Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

Disclaimer: I'm feeling nostalgic because I'm currently planning a trip to NYC. Next week we're going on our awesome family vacation to Skaneateles and finishing the week with a couple days in the city! Therefore this post may or may not be mostly about this quintessential summer cake.

I really enjoy exploring on my own. Events are more significant when you don't have to acknowledge them to another person. They seem to be a tailor-made gift just for you.

Maybe if you were with a soul mate of the type where you don't have to acknowledge things to know that they've been absorbed, then you could have the same special feeling. Then months later you could be like "Remember that time...?" and they could be like "Yeah, that was amazing."

I kind of have that relationship with my brother, but it usually only applies to funny-looking people. Later I can say "That man today- he was crazy." and he'll say "I know. I've never seen a beard that color before."

One time when I was living in New York City, I decided to visit Redhook for the first time by myself. Its a long trip that requires taking the metro to a bus and then walking, but its worth it for such wonders as Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie and Baked.

My train emerged from its tunnel to ride along tracks raised above the streets, and I found that I was sharing the car with only one other person. This young man took out a one-legged stool and sat leaning against a pole in the middle of the aisle. He slowly bowed a cello; fluid, sad and lovely.

It was so precious and tenuous, sitting in that light-filled car at roof-top level as the city buildings shrank and spread below. The air in that bright, music-laden car made my head swim as it seemed to grow thicker and thicker with beauty and impossibility. It was hard to breath for loveliness. We came to a station. The man stood, picked up his stool and instrument, and exited the train.

I was lonely and yearning for the rest of the ride, and it pains me to tell people about it now. I can't say out loud how I felt and so I rush it and it seems like just another part of a bigger story, when really, it was the story.

I won't say that this cake is like that, though maybe you get very emotional about cake, I don't know. But this cake could be part of a experience like that. It could be part of your ideal, sun-filled afternoon with a soul mate. It could you and that person, sitting on the perfect hill, under the most majestic tree, on the loveliest blanket, in an idyllic breeze under a flawless sky, with the coldest lemonade in the ideal glasses, having the best conversation of your life, eating this dreamy cake. Maybe you wouldn't even want to post pictures on the internet later, because that would ruin the perfection. Maybe you'll just keep that day to yourself and never speak of it again, but hold it so, so dearly.

I guess you'll have to make this cake and make it all happen. Because this cake really is worthy of such magic.

The layers are the lemon-drop cake layers from the (awesome) Baked cookbook, paired with lemon curd and a lightly lemon frosting, and stuffed with as many strawberries as you can fit between each layer.


Lemon Layers (from Baked)

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temp
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup cold water
2 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Lemon Curd (from Baked)

3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 6-8 lemons)
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
optional 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
4 tablespoons butter, room temp

Lemon Frosting (adapted from Baked and Tasty Kitchen)

2 cups whole milk
10 tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd

Strawberries- chopped. The smaller the pieces, the easier it will be to slice the cake.

Lemon Layers

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray with oil and line 3 8-in pans with parchment rounds. If you're using 9-in pans, I'd make the recipe times 1.5.

In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking soda and powder, and salt together.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or using a bowl and a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, shortening, zest and sugar together for 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the while egg and vanilla, beating until just combined.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the ice water, in three additions, beginning and ending the the dry and scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix for a few seconds after the ingredients are all combined.

In a spotless bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Don't over beat. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops and bake, for 40-45 minutes, or until a cake testing object stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool for 20 or so minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pan and allow to cool completely before frosting. If you want your frosting to go easier, you can wrap the layers with plastic wrap when cool, then stick them in the freezer for a couple hours before frosting. Believe me, its so much easier to frost a cold cake.

Make the Lemon Curd*

In a small, non-reactive pan, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk thoroughly. If you're worried about runny lemon curd, you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in the with sugar before combining the ingredients.

Place the pot on the stove over very low heat and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened.

Pour/scrape the curd through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any eggy bits and lemon zest. Add the butter, cut into chunks and stir until the mixture is homogenous. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the lemon curd and set aside to cool. If you're using it soon you can refrigerate it, or if you're using VERY soon, you can set the bowl of curd in an ice bath.

*The ingredients are the same, but my instructions vary slightly from the original Baked ones, most notably, the fact that I don't use a double boiler. Its just the way I do things and it turns out fab.

Make the frosting

Pour the 2 cups of milk into a small sauce pan and set it over low heat. Gradually add the flour, one tablespoon at a time, whisking to incorporate between each addition. Whisk constantly while the gravy mixture heats, until it thickens to brownie-batter consistency.

Set it aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

When the gravy-mixture is cool, place the sugar and butter in bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for at LEAST 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar are incredibly fluffy and whipped-cream-like. The sugar should be almost dissolved.

Scrape the cooled (<-important) gravy-mixture though a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of sugar butter and mix for several more minutes, until the whole thing is very fluffy and nice-looking. Add the vanilla and the half-cup of lemon curd and mix until combined. The frosting should taste lightly of lemon and be very smooth and light and delicious. It's even reminiscent of whipped cream, but it will hold up way better.

To assemble, put a thin layer of lightly lemon frosting on the bottom layer of the cake. COVER the thing with as many chopped strawberries as your heart desires and the spoon a layer of lemon curd evenly over the strawberries. Top with the next layer and repeat. Top with the final layer and then spread the remaining frosting over the entire cake. Garnish with more strawberries and lemon rind curls. OR...make cupcakes.

Serve to your soul mate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding

It's not just because I bake bread and desserts for a restaurant that I find myself making a lot of bread pudding. It's because right now there is no dessert I'd rather eat than bread pudding.

I go through phases like this- flan for awhile, then chocolate pudding, then rice pudding and now bread pudding. (Notice any trends in my dessert obsessions? Apparently I don't like to chew.)

I first made this recipe for Masters Week because one of the caterings we did was for a company that actually brought their own chef. I'm not sure how that situation worked, but this chef was named Nick Stellino. One night the dinner entertainment for the clients was a cooking demo by Mr. Stellino, and he requested a specific dessert be served- his Bread Pudding with Two Chocolates. And it was my job to make it.

I was nervous about how it would turn out with our iffy oven, but I followed his recipe and the bread pudding turned out to be DIVINE. So divine that instead of bringing leftovers back to the restaurant, the servers and cooks ate the rest of it on site. I've made it for the restaurant several times since.

It's dense, moist and chocolatey (as all good things in this world are.) If you want to go nuts on your guests, make additional of the chocolate sauce required for the recipe and serve the pudding in a pool of chocolate sauce. With strawberries or raspberries.

Chocolate Sauce:

1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place heavy cream, chocolate and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low until cream bubbles and chocolate starts to melt. Remove from heat and whisk until all melted and smooth. Whisk in corn syrup, salt and vanilla.

Bread Pudding with Two Chocolates:

Chocolate Sauce (recipe above)
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 cups day-old bread, cut into 2-in pieces
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup white chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a deep baking dish or individual ramekins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar with a whisk or electric mixer until it forms a thick yellow custard. Add the milk, cream and vanilla and beat for several minutes more.

Add the bread to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix well. Press down the bread often to make sure it's absorbing as much of the liquid as possible. Add the chocolate sauce, white chocolate and dark chocolate and stir so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Let the pudding rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, then place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 35-40 minutes. It's done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Beware of hitting a dark chocolate spot and thinking it's not done when it is. If you're using small containers, the bake time will be shorter.

MMM!! Serve hot or at room temperature with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, shaved chocolate, fruit- whatever suits your fancy. This dessert would go great after an italian meal that has lots of fresh basil and rustic bread. Preferably served outdoors under bistro lights or lanterns. With wine. (Or maybe milk.) Okay, now I need to have a party.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Goat Cheesecake

photo by Leah Paulette

I made a quick day trip to Savannah this week with my friend Leah*, who came spur of the moment to see me while her husband was off fighting fires for the Forest Service (impressive, I know.) We spent time on the beach reading aloud from Matilda, ran screaming from scary jellyfish water, walked for about 6 hours straight and ate seafood, icecream, bread, and cookies. And free samples of pralines on River Street.

I don't think most people understand my need to visit every bakery in a given city (this is hard in places like New York City, but believe me, I have tried). But Leah understands. She even reminded me about one we'd missed as we started to head home. Eric would've been praying I'd forgotten so we could get out of there- he doesn't really get it.

If you're planning a visit to Savannah, make sure you stop by Leopold's Ice Cream Shop, Harris Baking Company (AHmazing Ciabatta bread) and one that looked cool but we missed (cause it closes at 4pm), Back in the Day Bakery (a little ways from the main downtown area.)

*Leah and I have been officially best friends since 9th grade, when we stood in the bathroom at school and decided it was so. We shared family vacations. We lived together for a while in college. Then we did the whole maid-of-honor thing in each other's weddings. We're BFFs, no big deal.

So Leah came and hung out at work one morning while I baked. I rewarded her patience with bread pudding, which she confirmed is the best she's ever eaten. She even used her mad photography skills to capture images of this Goat Cheese Cake with Lemon Curd. Which, by the way, is DELICIOUS.

This Goat Cheesecake is one of the creamiest cheesecakes I've ever bitten into. Totally Luscious. The goat cheese flavor is subtle at first, then expands as you swallow each bite. The graham cracker crust is spiced with ginger and cinnamon. The addition of Lemon Curd isn't necessary, but the flavors are lovely together and it does bring it up a notch on the dessert-impressiveness-scale. Throw some strawberries or blueberries on the plate, and you have a dessert worthy of some fan fare. It manages to be tart and sweet, pungent and fresh all at the same time- also, people hear "goat cheese" and go nuts for some reason.

This is not your run of the mill NY style cheesecake with sticky berries in syrup, this is:

Goat Cheesecake with Lemon Curd and Fresh Berries. Inspired by Emeril's recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350. Get out a 9-in springform pan and a baking dish large enough to hold the springform pan.

For the crust:

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (or 2 cups gingersnap crumbs. if using gingersnaps, omit the spices) Using a food processor is the easiest way to get good crumbs.
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Stir the graham crumbs, spices and sugar together. Slowly add the butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened and stick together when you squeeze them.

Press this mixture onto the bottom and sides of the springform pan, creating the crust for the cheesecake. Use your fingers or a straight-sided glass or measuring cup to make the job easy. Freeze the crust for 10 or 15 minutes. This will help it keep its structure in the oven. After freezing, bake the crust for 10 or so minutes until it is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the batter:

3.5 packages cream cheese (28 oz total), room temp
1 cup sour cream
12 oz goat cheese, room temp
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoons Gran Marnier, Cointreau or orange extract

In a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer with a deep bowl, mix the cream cheese until creamy. Add the goat cheese and the sour cream and mix until smooth. Add the sugar and mix, scraping down the bowl occasionally with a spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Finally, mix in the vanilla, lime juice and orange liquor until the mixture is completely smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared crust and smooth the top. Wrap tinfoil around the sides and base of the springform pan to make sure no water penetrates the pan during baking. Set the pan into the baking dish and fill the baking dish with very hot water so it comes halfway up the side of the springform pan. This is a waterbath and will ensure the cheesecake doesn't crack during baking.

Bake at 350 for about 1.5 hours (or 2 if you have shady spotty oven like me). The center will move only slightly when the cheesecake is done- the edges will be completely set.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool on a rack. Once cool, chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

While the cheesecake is cooling, make the lemon curd:
1 t finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter

Whisk together the zest, juice, sugar and eggs in a heavy saucepan. Cook over med-low heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling.

Force the curd through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl to remove the zest, and any eggy bits. Cut the butter into 1/2 in pieces, and add them to the curd. Stir until the butter is melted. If you're in a hurry, use an ice bath to cool the curd, stirring occasionally. (Simply place the bowl of curd into a larger bowl of ice water.) Otherwise, place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve the cheesecake with a dollop of lemon curd and a smattering of berries.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Pie

Summertime in Augusta, Georgia is oppressively hot. Oh, I know it's only May and all, I know it's barely summer, but yesterday was 97 degrees and it feels like August feels everywhere else I've lived. Perhaps that's why it's named Augusta. The air here is pregnant with water- its holding all the water it can without actually raining. Step outside, and it's like stepping into a foggy bathroom after a hot shower.

So what do we do in sticky humidity, when the chocolate chips are melting in the jar on the counter because someone in this family thinks air conditioning is for wimps? We make icebox pie. And because it is strawberry season, and because nothing refreshes like bright, tart lemon, and because Martha was kind enough to publish this recipe in her June magazine, we make Strawberry Lemonade Icebox Pie.

Now to me, icebox pie is something that you don't bake, like a eggless cheesecake or chocolate pudding pie. This pie you bake (and I was very loath to turn on the oven, believe me), so it baffled me where the icebox part came in.

The answer is, you absolutely must refrigerate this thing, or else the butter in the crust and the juice from the strawberries and egg whites (if you go there) make a big soggy mess. We first ate it after letting it sit on the counter for hours, and it was a little soupy, but the leftovers stored in the fridge were the proper consistency. So I wouldn't recommend it for all-day-in-the-sun cookouts, but it would work great for a party where you can keep it cold until eating time.

Strawberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie, from Martha Stewart Living June 2011 Issue

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Get out your 9-in pie or tart pan.

10 graham crackers, zipped into a ziplock pounded into smithereens with a rolling pin. Or pulsed in a food processor until fine.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t coarse salt
5 T unsalted butter, melted

Mix 1 1/3 cup of the graham cracker crumbs with the 1/4 cup sugar and the 1/4 t coarse salt. Add the butter and mix with a fork until moist and thoroughly combined. You can also do all this in the food processor.

Press the mixture firmly into the sides and bottom of the pie dish using your fingers or a dry measuring cup. Freeze for 30 minutes. (Or 15, as the case may be.)

Once chilled, bake the crust for 10 minutes in the 375 oven, until golden brown. Remove the crust and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

so many yellow ingredients!

1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup strained fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 4-6 lemons)
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
1 large egg
Coarse salt

Whisk all these ingredients together and pour into the pre-baked crust. (It's ok if it's still warm). Bake at 325 until the center is set, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (the icebox part).

30 minutes before the 3 hours are up, prepare the topping.


12 oz (2 cups) sliced strawberries (just use a whole quart).
2 tablespoons sugar plus 1/2 cup and 2 tbs sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Sprinkle the strawberries with the 2 tbs sugar and lemon juice, and let stand for about 30 minutes.

OPTIONAL MERINGUE: While the strawberries are standing, heat the egg whites with the 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs sugar in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are warm.

Using a handheld or counter mixer, whip the egg whites at high speed until medium peaks form.

Now assemble! Drain the juice from the strawberries and spoon them over the lemon pie. If you want you can stop here, it will be fab fabby fab. A delectable dessert flavored with the vibrant colors of red and yellow.

However, if you chose the meringue, spread the whipped egg whites over the strawberries. Toast the meringue using a kitchen torch or the broiler in your over. The broiler is RISKY. BUSINESS. Check it every minute AT LEAST. I swear my pie was only in the oven for 3 minutes and here's what it looked like, not pretty:

Still quite tasty though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Broken Cake Trifle and trippy weekend.

I was gone for... no real reason. I have an extreme lack of quality pictures because I never seemed to have my camera on me when I was making things, and I just couldn't bring myself to write a post in general. I thought "Hmm, I should post today, that bread pudding is looking moldy." Then I'd click the "New Post" tab, and stare at the blank text box for a few minutes before going off to check my email and google reader instead. I have been making things though, and I aim to be a more responsible documenter as it appears a few of you missed me. And in lieu of pictures, I have words today, so grab some coffee and focus your attention spans.

News Item 1: Crazy Easter weekend.

Easter weekend was a sleepless haze of cream puffs and music like I'd never heard it before.

The restaurant had a catering on Friday night for a French couple's wedding. They requested a Croquembouche for their wedding cake. The croak-am-boosh is a traditional French dessert that is basically a zillion cream puffs glued with hot caramel into a tall cone shaped tower. Time consuming. Dangerous. In addition the wedding cake 'bouche, they wanted 80 individual 'bouches for their guests. No big deal.

And so all Thursday night and much of Friday found me making desserts for the restaurant, 450 cream puffs and gallons of Grand Marnier-flavored pastry cream in an increasingly sleep-deprived and manic state. I didn't get to go to sleep until 1 pm on Friday, but tragically, I had to be at the wedding venue at 4pm to help assemble the dang thing.

This is what 450 cream puffs and several gallons of pastry cream looks like:

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the finished product, it was chaos.

I toiled away in my corner, filling cream puffs, trying to avoid the rest of the staff rushing around. (Here's a quick trick for any of you desiring to make this monstrosity: if you have to bake the cream puff in advance, pop them in the oven for a few minutes and let cool before filling them. The toasting will help them keep their shape in the tower and its less likely to topple over...)

Anyway, after a few panicked minutes with some iffy caramel, burning fingers on said caramel, burning foot on dropped caramel (Toms shoes have no place in the kitchen folks), and trying to work around the cheerful and inquisitive wedding photographers who thought they'd capture the process for posterity, we presented one grand, imposing cake and 80 minute cakes to the newly married couple and their guests. Phew, time for some sleep. Not.

I went home to bed at 9 pm to sleep...but then had to be back to work at midnight to bake for the Saturday farmers' market. So I stayed up til the next day at noon, baking and selling bread. Are you keeping track of my sleep folks? Like, how there's really none?

Saturday afternoon I was done with work and feeling strangely powerful, like maybe I'm a super-human who doesn't have to sleep. I happily jumped in the car to drive with Eric to the Allegreen Music festival near Athens, GA.

Now, this Festival was one we got tickets for on Groupon for super cheap, on a whim, without even looking at the bands. We'd been planning on a little trip to nearby Athens anyway.

It wasn't until a few days before the festival that we thought to check out the bands playing, and by then it was too late. The headliner was a band called JACKYL, and I'll let you look them up yourselves. Basically, they are 40 or 50 year old rockers that got their start in the 80s and never calmed down. We're talking flames and yelling and dancing ladies. The lead singer has super-straight brown hair that flows passed his waist. He sings with a wireless microphone attached to a whip and his mic stand is made out of a rifle. Those are probably the tamest details I can share with you. They were the last act of the night, and by then I was wearily determined to sit on the ground in the middle of a hoard of standing/dancing show-goers. Eric thought it best to drag me off to bed, so we only stayed for a couple songs as shocked observers.

Allegreen was a hugely unique experience all-around. It was held at a remote resort called Durhamtown where you can rent ATVs and dirtbikes and zip the around the woods on dirt tracks with jumps. In fact, between shows, guys performed huge as-seen-on-TV-type stunts on a track with a jump that shot them a hundred feet up into the air.

I embarrassed Eric by gasping and covering my face with fear as they twisted and flipped the motorcycles in the air. Underneath it all, a woman gulped lighter fluid or whatever and blew flames into the air, finishing her performance with a flaming hula hoop. (Oh, we also saw some junior fire breaters lurking around later that night. Three teenage boys beckoned us to them and tried to impress us with their pyro skillz while staring deep into our eyes/souls and refusing to blink. One of them had a tail attached to his pants. Another's pockets were stuffed full of straw, which doesn't seem safe to me.)

Anyway, one act there was truly mind-blowing. He's call "That 1 Guy" and he plays a MAGIC PIPE, and occasionally a MAGIC BOOT. These are electronic instruments completely of his own making. He's a one man band and the pipe has strings and buttons and pedals and more. He always wears two Amish-type hats at the same time and has super pointy sideburns. A real weirdo, which I think he'd take as a compliment. That 1 Guy's lyrics and music were extremely complicated (and strange) with excellent beats. Every time he finished a song he'd end with an "AaaROOOOOOO" wolf howl, which at first was off-putting but he was so awesome that half way through the set we were all yelling "AaaaROOOOO" with him. Check out some videos, its the only way to know.

This video is longer and really lets you see what this guy is about:

We slept shivering in our tent next to a family with the Taj Mahal camping set up. The next morning the wife asked me "Were ya'll making a peanut butter sandwich last night? I saw your shadow in the tent spreading something." Um yes, thanks for noticing.

News item 2 to come next time. BUT- In case you wanted some food content in this post, here's a Broken-Cake-Chocolate-Strawberry-Trifle.

I made a Sweet and Salty Cake and a Coconut Cake (recipe coming soon) for our friends Ryan and Laura's wedding. The first batch of chocolate cake came out of the pan in clumps because I thought I could use wax paper instead of parchment paper to line the bottom of the cake pan just this once. Don't try it, it doesn't work.

Well, never one to let cake go to waste, I made a Trifle for a potluck that night. I layered the broken cake with Chocolate Pudding, sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

I didn't even have to go to the store for any extra ingredients- the pudding just takes milk, sugar, chocolate and cornstarch.

Here's a rough recipe- but you can mix and match with whatever you have. Even cool whip and pudding from a box, if you must.

1 layer broken chocolate cake, plus crumbs to sprinkle the top
2 cups cream, whipped
1 quart strawberries

Layer half the cake, then half the pudding, then half the whipped cream, then half the strawberries. Repeat. Top with cake crumbs.

Enjoy this accolade this brings! The potluck people swooooned over it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Last week the Masters golf tournament took Augusta by storm. By that I mean the entire city was consumed by golf mania, Bill Murray was in town, and there were tornadoes.

I baked every night from midnight-9am or so, and my sleep schedule was so messed up it was hard for me to do much of anything but bake and lie around pretending to read (but mostly staring out of the window and sighing occasionally.) Forget drawing, screen printing, hanging out or blogging- all that took way too much energy.

Eric and I got to check out the National golf course for a couple hours Tuesday evening. We felt like such impostors walking in the place (I don't even own a polo shirt). I expected-I don't know-the Emerald City of Oz, I guess. A green aura did exist everywhere I looked, from the pristine grass to the sophisticated "bleachers" and grown up "snack bars," but overall...it just looked like a golf course to me. With some very nice azalea bushes, I might add.
I felt sorry for all the hired labor scampering around picking up individual pine needles off the ground...the storm from the night before knocked not a few pine trees and azalea bushes around.

I was baking during the storm, and around 3am the power went out in the restaurant. I started screaming "NO NO NO NO NO NO! Come back! Please! NoooooooOOO...." I am very vocal when I bake, seeing as I am alone and all. I had a horrible vision of the kitchen staff walking in the kitchen and all the unbaked dough taking over the kitchen, with poor Mikaela's feet sticking out from under the mass like the Wicked Witch of the East.

Fortunately for me, the power came back 5 minutes later.

Every day I made about a million croissants for breakfast parties, and by the end of the week we had quite the surplus of old croissants. I cast a glance around the ol' internet, and found this recipe for chocolate croissant bread pudding on the Food Network site. Friends, I tell you: at least 7 people have told me, unsolicited, that this stuff is bliss on a fork. And not all of them what you might call "bread pudding people." I am definitely a bread pudding person, it's actually my newest obsession, so I'll share this recipe with you. It's super buttery and soft, like a croissant. With chocolate!

And in a later post, look forward to yet another BP recipe I made during golf week.

Get some.

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding adapted from Food Network site

Preheat to 350.
I made this recipe times 3 in a massive pan, you should use a 9"x13" baking pan.

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk or half and half
8-12 croissants, depending on the size (you'll want to fill the bottom of the pan with a layer of loosely placed 1-inch-croissant-pieces about 2 inches deep.)
1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped small.

I used croissants that were baked stuffed with chocolate, so I skipped the extra cup of chocolate.

In a large food processor or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Add the butter and mix until well blended. While the mixer/processor is running, add the vanilla, and then the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each. Scrape down the bowl and, with the machine running, slowly pour in the heavy cream and milk. Scrape and blend well.

Butter the baking dish and scatter the 1-inch croissant pieces in the bottom, about 2 inches deep. Scatter the chopped chocolate over the croissants and mix gently. Pour the custard mixture over the the croissants and let sit for 10 minutes, pushing the croissants down into the custard occasionally. The custard should cover all the croissants with croissant islands poking up in the liquid.

Cover the bread pudding with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The bread pudding is done when it's puffed up and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool slightly and serve. It's also great reheated later.

Oh, and I pretty much ate only sugar the whole week, because I was surrounded by dessert all "day" long. And while that might sound like your dream diet, I felt lousy every time I ended a shift, and left swearing I wouldn't repeat the sugar binge again during the next shift. So this week I'm trying to avoid sugar and to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. It feels good.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best Blueberry Banana Muffins

I always think I can combine two or three recipes to come up with my perfect muffin. So far my attempts at a banana blueberry muffin that has yogurt and oatmeal and whole wheat flour in it have all baked up as little flavorless lumps.

I decided to adjust my sights a little. Banana and blueberry were givens, as those are two things I have in abundance because I cannot survive without an abundance of bananas (brown speckled and ripe) and blueberries (frozen- from my childhood home blueberry farm). Yogurt was in the fridge and whole wheat flour on the counter, so I decided to forego only the oatmeal. Which I suspect was the culprit anyway...

When I first started baking, Martha was my muse, and so it's only fitting that I turned back to her in this moment of need. Thus, I adapted her Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffin and found them AWESOME.

These muffins bake up fluffy with perfectly rounded tops, studded with blueberries and banana bits. They tastes buttery. Complex. Delicious. I ate like 4 within an hour of taking them out of the oven. I wish that was an exaggeration.

Blueberry Banana Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 or 3 very ripe bananas, mashed- 3/4 cup
1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups blueberries (frozen is fine)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a spray oil to grease a 12-cup muffin pan. You can also butter and flour the pan or use cupcake liners.

Mix the flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mash the bananas and mix them with the yogurt and vanilla. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, mixing between each addition until just blended. Don't over-mix. Stir in the blueberries and divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each to the top.

I made a ripe-banana shrine to these lovely, lovely muffins.

Also, I've been listening to this song non-stop and I thought I'd share. Zach Hurd- Changing Landscapes