Monday, May 16, 2011

Blogging Break

Hello Sweet Friends,
I am taking a blogging holiday so to speak.  I won't be posting for a few weeks while I take time off to refresh .  I leave you with a thought from this week end's Creative Live Workshop with Penny De Los Santos. She was wrapping up the workshop and said, "If you aren't doing what you love, why not "

Monday, May 9, 2011

White Velvet Butter Cupcakes with Golden Neoclassic Buttercream-Heavenly Cake Baker

It's Monday and J and I are on our way back from the Oregon Coast.  We discovered a new campground-Nehalem Bay-just south of Manzanita. This is how it's described in the park's brochure :

Imagine waking up to the song of the seagull, spending your afternoon on a kayak trip around Nehalem Bay, then taking a short walk over the dunes to the beach. There you'll sit with a blanket and watch the sun set over the ocean in the shadow of Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain. Finally, snuggle down for the night while the ocean waves sing you a lullaby. This is Nehalem Bay State Park.

 Although I suspect that when this place fills up in the summer it may be the campers next door singing you a lullaby.  Huge surprise-it rained ! It was still lovely,all snuggled in the trailer with the sound of the rain on the roof.  And don't forget jumping puddles while running to the showers. . Did you like how I matter of factly mentioned "campground" ? Yes, I camp -there I said it !  I have friends who think camping means they stay in a standard room instead of a deluxe room at the Fairmont .  And no, I don't mean the crawl into a tent type of camping (gave that up on a very rainy morning in Wells Grey Park in Canada many years ago), or the luxury liner 45ft long RV type of camping.  We have a little pop up trailer with most of the comforts of home; comfortable bed,  dining table for two; a Hansel & Gretal type stove and sink-tiny, tiny; and most important-a mini propane furnace. If the temperature drops we don't have to climb into sleeping bags rated for minus 40 F !  And my sister will appreciate this-you don't have to duct tape everything to keep the rain out.  The only thing it lacks is a refrigerator (we use a cooler) and an oven-I'm a baker I need an oven.  Maybe someday I'll add one of those nice portable convection ovens .

If I had an oven I could have baked these cupcakes from the beach. Not !  J and I have some rules . For me: no baking at the beach, just beach combing and relaxing. For him : no fly tying (he's a fly fisherman) , maybe just reading about fly tying .  So since I couldn't bake these on the beach I baked them at home shortly after the "Interesting" episode with the tomato soup cupcakes.  Wow, what a difference a cupcake makes. These are light and airy, almost like a cross between a sponge and chiffon cake-definitely a keeper in the white cupcake category.  And the recipe for these is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Rose's Heavenly Cakes".  You see I've joined another baking group: Heavenly Cake Bakers.  Why you ask ?  First of all because I happen to love Rose Levy Beranbaum, THE Diva of Desserts as she has been called !  And her most recent book Rose's Heavenly Cakes is hard to resist when you are roaming the bookstore aisles.

Rose's Heavenly Cakes
Buy me
You start flipping through and you see all those beautiful cakes, and before you know it that book has mysteriously (what ? no honey I didn't buy that it followed me home !) shown up on your kitchen book shelf. Back in the late 80's I fell in love with her Cake Bible and quickly moved onto Rose's  Christmas Cookies-it's been my Christmas Cookie book for as long as I can remember.

 And the butter cream is lovely-just the perfect sweetness from the use of  Lyle's Golden Syrup.  I didn't add any of Rose's suggested variations, instead, before icing the cupcakes I poked a few holes in the cupcakes and spread on some homemade caramel.  I did make a few without the caramel to get a feel for the taste of the cupcake along with the Golden Butter cream-yum yum yum. The butter cream is another keeper.  Some butter creams tend to coat the roof of your mouth long after you took the first bite , this one doesn't-now I can't wait to try the variation with chocolate.

I'm not at all surprised by my results and the taste of these cupcakes.  With Rose you trust that if you follow her detailed instructions and tips you will be doing your little baker's elation dance around your kitchen when you remove the cake from the oven.  She's like that best friend you can always listen to and who always gives you the best advice. Head over to Heavenly Cake Bakers and see what everyone else thought about these cupcakes . 

And next time you are shopping at Amazon or wandering through your favorite bookstore

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting,-Baked Sunday Mornings

I know what you are thinking-Tomato Soup Cupcakes-what ?  Right up there with avocado cheesecake (which by the way if made properly is pretty darn good ) .  I know I was thinking the same thing-I like my tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese and a big kosher pickle.  Not topped with creamy mascarpone frosting.

But I was surprised-it reminded me of a cross between a mild mannered spice cake and pumpkin cake with a slightly acidic bite to it. Interesting.  That's what we say when we don't hate it but we don't love it either. Interesting.  The batter made beautiful cakes, nice and light with great crumb.  And they rose like , well like round tomatoes. I'm not a huge proponent of the use of food coloring but it might be fun to play around with  red food coloring and get these cupcakes  closer to the color of tomatoes instead of pumpkins.

 The frosting is a little on the sweet side,not the cheek sucking teeth numbing sweet, just slightly sweet.  I was looking forward to the mascarpone frosting but the taste got eaten up by the powdered sugar-too bad because mascarpone is one of my favorite tastes, so rich, so creamy. 

I think I'll play with the frosting in the future and cut back on the butter and increase the mascarpone and see what happens. A sour cream frosting would probably go well with these. Oh well C'est la vie, at least they look pretty and they taste, well,interesting. Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings  for the recipe and see what everyone else thought of these and how they turned out.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Seattle Bakesale for the South at Cakespy Shop

Hey Seattle don't miss the chance to support a great cause.  The Seattle Bakesale for the South.  And if you want to volunteer as a baker click here.  I will be watching for you  May 14, 11 am til ? at CakeSpy Shop, 415 E. Pine Street (near Summit), Seattle WA 98122.

I'm thinking of making Pecan Pie Bars, maybe some Red Velvet Cupcakes, what would you bake ? Maybe some delicious berry fried pies ?  Or a huge coconut cream cake ?  What do you think ?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kouign Amann - Part 2

Joe Pastry rocks !  Remember yesterday I tried David Lebovitz's recipe for Kouign Amann ?  It came out like the buttery cake I thought it would.  But it didn't come out like the Kouign Amann that I remembered from La Reve Bakery. Joe Pastry's recipe did.  It was light and airy and crisp and caramelized with those beautiful puff pastry layers as I peeled it apart to eat it .

Isn't it amazing how you can get 2 completely different results for the same pastry ?   Just a warning, if you use the recipe from Joe Pastry it makes a ton of dough-which is never a bad thing-just preparing you-it can be frozen or you can do what I did.  Bake it all !  Bon Appetit.

Click here for Joe Pastry's recipe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kouign Amann

I tasted Kouign Amann (queen a-mahn) for the very first time a few weeks ago at a wonderful bakery on Queen Anne called La Reve.  I had read rave reviews about the croissants and pain au chocolat but the crisp caramelized looking pastry in the corner of the case caught my eye.  I pointed to it,because I wasn't sure how to pronounce it and Sharon, one of the owners sweetly informed me of it's pronunciation: queen a-mahn. All I can say is long live the Queen !  As soon as I got home home I Googled the Internet for a recipe and the first one I ran across was Pierre Herme's. I thought well the King of Pastry baking the Queen-it must be magic.  Unfortunately some of the reviews of his recipe said it came out like a stale dry sticky bun-not the way I wanted to start my  Kouign Amann experience. So I put Pierre on the back burner and I continued to search.  I came across David Lebovitz's recipe.

 I trust David, the way you trust a good friend not to steer you wrong. And bonus, he has lots of photos to walk you through the process and wonderful tips to keep you from making any mistakes. Even reading the 100+ comments on his Kouign Amann I knew I was in for challenge.  The underlying message throughout the comments was follow the steps exactly and you will succeed. It became my mantra for baking my Kouign Amann.The descriptions by others and their photos linked to David's blog encouraged me -I could taste the crisp sugary caramel pastry already and I was only setting up my mise en place. I encourage you try this-even if you don't think you can do butter pastry-you can and you must.  And trust David like you trust your best friend-follow his recipe and instructions and Voila !  The most beautiful,incredible tasting Kouign Amann created and baked in your kitchen. 

The bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan

It's butter and sugar and caramel oh my.  Really, I don't exaggerate try it you will become addicted-I promise. Mine turned out more like it's namesake -butter cake - than a laminated sugared pastry- I think it's from layering in the butter with the sugar.  If you Google images of this cake you will see all types ranging from something that looks like a croissant with sugar to my flattened little circle of sweet caramel cake loaded with butter.

 The one at La Reve was more like a croissant (check out the Cakespy photo and you'll see what I mean). So I'm now going to try Joe Pastry's Recipe-he keeps his butter separate from the sugar when laminating his dough. And just like David he gives you wonderful instructions !  Stay tuned for tomorrow's results using Joe Pastry's recipe and instructions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New York Crumb Cake-Baked Sunday Mornings

This was an easy uncomplicated recipe and it produced one of my favorite types of cakes-the morning coffee cake.  It also produced a beautiful batter-one I couldn't quit tasting.  I ended up adding a tablespoon of vanilla bean powder to my recipe-just because I love vanilla !  Baked Explorations  recommends making "large" crumbs for the crumb style topping.  I started out large and ended up crumbling the topping into more manageable pieces .  While I love that cinnamon sugar style crumb topping I love the cake even more and that's what I wanted to taste. 

I recently broke my glass 9x13 pan so I did bake this in a metal pan.  I didn't want my sides to crispy so I lined my pan with parchment paper, which made it really easy to remove once it was finished.  I had thought of making this like little individual cakes but then figured I liked the thought of a large coffee cake better.  I think this would have worked beautifully in a bundt type pan too.

My kitchen smelled like I remember my grandmother's kitchen smelling when I was growing up.  That cinnamon cake smell wafted throughout all the rooms.  It was very hard letting this cake cool, I just wanted to slice right into it. And as soon as J got home from work he asked what that wonderful smell was.

We both really enjoyed this.  It was a great way to spend the morning.  Sitting in this wonderful Seattle sunshine, a good cup of espresso and a fresh slice of cake.  Life doesn't get much better, does it ?

Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings and see how everyone else did with this cake. I'm going to have another slice with a cold glass of milk as a late night snack !

Friday, April 22, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Creme Cheese Frosting

Easter is just a few days away and thinking of it reminds me of all the Easter baskets we had as kids,overflowing with chocolate bunnys, pink and yellow marshmallow peeps, foiled wrapped chocolate eggs, jelly beans and chocolate malted balls that looked like robin eggs.  It's no wonder I have struggled with weight issues all my life-I blame it on the Easter Bunny ! I think it's because of all the chocolate overload during my childhood Easters that I tend to not care for chocolate as Easter. I know you must be horrifed by that statement because you know how much I love and am addicted to chocolate.  But it's only at Easter time that this aversion kicks in. 

So I was thinking what could I make J for Easter that was sweet, but not chocolate.  I kept thinking of those bunnys and those thoughts led to : carrots. I mean it's what real bunnys like right ? 

This has to be the very best carrot cake recipe I have ever tried.  Carrot cake is funny-it seems to have 2 camps, love it or hate it.  Folks who hate it tend to dislike the shredded carrot thing and raisins-too bad. Although I did make my cupcakes without the raisins (only because I didn't plan ahead and thought I had some in my pantry).  This recipe creates a moist, slightly spicy and nutty version and will be THE carrot cake recipe for me.  The Maple Cream Cheese Frosting is perfect.

 Not that cloyingly sweet topping that people tend to use to mask the fact they are serving veggies in a cake !  This has a hint of maple syrup and just enough powdered sugar to take the edge off the tartness of the cream cheese. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen for sharing this crazy incredible recipe with everyone.  And if you haven't visited the Smitten Kitchen blog stop by -it's bloggerwonderful.

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Carrot Trim
Smitten Kitchen Carrot Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional-I did add the walnuts-they gave a great crunch to the cake)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour the molds.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

Candied Carrot Ribbon Trim
1 large carrot, peeled
2 cup(s) sugar

For ribbons: Using a vegetable peeler, shave carrot into long ribbons.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring 1 cup water and the  sugar to a boil until sugar dissolves. Add carrot ribbons and simmer until translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let ribbons steep in syrup for 30 minutes more. With a fork, transfer ribbons to a wire rack placed over parchment and let drain.

Before I transferred these to parchment paper I put on my food gloves and pulled each ribbon gently between two fingers to squeeze off the excess simple syrup.

After I let the carrot ribbons set for  30 minutes, I took each carrot ribbon and rolled it tightly like a little cigar and then pressed it gently into the center of the iced cupcakes. Voila !

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bread-No Knead with Fantastic Results

I'm a fan of the bakery book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day so when I spotted Jim Lahey's book My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No Knead Method  I figured I had everything I needed in the 5 minute bread book and shouldn't buy Jim Lahey's book because it would just duplicate what I already had.  But I was drawn to the beautiful bread on it's cover.

I thumbed through the book and found myself looking for a place to sit down so I could read a little bit of the recipes.  But I kept returning to the cover.  Could I bake a bread that looked so beautiful and crusty ?  Could I bake a bread that would sing in my kitchen ?  Could I bake a bread that had such a beautiful interior it could almost bring you to tears ?  Could I bake a bread that tasted better than bread I had tasted in Paris ?  A resounding YES to all of those questions !  You know I tend to get very enthusiastic about things I love, especially in the Culinary Arts . Don't let that enthusiasm stop you from buying this book or Googling one of Jim Lahey's recipes on the Internet.  I have baked bread before and I love baking bread.  During my short stint at pastry school it was my favorite part of the day-Bread.  Chef Harris instilled a bread passion in  me, I loved the flour and the mixing and the fermenting and the aromas that surrounded me.  And texture-from the sticky and wet poolish to the smooth elastic dough slapping around on the inside of the mixer.  It's laziness that has stopped me from baking more of my own homemade bread. That coupled with that fact that just 6 blocks away I can find some of the most delicious baguettes and bread this side of Paris at Bakery Nouveau. I've chosen to spend most of my baking time concentrating on desserts and all things chocolate. But no more.

 With Jim Lahey's book I will be baking bread daily.  The recipe really is no work, no knead and produces the gorgeous bread we all love.  I could barely wait for it to cool last night.  But I did and when I sliced through that crunchy caramelized crust I knew I was in for bread ecstasy.  There are no words to describe it-the crunchy crust, the slightly fermented aroma and flavor of the bread, the beautiful texture, the butter melting into the little holes-heaven or pretty close to it. I'm off to mix up some more batter-it really is so simple-ingredients into container-ferment (about 16-18hrs), turn out onto to towel and shape into round form, cover and let rise (about 2hrs), place into a ceramic or cast iron pot ,cover and bake. No kneading, so you don't get the chance to overwork the dough.

 All it requires is patience and good scheduling for the fermenting and rising. Take the time, you will be rewarded, trust me. Until you buy the book for the rest of his incredible recipes, you can find the recipe for the No Knead Bread here published by Mark Bittman, The Minimalist,  in the New York Times. Bon Appetit.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sugar and Spice Brioche Buns and the Song of a Bird

Pin It
I woke up Sunday morning to the sound of a bird singing just outside the bedroom window.  It gave me a sense of calm and brought back a flood of memories.  Every time I hear a solo bird singing I think of my dad.  Many years ago on the day of his funeral,  I woke up in his home in Tampa, and heard such a  beautiful song from a bird out on his dock.  I don't remember the type of bird it was, I just remember I felt it was singing to me.  Singing to me to be joyful that my dad was no longer in any pain, that he had gone on to a place where he would find calm and happiness.  I always felt like it was my dad's way of telling me everything would be all right.  And to this day I get that same feeling from the early morning song of the bird. 

My life is in flux right now and maybe I was looking for a sign.  J has been reassuring me that I always rise to the occasion with new challenges and this one would be no different.  But you know how you just have to have that one little message or that one little sign that says it really is going to be all right-and I got that Sunday morning-thank you Dad.  I can see you tilting your head that way that you did and making that funny tsk sound and smiling, putting your arms around me and making me feel that I could do anything I wanted.  It's truly amazing what that little bird did for me this morning. And I'm so grateful to have such a sweet memory of my dad.

I had this brioche dough fermenting in the refrigerator from earlier this week.  I had planned on just making plain brioche but after that beautiful morning wake up I knew I wanted something sweet and special.  I recently bought Joanne Chang's ""Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe cookbook (yes another one to add to my collection -is there a cookbook's anonymous program for us cookbooks addicts ? ) . There are so many delectable recipes -it's a  beautiful cookbook and she has these wonderful little stories about her history as pastry chef along with informative baking tips-buy it ,you'll love it if  you bake a great deal. I wished I lived in Boston so I could take her classes - maybe some day I'll make the trip .

Anyway in her cookbook is a recipe for Sugar and Spice Brioche Buns.  Can I tell you how addictive these are ?  First of all the smell of the brioche baking will knock you out.  I ran some things out to the compost bin while they were baking and when I opened the door and came back into the kitchen-wow-I thought I had just walked into a bakery in Paris-I wish I could bottle that smell.  And the sugar spice mixture-cinnamon,ginger,nutmeg and cloves oh my !  That's a nice little mix that I plan on keeping on hand for beignets and doughnuts. If you don't finish these off the first day fresh from the oven-just pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds to freshen and they return back to that wonderful soft buttery brioche with the sugar and spice topping. Buy Chef Chang's book or visit Dessert First for the recipe. Bon Appetit.