Monday, September 28, 2009

Raspberry Tarts and Pumpkin Spice Cake

Last Wednesday's desserts:

(just the tarts and the pecan-topped cake)

The Raspberry Tarts are very popular with the diners at the restaurant, and consist of pastry cream (from the Crepe Gateau) piped into tart shells that have been brushed with apricot jam (heated on the stove with some water), and then topped with raspberries (also brushed with jam). The only places around here one should buy raspberries are fresh market or Sam's Club.

I don't have a food processor yet, so I've been making my tart dough by hand, but it's not as hard as you'd think. It turns out crunchy and flaky, with good flavor.

I really like this recipe, found in my "Organic Kitchen" cookbook:

1.5 c flour
pinch of salt
1 T sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter
1 egg

- Mix in food processor until combined. bring into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 min.
- Flour your tart pans (I use mini tart pans with removable bottoms. this recipe makes dough for a 9 inch pan, but I double it and make 10 mini tarts)

- Roll out the dough to 3/8 of an inch, until it is larger than the tart pan. (I roll between two sheets of parchment paper- less mess, and the dough doesn't stick to the pin)

- Drape the dough over the pan, pushing to the sides and bottom, trying not to stretch the dough too much. Take your rolling pin and roll across the top, cutting off the excess dough.

- Back in the fridge for 10-20 minutes. I usually skip this step and haven't noticed a difference.
Preheat the oven to 400.

- Line the tart bottoms with parchment or aluminum foil, and fill with dry rice or beans. (or use pie weights). Again, I skip this step, because with the mini pans it doesn't matter as much. Instead, I prick the bottom a million times with a fork.

-Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then remove the weights. Lower the temp to 350 and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until the bottom is dry. If you are baking the tart filling the the shell, remove the tart shells at this point and save or fill and bake. My fillings so far are piped in after the tart shell is baked, so I leave the shells in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes more, until golden brown.

NOW, if you don't have a food processor yet, like me, then you can dice up the butter in approximately quarter inch pieces and throw into the flour mixture, and rub into the flour with clean hands, adding the beaten egg after a couple minutes and rubbing some more before forming into a ball. There should be no huge chunks of butter, but the dough should not be homogenous. The little pieces of butter left intact are what will make your crust flaky.

At the last minute, I also decided to make a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese icing. Generally, you can just mix a can of pumpkin puree with boxed spice cake mix plus a couple eggs, but in the future I will make my own spice cake because I felt guilty using boxed cake mix. I also added baking soda, which I think was a mistake because I could taste it in the finished product. If I used boxed cake mix again, I would add more spices, and maybe even sugar to ramp up the flavor.

I doubled the recipe, and used two round pans to make my layers. They turned out very large, and I sliced off the top of each layer to make them flat before assembling the cake.

Cream Cheese icing is very easy to make:
Beat 8 oz. cold cream cheese (not rock solid, but it means you can use it straight out of the refrigerator) with 5 Tbsp. softened butter and 2 tsp. vanilla until combined. Gradually add 2 c. powdered sugar that has been sifted after measuring. Continue to add more sifted powdered sugar until you reach a consistency and sweetness that fits your taste.
from this site:

I like it better than Martha's, but I did add whipped cream to that one so maybe that was the problem.

It tasted great, but I definitely ran out towards the end, so the icing was a little lean on top.

Organic Eggplant

I need to share this:

this very special eggplant was found in the garden of the the restaurant, and is pictured on display above the bar.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BBA French Bread

I labored over this Bread Baker's Apprentice french bread- dealt with preferment and several risings and steaming the oven, but it didn't turn out as I planned.
I mean, it was fine. Good for the tomato mozzarella pesto sandwiches we ate on them, but not so amazing alone.

I let the dough rise and then cut it into 3 parts, shaping two into baguettes and one into a batard (french for torpedo, I think- basically a fatter shorter baguette. it's in betweeen the boule (a round loaf) and the baguette on the evolutionary chain.) then they rose again on parchment paper, nestled between a can of spray oil and a paper towel tube.

When I tried to transfer them to the baking sheet, a lot of air escaped and the tops looked wrinkled. I placed a baking pan in the oven during preheating, and when I placed the baking sheet with the dough on a baking stone near the bottom of the oven, I poured a cup of water into the pan at the top to create steam, then shut the oven really fast. Then I misted the walls of the over with a spritzer of water at 30 second intervals 3 times. This helps with the formation of the crust, if I understand correctly.

Like I said, it was involved. And slightly dissapointing. I will surely try again.

BBA Cinnamon Rolls

I am taking an unorthodox approach to the Breadbaker's Apprentice book by starting with the cinnamon rolls.

the first rise:

I rolled out the dough and completely covered it with cinnamon sugar. I rolled it up into a tube and then sliced it for the rolls.

here they are after another rise:

I had to retard them in the fridge overnight because by the time they finished rising we were ready for bed. I baked them before work the next day.

The icing was just milk and confectioners' sugar with some lemon zest. Bailey's Irish Cream was a good flavor for it too.

lovely lovely lovely


This is mad exciting:

On friday I brought Raspberry Tarts and Mille Crepe Gateau to the restaurant, and people loved them. The tarts are all gone AND on Saturday morning, a woman called me and said that she'd been to the restaurant the night before, eaten my Crepe Cake, and fell in love with it.

"Would you be willing to bake one for an event? Today? Not today? How much notice do you need? Okay, call back with a price and I'll give you a date."

ROCK ON. I think I'm going to charge 40 bucks. Two for 35.

I'm getting paid to bake!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie

All Eric wanted for his birthday was a pecan pie, so I planned to make one in Columbia, SC while he was in class. Spencer found a recipe for Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie, and we gave it a shot. We used fake maple syrup instead of the real stuff (7 dollar difference: you do the math.)
and I think that (plus cup plus two tablespoons of dark corn syrup) contributed to it's sickly sweetness. But I suppose it's not a pecan pie unless you're eating congealed buttery sugar.

We doubled the bourbon (just dumped the whole airplane bottle in), but I still didn't really taste it. It was my job to watch the pie, and I let it get a bit dark while watching Project Runway on Youtube. All in all, this is a good pecan pie, and even better with some icecream to cut the sweetness.

Eric's Birthday!

The remains of Eric's party:

Eric claims to want to ignore his birthday (I don't buy it), so I have to be pretty sneaky about it if I want to celebrate, even though I am so over surprise birthday parties.

I planned to have some friends come over after church, and I didn't tell him, but I didn't go way out of my way to hide the fact that something was going on. One might say I was overtly sneaky, so it's no surprise that Eric experienced a few very suspicious and paranoid days this weekend.

We were in Columbia visiting Spencer and Liz on Saturday, and it wasn't until we got back at midnight that I had time to clean and prepare for the party. In addition to the Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie that Spencer, Liz and I made while Eric was in class, I decided to make Martha's Mini Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes for the party. I waited until Eric fell asleep, then snuck to Kroger in the middle of the night. I grabbed some cream cheese and oreos, and stocked up on frozen pizzas...which Eric and I eat shamefully often.

Back at home, Eric confronted me in the kitchen while I was trying to quietly rearrange the freezer so it would hold the pizzas. He woke up while I was gone and wandered around the house in a sleepy daze, looking for me. It's funny today, but at the time he was mad because I scared him. He looked off the porch in case I fell, wondered if he should call the police, texted me several times (whoops.) He said he even tried to remember if I was real, like if there was something bad that had happened that he'd forgotten. So sad!

ANYWAY, I sheepishly went to bed with him, and got up early to make the cheesecakes. They were EXTREMELY easy: just place an oreo in the bottom of a cupcake papers in a muffin pan, preheat oven to 275, and use an electric mixer to combine

2 lbs cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 t vanilla,
then fold in 12 coarsely chopped oreo cookies.

Fill the cupcake papers and cook for 20-25 min, rotating halfway through, allow to cool, and refrigerate at least 4 hours to set. Divine!

The recipe makes about 30 cheesecakes. I halved it this time, and it turned out great, even though I forgot I was halving it when I added the eggs. I think the extra eggs meant I had to cook my cakes longer, and the texture was probly a little custardy. But everyone loved them anyway!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Parents' Weekend

Last weekend my parents and youngest brother came to visit, and I made cupcakes, lasagna and ciabatta bread for the occasion.

Just before they arrived, my massive, beautiful lasagna was minutes away from perfection, when a SMASH*CRASH*TINKLE*TINKLE noise sounded from the oven. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the oven coated with pyrex glass and bits of lasagna, but my camera was not the first thought on my mind. The pyrex dish (brand new) didn't just crack in half or anything, it shattered. I had been feeling all grown up, fixing dinner for my family in my very own kitchen, but when mom arrived a few minutes later, I stopped being grown up and let her clean up the mess.
I scooped off the top layer of the lasagna and ate it, even though mom begged me to throw it out.

The cupcakes were Banana Caramel, because I wanted to do something with a gooey caramel center.

I still think it is a good concept, but the banana cake was entirely too dense, and after a few days in the refridge, they were completely unappetizing. The icing was caramel cream cheese, and I added whipping cream to make it lighter, but the flavor was still kind of overwhelmingly cream cheese.

Eric said these were his favorite cupcakes so far, and my family liked them too, but I was not impressed. I wish I'd tried the Rachel Ray recipe I saw for them, but this is the recipe I used:
with my own concoction for icing.

I do like the idea of using rum in the cupcakes, though.

They look pretty though, don't you think?

A few days before I made the bread, I made a starter for ciabatta bread, and let the yeast grow for 6 hrs at room temp, and then stalled it in the fridge til I was ready to make it. I got the formula out of "The Bread Bible" by Rosy Beranbaum.

It's not a good picture, but the bread had fantastic "crumb," or network of holes, but the crust wasn't very distinct and I don't think I let it rise enough because I was trying to get it done before soccer with Eric. The flavor was GREAT. I LOVE BREAD.

The start of my bread baking adventure! I plan to make a lot of breads from the Bread Bible, and really go gung ho on my new book "The Breadbaker's Apprentice" which is apparently THE book for bread bakers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ginger Laced Cookies

I saw this recipe in a Martha mag in February, and I've been wanting to make it ever since. (I've been captivated by the idea of rose water in cooking ever since a friend and I made rose water apple pie in elementary school.) I love the consistency of puddings and custards, and this is creamy like a pudding and holds it's shape like custard.
The faint rose smell/taste is balanced by fruit and blueberry jam and the ginger cookies. The flavors come together beautifully. I think alone the panna cotta would taste like air freshener.

the original recipe calls for lychees and candied ginger, but I was done spending money on the project and pulled out the trusty blueberry jam.

Milles Crepes Gateau!!

My gorgeous cake. I'm proud of it. It is layers and layers of crepe and pastry creme. A spongey, creamy delight. It's good with all sorts of fruit or fruit sauce or just plain. Right now I'm so enthralled with it, I wouldn't even attempt to add chocolate.

This is the recipe I used, taken from the NY Times, found on this blog:

The first few crepes I made were horrible, and I thought I would have to scrap the whole cake idea. (It was getting late in the day, I was feeling desperate.)

a good crepe, finally
Usuable crepes, thank goodness.

Fruit Tarts

I basically followed this Joy of Baking Recipe

a few pointers:
tart pans help. I used ramekins.
brush the tart with jam before piping in pastry cream. It will keep the tart from getting soggy. Jam on top will also help the fruit stay fresh.

For most of the tarts, I piped the pastry cream into the shells, so they were prettier than this.

Can you tell that Eric liked them?
I didn't get a picture of the tarts that I took to the boss, but they were small with raspberries and peaches or plums. Some were brushed with blueberry jam. To be truly french, the boss pointed out, they will be brushed with Apricot Jam.

I'm a baker now!

I've been baking a lot lately. Yesterday I worked all day to create desserts to present to my boss at the French Restaurant, and thank heavens he liked them. He is going to buy desserts from me to sell in the restaurant. I made Fruit Tarts, Mille Crepe Gateau, and Rosewater Panna Cotta with Ginger laced Sugar cookies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Carrot Cupcakes

Here we have a Carrot Cake Cupcake.

They remained moist for a long time uncovered in my fridge, which is good because I made about one million and I was on a 3 a day cupcake diet for almost a week.
I used Martha's recipe here again, and I had to grate an entire pound of carrots and made my fingers bleed.  I think I will look for a new carrot cake recipe, because I think I could find one that made tenderer cake.
I experimented with the cream cheese icing, doing mostly what martha said, but I'm going to look around for a new recipe on this one too.

I got some icing tips, and and piped different designs on each cupcake.  To pipe a big rosette on the top of each cupcake, I think I'm going to need bigger tips.  

BTW, if you want a recipe and I don't post it, please comment and I'll get it to you post haste.  

Dark Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes, batch 1 of 2
these are dark chocolate cupcakes, and they were divinely moist.  I used my good friend Martha's recipe.  I used her mint buttercream, too, but it was almost entirely butter, not even very much confectioner's sugar, and I am not one to eat butter straight up.

batch 2 was the same cake but with a chunk of semi sweet chocolate place on top of each filled uncooked cupcake.  I wanted a gooey center, but the chocolate fell through to the bottom of the cupcake during baking and re-hardened when the cupcakes were cool.  I may have to use some sort of fudge if I want a gooey center.
I adapted a bailey's buttercream that we used at my bachelorette, and I think the icing was (which had less butter and more sugar, but no eggs) was a better fit.  Big time butter wasn't bad but little butter was better.  

Is there a future Fox Bakeshop?

I'm (fairly) fresh out of school, new in town, newly married, and it's time to figure out life.  
The MASTER PLAN involves owning a bakery/pottery/bookstore, but who knows if I even like baking that much?  
To make an informed decision about the baking plan, I will bake now and build my baking repertoire and feed my foodie tendancies, as well as my husband and the neighbors and whoever else I can get to take the goods off my hands.
I will post pictures and thoughts on what I bake.
I have some catch up to play with some photos taken over the past couple weeks.