Category Archives: holiday

Daring Bakers April 2008– Success!

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with fiddly details. You see, at work, I’m a perfectionist I work with statistics and economics and data analysis, I have to be precise and perfect all the time, and when I come home, I want to make ginormous sticky measures and play around. Plus, I don’t seem to have the coordination to make pretty little fussy things, though I do hope to improve my cake decorating skills this year. So, when I tell you that making these chocolate-dipped cheesecake pops from the aptly named cookbook Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor was dead simple, and that it is nowhere near as difficult as it looks, please believe me. In fact, not only were they gorgeous and individually portioned– perfect for parties– but they were also easy enough that I’d be willing to do it again, and have been requested to do so for a friend’s wedding! Plus, I got to wander around the Dupont Circle farmer’s market this morning giving them out to my unsuspecting food providers as a thank you for hanging out in the wet to make sure that I eat well this week.

And, really, if even I can make them look so pretty, imagine what you can do. I made half of them plain chocolate-dipped (O Organics chocolate bits), and half covered with toasted hazelnut bits. I also did 2 covered in some leftover sprinkles, but didn’t get to take a picture of them. Next time I think I’ll also try colored sugar, and I’ll probably try it with darker chocolate. I also might use a little more shortening than the recipe called for- the chocolate coating was a little thick, but it was probably my fault as– big surprise– I altered the recipe! Well, really adjusted it by 4/5ths.

You see, I order my dairy (for the most part) from a loverly company called South Mountain Creamery. They deliver it to me at work, and I take it home. The creamery is fabulous, and having access to it, I couldn’t imagine using Philly cream cheese, as dependable and thick as it is, for this cake. South Mountain Creamery, however, only delivers the plain flavor of cream cheese in 1-lb containers. The recipe called for 5! 8-oz packages of cream cheese, and I really did not want to buy 3 of them and have half a pound making its’ way to my hips. I suppose I could’ve halved it and had the same problem, but that isn’t like me. I have to do it the hard way. So, I made 4/5ths, made the main cake in a 9″ cake pan, and filled 24 mini cupcake liners, hoping with a very little bit of excess batter. Unfortunately, I must have overwhipped the batter, because the cupcakes and cake sank a lot after rising, making the mini-cupcakes unusable as pops. Luckily, they were tasty on their own; Had they lasted long enough, I would have piped some chocolate into the sunken center and decorated that. However, I had to bring them into work before I could, to get them out of my greedy little hands.

I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Please make it! It’s creamy, the chocolate crackles under your tongue, and you can personalize it so many ways. Plus, even if you can’t find lollipop sticks, it works fine on straws, and then you get pretty bright colors. A giant hit. Thank you so much to Elle, Deborah, and the rest of the Daring Bakers for this recipe.

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, Food Blogs, holiday, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Daring Bakers– March

dbmarch

Also known as the blog post in which our heroine spends a long time baking a cake that she doesn’t like in the end. Sigh. Last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, which I missed the deadline on while I was in Sudan, didn’t seem hard to me. And, indeed, while it involved an obscene amount of dishes, it wasn’t particularly hard. It even gave me a chance to break out my brand new cake layer-er. Unfortunately, in the end, it wasn’t just my cake-decorating skills that were lacking. Something must have gone wrong (could it be the two days in the refrigerator?) The cake was heavy, kind of mushy, and overwhelmingly lemony. The raspberry was not enough of a contrast, in color or in flavor– maybe I should have used more? And while Melissa’s birthday party went swimmingly, I wished that the cake had been a giant, fluffy dream of a cake rather than dense lemon bar. The buttercream method, however, is something that I may use again. It was too heavy in texture for my taste, but frosted beautifully and smoothly and keeps its shape nicely at room temperature, making it easier and better to work with than my tastier butter-only version. Hmm. DB seems to be teaching me a lot about meringue!

Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

6 Comments

Filed under cake, daring bakers, dessert, holiday, vegetarian

Daring Bakers- Pictures!

Welcome back and happy new year, all! It’s been a nice long break, and I’m back with pictures! In fact, I was even given enough gift money to buy a decent budget digital camera (yay!), so if you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments. (Looking in the $150 range).

I have no pictures of Portland, but… oh my goodness, foodie haven! And if you ever get a chance to dine at Clyde Common, take it- great food and a good value (if you can, ask for the waitress we had, Joanna. She was fabulous!) In the meantime, here are the pictures of my buche de noel. Stay tuned for more kitchen experiments– I made dumplings!

mushrooms.jpg

Marzipan Mushrooms
buche.jpg
The Whole Log

7 Comments

Filed under cake, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, holiday, Uncategorized

Daring Bakers December- Chocolate Yule Log (Buche de Noel)

Phew! *Wipes sweat off her brow*. That was tough, and involved quite a few unwarranted jokes at my expense. In fact, a certain someone in my life was known to comment “Wow! That’s going to look the same going in as coming out.” *Pout* Of course, he was also the same person to comment the next day that the mushrooms on it looked “yummy” and to want to eat some early. Ahem. There was no eating, though, as this was made, for Amanda’s birthday. Of course, wanting to take decent pictures, I borrowed her camera, and… well, they haven’t come back from their Christmas vacation in the Berkshires yet, so they’re going to have to come home to their permanent location here post-publishing date; when they do, though, I’ll let you know.

DB Silhouette

Those of you who spend time in this little corner of the blogosphere probably know the story by now: the Daring Bakers are a group dedicated to pushing their baking limits. Each month, a member sets a new challenge. Everyone else has to make that recipe, exactly as stated except when the exceptions are stated in the challenge. Everything is a secret for the rest of the month until the big reveal day- today!

Now, I feel truly lucky to have had this be my first month (thanks, guys!); it looks much easier than the million-layer crepe cake (I can’t imagine flipping so many crepes, I’m a giant klutz), and requires far less perfectionism than the strawberry mirror cake. Plus, you can make lots of adjustments to this challenge. this cake was originally supposed to be vanilla cake with espresso frosting, but me? I made chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate-strawberry filling. Anything for the birthday girl, of course ;). I thought the cake was good– the buttercream, in particular, was much easier to work with than my standard recipe, but my genoise tasted too eggy; its one of the recipes that doesnt stand up as well to farm-fresh eggs, in my opinion. I would have had to adjust the recipe to have one less egg and a little more other liquid for it to taste just right. I might also choose to cover the whole thing with chocolate ganache, too, and just use almond paste rather than marzipan– the raw material tastes better to me.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Yule Log

Plain or Chocolate Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)– I just substituted cocoa powder to make it chocolate
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).
4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee or Chocolate Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (I used 3T cocoa powder thinned with vanilla)
2 tablespoons rum or brandy (I used butterscotch schnapps)
Strawberry jam for filling (if desired)

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Marzipan Mushrooms

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.
2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.
4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.
6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.
7.Smudge with cocoa powder.

Assemble the Yule Log:

1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using)– I used strawberry jam and chocolate buttercream.
5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Adapted from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert

DB Logo

14 Comments

Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, holiday, vegetarian