Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Ensaimadas

Well, it's that time of year again, time to pack the car to bursting, lug refrigerators down seemingly endless hallways, buy boxes full of overpriced textbooks...oh wait, no it's not. It's quite possibly never going to be that time of year for me again. I'm not going back to school...I'm done. It doesn't really feel like summer is winding down for me because I don't have any of the experiences associated with end of summer happening right now. The transition from summer into fall just isn't that big of a deal anymore. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. 



I think...I might like it. There's no impending sense of seriousness looming over me. I'm enjoying myself immensely. I even went to the state fair for the first time, since I didn't have to think about packing and driving. 

Saw this terrifying figure there. Ugh. 


We'll see if my feelings change in the fall and I get all weepy and nostalgic. Anyway, my challenge for this month was either chimney cakes, which I do desperately want to make but I was afraid of setting my house on fire, or ensaimadas, which I also wanted to make, and seemed like less of a risk. I'll get you someday, chimney cake! Ensaimadas, I've decided, are the perfect breads. Soft, buttery, flaky...mm. Douse 'em in powdered sugar or, if you're feeling the Filipino style, sprinkle with cheese. 



Ensaimadas

The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

2½ cups (10½ oz) (300 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoon instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast
1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
1 large egg
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
7 tablespoons (110 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) butter, softened
Confectioners’ sugar/icing sugar/powdered sugar for dusting


If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar add to lukewarm water and set aside for 5 minutes until it becomes foamy. You can use the other yeast types directly with the flour
In a large bowl or bowl of kitchen aid mixer combine the sugar, egg and olive oil. Add flour, salt, and yeast. Knead for 6 minutes if using kitchen aid mixer or 10 minutes by hand, until you get a soft and pliable dough. Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl and covered with plastic wrap or covered with a cloth. Let rise for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume.


Punch down dough and shape it into four pieces. Lightly oil the work place and place a ball of dough, using a rolling pin roll out the ball into a long thin rectangle about 12x4 inch (30x10 cm) piece. Divide your butter to 4 pieces. Place a butter portion on the rolled out dough and spread it into a thin layer. Take pieces of dough between your fingers and try to gently stretch the dough to be even thinner and larger about 16x7 inches (40 x18 cm). Roll the dough into a long tube, then coil it like a snail shell. Make sure to keep the coil loose so that there is space in between the layers, this will help the dough to rise.
Repeat for the other three dough balls and butter portions.
Place the snails onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slightly press the sides with your hand. Cover the baking sheet with a clean cloth and let rise for 1 hour.

During the end of second rising, pre-heat oven to 180⁰C/350⁰F/Gas mark 4
Bake ensaimadas for about 15-20 minutes. Watch them closely during the end of baking time. They should be golden brown in color.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mocha Crunch Oatmeal

There have been at least three times this month where I intended to post something and either a). was unsatisfied with how it turned out or b). got too distracted with something else. I apologize. Right now...I will keep on keepin' on. Move forward, right? 


It's a muggy, kind of yuck day out, but if I don't go outside, I can pretend it's cold out and perfect weather for a hot bowl of oatmeal and a crossword puzzle. Who am I kidding...that behavior is appropriate for all times of the year. Right? Regardless...that's what I did today. And it was great. 


If you've never had steel cut oats, they aren't terribly different from normal oats...they just have a heartier texture. These oats are dressed up with chocolate, espresso powder, and nuts to create a pleasing array of flavors and textures. Plus, they're super filling. Now, if you'll excuse me...I have to get back to my crossword. 



Mocha Crunch Oatmeal 
from the kitchn

3 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or agave nectar
1/4 cup roasted mixed nuts (I used cashews, almonds, and pecans)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Milk or cream, to serve (or coconut milk! That'd be great)


Bring water to a boil. Stir in oats, espresso, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring back to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oats reach your desired tenderness. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar or agave nectar.
Meanwhile, while the oatmeal is cooking, roughly chop the mixed nuts and chocolate chips. Mix them in a small serving bowl.
When the oatmeal is ready, serve hot with milk or cream on the side, and sprinkled liberally with the nut and chocolate topping.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bruschetta

Do you have any words in your life that you continue to pronounce wrong, despite knowing the correct way to say them? Bruschetta is one of those words for me. Think about it. Do you say it with a soft, sh sound? "Brushetta"? I do. But it's wrong. It's "brusketta!" I will probably keep saying it the other way, at least in the United States. If I venture to Italy, I will make an effort. 


Bruschetta is, at its most basic, grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with tomato and olive oil. Other common toppings include basil, fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto. I'm bizarre in that I will not eat a slice of tomato on a sandwich, but chopped up on grilled bread is perfectly delightful. Weird how shape can change an eating experience, isn't it? 


This was such a fresh and summery snack to have around, and a great way to use the stale loaf of bread that had been hanging around the kitchen and the gnarly heirloom tomato I had to have (it was very charming in its own mutant way!). 



Bruschetta

1 baguette or Italian loaf, cut into 1-inch slices
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil
Salt and black pepper
½ large garlic clove


1. Heat the oven to 450°F, or heat a charcoal or gas grill. Brush the bread slices on both sides with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake them on a baking sheet or grill them, turning once, until they’re golden brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes, the basil, and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
3. When the bread has cooled enough to handle, rub the top of each slice with the cut side of the garlic half. Top the bread with the tomato mixture, and serve warm.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Surprise Inside Cake

Life has pleasantly surprised me again. But I think the only reason why, is because I have opened myself up to the possibility of surprise. A month ago, I wasn't ready to be in this place. I felt uprooted and out of sorts and just craving comfort through familiarity. But I've finally settled down, settled in, thus permitting myself to experience the out of the ordinary. It's been wonderful. 

Nothing to see here, folks. 


Certain areas of my life are harder to give up some measure of control over than others, especially when I'm feeling insecure. I want to know I am being taken care of, and in a new situation, it can feel like the only person I can rely on is myself. It's something that's a constant work in progress, and has steadily been improving in recent months, but I still fall back into those tendencies sometimes, especially in unfamiliar scenarios. Recently though...I've allowed myself to let go and embrace the unexpected. And it's resulted in a very pleasant "crazy random happenstance", if you will. 

Man, this dinosaur sure loves desserts. 


To mirror the surprises of my life, and because, well, it was this month's Daring Baker's challenge. What a happy coincidence! I've been meaning to make a cake like this for a while, so I'm glad I had an excuse. I thought about making some sort of a design inside as the surprise, but it seemed too failure prone. That is typically the type of thing I am pretty terrible at doing. So I hollowed out a section of this devil's food cake, filled it with those tiny, delicious Cadbury eggs, and covered the whole thing in white chocolate buttercream and rainbow sprinkles to hide the ugly parts, haha. Hope you enjoy. Prepare to be surprised. 


  For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! 
 
Surprise Inside Devil's Food Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

2 cups all-purpose flour 
  1 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon baking powder  
2 teaspoons baking soda  
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  
2 cups sugar  
1 cup vegetable oil  
1 cup hot coffee  
1 cup milk 
  2 large eggs  
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add oil, coffee and milk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes. Expect batter to be thin. Pour into three 6 inch pans and bake 30-45 minutes (I know it's a big range) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. To make your cake a surprise inside cake, cut a 3-4 inch round out of your center layer. After frosting the first layer, put the second ring over it, fill the cake cavity, and proceed as usual. 

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

3 egg whites
4 ounces good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp


Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler. Remove from heat , stir until smooth , and set aside to cool.


Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage 238 degree F on a candy thermometer.


Immediately start beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly add the syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to hit the beaters. Continue to whip until the mixture is body temperature and stuff meringue has formed.


Reduced the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. When the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip and it will suddenly come together. Add the white chocolate and mix well.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beet Red Velvet Cake

Sometimes my roommate has trouble making decisions. Not on big, important things, at least I don't think so. He merely...gets bogged down in particulars? So it's often easier to just make a decision for him. Note that I do not enjoy doing this. Especially not about birthday cakes. How can one not care what kind of cake they have?! 



"Adam. Please. What kind of cake do you want, I can make anything." Know that no one ever asks for anything out of the ordinary, but I can always hope.
"Okay, I want Red Velvet," he says emphatically. 
NOOOOO. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you might know my dislike for red velvet. There is something sinister about all that dye. But wait...
"Ugh, fine, I'll do it. But I'm going to use beets instead of food coloring." 
He looked somewhat taken aback, but didn't object. So there was indeed a way to make this cake out of the ordinary. 




It wasn't horrible! It didn't taste like beets! If I hadn't told everyone about the beets so they could prepare themselves in case it was barfworthy, I don't think anyone would have known. It's not going to be as shockingly red as it would be if you used dye, but it was still clearly red. Now I can make red velvet again without feeling gross. On the side note, the frosting on this was fantastic, a cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream. Yeah, a little more complex than American buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but worth it to me. 



Beet Red Velvet Cake
from Korena in the Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup beet purée 
3/4 tsp vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp natural cocoa powder (NOT Dutch process)

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk 
 1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter two 6″ round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add beets and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients:
In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the beet mixture, making three additions of dry and two additions of wet (starting and ending with dry). Mix gently to incorporate, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans  Bake the cakes in the preheated 350˚F oven for 35 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few point crumbs sticking to it (start checking after about 25 minutes). Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cakes onto a rack, and cool completely.
When cool, split the cakes in half horizontally and frost with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. Use about 2/3 of the batch to fill between the 4 layers, then frost the top and sides with the remaining buttercream (you might need to chill the whole thing after stacking/filling the layers if the frosting gets very soft).

Put the cake in the fridge to chill while you make the 
White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat until just boiling:
5 tbsp half and half cream
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp butter
Pour the hot mixture over 5 oz chopped white chocolate and let it sit for a minute to melt, then stir until smooth. Stir in a pinch of salt and let it cool until thick enough to spread.

Pour the ganache over the chilled cake and spread it gently down over the top and sides of the cake (don’t be like me – put the cake on the serving platter AFTER you cover it in ganache). Chill again to set, then take out of the fridge about an hour before serving.