Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Baking Bible: Rugelach

These are as simple as they are delicious and I think we'll be making these again and again. Eliot dubbed these "piecookies" which is fairly apt. They are a bit like pastry with a yummy fruit/nut/jam filling. However, don't let pastry fool you; these really are much simpler and less stressful to make than pastry.

I checked back on the Beta Baker's site as I remember test baking these and I'm really glad I did. I talked about how easy these were to make, which I needed to hear because in the 3+ years since then I've forgotten they were easy and I was having pastry anxiety. Also, I had baked one batch on the suggested foil-lined cookie sheet and another on parchment and the parchment cookies were a dream to release from the pan, while the foil cookies never wanted to say goodbye to the foil. So I went ahead and crossed off the word "foil" in the published recipe and wrote in "parchment" so that I would never forget. Also, I had test baked the standard golden raisin-walnut-apricot lekvar version which was absolutely delicious, and I said it tasted like apple pie, strangely enough. I do remember, 3+ years later, how yummy that filling was, but decided this time to branch out and try the chocolate-almond-raspberry version.

Luckily, these are the kind of cookies that you could stretch out over 3 days if your toddler needs you to. I was able to get them made in two days, but it was nice to know I could wait another day to bake the formed cookies if necessary.

The dough is a lovely cream cheese and butter pastry, equal parts. And happily, there is no need to worry about butter flakes or over incorporating the fat because you go ahead and cream the fats before mixing in the flour. So no worries, peeps.

After a rest, the dough is divided and rolled into circles. The filling then gets laid out: jam, then sugar, then fruits (or chocolate) and nuts. The standard version uses cinnamon and brown sugar which I went ahead and prepared but at the last minute I noticed a note saying if you are using one of the variations to just use white sugar. So now I have a nice jar half full of cinnamon and sugar waiting for toast or granola or cookies or...something.

The amount of sugar recommended was way more than I thought necessary. The jam and chocolate should be sweet enough, right? I sprinkled some sugar, but maybe 1/4 of what I was supposed to use. It turned out just fine.

I lightly toasted the sliced almonds I found in my pantry, and found mini chocolate chips back there too. Hooray!

After adding the jam, nuts, and mini chips, the dough is cut into 12 slices, like a pizza. Each triangle is rolled up like a little croissant, brushed with milk and sprinkled with sugar. The standard filling gets cinnamon and sugar, but I assumed these variations were to get just a sprinkling of sugar. I opted for turbinado just for funsies. Thirty minutes in the refrigerator and the rugelach were ready to bake.

I think I could have left them in a bit longer as they aren't as toasty brown as they could have been, and I think some of the pastry on the inside is a bit underdone. However we are gobbling these up like it's 1999 so evidently even a bit underbaked rugelach are a big hit.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Baking Bible: ChocolaTea Cake

There are three components to this wonderful cake and they are all pretty easy. It is also pretty boozy so maybe I'm also a bit tipsy.

The cake is an old standby, the moist chocolate genoise, from the Cake Bible. I'll just let Rose describe it to you: "this cake has a light texture of a genoise but is more velvety and moist. An equivalent amount of chocolate is used instead of cocoa, but a special technique is employed to intensify the chocolate." This special technique is cooking the melted chocolate with water to release the flavor (much like what we do with boiling water and cocoa powder for chocolate butter cakes) and letting it thicken until it is puddinglike. It is weird, but if you go all the way back to the Cake Bible Rose makes sense of it all.

Genoise used to scare me because it is one of those cakes that relies on well-beaten eggs to leaven the cake. My cakes would bake into sad little inch-high lumps and I would just have to dream of moist velvety genoise. Luckily, at one point it just sort of clicked and now genoise is another delicious adventure.

I decided to half this recipe and gosh, I kinda love how cute 6 inch two layer cakes are.

The syrup for the genoise consists of black tea and cognac. Which is why I feel a little bit tipsy as I write this.

The ganache is the one we made for the Le Sucess from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. In fact, that ganache looks much better than this one, as this one I overbeat and so it became grainy. So go over there to see what it should look like.

Yummy, rich, and deceptively light. A winner in my book.


Monday, April 04, 2016

The Baking Bible: Meringue Birch Twigs

A big caveat about making meringue that Rose puts up front on this recipe: avoid making meringue when the weather is humid.

Well....I should have checked the weather report because we had a wonderful week of sunny and dry days but the night I made these birch twigs the clouds rolled in and the rain came back. Sooo...humidity was 96%. Alas.

This morning the twigs were soft and sticky instead of crisp and dry, and as the day wore on (humidity today was 76%) the twigs got stickier and sadder and less like twigs and more like failure. They taste like sticky chocolate marshmallow treats which isn't so bad but I wish I could have tasted them as they were intended to be. I skipped buying raspberry essence and left them with just the vanilla extract so this project didn't require a big investment of resources or even time. It was quick and easy, even the piping!

Oh well.

so nice and warm outside!

stiff and glossy peaks

are they trees or sticky marshmallows?

someone got into the meringue