Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The French Are Coming, The French Are Coming....

it's done, it's done!! i will post more pics and a review once it's been cut into and tasted. that will happen tonight. Happy New Year's Eve all!!




And so is my French Yule Log....I swear! It's time for Daring Bakers. This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

I must admit, I wasn't too excited about this challenge. I'm still not....as evidenced by the fact that we had an entire month to do the challenge and a 3-day window to post.....and I STILL waited until last night to start what, by all accounts, is a 3 day effort. I suppose if I had the entire day to work on it, I could've done it in a day. But I didn't have the entire day. So instead I did one of the six (yep, six) elements last night, along with an ingredient in another of the elements. Yeah, you read that right. Not only am I making six elements, but I'm making ingredients for elements. Crazy, I know!

In all fairness to our hosts this month, I'm usually more than okay with complicated, involved recipes. Just not when I don't have time. It's been crazy busy at work, and we had a house full of people (and dogs) over Christmas. So, I was highly reluctant to do this challenge. And I still am, seeing as I'm not done yet. The French Yule Log is hanging out in the freezer firming up and waiting for elements 4 and 5. Element 6 will have to wait until morning as it has to go back into the freezer again after the 5th element.

I know, this is going to be one long post. I'm talking about elements, complaining a bit....I haven't posted pictures, nor have I given you the recipe. So, how about this? I will give you the recipe and maybe post a pic later tonight when the last element goes on. And we'll cross our fingers and hope it's enough to get credit for posting on time (today's the last day). I will come back with some comments about the finished product. I'm hoping the payoff is worth all the work.

It's a long one kids....

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking
Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper
Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

Ingredients:
2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the caster sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn
Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula
Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

Ingredients:
2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1+1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler (or one small saucepan in a larger one), heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the whipped cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn
Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have a plunging mixer it comes in handy.
Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

Ingredients:
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)
Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or use an empty bottle of olive oil).
Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. If you do substitute cereal you should use half of the stated quantity, so 1 oz of cereal.
If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008 over at Mele Cotte.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking
Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper
Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)
Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan
Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.

Ingredients:
4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

THIS IS FOR UNMOLDING FROM UPSIDE DOWN TO RIGHT SIDE UP.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR saran wrap or cling film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

OR

2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.
3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
9B) Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is:
1) Mousse
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

THE NEXT DAY...
Unmold the log and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the log with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake.....another DB Event

Hi there! It's been a month, I know. But since it's been a month, that means there's another DB Challenge to post. I didn't intend for this blog to be just a monthly DB post and nothing else, but it seems to have turned into that. However, I will try to change that....we'll make it one of my New Year's resolutions. (yep, already working on those!)

So on to the challenge. This month was all about caramel or caramelizing....and instinct.
The challenge is Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting with the recipe courtesy of
Shuna Fish Lydon , as published on Bay Area Bites. The recipe can be found on Shuna's blog here. A second optional part to the challenge was to make Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111. I didn't make those, but I'm sure plenty of other DBers did and you can check out the caramels and their cakes here.

Our hosts for this month of November are Dolores and helping her out are Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo), Jenny of Foray into Food, and since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we have Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go to assist us.


I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this challenge. Some of the early reviews talked about the cake being really sweet so they were cutting back on the syrup or sugar. And the frosting everyone said was sickly sweet and required a good amount of salt to temper it. It was a typical American buttercream with powdered sugar. Well, maybe not typical since the butter was actually browned butter.

I didn't make any changes to the cake and I didn't think it was too sweet. I actually loved the cake. Mine came out a bit dense and I'm not sure if that's the way it was supposed to be. But I liked the texture, it was substantial so you could have a very small slice and be satisfied. It didn't have a caramel flavor, but that's my fault. I made the caramel syrup and it looked like it was a rich, dark amber/copper penny color, but once I added all the water i ended up with what looked like watered down maple syrup, pale golden. And not very caramel-y tasting. I should have made another batch, but I have to admit, i let the not so great early reviews get to me and I just wasn't very excited about making this challenge. So no second batch...i just powered on.

I can say that I loved the brown butter taste in the frosting. I didn't love the sweetness, though and in fact, I cut the sugar called for down by half. It was a good consistency so I stopped adding sugar. I also liked the liberal addition of salt...the complex flavor experience it gives you. I want to try using some brown butter in a meringue buttercream. I'm not sure how, but I would love to make this cake again with a buttercream that i like, with the brown butter taste. I'll try soon and post about how it turns out.

Overall, I liked this challenge. More than anything, I loved that I learned some things. I learned how to make a kickass caramel....dry method. Since the cake wasn't very caramel tasting and I knew it wouldn't be since the syrup wasn't that great, I decided to torte the one layer cake and fill it with caramel. Caramel and I didn't used to get along....other attempts were made with the wet method and always ended in a clumpy hard as rock mess. The dry method is the way to go. I will blog more about caramel and post a recipe soon. Good caramel is definitely about instinct...taking it to the brink and knowing where the brink is to get really good flavor. And I learned about the nutty, yummy goodness of browned butter. It's a lovely flavor.

So, please try this recipe and make any changes you feel necessary. I really think the cake is very worthwhile. The frosting....I will come up with something different. And check out the other blogs, maybe someone has already come up with something different.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza!

It's that time again....Daring Bakers reveal day. Yea! The October challenge was pizza....from scratch....with an attempt at tossing thrown in....fun stuff, sorta. More on that in a moment.

Many thanks to our host, Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums, for choosing this challenge. The recipe was for Pizza Napoletana taken from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", with a minor modification.

just cheese, but soooo yummy!

I happen to own this book, so it was a treat to make something from it that I probably never would have tried. Well, maybe not never, but I can't imagine when. The Man is the resident pizza maker in the household. Actually, he's the resident chef. So, that was the other treat....I got to make something savory....for dinner. And it turned out well. It was quite yummy as a matter of fact. The only problem is that I just wasn't all that excited about this challenge, as I'm sure is apparent from the quality of the photos. My heart just wasn't in it. I couldn't really tell you why. I'm sure it's owing to a bunch of things, not least of which is work is really stressful right now. And since The Man makes pizza quite often, and truth be told, almost exactly the same way as this recipe -- cold fermentation and all -- this just didn't feel new. And here's the blasphemous part....as much as I like pizza....I don't LUV it. Or even just love it. I know! Who doesn't go gaga over pizza?!? Well....me, I guess. But after all that....I really am glad I did this challenge. It sorta jump-started this desire to do more savory cooking, rather than just baking. So, thanks Rosa and Daring Bakers!

The recipe was great. It's very easy to make and even though it requires planning because it needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight, it's not labor intensive. It's a very wet dough, by design. And I'm not sure if other DBers had the same happen to them, but there are no photos of me tossing because it was virtually impossible to toss this dough. The moment I picked it up to lay it across my floured fists, it stretched very thin. It came out somewhat crispy on the bottom, but still chewy....even though it was thin. And I liked that. That's what made it different from The Man's. His is always super crispy. But after trying this recipe I realized I don't always like super crispy. So, it will be nice to throw this into the rotation.

As I stated above, there was one modification to Peter Reinhart's recipe for this challenge and that was the addition of 1 tablespoon of sugar. Since I have the book, I just followed the recipe in the book. John, from Eat4Fun, did so as well, but posted a comment on the DB forum mentioning the sugar. That's how I found out the challenge recipe was slightly different. So, my results and pictures and general impression of the recipe is of the original recipe without the sugar. I'm not sure how much it matters or the changes that occur. But I think next time I make this I will add the sugar so I can compare.

In the meantime, please try this recipe. And please check out other DB blogs and see how their's turned out!


my favorite: goat cheese, carmelized onions, mushrooms with a sauce of just olive oil, garlic and herbs


Basic Pizza Dough
Original recipe taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Makes 6 pizza crusts, about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter.

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsps salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 tbsp sugar
cornmeal for dusting

day one
Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer). Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. [NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.] Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas). [NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.] Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. [NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.] Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. [NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.]

day two
On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). [NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan. Jen used a regular baking sheet, not the back of it.] Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. [NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.] During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. [NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.] If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

OMG, I need to bake! I'm so stressed right now, and would love to bake, but money is so tight and groceries so expensive, I feel like I can't really use up all the eggs or butter or milk. What's a baking girl to do?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where's the pudding??

So it occurs to me that the subtitle of this blog proclaims my search for the perfect bread pudding....and yet....I have not posted about bread pudding. Not even an imperfect one. Well, don't get too excited...I won't be posting about it tonight either. At least not about a particular recipe or the results of a particular recipe. I never really thought about it before, but I guess I think of bread pudding as a fall/winter/cooler weather type of dessert. So, I haven't had any inclination to make it. But as summer comes to a close and we start barreling toward fall, I'm starting to think about it again. And I'm excited!

My interest in bread pudding has as much to do with it's yummy, comforting goodness as it does with the whole challenge of it. Yep, I said challenge. I know, it's eggs and sugar and cream and bread....virtually any day old bread will do....what's the challenge?? The challenge is in the quantity and ratio of ingredients.....do you want gooey or firm? Raisins or no? Chewy artisan bread? Soft, sweet challah? Wonder Bread anyone? The challenge is also in bringing all those different choices of ingredients together to make something your audience will swoon over. Because bread pudding, like a lot of other dishes, is very personal and cultural and everyone has an idea of what it should taste like and feel like. To my Puerto Rican father, it's firm with raisins. (Although he'll eat all types of bread pudding!) Mark remembers a bread pudding brought in by a co-worker when he worked at Jackson Park Hospital, oh...about 15 - 20 years ago. I have yet to recreate that experience for him...CHALLENGE! And more importantly, I haven't yet tried or made a bread pudding that knocks my own socks off. Thus, the quest.

So stay tuned....as the weather turns cool, I'll start posting bread pudding. I welcome tips, comments, recipes you think I should try. Just post it in the comment section. Do you suppose there's a warm weather bread pudding that's light -- maybe fruity somehow?? I'm on the hunt!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Eclairs and then some.....

It's reveal day for the August DB Challenge! This month's challenge was chosen by Tony Tahhan and MeetaK and it was a great one. They chose Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Herme from his book Chocolate Desserts. The recipe was for éclairs with a chocolate pastry cream filling and a chocolate glaze. But with this challenge were were only required to use the given recipe for the pate a choux and keep at least one chocolate element....either the glaze or the filling. I kept the glaze and went for a vanilla pastry cream filling. Yum!

Let me start by saying that I loved....LOVED....the glaze and the pastry cream. The éclairs....eh. I must admit, I've never had real French éclairs. I wasn't expecting the large 'long john' donuts you get at the bakery, but I also didn't know exactly what to expect as far as taste and texture and size go. The actual dough part of the éclair didn't have much flavor, but maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Everything together tasted wonderful, but overall it didn't knock my socks off. (Recipes can be found at our hosts' sites)

So let's start with the pate a choux. It came together very easily. If I had ever thought about it, I guess I kinda had the impression that cream puffs were difficult. And they are tempermental, but with patience and a bit of trial and error, cream puffs aren't terribly difficult. So, I was happy to try my hand at a recipe that gives some a bit of trouble, but a recipe that's nice to have in your repertoire if you can master it. So, after saying all of that, my pate a choux didn't turn out perfectly. So, I haven't mastered it, but I am determined! The dough was a bit runny and although they puffed up, they weren't nearly as big or crispy as I thought they should be. I think part of it was the recipe and part of it was my fault. Listen to me....finding fault with a recipe from Pierre Herme! For my part, I don't think I cooked the dough long enough once I added the flour. I was supposed to add the flour to the boiling water/milk mixture and stir for 2 minutes or more....until it came together and was smooth. Well, it came together in 15 seconds flat and I took it off the heat in well under a minute. I think that was a mistake. I don't know why it was a mistake, but I'm on the hunt to find out. I kinda like the science behind baking....the reactions that take place. As far as the recipe goes, I agree with other DBers that five eggs is too much. Mine didn't taste 'eggy', but I tried a different recipe this morning to make zeppole and it only had 4 eggs, with virtually everything else the same, and based on how it performed I'm excited to try using it to make these eclairs. More on the zeppole in a bit. I also had some trouble with the eclairs defating. I had read the tips about poking a slit in them and letting them cool in the oven. So, I slit one pan and left the other pan of eclairs whole. The eclairs without the slit didn't deflate and weren't soggy in the middle. So, that tip just didn't work for me. When I make these again, I'm going to try baking them longer. Hopefully they'll come out crispier and none of them will deflate.

So the glaze....the glaze....divine. Simply yummy. The glaze as Pierre Herme makes it is a two-parter. You make a chocolate sauce first, then add that as an ingredient in the glaze, which had more chocolate. It's two recipes that are definitely going into the keeper file. The leftover sauce has been used on ice cream and although I haven't tried it, I hear from other DBers that it's great in making chocolate milk. I haven't done anything with the leftover glaze, but it was a great topping for éclairs and will be for other desserts as well I'm sure.

So, zeppole....it's essentially fried cream puffs. At least as Giada DeLaurentis from Food Network makes them. This morning Mark sees another Food Network show with fried dough and asked me to make donuts. I've seen Giada make the zeppole before and always thought about trying it. So I looked up the recipe and since I had done the August DB Challenge, I immediately recognized it as a recipe for pate a choux. This one, as I said above, had only 4 eggs and it had more sugar, but everything else was the same as far as measurements. Instead of half milk, half water, Giada's recipe had all water. But I'm sure you could use half milk. Anyway, this time when it came together in seconds, I continued to cook the dough for 3 minutes and although I'm not sure if that made the difference, I can say the dough was a better consistency. And although these were fried and not baked, they puffed up beautifully. It was quite a fun recipe. I tossed the fried dough in a sugar/cinnamon mixture, then, for some, I drizzled with a vanilla glaze. Others I just glazed without the cinnamon/sugar. I'm excited to try baking the dough and seeing how it turns out. When I do I'll let you know how it turned out and if I've finally mastered cream puffs!


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Very Daring Gateau

So here it is, the July Daring Bakers Challenge, a Filbert Gateau! Sounds fancy, huh?! Well, it kinda is, I guess. For the amount of work that went into making the cake, it's definitely not something you just whip up any given Sunday. So, it will have to go into the 'Special Occasion' file. Although, I'm not sure I'd make it again....at least not without some changes. The recipe was chosen by Chris at Mele Cotte and can be found at her site. It's from Great Cakes by Carole Walter. I appreciated the challenge of the recipe. It required me to make hazelnut (filbert) praline; which if you don't know, means making caramel. And me and caramel don't really like each other all that well. Don't get me wrong....I LOVE caramel. It just doesn't particularly like when I try to make it. And true to form, it took me two tries to get it right, but I did it...thanks to some great tips by fellow DBers. Also, in this challenge, I had to overcome my fear of chocolate ganache. Another love of mine that just doesn't love me back. This time the ganache worked well, so score one for me!
After all is said and done, the cake turned out well...I just didn't love it. It was very rich and too nutty for my taste. So, like I said...I'd make it again, but with changes. So, here it is (sorry the photos are a bit blurry):








I had four layers....three I used for the big gateau and the 4th I used to make this mini-cake for Karen & Smiley.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

FINALLY.......Danish! (June DB Challenge)

Okay finally I not only have my kitchen back, but I have time to bake. The past few weekends have been so busy with outside work to do, I haven't had any chance to bake anything. But I was determined to bake this weekend. And what did I bake? DANISH! Yes, actual homemade danish.
Crazy right? Danish falls into the laminated dough category. Laminated doughs contain 'butter blocks' and require turns and rests and are generally thought to be labor intensive. Well not so much. At least not to me. I guess labor intensive is relative. Anyway...time consuming? Yes, absolutely. Two days time consuming. So, why danish? Because it was the June challenge from the Daring Bakers. The Daring Bakers is the group I told you about when I made the Cheesecake Pops. Well, I'm finally a member. (Yea!) I actually signed up for the May challenge, but that's when the unexpected renovation in the kitchen occurred and I wasn't able to complete the challenge. And post date for the challenge is today, so I had to bake this weekend. This month's challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? The recipe is "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. I made an Almond Peach Danish and a Tart Cherry Cream Cheese Danish.

First up, the Almond Peach. I used the Almond Cream from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Lovely. There's no other way to describe it. It's super easy and super quick to put together. And you can use it in so many different desserts. The peaches...I used frozen. The fresh peaches at the grocery weren't ripe enough. I sauteed them, straight from the freezer, in a bit of butter. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon and drizzled honey to sweeten them a bit. And a little bit of cornstarch to thicken the juices. I'd give you measurements, but I didn't measure. I just winged it. Try it, it's fun. Anyway, I cooked all of that until it reduced and put it in a container to cool. I gotta say, the peach danish was my favorite. The almond with the peach was wonderful. And I drizzled more honey over the sliced almonds right before baking. Yum! My favorite primarily because I'm not a cherry lover. But also because it came off without a hitch....I wouldn't change a thing.


Next up, the Tart Cherry Cream Cheese. More winging it....which may have been the problem. Hey, I just said it was fun, I didn't say it always worked out. So, I saw a basic cream cheese filling recipe on the DB site and I checked out more from various other sites. All were basically the same: cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla. Well, I only used one package of cream cheese, which wasn't nearly enough I don't think. The filling never really thickened up even after sitting in the fridge overnight. So, it was a bit runny and I couldn't use a bunch of it or it would've just oozed out. As you can see from the picture you can't really see any cream cheese. I think it soaked into the dough, or just mixed with the cherry filling. Live and learn. For the cherry filling I used a bag of frozen, unsweetened tart cherries. I threw those into a saucepan with a splash of orange juice (lots of pulp, mmm), about a half cup of sugar, a sprinkle of cornstarch and a bit of almond extract. After that cooked down over medium heat and thickened I added a bit more sugar at the suggestion of Mark. I could've added more, given the final product. The idea was that we wanted to keep the cherries tart, because we would have a cream cheese layer that was sweetened as well. And we didn't want it all to be too sweet. But since the cream cheese layer all but disappeared, the tart cherries seemed a bit too tart. But that's where the icing comes in. After cutting into the danish and tasting, I added a simple powdered sugar icing to get that sweetness to balance the tart. I know I nitpicked this one, but after all is said and done, it was very tasty. It's dough, and cherries and icing.....you can't really go wrong with that.

This has been a very long post, but I'm not done yet. There's just so much to talk about this challenge. So, I've been yammering on about the fillings. But the star of this challenge is the dough. As I said earlier, danish is a laminated dough. This is my first time trying a laminated dough. Like others, I think I stayed away because I thought it would be too much work. And again, it was time consuming, but I didn't think it was too difficult. I did have the help of a standing mixer, but others did it by hand. Now, could be that this Sherry Yard recipe is just a winner and other recipes are kinda difficult. When I get another two days to spend on something like this, maybe I'll try another recipe and compare. But until then, I will enjoy the fact that I just made danish y'all! And it was layered and flaky and tender and just all around yummy. It smelled like a real bakery in here. I imagine if I had used the cardamom the recipe called for (I didn't) it would've smelled even more heavenly. But what can I say, cardamom is very expensive and I'm not too sure what it even tastes like. But Mark gave me the impression that I wouldn't like it, so I left it out, which was allowed in the challenge. Again, after all is said and done, it was tasty, even without cardamom. So, here are the recipes and a few more pictures. Don't let the lengthy instructions scare you away. Read through it and you'll realize it's not that daunting. Just take it all step by step and you'll soon have homemade danish too!

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH
Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

BUTTER BLOCK
1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.


DANISH BRAID
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
1 recipe Danish Dough
2 cups filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Still here....really

I have not fallen off the face of the earth, I swear. I've sadly been absent, not only from this blog, but from my kitchen as well. I haven't baked in weeks and I think I'm going through withdrawal. I fully intended to bake something....anything this weekend. But we had gorgeous weather. And a mass invasion of prickly weeds and creeping charlie that wasn't just threatening to take over our gardens....they already had. So, the outdoors were calling. Now, if I were in better shape, which I'm not, I would've worked outside for 6 hours and come back in and baked a cake or something. But, again, I'm not in better shape. So, I came in, took a shower and had a mango margarita. And I gotta say, I'm not too upset about ending my day that way. I'm actually rather happy with the weekend I had. But I did put everyone, meaning Mark, on notice that next weekend, weeds be damned, I am baking!

So, see you then. Have a great week!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So close....

Here it is.....another Sunday.....and I still have nothing to post. We are close though. (Yea!!) The dishwasher is in and so is the microwave. We've put most of the dishes, pots & pans back in the cabinets. One plus to all this -- since we put the dishwasher in we're down one cabinet, so we were forced to purge all the stuff we don't need/use/or have two of. What's so funny is we were always complaining about not having enough storage. Well, now that we've gotten rid of some items and bought a couple of cabinet organizers/shelves, we have plenty of room. Maybe not plenty, but enough. We also set up shelves in the basement and we're storing the rarely used items there (ie. stock pot, big caldero, indoor grill).

So here's hoping we are all set by next weekend and I'll get to make something really yummy next weekend!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

No sweets for my sweet

It's Sunday. The day I designated as "post day". And I have no sweets to blog about. That would be because my kitchen is in full-on remodel mode. But that doesn't really give the full picture. A more accurate description would be full-on remodel-since-we -already-have-it-torn-apart-due-to-a-leak-in-the-bathroom-directly-above mode. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who can sympathize. It's not all bad though.

Ever the optimist, I'm looking for the silver lining. I mean, yes, our kitchen is a mess....making cooking cumbersome and not very appealing and baking even more unappealing. Especially since I don't know where anything is at this point....i wasn't here when the cabinets were unloaded and taken off the walls. (see, silver lining) And yes, this is happening at the exact same time our living room is in shambles because we are getting the ceiling replaced due to a crack. That crack has been there FOREVER, and recently the ceiling began to sag more and more making the crack bigger and bigger. As luck would have it (yes I said luck), the leak happened the same week we had scheduled to have the ceiling fixed. And the guy, Doug, who is fixing the crack and is apparently a jack-of-all-trades, was also able to fix our leak (silver lining) and re-drywall the kitchen soffit/ceiling after having to punch holes in it to locate the leak. All for a really great price. (silver lining) And yes, because of this, during parts of the day and evening, we are confined to a very small addition that was serving as our dining room. It has now become our ad-hoc living room as we've crammed our sofa and TV and various other pieces of furniture in there. But, (silver lining alert) since the kitchen was torn apart we decided to make some long-planned and long-awaited (on my part) changes....like flip the cabinets on one wall so we could move the refrigerator to another spot and actually open the door all the way. And we're adding a microwave/range hood combo and a dishwasher (!! yea, right?!) I've never had a dishwasher. Well I did in a couple of apartments, but since it was only me and I didn't grow up with one, I never used them.

But the ultimate silver lining....yes there's something better than new appliances believe it or not...at least to me. Since we're confined to the one little room and our doggies are admittedly stressed over the changes and workers in and out and their schedule being disrupted...we've relaxed the rules a bit. They are now--just during the remodel--allowed on the sofa with us! And I'm not sure who's enjoying it more, the doggies or us. I think it's us. There are few things I like more than snuggling with my 70-pound puppy dog watching Grey's Anatomy.

So, my friends, hopefully by this time next week I will at least have my kitchen back, if not my living room as well. See you next week.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's A Boy! (not my boy though)

Not the best pictures (it was late at night...at least for me). Not the best decorating job either. Again, it was late, what can I say. Actually, the cake was kinda cute the next day. I think the lighting the night before was bad and the colors looked harsh. But I was pleasantly surprised the next day, after a good night's sleep. I made it for a girl at work who will soon be going on maternity leave. I almost forgot that I was making the cake. Well, not almost, I did forget. But I did manage to remind myself with enough time to produce this. It's a banana cake (her favorite) with a marshmallow type buttercream. Both came from Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours. The book finally came in the mail the day I remembered I needed to make this cake. So, I flipped thru and was happy to find a banana cake recipe. And it was a great recipe. But then, it's Dorie. And everything I've read about Dorie is wonderful and positive. So the banana cake was lighter than banana bread, as it should be. But definitely denser than the banana cake you normally get at some bakeries or from a box, I imagine. I really liked it. And I loved the frosting. It's the frosting that went with Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, which I plan to make soon. It was really fluffy and shiny....it was downright luminous. And at first I thought it was too sweet and I'd have to adjust the sugar when I make it again. But that sweetness really mellowed so I don't think I'll change a thing.
So, here's the rub....part of my reason for not being super excited about this creation is that I was defeated once again by chocolate. I had planned on filling two of the layers with a chocolate ganache because I love chocolate and banana. So I used another one of Dorie's recipes. I know! Another one from 'the book'. You really need to get this book. Well, since it was late and I really needed to get this cake together and decorated and I couldn't wait for the ganache to thicken up naturally, I decided to speed up the process. I placed the bowl of ganach inside a bowl of ice water and kept stirring. It was taking awhile, but it finally started to thicken to almost spreading consistency. I took the bowl out of the ice water, continued to stir for a bit and everything seemed to be coming off without a hitch. I set the bowl of ganache aside to gather the cake layers and frosting to start assembling. When I returned to the ganache it was a solid mass with these air bubbles in it and it seemed to be separating. It was a mess. Not the beautiful dark ganache I was hoping for. Completely unusable....to me anyway. So my quest to master chocolate continues.....



Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake
from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From My Home to Yours"

  • 2 2/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg ( i didn't use freshly grated)
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar, or granulated sugar (i used dark)
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 2 large Eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp Dark Rum or Malibu Coconut Rum (optional)
  • About 4 Very Ripe Bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup Canned unsweetened Coconut Milk, Regular (stir well before measuring) or "Lite" (or whole milk, buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt) [I used Stoneyfield Farm's Vanilla Yogurt)
The following is optional:
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, preferably toasted (or an equal amount of moist, plump dried fruit, such as currants, raisins, chopped apricots, cranberries, blueberries or halved cherries, or a combination of coconut and dried fruit) [I didn't use any of this]

Center a rack in the oven an preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2 inch round cake pans, dust the sides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and rum. You'll have a beautiful satiny bater. Now lower the speed and add the bananas -- the batter will curdle, but that's fine; it will come together as you add the remaining ingredients. Still on low speed, add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately, adding the flour mixture in 3 portions and the coconut milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients). Mix just until everything is incorporated. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the coconut. Divide the batter evenlybetween the two pans.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. They should start to pull away from the sides of the pans and a thin knife inserted into their centers will come out clean. transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.

Buttercream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • [I substituted heavy cream for the lemon juice]
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate -- just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice (cream), waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then vanilla. you should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. [and you will!] Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercrream and set side briefly.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chocolate Cake Recipe

Hi....okay, no chocolate cake recipe to post. I can't find it. Just as well I suppose, since it didn't work for me. I can tell you it was the Devil's Food Cake recipe by Carole Walter. Well, the one I used was adapted by Sarah Phillips of Baking 911, but I didn't get permission to post that one and I'm not sure what the changes were.

I did find on RLB's site a post regarding a possible reason for the dryness of the cupcakes. Not sure if I buy it though. A fella named Aaron says he discovered that when you mix cocoa and hot water (as in this recipe that I can't find or post), and set it aside, you need to cover it to contain moisture. Otherwise you lose an ounce or two. RLB says she never would've thought of that, but then she always covers items that aren't being used right away. So there you go, mystery possible solved.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flower Practice...oh and chocolate cupcakes too!


Only the second week and I'm already late posting! With good reason though. So I went to Indy this weekend for Joey's graduation....from med school no less. Yea Joey! We had a blast, even with very little sleep. And upon our return Sunday, as tired and lazy as I felt, I still had the urge to bake. So I did. I made chocolate cupcakes. I'll post the recipe, as soon as I find out if it's okay. What I really wanted to do was play with frosting and practice making flowers, or at least blobs that look something like flowers. So, the cupcakes were really just a vehicle, a canvas, for that. Well, it's a good thing I didn't have any real expectation for the cupcakes, because they weren't that great. Mark, my resident taste tester, says they were chocolatey (is that a word?), but I wasn't so sure. Of course, I LOVE chocolate, so I'm probably not the best gauge on what's chocolatey for the average person. But that attribute aside, they were dry. And nobody likes a dry cupcake. It's possible that I overcooked them.....they went from soupy in the middle to toothpick coming out clean in a matter of minutes. But I really don't think I did. There wasn't any oil or applesauce or melted butter, etc. in the batter. Could that be the reason? I'll have to do some research on chocolate cake recipes. I've yet to make one that works for me. The last chocolate cake I made was a disaster....to me. Everyone at the party was really nice and said it was great, but I knew it wasn't great. It had melted chocolate in addition to cocoa powder and the melted chocolate seized on me. It was such a labour of love, it's a wonder I managed to salvage any part of it. See, even though I love chocolate....I have this fear of working with it. It's so temperamental and moody....like me at certain times during the month. ;-)
The buttercream flowers were fun though. I don't know that I've gotten the technique down pat, but I'm getting there. Not bad for one petal tip....that I had to keep switching between icing colors!

Sorry, the pictures are a bit blurry. I was in a hurry.




Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cheesecake Update

Hey there, just a quick tip or two for anyone wanting to try the cheesecake pops. If you're worried about what to do with all the pops a full recipe makes (30-40), or for that matter, how many a half recipe makes if you use the small scoop like I did (about 30-40)...don't worry. Pop them in the freezer. I have Mark to thank for that idea, and it was a great one. They freeze beautifully and so far (what 4 days?) they haven't frozen rock hard and I don't think they will. So, they're great to eat straight from the icebox....an especially nice treat in the summer!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

DB Challenge: Cheesecake Pops

FINALLY.....I have something to post. I started this blog last week, but generally don't have time to bake until the weekend. So, I had to wait all week to finally have something to blog about. And that something is one of the Daring Bakers past challenges. Don't know anything about the Daring Bakers? Well let me tell you...There's this group out there on the web, The Daring Bakers. This group was started by a couple of women in November 2006 who decided to make pretzels using the same recipe and blog about it. Then December brought biscotti and more women joined in the fun. Fast forward a year and hundreds of members and you have the Daring Bakers. There's a new challenge every month....a secret challenge at that. And everyone posts their completed challenge on the same date. So after seeing post after post and how all the results are different and interesting, I decided I'd give one of the challenges a try.

Last month's challenge was Cheesecake Pops. The recipe was chosen by Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell from "Sticky, Chewey, Messy, Gooey" by Jill O'Connor. You can find the recipe on their blogs. I was really excited to try this one. It seemed as though it would be a lot of fun...and it was. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The cheesecake recipe was just okay I thought. But then, that could've been because I halved the recipe and sorta improvised a bit on measurements. I wasn't sure what I would be coating the cheesecake with, so besides adding some lemon juice I didn't really play up the flavor. So that's definitely an area I'd tweak when I make these again. And I will make these again. On the other hand, the chocolate recipe for dipping the cheesecake pops in was perfect. And so easy! Shortening was added to the chocolate when melting and it resulted in the perfect consistency. And when it hardened the chocolate was shiny and had that snap you look for. I didn't go crazy on the dipping flavors/coatings as this was a last minute idea. But that's where the fun and creativity comes in. I toasted some coconut, crushed up some oreos and chopped pecans. Oh, one innovation......I stirred up a couple spoonfuls of raspberry preserves until it was a bit soupy. And after freezing the cheesecake pops for about an hour, I dipped a few in the preserves and put them back in the freezer. The preserves never hardened, but it did firm up a bit and I had no trouble dipping them in the chocolate. So enough talk.... on with the pictures! Let me know what you think.

Just hanging out in the freezer waiting for some chocolate goodness!

Oreo

Coconut

Rasberry

Chopped Pecan

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog. I have high hopes for it. I have a very mundane sort of job. Not very exciting stuff. So, I've been looking for something to pour my energy into...something creative. Now, I've always loved baking. But it wasn't until recently, when I started to dabble in cake decorating, that I realized the creative outlet that baking could be. Not just cake decorating, but trying recipes that suit my mood. Or, making changes to recipes and coming up with new ones. And I'm excited to post pictures of my creations and hopefully learn something about photography along the way. So, I hope you find a recipe or two that you'll enjoy. And I welcome any tips, tricks or comments.