Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake

May 26, 2015 at 7:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 17 Comments
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rhubarb upside-down brown sugar cake

I look forward to rhubarb in the spring just as much as I look forward to all the berries and stone fruit that will come our way in the summer.  It is one of my favorite things to bake with, so a Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake?  Yes, please!

This is, my opinion, better (and prettier) than the last rhubarb upside-down cake I made here.  The brown sugar in this BCM recipe is in the cake rather than in the fruit topping, which uses regular sugar that I guess you can caramelize to your desired shade of darkness.  I left mine pretty light, so it more or less just glazed the fruit and kept it from getting too brown.  My rhubarb stalks were more green than red, and I didn’t want to make my cake topping look too murky…I didn’t bother to string the stalks during prep either so I could keep whatever bits of red they did have.

The brown sugar cake is really soft and not to sweet.  The whole thing together hits the perfect sweet-tart balance…sometimes rhubarb desserts can be too sweet, and I like to be reminded of its snappiness!  Before making the rhubarb topping for the cake, Dorie has you macerate the cut pieces in some sugar for a bit.  This draws out some liquid from the rhubarb, which I suppose keeps the topping from being too wet when the cake bakes up.  Dorie says you can save that sugary rhubarb juice for homemade sodas, but I reduced it until it thickened a bit and then used it as my glaze (rather than jelly) to give the topping extra shine.

rhubarb upside-down brown sugar cake

Upside-down cake makes a great dessert with vanilla ice cream, and also a fabulous morning coffee cake with yogurt and some berries.  For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Cardinal Slice

May 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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cardinal slice

Markus Farbinger’s take on Cardinal Slice is the first I’d heard of this cake.  Where have I been?  On the wrong side of the Atlantic, I guess.  It’s called kardinalschnitte in Austria, where it’s a classic (and apparently ubiquitous— ha!) Viennese pastry.  Well, I didn’t need first-hand experience to know that I’d like to sink a fork into a cake made of ladyfingers and meringues sandwiched with coffee whipped cream.  If I could successfully pull it off, that is.

When was poking around the interwebs for info on the Cardinal Slice, I came across Joe Pastry’s detailed posts on the subject.  Seems that in order to recreate a classic version, he started off with the BWJ one and then scrapped it for another because he couldn’t make it work.  Oh no– not promising!  The cake layers are alternating strips of meringue and ladyfinger batters baked side-by-side…two things that require very different baking times and temperatures.  The BWJ recipe bakes for a long time at a low temp, which cooks the meringue, but makes getting a puffed up ladyfinger tricky (I can only assume that Chef Markus has made this so many times in life that he just has the touch).  I didn’t want to abandon the BWJ recipe entirely here, so I decided to follow the BWJ ingredients and mixing techniques with the baking temperatures Joe Pastry recommends (essentially to start out in a hotter oven and then reduce the temperature halfway through).  I don’t think that my cake layers came out as poofy as either Markus’s or Joe’s, but my mixed up method seemed to work out OK.

The whipped cream filling is flavored with an intense syrup made from caramelized sugar and espresso called a couleur.  This syrup reminds me a lot of a French coffee extract called Trablit that we use to flavor buttercream at the restaurant.  It tastes so much better than instant espresso, but it’s pretty pricey and not so readily available for home use…I’m pleased to know I can make a very similar thing for the price of two shots of espresso from the coffee shop down the block.  I have plenty extra for my future coffee buttercream or whipped cream needs…or perhaps my coffee milk or milk shake needs…

The Cardinal Slice has a bit of a tiramsu thing going on with the flavors, but since the filling’s all cream with no yolks or mascarpone, it feels a lot lighter.  Like any other type of icebox cake, the cake layers soften further as the cream absorbs into them, and this needs about an hour’s rest before cutting into it.  I’d say the recipe instructions to eat the cake within four hours of assembly are probably ideal, although we did have a hunk left over that we ate the next day.  It was very smooshy at that point, but still tasty.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s a a video here of Chef Markus making the cake). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Nutella Buttons (and Concord Grape-Peanut Butter Buttons)

May 12, 2015 at 6:57 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, cupcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 15 Comments
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nutella and PB-grape buttons

These adorable little two-bite Nutella Buttons (i.e., mini cupcakes) have a surprise hiding inside.  If you guessed a pocket of Nutella, you win!  And if you aren’t a fan of Nutella, or if you just feel like getting creative, it’s pretty easy to come up with other ideas for the hidden surprise.  Jam, peanut butter, ganche, flavored ganache, cookie butter….they’d all be good things to find in the middle of this yellow cake batter.  I did a mix– some filled were with Nutella and others were filled with concord grape jam that I made back in the fall.

I made half a recipe of the cake batter and just did it, whipped egg whites and all, by hand.  I used the optional almond extract, so the little cakes had a kind of marzipany taste to go along with their springy texture.  I split the batter up evenly between the Nutellas and the grape jams.  My buttons didn’t brown on top while baking, but they were done a minute or so early.

I topped my Nutella ones with a little of the milk chocolate ganache I have left from the super-delish Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake I made last week.  (That reminds me, have you entered my Icebox Cakes BOOK GIVEAWAY yet??  If not, get on it!)  Then I wanted a little flair on top, but didn’t have any hazelnuts in my fridge nut drawer.  I did, however, have a single Ferrero Rocher candy, so I chopped up the crispy outside coating part (I scooped out and ate the center…mmm) and decorated with that.   The grape jam ones got dunked into a white chocolate and peanut butter glaze and sprinkled with some salty peanut bits on top.

Too cute, especially when you find a smile inside!

nutella and PB-grape buttons

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

May 9, 2015 at 8:39 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, puddings & custards, sweet things | 25 Comments
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black-and-white malted icebox cake

Now that the days are getting warm– maybe even borderline hot– wouldn’t it be nice to just reach in the fridge and pull out a cool, creamy dessert that practically made itself?  That exists…it’s called an icebox cake!  At its most simple and familiar, an icebox cake is just store-bought wafer cookies and sweet whipped cream, stacked in alternating layers and left to meld in the refrigerator (or icebox– my dad actually calls it that, by the way) for several hours.  The cookies absorb moisture from the cream and soften during the rest, and what you get afterward is a rich, creamy dessert that falls somewhere between pudding and cake.

You can imagine that you can take this basic, yet brilliant, idea in a lot of interesting and delicious directions…like my friend and former co-worker Jessie Sheehan, who, along with her co-author Jean Sagendorph, just published a super-fun (and super pretty) new cookbook called Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town.  They have the basic “old school” covered, of course, and recipes for 24 other awesome-sounding icebox cakes.  Espresso-chip– hello!  Chai-ginger– whaat?  And OMG– a black-and-white malted.  That’s the first one I decided to try.

You need four main components for this malt shop-inspired treat:  whipped cream flavored with malt powder (super easy), milk chocolate ganache (super easy), vanilla wafer cookies (not hard to make yourself, but super easy if you choose to buy them instead) and time (the hardest part!).  Oh, and some chopped malt balls scattered over top will make it extra pretty– let’s not forget that!   You just alternate layers of the cream, cookies and ganache in a springform pan and you’re ready to refrigerate.  If you’ve used store-bought cookies, you can get away with just 5-8 hour chill, but if you’ve made your own cookies, you’ll need a full 24 hours in the fridge for them to properly soften.  You can see I took a little artistic liberty and divided the components into individual-sized mini icebox cakes instead of a full 9″ springform.

Go find the full recipe for the Black-and-White Malted Icebox Cake on Jessie’s blog…and know that you can use shop-bought vanilla wafers (like Nabisco or Keebler) if you don’t have the desire or time to make your own.  It’s rich, creamy, malty, sticky and delicious, and when you see this black-and-white zebra striped beauty waiting for you on the icebox shelf, you’ll be very happy you put it together the night before.  Jessie says it’s a crowd-pleaser, and I can’t argue with that.

I’m so excited about Icebox Cakes: Recipes for the Coolest Cakes in Town that I want to send a copy to one of you!  A signed copy at that!  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 5:00 pm EST on Friday, May 15 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.

***Giveaway Winner Update: I have two copies to giveaway, actually!  I used random.org to generate two random comment numbers to find the winners. Congratulations to Maureen and franklyentertaining!  I’ll be in touch soon.***

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Coconut Tapioca

April 28, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Posted in BCM, groups, puddings & custards, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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coconut tapioca

This week’s recipe will probably evoke some strong feelings…feelings of dislike, that is.  Tapicoa is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (or pudding).  I don’t really even know why I like it, since it’s certainly not something I grew up eating, and I’ve never make it at home until now.  But I think the gummy little bubbles are fun to eat and I was looking forward to making this Coconut Tapioca recipe.

This is a simple recipe but it wasn’t problem-free for me.  First, I mistakenly bought small pearl tapioca, rather than the large pearl called for in the instructions…this is because often I shop first and then read directions.  I used Dorie’s ingredients and method, but tried to cover my goof by following the soaking and cooking time instructions on my package (which are waaay less for small pearl than for large).  The first day the tapioca was a nice creamy consistency, but after a night in the fridge, it was pretty much a solid glob.  I didn’t want to toss it so I folded through some softly whipped cream to lighten it up.  It was much better that way, but If I make this again with small pearl tapioca (and I probably will since I have a ton left in the bag), I’ll either cook it with some extra liquid added or I’ll incorporate egg yolk like other “true” custard recipes I’ve seen.

Despite the snags, I had a good time playing around with toppings for my tapioca. In the picture above, I sprinkled on a little brown coconut sugar and added mandarin slices.  The next day, I used chocolate sauce, toasted almonds and coconut flakes.  Berries or tropical fruit would also be natural combos with this.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Limoncello Cupcakes

April 14, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Posted in BCM, cupcakes, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 21 Comments
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limoncello cupcakes

Cupcakes…it’s been a while.  They don’t get the same love that they used to, but I still like them.  I especially like them when there’s booze involved, and here it’s limoncello, the sweet Italian after dinner drink.  This one was missing from my little digestivo collection, but now I have a bottle of limoncello hanging out in the freezer for whenever I might want it!

The cupcake batter is simple to make.  It gets it’s moisture from yogurt and oil, so there’s no pesky creaming involved and it comes together in a flash by hand.  There’s a little dollop of marmalade hidden in the center of each cupcake, but if you have some lemon curd, I bet it would be good, too.  As I was making the batter and scooping the cupcakes, I realized that it’s pretty much the same deal as another Dorie cake– her yogurt loaf cake with marmalade glaze— that I’ve made several times before, just tweaked into a different form and with a bit of limoncello added.  The cupcakes rose perfectly.  They had a nice dome and the yogurt/oil combo gave then a springy, moist texture.  They get brushed with a limoncello simple syrup while they’re still warm to boost that citrusy flavor.

What’s a cupcake without frosting, right?  Well, due to an unexpected powdered sugar shortage, I really only made frosting for the two in the picture.  The others we ate naked, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and an extra drizzle of the limoncello syrup all over.  We actually liked them better that way, so if you don’t want to make frosting, they are great as-is…but I’d still recommend the syrup for a little extra spike of limoncello.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Sweet Ricotta Pie

April 7, 2015 at 10:50 am | Posted in BWJ, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 6 Comments
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sweet ricotta pie

This Sweet Ricotta Pie from Nick Malgieri is the dessert version of his Pizza Rustica, which we made a few Easters ago.  It’s made with the same sweet, cookie-like pasta frolla dough and also has a ricotta-based filling.  Apart from the ricotta (and few eggs to bind), the filling is pretty simple and is just flavored with sugar, anisette and cinnamon.  I’m not wild about anisette, and thought the filling could use a little more pizzazz anyway, so I tweaked it a bit.  I had a small handful candied orange peel left from this year’s batch of Hot Cross Buns, so I soaked that, along with some golden raisins, in a good amount of Grand Marnier.  I kept the cinnamon, but stirred it into the filling along with the dried fruit (rather than sprinkling it in a layer on top).

This pie has good orange flavor, but the filling’s a little dry.  If I make this one again, I may try adding a few tablespoons of heavy cream to the batter or try swapping out a couple of the whole eggs for just yolks to see if that adds more moisture.  I like the pasta frolla dough, too, although I wish the lattice strips had gotten a little more color in the oven. Looking back, I see that with the Rustica, I eggwashed the lattice for some browning action…seems I always look back a little too late.

sweet ricotta pie

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll.

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

March 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm | Posted in BCM, cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 16 Comments
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crispy-topped brown sugar bars

Anyone remember the Snickery Squares from BFMHTY?  I think Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars are BCM‘s answer to those.  Junky, but in the best possible way, these homemade candy bars have a brown sugar cookie base and a smear of dark chocolate.  The star of the show, though, is the layer of caramelized Rice Krispies on top.  You may be tempted to skip caramelizing the Krispies and just toss on a handful as-is outta the box, but it is a step that is worth it.  (A couple of people used caramel corn instead of Krispies, and that sounds pretty darn good, too.)  Also, you’ll wind up with extra caramel Krispies– score!  I shamefully admit that I considered eating those extra sugary puffs with milk for breakfast, but decided to save them for ice cream sundaes instead…far less shameful, right?

I heard that the brown sugar cookie base was very crisp and a bit of a mess to cut when baked at the recipe’s stated time and temp (375°F for 22 minutes), so I baked my base at 350°F for about 15 minutes instead.  It was easy to cut into bars and ate like a soft, chewy shortbread.  I did only make a half recipe in a loaf tin, but if I did a full size batch, I’d still definitely peek in the oven after 15 minutes and see what’s going on.

These bars sounded like they had the potential to be very sweet, so I used a 72% bittersweet chocolate with a tiny pinch of salt sprinkled in to keep it under control.  They are rich enough that I could say a little goes a long way, but really, they are moreish enough that I could have eaten the whole loaf pan in one go!

Make them!  For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll.

P.S.: If you’re interested in gluten-free baking, enter my Gluten-Free Flour Power book giveaway here.

Gluten-Free Double-Chocolate Brownies and a BOOK GIVEAWAY!

March 22, 2015 at 11:14 am | Posted in cookies & bars, sweet things | 14 Comments
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double-chocolate brownies

By no means do I follow a gluten-free diet (more like a gluten-full diet), but I know plenty of people who do, and I’ve had to do an increasing amount of gluten-free baking for customers at work.  So I’m interested in it, even if I don’t do that much gluten-free baking at home, and was excited to see a copy of Gluten-Free Flour Power by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot (from the very cool Ideas in Food) show up in my mailbox.  They’ve developed gluten-free flour blends and devised recipes to use them that run the gamut of baking…breads, cookies, cakes, pies…heck, even kougin amann and cannelés!  There’s pasta, dumplings, steamed buns and Japanese fried chicken, too.

Flipping through my new book, I fixated on a brownie that’s made gluten-free, not with a blend, but simply with the use of oat flour.  When it comes to brownies, I’m not loyal to any one recipe.  I play the field and always seem to be trying a different recipe out.  Oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies are a favorite of mine, and I knew I’d like a bit of that wholesome flavor in brownie-form.  You can buy oat flour at most stores or make it yourself by blitzing old-fashioned rolled oats in your food processor, blender or spice grinder.  I use oat flour often for whole-grain pancakes and when I need it, I usually go the homemade route because it’s something that’s a lot cheaper to DIY (and it’s quick and easy).  Just make sure the flour or the oats you buy are certified gluten-free if you also want your brownies to be.

These brownies use melted chocolate and a healthy amount of natural cocoa powder, so they really fix a chocolate craving.  They’re tall and kind of straddle the line of being a little cakey on the edge and fudgy in the middle (I’m assuming this structure comes from having 6 eggs in the batter).  And yeah, I could taste the oats, but no, I didn’t mind one bit.  They’re delicious.  A scoop of coffee ice cream on the side is delicious, too.

The kind folks at W.W. Norton sent me a copy of Gluten-Free Flour Power,  and now I want to send a copy to one of you!  Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 5:00 pm EST on Sunday, March 29 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list.  Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you.

Double-Chocolate Brownies– makes a 9-16 brownies
adapted from Gluten-Free Flour Power by Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot

Steph’s Note:  If you grind your own oat flour and are using cup measures, grind more than you think you’ll need and measure again after.  You can save any extra to add to other recipes.  Also, nuts were not included in the original recipe, but I like them in brownies and added them to mine.

6 oz/ 170 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
12 tbsp/ 6 oz/ 170 g unsalted butter, sliced
1 cup/ 130 g oat flour
2 cups/ 400 g sugar
1/2 cup/ 60 g natural cocoa powder
1 tsp/ 6 g fine sea salt
6 large eggs (cold)
1/2 cup toasted and roughly chopped nuts (optional)

-Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. (You can line the pan with buttered parchment if you’d like, and the brownies will be easier to remove.)

– Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each until melted and smooth.  It should take about 2 minutes total.  You can do this in a double boiler on the stovetop if you prefer.  Let the mixture cool.

–Put the oat flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend.  Add the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk to blend.  Add the eggs, one by one, stirring in each well with a rubber spatula before adding the next.  If using nuts, fold them in now.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, give the batter another 20-25 strokes to insure the batter is well-blended.

– Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the brownies are just set in the center.  They should feel firm when gently pressed and they will not jiggle if you shake the pan.

– Let brownies cool completely before cutting them with a sharp knife.  (I like to refrigerate brownies for a couple of hours before cutting them.)

***Giveaway Winner Update: I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner. Congratulations to Becky Ellis!  I’ll be in touch soon.***

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Lemon Madeleines

March 10, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in BCM, cakes & tortes, cookies & bars, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 22 Comments
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lemon madeleines

By now, I’ve made several of Dorie’s madeleine recipes, but these Lemon Madeleines were the first to give me that coveted backside bump!  The trick, apparently, is to keep the batter super-cold until the second the shell-shaped pan hits the oven.  Hmmm…perhaps I should revisit one of the older recipes (chai was a favorite)?

I like madeleines, but I never really think of them until they roll around for TWD.  They’re easy enough to make…the batter is quickly whisked together by hand and it can even out in the fridge for a few days.  Madeleines are for sure best eaten fresh, so it’s handy to be able to bake them off as you want them (I did about four a day until the batter was gone).  These ones came out nice and spongy.  And lemony, of course, because of zest in the batter and juice in the glaze.

Madeleines often find themselves dunked into a cup of tea, but there was some lemon curd left from last week’s BWJ recipe, so we swiped them in that.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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