Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Baking Bible: The Chocolate FloRo Elegance with Caramel Buttercream

This is neither a quick nor easy project but the results are spectacular. As I was slogging through it, I proclaimed "I will never make this again!" But now having eaten more than I should, I might make it again. I don't know. It was good.

In reality, the thing that takes the longest is the Caramel Buttercream, which in the recipe says to make 3 hours ahead of time but it took me 5 hours from start to finish. No frosting should take 5 hours to make! But then again, it is a very good frosting. It is light and silky in texture with a deep caramel flavor. It is neither too rich nor too sweet. I might make it again someday when I forget how long 5 hours can be. It was really very delicious.

The cake itself requires lots of little bowls of pre-prepped ingredients but once assembled, mixing is pretty quick.

I expected a dark, chocolatey cake since it has melted 99% chocolate and coffee and cocoa powder, but the resulting cake is light in color. Similar to a german chocolate cake, which incidentally, Rose uses a dark chocolate cake for. The cake is very velvety, tender and light with a satisfying chocolate flavor. This is a cake to make again and again!

completed batter
 My mother-in-law was visiting while I made this cake, and she was surprised how long the whole project took. Especially that dang buttercream! However when she tasted the finished cake, she appreciated how good a day-long cake project can be.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Baking Bible: Babka

A soft bread with a swirl of something sweet, this bread gets baked in a bundt pan so it's a breadcake? Cakebread. In our house, we call it Swirly Bread.

There's options for an almond-muscovado sugar swirl, a chocolate-almond swirl, or an apricot-cream cheese swirl. We chose chocolate, because chocolate. However, looking at the other Alpha Bakers breadcakes with almond-muscovado or apricot-cream cheese, now I wish we had tried one of those. Not that the chocolate isn't yummy, but it reminds me of the Monkey Dunkey Bread (that we haven't baked yet with the Alphas but did with the Betas as a test bake) and the Monkey Dunkey is a much better sweet bread with chocolate option. That's because the Monkey Dunkey is made with brioche bread, which is the undisputed king of sweet white bread. The babka is made with a bread that has less butter and eggs so it isn't quite as rich, but it is still soft and lovely.

The babka starts out with a sponge, which is some flour, yeast, milk powder and water mixed up and left to hang out while the rest of the flour, yeast, water, and sugar are mixed together and dusted over the top. This is left to ferment for a few hours. It can also be left to hang out overnight in the refrigerator and that's pretty nice too if you are busy and trying to squish this in.

After the sponge does its stuff the mixer kneads the dough for 7 minutes, which for a stand mixer and a toddler is an eternity. Then it gets to rise in peace and quiet.

After doubling, the dough is degassed, shaped into a ball and chilled for an hour up to overnight in the refrigerator. We did an overnight and the next day when I read to get back to it it had completely filled the 2 qt container.

Maybe it was the chilling, but the dough that was supposed to be really sticky wasn't that sticky when it was time to roll it out. Then the chocolate-almond spread is spread on. (Which is made by melting chocolate and whizzing it with cake crumbs, golden syrup, and egg, and almond paste.) I didn't have a whole egg so I used some egg whites I found frozen, which were probably about 1.5 egg whites.

The eggs are to fluff up the filling and to help prevent a gap between filling and breadcake, and I'm wondering if I had 2 egg whites if it would have done a better job.

After rolling the bread up it is coiled into a large bundt pan and left to rise once more. Then it is baked for an hour. Then when the bread is ready to pull from the oven, it is brushed with a bunch of melted butter to keep the crust soft. The hardest past of all comes next: waiting for the bread to cool.

The wait was worth it. This is a wonderful bread. Not too sweet but satisfying for a sweet breakfast or midday snack. We love this swirly bread.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Baking Bible: The Dutch Pecan Sandies

This cookie tried my patience and almost made me hate it, but the end product is so delicious and addicting that I may just make them again. No promises.

With Marie's approval, I decided to ignore all the rolling and cutting business Rose tells us to do to form the cookies. Up until the forming bit, I followed the recipe like a good Alpha baker. Pecans, flour, salt and cinnamon are whizzed up in the food processor. Beurre noisette, white sugar, dark brown sugar, and turbinado sugar are creamed together in the mixer. The dry ingredients are blended in and the dough is ready for a slight chill and shaping. Marie suggested that the dough could probably be rolled into logs and frozen, then sliced into coins and baked that way. I said, I'll try it!

Well, I think a freeze was a bit too much as the dough was rock hard after an overnight. I think a chill overnight in the refrigerator would have been enough to keep the dough happy while slicing. But aside from that, slicing the cookies was mostly uneventful...after the first batch fell apart into pieces and I had to squish them back together to look like cookies.

Then I came back to the recipe and tossed each of them in cinnamon and sugar, sprinkled a bit of turbinado sugar on top, and baked them for 20 minutes per cookie sheet. That also made me cranky, as I was expecting 10-12 minutes total like other cookies we've baked. The child also kept pestering me for a damn cookie when there were no damn cookies finished baking.

But then...the first batch of cookies were baked and cooled, and the child and I got to eat a cookie. Then we ate another. Then we ate another. Then nobody was cranky or hungry, and everybody was in love with the crumbly, shortbread-like cookie. It's kind of caramelly from the sugars and the browned butter gives it an extra dimension. These won't last long. They are amazing


Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Baking Bible: Coconut Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache

Hello bakers! We moved, Eliot had a second birthday, I found most of my baking gear. Not in that order. But anyway, these cupcakes were so easy to make that I couldn't find an excuse to skip them. Plus, they only require egg whites so I got to break down a bit more of my egg white stash!

Here's some pictures, and for the record, we loved these cupcakes. I think I may have overbaked them a bit as they were a bit crumbly. I love the combination of coconut and chocolate. I've been meaning to check, but the recipe seems like it is pretty much the same as her basic white cupcake, just using coconut milk instead of cow's milk. I didn't have any coconut extract and the coconut flavor was mild but present. Like I said, we really enjoyed these.

getting ready to mix
ready to fill the cupcakes
cupcake filling setup
ready to bake, sloppy filling technique but we lived
baked! the last cupcake filled wasn't up to weight so i hid it in the middle
dipped in ganache. slightly bubbly. good thing i'm not a professional.