Monday, August 31, 2015

The Baking Bible: Flaky Cream Cheese Scones

I've got one photo of these delicious cream cheese scones, and here it is. I've made only a few scones in my life but these are the best ever. They really are tender and flaky and buttery and simply delicious.

I used dried sour cherries (cut in half) instead of dried blueberries and omitted the lemon zest (because I forgot to buy a lemon). I wasn't too sure if I would like lemon zest with sour cherries and was planning on adding some vanilla extract but I forgot that too. So just sour cherries, and no complaints here.

These scones are unusual in their construction as cream cheese is blended into the flour as well as butter. Then a bunch of whipped cream and honey are mixed in and the dough is lightly kneaded. I did like the technique of pressing the dough out in a 9 inch cake plate to make sure the edges are even and smooth and the disc fairly even. After a slight chill the dough is divided into 8 slices and are baked until golden brown. The recipe says use a sharp knife and I used my bench scraper, which has a kind of sharp edge. It worked.

Mark and I are a little sad this recipe makes only eight scones. I also think, as the lazy person that I am, that maybe this is a bit too many steps for just eight scones. Clearly I think a scone recipe either needs to be one bowl and take ten minutes to make or I need a multi step scone recipe to yield a thousand scones. I may need to adjust my expectations. In the meantime, I will enjoy my last scone.   

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Baking Bible: Woody's Black and White Brownies

When you need a fancy pants dessert for a dinner party or a potluck or just for a lazy Sunday, this brownie would fill the bill. Woody took his mother's traditional bourbon brownies and swapped in Rose components to make something special.

The brownie component is Roses' Barcelona Brownies, which first appeared on her blog and then in Heavenly Cakes. Here's my take from back in the bake through. I made the classic pecan version which I enjoyed despite not liking nuts in my brownie. Mark doesn't like nuts in his brownie either, so I decided to try the cherry variation for this recipe. Essentially, you take a bunch of dried sour cherries, chop them up, then soak them in kirsch or cherry heering. I decided, since we were going to use bourbon in the ganache topper, to soak the cherries in bourbon. Bourbon sour cherries are delightful, by the way, but now I am wondering what it would have been like to use kirsch in the ganache instead of bourbon, to highlight the cherry-ness of the brownies.
boozy cherries. this should be a pantry staple.

The white frosting is the White Chocolate Buttercream, also from Heavenly Cakes where it adorned Woody's Lemon Luxury Lemon Cake. As an added bonus for me, if you go check out my post about the cake you can get all the step-by-step instructions on how to make the buttercream. That buttercream got a dollop of lemon curd which this buttercream, obviously, doesn't. I will say that the buttercream, although being wonderfully light and silky, is more work than I think this brownie deserves. The ganache layer on top sort of drowns out the delicate buttercream, and the lightness of the buttercream doesn't match the dense fudginess of the brownie, in my opinion. This buttercream needs a genoise or a very finely textured butter cake.

The ganache has a generous dollop of bourbon, which is nice and not to much. I used the leftover liquid from soaking the cherries and topped it off with straight bourbon. So there's a little light cherry flavor to the ganache. I used all the ganache to glaze the top, and I wish I only used enough to just cover the buttercream. For my tastes, there's just too much ganache. Alas.    

All in all, a yummy brownie. Next time I'll try a sturdier buttercream and less ganache. I really like the brownie with the boozy cherries. Mark really likes the elevated components that make this better than a regular black and white brownie. I like that, too. Fancy pantsy brownies for all!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Baking Bible: Strawberry Shortcake Genoise

This is a catch-up project for me as when it was scheduled there were no fresh strawberries around these parts. I waited (im)patiently for strawberry season to arrive and when it did, it arrived with huge fanfare.

Our hot, dry, spring/summer accelerated berry season, so ALL the berries were suddenly ripe and taking over the farmer's markets. In that photo above, everything but the strawberries usually aren't ripe until July! This was the third week of June, and although strawberry season was already starting to wind down there were still plenty.

ALL THE BERRIES: boysenberries, blackberries, blueberries, tayberries, and Tillamook strawberries

If you have Rose's Heavenly Cakes you will notice that these strawberry shortcake genoise are quite similar in construction to the Red Fruit Shortcake or the Marionberry Shortcake. In fact, the Strawberry Shortcake Genoise is designed to be one 9 in cake, but there is an option to make individual portions which as you can see is what I chose to do. I think I chose that option because it uses less strawberries which meant more for us to eat as-is. And the child can eat almost a pint of fresh berries in one sitting.  

completed genoise batter

In order to get enough strawberry juice to syrup the cakes, Rose has you use frozen, defrosted strawberries. After getting as much juice as you can, the frozen strawberries are pureed and set aside to fill the bottom of the genoise cups.

The strawberry juice gets concentrated and added to a sugar syrup with either Grand Marnier or fresh squeezed orange juice. I opted for the orange juice and the orange flavor really elevated this dessert from a regular shortcake to something amazing.    

side view

The genoise gets syruped, the frozen strawberry puree fills the bottom of the cups, and now the fresh strawberries are arranged on top. The fresh berries get a little maceration in sugar to loosen up their juices, and it was almost a shame to do so as these berries were already incredibly ripe and sweet.

And finally, the whipped cream topping is made. This is simply whipped cream with a bit of strawberry jam, and although it was nice to have that hint of strawberry in the cream and a light pink topping, it wouldn't ruin the dessert to use plain whipped cream (the jam does stabilise the cream, preventing seepage which would be important if assembling ahead of serving).

This is a marvelous way to celebrate the beautiful, ripe strawberry. Next time if the berries are super fresh and ripe I might skip macerating them.

The Baking Bible: Kourambiethes

This is the Greek version of the Mexican Wedding Cake or the Russian Teacake, one of my favorite cookies, incidentally. In this version, the nut is almond, and instead of getting finely ground the slivered, toasted nuts are chopped to medium-fine pieces. Also, the butter goes the extra mile of being clarified before getting whipped up. This heightens the melt-in-your-mouth quality and makes you feel fancy. 

A bit of brandy or orange juice is called for,  but I had neither. I settled for Tuaca with a few drops of orange oil. Next time, I will add more oil plus some orange zest. I really liked the bit of orange that came through.
Mark loved them from the get-go, and declared them one of the best things I've baked from The Baking Bible so far. 

Eliot thought they were okay, but he didn't like the chunks of nut. You could see his little tongue working something out of his mouth and then a little later a bit of gooey almond would be stuck to his chin. After about half a cookie, he was over it. But he did keep asking about those molasses cakes. 

As with the Mexican Wedding Cookie, I didn't find them all that special until about the third day. Then all of a sudden, the orange flavor woke up and the nuts and butter became friends. Then it was all I could do to keep from eating the rest of the cookies in one sitting. I would prefer the almonds finely ground, and may try it next time.

Here's Marie's round-up of the Alpha Baker's Kourambiethes exploits.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Baking Bible: 100% Whole Wheat Walnut Bread

As someone who doesn't bake a lot of bread, take it from me when I tell you this bread is pretty simple to make. It was well received at our house; in fact Mark thinks it is one of the best loaves of bread he has ever had.

I'm blogging this all from memory as I have three posts to catch up on, so I can't remember exactly what all goes into the making of this bread. Here's what I do remember:

The bread calls for a little bit of vital wheat gluten to give it a lightness and peppiness. Since I wasn't sure I was ever going to bake this bread again, I didn't want to buy a huge bag of wheat gluten and have it sitting around going bad. So Eliot and I took a trip to the Bob's Red Mill store, where not only do they sell everything they make, which is far more than I've ever seen in one grocery store, but they also have a pretty comprehensive bulk section of all their products. Here I bought the tiny amount of wheat gluten called for and then got a little carried away buying things like dried beans, nuts, rice, polenta, hot cereal, and sanding sugar. Oh, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. We even saw the Bob himself, who after doing some meet and greets went up to the mezzanine (they also have a casual restaurant on site) and played the piano and sang. A very entertaining afternoon.

The dough is quite sticky but mine wasn't as sticky as some of the Alpha Bakers. It gets a couple of rises before shaping, one more rise, then off to the oven to bake.

Eliot didn't love the walnuts but did like the bread, especially with a copious amount of butter. I was ambivalent about the walnuts but loved the bread anyways. It was good with butter, with fresh avocado, with cheddar cheese, and dipped into our pork and bean stew. Like I said, Mark was over the moon for it and loved the earthiness of the walnuts. He made the stew specifically to go with bread, and was very happy. He told me he'd be happy if I baked that every week. I told him maybe one day that would be a possibility.