clumps over top of cake.
Bake cake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides begin to pull away from pan, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.
While writing the recipe down I thought about things I’d like to try differently with the cake. I’d like to make a Florida version (as I am currently in the airport terminal, waiting to begin soaking up the humidity). Instead of jam, maybe a lime custard and in the crumb topping, instead of spices, maybe a hint of nutmeg and coconut? When I get back to the Northeast, I am definitely going to try this one out.
I’ve also wanted to try a black forest version, maybe using cherry preserves and dark chocolate ganache instead of the jam. See? In a space of a minute (seriously, one minute at an airport is a long time) I’ve come up with two rather creative iterations.
One thing any baker should have ready at their fingertips is simple recipes that can easily adapt to different tastes or moods. Something that can be made in under an hour and will have your “taste testers” drooling for more – that’s definitely the Jam Crumb Cake.
*recipe provided and adapted from original, courtesy of Gourmet, December 2007
I admit - due to the humidity and the heat, thoughts of baking (although tempting) just don't appeal to me at the moment.
However, that doesn't mean that I don't have ideas about what to do with ice-cream and baked items!
I was thinking of making a soft cookie, kind of like the ones used in whoopie pies and creating a homemade ice-cream sandwich, with my very own vanilla bean ice-cream.
Instead, I went with a citrus-basil sorbet (that's in the picture) and I think it would pair nicely with a citrus tuille.
So here's a question for you, my fledgling readers, what's your favorite summer treat?
If you tell me, I just might make it!
Oh yeah. I finally got it - the ice-cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. I know that technically making ice-cream isn't baking as there is no heat involved. However, a liquid does turn into a solid so the chemistry is still inherent in this process.
I figured that I would go with something simple, something classic, something chocolate. So I made this very rich chocolate ice-cream, which was really simple to make. And for the first time ever on this blog (drum roll) here's the recipe!
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/3 plus 2 TBSP of Ghiradelli Cocoa Powder (dutch processed)
2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk or half/half
1 tsp of vanilla
1) In a pot over medium heat, combine the condensed milk and cocoa powder. Whisk well until no lumps appear and until the mixture is slightly thickened (about 7 minutes).
2) Let the mixture cool slightly, then add slowly the heavy cream, the whole milk or half/half and the vanilla. Whisk all ingredients until well combined.
3) Refrigerate until cold.
4) Prepare in your ice-cream maker per it's instructions.
5) Happy Ice-Cream!
One thing I found in the process of making the ice-cream mixture is that the heated combination of the condensed milk and cocoa powder turns into a reasonable ganache. Well, not so much ganache as a great easy filling for a cake, or a frosting for cookies or brownies.
I think I am going to see if my guess is true by baking a cake and making the above as a filling!
I think blogging is effective as a tool to reach people that otherwise wouldn’t realize that you were a baker/plumber/superhero in your spare time. It’s also a great way to get feedback about this secret identity of yours.
However, I would like some professional feedback on my baking. Although I have the loving adoration of above friends and family – they are incredibly biased to love my stuff. Hey – it’s free goodies, what’s not to love?
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had an opportunity to provide some samples of my baking to a local and reputable bakery. I got my professional feedback from them. I even got a tentative job offer as a baker. Both took me off guard.
The feedback was universally positive and the job offer was flattering as heck. The conversation ended with “follow your dreams,” which is kind of cliché but what is a cliché but something that works?
So I will take those words of encouragement to heart and keep on whisking!
This is because I have some tricks up my sleeve that make it possible to whip out a seemingly labor intensive dessert without much baking at all.
The key is to pick a recipe that doesn’t require a lot of time in the oven. Recipes with a short list of ingredients usually tend to spend less time in your oven. For example, I make a crumb cake that can be baked in a toaster oven and it takes from start to finish (inc. prep) 45 min. Yes, the recipe will be provided in another post. I need a picture first.
Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid recipes calling for cream based frostings – they will weep and wallow in the heat and all that careful watching of the beater will have gone to vain.
If you are going to use a whipped cream based frosting, make the frosting separate from the cake and only frost right before serving. Keeping everything chilled in the fridge helps. How to keep the fridge smells from your whipped cream? Why, cover with cling film of course!
The essentials to baking in the summer are:
• Keep it simple
• Keep it cool
• Stay away from ingredients that will melt if outdoors too long, like butter
and whipped cream
• Use fresh fruit as much as possible
• Sometimes, prepackaged cake is good in a pinch – especially for something like strawberry shortcake
Keeping the above in mind makes it a little less hellish to bake in the summer. I’m planning on baking something this weekend!
I read an article about Sugar Bakery and Café in Seattle, WA and the journey that the owner/baker Stephanie Crocker went through and thought “If she can do it, so can I.”
I think the main problem is just taking the leap – and this is true with baking as well. I have heard from friends countless times “Oh, nothing I bake comes out right.” or “I keep burning the outside and the inside is raw!” The key is to take that leap of faith and keep on baking.
There is something about making that scary first step, on your own, that turns that step into perpetual motion.
I think I’m going to take a page out of the book of Stephanie Crocker’s success and begin making those samples. It tough to put your heart on the line, but with every heartbreak you get stronger.
And who knows, maybe someone will fall head over heels for my baking.
Here’s to hoping!
You can track Stephanie’s journey at her blog sugarshop.blogspot.com.
Good Ol' Chocolate Chip Cookies
My super lemon bars
Chocolate Orange Sugar cookies
And hopefully...the first iteration of my signature cookie...something old, and something new. If it get's picked up, I will share the recipe
Simple, I have an opportunity.
I have an opportunity to actually have someone other than a family member, or a friend, give me feedback on my baking. I know I make decent stuff, and most of the time I like it. However, having a professional either validate or castigate my baking is something that I haven't had a chance to experience.
Sometimes, it helps to be humble. That way you can learn and improve.
And now, the adventure truly starts.
Why do I bake? I think the reason is because I like to make people feel better. There is no denying the healing power of a brownie and just bringing baked goods to the office makes everyone a little less disgruntled.
I know everyone has a great recipe that they’ve conquered and made their own – mine is the chocolate chip cookie. It’s a variation on the Tollhouse® classic, but whenever I roll those babies out, they are gone before I can yell “Cookie!”
What makes mine special? I say what my friend’s husband says – that I make it with “lurve” and thus they are extra-good. Actually, it’s all in the technique.
To make a cookie that will stay chewy even after sitting in a container for several days (if they last that long) requires proper preparation.
The sugars and the fats need to be whipped till they nearly double in volume.
The dry ingredients need to be sifted together, separately from the wet ingredients.
Never underestimate the power of that ¼ tsp of salt – salt is a powerful preservative and it provides a balance in the flavor of the cookie.
Never over beat the eggs and butter – you’ll get a curdled mess
And when you mix the wet with the dry – don’t over do it. You want cookie dough, not spackling compound.
The actual baking of the cookie also lends to its texture.
Never over-bake. It’s better to leave off a few minutes and let the residual heat from the oven take care of the rest of the baking than to have burnt cookies.
If you’re like me and don’t have a fabulous convection oven, chances are that your oven has pockets of heat unevenly distributed. Rotate your cookie sheet so that you have a full-batch of evenly cooked cookies and not mush in front and charcoal in the back.
Remember – hot air rises. Don’t put your cookies on the top rack; always the middle rack.
If you follow the above, there’s a chance you’ll get a near-pristine batch. I still miss a few, but practice makes perfect!
I tried to replicate it once when I was living on my own and not familiar with the appliances in my landlord’s kitchen. Let’s just say I forgot that gas ovens sometimes needed their pilot lights lit before working. Let’s also just say that I had the notion that one could bake a simple tart crust on the stove using a combo of a cast-iron skillet and a damp dish towel.
Needless to say, I nearly burned the kitchen down and my friend and I (who had come over to sample some nostalgia) ended up trying to remove all traces of hapless arson from the kitchen walls. We ended up going out for ice-cream and I haven’t attempted to make it since.
It just goes to show you that even someone who counts themselves as a pretty decent baker can have lapses in judgement.
Tip of the day: never try to bake something on your stove-top.
So something that my friends and family seem to like me baking are my lemon bars. Not exactly the sexiest sweet treat – but there is something about the bright, concentrated flavors of lemon and sugar that drive my people crazy. I actually never thought that lemon bars would be so popular – I only started to make them because I liked them. And I usually bake things that I like to eat. Is that selfish? Maybe, but I *am* baking them gosh gang it!
The best part about lemon bars is that they are ridiculously easy to make. That being said, one can screw up the simplest lemon bar recipe.
I’ve had lemon bars in early batches where the sugar frothed to the top of the bar and made this interesting crunchy topping. (Not exactly what I was going for, but something to think about in a future iteration? Crunchy lemon bars?)
So what are some tricks to making a good batch of lemon bars?
Use a half/half mix of butter and shortening for your crust – makes the base rich without being too oily.
Mix your citrus – add some lime along with your lemon, gives it a spicier flavor. Yes, limes are spicier than lemons.
Use fresh if you can, or if you can’t make it half/half. Fresh ingredients always trump processed or preserved (unless you’re making Jam Crumb Cake, but that’s a different post).
Watch for browning! If you are usually scatterbrained, use a piece of tin foil to cover your bars so that the lemony color stays and you don’t get the crunch effect.
Crap. I foresee growing exponentially larger as the posting continues. Maybe I should think about making diet bars.
Eww. The moment I typed the above my mind revolted against the idea of a “diet bar.” The thing is, if you’re going to bake, you’re going to bake. I might try something lactose-intolerant-friendly or use less fatty ingredients in the future, but for the most part I am a firm believer of if you’re going to bake something chocolaty, sugary or rich – own it.
Maybe chance is something I shouldn't even think about, because chance is a fickle friend usually hampered by mood swings.
I think I'll go with gumption. That and the adoration of my friends and family and the hope that they will criticize my baking now and again so that I can get the best product out.
This blog will hopefully, consistently, document my trials and tribulations and fabulous recipes while I slowly beat, whip, crumble and bake my way to success.