Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Baking Bible: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

A quick and easy cake this week; the cranberry upside down cake features my favorite sour cream butter cake with a caramel-cranberry topping. Nice and tart, mellowed by the raspberry jam glaze and the richly buttery cake, options for accompaniments include a raspberry italian meringue or raspberry whipped cream. I opted for the meringue, as I as was curious what it would be like to have a meringue as a side. I loved it, in fact I might like the meringue better than the cake itself.

Luckily I had a bag of cranberries stashed in the freezer, as it is really really hard to find cranberries when it isn't fall. There is a rhubarb variation which also sounds good but rhubarb won't show up for another month or so.

First up, we make a caramel. Sugar, lemon juice and zest, and a pinch of salt go into a pot to come to a deep amber color. Rose mentioned in the FB group the lemon juice is to prevent crystallization, FYI. When it comes to temperature, it gets poured into the prepared cake pan. The caramel started to harden in the pan almost immediately so I placed the pan in the preheating oven for a few minutes.The cranberries (fresh or still frozen) and then placed upon the caramel. I had a small handful of cranberries left over after the proper amount were placed in the pan, so I crowded those in, too.

Then the cake batter is made. My favorite kind of cake batter, a sour cream butter cake. You know it will be a good cake when it looks like frosting and you have to spread it over the cranberries like it is, uh, frosting.

Did I mention this is a sour cream butter cake? Did I ever mention that I almost always substitute whole milk yogurt for sour cream when I bake? Somewhere in one of Rose's cake books she says you can do that and so I do. This time, I decided to push the envelope and used what we had in the house, whole goat's yogurt.

I'm thinking maybe I went too far as my cake is a little mushy and squat. But all the flavors are delicious and it's almost gone anyways.

The cake is turned out right away and glazed with raspberry jam. Then you make a one-egg batch of italian meringue and flavor it with more raspberry jam to serve alongside. All very lovely.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Baking Bible: Luxury Oatmeal Cookies

Let's just get this out in the open: I hate oatmeal cookies. I find them bland, boring, and they contain raisins, which I also hate. Terrible texture. But these oatmeal cookies are completely different. I love these!

Vicki nailed it on the head when she described them as chocolate chip cookies with granola. which is exactly what they are and probably the exact reason why I love them. They have that buttery toffee like flavor of a good chocolate chip cookie (plus chocolate chips!) but with some added texture and crunch from the granola/oats. Plus, I used golden raisins, and there's just enough to give a little fruity squish every now and then, which I am actually enjoying instead of hating.

This is another project that can be broken up to suit a toddler's schedule, which I appreciate so very much.

First up, you make granola. Rose got this recipe from Caitlin Freeman, she who makes the Mondrian cake . (By the way, she has the coolest job.) This granola is a bit on the sweet side for me as it had both light Muscovado and maple syrup (I use grade B; more flavor). It was also really wet after the prescribed baking time so I kept on baking until it was dry and toasty.

Granola is easy peasy. Mix up your dry stuff: oats, nuts, sugars, cinnamon.

Then mix in your wet stuff: oil, maple syrup, vanilla.

Then you bake it and a low heat until toasty. Done.

The granola can be made way on advance; it keeps in the fridge but you could probably also freeze it. In my case I made it the day before I made the cookies while the child napped.

Next up: make some cookie dough.

Standard stuff here. Cream butter with sugars. Add some egg. Then some flour, leaveners, and salt. It will smell like chocolate chip cookie dough.

Then you mix in (by hand) the granola, raisins, and chocolate chips.

looks like my chocolate chips bloomed. no wonder they were on sale!
Then the dough needs to refrigerate for 30 min up to 24 hours. I was planning on waiting 24 hours, because I suspected that would be like those 3 day chocolate chip cookies we went crazy for way back when. But then I couldn't wait and made the cookies after a three hour rest. 

You roll out 42 gram balls of dough and then smush them down.

12 minutes in the oven and you have this:

Then you do a jig of impatience while you bake all the cookies, take some photos, and wait for them to cool a bit.

And then you try hard not to eat all the cookies in one sitting. Definitely making these again!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Baking Bible: Sour Cherry Pie

Of all the fruit pies, sour cherry is my absolute favorite. I love it so much (and I don't even like pie that much) that one year I bought a sour cherry pie for my birthday cake. It was perfect. So I was looking forward to Rose's version when I saw it in the Baking Bible.

At first I was disappointed the pie was scheduled for now, when pie cherries are just tiny little buds on the trees. They don't come into season in Oregon until July, and like the marionberry and the chester blackberry, sour cherries elicit much excitement at the farmer's markets when they arrive. I wanted to be one of those excited fruit enthusiasts, eagerly getting to the market as soon as it opens to get my hands on a bunch of freshly picked cherries from Hood River.

I can still do that, of course, but now that I've realised I can make a damn fine sour cherry pie using frozen cherries, and not having to pit a single cherry, I will save my early morning farmer's market line ups for the marionberry. And Hood strawberries.

This crust for this pie is Rose's cream cheese pie crust, which keeps the crust tender and flaky (along with all the butter). We were making a lattice top. which I have never done before, and can report that it looks much harder than it is. In fact, it looks very appealing. I mentioned to Mark that (in The Pie and Pastry Bible) Rose even talks of making a tight lattice crust to cover the entire top of a pie (instead of using a top crust like in an apple pie) and Mark's eyes got a little big as he dreamed of all the crust.

Pie crust and I don't really see eye to eye, as it requires much more patience then I have. When the dough gets sticky as I roll it out, I'm supposed to stick it back in the fridge for 30 min to cool down and keep the butter in pieces. Usually however I say "screw it" and keep rolling, making the butter melt and turning the crust into sadness. This is what happened with the Black and Blueberry Pie. I simply lost patience.

This crust turned out better! I did try to take shortcuts but the dough wasn't having any of it. I tried rolling out the bottom crust right away, but when I was turning it over it tore into two. So I business letter folded the two pieces together and stuck in the fridge to cool. Then I rolled out the other half of the dough and mistakenly cut out a 10 inch circle instead of a 12 inch circle. So I business letter folded those pieces together and stuck that half in the fridge to cool. Eventually I rolled out a proper bottom crust and everything was okay.

Sugar and cornstarch are mixed into the defrosted pie cherries with their juices, then cooked until the cornstarch activates and the juices thicken. Pretty easy peasy.

Then the top crust gets rolled out to an oval and 14 strips should be cut to make the lattice. I couldn't get 14 strips, only 12. I must have measured the oval wrong or something but I wasn't too bothered. 12 strips is pretty good, too.

When I poured my filling into my pie plate, there was about 1 inch of room left between the top of the pie plate and the filling. "Not enough cherries," I declared and opened a can of sour cherries and packed in as many as I could (about 2/3 can). This may account for the juicy spillover as the pie baked, but I'm not too worried. I just wanted plenty of cherries.  

I pulled the pie out of the oven at 11pm so Mark and I eagerly looked forward to a breakfast of sour cherry pie.

Good pie. The almond extract didn't come through, but my extract might be old. I prefer a vanilla note to my sour cherry pie instead. And maybe a little bourbon or rum would do nicely. But really I'm not complaining. This is a great pie, just sweet enough but still nice and tart. And fairly easy, once you get over the whole pie crust thing. Definitely goes on the make-again list.        

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Baking Bible: Caramel Buns

This week's project is Rose's update on the sticky bun, which is a roll baked in a muffin tin with a blob of pecans and caramel at the bottom of each cup that melts during baking. Then, when the buns are turned out of the pan, the caramel oozes all over the bun hence the name. Rose decided to shape and bake these like a cinnamon roll, leaving the caramel and pecan topping to go on afterwards. This left room to double the amount of caramel per roll, which nobody will ever complain about.

These buns are made from brioche, which is also a major improvement over the regular sweet dough usually employed for sticky buns. The brioche needs to be made at least one day before making the buns, but there's enough room to stretch the making of the dough and buns to fit a busy toddler's schedule.

The dough starter can do most of its work during a 24 hour refrigerator rest after one hour on the counter. I did this after the child's bedtime.

after 24 hours in the refrigerator

In the late afternoon I mixed the dough, which takes about 7 minutes. The best part is that you don't have to wait for the refrigerated starter to come up to room temperature--you can pull the bowl from the refrigerator and set it directly onto your mixer stand and get going.  The dough then needs to double in bulk--in the past the microwave (turned off) with a cup of boiling water has been a great place to proof bread but it was busy being used as a microwave this time. So I turned the cooler, which has been lingering in the house since the Young Sir's birthday party, into a bread proofer with two cups of boiling water. Vicki reminded me Dorie Greenspan's husband fashioned their cooler into a bread proofer and that's where I got the idea. Thanks, Vicki and the Greenspans!

rise up, my friend

After 90 minutes the brioche had actually done a little more than doubling, and was ready for the first hour of refrigeration. In the middle of that hour I needed to put the child to bed, so I asked Mark to degas the dough at the proper time. This kind of freaked him out because he had no idea what I was talking about, but relaxed when I told him he just needed to stir it down with a lightly greased spatula. After that, the dough goes back into the refrigerator for another hour.

After the second hour of chilling, the brioche gets patted out, given a couple of business letter folds, and then put back into the refrigerator to ripen. Brioche can be left to ripen for up to 2 days, but I pulled it out about the next morning to get them buns made. We wanted caramel buns!


after chilling, ready to roll

The dough is rolled out to a 13x12 rectangle, which is just barely a rectangle, now that I think about it. The whole thing is brushed with egg and the filling sprinkled on.


The filling is a mix of light muscovado and white sugar, pecan bits, and raisins soaked in rum. I used golden raisins because that's what we had. Next time I will do as Jenn did and double the cinnamon and the pecan bits.

not enough crunchy pecans! not enough cinnamon! plenty of raisins.

Then the whole thing is rolled up like a giant sushi roll.

This is divided into 12 rolls, 6 per pan. At this point bakers have a choice to refrigerate the rolls for up to 14 hours, making them a mostly do-ahead brunch option. They would need about a 2 hour rise before baking the next day. Or, bakers can opt for semi-immediate gratification and let them rise immediately for about 1 hour and then bake them off!

ready to refrigerate. or rise. whichever.

It was about time for the child to wake from his morning nap, and we decided the day was too pretty to wait for buns, no matter how promising, to rise and bake, then cool while caramel is made and etc. So I stuck the pans in the refrigerator and we took Eliot to meet some goats and a couple of chickens. And eat pasta.

After dinner, and while my husband put Eliot to bed, I took the rolls out and let them do their final rise on the stove while the oven preheated. It only took about 90 minutes to be ready to bake.

puffy buns

Then they bake and after they come out they are lightly glazed with the reduced rum raisin soaking liquid.

i think i have a hot spot in my oven
 Then you get to make the sticky caramel. This stuff is really delicious. It tastes like a really good chewy caramel candy, with the perfect amount of vanilla and butter to round out the burnt sugar. This gets poured liberally over the buns, and there you have it. Caramel buns are done.

just caramelled. night shots aren't very pretty

day shot. hopefully that looks a bit more appetizing
 These are pretty much the best version of a sticky bun I have tasted. The only thing I wish is for more filling: more pecans, more cinnamon, maybe even more raisins (and I generally hate raisins). However, now I want to redo these buns with dried sour cherries, dark chocolate, and almond. Probably sometime after the bake through is over.


And a couple shot of the insides.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Baking Bible: Hamantaschen

This week's project is Hamantaschen, a filled cookie traditionally made for the Jewish holiday Purim. A quick tool around the internet led me to this blog which has links upon links for those who would like to do deeper research on the cookie in question.

Rose's Hamantaschen are made with a sweet cookie dough and are filled with a homemade poppy seed filling. She also gives the option to use canned poppy seed filling, which I happened to have in my freezer, so I skipped making the homemade version. I wonder how the homemade compares, as the canned stuff has high fructose corn syrup as the first ingredient (boo). The filling in my hamantaschen is really sweet; thankfully Rose has you add lemon zest and some apricot lekvar or preserves to the canned filling so that it tastes of something besides sugar.

The dough is a sweet cookie crust, or a Pate' Sucree, made with turbinado sugar. I didn't take any photos of the making of the dough so I'm just going to skip ahead to the rolling and shaping. :)

ready to roll

Half of the dough is rolled out at a time to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Then circles are cut out and the edges washed with an egg wash. I'm guessing this is to help the edges stick to the filling and each other.

egg wash; but really i included this photo because i love the colors

Then the poppy seed filling is scooped into the middle of the rounds. I discovered that my newly acquired tiny cookie scoop was the perfect size. This made the distribution of the filling go super fast.

The edges of the dough are folded up to make little triangles.

There's an optional instruction to egg wash the outside of the cookies, which gives them a nice shiny brown color. After the cookies cool, a little apricot glaze is brushed on the poppy seed filling to give them a nice shiny glaze, too. They don't want to miss out on being shiny.


These were a big hit around these parts. The cookie is flaky and buttery and the filling is sweet and lemony. There are lots of variations on the fillings, from fruit jams to chocolate to sweet cheese and even savory. Lots of room for play, which makes this a cookie I'll look forward to repeating.  

Bonus cookie!

All those extra egg whites, plus the extra egg white from last week's posset went into making some coconut macaroons. I had leftover coconut from Eliot's birthday party; I had dyed it green to mimic grass (long story, wish I had photos) so I made some green macaroons. I called them Hobbit Hills but Mark calls them Grassy Knolls, which is a play on our last name (Knowles). He was super proud of himself so I can't argue. Then I covered them in chocolate ganache which makes them Muddy Hobbit Hills or Muddy Grassy Knolls.Whichever. They're pretty good but I wish I had baked them for a bit longer.