Monday, January 22, 2007

ECL Skips the Dough

apple crisp

Apple crisp is good. There's no pie dough to assemble, refrigerate, roll, refrigerate, look at, refrigerate, put together, refrigerate, bake, and etc.

I used Pink Lady apples which were getting a little mealy. I was worried they would mush out and be undesirable in the pie. But I worried for naught. They were tasty and not mushy. I left the skins on them, only because I didn't feel like peeling.

apples, macerating

I had some cinnamon issues. My roommate used it all up last week when she made an appley thingy and no one bought any more. I did find some cinnamon-sugar mix that I put together 3 years ago during a cinnamon toast craze. I used it, knowing I was adding even more sugar to the party. To compensate, I added a ton of cloves.

With the crumbly crispy crust, the recipe called for some toasted walnut halves, but I didn't have those. I did find in my freezer some leftover toasted walnut-graham cracker crust that I assume I made for a cheesecake...that's got nuts in it! I only needed 50 grams of nut, but there was maybe 65 grams in the tub, so I decided to dump it all in.

toasted walnut graham cracker crust

Since there was graham cracker in the nut stuff, I decided I didn't really need the flour the recipe called for. So, in place of the flour, I added an equal amount of finely ground almonds.

At this point of serious departure from the recipe I wondered why I was still bothering to make sure I had exactly 14 grams of butter for the topping, but I guess old habits die hard.

So how was the crazy made-up cripsy cumbly crisp?

Cracklin' good, Gromit!

apple crisp with ice cream!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chocolate Cakey Love

On Saturday, my doula group hosted a tea party for all of our past clients. We do it mainly so that we can see all these people we've supported through a very intense experience, and to hold all those beautiful chubby babies that we met in their first moments on the planet. It is so amazing how quickly a baby grows in the first year.

We doulas who hosted the event we supposed to bring snacks for the guests, and I decided to dig into my egg white stash and bake a chocolate angel's food cake. I mean, what new mom wouldn't love to indulge in chocolate that doesn't have too many terrible repercussions?

chocolate angel food cake

The night before the party I pulled out my egg white stash and set them on the stovetop to defrost. I preheated the oven, boiled some water for the cocoa paste, and began to assemble and weigh all my ingredients. And then I realised I had quite a wait ahead of me, as all those egg whites had to defrost and come up to room temperature. Which would take a while, as the room needed to come up to room temperature.

Eventually I wandered back into the kitchen and checked on the egg whites, and noticed that one of the tubs was placed too near the back left burner, which seems to act as the heat vent for the oven. Which means the egg whites were starting to cook.

No matter, I thought. I can just strain out the cooked parts. However, as I weighed the egg whites there were still good, I discovered that I was about 110 grams short. Damn. I needed to defrost another tub, so I pulled out another tub and decided to go to bed. I had time in the morning to bake the cake.

The next morning as I was leisurely waking up in bed, one of the doulas called and asked me if I was going to the tea party. Of course, I replied. But...not for a while, doesn't it start at one? Nope, she said. It starts at 11.

Eleven! But it's 10:40! Shit!

January 14, 2007
Name of cake: Sin-Fee Chocolate Cake
Occasion: Babies
Constituents: Chocolate Angel Food Cake

My cousin invited me over for dinner tonight and so I told her I'd bring this along. She just had a baby 8 days ago, and he is the cutest little potato I've ever met. Something about our family--we make potato head babies.

the newest potato

So even though this cake was supposed to be for a whole bunch of new moms and dads and their babes, it will be for one new mom, dad, and potato head. Just as good, if not better!

You make a paste of cocoa powder and boiling water--which you then cover with plastic wrap and let cool down to room temperature. As I was beating the egg whites into a giant white meringue, I realised that our freak spell of blue sky weather meant the light was good for photos--so I tried to take a bunch of pictures of the cocoa paste for the blog. I haven't pulled them off the camera yet--but they didn't look so great on the LCD. Kinda...poopy looking.

dark cocoa paste

Once the meringue rose in stiff peaks, I ran it over to the window and took a bunch of pictures. The pristine white of the meringue, the funky peak I created when pulling out the beater, and the sheer volume in the bowl just had to be documented.

stiff peaks

I took a heaping cup of the meringue and dumped it into the cocoa paste, which also called for pictures as the almost black of the paste looked great against the white of the meringue. Those got all mixed up together to lighten the cocoa and make it easier to fold into the whites.

meringue and dark cocoa paste

Then I gradually added the flour mixture (flour, sugar, salt) to the meringue and folded it in with a balloon whisk. This took awhile and was a bit messy--the meringue kept spilling over the sides of the bowl. Once all the flour mix was folded in I added the cocoa meringue and folded that all in until the batter looked all nice and uniformly chocolaty.

Off into the oven it went, and then came my least favorite part. The cleanup.

After the cake was all nice and baked up, I pulled it out and brought it over to the wine bottle to hang it upside down to cool. You all know that, right? That's the reason why there's a hole in the middle of your angel food cake pan--because you place the pan upside down over the neck of a wine bottle to cool, so that the structure of the cake doesn't collapse in on itself like a souffle would.

And wouldn't you know it, my stupid cake pan's hole wasn't big enough to accommodate the wine bottle. I couldn't find a bottle neck that would fit in the pan's hole.

Double entendre aside, I was annoyed. I used to have a perfectly good angel food cake pan that even had the little feet riveted to it, so that you didn't even need a bottle, you could just turn the cake pan upside down on your counter and the little feet would elevate it above the table so the cake could cool. But if you had a bottle, that worked just fine too. It was a nice shiny aluminum pan that I think I bought second hand. That pan was perfect--but somehow the removable bottom of the pan warped and batter began to ooze out between the crack. So I dumped that pan and bought a new pan. A non-stick pan with a shitty excuse for a hole, and no neat little feet that I could use if no bottle was handy.

So I did this:

stupid cake pan

And I'm looking for a new pan.

The cake itself? Many american sponge cakes tend to be a little rubbery in my opinion, and at first bite this cake is no different. Then, the moist angel foodieness comes through and it--literally--melts in your mouth. The cocoa powder not only adds a deep chocolate flavor, but tempers the usual horrible cloying sweetness of a regular angel food cake. I mean, this is the healthiest chocolate cakey love you'll probably ever find.

chocolate angel food cake

Sunday, January 07, 2007

King Arthur's Cinnamon Rolls

I was in Hawaii a few weeks ago and when I got back to Portland, my mood turned as grey as the cloud-filled sky. So to cheer me up, I went to the grocery store. There had to be something fun to do there!

And look what I found!

fun in a box
fun in a box!

After reading breadbasketcase's blog for the last year, I have been feeling the bread bug. I've only baked a few loaves of bread, usually when Portland gets one of those freak "snow storms" and the city shuts down for a day or two, but I've really enjoyed working with yeast doughs. They are so much fun to knead, and that whole rising thing is just magical!

However, I am reluctant to start baking fabulous bread, which I would under RLB's instructions, because I am a bread hog and I would gain so much damn bread weight. Cannot. Bake. My Own. Bread.

But, bake a box of cinnamon rolls? Perfect! I thought freshly baked cinnamon rolls would go good with the Belgian Lambic, spaghetti, and jarred tomato sauce I also bought. Can we say comfort food binge?

It actually took me a couple of days to get to the cinnamon rolls, only because I was lazy and also upset at being back in crappy Portland. Why isn't Portland tropical? Wah.

pre-baked little roll
focus ECL...this post is about cinnamon rolls...

These cinnamon rolls are pretty easy to make. There is a bag of the bread mix, to which you add the yeast, an egg, some warm water, and a chunk of butter. Then you mix to combine, dump it in a greased bowl, cover and let rise.

I added a little too much water and my butter wasn't quite room temperature. But that's okay! I mixed it up with my hand so as to smush up the butter, and it was a sticky, sticky mass o'dough.

Who cares! Beer and cinnamon rolls!

After the dough rose a bit, I spread out a large lightly greased mat of plastic wrap, dumped out the sticky yet springy dough, covered it with another layer of lightly greased plastic wrap, and began rolling.

Rolling out springy cinnamon roll dough is kind of a pain in the ass. Eventually, after what seemed like the passing of many many hours, the damn dough, so cute and puffy and a pain in the ass, was rolled out to the right size and I could spread it with the cinnamon paste.

Now, sit up straight and pay attention, because this is the fun part:
to roll the cinnamon rolls, you have to roll up the long edge of this sticky dough. I never knew how the hell to do that without drama, until I read how to do it somewhere in some RLB book. You use the bottom layer of plastic wrap to roll up the dough, much like you would use that little bamboo mat to roll up sushi!

Is that cool, or what? Cool!

After rolling up the big log, I cut the dough into 9 uneven pieces and placed them in a 9x9 square pan. Greased, of course.

This got covered with a lot of plastic wrap and shoved in the refrigerator.

first rise, rolled, and ready for the refrigeration
ready to be shoved in the refrigerator

The next day I dragged myself out of bed, pulled the little rolls out of the refrigerator and placed by our tiny electric heater to warm up while I forced myself to wake up (ie: showered).

The rolls puffed up a little bit more and were ready to go by the time I was clean and awakened.

second rising
after the second rise; puffy and so cute!

Off they went into the oven for 45 minutes, and I tell you, those little puffy cinnamon rolls were already so cute that I was in love before they were edible. You can bet when they baked up all nice and golden that I was even more in love with them, and as they cooled in their pan I stirred up the glaze and spread it over the rolls.

And all I have to say is, "tasty."

cinnamon roll!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Resolved! (part two)

Baking resolutions for 2006:

1. embrace the bane of my existence (ganache)
2. pie crusts--stop being afraid! check
3. more brandied burgundy cherries
4. teach everyone to love the genoise cakes
5. buy stock in neilsen-massey
6. maybe, just maybe, learn how to pipe icing
7. bacon-bacon cheesecake
8. gluten free cakes from scratch does a gluten free pie crust from scratch count?
9. a cupcake a day keeps the doctor away check
10. take pictures of the stuff you bake, you fool check

Hmm. Guess I need to work harder at my baking resolutions.

Baking Resolutions for 2007:

1. more pies from the pie and pastry bible
2. pastries from the pie and pastry bible
3. creme brulee
4. chocolate souffle
5. all that stuff i didn't get to last year (except for maybe the bacon-bacon cheesecake; i'm okay with never accomplishing that)