Tags: baking, shortcake
I grew up in Virginia, where strawberry shortcakes are definitely made with biscuits. My husband grew up on Long Island, where he’s said he’d only ever had them with spongecake. Should strawberry shortcake be a biscuit or spongecake? To each her own, I guess…the star of this show is really the fruit more than the vehicle anyway. With Bastille Day coming up, we TWDers put a Franco-American twist on the spongecake version and gave homemade ladyfingers a try. It’s a softer concoction than the biscuit version I’m used to but it’s delicious, as anything with strawberries and cream really should be.
Hubs and I had a little u-pick fun (at least I thought it was fun!) on a recent trip to the farmlands and beaches on the North Fork. The fresh strawberries we brought home were beauties, each one carefully chosen before going into the box. But– my love of roasted strawberries has been documented here already. If you are looking for a saucy berry, they are more intense and delicious when roasted than any stove-cooked strawberry sauce I’ve ever made. I used a combo of the fresh and the roasted for my shorties.
You can fancy up the presentation and pipe on your whipped cream with a star tip. I just scooped it on and let the berries run down the sides. I used a golden spoon though, just so you don’t think I’m not classy! For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!
Tags: baking, choux, savory
If you are looking for a little nibble for early evening rosé hour on the deck, might I suggest Norman Love’s Savory Puffs? I love making pâte à choux— sweet or savory, I think it’s one of the most fun classics. This particular recipe is actually a little unusual…instead of just plain old water as the liquid ingredient in the dough, it uses cucumber and onion juice, along with a bit of milk. I made a reduced-size batch (I skipped the éclair version) so rather than actually juice the cuke and onion, I just grated some of each on a box grater, salted the mix lightly and left it to drain for a while over a sieve. Then I gave it a final squeeze, measured out the juice that drained off and used it in my choux paste.
I set aside those shreds of veg in the sieve (now relieved of excess moisture) and used them in my puff filling. Waste not, want not– am I right? First I chopped them up a bit finer and then stirred them, along with some herbs and seasoning into a mild, soft cheese curd that I like called Cloumage. The smoked salmon version of the filling sounds delicious, but will have to wait for another rosé hour…perhaps next week, as I still have a few empty puffs in the freezer (and another bottle of rosé in the fridge). Want to come over?
Tags: baking, 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.
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!
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
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.
Tags: baking, cupcakes
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!
Tags: dessert, giveaway, icebox
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.***
Tags: baking, bread
¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Maybe you are getting a tres leches soaking or quadruple checking a mole recipe to make sure you didn’t miss an ingredient. If you are thinking about flatbreads today, you’re probably thinking about tortillas, but put Ka’kat on your radar for later. I had never heard of ka’kat before, but Dorie says they are a very typical Eastern Mediterranean street food. You can find them everywhere apparently, just like soft pretzels here in New York. They’re made with a really straightforward yeast dough. If you make it in the morning after breakfast, you can easily have fresh, warm bread snacks by lunchtime!
Although this is another recipe in the flatbread section of the book from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, my ka’kat (at least) came out round and chubby. With sesame seeds on top, they did not look unlike mini bagels. Ka’kat are often flavored with ground mahleb (also mahlab), which are little tiny cherry kernels. This spice has a bit of that bitter almond flavor and is used in Middle Eastern, Greek and Turkish baking. You probably won’t find it at your standard grocery store, but you can get it online (at Penzeys, for example) or in a Middle Eastern market. I found whole seeds at Sahadi’s here in Brooklyn (I love that place!) and ground them to powder in a spice grinder. All that said, the mahleb is totally optional. It gives a very subtle aroma and taste, and I always like to buy an interesting new ingredient, but you can leave it out, no probs.
These were so tasty warm and soft from the oven. I ate four– no kidding! But they are little, yeah? I dipped them into olive oil and dukkah (like I did with the Pebble Bread)…they’d be good with salty butter, too. I made half a recipe and divided the dough into fifteen ka’kat to fit neatly on one sheet tray. I have about half of them left in the freezer and I’ll definitely warm them up a bit before eating them.
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.
Tags: baking, savory, snacks
The Matzo recipe from Lauren Groveman is bread at its most basic. Really, it’s just flour, salt and water, hand-kneaded and with no real resting period required. A little ground pepper and some sesame seeds are technically optional, but I wouldn’t skip them…they make a boring-sounding dough interesting and flavorful.
The instructions say to roll the dough as thin as possible. When I make crackers, I like to roll them out on my pasta machine rather than with a wooden pin. I did that here, too, and because the machine cranks out long, narrow, strips, I wound up cutting them into smaller pieces than the large, plate-sized matzos shown in the book’s photos. The smaller pieces seemed also more easy to deal with using the kinda scary-sounding baking-and-flipping-on-a-blazing-hot-sheet-tray technique called for in the recipe. I only burned myself once, so I’d call that a success!
I got matzos that were much more thin and delicate than the store-bought ones I’ve had. And did I already mention how good the sesame seeds are in here? I made a little smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese spread to go with the matzos, and the combo was every bit as addictive as chips and dip.