Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who Likes Surprises?


There has been a lot of excitement this month, which almost derailed this challenge. The big, happy excitement is that Sara and her husband, Will, bought and moved into a new house. This is a major feat anywhere, and especially in San Francisco. The less big, less happy excitement is that I was traveling -- for business and pleasure -- for most of the second half of the month. So finding a time to get together and bake proved challenging.

For that reason, I decided to forge ahead and bake a thematic surprise cake that Sara and Will could enjoy with me. The cake I chose -- the House Cake from Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke (very fortunately available in Kindle version from the San Francisco Public Library!) -- was very daunting for me at the outset.


It began at 7 am with four white cakes, which I baked and popped in the freezer. I only had 9-in. cake pans, although the recipe called for 8-in. pans, but I went with what I had and it worked fine. Strangely I had four of them, as well as two smaller pans. I have no idea where all those cake pans came from.


Chocolate and red velvet cakes followed. The chocolate was especially delicious even though (or perhaps because!) I didn't cut the milk chocolate bits small enough, so they didn't melt fully into the cake as they were supposed to. The two cakes looked quite similar when baked, but the red velvet had the prettier batter.


I also made a whole lot of butter cream frosting. The amount of butter and confectioners sugar involved was shocking. After chilling, I staked two cakes together with frosting in between and begin cutting out the house. You can see the funnel shape for the roof below; I cut a straight-sided cylinder for the body of the house. I was supposed to use round cookie cutters to size the cut-outs but I didn't have any so I free-handed it, which made me a little nervous. 


My cakes were a little domed but I am not adept evening them out with a knife, so I just relied on frosting to do the trick. Once I had cut out the house shapes I filled in the holes with the other cakes crumbled together with frosting and stacked the whole thing together. It was very tall!  


Sadly I ran out of frosting midway through frosting the outside. If anyone ever tries this recipe, I recommend making two recipes of buttercream frosting instead of the one she recommends. Or else your cake will look like mine on the outside instead of the beautiful version in her book. 


While we all had some laughs at my cake's decrepit exterior, I have to admit to feeling extremely proud about the inside. At first you couldn't quite make out the door, but when we cut into it a little more, voilà! A house!


All told, this cake took over 12 hours to make, and I put it in the freezer for substantially less time than was ideal according to the recipe. That being said, a lot of those hours were not active time and, although more demanding then a regular cake, I wouldn't say this one was hard to make. I'd try a surprise cake again for a special occasion. I was glad to have such a happy event to celebrate with this one. Congratulations to Sara and Will!

I'm not including the recipe this month because it's long and involved, but if you are interested I recommend checking out Surprise-Inside Cakes from your library or buying it. Jumping down the Internet rabbit hole of surprise cakes is a fun way to spend some time, too. A zebra cake was the runner-up choice this month, and I may give it a try another time!

For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Saturday Morning Ritual


I was listening to a podcast recently where the folks were discussing their perfect morning routines. Their discussion was centered around how to start your day productively, but it made me think about those perfect mornings where you really aren't "productive" at all -- but rather you spend the time doing things just to enjoy the act of doing them.

This month's challenge provided a perfect opportunity for one of those perfect mornings. Last Saturday, I woke up to start preparing some of the most delicious dough I've made in a while -- springy, sweet and tangy, with perfect notes of orange and cardamom. I left the dough to rise, and headed out the door to meet Erica at one of my favorite yoga studios in SF. Now if I describe this class to most people, it sounds ridiculous (there's a disco ball, club music, lots of chanting, and about 200 people), but it's a great workout and a great space.

We got back to my apartment, whipped up some smoothies and lattes to tide us over, and started in on the cinnamon rolls. Erica rolled out the dough into a large rectangle, and I spread some truly terrible filling on top -- all full of brown sugar and cinnamon and spices. :-)


We rolled it up into a log and sliced, neatly tucking the rounds into two spring form pans (who knew I had two of those lying around?)




And then we popped it into the oven. We were pretty hungry at this point, and it was super hard to wait for them to be finished. But our patience was rewarded, because these were spectacular - great texture, great flavor.


This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!

 
 
Author:
Serves: 12-16 buns
 
Buns:
  • ½ cup whole milk, warm (110-115 degrees)
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs
  • 20 ounces (4 cups) all purpose flour (+1/4 cup if needed)
  • 3¼ ounces (3/4 cup) cornstarch
  • 3½ ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • zest of 1 orange (approximately ½ tablespoon)
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 orange)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped and at room temperature
Filling:
  • 10½ ounces (1½ cups) packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Glaze:
  • 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 orange)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the whole milk and instant yeast, followed by the eggs.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, cardamom and orange zest. Break apart any clumps of zest if necessary. Attach the dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed and add the warm milk mixture followed by the orange juice. Allow the ingredients to combine for one minute. Increase the speed to medium and add the butter in pieces until it's all incorporated. The dough will be very wet. Allow it to continue mixing for 10 minutes. If the dough is still looking wet, add up to another ¼ cup of flour in 2 tablespoon increments. The dough should be very soft and delicate but not too sticky to handle. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased large bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to double in size, up to 2 hours. To speed things up, place the bowl inside the oven next to a small bowl of boiling water and close the door.
  3. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans thoroughly and set aside.
  4. Remove the dough from the oven and place on a lightly floured countertop. Roll the dough into a large, thin rectangle. Using clean hands, spread the butter across the dough, leaving a small border around the edges, and then top evenly with the sugar mixture. Roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Cut into 12 or 16 even pieces and place in the reserved cake pans, cut side up. Cover and allow to double in size, approximately 1 hour.
  5. Bake the buns at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Top each pan with ¼ cup of the glaze and allow the buns to cool completely. Top with the remaining glaze before serving.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adventures in Brazilian Baking: Pão de Queijo


We were both excited about this challenge as it was a savory one, and I have fond memories of eating pão de queijo when I visited Brazil, however the finished product wasn't quite as good as expected. 


Fortunately we both had some tapioca flour on hand. Getting the other ingredients was easy. We used Monterey Jack cheese. Pictured above is TJ's homemade English dark mild ale, the first beer brewed in our new place.


As the recipe warned, the dough felt pretty weird. Sara tried some and said it tasted terrible, so of course I had to try some, too. And it tasted terrible. But I had faith that it would turn out OK.


Really strangely textured dough...


I'm pretty sure we baked our first batch of these guys for too long (25 minutes, pictured). They came out with really thick, hard shells and a somewhat bitter flavor, which the recipe warned us about. The inside, once you got to it, was OK, but they definitely weren't quite right.

We tried baking the next few batches for only about 15 minutes and they were much better. Sara never really warmed up to them. I thought they were OK, although unfortunately not as good as the Brazilian version I had in the past.


Luckily we had plenty of delicious food to see us through the evening: cheese, crackers, olives, kale salad, and, the pièce de résistance, marinated walleye from Lake Erie, which I caught last summer and froze and had been saving for no real reason. For dessert: freshly homemade frozen yogurt with caramel sauce, dark chocolate-sea salt sauce, and fresh strawberries.

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!" taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

--
TRADITIONAL PÃO DE QUEIJO
Preparation time:
About 30 minutes to prepare the dough, maybe 10 to 15 minutes for shaping and 20 to 25 minutes baking.

Equipment required:
  • Large Bowl
  • Sauce pan
  • Baking sheets/pans
Servings: About 80 small balls

Ingredients:
  • 500 gm (4 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • 2-3/4 tablespoons (40 ml) (1½ oz) (40 gm) butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
  • 3 cups (750 ml) (9 oz) (250gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (or another cheese of your liking, or a mix of cheeses), coarsely grated
  • 1 to 3 large eggs
Directions:
  • Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
  • Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that's what it is supposed to be.
  • Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
  • Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
  • Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It's OK if it is slightly sticky.
  • You can find a link to a video of the process in “Additional Information” below.
  • Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking. I personally prefer the smaller ones.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don't over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.
  • NOTE: If your dough gets too soft and sticky to shape balls, you can always add a bit more tapioca starch or pop the dough into a piping bag and pipe the dough on a baking sheet.
  • Serve hot or warm. Brazilians love them with a cup of coffee! Yum...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

There's Cardamom in my Kulich!

Our task this month was to create an easter bread, particularly one associated with our cultural heritage. While I was sorely tempted to master one of the recipes where you actually bake an egg into your braided design:

Braided-Easter-Bread-Recipe
(source)

We opted for something that was a bit more traditional. My mom's family is Russian Orthodox, and growing up my mom recalls the tall, white cake associated with Easter time. With a little online research, I discovered a recipe for Kulich, along with this explanation from wikipedia:
Traditionally after the Easter service, the kulich, which has been put into a basket and decorated with colorful flowers, is blessed by the priest. Blessed kulich is eaten before breakfast each day. Any leftover kulich that is not blessed is eaten with Paskha for dessert.

Kulich is baked in tall, cylindrical tins (like coffee or fruit juice tins). When cooled, kulich is decorated with white icing (which slightly drizzles down the sides) and colorful flowers. Historically, is was often served with cheese paska bearing the symbol XB (from the traditional Easter greeting of Христос воскресе, "Christ is Risen").
So on the day before Easter, and the morning of our dear friends' (and frequent DB guests) wedding (!!), I set about preparing an easter feast, complete with these deviled eggs, this delicious spring lasagna, and the kulich.

It was an interesting recipe, relying on both yeast and egg whites for loft. The initial proofing smelled delicious and bubbled up nicely.



The dough came together well, but when we got to the stage of folding in the egg whites, I was a bit mystified. Imagine a springy and smooth bread dough. Then imaging trying to "fold-in" stiff beaten egg whites. Strange, right? But they eventually incoporated, and we set the dough to rise even further.

The recipe called for a kulich pan or a two-pound coffee tin, neither of which I had in my kitchen (sadly, Blue Bottle doesn't sell its artisan coffee in two pound tins...). So I improvised with a semi-cylindrical all metal sauce pan.

(The saucepan, while perhaps ingenious, also led to one of our first ever daring baker injuries. I hope Erica's finger is recovering nicely!)


 The resulting cake/bread wasn't quite a delicious as I anticipated based on the dough. The dough was moist and springy with a delicious aroma. The cake, however, was a bit on the dry side. Perhaps the sauce pan wasn't the best option after all (it may have also been a small mishap involving oven temperature).

 
The friends and family gathered for easter still took down a good portion of the dessert. As for the cultural aspect of it, my mom pointed out that my grandmother would have never included cardamom in her recipe - in fact, she probably just used white cake or bread mix (if she didn't get it from the church). Spices, nuts and dried fruit would have conflicted with the number of meats on the table...

The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.

Kulich

Dough:
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk, cooled to 110 degrees
  • 1 cup + 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange rind
 Glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-3 teaspoons warm water
  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, 1/4 cup sugar and milk, mixing until yeast and sugar have dissolved. Stir in 1 cup flour until well blended. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks. Add yeast-flour mixture from Step 1, stirring well. Add vanilla, cardamom, salt and enough of the 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough. Stir in raisins, almonds and orange rind.

  3. In a small bowl, beat 2 reserved egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the dough made in Step 2. Knead by machine or hand until a smooth and elastic dough forms, about 3-5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

  4. Coat a 2-pound coffee can or kulich pan with cooking spray. Punch down dough and knead a few times. Place it in the prpeared can, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until dough reaches the top of the can.

  5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 35 to 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

  6. While kulich is baking, prepare glaze by combining in a small bowl the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, almond extract and enough water to make a smooth, runny glaze.

  7. Remove kulich from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Unmold from can and cool on a wire rack. While still slightly warm, drizzle glaze over the top. To serve, cut off the crown and slice base into rounds. To keep any leftovers moist, replace the crown.
  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Renegade Baking

As we've alluded to before, Erica and I get somewhat frustrated when our Daring Bakers challenges contain little-to-no baking. Case in point this month? Our designated recipe was for nougat. While I'm sure it would have been delicious, we decided to stray a bit from the rules and bake something out of our long lists of baked goods to try.

Both Erica and I have been long-time fans of Heidi Swanson and her 101 Cookbooks blog (she lives here in SF, and though I've seen her out and about her four times, I've yet to have the courage to interrupt what she's been doing to say hello. But I'm pretty sure we'd be best of friends :-)). Given that spring is upon us, we decided to try her citrus-bay leaf pound cake, a combination that had us intrigued from the get go.

The recipe was quite simple - a basic pound cake with bay leaf butter and a citrus glaze. Erica started us out by soaking the bay leaves in melted butter, which smelled divine. Next we artfully arranged our bay leaves at the bottom of the pan.

The cake portion came together quickly -- whisking together the dry ingrediants, and then the wet (which included a fair amount of sour cream, interestingly enough).

The we blended those together, poured it over the arranged bay leaves -- careful not to disturb! -- and popped it into Erica's (new, no longer too hot too cold) oven.

We pulled the leaves out eventually (just like with soup, no one wants a mouthful of bay leaf while eating cake), leaving a delicate imprint.

The citrus glaze settled into the imprints. I wanted this to be more artful, but it just looked a bit random -- perhaps I'd do some additional pattern play if we make it again.

As you can see, the crumb on the cake was beautiful - moist, delicately flavored. It was delicious post dinner (thanks for the homemade pasta!), and in the morning with tea.


Forgive us DB folks! We'll follow the rules next time, so long as baking is involved!

The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins. [Yeah, we didn't do this...]

Bay Leaf Pound Cake

You can make this pound cake with whole wheat pastry flour as well. Just be extra mindful not to over bake. Also, as David suggests, substituting rose geranium or another (edible) scented leaf is a fine idea, just make sure the leaves are unsprayed. You can bake this in a 9-inch pan, or equivalent, I like to experiment with different pan shapes.
6 tablespoons / 3 ounces / 85 g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon butter, for piping
10 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 2/3 cups / 230g all-purpose flour
1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup / 125 g sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Orange Glaze:
1 cup / 140 g powdered sugar
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon orange liquor, such as Grand Mariner or Cointreau (optional)
Melt 6 tablespoons (85g) of butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 of the bay leaves. Let steep for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan (or equivalent). Dust with flour and tap out any excess. If possible, line the bottom with parchment paper (if the shape of your pan makes it impossible to line with parchment, skip the paper). If you have a flat-bottomed pan, dab one side of the remaining 7 bay leaves with a little bit of butter and place the leaves, evenly spaced, on the bottom of the prepared pan, buttered side down. Alternately, if your pan doesn't have a flat bottom, you can wait, and place the remaining bay leaves atop the batter just before placing in the oven (as shown above).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla until combined. If needed, barely rewarm the butter to liquify it and pluck out the bay leaves. Whisk the butter into the egg mixture.

With a spatula, gently stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture, just until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the leaves (alternately, top the cake with any remaining leaves). Put the remaining 1 tablespoon of softened butter into a plastic bag, snip off a corner, then draw a straight line of the butter down the center of the cake (alternately, a circle if your pan is round). Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It's better to slightly under bake, than over bake this cake.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and then tip out onto a cooling rack, remove leaves, and let cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange liquor (if using). Stir until smooth, then spread the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides and harden.

Makes one 9-inch cake.

Slightly adapted from David Lebovitz's beautiful new book, My Paris Kitchen.

Prep time: 60 min - Cook time: 50 min


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beautiful Bread


My partner in crime was lucky enough to spend most of this month on vacation in South America, so I took on this challenge alone. I'm glad I did because it was delicious -- and really pretty!


I chose to make a relatively simple cinnamon-sugar bread. The recipe reminded me a lot of a cross between challah and cinnamon buns. It involved four layers with butter and a cinnamon-sugar mixture spread in between, and then some fancy folding.


I put a twisted ball of the extra dough in the middle and brushed it with milk before baking. I glazed it with sweetened condensed milk when it was hot from the oven.


It rose beautifully in the oven and the finished project was gorgeous, not to mention both wonderful-smelling and -tasting. Several of my triangles came unfolded so if I were to make it again I would be sure to pinch them together a bit tighter.

After missing our January challenge and baking solo in February, I'm looking forward to baking with Sara again in March! In the meantime, thank you to my husband TJ for helping me take some pictures.

Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste? 

***

Cinnamon Sweet Bread

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the dough
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter, softened
1/4 cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1-3/4 oz) white sugar
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3-1/4 cups (780 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, approximately
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) cardamom, optional

Between the layers
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) (1/4 cup) (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cinnamon
1/2 cup (120 ml) (100 gm) (3-1/2 oz) sugar
For topping (before baking)
1/4 cup (60 ml) of milk
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) sugar

For drizzling (after baking)
1 can (400 gm) (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
Directions:
1. In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside
2. In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the optional cardamom.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough.
Note: This recipe requires between 3-1/4 and 3-1/2 cups of flour depending on the weather, humidity and the flour brand. Start with 3-1/4 cups and if you feel that the dough is too soft, add the extra 1/4 cup. [I had to add an additional 1/4 cup or so beyond this, or about 3-3/4 cups total.]
4. Place the dough in a bowl you have brushed with some oil and cover it with a wet cloth and leave it in a warm place to double

(If you are tight on time you can heat your oven to 390°F/200°C then turn it off and place your dough in a glass bowl and place it in the warm oven with the wet cloth covering the bowl)

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface

6. Divide the dough into 4 parts

7. Roll each part into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter

8. Brush the first layer with butter then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

9. Place the second layer on the first layer repeat the brushing and sprinkling and then do the same with the third layer.

10. Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.

11. Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles

12. Make cuts that go 2/3 of the way in the middle of each triangle. The cuts should not reach the base of the triangle nor the tip.

13. Take the tip of each triangle and insert it into the cut you made and pull it down through from the underside

14. Arrange the triangles on your baking sheet

15. Pinch the two angles at the base (long end) of the triangle together

Note: If you would like to add the little bread coil that you see in the center of the baked cinnamon bread, simply roll a piece of dough into a rope then form it into a little coil and place it in the center where the heads of the triangles meet

16. Brush the dough with milk

17. Allow to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to very hot 500°F/240°C/gas mark 9 (rack in the middle). (Go for the hottest your oven will do).

18. Bake for 5 minutes on very hot 460°F/240°C/gas mark 9, then lower the temperature to moderately hot 390°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake for 15-20 more minutes

Note: ovens do differ greatly, so the time may differ,what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown and the bread is baked all the way to the center. If the top of the bread is not golden brown by that time and you have a broiler (grill) in your oven. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a couple of minutes until the bread is golden brown on top. If on the other hand the top is getting too dark, consider lowering the oven temperature and covering the top of the bread with foil to stop it from over browning

19. Take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rick and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk while it is still warm.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Books and Whoopie

 
Erica and I are also part of a book club with some of our friends from law school (and some fantastic non-lawyers!). We try to meet once a month as well, and when our friends are lucky and the recipe isn't too complicated, we do daring bakers at the same time as our discussion. Whoopie pies made the cut, which was particularly good given hectic Decembers.

(Fun(?) fact - I don't think Erica and I have completed a December challenge since this awesomeness).

Whoopie pies are fantastically easy to make. It's a quick chocolate dough scooped out and baked. Apparently you can buy fancy molds to make your whoopie uniform and "cookie-cutter" so to speak, but who wants that? We opted for a more rustic creation:

Next came the filling. We contemplated the traditional marshmallow filling, but given that the the benevolent overlords at Whole Foods believe that marshmallow creme is from the artificial, GMO, too-much-sugar devils, we went with the vanilla recipe. We enjoyed the "cooling" process - using some edamame to bring it down to the right temperature.



Assembly was a breeze, which was great so we could continue our discussion of Eleanor and Park (a fantastic and sweet young adult novel - perfect for spending a day on the couch with a cup of tea). We had lots of extra filling, which was taken away by a book club member to make a cake -- Rachel, how did it turn out?


Word to the wise -- if you have any leftovers, these are divine straight from the freezer. Will and I traveled to Florida shortly after we made these, and they made for an excellent 10 pm treat when we got back from the airport.

Finally, given that it's the end of the year, I took a look through the archives to see what we did over the year. Award for best tasting: Chocolate Beet Cake (February). Award for prettiest (possibly ever): Prinsesstarta (March). Biggest fail (this one was easy): Sfogliatelle (November). Anyone else want to share their best or worst?

The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"

CLASSIC CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES
Servings: 8 large or 16 small whoopie pies

Ingredients
For the Whoopie Pies
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) butter
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) espresso coffee powder, optional
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4½ gm) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup (120 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (10 oz) (285 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) milk

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, espresso coffee powder (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating till smooth.
3) Add the cocoa, stirring to combine.
4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.
5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful (60 ml) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between the cakes; they'll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.
6) Bake the cakes in a preheated moderate oven for 15 to 16 minutes, till they're set and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.

OLD FASHIONED VANILLA FILLING
Servings: way more than you actually need to fill the whoopies

Ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) (225 gm) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (about 35%)
1 cup (2 sticks) (8 oz) (225 gm) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into ½-inch (15 mm) cubes
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool, at least 7 minutes. (You can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.) Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. You can’t overbeat this mixture. Just let it go until it’s nice and smooth.

Add the vanilla and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.