30.7.08

Twinkies!

As promised, I have a Twinkie post for you. It's a little ambitious as I am going to show some of the processes that went into making these remarkably easy treats.

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.
Assembly

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 I only used the following in this production:



And let me tell you, not one was left. My classmates loved them and my professor gave them two thumbs up. Score!

29.7.08

Miscellaneous

I'm currently recovering from vacation, but there will be a great post on Twinkies coming up.

I promise.

I also think I'm going peach picking soon so I can make some of that cobbler!

Tune in for more baking tips and recipes!

21.7.08

Tips, Tricks and Techniques, part 1

Tips and Tricks

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.

TIPS

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.


TRICKS


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.

TECHNIQUES

•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,

Happy Baking!

19.7.08

And the "heat" keeps marching on

I asked in a previous post what your favorite summertime treat was and a few people responded with fruit-related baked goodies.

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


Filling
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

Cobbler Topping
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

Equipment
1 oven proof baking dish
1 large mixing bowl, 1 smaller bowl
1 whisk

Directions:
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!

Happy Baking!

12.7.08

The Fastest Cake in the East

All but crumbs were left behind

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*

For 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

Make cake:
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

5.7.08

Now doesn't that just look refreshing?


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!

2.7.08

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream!



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!


Ingredients

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

Method

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!

1.7.08

We Have Liftoff

So I officially launched this blog last week to all my friends and family members. I received a ton of positive “oohs” and “aahs” and have even inspired said friends to start their own blogs.

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 clich√© but what is a clich√© but something that works?

So I will take those words of encouragement to heart and keep on whisking!