Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bread Glory Shots

Here is the bread i made on friday, shining brightly in the morning light! I arrived at 4:45 and left at 9:30. I absolutely adore arriving early, when it's still dark and I'm all alone and free to listen to music...or Twilight or Harry Potter audio books. Getting out of bed is tough, and it's kind of scary going to the storage garage in the dark and lugging a 50 pound bag of flour across the street, but once I get the dough going, I don't notice the time until others start arriving around 9, and I snap my computer shut so they don't hear what I'm listening to.

For our country loaf, the ingredients are flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil.

This is the massive mixer that kneads 50+ pounds of dough for me. Every time I make bread I clean it out, and every time there are 3 little screws at the bottom, which I take out and put in a grove on the top in case some body needs them. Then the next time, they're back in the bottom of the bowl. It's like someone wants there to be screws in the bread. On Monday I just went ahead and threw them out.

This was the dough for the honey wheat bread (Carol Kroeger recipe). It swelled to the top of the bowl before I had a chance to form loaves with it. The restaurant is always very hot in the morning, and the temperature makes the dough rise like whoa.

Here I am making hundreds of little rolls. The rolls are so much more work...I kind of hate them. But they are nice to eat. After cutting the 2-3 oz pieces, I let them rest for a few minutes before shaping them.

This is the rack where they bread trays go. Behind it is the oven.

Ah! The finished product! I like my baguettes all rustic and bulgy like this.

The honey wheat boules turned out very pretty and very delicious. The customers won't know what hit em!

All those little rolls...I think I figured I made over 400 of the little buggers. Instead of slicing them with a knife, I usually snip the tops with scissor, which gives them sharp little noses when they're baked.

I love this. I love making bread.

I've been working on a sourdough starter all week, so look for some sourdough bread soon!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cherry-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Possibly one of the greatest perks to having a wedding is the fact that you get to make a huge list of everything your heart has ever desired and then everyone you or your mother has ever met will go out and buy those things for you.

And if there's anything at all that those people overlooked, be it garlic mincers or fancy microplaners or 100,000 thread count sheets, you can always return the duplicates and buy the rest of the loot yourself. (before you think me shallow and doomed to marital failure, note I said this is the best thing about a wedding, not about the marriage).

Everything we got for our wedding was super cool (thanks everyone...again...and if you're in the very small minority that maybe somehow missed the thankyou card boat, I'm very sorry, and thank you very much.) However, there were two things I'd set my sights on as soon as I wrapped my head around the receiving of gifts deal: the juicer and the ice cream maker.

The juicer gets action more days than not, but somehow this weekend was the first time we used our icecream maker! I talked about it non-stop for 6 months before we received it, then it sat in the basement for another 7 months! What was I thinking?

Now that we've done it, I'm not sure we'll be able to stop. I'm already planning the next batch.

When I chose this recipe I was thinking about Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, my absolute favorite ice cream in the world. Unfortunately, this is not that ice cream. It is very good, though, with cherry and chocolate chunks, and is even better if you let it soften a bit after the freezer and before you eat it. Next I'm going to try a custard-based ice cream; I want to maximize the creaminess of the next batch.

1 1/2 cups pitted ripe sweet cherries (from about 3/4 lb cherries) (i used frozen)
3/4 cup milk
1 3/4 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tbsp Amaretto, cherry liqueur, or rum (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine, keep in freezer until use (I used half ghiradelli semi sweet bar and have hersey's special dark bar)

Put cherries, milk, one cup of the cream, sugar, and salt into a medium saucepan. Heat on medium heat until the mixture is steamy, then lower the heat to warm and just let sit for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Blend the mixture just a little bit. I wanted cherry chunks in my ice cream, and more than a couple whirls will annihilate the chunks.

Put mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of cream. Chill for several hours in the refrigerator until completely cold. (Can also place bowl over an ice bath, to speed up the cooling process.) (Apparently it's really important that the batter for ice cream is quite cold)

Before putting the mixture into your ice cream maker, stir in the lemon juice and the Amaretto or other liqueur if you are using. Note that you can skip the alcohol if you want, but the addition of it will help the ice cream from getting too icy, and the amaretto can add a nice flavor boost to the ice cream. Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Once the ice cream has completed churning, the ice cream should be pretty soft. Gently fold in the finely chopped chocolate. Put in an airtight container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours.

Makes about one quart.

I doubled the batch because we have a three quart machine. I didn't realize at the time that this would make a LOT of ice cream. We still have a huge bowlful in out freezer. Feel free to come help us eat it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chai Spice Cake

I want this post to be mostly informative about frosting flavored with honey: don't do it.

It will pretend like it's going to hold it's shape and then slowly melt all over your counter, fridge, whatever. One could, for instance, use honey frosting to drape over a cake, letting it drip down the sides like ganache. That would be an appropriate usage for honey frosting. But unless you feel like scraping it all off and trying to piece back together the cake that has to be at the restaurant an hour ago, don't use it to completely frost a cake.

But isn't a chai spice cake a good idea? I used a recipe from Sky High.

1 1/3 cups milk
6 unsweetened chai tea bags, like Tazo
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
2 2/3 cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground cardamon
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line the bottoms of 3 8-in round cake pans with parchment paper.

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over med-low heat (watch it, don't let it boil over). Add the tea bags, draping the strings over the outside of the pot. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and squeeze all the liquid from each back into the pot. Let the milk mixture cool.

In a bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla and 1/3 cup chai milk. Whisk to blend.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Beat on low to mix. Add the softened butter and remaining chai milk and mix on med-low to blend; then turn up the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping down the bowl between each and mixing only to incorporate.

Divide the batter among your pans and bake for 25-28 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Honey Ginger frosting was a great idea, but use less honey than more if you're trying it. The book recommends using powdered sugar, cream cheese, honey, butter and fresh grated ginger.

I am now inspired to make my own chai mixture. Also I LOVE cardamom.

Drinks...but specifically Vanilla-Ginger soda syrup

A while back, I was inspired my Elizabeth's blog. She was sick and made some delicious-looking homemade ginger soda. Folks, I'm just going to get this out there now: I love ginger.

I juice most mornings (juice vegetables and fruit, that is. For some reason whenever I tell people at work I've been juicing, they give me a strange look and ask "Like...steroids?" "Yes, thats why I look so incredibly buff", I tell them.) and I always, always always include ginger. It makes the drink zingy like soda and can even disguise the taste of handfuls of turnip greens. My favorite combos are Apple-Carrot-Ginger-Beet and Apple-Carrot-Ginger-Blueberry...but I usually try to sneak some greens in there.

While I'm talking in this vein, I'd like to take the time to encourage you to try "Green Smoothies," a totally satisfying way to start your day with a healthy bang. Just blend frozen fruit with some kind of juice, or even water, honey and lemon juice, and add spinach or another green until the smoothie is a mysterious murky green. If you use spinach I swear you can't taste is and it is so good for you. My favorite combo is Banana-Blueberry-Mango with spinach and orange or apple juice. Carrot Juice-Mango-Spinach is also good.

I'm going to get some pictures in here of these drinks, soon.

All that to say, when I was inspired by the aforementioned Elizabeth's Blog, I dug out some ginger and the vanilla beans that my friend Katie had given me.

I put 1 cup sugar and 1.5 cups water in a pot and added about a 1/3 cup thinly sliced ginger and the split and vanilla bean and the seeds. I boiled the mixture for a half an hour, maybe a bit more, stirring occasionally.

I strained the slightly thickened syrup through a fine strainer and was then ready to use it- mix a couple tablespoons of syrup with club soda and ice.

The vanilla bean makes it incredibly smooth and somehow creamy, and adds very intriguing little black specks to your drink. The ginger shakes things up and adds the necessary ZING.

Plus, the stuff lasts forever. And by that I mean I pulled it out of the fridge 2 weeks after I made it and as far as I could tell it tasted the exact same. In fact, a month and a half later I would probably still be drinking it had Eric not taken the initiative to clean out the fridge recently. It is good to have my measuring cup back.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Cheesecake

MMM!!! CHEESECAKE. It's been so long...

On Sunday our small group had a potluck, and I was just going to bring Spinach Artichoke Dip, which I love....

...but I realized that this was possibly the only occasion on the horizon for which I would have an excuse to make the Lemon Curd Cheesecake I've been dying to make for oh-so-long. I like making cakes for the restaurant, but I do miss the little test ramekins I got to enjoy when making cheesecake.

1. Lemon curd is delicious and deliciously easy to make. It is also very pretty. The final colors of the cheesecake reminded me of spring and easter...white with bright yellow and the purply blue of the blueberries.
2. Oh yes, I added blueberries. There was no reason not to. And they not only aesthetically enhanced the dessert, they provided much needed relief from the richness and tartness of the filling.

My spring form pan leaked a bit and so the crust ended up pretty soggy, but fortunately that is not something I mind. I'm not sure how it was received at the potluck, actually, because I had to leave early, but Eric loved it, and he's tough to please.

Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake, adapted from Gourmet, July 2006.
Preheat oven to 350. 1. Make Lemon Curd. 2. Make crust. 3. Make filling.

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. Add the butter (I melted mine first) and cook over med-low heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling.
Force the curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove the zest, then allow to cool.

Make your graham cracker crust by mixing 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar and a dash of salt with 5 T melted unsalted butter. Press into the sides and bottom of a 9-in springform pan and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

Next, make the cheesecake filling. It's ridiculously easy, just blend 3 8-oz packages cream cheese in a stand mixture until smooth. Add 1 cup sugar and blend for 3-5 minutes. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, blending well between each. Mix in a teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 cup sour cream. DONE.

Now, pour half the filling into the spring form pan. Dot half the lemon curd over the filling and use a spoon or knife to swirl it into the filling. Then, if you're me, you'll sprinkle a handful of blueberries over the filling. (frozen or fresh, either works well.) Pour on the rest of the filling and swirl the rest of the lemon curd in.

Bake at reduced temperature of 300 degree in a water bath. Mine took about an hour and 15 minutes, and was a very soft set, but still cracked. The original recipe called for 40 minutes. Do what you will here, the end result will no doubt be amazing no matter what.

The only picture i could get of the finished cake...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I bake bread now!

Friends! I'm so glad you're here.

I have fantastic news.

I am now the bread baker at the restaurant. Former baker is finally moving to Virginia. I had my first session today, baking with the owner. We made Irish Soda Bread and the typical white country loaf we make at the restaurant.

Even better, they want me to make tons of different types of bread- really branching out from the bread status quo there. I will, through trial and error I'm sure, make stuffed breads, whole wheat breads, sourdoughs and more! We will sell the bread at the restaurant and at the two farmer's markets in the area.

I will continue to make cakes, and during the time the bread is rising I will make more of the desserts for the restaurant, like cheesecakes and mousse. And icecream! Because starting this spring, we will offer home-made icecream.

And I will not wait tables anymore. I am thrilled.

This brings me one step closer to achieving the Master Plan.

Have I told you about the Master Plan? It involves owning a bakery that bakes breads and sweet baked goods that serves coffee and drinks (like home-made sodas) with comfortable space for people to meet, read, work and study. In an attached room, there will be books, books, books; a used bookstore. (The kind with good books, not just rows of trashy romance novels.) There will be local artists' work on the walls. I will throw the mugs and bowls for the place, and if you buy a mug, your coffee is discounted whenever you use it. If all this is successful, we will expand to the basement, where we will have beer and host live music.

Of course, I need to find an appropriate city for such a haven- one with people who appreciate such things, but not too many of them, because then they will already have too many coffee shops/bakeries.

And I'm starting my bread experience! Get ready for some bread pictures and recipes!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Grasshopper Cake

My Baked Cookbook hit another one out of the park. The inspiration for this cake is the mint-chocolate grasshopper pie, made with marshmallows and creme de menthe (ew?) which is inspired by the mint-chocolate grasshopper drink, bright green, with the main ingredient again being, creme de menthe.

I thought this cake sounded like a better use of the liquor, and the flavor did not disappoint. I enjoyed making the frosting- it's like making a pudding and whipping butter in. The chocolate ganache helps balance out all the mint, and made a lovely garnish.

First, make your favorite chocolate recipe, or used the Baked recipe I posted for the Sweet and Salty Cake.

For the Creme De Menthe Buttercream
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup AP Flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cups heavy cream
4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into pieces
2 T creme de menthe (OR 1 T vanilla and some green food coloring)
2 1/4 t peppermint extract
Baked suggests using chocolate wafer cookies for garnish, too.

In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally. (Be careful the milk mixture doesn't burn on the bottom). Cook until the mixture has come to a boil and thickened, 10-20 minutes.

Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add the butter, one T at a time; mix thoroughly until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the creme de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined.

Chocolate Ganache
6 oz dark chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T creme de menthe
1/2 t peppermint extract (I omitted the flavorings)

Bring the creme to a boil in a saucepan, then pour over the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Let the cream sit for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth. Add the flavorings.

Put chocolate ganache on each cake layer, and top with frosting. Assemble the layers. I added more creme to the ganache to make a thinner chocolate to pour over the top and then threw on some chocolate chips.

So, so tasty.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Hooray! Another Blueberry Cake for you!

I have to find some way to use all the frozen berries from the fall in my freezer.

I've made muffins from this recipe twice since I first made this cake. They are unbelievably moist with tender studs of berries. Perfect.

I'm beginning to see what people mean when they rave about Ina Garten's recipes.

Blueberry Crumb Cake by Ina Garten, found on the Food Network Site

For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • For the cake:

    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • 2/3 cup sour cream
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 cup fresh blueberries
    • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,

crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

When I made it for the Restaurant, I doubled the recipe, and used a 10-in springform pan for most of the batter. I made four muffins with the remaining batter. I'm sure you could use almost any fruit in the recipe- raspberries, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, whatever!

The Night of One Thousand Cupcakes....Part Two

Every horror movie has a sequel, right?

A lovely lady who I met at the bridal show asked me to make Lemon Blueberry and Mint Chocolate cupcakes for her wedding. 300 of each, to be exact. (that's 600 total, folks.)

All day Friday I baked loads and loads of cupcakes, screen printing in between while batches cooled (check out The Hungry Fox for some of the aforementioned printing.)

And playing continuously in the background the whole day was.....the TWILIGHT SAGA.

Consider this my coming out! I have joined hands with millions of Twilight lovers all over the world. It's ridiculous and dramatic and yes, it is awesome. Try it for yourself before you judge me...and then call me so we can gush about it together! (for your listening delight, all four audiobooks are posted on youtube.)

I went to dinner with friends that night, and I felt so odd emerging from my hazy baking and vampire-induced trance...I learned that I don't need to make a habit of spending the day all alone with cupcakes and Cullins. It makes me weird.

I put my cupcakes to bed in their coffins- erm, I mean boxes- and covered them in trash bags to keep them from drying out over night.

These are my schmancy new mini cupcake boxes, which I ordered from this site.

I finished EXACTLY on time, with EXACTLY the right amount of frosting.

The photographer sent me a few photos of the cupcakes in action...

Carrot Cake

Remember this cupcake disaster?

Well, it made a fantastic cake. Make this your next carrot cake experience.