Tags: baking, savory, snacks
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Savory Wheat Crackers were a nice little snack to munch on with a chilled glass of wine this past (very fine) weekend. I’ve made crackers before…here, for instance. Also, in the restaurants I’ve worked in, pastry always had to make the crackers to go with the cheese plates. Rolling cracker dough out with a pasta machine (or a sheeter like we had at my first job) is my pro tip from those days. It gets them super thin, although you have to use a fair amount of flour to not shred the dough in the roller. I took these to the second thinnest setting in my machine and then topped my crisps with nigella seeds, ground coriander and fleur de sel.
This whole wheat cracker dough is super basic….no leavening necessary. It comes together with a whiz in the food processor, although my dough was a little sticky, so I added some supplemental AP flour to make it behave. The recipe makes a lot of dough…even the half recipe I made yielded tray after tray of crackers! They have to be rolled, cut and baked in batches. It was like a Nabisco factory in my kitchen on Sunday. Actually, I forgot to cut two of the trays before I put them in the oven– I just broke those into big shards after they were cool. Real Nabisco would so fire me. You need a ripping hot oven for these and will likely have to tack on a few minutes to the stated baking time. My crackers took 6-7 minutes to bake through, rather than the three minutes in the recipe. One minute too many, though, and the crackers will be charcoal (and yes, I did torch a tray myself)!
I made a little spread out of famer’s cheese and flowering chives to snack on with these crackers. I have lots more to eat up, so I’ll have to think up some other ideas. For the cracker recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, dessert, fruit
Charlotte Akoto’s recipe for Tropical Napoleons is in a section of the book called “Grand Pastries,” which seems to mean plated desserts. I have to say that a lot of them look kinda dated to me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still taste great. This dessert, with layers of coconut and sesame meringue, fruit and rum whipped cream is really light, but so satisfying. I wouldn’t turn down Eaton mess or a pavlova, so I knew I would like this one, too.
Despite its “grand” status, this recipe isn’t really that involved. Whipped cream and sliced fruit are easy enough to prep. If you don’t have a good selection of tropical fruit (I wish I could buy passion fruit in Brooklyn from any corner fruit guy like I could when we lived in Sydney), just go with straight-up berries. Even the meringue is a simple one to make, and a quick stencil cut from a yogurt lid makes perfect meringue disks. I baked my meringues on a Silpat and they took almost twice as long as the recipe said to get fully crisp. If anything gives you trouble, it will be getting those meringues off your sheet pan after they’re baked– they’re meant to be really thin, which also makes them really brittle. I only broke one before discovering that if I ran an offset spatula carefully around its outer edge before kind of pressing the spatula down into the Silpat and scooting it underneath the meringue, it would come off in one piece. The meringues are sweet, so I cut back a bit on the sugar in the cream.
Tags: appetizers, savory
I’ve been trying to lay off the sweets a bit lately. No more dessert every night, I’ll mostly keep that to weekends. This is because I can tell my trainer would like it if I dropped a few pounds. The things I do for this guy….I even got up early to run a 5K on Sunday! He’s right of course, and he has made me strong, so at least that running was a piece of cake (unlike the cake I’m not eating).
I do miss baking stuff more than once a week, though, so it’s nice to have a little savory project to put together. To tell the truth, these Scallop and Pesto Purses, courtesy of Gale Gand, were more of a quick assembly task than a real baking project. Take a nice, fat sea scallop and a schmear of pesto, bundle it up in a phyllo dough wrapper and pop it in the oven. These purses are intended to be elegant appetizers, but I will probably never have a dinner party sophisticated enough to serve them (pigs in a blanket, anyone?). After I snapped this photo, I put a few of them together on each plate with a bit of salad, and we had them as dinner…with the rosé, obvi. They were really tasty and the scallops cooked nicely inside (which I was worried about since I couldn’t really tell what was going on in there). The juices from the scallop did make the bottom of the purses soft, but we were knife and forking it, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I pounded together a little bit of parsley pesto for these in my new mortar and pestle. It was my first time making pesto this way– normally I use the food processor– and it was so good, I made more a few nights later for pasta.
Tags: bread, breakfast
I didn’t really know much about Potato Lefse before Beatrice Ojakangas’s TWD recipe of the week. I quizzed my half-Norwegian friend, and she told me that they are kind of like crêpes and that there’s also a non-potato variety. She said she’s never made them herself, but buys premade ones and reheats them. Ha–looks like I’m one up on you now, Karen! That was mean…I should invite her over for leftovers and see what she thinks.
Making the lefse dough was easy. It basically starts with super-smooth mashed potatoes that you air dry in the fridge overnight. Then the next day, you knead flour into the mash and divide the dough into pieces. Shaping and cooking the dough is where it gets tricky. There are a whole host of special tools that hard-core lefse enthusiasts use– a grooved rolling pin and a cloth-covered round board to roll the dough, a big, flat round griddle to cook the lefse on and a long, flat wooden stick to lift and flip them. Darn, I don’t have any of that stuff. I poked around the cabinets to see what I could use instead. This is what I came up with: my regular rolling pin and my Silpat to roll the dough, and a flat cast iron crêpe pan and stick that I have. It would have been easier to cook these with another person, so one could roll the lefse dough balls while the other cooked them off. By myself, it was kind of a process, but I got better as I moved along. My crêpe pan is only 11″ wide, as opposed to 16″ for a lefse pan, so I divided my dough into 16 balls instead of 12. With plenty of flour, I was able to get them rolled nice and thin on the Silpat. I didn’t even need that stick to lift them off…I was just kind of able to flip and peel them onto my hand, tortilla-style. They cooked up perfectly and got nice speckles on the crêpe pan, and the stick came in handy for flipping them.
Apparently, much like a crêpe, you can wrap lefse around lots of fillings (even hot dogs–gotta try that!), but we went the sweet route for breakfast, with butter and cinnamon sugar on some an lingonberry jam on others. They do taste slightly potatoey, but it’s a pleasant earthiness that was surprisingly nice with the sweet fillings. For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. As Sandra pointed out there’s a video of Beatrice making lefse alongside Martha Stewart. Beatrice uses slightly different measurements than she does in the book, but it’s a great watch for the process of making, shaping and cooking the dough. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cake, citrus, dessert, fruit
It might technically be spring, but it sure doesn’t feel like it yet. I’m still wearing a scarf inside, my down parka outside, and there was even talk of pulling snow boots out again last night. Oh, bother. A bright spot here, while I wait for spring to really show up, is that the citrus is still good. I think we’re at the tail-end of the preciously short blood orange season. Blood oranges are so sweet and vibrantly colored– I still feel surprised every time I cut one open.
I’ve made lots of yogurt cakes here (and even yogurt cupcakes, too). They stay moist for days, feel less guilty than pound cakes and they’re a great match for citrus, so I looked around on-line to see if anyone had a good one using blood oranges. Most cakes that I saw seemed to resemble another one I’d made, Ina’s Lemon Yogurt Cake, swapping out the lemon zest and juice for blood orange. At its core, so did this one but it has a few tweeks that set it apart for me. Subbing some of the AP four with cornmeal gives the cake a more rustic taste and texture. Swapping the plain vegetable oil for olive oil adds to its fruitiness. Cutting out just a bit of the sugar and forgoing the powdered sugar glaze keeps it from being overly sweet. Don’t worry– a jewel toned blood orange juice soaking syrup drenches the top and seeps into the cake, so you still get enough of that sticky sweetness to call this dessert.
P.S.: If you like cocktails, add a little vodka and a splash of simple syrup to blood orange juice, top it off with seltzer and ice, and you’ll have the most brilliantly colored drink you’ve ever seen.
for the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal,
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of two blood oranges
1 cup yogurt (Greek or regular, but preferably not non-fat)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup olive oil
for the soaking syrup
1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from the two zested oranges)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, rub the 3/4 cup sugar and the blood orange zest together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk in the yogurt, eggs, vanilla and olive oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, switching to a spatula, if needed. Mix until just fully combined.
-Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.
-When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, make the soaking syrup by combining the 1/3 cup blood orange juice and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in a small pan. Bring it up to the boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear, about a minute. Set aside.
-Carefully place the cake on a baking rack over a sheet pan. Use a skewer to poke holes in the top. While the cake is still warm and the syrup is hot, pour the syrup mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. (You can get all the syrup to absorb into the cake or reserve a little bit of it for drizzling over the cut slices, if you’d like).
-Cool completely before slicing.
Tags: baking, brownies, cake, chocolate, dessert, holiday
For Saint Patrick’s Day, I turned the Mocha Brownie Cake from Marcel Desaulniers into a Baileys Brownie Cake. Oh yeah! It was as easy as just replacing the coffee in the ganache with Baileys…plus a swig more to taste. I’m lucky I’m a fast baker, because I pushed the clock on this one. All those resting and chilling times didn’t really register when I read through the recipe. Thanks to my BFF, the freezer, I managed to get a photo while it was still light(ish) out.
I made a half recipe in six-inch form. It only took about 35 minutes to bake (I watched it closely, cuz no one likes a dry brownie). The cake is a cake-brownie hybrid. It starts out with whipped eggs– sort of like those Best-Ever Brownies we made awhile back– and also has baking powder for lift. I was kind of nervous to cut the cake into three layers, but it rose nicely in the oven and after it was chilled and firm, it was really no problem to slice…it helped that it was a small cake, I’m sure.
The filling and glaze is a dark chocolate ganache flavored with coffee (or Baileys for me, thanks). Delicious! I just realized after reading another blogger’s post that I completely forgot to add the extra sugar in the ganache. Oh well– it doesn’t need it, especially if you like your chocolate on the dark, bitter side (or you use sweet Baileys to make it). Even thought the recipe said to make sure the ganache was still pourable when filling the layers, mine was definitely spreadable– the consistency of thick custard. I didn’t see any problem with using it that way, and in fact it set up nicely. I didn’t need to build the cake up in a springform pan and it was ready to glaze quickly. I did reheat the remaining ganache so I’d have a shiny, pourable glaze for over the top. And then I sprinkled the cake with green luster dust for extra shimmer.
I’m really impressed with this actually. It looks great cut (use a hot knife) and it totally satisfies my ever-present chocolate craving. Also, it’s a heck of a lot easier to put together than Marcel D’s “Death by Chocolate Cake,” which I made once and is waaaay more involved.
Tags: baking, birthday, cake, dessert, giveaway
Sometimes I just want a piece of birthday cake…even if it’s no one’s birthday. Know how that is? I do feel I’m embarrassingly late to the imaginary party with this confetti cake. I don’t even know if I’ve ever had the Pillsbury version. And it seems everyone’s made a homemade one but me (till now). What I thought was some magical secret to the colored bursts of confetti is really just jimmies stirred into cake batter. A cute book called Sprinkles!, which helps turn all things sparkly or rainbow-colored, showed me that. My own sprinkles collection borders on the absurd. Apparently I really needed this book– I’m filing it in the “self-help” section of my bookshelf.
Back to the cake! The base here is a delicate white cake flavored with almond extract, although it would be also great flavored with lemon, so I included that as an option. The sprinkles folded into the batter explode in the in oven (not in a dangerous way, I promise!) into little pops of color scattered throughout each slice. I think any frosting you like with white cake would work well here, so use your favorite. I made an American-style powdered sugar buttercream with a blob of cream cheese added in to temper the sweetness just a bit. The sides of the cake are exposed to show off the fun inside, and don’t forget the extra sprinkles on top!
The kind folks at Quirk Books sent me a copy of Sprinkles!, and now I want to jazz up your baking by sending a copy to one of you. Just leave me a comment (one per person, please) on this post before 4:00 pm EST on Tuesday, March 18 and I’ll randomly choose a winner from the list. Be sure your e-mail address is correct so I can contact you if you’re chosen.
***Giveaway Winner Update: I used random.org to generate a random comment number to find the winner. It selected comment 24, so congratulations to Barb T. I’ll be in touch and sending your book soon!***
Confetti Layer Cake– makes a 9-inch triple layer cake
adapted from Sprinkles! by Jackie Alpers
Steph’s Note: Obviously I didn’t bake my cake in 9-inch rounds. I scaled it back to a third and baked it as a quarter-sheet (adjusting baking time accordingly), which I then cut into three strips and frosted.
1 1/2 cups milk
9 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1/3 cup applesauce or Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract
4 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted, plus extra for flouring pans
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup rainbow jimmies, plus extra for decoration
4 cups (approximately) your favorite buttercream or cream cheese frosting
-Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment circles, grease, then dust with flour.
-In a medium bowl, stir milk, egg whites, applesauce or yogurt and extracts. Into another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
-Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add flour and milk mixtures alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Fold in the 1/2 cup sprinkles.
-Divide batter among pans. Bake until a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
-Cool cakes in pans set on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of each pan, then invert cakes onto a cutting board. With a serrated knife, carefully cut off the tops and “crusts,” exposing the confetti sprinkles (this is optional).
-Place first layer on a plate. Spread 3/4 cup frosting evenly over top. Repeat with second and third layers, leaving the sides exposed. Decorate the perimeter of the top with the remaining jimmies. Serve, or refrigerate up to 3 days.
Tags: baking, breakfast, scones
In order for me to get most breakfast pastries on the table for anything even resembling acceptable breakfast time, I usually have to get started the night before. While I’m still in my jammies, I’m a disorganized mess. I generally can’t handle measuring, mixing, baking and cleaning all before I’ve had my Chemex of coffee…so for something like scones, I get the dough made the night before and just set the pieces on a sheet tray in the fridge overnight to bake in the morning. Always works great. For some reason, though, I decided last minute to make Marion Cunningham’s Buttermilk Scones on Saturday morning instead of Sunday, and thankfully they came together really easily the morning of. By the time the oven was preheated, I had the dough made and cut and the dishes (only a few) washed. I actually used my KitchenAid to mix the scones, since I got used to doing them that way at the shop I worked for up until October. I just kept a close eye on the size of the butter bits, and then skipped the extra hand-kneading Marion gave hers at the end. These scones were delicate, just sweet enough, great with jam and easy to make. This recipe’s definitely going to be made again.
For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here). And there’s even a video of Julia and Marion making these together (there’s an interesting option shown using a rolled dough technique…I may try that next time). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, cheesecake, dessert
I wouldn’t want to eat David Ogonowski’s Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake in any type of weather other than the type we’ve been having (i.e., “two blizzards a week” weather). It’s true hibernation food…if you told me it was a thousand calories a slice, I wouldn’t be surprised. This is a dense and creamy cheesecake with cream cheese, of course, mascarpone and sour cream. Oh, and there’s chocolate, too, although frankly it gets a little lost in all the dairy. Adding a dark chocolate ganache layer on top of the cooled cake is an option, but might send this cake over the top.
The recipe doesn’t call for a crust. Well, actually, it calls for baking the cheesecake without a crust and then patting cookie crumbs onto the bottom and sides once it’s set. My inner baker’s voice told me that was weird and that I’d probably have some sort of disaster in the process, so I went ahead and made a real crust for mine. I had a baggie of homemade chocolate-hazelnut cookie crumbs in the freezer that need to be used up (and I love crumb crusts!) anyway. Also, I’ve always liked making my cheesecake batter in the food processor rather than in a stand mixer. Faster mixing and fewer lumps.