Wednesday, October 26, 2016

American Cake-American Ginger Bread

Gingerbread. Looks like chocolate cake, but it isn't!
Rare is it when I get to explore history, American history, food history, new recipes, new techniques (or very old techniques actually) and get to have a tangible thing in the end. Cake!

I was listening to Stuff you Missed in History Class as I regularly do, when I was in the kitchen this past weekend. I was baking a Decorated Swiss Roll for The Daring Baker's Challenge.  And as boom they had Ms. Anne Byrn on talking about her new book. Her Cake Doctor books, while not my typical way of baking, were inspired. I actually recognized her name!

Oh sweet heaven! She was talking about how America developed and along side it, its cake culture. I could not have geeked out more. American history is the first thing that whet my appetite for history and baking is my way of life. The women host, Holly and Tracy were both surprised that these two things hadn't intertwined before now. Me too!

Anyway, I bought that book and read the first through the first 6 or 7 recipes. I'd been looking for more baking adventures, so in a Julie/Julia kind of moment I've decided to give the entire book a go from start to end.This is more for my edification than for anyone else's. I call no judgement. So I stopped reading deeper into the book. I have to bake then I can read.

Today I made the American Gingerbread. What was new to me and a leap of trust? A full cup of water with baking soda dissolved into it. I've dissolved baking soda into water for raisin oatmeal cookies, but this was massive. Also, not spraying my pan with cooking spray and just going with a butter schmear. I did however use a stand mixer. I mean, this is 2016 after all.

The recipe with minimal instruction is as follows. Please buy her book. American Cake by Anne Byrn.

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 ounces butter
.5 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1.5 teaspoon ginger
.5 teaspoon cinnamon
.25 teaspoon allspice

375 oven. 8x8 pan. Grease pan with butter.
Add baking soda to water and stir to dissolve, set aside.
Cream molasses, eggs and butter. Add sugar. Cream more. Add flour and spices. When combined add the water/soda mixture. Start the machine slowly or it's going to go everywhere.
Bake 40 minutes. Remove from oven when a tester comes out clean.

This is super delicious. There's a fluffy crumb and the top has just a little sugary crunchy resistance. Clearly it's very molassessy. A total yum. But as an aside, I make a gingerbread trifle and this recipe is not dense enough to work in that.

THE Croissant Recipe I love

There are few croissant recipes on the web that have left me in tears. This one, this is the very one that has never failed me.

In the stand of a mixer combine
8 grams dry yeast
6 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons sugar

In a glass measure combine:
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup milk

Microwave 1 minute, stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Into the mixer bowl, on top the yeast mixture add:

450 grams white flour
.25 cup vegetable oil
Add the milk mixture

Mix with the hook attachment until it's all combined.

1 cup butter bring soft enough to spread. Make a rectangle out of the butter between two parchment sheets. Chill.

Once you have the dough knead it a few times. Oil the bowl and put the dough back in, make sure all the dough has been oiled. Cover with plastic wrap, let sit 2-3 hours.

Roll the dough, make an envelope with the butter in the middle. Do 2 book folds. Put on a plate and cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate at least one hour. Roll it out again and do 2 more book folds. Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Roll it into the shape you want. Makes 24 small pastries. For Pain au Chocolate chop 12 ounces of untempered chocolate. Brush with egg wash (1 egg mixed with a little water). Let proof until double.

Bake 12-14 minutes.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hrapocusa aka Dol Torta

Walnut brittle on top
Daring Bakers Challenge in September was Hrapocusa, a cake from the City of
Dol, on the Island of Brac, on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. I made it in October but at least I made it. :)

The recipe provide and the this from the Recipe Hunters were the same but the technique spelled out differently.

I did double the forum's recipe or single the Recipe Hunters' and filled a 10 inch pan and two small 4 inch spring form pans.

I left my walnuts whole on the top and while that was super craggy looking, it felt a little less than harmonious when trying to get a bite with some topping and some cake. I'll run a knife through the nuts and give them a rough chop next time.

Also I think a half recipe in an 10inch pan might make for a shorter cake but it would still make reasonable satisfying slices.

What's cool is that it has lemon, orange and cherry flavors. I like those three combined. Also the technique for the topping, browning sugar and nuts with egg whites in a skillet on top of the stove was one I've never done before. You then go on to top the almond cake with them and bake an additional 15 minutes. It was super interesting.
She's a pretty hefty cake. Many eggs, many nuts. 

This cake has no wheat flour so it's a good one for the gluten free crowd. And while I shouldn't be lazy and type the thing out myself, laziness is winning. I hope I put enough information here for me and you to find the recipe should we want to make it again.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Matcha Short Bread

Short Bread Matcha Cookie

1 cup butter, room temperature
0.5 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons matcha tea powder
.25 cup cornstarch
1.5 cup white flour
.25 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a stand mixer or in a bowl with a hand mixer cream the butter, and powdered sugar. Add the tea powder. Once combined add the cornstarch, flour and salt. Start with a light touch and low speed because the ingredients are easily going to fly. It will seem as if the ingredients are dry and powdery for longer than it should, but stick with it. As the butter warms up the crumb gets moister. Stop mixing when you can form a pinch of the dough into a ball easily.

Refrigerate 30 minutes. Roll and cut into squares. They spread a little. Bake at 330 (weird I know) until the cookie just looks dry. Avoid getting color on the bottom of the cookie. 

I can't believe I didn't get any pictures of these. They were plain but cute. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

German Plum Cake aka Zweschgendatschi

This is the foundation of the flat German cake I grew up making. My stepmother Gisela taught me this. She's been gone over 20 years but I think about her every time I make a kuchen in this style. 
You can use plums, apples, peaches, blueberries...they all work. You can put a crumb top on it too. But fundamentally the recipe is:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
.25 tsp salt
1 stick, 4 ounces butter-melted
2 eggs  
1 cup sugar 
3 pounds of fruit. A little less for berries because they don't have cores or stones.
3 tablespoons sugar or crumble topping. (Look that up later)

350 oven 
In a stand mixer combine flour, baking powder and salt. Mix. Dump in everything else but the fruit. Mix til well combined maybe 2 minutes. It will be soft. Press into a well oiled 14x17 inch pan (or go with a smaller pan for a thicker crust. Arrange the fruit neatly and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 40-60 minutes, depending on how juicy your fruit is. Look for the dough between the fruit to be dry(ish) or for it not to stick to your finger when you touch it. Cool. This cake is typically better 12 to 24 hours after it has been made. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Apricot filled swirls and plain sugary crowns.

I want to admit here and now I make many baking mistakes. This one I crossed referenced two recipes and forgot the salt. It makes a difference not only in taste but structure. I also over proofed the pastry because I was in a rush. Shame on me. This is The Daring Kitchen's April challenge. 

Maybe another day I'll try these again. 

The basic recipe that will work is: 
300g/10 1/2 oz / 2 2/5 cups strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5g / 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast OR 6.75g / 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5g / 1 tsp salt
200ml / 6 3/4 fl oz / 4/5 cup warm water
25g / 1oz / 1 3/4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
250g / 9oz / 1 1/5 sticks / 1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, in a block
100g / 3 1/2 oz / scant 1/2 cup caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Egg wash

Make a bread dough with the flour, yeast, salt, water and melted 1.75 tablespoon of butter. 

On the second rise laminate the buttering into the dough. (Yes, I'm assuming you know what that means, but generally because I'm talking to myself.) 

Turn the dough a total of three times. Resting an hour after each turn. 

On the final round sprinkle a ton of sugar on the dough, give it a turn and cut it. Don't let it rest with the sugar in the dough or it will seep and ruin and the lamination. 

Cut into squares, collect the corners and put the pastry into sprayed muffin tin. 

If you are making a swirl, spread a cup of apricot preserves over the dough, roll into spins, put those in a muffin tin. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle more sugar on top. Rise 30-90 minutes, until the pastry is ready for the oven. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from the pan while hot or they will stick. 

Gateau Basque

In an attempt to expand my horizons I've been looking at classic cake recipes trying to figure which are within my abilities. I came across the Gateau Basque and thought it seemed just the ticket. 

It's rather a cookie dough (ish) with almond flour cake filled with cooked pastry cream and cherries. Or just cherries or just pastry cream. I'm a sucker for pastry cream. I don't have a favorite recipe for one, so I do as I generally find them written but this one I had to improvise upon because I was short on corn starch. You have the recipe I actually made below. Lesson learned:check your pantry before starting a recipe! 

Here's the big momma cake, the diamond pattern in the crust is a thing.
The filling to crust ratio is perfect, if you like pastry cream, which I do! 

I want to say this recipe is not my typical in that you make more dough than what you need for the recipe. It's sloppy to do things that way but alas I didn't have it in me to go looking for too many variations on a theme. Nor did I want to break the recipe down into thirds, because I'm lazy. You use 2/3 of the dough and make cookies with the other third. 

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon oil
1/2 teaspoon almond oil
1 cup almond flour

2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup flour
2 tablespoons cherry liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup brandied cherries, drained, optional
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of milk, for brushing

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in the large bowl. In a different bowl cream sugar and butter. Once creamed add eggs and oils. Mix 3 or 4 minutes. To the eggs add the flour mixture and almond flour. Blend thoroughly. Divide into 3 1 pound packets. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. 

In a sauce pan bring the milk to a simmer. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together. Add the flour and cornstarch. Blend well. Add half of the hot milk to the egg mixture, quickly mix it together. Add the remaining milk. Pour back into the sauce pan and heat slowly, stirring continuously switching between a whisk and a spatula, to scrape the bottom. Cook 8-10 minutes until it is thick and no longer tastes like raw flour. Add the liqueur and vanilla. Pour into a large bowl, butter a parchment paper and press that onto the filling so a skin doesn't form. Cool on the counter 30 minutes. 

 Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch spring form pan with cooking spray. 

Roll the first disc about 12 inches. Place it in the pan, into the corners of the pan. Trim the dough so it about 1.5 inches up the side of the pan. (A tart pan might be easier for this cake, but we're not in for easy, are we?) Pour the filling into the pan, spread it flat. Sprinkle the cherries over the filling if you're using them. Using a knife tip push the edge of the bottom dough toward the center of the pan, so when you put the top on you can shove it down the sides of the pan, to seal in the filling. 

Roll the top slightly bigger than 9 inches, transfer it to the top of the cake, over the filling. Be gentle this is a very tender dough. Score in a diamond pattern, brush with egg wash and bake 50-60 minutes, until golden brown. 

Make cookies with the remaining dough, or maybe a little tart shell or something like that.