Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Baking Bible: Luxury Chocolate Buttercrunch Toffee

And here we are, our last new recipe together as Alpha Bakers. Baking through Rose's Baking Bible these last two years has been quite a journey. Parts fun, parts exasperating, time-consuming and lost-in-creating, delicious and exquisite and confidence building, this has been a wonderful experience. I am so glad I got to participate and share along with all of the Alpha Bakers, and all of you who have read along.

Two years ago I struggled with pie dough, thought store bought cookies were good enough to never bother baking my own, and never really had baked a loaf of bread. And now, cookies are one of my favorite things to bake (and store bought cookies are just so lacking), pie dough more often than not comes out flaky and wonderful, and the door to the wonderful world of bread has cracked open. And of course, there are always the cakes.

So anyways, our final project is a wonderful and easy toffee, coated on both sides with chocolate and toasted almonds. Crunchy and sweet and perfect for the holiday platter.

Uncharacteristically, Rose gives a rather large range for the chocolate: anywhere from 170 to 340 grams. I discovered during the test bake that I preferred the lowest amount of chocolate so that the toffee could really take center stage. So I used 160 grams total--80 grams per side. I poured the toffee into an oval that was a bit smaller than called for, so my toffee is thick and there's plenty of chocolate. The chocolate I had on hand was a bit too semi-sweet; had I a higher percentage chocolate I might have considered using more. But then again, maybe not. I like the toffee to be in charge.

The Alpha Bakers are doing one more week together, just for funsies. We are making the amazing Kouigns Amann again, the first recipe we did together way back when. It is the most amazing laminated pastry ever, and one of the most amazing things ever to come out of my kitchen. It takes all freaking day to make, but it is so, so worth it. See you next week, friends. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Baking Bible: White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Mousseline

This is our second-to-last recipe! I can't believe it! (I still have about 10 or so recipes left to bake, but the official bake-through is coming to an end.)

Marie has decided we should be ending our two year long baking adventure on a couple of easy recipes, and I'm all for it. These cupcakes are a re-tread of Rose's popular White Chocolate Whisper Cake from the Cake Bible, scaled to make 16 cupcakes. The mousseline is another popular buttercream from the same book. Rose discovered a new way to pipe frosting on a cupcake that looks rather like a rose, so she decided to create this recipe to show us.

The batter for the cupcakes comes together lickety-split, including melted white chocolate which gives them a very tender crumb. Rose gives the weight for each cupcake so filling each cup is extra easy (if you own a scale). I decided to use my silicone cupcake cups as I only have one cupcake tin and I didn't want part of the batter waiting in the refrigerator. The cups were placed on a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet to bake, so that there would be airflow underneath the cups as well.

The mousseline took the better part of the morning. First up was making the raspberry puree, which requires concentrating raspberry juice (easy but messy in the microwave) and sieving the pulp to remove the seeds (takes forever; hate doing it). The pulp is mixed back into the concentrated juice and half the volume of sugar is added.

Then you can get to the making of the buttercream. Mousseline is Rose's take on Italian meringue buttercream and I'm not sure if it really is so different on end result. Certainly it is more fiddly and dirties more bowls. There might be more butter proportionally in mousseline than in Italian meringue buttercream, but that's just me guessing.

So anyways, butter is whipped in the mixer for a bit then set aside. In another mixing bowl, egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks with some sugar to stabilize (I skipped adding the cream of tartar, which also stabilizes the meringue). Meanwhile, a sugar syrup is boiled on the stove. Then the syrup is drizzled into the meringue while the beaters threaten to spin the sugar all over the sides of the bowl. Then the Italian meringue needs to cool down to about 70F. Then you whip up the butter again, add the meringue, and mix like crazy while the whole mess curdles, falls apart, then eventually turns into something decidedly creamy. It is nothing short of a miracle when that happens. Then a bunch of the raspberry puree is added in, which instead of turning my buttercream a pretty pink color turned it a bit of a mauve. Which is ok and still looks pretty, and works for a rose.

Then the dreaded piping happens. I actually am really surprised how well things turned out over here as I am not the best piper of frosting.

They are a wonderful cupcake; so light and soft. They look pretty and delicate and taste as such. I immediately wanted another cupcake, but in an attempt to model good behavior for Eliot I did not. He is in bed now, and of course I am eating another cupcake!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Baking Bible: Chocolate Sweetheart Madeleines

I have never tried a madeleine so I have no idea if this is true to the original or not. It is a lovely soft little chocolate cake. Rose says the big problem of the madeleine is that they get stale so quickly so she based the recipe on her Chocolate Domingo Cake and glazed them in a thin ganache.

I don't know, people. Is this a true madeleine? All I see are the packaged madeleines at the Starbucks. However, I know already that these are 5,000 times better than anything that could come in a plastic package.

They are easy to make, and pretty quick. I bought a normal sized madeleine pan (the recipe was for either mini mads or regular) and since it was non-stick I just used a non-stick spray instead of spray and flour. I spooned the thick, creamy batter into the molds (thankfully Rose tells you how much batter to put in the molds) and smoothed it out with an offset spatula. The recipe says it will make 25 normal sized mads but the pan makes 12 at a time, so I decided to just eat the last 16 grams of raw batter instead of baking just one little cake. I called it baker's treat. The batter is like soft serve ice cream.

These are dangerously easy to eat, and so enjoyable. I kind of have to forget they are in the kitchen. That is a good problem to have.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Baking Bible: Prune Preserves and Caramel Cream Cake Roll

This was a really good cake, and the caramel cream is wonderful. All in all, there are 5 components to make but each one is pretty easy and, aside from wait times, fairly quick. It is also one that can be done in fits and starts, which is a plus for me.

The first thing I made was the soaking syrup for the cake, as it can be made days in advance and hang out at room temperature until needed. There was an option to use either vanilla booze or just vanilla extract and I opted for the extract.

Second I started the prune lekvar by soaking the prunes in water. They were supposed to hang out for a couple hours before getting cooked but I think it took me 4 hours to get back to them.

In the meantime, I made the caramel for the caramel cream. This also can hang out at room temperature for a while before getting mixed with the whipped cream.

Then I baked the biscuit cake. Rose reminds that the cake takes about 10 minutes to mix and 10 more to bake which is about true for me. And thankfully; if I had to do a more complicated cake I may have just skipped this week altogether. I rolled the cake up in my silpat instead of a kitchen towel and left it to cool.

Then it was back to the prunes and time to finish the lekvar. The very well-soaked prunes simmered until they were soft and by that point almost all the water had cooked off. I pureed them with the lemon zest and sugar, plus a little extra water, in the magic bullet until smooth. Then the puree goes back on the stove to simmer for a little longer, until thick and a bit caramelized. This gets to hang out and cool.

While the lekvar cooled I whipped up the heavy cream and mixed in the caramel. This component is easily my favorite and I think I would like a bowl of just caramel cream and a spoon one of these evenings.

Finally the cake is unrolled and the lekvar spread over. Then the caramel cream is spread in a thick layer and the cake gets rolled up. There was a little caramel cream spillage but I ate it up off the counter pretty quick.

Lastly, the ganache with a bit of caramel is put together and drizzled over the cake. Eliot exclaimed, "we are making a tiger cake!" Then he asked where we were going to put the tiger head. I told him him we made a headless tiger cake. He seemed okay with that.

We all liked the cake, and I love the feathery lightness of the biscuit. The prune lekvar is really good and pairs well with the caramel. It actually felt like a great autumnal dessert, and a nice departure from all things pumpkin and spice and apple.

(The photos are from the next day, so the caramel cream looks a bit spongy.) 

I can't for the life of me figure out how to rotate this photo. Boo.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Baking Bibile: Monkey Dunkey Bread

Mark said he never wants to forget this dessert, and that it may be his most favorite Baking Bible project ever. Despite being decadent you can find yourself wanting to eat handfuls of this bread at once.

Monkey bread is basically a bunch of balls of sweet bread dunked or tossed in a sweet buttery sauce, piled into a tube or bundt pan, baked until golden brown and then drizzled with icing or sauce or something. And then there's This Monkey Dunkey recipe: brioche is the bread, bittersweet chocolate is stuffed into each ball, the dunking sauce is a brown sugar-butter caramel, and the finished product is drizzled with more amber caramel. Crazy! Decadent! Amazing!

I made this for the test bake and the biggest problem I had back then was that all the dunking sauce leaked out the bottom of the angel food pan while baking. Sadness! So this time, I decided to use a bundt pan. I did not want to risk the leaking a second time, even though I now have a different angel food pan.

It can't leak if the pan is one piece!
 I took a few shortcuts with the making of the Monkey bread. It kept me sane.

The brioche (made the day before) chilled for 2+ hours so after degassing the dough I skipped the 1 hour chill and went straight to the business letter turns and overnight refrigeration.

When it came to make the balls, I skipped all the rolling out because I hate rolling anything out. I split the dough in two as per the recipe, and then simply used my bench scraper to cut portions of the dough that weighed 17 grams. Each little blob got lightly rolled together then I pressed it out into a circle with my fingers.

Using the silpat kept the need for flouring the work top to a minimum
 I couldn't find the Valrhona perls so I decided to use the 67% cacao chocolate chunks from Whole Foods. I only used 2 chunks per ball when 1 tsp of chocolate (as called for) was about 4 chunks. I was worried it would be too much chocolate--but it isn't and next time I'll go ahead and do 4.

Then I made the little balls as directed. The dunking sauce seemed broken--I think maybe I let it get too hot in the microwave. The sauce wouldn't stick to the balls at all so I just sort of spooned a bit into the tin with each little ball. Oh, and I only had dark muscovado so I used that instead of the prescribed light muscovado.

all assembled: before the final rise and bake
I overcooked the caramel in the drizzle glaze just a bit; it was a tad bitter so I added about 1/4 tsp sea salt and voila! Salty caramel drizzle glaze and not bitter anymore.  

Everything else went well, and when Eliot and I ate our caramelly, sweet monkey bread, he said, "we are eating cake." Brioche is like that: bread/cake, cake/bread. I realised that the Monkey Dunkey bread made all the Halloween candy obsolete. Why would I eat that junk when I could eat more of this?

I'm sure I will be making this for years to come.
before the caramel drizzle. the dark muscovado in the dunking sauce doesn't look that great.
caramel makes it all better

happy Eliot

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Baking Bible: The Araxi Lemon Cream Tart

When I think of a lemon tart I think of lemon curd in a cookie crust. Which means, I will probably think of other things to do than make it myself because I get impatient making lemon curd. I will probably just make this delicious lemon tart instead, since it is wonderfully creamy and lemony without making a lemon curd!

In fact, this is very simple tart to make. The cookie crust can be blended in the food processor in a snap. I decided to screw the rolling out of the dough and simply pressed it out in the pan. I didn't even refrigerate it first! This step took a bit of time but I much preferred it to chilling and rolling. Go figure.

After pressing the dough into the pan, I did chill it for a couple of hours before blind baking. And, after blind baking and sealing the crust with an egg white, I slid the whole 9 in tart pan into a ziploc bag and chilled it overnight.

The lemon filling is quite simple to make. Lemon juice, sugar, and eggs are whisked together in a bowl. Heavy cream is whipped until it mounds softly and then folded into the lemony stuff. Then some lemon zest is added. Now the fililng chills for 30 min, which will cause it to separate a bit, then it is poured into the tart lan and baked.

My tart shell shrunk a little so there was more filling than could fit reasonably into the pan. I didn't want to waste any filling so I poured the rest into a small custard cup and baked it alongside the tart in a water bath. We ate that one right away.

The tart filling did exactly what Rose said it would do: there's a thin spongy layer on top of a creamy lemon layer. This is a delightful dessert.         

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Baking Bible: Giant Jam Cookie

This giant cookie really does impress, and would be a fun way to finish a meal with a bunch of people. It is a bit fiddly with lots of refrigeration or freezer breaks, so you need to plan accordingly.

The cookie dough is a simple sugar cookie, whizzed up in the food processor. After a brief kneading, the dough is split in half and both parts get chilled for up to three days. I got back to the dough after a day or two.

Then here come the shenanigans. Half of the dough is rolled out big enough for a 12 inch circle to get cut; this gets inverted onto a cookie sheet and chilled for a bit. The other half of the dough gets rolled out the same, inverted and reinverted onto a cookie sheet and chilled for a bit. Then that second cookie gets scored lightly into 12 pie slices and little cutouts are made in every other slice. I scored with a heavy hand, as I cut all the way through a couple of times. The dough is supposed to be frozen until rigid to help get the cutouts out without mangling anything, but apparently 12 inches is too wide for my freezer. So I simply chilled the cookie in the refrigerator for a couple hours hoping that would be enough. Then I mangled out all the little cutouts--I chose gingerbread men as the only little cookie cutters I have are a little holiday set. The cutouts and the cookie went back into the refrigerator for several hours--it was supposed to go in the freezer until rigid.

I apparently had a difficult time making 12 even slices
 Then it was time to concentrate the raspberry jam for the filling. Except I didn't buy enough raspberry jam so had to pad it out with strawberry jam. It took awhile to cool down to room temperature, but it was a pretty easy step.

Once the jam cools down, you spread it on the other giant cookie. Then the top cookie, which should be frozen, should slide onto the top of the raspberry jam. Since my cookie wasn't frozen it kind of slid, and split where I had scored all the way through, and I sort of pieced it back together well enough. The outsides are crimped together with a fork, then the cookie, now a giant jam sandwich, goes back in the refrigerator for a chill. I chose to chill it overnight.

From here on out, the cookie just needs to be baked which was easy as pie. Or a cookie that looks like a pie.

I opted for a light powdered sugar dusting after the cookie was baked and cooled, then the cookie is cut all the way through and ready to serve. It is a delicious cookie, especially if you like jam. Mark kind of wanted blackberry jam or blueberry something but we are still enjoying it all the same.

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Baking Bible: Marble White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake

What I baked wasn't exactly the Marble White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake, even though what I baked was a marble white and dark chocolate cheesecake. Despite not being the proper recipe, exactly, my parents and Mark loved the cheesecake. In fact, Mark has declared it the Perfect Cheesecake.

So, typically Rose cheesecakes are one pound of cream cheese and more than a pound and a half of sour cream. I failed to notice this cheesecake recipe called for two pounds of cream cheese and exactly zero pounds of sour cream. So I ended up buying two boxes of cream cheese instead of four, and a whole bunch of sour cream I technically did not need. So I decided to Franken-bake a marble chocolate cheesecake. I made the cheesecake base as written from the Cake Bible, which calls for three large eggs instead of 7-8 egg yolks, and added in the optional tablespoon of cornstarch. Once the (sour cream cheesecake) base was mixed, I went back to the proper recipe and followed the directions for splitting the batter, adding the chocolates, layering the batters into the pan and the marbling.

Also, I realised having to bake a chocolate biscuit to line the cake pan was holding me up. I just didn't want to do it. I saw the chocolate wafers on the counter that were waiting patiently for me to buy bourbon for last week's bourbon pecan balls, and decided to just make a cookie crust for the cheesecake. I can buy more wafers for the balls! The cookie crust did get soggy in the pan, and it is a bit messy. but oh well. Nobody was complaining!

So someday I'll bake the real recipe from beginning to end, and I'll let you know how it differs from my franken-bake. However we are calling this cake a success! We used it as Mark's early birthday cake while my parents are in town for a visit, so happy birthday my love! Enjoy your Perfect Cheesecake!

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Baking Bible: Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake

A wonderful, decadent and rich cake that is all about the heavenly mousse filling. Although the project took most of the day, all the components were easy to do.

(I apologise for the dark photos; I thought I'd take then outside but didn't change the settings nor can I get my photo editor to work. I haven't used the program in a long time so I think it was having trouble importing all my photos.)

The outside of the cake, the cake itself, is a simple biscuit sponge baked in a sheet pan. Rose says it takes 10 min to mix and another 10 to bake and that's pretty much true. The fiddly part comes when you have to make a template of the pieces needed to make the cake shell. One long piece to line the long sides and bottom, two end pieces and a top piece. It was fiddly but not too hard and I decided to save the template (made on binder paper) in the bok justi n case I ever decide to do this again. I cut the cake with a pizza roller (thanks to Marie) and used a pair of scissors to make any final trimming.

The middle, the whole reason you're here, is a creamy and mellow and rich chocolate mousse that starts with dark chocolate and cream. A whole boatlaod of egg yolks are tempered into the hot ganache and cooked until custardy. After the mixture cools a bit, you whip it for a little bit until soft floppy peaks form when the beater is raised. The book says it should take about 30 seconds but for me, it took much more time than that. Then a little one-egg white meringue is folded into the custard to lighten the mix, and then it is time to assemble the cake.

After lining the loaf pan with the cake, the mousse is poured and smoothed into the pan. Everything needs to rest up for 3 hours at room temperature for the custard to firm up, but after cutting into the cake the mouuse was still soft and the cake threatened to fall apart. So if I do this cake again I think I will also refrigerate it for a bit before cutting. i think it would be easier to cut when chilled and then allowed to come up to room temperature before serving.

This would be a wonderful finish to a nice dinner with people you love and a good cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Baking Bible: Frozen Lime Meringue Pie

This pie popped up in our rotation right as some stupid hot weather descended on Portland so I was thankful it only required the broiler for a few minuets. Plus I loved that is served straight from the freezer, although it is best when it softens a bit, and that the lime is so refreshing. It is amazing that a modified lime curd folded into a bit of whipped cream can produce something that so closely resembles ice cream.

The pie is based on the Lemon Canadian Crown from Roses's Heavenly Cakes, which is a modified lemon curd folded into whipped cream, frozen in a ladyfinger "crust" and topped with meringue. I liked that cake, but I liked this pie even better. The crust is a vanilla wafer crust, instead of the expected graham cracker crust. Honestly I might have preferred the graham cracker crust, but the vanilla crust does a good job of not getting in the way of all that beautiful limey-ness.

On stupid hot days a cold, refreshing, creamy lime pie is just the thing. I savored each bite of this pie and look forward to making it again next summer.

The Baking Bible: Coconut Crisps

This is a yummy and quick little cookie with a mild yet convincing coconut flavor. Mark called these coconut shortbreads and I think that's pretty much on point.

Everything gets whizzed up in the food processor. The coconut is unsweetened, which helps keep these cookies from being too sweet. A quick knead to bring the crumbly dough together and a rest in the refrigerator and this dough is ready for rolling and cutting.

Even with the rolling and cutting, the dough is simple and easy to work with. I hate rolling and cutting, and this time I wasn't complaining. Eliot loved the cutting out of cookies, too. So I made him some homemade play dough so he could continue playing and I could finish up and bake the cookies.

I guess I suck at rolling out evenly because some cookies were thinner than others and therefore browned something awful. However they are pretty good.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Baking Bible: (Supposed to Be Gooseberry) Peach and Blackberry Crisp

This week's project is supposed to be a really yummy looking gooseberry crisp, however by the time I finally made it to the local farmer's market the gooseberry season was already over. So I made this crisp with the fruit I had on my counter: peaches and blackberries.

This is a fairly straightforward crisp recipe; I think the big deal here was Rose's treatment of the gooseberries to keep them from becoming too soupy. She does suggest alternate fruit fillings from some of the other pie recipes in the book so I took the suggestion to prepare the peaches as I did for the peach galette. This just meant macerating the sliced fruit for a while, then concentrating the juices to a thick syrup and adding back to the fruit. Once I placed the peaches in the dish I dotted the top with big Chester blackberries and added tiny bits of candied ginger (as I did in this Peach and Blackberry Pandowdy).

The crisp topping is a yummy mix of oats, flour muscovado sugar, and butter. There are instructions to make the topping in a food processor or a stand mixer, but I just used my hands. It didn't take long until the mixture had come together in clumpy crumbs. Next time, I will double the topping. I love crisp topping and there just wasn't enough.

The crisp baked up beautifully, and the blackberries stayed whole and juicy. We ate this one pretty fast as it makes a good dessert, breakfast, and snack. I can't wait to make it again.




Monday, July 18, 2016

The Baking Bible: Cream Cheese Butter Cake

This is a fantastic cake. It is my favorite kind of cake: tender and light in texture with a dense crumb. Rose says it is similar to a pound cake, with butter and sour cream, with the addition of cream cheese. It works so well in Rose's pie crust that she thought it might be good in a cake. Bingo!

The frosting is actually the Pierre Herme lemon curd: where instead of cooking the butter with the lemon and eggs, the butter is left cold and emulsified into the mix afterwards. It results in a very creamy and thick lemon curd which Rose uses as a frosting. It is also delicious in a tart or on toast, by the way.

The recipe is supposed to use only a portion of the lemon cream to frost, but I used it all. Then I decided it overpowered the cake which makes me sad, because I could eat this cake plain all day long. And probably will, sometime in the future!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Baking Bible: Perfect (Savory) Cream Puffs

Technically these, as the name implies, are supposed to be served with a savory filling. There's even a recipe for what I bet is a lovely "faux gras" made with chicken livers and whatnot. However I am not a fan of liver and I told Mark if he wanted to make the faux gras he was welcome to, and that it would be probably the best chicken liver pate he's ever had. He agreed, took a look at the recipe, and decided it was too much work. Ah well. So no savory cream puffs for us.

We did make the traditional sweet cream puff with vanilla ice cream and homemade hot fudge (the Chocolate Snowball Hot Fudge Sauce from Rose's Heavenly Bakes). Then we invited some friends over and we had a lovely snack in the backyard.

The only pâte à choux pastry I've made are gougeres which are cream puffs with cheese and they were simple and delicious. So I knew these would be fairly simple to make, too. There's a lot of slow cooling down that has to be done so there is a time factor, but otherwise making choux is pretty quick and simple. I made mine a bit bigger since we needed them to be able to hold about a tablespoon of ice cream each.

These were the most light and crisp choux pastry I have ever tasted and I am thrilled they were made by me! Everybody was very taken with them as well, and it was wonderful to catch up with some old friends.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Baking Bible: Cherry Sweetie Pie

A sweet cherry pie with a pretty lattice top, this was an overall winner in my house. I also think this is the best version of Rose's Tender and Flaky Pie Crust I've made to date!

It is a fairly simple and straight forward pie, which is also a plus. The cherries are pitted, but you could also use frozen cherries which I assume would already be pitted. Rose says if the cherries are on the large side to cut them in half with scissors. She considers large to be 1 inch or more, but honestly I've never seen a fresh sweet cherry that isn't about 1 inch in size. Rose picked up a tip from Cook's Illustrated to add a couple of pureed fresh plums to give the pie a bit of tartness. All the fruit is then macerated in some sugar and cornstarch and cooked until the juices thicken. After this mixture cools down lemon zest and vanilla extract are stirred in and poured into the waiting pie crust.

The pie crust is the usual Tender and Flaky crust which employs cream cheese and butter and heavy cream and apple cider vinegar as the secret weapons. I've found a sort of hybrid food processor-by hand mixing technique that seems to work for me. Anyhoots the top crust is a lattice top which is just so darn pretty and appealing. I dabbed a bit of watered down cream on the top and sprinkled on some sanding sugar for sparkles and crunch. Now I'm itching to buy a pastry crimper for even prettier lattice tops.

Then the pie gets baked atop a hot baking stone; mine took a little more than the required time to finish. It is supposed to cool for 3 hours but I think we broke into it after only a couple of hours. I whipped up the leftover heavy cream from the Rum Raisin French Toast to serve alongside, although vanilla ice cream would be a better match.

a bit too browned, but don't let that bother you
 The crust shattered in a wonderfully flaky way, and the cherry filling was still warm and a bit runny. Mark appreciated that the cherries were still toothsome and that the filing wasn't sickly sweet. It is quite a yummy filling and the lemon zest complements the cherries so well. However what I love most about this pie is the pie crust! Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of pie dough? That would be exciting!

snowy owl took a bath in my mixing bowl while the pie baked