Tags: baking, cake, dessert, holiday
It’s almost Christmas, and that means it’s time to get fancy in the kitchen! Something like a Gingerbread bûche de Noël sounds like the right way to celebrate. Way back in the early days of this space, I made another bûche. That one was all done up with stumps, meringue mushrooms and faux wood grain…this one’s easier in that it’s just a roulade but it’s still a showstopper and, of course, it still has several steps. In addition to a gently-spiced geniose-style gingerbread sponge cake, there’s a cream cheese filling, a marshmallow meringue frosting and, for crunch and sparkle, a pecan praline.
If you’re the organized type, you can actually break up the steps and knock out the praline and filling a day in advance, but I did it all start to finish in one afternoon, so I can tell you that it’s procrastinator-friendly, too. I did kind of goof up the cake a bit, and you can see it in the center of the spiral. I deflated the cake batter while mixing in the butter at the end. I was pretty annoyed with myself, and worried it would be like eating a rubber mat, but there’s a lot going on with this cake and we also had it with a scoop of eggnog ice cream, so it really wasn’t that noticeable. Next time, I’ll do better with that. Although the marshmallow makes a stunning, glossy, snow-white frosting, I had a lot left over…next time, I’ll also try cutting that amount in half. I’ll reduce the cream of tartar in the frosting a bit as well because I think it gave the marshmallow a slightly acidic taste. If you’re on the fence about gingerbread (I know not everyone is crazy about it), the flavoring here is very subtle…no molasses or cloves or other dark and mysterious flavors.
Tags: baking, dessert, holiday, tarts
If you’re still on the fence about what to make for this Thursday’s dessert, let me make your decision harder by throwing one more option your way. This Cranberry Crackle Tart from Baking Chez Moi is for people who don’t mind breaking a bit with Thanksgiving tradition. It has a cookie-like base of sweet tart dough (fondly known to those in professional pastry circles as “STD”…we keep it classy), a layer of jam (which you can’t see here) and a meringue topping with cranberries folded though. The topping is like a crispy-edged marshmallow– the sweetness is interrupted by little bursts of softened, tart berries. This is meant to be a larger tart, but I didn’t need so much for the two of us on a random weeknight, so I just made a couple of individual tartlets (they took quite a bit less time to bake, btw). The big one, with its pretty, swirly meringue top and ruby-colored berries peeking through, would make an impressive dessert for a crowd. And it’s a light one, too, after a big dinner.
The hidden jam layer can be any red jam, really, like strawberry, raspberry or cherry. I made a cranberry sauce ahead of time from the extra berries that weren’t going into the tart and I used that instead. We ate our tarts with whipped cream, and my husband said it reminded him of pavlova with a cookie crust.
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, dessert, holiday, pie
I’m not making Thanksgiving dinner myself this year. You never know what you’re gonna get when you’re not in charge, so I had to make a pre-Thanksgiving pie for the two of us here at home.
I mixed things up from the typical pumpkin pie by making a sweet potato one. To tell you the truth, I think that pumpkins and sweet potatoes can make pretty interchangeable pie fillings in terms of taste, because they’re often identically spiced. This pie, though, mixes it up a bit in the spice department. It’s a little more ginger-heavy than most– a little more zippy– and leaves out the traditional cloves entirely. When I make a pumpkin pie I normally reach for a can-opener, but this filling uses a fresh-roasted sweet potato. If you have a big potato left over from last night’s dinner, you can use that, no problem. Using a fresh sweet potato for a custard pie gives a slightly different texture than canned pumpkin does. The sweet potato filling is not quite as velvety smooth as pumpkin filling– it’s a little more dense and substantial.
Sweet Potato Ginger Pie– makes a 9-inch pie
adapted from the wonderfully reliable Melissa Clark
Steph’s Note: To speed things along, you can cook the sweet potato in advance or use a leftover one for this pie. Just bring it to room temperature before processing the filling.
single-crust recipe of your favorite flaky pastry dough, well-chilled
1 c cooked sweet potato
3/4 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
2/3 c light brown sugar
2 tbsp brandy, bourbon or rum
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
-To make the filling, cut a slit into one large sweet potato and wrap tightly in foil. Bake at 400°F until sweet potato is very soft, about an hour. Let cool.
-Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the piecrust to a 12-inch circle. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Fold over any excess dough, then crimp as decoratively as you can manage.
-Prick the crust all over with a fork and freeze it for at least 15 minutes. Cover the pie with aluminum foil or parchment and fill with pie weights. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes (you can do this while the sweet potato is also in the oven). Remove the foil or parchment and weights and bake until golden, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Cool on a rack until needed.
-Scoop 1 cup of cooked, cooled sweet potato into food processor, discarding skin. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Add all remaining filling ingredients to food processor and puree until smooth. You can skip this, but if you want to smooth the filling out a bit more, strain it by pressing through a fine sieve.
-Spoon filling into pie crust and spread until flat and even. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the custard is mostly firm and set but jiggles slightly when moved, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream.
Tags: baking, cake, holiday
What–December already?!? Seems I am refusing to belive it, because every time I went to label the stuff I made at work today, I wrote “11/” and then had to turn that second one into a goofy two. I feel not quite ready to tackle this month.
Johanne Killeen’s Gingerbread Baby Cakes should help me get into the December spirit. These cakes may be little, but they are strong, with a spicy molasses, ginger and black pepper punch. Espresso and cocoa add extra dark, bitter notes. I want to say that I loved these, because they came out so darn cute, but really, they were too intense for me…too adult for my juvenile taste buds. I don’t have baby cake molds, but I do have baby tube pans, which made a fine substitute. I have two cakes left, and I’m thinking they will be cubed for a trifle with sweet cream and stuff to temper their spicy bite.
Tags: baking, bread, holiday
Every year I think about making Hot Cross Buns for Easter (or Good Friday, I guess), but I never get to it. Well, finally, this is my year! And let me tell you that eating one of these sweet, spiced buns freshly homemade is a real treat. I made these with currants and candied orange peel, although you could use raisins or craisins or whatever dried fruit and zest you choose. If you are British or Australian, you may not like what I’ve done on top here. A “traditional” English hot cross bun has a cross made not of icing (like mine), but of a flour and water paste that is baked on. But what can I say– I’m American and I like my icing!!
You’ll see that this recipe begins with preparing a sponge starter. It is really easy…there’s nothing to it but a little added resting time. The sponge lets the yeast get some extra fermentation, which is better for flavor and makes for nice soft buns. The rest of the dough is a snap to put together in a stand mixer. These aren’t so complicated to make, even if, like me, you don’t do a whole lot of bread baking at home…the hardest part is waiting for them to cool completely. You bet I devoured this guy with a little salty butter just as soon as he was cool enough to “cross”!
Hot Cross Buns– makes 12
adapted (quite a bit) from Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman
Steph’s Note: There’s no real need to soak your currants or orange peel unless they are very dry. If that’s the case, I’d put them in a small bowl with a couple teaspoons of orange juice or Grand Mariner and microwave for ten seconds (cool before using).
for the sponge
38 g AP flour
190 g milk, about 85°F
9 g sugar
7.4 g (2 1/4 t) instant yeast
for the final dough
340 g AP flour
60 g butter, softened
57 g sugar
3 g salt
2 g ground allspice
2 g ground cinnamon
110 g dried currants
40 g candied orange peel, finely chopped
for the icing (amounts are approximate)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy
4 teaspoons milk
-For the sponge, combine the milk and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk in the flour and sugar. The mixture will be very loose. Cover and let rest until it is about 3 times its original volume, 30-40 minutes.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix final dough flour and softened butter until the butter is evenly distributed through the flour.
-Add egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Continue to mix until combined. The mixture will be quite dry at this point.
-Switch to the mixer’s dough hook. Add the sponge and mix on low speed. Mix until well combined, about 3 minutes.
-Up the mixer to medium speed, and mix about 8 minutes. You can occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed. The dough will start to leave the sides and come together around the dough hook, and the gluten should have reached a medium level of development.
-Add the currants and orange peel and mix on low speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
-Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, covered container. Ferment in a warm place for one hour, giving it a fold (kind of like a letter) after 30 minutes.
-Turn the dough onto an unfloured counter and divide it into 12 pieces (about 70-75 g each).
-Form each piece into a ball. To tighten the ball, place it on the counter with your cupped hand loosely around it, and move your hand in a tight circle several times.
-Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I used a 1/4 sheet tray…they did not touch when I arranged them on the tray, but as they proofed, they expanded to gently touch.)
-Cover and proof in a warm place for about an hour.
-Preheat the oven to 400°F . Bake the buns on the parchment-lined sheet at 400°F until the tops are browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until browned all over, about another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
-When the buns are completely cool, whisk together the icing ingredients. You can add extra confectioners’ sugar or milk as needed to make a thick, but pipeable paste. Put it in a piping bag with a medium-small round tip and pipe it in a cross over the buns. They are best when eaten fresh (although I did freeze a few for the weekend).
Tags: baking, bread, holiday
We may represent six different continents, but this week we’re all Irish in TWD with Marion Cunningham’s Irish Soda Bread. I like Marion Cunningham. I think she seems like a cool lady, and I have a few of her books (the most well-used is The Breakfast Book). But I digress…
I knew that I wanted to have this bread with butter and marmalade on St. Patrick’s Day morning, but I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off for breakfast when it takes almost an hour to bake and then more time to cool. I was worried about making it in advance, because in the book, the recipe intro says it turns “as hard as the Blarney Stone” (which I have kissed, btw) after a few hours. Then I watched the video of Marion and Julia making the bread together…Marion whips out an already-made loaf and clearly says that it had been baked the night before, left to cool completely and then wrapped. So that’s what I did…I made it the night before and it was still perfect the next morning.
This recipe has just four ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk), and the dough is simply stirred together…it’s almost amazing that it turns into bread! I had actually wanted to sneak some currants in my loaf, too, but then I completely forgot about them until the second after I’d scraped the sticky dough into the pie plate. I wasn’t going to mess with it anymore at the point. No matter– the bread had plenty of flavor…a little salty and a little tangy. Like most Irish people I know, my loaf also had plenty of character….I probably could have kneaded a bit more flour into it to make it a smoother round, but I liked its quirkiness just fine.
Don’t wait until next March to make this….it’s so easy and good that it’s perfect anytime. For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here in somewhat condensed form) or read Carla’s blog Chocolate Moosey, and Cathleen’s blog My Culinary Mission, as they are co-hosting this recipe. Thanks, ladies! Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll.
Tags: baking, cake, chocolate, dessert, holiday
Apparently I think Saint Patrick’s Day is a good excuse to drench chocolate cake in booze. OK, I would gladly do that any day of the year (as is evidenced by this and that), but last year I marked St. Paddy’s day with whiskey-soaked chocolate and now I’ve moved to stout. Chocolate stout cakes are nothing new, but I am loving the ease of this one. So easy, you can whisk this together while sipping the remainder of your can of Guinness or Murphy’s and be confident you won’t muck it up.
You may notice that this cake is vegan. I’m not, but I can appreciate that the lack of eggs and dairy let the chocolate flavor of this cake shine. The stout and espresso boost that taste and temper the sweetness. There’s so much liquid in this cake that it stays moist and fudgy…improves with time even. Three days later and I think it’s better than the first. I’ll raise a pint to that!
Fudgy Chocolate Stout Cake– makes an 8″ cake
from mrslarkin’s recipe on food52
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (not dutched)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Guinness or other stout
1/2 cup espresso or strong coffee
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon apple cider or white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Set oven rack to middle. Grease an 8” round cake pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment and lightly spray the parchment.
-Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
-In a measuring cup, mix together stout, coffee, water, vanilla and vinegar. Stir into the flour mixture a few turns, then add your oil and combine until you have a smooth batter (you can use a whisk for this, just be gentle).
-Pour into prepared pan. Place in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check with cake tester, which should come out very slightly moist. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.
-Turn out onto cake plate. Peel off the parchment. Dust cake with powdered sugar, or cover with frosting.
*Alternatively, this recipe makes 1 dozen cupcakes. Bake for 18 – 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes. Frost with your favorite frosting or dip tops into a simple icing made of confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder and coffee. Decorate top with a fresh coffee bean while icing is still tacky.
Tags: dessert, holiday
I’ve never gotten super excited (or super upset, either) about Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a non-event, but I do like to use it as an excuse to make my sweetie something luxe and a little girly for dessert….coeur à la crème seems quite appropriate, non?
If you’ve never had coeur à la crème, it’s kind of a cross between a mousse and a cheesecake filling. It’s a soft cheese and cream mixture that’s not cooked, so it’s very fresh…it’s also a little tangy and barley sweet. It belongs to that group of traditional French desserts that is so elegant yet so unfussy. Several years back, I found some individual coeur à la crème molds on the post-Valentine’s Day clearance shelf at a local kitchenware shop, and even though (or maybe especially becasue) they’re kind of uni-taskers, I’ve made it a point to use them many times since. Although they are cute, you don’t even need the molds to make this dessert…a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl will work fine (but you will give up the traditional heart-shape). Cheesecloth is important here, though, since the excess liquid needs to drain from the mixture so it’s as thick and creamy as it should be. That also means that resting time is necessary…you’ll need to chill and drain your cream hearts for several hours…I do it overnight.
I like to make my base with a soft, fresh cheese called fromage blanc. Vermont Butter & Cheese makes a nice (non-fat!) one that I can find at several shops, but if you don’t have access to fromage blanc, I think a combo of cream cheese and sour cream could approximate it. The creaminess and gentle tang of this dessert calls out for fresh fruit. Fresh berries or even a berry coulis would be great in summer, but here I used blood oranges, both becasue they are in season and becasue a heart with blood seemed fitting in a twisted sort of way.
Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo
Coeur à la Crème— makes four servings
Steph’s Note: If you don’t have individual coeur à la crème molds, you can use a larger mold or a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. You may, however, need to make a 1.5x or 2x batch of the coeur mixture, depending on the size. If you can’t find fromage blanc, try substituing with 6 oz of soft cream cheese plus 2 oz of sour cream.
8 oz fromage blanc
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
squeeze fresh lemon juice
seeds of a quarter of a vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz heavy cream
fresh fruit or fruit coulis to serve
-Cut four squares of cheesecloth (about 8-inch squares). Rinse each square of cheesecloth under water and squeeze until just damp. Line each of four 4-inch coeur à la crème molds with one square of cheesecloth.
-In a food processor (or with a whisk or hand-held mixer) process the fromage blanc, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until very smooth. In another bowl, whisk the cream until medium-soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the fromage blanc mixture until evenly combined.
-Place molds on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the prepared molds and fold the corners of cheesecloth up and over the top.
-Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the mixture to drain.
-To serve, unwrap the molds and invert onto plates. Garnish with fruit.