Sunday, July 27, 2014

Daring Bakers, July: Surprise Cakes



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!


Surprise! There really isn't anything to see here *sad face*.


I tried for the zebra-like patterning (as seen here), but I made the mistake of mixing two different batters, which meant two different batter weights, so they totally tried to combine. Plus, the root beer batter was lighter than I thought it would be, and the vanilla extract turned the vanilla ice cream batter darker than I thought it would, so ... heh heh? Tan!!!


The top view gives you an idea of what I was going for. It also illustrates why I wished I'd poured the batters in measuring cups with spouts instead of winging it and pouring them out of bowls--it was harder to control the pours' aims and amounts. The top pattern should have looked like a bullseye.


So problems aside, the cake tasted really good, and the outside formed a wonderful, delicious crust.

Because the root beer cake batter is a little more complicated than simply adding root beer to it, I can't really just make a batter, split it in half, pour a cup root beer in one half (it would destroy the batter), then vanilla extract in the other half. I might try other flavors where I could use a single batter and just flavor two halves of it differently.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Daring Bakers, June: Cinnamon Rolls



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!
I made cinnamon orange rolls topped with Swiss meringue cream cheese frosting.

I'd planned to fill the rolls with frangipane, but I was afraid all the almond cream would run out with the rolls on their sides, so I simplified. Swiss meringue isn't the usual cinnamon roll icing, but I had some left over and had some cream cheese I needed to use up, so I combined them and slathered the rolls with them. It worked out well!


The dough is made in the stand mixer. I'm always wary about making dough in my stand mixer because dough that's too hearty can easily burn its motor out, but this dough was luscious and soft the whole time. It took a bit longer to ball up before any official kneading could start, 15 minutes instead of 10, but results will vary. I ended up with about 3 cups of dough, and this photo shows the dough doubled (and then some because I left it a little too long).


Very soft dough on the sprayed counter.


Dough rolled out. Honestly, I use my hands a lot to shove it out and flat and used the pin to finish.


I forgot to photograph the dough sprinkled with the cinnamon sugar, but here it is rolled up. The dough is very soft, but I rolled it up quickly, ending seam-side down, and it wasn't a problem.


Sliced up. With such soft dough, slicing could be daunting because it really squishes down and I'm afraid it will deflate, but again, going quickly and just pressing straight down works out just fine.


The recipe directions place the rolls in a 9x13 baking dish, but I used two 9" cake pans instead.


I wanted to bake the rolls fresh the next morning, so I retarded proofing in the fridge over night. I took them out 3 hours before baking so they could proof to double the size.


Big!


Baked! I've had a few cinnamon rolls that weren't cooked all the way through, and the directions called for pulling the rolls when they reached a golden brown, and I wanted until the golden brown color reached into the rolls' crevices.


Tall!


One pan frosted, one pan unfrosted. I frosted the second pans later. True to Swiss meringue's form, it held its shape even after being spread on the warm buns, even with the cream cheese mixed in.


Oooh, lookit that swirly closeup!


And with schmear.


Mmmm, moist, fluffy rolls.

This recipe is delicious and easy--definitely a keeper.


Cinnamon Buns

(from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)
Makes 8-12 large or 12-16 smaller buns
Ingredients
6½ tablespoons (100 ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
5½ tablespoons (85 ml) (2¾ oz) (80 gm) shortening, unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated lemon zest
3½ cups (840 ml) (16 oz) (450 gm) unbleached bread (or all-purpose/plain) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (¼ oz) (6 gm) instant yeast (active dry worked as well)
1 1/8 – 1 ¼ cups (270-300 ml) whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) cinnamon sugar (6½ tablespoons (100ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar plus 1½ tablespoons (20 ml) (1/3 oz) (10 gm) ground cinnamon)
Directions:
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar, salt and shortening (though it is not difficult to do by hand, using a strong spoon).
  2. Add the egg and lemon extract to the creamed sugar and shortening and mix together until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, yeast and milk to the mixer and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form a ball.
  4. At this point, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes (if kneading by hand, you will probably need to do so for closer to 12 – 15 minutes). The dough will be silky and supple, but not overly sticky. You may need to add a touch of flour if your dough is too sticky – that is okay.
  5. Lightly oil a bowl, turn the kneaded dough out into it, turning to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  6. Allow the dough to rest (ferment) until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
  7. Once the dough has rested and risen, you are ready to shape the cinnamon buns. Prepare your a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  8. Spray your work surface lightly with cooking spray and turn the dough out onto the work surface.
  9. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, into a rectangle about 2/3 an inch (15 mm) thick, 14 inches (350 mm)wide and 12 inches (300 mm) long (for large buns) (or 18 inches (450 mm) wide by 9 inches (230 mm) long for smaller ones). You may need to sprinkle the dough and/or work surface with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. This is okay.
  10. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough.
  11. Starting with a long end, roll the dough, creating a spiral, into a log shape, making sure to end with the seam side down.
  12. Cut the dough into pieces approximately 1¾ inches (45 mm) thick (for large buns) (1¼ inch (30 mm) for smaller buns).
  13. Place buns approximately ½ inch (15 mm) apart on the prepared pan. They shouldn't be touching at this time.
  14. Allow the shaped buns to proof at room temperature for 75 – 90 minutes until they have nearly doubled in size. They will now be touching each other. If you are not planning on baking the buns the same day as you are preparing them, you can place them into the refrigerator after they are shaped (before this rise) for up to 2 days. If you do so, you will need to allow them to return to room temperature prior to baking, which means removing them from the refrigerator about 3 or 4 hours before baking.
  15. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 degrees at the end of this proofing time.
  16. Bake the buns for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown
  17. Allow the buns to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then drizzle with glaze (recipe below). Remove the buns from the pan to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.
White fondant glaze for cinnamon buns:
(also from The Bread Bakers' Apprentice)
Sift 4 cups (500 gm) (17½ oz) of confectioners' (icing) sugar into a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of lemon or orange extract and between 6 tablespoons to ½ cup (90 to 120 ml) warm milk, whisking well until all of the sugar is dissolved. (Add the smaller amount of milk first, whisking briskly, then add slowly until you have the consistency you want for drizzling over the buns.)

Notes:
You can replace the lemon extract/zest with the extract/flavoring of your choice. I usually use vanilla extract.
This dough is silky, smooth and so lovely to work with, and the resulting buns are light and so incredibly easy to eat. I have made these several times, with traditional cinnamon-sugar filling and also with a fruit compote for a fresh, summery treat. Delicious!

I used this Swiss meringue recipe from Serious Eats.

Ingredients
  • 165 grams egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 285 grams sugar
  • 453 grams butter, cold and pliable, cut into 1 inch pieces
Procedures
  1. Set a pot of water to simmer over high heat. In a mixer bowl from your stand mixer, combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Whisk vigorously for about 1 minute, until the egg whites are frothy and the solids are completely dissolved. Slowly add the sugar, a little at a time, whisking vigorously as you go. The mixture should turn light and grow in volume slightly.
  2. Once the water begins to simmer, set the mixer bowl containing the mixture over the pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture vigorously. Periodically remove the bowl from the pot to take the temperature of the mixture, then return it to the pot and continue to whisk. Repeat until the temperature reaches 140° Fahrenheit. Remove from heat.
  3. Carefully set the mixer bowl up on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the mixture on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes, until the meringue becomes very thick, shiny, and holds firm peaks. The mixture and bowl should feel cool. Add the butter a little at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions and scraping down the sides of the bowl. The mixture will look loose, but continue to whisk and it will firm up again. Once the mixture has reached the desired consistency, so it stands up on it's own, add the flavoring and whisk to combine. If coloring the buttercream, add gel color a little at a time and whisk well before adding more until you reach the desired color.
  4. The buttercream may be stored for 2 days, covered in the fridge (warning, it will absorb the odor of anything else around it). When ready to use, allow it to soften a bit at room temperature, then re-whip to desired consistency before use.
*****

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Daring Bakers, May: Pão de Queijo



This month's challenge was hosted by Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado!, a very talented Brazilian who this month brings us Pão de Queijo, which is a cheesy bread with a popover-like consistency--airy, chewy, and flavorful. They serve Pão de Queijo by the basketful at Brazilian steakhouses, and I enjoy it even more than the copious amounts of meat and the delicious vegetables they serve. As another bonus, these are gluten free and delicious!


This is what mine looked like. They're pretty pretty, aren't they, with the flecks of toasted cheddar jack in them?


Now let's take a closer look.








OHHHHH! Looks like my popovers were more like popunders. Or Flatovers. Flatunders, or underpoppers.


I think I went wrong with the batter. The original recipe makes 80 puffs, which is about a 6 waistline inches more than my Hun and I need, so I quartered it to make 20. Unfortunately, the original recipe calls for 1 to 3 eggs, depending on however many you "need" . . . to get it "right." I figured I'd just use one whole egg and be all right. The texture of the dough was similar to ambrosia.


I was supposed to have a dough thick enough to form into balls, and I was able to, though they were, er, loose, soft balls.


In the oven, they flattened out considerably, then kinda sorta started to lift back up.


Just not enough to become fully ballsy. They were more like cookies. Cheese cookies.


So they weren't as light and fluffy as they could've been, but they still had some decent air and chew--poppy enough! The next time, I'll probably stick to doing no less than half the recipe and make sure the recipe has a bit more meat to it--more meatball, less ambrosia, with no flattening at all after forming.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Daring Bakers, January: Bamkuchen (tree cake)



The January 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Francijn of "Koken in de Brouwerij". She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).


*doink!* Oops, lost a piece! The first slice often refuses to cooperate. I used toffee- and chocolate-coated almonds to decorate the cake.


So the beauty in bamkuchen is in the striations that form as you bake one thin layer of batter at a time on to the cake. I needed to brown my layers a bit more so you could actually see the beautiful striations that are part of the point. I guess my cake went through a single long epoch.


I might have overbeaten my egg whites. In fact, I know I did--it's why they're more foamy than smooth and shiny. I got way too excited when I saw the instructions to whip the egg whites until they were really stiff. That might account for why I didn't get much rise out of each layer, but it could be because every layer was super thin and spread over hot layers.


The first layer is the hardest because you're trying to spread the batter onto the greased parchment. Be firm. Be demanding! Show it who's boss. Use the finishing trowel that cement layers use to smooth out concrete. Or be like me--I used my fondant smoother.


It worked out! Don't worry about ridges or wrinkles--they bake out.


Here's the baked layer! It flattened out completely, but I should've browned it more.


So when you make your own bamkuchen, make sure the baked layer you're spreading your raw batter onto is a bit browner than that raw batter. Just plain ol' brown would be better. At this point, I was confused because the foam you so carefully beat into the eggs completely melts away in the heat.


OH NO!!! I really should've put parchment around the sides of the pan, but I'm cheap and lazy. Unfortunately, slicing the outsides of the cake off took much more time than just putting parchment around the sides.


*sigh* The bottom is a wee bit dark. Okay, it's also black. It could've been worse, but I at least put parchment on the bottom of the spring form.


So it took less than 2 hours to bake the cake and about 3 hours to fix it. HA!


When you pour your glaze on, just go with gusto--pour it on quickly, gently push it over the side so you have some luxurious drips you can spread around the cake's sides, and move quickly, but carefully.


*doink*! Ha--that still makes me chuckle.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Daring Bakers, December: Whoopie Pies

This post is dedicated to Lis of La Mia Cucina, co-founder of the Daring Bakers, who passed away in November. She was a lovely and loving person, and I wish I'd gotten to know her better since I met her online in 2007 after I joined the Daring Bakers.



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!"

Mmmm. For the longest time, whoopie pies were one of those desserts I coveted. There were plenty of recipes out there, but I wanted to know what I was aiming for before attempting them. Over the years, I tried dry, hump-shaped whoopie pies that were too big to fit in my mouth; Crisco-fllled, oversweet whoopie pies; cookie-crisp, warm-cream-cheese filled whoopie pies--all sorts of things I didn't want in my mouth. Then, I found more and more bakeries turning out delicious pies with moist, thinner cakes and creamy, delicious filling of all flavors. This DB challenge came along just as I knew what kind of whoopie pie was my personal favorite.


I made chocolate whoopie pies with white chocolate peanut butter filling and with regular vanilla filling to give to my friend for his birthday.


The batter--I wanted flatter cakes, so I reduced the flour, using the chocolate whoopie pie recipe that Bourbonnatrix posted and using only 2 cups of flour.


I didn't worry about the ridges with my altered recipe because I was sure they would melt away.


I was right! They came out exactly how I wanted, and they were deliciously moist and tender.


Go, my little soldiers! My minions!!


And they were delicious! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Notes:
For the white chocolate peanut butter filling, I used White Chocolate Wonderful from my favorite peanut butter company, Peanut Butter & Co. I just replaced half the shortening with peanut butter and used half the powdered sugar, then omitted the vanilla and salt.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Daring Bakers October: Savory Pot Pie--Mushroom and Veggie



Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

I decided to make a mushroom and veggie pot pie.
Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
Although I had other names I called this pie while making and cutting it to serve.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
I hated the dough.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
It wasn't so liquid that I could just pour it in and swish it into place.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
But I took comfort in the totally tasty filling.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
The filling filled the scary bottom crust.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
I used as much flour as I could to roll out the top crust without making it look like a sticky, tacky mess, but it still came out looking like Freddy Kreuger pie.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
I was afraid the crust would totally deteriorate and drip off the top and over the sides, but it set up and stayed right where it was supposed to.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
My puddle pie did set up after I let it cool a bit more, but even after cooling awhile, its filling still flooded out a bit when I started taking out slices.

Daring Bakers October: Double-crusted savory pot pie
When all was said and done, deflated pie wasn't bad at all. The filling was tasty, but the crust was a pleasant surprise. I was afraid ti would be tough, but it was flaky and tender.

Notes:
A cup of water to a pie crust recipe using 3 1/2 cups of flour is way too much! I should've used just over half a cup, but I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. Normally, I add the minimum amount of water called for and add more only if the dough doesn't come together. This recipe just called for a full cup of water.

Because the dough was so sticky, I kept it cold, and because it was so soft, it rolled out even though it was cold. I rolled it out between plastic, which made it easier to transfer to the pie plate. With typical pie dough, I don't have to flour the dough before laying plastic on it, but with this sticky stuff, I floured it because it stuck to the plastic. Awesome. *sigh*

For my filling, I used the pot pie recipe, but replaced 2 of the 3 cups of chicken with mushrooms and added an additional cup of vegetables.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches



Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

I've made different tres leches cake recipes before, but I think this is my favorite. The warm milk mixture soaked in really well, and cooking it allowed me to bring a caramelized flavor to the milk. I usually see tres leches cake layered and/or decorated with strawberries, but while blueberries are in season, they're my berry of choice. Plus, blueberries and cream cake just sounded awesome.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
I overwhipped the whipped cream, not quite into butter, but it looks like ricotta. Which still doesn't sound bad, since sweetened ricotta is still fantastic in its own right--cannoli cake, anyone??

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
Mmm, looks like moist.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
I don't have a tall cake pan, so I just baked two short cakes in the two pans I have.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
The tres leches mixture. I didn't keep stirring, so some of the milk solids caramelized a little, but they tasted really good. If they'd tasted burnt, I wouldn't tossed the whole mixture out.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
Soaking the cakes.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
I layered the whipped cream and blueberries onto the top layer.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
Then slipped the soaked bottom layer out of the cake pan, took a deep breath, and ...

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
Flipped it onto the top layer. I removed the plastic wrap from the bottom layer.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
Put my cake plate onto the bottom layer.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
And carefully did another flip-dee-doo.

Daring Bakers September: Pastel de Tres Leches
And that's how I went about the daunting and seemingly intimidating task of building a layered tres leches cake. It worked with this recipe, but I wouldn't try it with a recipe where you soak the cake totally in milk mixture until it's just a soggy lump. Then you'd have like a trifle mush or something.

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