Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Holiday Cookie Party

My roomie, Joelf, and I, plus two of our friends (Carlotta and Cookie) decided to host a Cookie Exchange Party this year.

The Cookie Party: The Results Show

You all know how a Cookie Exchange works, right? You bring a ton of your favorite baked cookie, and at the party you nosh on all the cookies and start to feel really sick, and when your blood sugar starts to crash, you load up your tray/tupperware/bag with cookies from everybody. Arrive with 4 dozen you baked, go home with 4 dozen from everybody.

At our party, everybody got the first part right about arriving with cookies--and about 50% were actually homebaked! However, only a few people LEFT with cookies, which means our kitchen table looks like some sort of bakery warehouse.

I don't know how many more cookies I can eat.

December 16, 2007
Name of Cookies: Peanut Butter Pinwheels, Chocolate-Peppermint Pinwheels, GF Cinnamon-Sugar Pinwheels
Occasion: Cookie Party!
Constituents:
  • Peanut Butter Pinwheels: peanut butter dough rolled around semi sweet chocolate
  • Chocolate-Peppermint Pinwheels: chocolate sugar cookie dough rolled around white chocolate and crushed peppermint candy canes
  • GF Cinnamon-Sugar Pinwheels: GF pie dough (leftover from the Gateau Engadine) rolled around cinnamon and sugar



  • Peanut Butter Pinwheels

    Peanut Butter Pinwheel

    These suckers come straight out of a Sunset Cookie Book that my mom had when I was a teenager. The peanut butter cookie dough is pretty straightforward, with the exception of calling for a teaspoon of cinnamon. Say what? I did it, and it's fine, but it kind of puts the peanut butter flavor in the background a bit. I don't think I'll add it next time.

    While refrigerating the dough you melt 6 oz of chocolate and set aside. You pat the dough out into a 12x12 inch square and spread your chocolate, then you roll the dough up jelly-roll style. I HIGHLY recommend patting your dough square out on a piece or two of waxed paper or parchment, and using the paper to help you roll it up--much like you would that bamboo mat to roll up sushi. Exact same thing.

    I froze my dough for a couple of days, which was helpful since Sunday I was overextended with shit to do. However, frozen dough with a solid ribbon of chocolate running through it is hard to cut into straight little slices. A lot of that may have had to do with my knife in serious need of a sharpen. But it was tricky. Somewhere between frozen and thawed is the perfect time to cut this dough into slices.

    Then you bake away! So easy.

    Chocolate-Peppermint Pinwheels

    Chocolate-Peppermint Pinwheel

    This was just an idea I had based on Peppermint Bark. First off, the colors are so pretty, and secondly, totally yummy, and thirdly, it's seasonal!

    I realised I needed a chocolate cookie that could be rolled out; so I looked for a chocolate sugar cookie. This was the one I used, and it was easy and tasty: Equal Exchange's Chocolate Sugar Cookies.

    I was a little concerned when I saw it only made 18 cookies, but I thought I'd try it out anyways. This turns out a sweet and pretty dough that isn't too sticky; I probably could have rolled it out right then, and maybe I should have...it was a bit too stiff after being refrigerated. I melted some white chocolate (6 oz) and crushed up about 6-8 medium sized candy canes.

    Crushing candy canes in an apartment building when you have annoyingly loud neighbors is awesome. I only wish I had done it a little earlier in the morning.

    I rolled the dough out into a 12x12 square, and it looked a bit thin in places but I went for it anyway, and spread the white chocolate and crushed peppermint and rolled it up. The dough tore at the first turn but I patched it up and kept on going. Because the dough seemed a little fragile, I didn't spend a lot of time making sure I was rolling tight and pressing the dough gently together.

    This became a problem when I began slicing the dough after a refrigerated rest. I noticed many air pockets between layers, and oftentimes the dang slice would just sort of fall apart into chunks.

    Eh. I also burned a batch of cookies, but you know I like my cookies a tad burnt anyway!

    There was only ONE perfect cookie from this whole batch after baking; the rest were burnt or crumbled messes or ugly. The cookie was really crisp, but flavorful. This is a good idea, but I need to work on it more.

    GF Cinnamon-Sugar Pinwheels

    (uh, sorry, i guess i didn't take any photos.)

    How easy are these? I had a lot of leftover dough from the Gateau Engadine just sitting pretty in my refrigerator, and since Annmarie was coming (the GF ex roomie) I wanted to bake up a little GF cookie plate for her.

    I rolled out the dough into a ovalish-square and sprinkled the whole thing liberally with cinnamon and sugar. Then I rolled it up just like I did with the other two doughs and popped it in the freezer to firm up.

    A day or so later, I took out the roll, sliced it up, and popped them into the oven.

    Ta-da! So easy!

    Not only that, but many people found them tasty, and nobody who didn't know they were gluten free suspected there was something different about them. That, I believe, is the highest compliment in regards to GF baking.

    So basically, I am feeling totally awesome about my GF baking abilities.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Thanksgiving 2007: Gateau Engadine

    Since I decided to bake pies this year for Thanksgiving, I wanted to try a pie or two that were unusual--at least for me. I knew two would have to be the classic pumpkin. I wanted to do a fruit pie but I wanted to try something other than apple. For the fourth pie, I was thinking something like a chocolate silk or a banana cream or...Gateau Engadine. Bingo.

    November 22, 2007
    Occasion: I have the whole day to myself to play in the kitchen!
    Name of pie: Gateau Engadine
    Constituents: Two layers Sweet Cookie Crust, GF, with a layer of honey-caramel and toasted walnuts in between.

    Have you seen the photo of this in The Pie and Pastry Bible? It looks SOOO GOOD. If you don't have The Pie and Pastry Bible, then here's a pretty good photo of the Gateau, plus the webpage is in German! How cool is that! If you don't speak German, don't worry; you can view the webpage in French too!

    [total sidenote: according to the website, the Gateau was conceived of in 1926 by Fausto Pult. He hailed from the part of Switzerland called Engadin, where there are NO nut tress! Crazytalk! The website invites you to write to them to expound on the astounding history of the land of the Nut Torte, where no nuts grow.]

    It looks like it is about 80% cookie crust and 20% caramel and toasted nuts. For a celiac who by and large can't enjoy pastry like she used to, this GF sucker could make up for all the pastry she can't eat. I couldn't go wrong with this one.

    Well, let me tell you how I went wrong. When making the filling, you gotta first make caramel. I am a caramel novice. I haven't done it much so when I do try to make caramel, so far I have either taken it off the stove too early resulting in a pale amber colored caramel that doesn't have much flavor, or I overcook it resulting in a very dark reddish amber that tastes bitter because it is burnt.

    Guess which way I went with this pie.

    I had the thermometer in the syrup as it boiled away...the temperature slowly, slowly creeping upwards...186, 214, 286, 300...I was to boil until 360 (a deep amber)...all of a sudden the temp was 368 and I pulled it off, got the cream and began to add it slowly....

    Then I put the caramel back on the stove and simmered for a few minutes more (to dissolve any bits that hardened when I added the cream), added the lightly toasted walnuts, simmered for one more minute, then removed from heat, transfered to another bowl to completely stop the cooking process, added in the honey and let it cool completely.

    So I think I am learning that, when making caramel, 8 degrees makes a huge difference in product.

    On the other hand, the GF dough was a pleasure to work with. It rolled out nice and thick, crumbled only marginally when I transferred it to the pan, and repaired easily. Not too sticky, not too dry and crumbly.

    My Gateau came out 60% crust and 30% caramel-walnut filling. Which isn't bad. It would have been much more enjoyable if it wasn't so bitter. I would also prefer the walnuts to be nice and toasted--I am not much for raw or partially raw nuts. My ex roomie and I are thinking that maybe with a generous helping of dulche de leche ice cream, my burnt-caramel Gateau will become more pleasantly edible. Who knows. This pastry is certainly deserving of a redux, because the promise of a shortbread-caramel-toasty nut thing is a good one.

    Thanksgiving 2007: Blueberry-Cranberry Pie

    According to RLB, this pie was the first to appear on the internet and was created by Sarah Leah Chase. With all the antioxidants in this pie it could be considered natural medicine--physical and emotional health all in one slice! Any diary topping you might add (whip cream, ice creme, creme fraiche) would only serve to up the grams of protein and make it a well-rounded meal.

    November 22, 2007
    Occasion: Thanksgiving!
    Name of Pie: Deep Dish Blueberry/Cranberry Internet Pie, Gluten-Free
    Constituents; Pretty much what you'd think a deep dish blueberry/cranberry pie would have...

    This pie calls for 347 grams of fresh or frozen cranberries, so when I went to the store I was delighted to find a big open basket of fresh organic cranberries. I got to scoop out as many cranberries as I needed--actually I got carried away and bought too many, they are so pretty I couldn't stop scooping--and pay by the pound.

    Seriously, folks. Take a moment to appreciate how beautiful a pile of fresh cranberries are. Their color varies from a luscious deep red to a pinkish white, some stripey, some not; they look like a pile of jewels, do they not? They have this glow and life to them, they are vibrant in their color and taste, they hold memories of bogs and clear cold water and giant islands of moss. Take a moment to plunge your hands into a pile of fresh cranberries and let them tell you their stories. And you'll see why I couldn't stop loading them into my bag.

    Again the GF crust was crumbly and as I pressed the crumbly dough into the pie plate, I got really nervous trying to think of how I was going to get the top crust on without it crumbling all over the filling.

    I thought back to previous GF pie doughs, and they were all very sticky. I had no problem with dry and crumbly. It finally occured to me to, duh, add more water!! Once I did that the dough began to stick together better (as much as a GF dough can) and I was able to roll it out and I got it on the pie without it crumbling into pieces all over the filling. Phew.

    RLB suggests the best way to bake a fruit pie and still have the bottom crust be crisp is to put it into the oven frozen. That way the crust has a chance to bake and crisp up before the fruit fully defrosts and starts to exude juice all over the crust.

    So I shoved the fully assembled pie in the freezer and went to bed.

    The next morning when I got up I turned on the oven, put on the kettle, started to cook turkey breakfast sausage, and put the frozen pie into the oven. An hour or so later, I was eating sausage, finishing my tea, and looking at a freshly baked berry pie. What a way to start a day!

    This pie is awesome. It is so bright and alive with color and flavor. The pie crusts tasted better and were a little flakier than the pumpkin pies'. I put a little bit of softly whipped cream on my slice, and the white of the cream looked so pretty against the midnight purple and maroon red of the berries. You gotta try this pie.

    Thanksgiving 2007: GF Pumpkin Pies

    I didn't have to make Thanksgiving dinner, nor did I have to contribute to the making of a Thanksgiving dinner other than ordering and paying for Chinese food, so I decided to bake four pies.

    Yes, the I-Hate-Baking-Pies-Lady decided to bake FOUR pies.

    Two were pumpkin.

    November 22, 2007
    Occasion: I'm not cooking Thanksgiving dinner
    Name of pies: GF Pumpkin PIE
    Constituents: GF pie crust with a layer of GF gingersnaps and pecans and pumpkin pie filling

    These pies come straight out of RLB's Pie and Pastry Bible....so go get the book and read along, please :)

    These pie crusts were really dry and crumbly when I was rolling them out and it didn't occur to me to add more water (duh!). However, GF crust always breaks when you roll it out and especially when you move the dough from your rolling surface to the pie plate. So having the dough never really come together wasn't too concerning to me--I just dumped the crumbly crust into the pie plate and pressed it into place. I worried that by doing so I was killing all the flaky layers of butter, but it was late in the night and I had two more pies to do after so my worries did not deter me.

    And true, the crust wasn't as flaky, nor even as buttery, but it was still tender and nice. It held up well in the bake and didn't fall apart as each piece was cut. If I had to give it a grade, I'd give it a B.

    Oh yeah--I also replaced some of the GF flour mix with 20 g sorghum flour, and forgot to add Xantham gum.

    This time, the gingersnap-pecan crust that you press into the dough before pouring in the pumpkin mix wasn't very noticeable. No discernible crunch or flavor. Hmm.

    The pumpkin pie part was pretty darn good. I doubled the cinnamon and added in cloves and cardamom which turned out well. The texture was smooth and creamy. Yum!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Pies.

    too tired.

    made pies.

    pumpkin.

    apple.

    both gluten free.

    important to remember GF dough doesn't stretch. make more than called for.

    try teff.

    apple had great crust. tender. flaky.

    pumpkin crust didn't brown; bummer. can't put foil on at beginning of bake; need to put it on halfway through.

    annmarie thinks we added more spices to the pumpkin pie last year. more cinnamon, some cardamom. i can only vaguely remember.

    more later.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    I Love Butter, But Not This Much

    So yesterday I baked up a birthday cake for the sassy doula in our group. Today is officially her 40th birthday, but since we had a meeting yesterday, we decided to start celebrating early. I mean, 40 is a biggie, don't you think?

    October 9, 2007
    Name of cake: Doulas Never Say No To Chocolate
    Occasion: Sassy Turns 40! (name changed to protect the innocent)
    Constituents: Dark Chocolate Butter Cake filled and frosted with Classic Egg White Chocolate Buttercream

    The cake baking itself was fine and dandy, after running out to get more vanilla extract because I was 2 grams short.

    I highly recommend you all use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder next time you have a recipe that calls for dutched cocoa powder. I don't like Hershey's Special Dark chocolate for eating, but for baking, the cocoa powder is da bomb. I mean, take a look at this photo (of a cake I baked last year...still no camera)--that is what your chocolate cakes will look like, and believe me, they will taste AWESOME!

    german chocolate cake
    see, told you

    This post is really about my adventures in frosting, because the Egg White Chocolate Buttercream was my emergency second choice.

    What I really wanted to fill and frost with, was the White Chocolate Ganache. I thought the contrast in color and flavor would be really nice, and it would tone down that seriously chocolately cake. Also, White Chocolate Ganache is really just whip cream with a cocoa buttery tang to it, so I thought the frosting would also be a bit lighter than a buttercream.

    It should be a really easy frosting to make. You take your good quality white chocolate and melt it with 1/4 cup heavy cream in a double boiler. Once melted, you set it aside and you whip the rest of the cream just until you see streaks from the beaters. Then you add in the chocolate and beat until soft peaks form or it's all blended or it looks like whip cream. Then, frost!

    Somehow I am overzealous with the beating, because I looked down into my mixer after adding the chocolate and all I saw was curdling.

    look ma, i churned white chocolate butter!
    it looked like this, but much worse

    I have come to the conclusion that I am like a deer in the headlights when weird stuff goes on around me. I just kept staring at that curdly mess and watched it get more and more curdly as the beater kept beating it. I finally had to admit that what I had made was not White Chocolate Ganache, but White Chocolate Butter.

    Wow, how Little House on the Prairie of me!

    By this time the meeting had begun and I was still at home with a bowl of White Chocolate Butter and two cake layers that were unfilled and unfrosted. I grumpily searched The Book for a quick frosting that wouldn't require 6 egg yolks (I only had 5 eggs) or some other crazy outlandish ingredient. I settled on the Egg White Chocolate Buttercream which is one of my favorite chocolate buttercreams in the book. It is quick, super easy, and there is no chance of accidentally churning butter.

    I arrived at our meeting one hour late with a chocolate-chocolate cake in hand, and the prego doula sitting next to me asked if it was a chocolate cake inside all that chocolate frosting. When she heard my affirmation of a chocolate-chocolate cake, she leaned in and said, "bless you!"

    Nice. Who knew that churning butter would lead to my benefaction?

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    oh yeah--the cookies!

    I almost forgot I was going to tell you about the cookies I baked from the leftover Haupia crust!

    The dough was really sticky, and RLB suggests rolling out this dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap. I chose the potato starch flour, hoping it would absorb some of the moisture that this dough seemed to be holding onto.

    It didn't really work.

    As I rolled out the dough and grabbed my water glass to cut out the cookies, I suddenly remembered Nanny (my grandma on my dad's side) rolling out sugar cookie dough on our kitche table, and me hanging out and watching her as a little kid. I can't remember if she let me cut out the dough with a water glass, or if I just watched her do it, but the memory came back so strong it surprised me. Maybe that's why I love sugar cookies so much...

    Anyhoo, I was able to get about 10 cookies out of the dough, and they baked up nicely in about 20 minutes or so...

    ...and they're not too bad, but a little bland. They could be sweeter, and I can't believe I'm saying that!

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    Chocolate-Haupia Squares

    Earlier this year I ventured out to Uwajimaya, the Asian food store of stores out in Beaverton. For those not familiar with Portland, Beaverton is the serious suburb on the West side that is chock full of strip malls, big box stores, and ex-pat Californians. So to me, it feels like going home.

    There are only a few ways to get out to Beaverton which means they are snarled in traffic and hence, suck ass. So going out to Beaverton requires a real need, as well as nerves of steel.

    The need of this particular trip was to scout out the alternative flour situation at Uwajimaya and possibly purchase said flours. The occasion? The Oscar Party Cupcakes!

    There were a lot of really cool flours out there in the suburbs. One I would like to play with is lotus root flour. How cool is that?!

    This is what I came home with:


    And as an aside, I will say that the rice flour I bought at Uwajimaya was far superior to Bob's Red Mill Rice Flour. Sorry, Bob. You ground your rice flour on the coarse side, leaving my baked goods grainy. Boo.

    So in the bottom right corner of that photo is the box of Haupia mix that is the subject of today's post.

    Haupia is a Hawaiian dessert that is basically jellied coconut milk or something. It is kind of a cross between a jelly and a pudding. It is coconutty and tasty. Ted's Bakery in Sunset Beach, Oahu, is famous for their chocolate-haupia pies. You can get them in grocery stores around the island and from Ted's store itself. We always get (at least) one when we go to Oahu, and so when my friend and ex roomie came with me and my family one year, I got her hooked on the pie.

    Of course, she can't eat gluten so she would eat the filling out of the pie shell and it was supposed to be my job to eat the crust. But who cares about the crust? It's about the whipped cream-haupia-chocolate filling, people!!

    She and I often reminisce about them damn pies, and lament our Mainland status when wishing we could go get one to eat. I think she once tried to make Haupia using vanilla pudding and fake coconut extract. As you might expect, it was not so good.

    Today I was invited over to her home for a potluck, and as she is leaving for a mondo trip around India in a few short weeks, and who knows when she'll return, I thought it was high time I made a version of chocolate-haupia pie.

    September 9, 2007
    Occasion: OMG You're Leaving Soon!!
    Name of pie/dessert/thing: Gluten-Free Chocolate-Haupia Squares
    Constituents: GF Sweet Cookie Tart Crust, Chocolate Pudding, and Haupia

    The real big thing about this post is the GF crust. The pudding and the haupia came from boxes, so nothing amazing to point out there except that cooking pudding and cooking haupia take a long time, and chilling pudding and haupia in the freezer is awesome. 3 hours in the refrigerator or 20 minutes in the freezer? Nice.

    The classic crust for a chocolate-haupia pie is a basic pastry crust. I've gotta agree with Reid over at 'Ono Kine Grindz and say the crust of Ted's pie could use a little work. I think it could be baked to a golden brown and have a little more flavor. I always find it blah and bland and bleh.

    So since I dislike making pie crust anyway, I decided to adapt the Sweet Cookie Tart Crust from RLB's Pie and Pastry Bible and make the chocolate-haupia in a baking dish instead of a pie or tart crust. (Actually, if I owned a tart pan, I would have made a tart. I think it would make a great tart.)

    RLB's original recipe calls for 200 grams of unbleached all purpose flour. AP flour has more protein than cake flour, so I decided I needed a high protein flour for the bulk of the GF flour mix. I decided to go with 100 g sweet white sorghum flour, 30 g tapioca flour, 30 g potato starch flour, 30 g white rice flour, and 10 g cornstarch to prevent grittiness.

    In retrospect, cornstarch probably isn't the best thing to be adding to a GF mix because it has NO protein at all, so it actually detracts from the overall percentage of protein in the flour. However, without making a trip to an Asian grocery and getting good rice flour, I am stuck with gritty Bob's Red Mill, and cornstarch seems to prevent the baked product from feeling gritty in the mouth. I associate a gritty mouthfeel to eating sand, so I try to stay away from that sensation in my baked goods.

    The rest of RLB's recipe I kept the same.

    I did notice that when cutting the butter into the flour/sugar/salt mix, there seemed to be a bit too much butter. Is it that these flours don't absorb as well as wheat flour? Not starchy enough? The dough was ready to form a ball before I added the egg; with the egg, the dough was wet and sticky. And buttery.

    Thinking back, I do remember wet and sticky and buttery being problems with the GF pie crusts I made last Thanksgiving...must be something about these flours? The lack of gluten? Curious.

    After letting the dough rest up for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator, I greased my 8x8 pan, tore off about half of the 6 inch disc of dough, and pressed it into the pan. I lined the dough with parchment, loaded up the baking beans, and blind-baked the crust. After the 20 minute bake, the edges were very brown and the center was underbaked. I think I loaded in too many beans for the baking, which prevented the heat from evenly penetrating the crust. I pulled out all but a single layer of beans and returned the crust to the oven. A little bit later, my roommate was asking me if my crust was burning. Dangit!

    Oh well, I thought. My ex roomie likes things burnt. She won't mind.

    As the crust cooled, I stirred and stirred and stirred the chocolate pudding until finally one day it cooked. Then as the pudding cooled in the pan in the freezer, I stirred and stirred and stirred the haupia until one day it too cooked. Then as the haupia, which I poured over the pudding, cooled in the freezer I changed and got ready to leave for the potluck which had started 90 minutes ago.

    The haupia was a big hit. The crust was awesome. However it was so good it almost overshadowed the whole dessert. Maybe that's why Ted keeps his crust so bland and underwhelming?

    The real test to determine the success of this GF crust will come tomorrow, when I bake the remainder of the dough as GF sugar cookies. I will be sure to keep you posted, stay tuned.

    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    I'll Let You Call Them Muffins If I Can Hold Your Baby

    Boy, I had to give away my camera just when I go on a baking craze. I really wish you could see these cupcakes I just baked up. But more than that, I really wish somebody had already invented smell-o-vision, because you have no idea what you are missing.

    July 27, 2007
    Name of Cupcake: Happy Summery Cupcakes
    Occasion: Meeting the Summer Babies!
    Constituents: Blueberry-Lemon Cupcakes frosted with Vanilla Buttercream

    Oh, people. I am telling you, you wish you were here. These suckers smell so good.

    So the story is as follows:

    Three years ago, a friend of mine who had just bought the cutest farmhouse out in SE Portland decided to throw a summer party in her backyard. She had also decided she was going to try her hand at baking and found online a recipe for carrot cake that she really liked. So she invited the Evil Bakers Incorporated to bake cakes as well; the idea would be that we would each make different tiers of what would be a fantastic cake. So I volunteered to bake the bottom tier.

    At this time I was really interested in figuring out how to successfully incorporate fruit into cakes. RLB has practically nothing in The Book, and that was pretty much the only book I was using at the time. I decided to try a blackberry-orange cake; a combo that I know was used to great success with Marsee Baking Company.

    I used the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake as the base recipe, to which I added 4 tsp of grated orange zest, and almost 2 pints of fresh blackberries tossed in flour.

    The Cake. Was. Awesome.

    When I took a bite of the finished cake, the first hit was a bang of fresh, tart, sweet blackberry, then vanilla, and at the end the acidic perfume of orange. Encased in a perfectly moist, light, not too sweet yellow butter cake with a creamy vanilla finish.

    --A moment, please, for the best cake I had baked to date.--

    Read the blog post about my blackberry-orange cake.

    Fast forward to last summer, when I went blackberry picking with my friend Brains. I went along for the company, the sheer joy of being outside on a nice summery day, and the promise of big loud trains. I baked the blackberry-orange cake as cupcakes and they were just as good. My only complaint was that I didn't put enough blackberries in each cupcake, but that's not so bad.

    Read the blog post about my blackberry-orange cupcakes.

    So this year, I decided to make the same cupcakes for the post partum meet up party tomorrow afternoon. It is for the brand spanking new parents that were in my last Birthing From Within class in March. There were four couples and I couldn't have asked for a livelier group. All their babies were born in the last month and so it's time to meet the kiddos, listen to them share birth stories, trade parenting secrets, and watch them set up play groups and help each other out. For me, it's like watching the kids grow up and leave the nest.

    The selection at the store I chose to go to was paltry--I can't fault them, it is a little too early for blackberries. But--the blueberries! They were everywhere! And so cute and happy!

    So I decided to make blueberry-lemon cupcakes instead. And I'm so pleased with my decision, I have to pat myself on the back.
    *pat*

    Blueberry-Lemon Cupcakes
    based on Rose Levy Beranbaum's All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake as found in The Cake Bible, page 39.

    please have all ingredients at room temperature

    6 large egg yolks, 112 grams
    whole milk, 1 cup or 242 g
    vanilla, 2.25 tsp or 9 g
    lemon zest, 4 tsp
    sifted cake flour, 3 cups or 300 g
    sugar, preferably baker's or golden cane, 1.5 cups or 300 g
    baking powder, 1 tbsp + 1 tsp or 19.5 g
    sea salt, .75 tsp or 5 g
    fresh blueberries, about 2 pints
    unsalted butter, softened, 12 tbsp or 170 g

    Preheat oven to 350.
    In a medium bowl, combine the yolks, .25 cup or 60.5 g of the milk, vanilla, and lemon zest. Set aside.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend. Add the butter and remaining .75 cup or 181.5 g of milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand blender) and beat for 1.5 minutes. [This is a good time to do some clean up.] Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.

    Fill each cupcake cup about 1/3 full and sprinkle in a handful of blueberries. Keeping in mind your want your cupcake cups to be about 2/3 full, spoon about 2-5 tablespoons of batter on top of the berries. With the back of a spoon, spread the top layer of batter over the berries. You don't need to completely cover and submerge the berries; as the cake rises it will rise past and cover the berry goodness.

    Bake for about 20 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when you press it and a cake tester inserted in the middle of a few cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out and let cool completely on a rack. Store airtight.
    I used the Neo-Classic Buttercream recipe right out of The Book, except that where it calls for 2-4 tbsp optional liqueur of your choice, I added 2 tbsp of vanilla extract. Heavenly.

    (7/29) Well, the cupcakes were a hit, but everybody called them "muffins." Muffins! Muffins are less sweet, coarse and dry, and don't have frosting! These were delicate, cumbly, moist, and frosted!! Harumph.

    Actually, I think I added too many blueberries to each cupcake and that's why they were crumbly. Just not enough cake to hold them together, I guess. But still, damn good CUPCAKES.

    I can forgive them; they're brand spanking new parents, they haven't had a good night's sleep in over a month.

    By the way, the babies? Adorable. Freaking adorable. I made sure to hold every one of them, and they are all perfect!

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Drop It Like It's Hot

    Apparently, I like to bake cookies in the middle of the summer so that my kitchen temperature practically doubles. This way the cookies stay warm for even longer.

    July 24 2007
    Name of cookie: Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Occasion: High Temperatures
    Constituents: chocolate chip cookies using Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips

    And again, no camera, no photos. :(

    I actually don't like dark chocolate much at all, and I really don't like Hershey's Special Dark as a candy bar. But, I baked these with the plan of sending some of them to the Stinky, since every time he hears I'm baking something he wistfully mumbles, "I'd like some of that too."

    I could retort something like, "if we lived together you could." But that would be mean.

    So instead, I decided I'd placate him with half a batch of cookies. This benefits me, too, as I get some cookies but NOT ALL. Because I would happily eat ALL of them, probably within 4 days!

    But I digress. I baked these cookies with the plan of sending half to Stinky, and he LOVES dark chocolate. In fact, he loves it so much he almost couldn't understand when I told him I didn't like dark chocolate much at all. I like my chocolate creamy. I like milk chocolate.

    However, since I love Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, I thought I'd try their Special Dark chocolate chips. Although to be honest, semi sweet chips are pretty much what I would consider dark chocolate.

    (By the way, yesterday wasn't really that hot, but after a nice little respite where it rained a lot and I was wearing long sleeved shirts and even once broke out a SWEATER OMG, Portland has turned its face back to summer. Yesterday was pleasantly warm with a breeze, but when I looked back to the last time I baked chocolate chip cookies, it was last June during a nasty heat wave. I thought it made a better story this way.)

    I used the recipe right off the back of the package, except that I used golden baker's sugar instead of white sugar, and only 1 packed cup of dark brown sugar instead of 1.25 cups of packed light brown sugar.

    I forgot how easy these cookies are to whip up. Even dropping them went really fast--I think I was really on it last night or something. I had my cookie sheets stacked right next to the bowl, I had my two spoons and I just went to town. Seriously--I don't think I've ever satisfactorily dropped cookies at such a rate!

    I purposely slightly overcooked a sheet or two of cookies, which gave them that slightly overbrowned bottom and yummy caramelized taste that I love. The other two sheets I baked just until golden brown and a little mushy in the middle, and set them off to cool.

    Cookies are good times. It was my mom's Sunset Cookie book that got me into baking in the first place. They have this recipe for chocolate chip cookies that is totally out of control. You use butter AND shortening, TWO bags of chips, and probably way too much sugar. You also add a little cinnamon, which I really liked. Not everybody did.

    I would bake cookies for my friends at Christmas, for family functions, and in the middle of the night out of boredom. One summer, when my parents took a month's vacation, (leaving two teenagers at home with a neighbor in her early 20's--can we say party?) my friends were kind of permanently at our house (two of them even stayed with us for a week or two). The boys would be outside trying to help Brian fix his Thing, and I'd bake cookies for all of us and it felt like I was the mother hen of our little group. And that felt so great to me. I knew then how much pleasure I would have when I had kids and a family of my own that I could bake for.

    Our house was the one that everyone liked to come over and hang out at--my sister's friends (the popular girls) and my friends (the freaks and geeks) would all watch Days of Our Lives and eat Cool Ranch Doritos together. My parents loved having all of our friends over and they made sure my friends knew how welcome they were. My mom was the surrogate mom to all of our friends, especially those from broken homes. They loved my mom so much, and in return she mothered us all.

    That's the kind of mom I will be one day, and we'll have the kind of house that everyone wants to hang out at. And I will give them all Type 2 Diabetes from all the crazy shit I'll bake up.

    But I digress. The cookies turned out awesome--who knew the recipe on the back of a chocolate chip package would turn out so well?

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    it's peanut butter zetta time

    Zetta turned a year older not too long ago, and as always I agreed to make her her favorite birthday cake: german chocolate with the goopy goop.

    I finally got around to doing it tonight so that I can bring it into work tomorrow. We work together on Fridays.

    July 19, 2007
    Name of Cake: Zetta's Goopy Chocolate Cake
    Occasion: Zetta is one year older
    Constituents: Chocolate Butter Cake filled and frosted with Coconut Pecan Goop

    Firstly, I must apologise for the lack of photographs. Stinky has my camera. And he knows I was being REALLY REALLY nice to him, letting him borrow it.

    So you'll all just have to use your imaginations on this one. Sorry.

    I have been using Green and Black's cocoa powder for a little while now, with not so enthused results, surprisingly enough. I freaking love their chocolate bars, why wouldn't I love their cocoa powder? I haven't had great results with it--at least not as great as I've had in the past with Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder. That shit rocks my world. It is so chocolatly and dark and lovely. I am shocked to say that Green and Black's just hasn't measured up.

    Crazy, huh?

    So for this cake, I decided to go back to my favorite cocoa powder. And I am sitting right next to the cakes as they cool and let me tell you, I want to eat them right now.

    As you know, there is always cake trauma in the ECL baking experience. Tonight, nothing so bad has happened yet, but there was pre-trauma. See, I'm not so good at the coconut-pecan goop. Two years ago I made a decent goop, but there was a lot of cooked egg yolk in the frosting that I didn't sieve out. So last year, I decided to cook the condensed milk, butter and eggs really slowly for a longer time. In this way I hoped to not curdle the yolks and still get a nicely browned bowl of goop. It didn't work out so well. I got tired of constantly stirring. The frosting thickened but it never caramelized which I found unsatisfactory. VERY unsatisfactory.

    So this time, I decided to keep the heat up around medium, stir like crazy, and sieve out any cooked yolk.

    The recipe says to cook the goop until it bubbles. Last year, I just stopped when it thickened. This year, I persisted in stirring and stirring and stirring until it really began to bubble. The magic of food chemistry really can be experienced when you are standing over a pot, constantly stirring, looking for changes. The goop thickened before it bubbled, so that right before it began to bubble it swelled up like a balloon about to pop. It got easier to stir at this point and you could practically feel all the molecules straining their bonds as the heat pumped all this energy into them. Then, gloppy bubbles began to burst right under the spoon, and maybe 4 minutes later there were little gloppy bursts all over the top of the goop. The color steadily changed from a creamy yellow to a beige-ish brown. I realised that the foundation of the goop is really like a dulche de leche--caramelized milk that you add a bunch of shit to.

    I sieved the goop, which I am glad I did as there was quite a bit of cooked yolk hanging around. I mean, nobody likes scrambled egg coconut pecan goop.

    The goop was quite tasty, and I didn't hesitate to eat a spoonful of the leftover frosting after I filled and frosted the cake.

    This isn't an easy frosting to frost--it's all chunky and goopy and doesn't spread all nice and smoothly. I tore at the cake a few times when I pressed a pecan chunk too deeply as I smoothed.

    But that's small potatoes compared to the finished product as a whole. The cake is now resting and cooling in the refrigerator, all layered and gooped up and ready for Zetta to eat tomorrow. I hope she likes.

    Happy Birthday, lovely Zetta! May your birthday year bring you happiness, abundance, and laughter!

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    7 Things, ECL Style

    Melinda, who has been trying to get me to blog for the last month, finally gave me an easy topic. (Don't worry, Melinda, I still plan on doing all those other things too!)

    So, here goes....

    7 Things You May Not Have Known About The ECL

    1. I can't bake without a recipe.

    2. I LOVE sugar cookies with that crispy sickly sweet american buttercream frosting.

    3. Some of you may remember me talking about this, but I prefer CREAMY over DEATH BY CHOCOLATE anyday. And in order for #3 to officially count, I think most pastry chefs in Portland fuck up creme brulee royally. (It SHOULDN'T be RUBBERY, EGGY, or SHITTY, and the top should be nice and CRISPY...you know, CARMELIZED???)

    4. I don't really like pie or puff pastry at all.

    5. But I love love love croissant, and I think there are too many fake (read: shitty) croissant out there confusing the masses.

    6. My favorite cake is yellow butter cake layered with dark chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries. OR, now that I have fallen in love with the raspberry chocolate ganache, that would suffice. When there is a microwave around (I don't have one), I like to nuke my piece of cake for like, 2-5 seconds, just enough to warm it up but not to melt the frosting, then scoop a generous portion of vanilla ice cream. THAT, my friends, is ECL's version of culinary bliss....

    7. I spent 4 months living in Simferopol, Ukraine in my very early 20's and I fell in love with their black bread. Sour, dense, wheaty, super super yummy. Then, two years later, when I was living in Munich, Germany, I fell in love with their breads. We had a bread bakery around the corner and we would buy our bread from them on a weekly/twice weekly basis. Good stuff. I also fell in love with Munich's Biergartens. (Who doesn't love to sip a crisp light beer in a park on a lovely warm summer evening? Americans, because we don't have anything like them here.) I learned to love whole milk, Wurstsalat, and Blaukraut. And I thought the idea of mixing a beer with fizzy lemonade freaking genius! (What are they called? Help me out here, people.) (11:30 pm) Radler!! It's called a Radler!!! phew.

    I suppose I'm supposed to tag some people now to continue the meme, but eh, I dunno. Who reads my blog these days anyway? How about this: If you're reading my blog, then you are morally obligated to do the meme. Please report back when you post your 7 things.

    I guess that could be the eighth thing you didn't know about ECL: she's really lazy.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    If Harry Potter Had Celiac This Could Be His Favorite Pie

    My roommate has been talking about the Shoofly Pie recipe in The Pie and Pastry Bible since March. She was on the Mediclear cleanse at the time, and she kept saying that when she was finished, she wanted to celebrate by making this pie.

    She hadn't even heard of Shoofly Pie before, but discovered it in the the P+P Bible when we were planning our other roommate's GF tiramisu. The Shoofly Pie recipe is right next to the Black Bottomed Tiramisu Tart.

    Of course, I was going to take the helm of this GF Shoofly Pie craze sweeping the apartment. But you all know how I feel about pie.

    If you don't know how I feel about pie, I can sum it up thusly: in the amount of time it takes to get the pie dough resting in the pie pan (resting! not baked!), I can have a two layer cake baked and cooling on the table.

    I'm just sayin'.

    fresh out of the oven
    this pie doesn't say "ya'll come in," it says "feestelijk inhalen alleman"

    According to RLB, Shoofly Pie comes from Pennsylvania Dutch Country, which makes everyone I tell that to tell me that they thought it came from the South. Apparently, food historian Will Weaver discovered that it was one of the pie recipes handed out during the US Centennial in Philadelphia in 1876. So everyone, please take note: Shoofly Pie is NOT from the South.

    Shoofly Pie is basically a molasses/gingerbready filling baked inside a pie crust. My ex-roomie's boyfriend likened the pie to Treacle Tart, which is Harry Potter's favorite dessert and so I am totally okay with that.

    the gooey
    the gooey, THE GOOEY

    June 10, 2007
    Name of Pie: Gluten Free Shoofly Pie, aka GF Treacle Tart
    Occasion: My Roommate Is Parasite Free!
    Constituents: GF Shoofly Pie, recipe based on RLB's Shoofly Pie

    I hemmed and hawed about making this pie because I am having trouble in the GF baking world. My birthday GF tiramisu came out a bit grainy which is completely unacceptable. The only thing I can think of, is that some percentage of cornstarch is a good thing in the GF baking experience, as that ingredient was in every GF thing I've baked except my birthday tiramisu.

    So this time, I decided to use the GF Mix and add some amount of cornstarch. How much? I didn't know. This was the problem.

    I finally bucked up and started in on the pie crust. I made the Flaky Cream Cheese Pie Crust, but with 124 grams of GF Flour Mix and 20 grams of cornstarch...just 'cause. I realised that all these instructions for resting up the dough are to make sure the gluten doesn't overdevelop; I don't have a gluten problem here, people, so WTF! I'm not resting the dough!

    Well, I did refrigerate the dough once or twice, just to make sure the butter didn't get too soft.

    IMG_2226
    check out my butter flakes!

    Anyhoo, the freaking pastry dough finally came together and I got it in the pie plate, crimped the edges, and shoved it in the refrigerator.

    look i even crimped the border
    see, crimped pie crust

    Then, I turned my attention to the filling.

    A Shoofly Pie is made up of two different parts: a gooey molasses-coffee part and a crumbly flour-butter part.

    Of course, I got all flustered about the crumbly flour-butter part. What was I going to do about the flour? The recipe called for all-purpose flour, which has more protein than cake flour. After too much deliberation, I remembered my sweet sorghum flour, which has more protein than any of the other GF flours I currently have in my pantry. After some brilliant math skills, I decided to use 70 grams sorghum flour, 40 grams potato starch, 35 grams tapioca flour, and 15 grams cornstarch...just 'cause.

    I then realised that I was supposed to have chilled 115 grams of butter...so I measured it out and shoved it in the refrigerator.

    the flour crumble
    the flour-butter-spice crumble

    Next I had to cut the chilled butter into the flour/golden sugar/spice/etc mix, which took FOREVER, and then, THEN, I was SO ready to put the pie together and bake it up!

    stirring together the coffee, baking powder, and molasses
    the molasses-coffee-baking powder

    So, I added the baking powder to the warm coffee, which was neat because the whole thing got all fizzy and active, and then I stirred in the molasses and poured that whole thing into the pie plate. Then I sprinkled the flour crumble mix evenly over the top and baked that sucker for 45 minutes.

    pour in the molasses mix, then sprinkle on the flour crumble
    step 1: pour into unbaked pie shell

    and splash a little molasses on yourself
    step 2: splash some of the molasses stuff on yourself, and find some later in your "cleav" as Joelf likes to call it

    pre-baked pie
    step 3: sprinkle the flour mix evenly over the top

    the finished pie!
    step 4: bake for 45 minutes, and yum

    Then, we ate it with some coffee ice cream and it was good. The deep and hearty flavors of molasses and coffee were very warming. This would be a good winter pie.

    serving suggestion
    serving suggestion: DO IT

    I couldn't sleep at all that night, because of all the caffeine in the pie and ice cream. I guess that's why RLB says traditionally this pie is served warm for breakfast.

    The GF pie crust was very thin, crisp, and brittle. I guess it was a little flaky, but I wasn't very impressed.

    However, I had saved the last bits of the pie dough and rolled it up with some cinnamon and sugar and this morning I baked it in the toaster oven. This time the crust was buttery, and flaky, oh so flaky, and tender and crisp. I could not tell it was GF, and I could tell that it was freaking delicious. I don't know why it tasted better today than it did in the pie--maybe I'm rolling the dough too thin or something. But today--today that crust was the bomb.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007

    ECL's Turn

    I turned 34 on Sunday.

    courtesy of the london grill

    I decided to invite some of my friends to an extravagant Sunday brunch at The Benson Hotel. The restaurant in the basement of the hotel (The London Grill) does the big brunch--you know, with the omlette station, the roast beef carving station, the crab legs and seafood ice mountain, the cheese, oh the cheese, the veal, lamb, waffles, potatoes, eggs benedict, you get it.

    Oh yeah, and there is this seriously serious dessert island.

    I debated on whether or not I would bake a cake for myself, for many reasons. Let me elucidate:

    1. I always regret baking my own cake. I spend my entire birthday frantically baking up the damn cake and not having much fun.
    2. I am always stressed about the cake sucking ass.
    3. I vowed never to bake my own birthday cake again.
    4. And this time, there was this seriously serious dessert island. Would we need cake?

    And the decision really came down to this:
    Would I really be okay if I didn't have leftover birthday cake for breakfast next week?

    The answer was simple. I needed birthday cake for breakfast.

    May 27, 2007
    Name of Cake: MINE
    Occasion: The Most Important Day Of The Year
    Constituents: Gluten-Freekin Tiramisu!!!



    This tiramisu was different than my old roomie's for several reasons:

    1. I used imported mascarpone.
    2. I had to buy my own marsala wine.
    3. I used different flours for the Biscuit de Savoie.

    Allow me to break it down further:

    Last time, I used the end of the Gluten-Free ECL Mishap Mix and a lot of white rice flour. I omitted the cornstarch form the original recipe since I had an unknown amount of cornstarch in the mishap mix.

    This time, I used an equivalent weight of Proper GF Mix and added an equal amount of additional white rice flour instead of cornstarch.

    I didn't bother to note if I did add in Xanthan Gum last time, and if so, how much. I almost forgot to add it this time, but at the very end, right before pouring the batter into the pan, I hastily added 3 tsp of Xanthan Gum.

    Everything else about the cake was the same as last time.

    Oh yeah, and this time, I made the zabaglione with the proper amount of ingredients.


    proper zabaglione

    Joelf was an excellent sous chef. Thanks to him, we got this cake baked up and the filling prepared by 2 am. Or was it 3 am. Can't remember now.

    The next morning, the day of my birth, I stumbled bleary eyed out of bed several hours earlier than I would have liked (brunch reservations were at 10 am) and while I waited for hot water I soaked the bottom layer of cake in the coffee and spread about half of the creamy creaminess over. Then I noticed that I used about 3/4 of the coffee for the bottom layer. What was I supposed to use for the top layer? Oops.


    oops

    I took a shower, and as I was getting out Joelf came upstairs. I told him my issue. He said he could make more coffee syrup no problem.

    I said yay and did my hair.

    Then I finished the cake, and liberally covered the top in cocoa powder. That was awesome.

    birthday tiramisu

    This cake could have used an overnight in the refrigerator, but oh well. We brought it down to The Benson and placed it on the side table, in the fancy pantsy private room I had reserved. We were 30 minutes late, and the first to arrive. Nice.

    Brunch was decadent, as is everything in life worth doing. We had four good hours of eating ahead of us, so we paced ourselves accordingly. There was a lot of champagne, crab legs, boobies and cake talk (don't ask), and good times.

    bubbles!!

    Some of us dabbled in the dessert island (creme brulee not so good, chocolate mousse tasty) and then the servatron (one part nice to two parts grumpy) came in with a pretty little slice of german chocolate cake with a candle! Everybody sang to me, which was sweet. Then we pulled the candle off the cake and shoved it in the tiramisu and took pictures!

    ECL And Her Cake

    I thought the cake was gritty--THAT IS BAD.

    But the creamy creaminess was really good. And my friends liked my tiramisu better than the dessert island.

    Good friends indeed.

    toast!

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Happy Birthday, Lovely Man

    (5/10) The Stinky is taking a break from being a rockstar on the East coast and today is his birthday. I'll be picking him up from the airport later tonight and I thought I'd surprise him with a little birthday cake.

    chocolate bread cakelette

    May 10, 2007
    Name of cake: Stinky's Birthday Cakeys
    Occasion: Stinky Is Coming To See Me In The Middle Of The Night Again
    Constituents: RLB's Chocolate Bread

    He likes his cakes to be loaf-like, dense, and sneakily healthy. He likes things like zucchini bread and carrot cake. I am making him RLB's chocolate bread with whole wheat pastry flour and golden baker's sugar, and let me tell you the batter smelled AWESOME--like vanilla, deep chocolate, and the flowery molasses smell that only golden baker's sugar gives.

    I made this cake once before for the Stinky, but that time my WWPF was rancid. I now keep my WWPF in the freezer.

    I decided to bake up the chocolate bread in the flower cakelette pan Cookie gave me for Christmas many years ago. I have a fantasy of bringing a little cakelette to the airport with a little candle, and when he comes out of the security area he can see me, looking all fabulous and sweet holding a little chocolate cake with a lighted candle waiting to greet him. Nice fantasy, huh?

    We haven't seen each other since October; this past winter has been quite a rollercoaster of emotions: confusion, longing, anger, lonliness, love and pain. In a nutshell. But we can't seem to shake each other, for what it's worth, and we are looking forward to seeing each other and spending some time together.

    The cake mixed up fine, with no real problems. Well, the butter got a little melty instead of soft--it was sitting on top of the warm stove--but it wasn't too bad and I wasn't worried. The batter was lovely, as I have mentioned, and I ate about 1/2 a cup of it while the cakelettes baked.

    I didn't set the timer--no idea why--so I just wandered over there when I could start to smell them. They weren't quite done yet, so I came back in a little bit and they were overdone a bit. Not too bad though, I wasn't worried, but as they cooled the middles sunk! Say what?

    I have no idea why. The baking powder is a month old, the ingredients were at room temperature, the oven temperature is fairly accurate. WWPF has never affected a cake I've baked like this. Golden Baker's Sugar has never made a cake fall.

    My roommate looked at them and she said, "I would think they were gluten-free!"

    But they're not! What happened?

    I guess I'll have to eat one before I go to the airport tonight.

    the cakelettes

    (5/12) I did eat one, and they were a little dense and undercooked in the middle. Maybe the oven temperature was too high and I didn't notice...they still tasted awesome.

    I didn't bring a cakelette into the airport with me, but I did have it waiting in the car with a candle and a match. We didn't light it then, actually, we didn't light it until we got to Olympia on Friday evening. Then, with his two best friends, we lit his birthday cakelette and sang him Happy Birthday.

    happy birthday stinky!

    It is wonderful to see him. I can tell he's different somehow--he summed it up by exclaiming as we drove through downtown Olmypia--"Nothing's really changed--I recognise all these people! It's only been 6 months but I feel like I've lived two years in that time." Its true--it shows in his face, his demeanor, and his energy. However we fell into each other like no time had passed, and it is good. It feels right. It feels like, in a way, all the puzzle pieces are put back in the puzzle again and the picture is complete.

    Happy birthday, Stinky Monkeypuzzle. May this birthday year be filled with love, music, and new adventures.

    ice cream

    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    Pick Me Up, Pick Me Up!

    The ex roommate had her birthday last weekend, and she decided to bake two gluten free, dairy free, sugar free cakes. The other cake, she decided, would be tiramisu.

    My roommate and I decided to help her out by making the tiramisu cake. We were very invested in making sure that cake came out right.

    All three of us, for different reasons, were very very tired; we really needed that Pick Me Up to come out right.

    happy birthday roomie!

    April 28, 2007
    Name of cake: Gluten-Freekin Tiramisu!!
    Occasion: My Ex-Roommate's Birthday Party
    Constituents: two layers gluten free Biscuit de Savoie soaked in espresso and layered with the mascarpone-whipped cream-marsala-good times.

    I was SOOO tired when we were going to bake this cake. Actually, I wasn't tired, I was OMG EXHAUSTED.

    Annmarie, who made the decision to break her Mediclear cleanse for the tiramisu, said she would make the creamy lovely filling, if I could just get off the couch long enough to bake up the ladyfingers.

    My initial plan was to bake ladyfingers, then the plan changed to baking the ladyfingers in one big sheet, then the plan changed to baking a biscuit (European-type sponge cake, you heathens) in one big sheet.

    The reason I changed to a biscuit was that, according to the RLB, the ladyfingers (Biscuit a la Culliere for you non heathens) have more flour to help them hold their shape. Since I wasn't piping and I was baking gluten free, I thought the biscuit with less flour would be best.

    So Biscuit de Savoie it was. And luckily, one recipe makes enough for two 9x13 layers.

    the gf sponge cake

    This Biscuit seems perfectly made for tiramisu. In RLB's words,
    "Biscuit de Savoie is also a European sponge-type cake which, like American sponge, contains no butter or oil but a lot more egg, making it lighter, drier, and tougher until well soaked with syrup. Because it contains no added fat, it is lighter and can absorb more syrup than a genoise without losing its delicate texture."
    Sounds perfect for soaking in espresso and sandwiching between creamy cheesy winey goodness.

    Also, RLB says this is a perfect cake for alternative flours, and this GF cake came out perfectly.

    There was cake trauma, of course. Annmarie started out with RLB's recipe for a tiramisu torte from the Pie and Pastry Bible. Eventually, I pointed out that her recipe wouldn't make enough filling for a 9x13 pan--it would make enough for an 8 inch torte.

    She didn't like hearing that.

    I googled tiramisu recipes and found a good one that was seemed similar to RLB's, except big enough.

    The problem was, we had already made the zabaglione part of the filling--warming and beating the egg yolks with the sugar and marsala until it thickens. And we had used RLB's torte proportions.

    Interestingly, RLB's recipe calls for the same amount of egg yolk. So we didn't need to make more zabaglione, really, we just needed to add more sugar and marsala. We decided to heat the marsala and the sugar together until the sugar dissolved and then add all that later on when we beat the cheese and zabaglione together.

    Which kind of worked, except that it looked curdled and chunky instead of creamy.

    tiramisu from the side

    Annmarie kind of freaked out.

    Which is usually what I do, but I was too tired to muster up the energy.

    After beating the crap out of the mascarpone-zabaglione mix for awhile it looked better and we whipped the cream and folded everything together. It still never got creamy and luscious which had Annmarie mad, but I told her that once we got it all layered up nobody would know that it wasn't perfectly creamy. She finally agreed and we moved on, cut the biscuit in half, assembled the cake, and let it relax in the refrigerator.

    We covered it in foil and unfortunately it stuck to the top of the cake and pulled off some of the creamy goodness. Also, Regenia almost dropped the cake when she was trying to put it on the table. Luckily, I didn't see that. I would have freaked out.

    the gf tiramisu

    It was really good. Really good. It was even better 24 hours later when all the flavors finally sorted themselves out.

    I highly recommend making it the day before.

    The tiramisu did its job--we were sufficiently perked up to go out banghra dancing for a couple of hours. Woot-woot!

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    OMG ITS A MEATCAKE

    So I'm curled up on my purple velvet couch watching The Muppet Movie! with my roommate on a lovely, lazy, slightly sunny Sunday afternoon.

    And I decided to check my email to see if anybody wanted to write me, and I find in my evilcakelady address an email from a friend of a friend pointing me towards...

    This post from Black Widow Bakery about

    a three-layer
    MEATLOAF CAKE
    filled with
    ketchup sauce
    and
    frosted with
    MASHED POTATOES.


    Its like the heavens have opened up and the holy light of meatloaf has been shone down on me.

    My life will never be the same again.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Cookie Gets Crusty

    My best friend Cookie was born on tax day. I think she did it on purpose so that nobody could ever forget her birthday.

    She asked if I was going to bake her a cake, and of course I am! Ask and you shall eat my cake, friend.

    She requested a white cake with white frosting--the kind of white frosting that is a little crusty, like the crappy frosting one gets out of a tub. She loves that slightly crispy stuff.

    I wasn't sure what to do about that, besides go buy a tub of crappy frosting, but that goes against my morals and I will not, WILL NOT do it. I just can't.

    I found a couple of RLB recipes that I thought might make a white frosting that crusts, but I wasn't sure. I thought about doing a week long prototype tasting of the RLB options, but the thought of the time and resources needed to do that made me blanch.

    So at the store, I decided to just buy a whole bunch of ingredients and see what kind of recipe I could find on the internet. I suspected that the crusty frostings were shortening based, which also means they are more sweet (they have to taste like something) and also against my morals. But I would use shortening for my favorite Cookie.

    happy birthday, 1st

    April 15, 2007
    Name of cake: Have Your Cookie and Eat My Cake Too
    Occasion: Cookie's Birthday! (aka Cookie gets a little more stale wiser)
    Constituents: two layers white cake filled with strawberry jam, frosted with crusty classic american buttercream, fresh strawberries on top

    This cake was fairly easy to make; it is a classic recipe right out of The Book called White Velvet Cake. What makes it white? Besides the bleached cake flour and bleached baker's sugar, you use egg whites only. The vanilla extract doesn't really affect the whiteness of the cake.

    Once you have your mise-en-place and providing you have a good mixer (stand or hand held) you can have this cake cooling on your table in about 30 minutes. It is the mise-en-place that can take a while, especially when you forget to take the frozen egg whites out of the freezer beforehand. That slowed things down a bit.

    I could have just separated a few eggs to get my egg whites, but once I decide to use up some of my egg white stash, I get all stubborn about it. There have been times when my freezer was inundated with frozen egg whites and ever since then I have tried to be vigilant about keeping the stash to a minimum.

    By the way--egg whites freeze beautifully. Egg yolks--not so much.

    When Cookie told me she wanted a white cake with crusty white frosting, I rolled my eyes in exasperation. You all know how I feel about white cake. Cookie caught my attitude, and added, "with strawberries on top." I begged and pleaded for something else interesting in there and she consented to strawberry jam as filling. I warned her that her crusty frosting would probably be (to my horror) shortening based, to which she replied, "as long as it's crusty."

    I wasn't sure what I was going to do about that frosting, as I mentioned above.

    On the Saturday before her birthday, I searched the internet for "crusty white buttercream" which led me to a mess of a site called www.baking911.com where I followed a few links that led me to the comparison of buttercreams page where I read the magic paragraph:
    American Buttercream made with butter and powdered sugar tends to get crusty when set after about 15 to 20 minutes of applying it. This "crusting" is a natural part of this icing, and can be used to your advantage for texturizing the top and sides of a cake, or for sealing in freshness before the final coat of icing is applied. You can also smooth it with a paper towel after the icing crusted. Viva brand paper towels are perfect to use because they're smooth and won't leave a pattern. I've used parchment paper for those stubborn wrinkles that refuse to smooth out.
    !!!!!aha!!!!!That's easy!!!!!

    i aim to please

    Since the website went on to explain that sometimes 100% butter and powdered sugar frostings can crack pretty seriously, I decided to use one of their posted recipes that called for 50% butter and 50% shortening. Shortening, apparently, will decrease the crust factor. I wanted crusting, not cracking.

    I also wanted more frosting than the recipe called for, as it only makes 3 cups and I probably needed 4 cups to frost the top and sides of the cake. I decided to change the proportions of the fat to encourage the crusting, so I altered the recipe to 3/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup shortening.

    I originally planned to double the recipe straight out but then I realised I would have a lot of leftover crusty shortening frosting. So I then decided to make 1.5 times the recipe, which is all fine and great, but I suck at math and I couldn't figure out what 1.5 times 3/4 would be. I tried to figure that one out for a comically long time. Did I mention this was now the morning of the party, and that I had awoken with a terrible headache? I felt like crap, was still really tired, moving slow, had a doula client in early labor, needed to pick up Joelf who was in the OC (Oregon City), and the party was starting in a couple of hours.

    There's always cake trauma in the ECL baking experience.

    I decided to get Joelf before making the frosting so that he could slice the strawberries while I whipped up some crusty frosting. It was a hard drive to the OC and back. Felt so crappy.

    I had also diagnosed myself with food stagnation due to a late and kind of heavy dinner the night before, so I took a digestive aid that had HCL in it. Usually this helps me with the food stagnation, but in this case it just made me nauseous as well as headachey and slow moving.

    When we got back to the house, I mixed up some baking soda with water and sipped that nasty crap slowly; it seemed to help almost right away. Hooray for sodium bicarbonate!

    I also finally understood that the recipe needed 1.5 cups of fat total, so I decided to use 1 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of shortening. Duh. Why couldn't I have figured that out earlier?

    I noticed that this recipe that I was using had 1 cup of fat and 4 cups of sugar. (geez!) I looked at RLB's buttercream recipe, which uses 2 cups of butter and one cup of sugar. Seeing as the former recipe is the classic american buttercream, it is no wonder why people who eat my cakes with RLB's frosting always marvel at how everything is not too sweet. Come on people! Four cups of sugar to one cup of butter? Gosh.

    I started beating the crap out of my two fats when I realised that I didn't have enough powdered sugar to complete the task. Dang it.

    Joelf is the best assistant ever, because he is fast and competent and capable and OCD enough to get the job done well--and in my case, probably better than I would have done it. God bless the Joelf. He went to task with the strawberries right away, and then I sent him to the store for more sugar.

    In the meantime I sliced strawberries to feel productive. Joelf had two bowls and was organizing the slices by general size. I don't think I quite understood where the line was being drawn between small and large slices so after cutting several crooked and chunky slices (his were fairly thin) I decided the best use of my time would be to begin cleaning up.

    Joelf returned with a brand new bag of powdered sugar and I finished the frosting.

    After frosting the cake, and dirtying every bowl in the apartment (which is much less now that the roommate has shacked up), we began to arrange the strawberries on top.

    When Cookie placed her order, so to speak, I had pictured halved strawberries set on the top of the cake, around the perimeter all prim and proper and boring. But the Friday before I remembered RLB's beautiful photo of her strawberry-rhubarb pie in The Pie and Pastry Bible. She has this habit, in her Pie Bible, to arrange her fruit in these beautiful petal-like concentric cirles giving the illusion of ripe, juicy flowers. I thought Cookie, of all people, would appreciate this more unusual, more beautiful presentation of a white cake with strawberries on top.

    So that is what we did:

    cookie's birthday cake, bird's eye view

    And another view because I'm really proud of this cake:

    cookie's birthday cake

    Joelf then got the great idea of lining up strawberries along the bottom of the cake:

    cookie's birthday cake, profile

    We then hustled out the door armed with cake, the rest of the strawberries, and whatnot.

    Her Sunday party was for her and her family, plus the stooges. Her two nephews and two nieces greeted Joelf and I at the door, and as per instructions, we were all wearing hats (Cookie, as the birthday girl, set this rule).

    It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, and the company was fabulous and entertaining, and the food awesome. I almost didn't leave room for cake!

    Good thing I did, because this turned out to be a really good cake, shortening in the frosting and white/white notwithstanding.

    cake innards

    Happy, happy birthday dearest Cookie! You are awesome and fabulous; the best friend an ECL could hope to have.

    turning 34--a photoset on Flickr

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    And Then There Were Two

    I had been living with two celiac roommates this year and so I've been encouraged to bake a lot of gluten-free treats lately. This really isn't a problem for me because I have been interested in experimenting with GF baking from scratch for a while now. And, I had guinea pigs for my experimentation.

    I know I say this almost every time I bake anything GF, but most GF baked goods out there are terrible. Grainy, dry, tasteless or way too sweet, dense, depressing, obviously different, boo, boo, boo. I don't see a reason for it. I don't think that GF baking is so out of touch with food science that all a celiac should settle for is a dry, coarse, grainy, dense, overly sweet piece of cake. Or cheesecake with no bottom.

    And so there was experimentation. And successful experiments, too! Just do a tag search for gluten free and it will all come up.

    And then one day it happened. One of my roommates fell in love and decided to shack up with the boyfriend.

    But, what about us? Just kidding. We are happy for her. We just miss her, that's all.

    We decided to have a last supper, so to speak. My other roommate makes a killer lasagna based on her Grandmother's recipe from the Old Country. We ask for it all the time. So our little dinner together consisted of the killer lasagna, some fresh spinach for roughage, and this no-knead sorghum bread that I had baked.

    GF dinner with the girls

    April 7, 2007
    Name of bread: No-Knead Sorghum Bread
    Occasion: The Last Supper
    Constituents: pretty self explanatory

    I have been a recent fan of The Gluten-Free Girl's blog. I have her in my feed and I read her every time she posts. She lives up in Seattle, recently got diagnosed with celiac disease which prompted her into figuring out how to cook or herself, which awoke a deep love for food and cooking that led to her meeting The Chef and getting a book deal. In a nutshell.

    She often posts recipes for the foods she has been cooking and the treats she has been baking, and as I was looking through her archives last month I found she had figured out a GF recipe for the no-knead bread.

    Did you all hear about or try the no-knead bread? The story and the recipe hit the New York Times back in November 2006, and the baking world was a buzz.

    The One and Only Rose Levy Beranbaum chimed in with her thoughts and a month later, her version.

    Breadbasketcase made a version of it in December, and another in January.

    So when I saw the GF no-knead bread recipe, I thought it was high time I try it.

    I am not much of a bread baker, because I have no portion control with really good bread. I CANNOT have all this fresh bread that I made myself lying about the apartment. Even if I freeze most of the loaves, they will all be there, in my freezer, begging for me to pull them out, toast them up, and eat with butter and jam. Or cheese.

    There is just no winning.

    So I am not a bread baker.

    This bread, however, I could bake because there would be two other people eating it along with me.

    It was a really easy bread to put together, and because there isn't any gluten, you really don't have to let it rise for very long. The little lumpy dough got dumped into my Le Creuset pot and 30 minutes later, there was a little lumpy loaf of bread.

    GF sorghum bread--sliced

    The bread was better the next day, which isn't what The Gluten-Free Girl thinks. She advocated eating it all up right away, as it doesn't hold up well after a day. We found that to not be true. It was more dense than we were hoping, and very whole-wheaty tasting, and really good with butter and honey. It did the job, but we were hoping for something a little more similar to a glutinous bread.

    GF sorghum bread--sliced

    The dinner with my roommates was yummy and decadent. The three of us can talk till the cows come home about our hopes, dreams, and hearts. The boyfriend came over and the four of us split one of those tiny GF apple pies from Whole Foods, with whipped cream and Zetta's caramel sauce. Good times were had by all.

    GF apple pie from Food Whole

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Fabulous Carroty (Cup)cakes

    gluten free carrot cupcake

    My roommate was a little disappointed I left the rest of the carrot cake with our friends. She really wanted to have some more, so she asked if we could make another batch of carrot cake, but this time as cupcakes. We had a time limit, as she was planning to do a cleansing fast over the weekend.

    We decided that it would be a good thing, because this way we could experiment with the cinnamon, which we feel the original recipe didn't have enough of.

    So when I found out last Wednesday that my clients were going into the hospital that night to be induced, I knew that Thursday was my last chance to bake carrot cupcakes before my roomie went on her cleanse.

    March 15, 2007
    Name of cupcake: Fabulous Spicy Carroty Cupcakes
    Occasion: It's Like The Fat Tuesday To My Roommate's Cleanse
    Constituents: Fabulous Carroty Cake with more cinnamon and add cardamom

    There really isn't much to say about this bakeapade.

    Except there is a lot of preparation required for this cake. You gotta toast and chop the nuts. You gotta toast the coconut. Grate the carrots. Measure out all the ingredients.

    It doesn't seem like a lot, but it is a lot.

    We added 3 tsp of Vietnamese cinnamon and one teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom.

    Excellent. I think that should be a permanent change.

    We also decided not to frost all the cupcakes outright, this way if one wanted to eat them for breakfast, they could be like little muffins, but if one wanted a cupcake for dessert she could frost it with cream cheese frosting (defrosted from the oscar cupcakes) and go to town, and add some leftover toasted coconut, and maybe a toasted pecan.

    Good times.

    gluten free carrot cupcake

    Friday, March 09, 2007

    Fabulous Carroty Cake

    There is an incredible aroma wafting through my apartment right now.

    It smells of orange, and Vietnamese cinnamon, toasted coconut, toasted pecans, and a little carrot. It smells like cake.

    These are good smells.

    My friend, who just had a her first baby a couple of weeks ago, is also celebrating her birthday today! She asked for a gluten-free carrot cake, and that's what is smelling so yummy right now. I mean, how can the ECL say no. Especially when it's her day off and she doesn't have much else to do.

    pecan

    March 8, 2007
    Name of cake: Fabulous Carroty Cake
    Occasion: New Baby! Happy Birthday!
    Constituents: GF Carrot-Pecan Cake from 3 Bowls with Kick-Ass Cream Cheese Frosting

    I am kind of tired and feeling uninspired. So please forgive me if this post is boring and lame.

    I mean, I'm really not feeling it tonight. Sigh. Here's the recipe.
    GF Coconut-Pecan Carrot Cake
    based on the CPCC in the book 3 Bowls by Seppo Ed Farrey
    If you are a frequent reader, you will remember that I had a GF flour mix mishap. I am thinking that is the reason why the Oscar Cupcakes fell--too much cornstarch. The original carrot cake recipe calls for 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 3/4 cup of toasted wheat germ. So I decided to use one cup of the ECL GF flour mishap and 1.75 cups of brown rice flour. And the cake didn't fall! Hooray!

    I suppose if you had a GF flour mix that you didn't mishap, you could probably do the same thing: use your flour mix for 1 cup of the cake and use brown rice flour for the other 1.75 cups. Or, you could just use your GF mix and omit the brown rice flour.
    • 1 cup ECL GF flour mishap
    • 2 3/4 cups brown rice flour
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp ground Vietnamese cinnamon
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 3 tsp xanthan gum
    • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tsp grated orange zest
    • 3 1/2 cups packed grated carrots
    • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
    • 1/2 cup toasted shredded unsweetened coconut
    Actually, I used the regular ol' sweetened shredded coconut that I toasted in a heavy bottomed pan. I guess that doesn't make this cake truly sugar-free.

    toasted coconut
    1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish, or two 9-inch cake rounds.
    We opted for two 9 inch rounds, because the ratio of frosting to cake is better.
    2. Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.

    3. Combine the applesauce, honey, and maple syrup with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, beat until frothy. Add the vanilla, orange zest, and beat.

    4.Stir the flour mixture into the applesauce mixture just until thoroughly blended.
    I totally ignored the part about just until thoroughly blended and I beat the crap out of the batter until I was satisfied it was well aerated.

    GF carrot cake!
    well aerated batter = nicely risen cake

    Had this batter been made with glutinous flours it probably would have been best to just barely mix it, but since we are dealing with flour with no real reason to stick together, I say beat it! Beat it!!!
    4. (con't) Fold in the carrots, pecans, and coconut.

    5. Scrape the batter into the well greased pans of your choosing and level the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan(s) on a cooling rack; turn out and let cool completely on the rack. Frost and eat.
    The cake was awesome. First off, it was fluffy, NOT GRAINY!!, and tender. There were a lot of components in this cake and the orange zest was a little strong and the cinnamon a little weak, but it was damn good. If I hadn't announced that it was GF, sugar free, and low in fat, I don't think anybody would have guessed.

    GF carrot cake!
    Kick-Ass Cream Cheese Frosting
    adapted from a pilfered internet recipe that calls for 3x as much sugar as you really need

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound (2 8-oz boxes = 1 pound) cream cheese (not fat free) room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fine or superfine milled cane sugar or honey or whatever

  • in a bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft and fluffy. add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt and beat at low speed just until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. using a rubber spatula, clean the beaters and scrape the sides of the bowl whenever necessary during beating. start by adding half a cup of sugar or sweetener and beat well. add enough sugar to taste; not more than one cup. beat well to ensure the sugar dissolves.

    use soon after or refrigerate. let the frosting come up to room temperature if cold, and beat a bit to fluff it back up.

    enough to fill and frost a 2 layer 9 inch cake.
    This time around, I used about 3/4 cup of honey for the sweetener. It left the frosting a little bit tangy, which I liked but not my roommate, so we added maybe 2.5 tablespoons of xylitol. Did you know xylitol is from the bark of some tree or something? Crazy.

    I beat the crap out of this frosting which I didn't like. It made it too fluffy; cream cheese frosting is supposed to be on the dense side of things. So, blend the ingredients well, but don't leave the mixer on while you look around for your 1 cup measuring cup, find it dirty in the dishwasher, and clean and dry it. Just saying.

    crappy picture of a great cake
    i know, the photo isn't too good, but you get the idea