Friday, September 12, 2014

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Working in a bakery has its perks, such as being able to eat all the imperfect treats, access really nice ingredients, and wear jeans and t-shirts everyday. But lately my body has been getting irritated with me. I have scoliosis, and while it hasn't ever acted up much in the past, spending all day on my feet, as well as bending over to lift large bags of flour and pulling things out of the oven makes my spine very upset.

No way I'm going to let my body limit my passions though. It just means I need to take better care of myself. More exercise to strengthen my spine. Better shoes (time for some ugly kitchen clogs...). And, if necessary, seeing a doctor. But I'm trying not to let myself be too concerned. 

Having days off to rest helps, even if I'm still baking at home! I've been making a decent amount of black bottom cupcakes recently. I'd never had them before, and they're crazy easy to make. No mixer required! Or frosting, since they've got a cheesecake center. Nom. The recipe I prefer is from a cookbook called Wintersweet, which I unfortunately returned to the library already, but David Leibovitz's recipe is pretty solid as well. 

Black Bottom Cupcakes 
from David Leibovitz
(Mine made like, 15 cupcakes. Dunno how you'd get 12 out of this)
For the filling
8 ounces regular or reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
For the cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Put in the freezer for like an hour. 
Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

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, Douse 'em in powdered sugar or, if you're feeling the Filipino style, sprinkle with cheese. 


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


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!). 


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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sky High Strawberry Shortcake

Happy 4th of July, my American readers, which, I'm going to just assume is the majority of you (if there are international readers out there, I would love to hear from you!). This year is the first year I'll be celebrating the 4th of July without my family, which is a weird prospect for me. It's not that the 4th is a huge deal in my family, it's just that...we've always been together, doing almost the exact same thing, for basically my entire life (save the year we were in Canada for the 4th, but we still watched Canada Day fireworks together over Niagara Falls). 

Here's what always happened: when we were younger, we would go down to the park by the river, either together or with friends, and play silly carnival games, pet baby animals, and watch the water ski team do tricks. Then we either attended a party at a house on the river's edge, or, in more recent years, staked out a spot in the park and watched the fireworks over the river. I love fireworks – certain things will never stop being awe-inspiring to me, and the 4th has the added punch of nostalgia. 

Maybe I'll start developing new traditions? Or maybe things will just be eclectic and vary from year to year. Maybe I'll make a massive strawberry shortcake like this one. It's not as big as it looks, since each layer is only 6 inches, but it's still fairly impressive. And way better than those spongy little cups and "non dairy whipped topping" (shiver). 

Sky High Strawberry Shortcake
(I can't get the italics off, guhhhh)
Adapted from Sky-High Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 6-inch triple layer cake; serves 8 to 10
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar 
Fresh Strawberry Filling
2 pints strawberries, small if possible, about 1/2 pint reserved for garnish
1 teaspoon of rosewater or 1 tablespoon anisette liqueur 
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
For the Cake Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms and sides of three 6-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment of waxed paper and then grease with butter.
In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with buttermilk in 2 to 3 additions. When mixing, do not let the mixer exceed medium speed (unless using a low-power hand-held mixer). This will ensure that gluten does not form, and you have a soft airy cake. Divide patter evenly among three prepared cake pans.
Bake cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes; invert cakes onto wire racks, carefully peel off parchment and allow cakes to cool completely.
For the Fresh Strawberry Filling & Whipped Cream
Clean and hull strawberries, and slice into pieces about the thickness of a nickel. My berries were really small and compact in the pints, so I stopped slicing when I had about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of berries. Place sliced berries in a bowl and add sugar, rosewater and vanilla. Toss to coat, cover and let berries macerate at room temperature for about an hour.
In a large chilled bowl, with chilled beaters, whip the cream and sugar until stiff. There will be about three cups.
To Assemble
Place one layer on cake stand or serving plate, flat side up. Top with 3/4 cup of strawberry filling, spooning over the entire cake layer, and trying to keep juices from running on the plate. Top with one cup of whipped cream, spreading evenly over berries. Repeat with second layer of cake, 3/4 cup of berries, and 1 cup of whipped cream. Top with remaining layer of cake. Cover with last of the whipped cream and garnish with fresh, whole berries. For best flavor, cover the cake with dome or loose plastic wrap and refrigerate for about two hours before slicing and serving.
Note: I reduced the strawberry filling slightly since I didn’t think the cake needed additional berries spooned over the cake for serving. If you’d like to serve extra sliced berries on the side, increase berries to 2 quarts, rosewater to 2 teaspoons, vanilla to 2 teaspoons and sugar to 1/2 cup.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Cinnamon Bun Pie

Hello, dear readers. Yesterday...I cried in the car. My friends are scattering all over the country, including my best friend of the past four years, who left for California yesterday. So I'm sad, understandably, right? I don't like change, and proximity is honestly such a huge factor in maintaining relationships of any kind. Things are just easier when you're closer together. And for some people, long distance friendships aren't worth the effort. At least, that's what I'm afraid of. I fear that my meaningful relationships will wither away into husks of what they were. 

People say there are certain kind of relationship where you can go without speaking for years, then pick things right up from where they left off last time you saw each other. That may be true, but I hate the idea, because regular, frequent communication is incredibly important to me. Maybe I'm just saying that because I've never experienced such a relationship as the one described above. Things change, things change all the time, and there's nothing I can do to stop that. I just hope that the people who matter to me stay in my life. 

So, uh...let's talk about this food business. The Daring Bakers theme this month was cinnamon rolls, but since I've already blogged about cinnamon rolls, I decided to go with my baker crush, Christina Tosi, and make her Cinnamon Bun Pie. It's not the prettiest, but it's crazy good. Can't go wrong with Liquid Cheesecake. Anyway, enjoy it. And if you have any insights about friendships and relationships, I'd love to hear about them. 

Dinosaurs love cinnamon. Truefacts.

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!

Cinnamon Bun Pie 
 (All ingredients are in cups and grams, so choose what you prefer)

1 recipe mother dough (recipe below), proofed
30 g flour, for dusting 3 tablespoons
80 g brown butter ¼ cup
1 recipe liquid cheesecake (below)
60 g light brown sugar ¼ cup, packed
1 g kosher salt ¼ teaspoon
2 g ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
1 recipe cinnamon streusel (below)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F.
2. Punch down and flatten the mother dough.
3. Take a pinch of flour and throw it across the surface of a smooth dry countertop to lightly coat the counter. Take another pinch of flour and lightly dust a rolling pin. Use the rolling pin to flatten the punched-down circle of dough, then roll out the dough with the rolling pin or stretch the dough out by hand as if you were making a pizza from scratch. Your end goal is to create a large circle that is approximately 11 inches in diameter. Keep your 10-inch pie tin nearby tor reference. The 11-inch dough round should be ¼ to ½ inch thick.
4. Gently place the dough in the pie tin. Alternate between using your fingers and palms of your hands to press the dough firmly into place. Put the pie tin on a sheet pan.
5. Use the back of a spoon to spread halt of the brown butter in an even layer over the dough.
6. Use the back of another spoon (you don’t want brown butter in your creamy white cheesecake layer!) to spread half the liquid cheesecake in an even layer over the brown butter. Spread the remaining brown butter in an even layer over the liquid cheesecake.
7. Scatter the brown sugar on top of the brown butter. Tamp it down with the back of your hand to help keep it in place. Then sprinkle evenly with the salt and cinnamon.
8. Now for the trickiest layer: The remaining liquid cheesecake. Stay cool, and spread it as gently as you can to achieve the most even layer possible.
9. Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the cheesecake layer. Use the back of your hand to secure the streusel.
10. Bake the pie tor 40 minutes. The crust will puff and brown, the liquid cheesecake will set firm, and the streusel topping will crunch up and brown. After 40 minutes, gently shake the pan. The center of the pie should be slightly jiggly. The filing should be set toward the outer boundaries of the pie tin. If some of the filing erupted onto the sheet pan below, don't worry – consider it a snack tor later. It necessary, bake for an additional 5 minutes, until the pie meets the description above.
11. Cool the pie on a wire rack. To store, cool the pie completely and wrap well in plastic wrap. In the fridge, the pie will keep fresh tor 3 days (the crust gets stale quickly); in the freezer, it will keep tor 1 month.
12. When you are ready to serve the pie, know that it's best served warm! Slice and microwave each slice on high for 30 seconds, or warm the whole pie in a 250°F oven for 10 to 20 minutes, then slice and serve.

Mother Dough
makes about 850 g (2 pounds)

550 g flour 3½ cups
12 g kosher salt 1 tablespoon
3.5 g active dry yeast ½ packet or 1 1/8 teaspoons
370 g water, at room temperature 1¾ cups
grapeseed oil

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer—do it by hand, using the dough hook like a spoon. Continue stirring by hand as you add the water, mixing for 1 minute, until the mixture has come together into a shaggy mass.
2. Engage the bowl and hook and have the machine mix the dough on the lowest speed for 3 minutes, or until the ball of dough is smoother and more cohesive. Then knead for 4 more minutes on the lowest speed. The dough should look like a wet ball and should bounce back softly when prodded.
3. Brush a large bowl with oil and dump the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Liquid Cheesecake
makes about 325 g (1 ½ cup)

225g cream cheese 8 ounces
150 g sugar ¾ cup
6g cornstarch 1 tablespoon
2g kosher salt ½ teaspoon
25 g milk 2 tablespoons
1 egg

1. Heat the oven to 300°F.
2. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the sugar and mix for 2 minutes until the sugar has been completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Whisk together the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk in a slow, steady stream. Then whisk in the egg until the slurry is homogenous.
4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, stream in the egg slurry and paddle for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and loose. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. Line the bottom and sides of a 6 x 6-inch baking pan with plastic wrap. Pour the batter into the pan. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Gently shake the pan. The cheesecake should be firmer and more set toward the outer boundaries of the pan but still be jiggly and loose in the dead center. If the cheesecake is jiggly all over, give it 5 minutes more. And 5 minutes more if it needs it, but it’s never taken me more than 25 minutes to underbake one. If the cheesecake rises more than ¼ inch or begins to brown, take it out of the oven immediately.
6. Cool the liquid cheesecake completely, to finish the baking process and allow the cheesecake to set. The final product will resemble a cheesecake, but it will be pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume. Once cool, the cheesecake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Refrigerate before using in the cinnamon bun pie!

Cinnamon Streusel
makes about 120 g (2/3 cup)

40 g flour ¼ cup
20 g old-fashioned rolled oats ¼ cup
2g ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
1 g kosher salt ¼ teaspoon
30 g light brown sugar 2 tablespoons
25 g butter, melted 2 tablespoon
0.5 g vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon salt and brown sugar with a spoon or spatula. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla and toss until almond-size dark oat clusters form.
2. If you’re making the pie the same day, the streusel can wait out on the counter. If you’re making the streusel in advance, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge or freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hawaiian Bread

I'm feeling much better than last post, which was pretty mopey. I apologize; I don't want this place to be full of negativity. But I also don't want to hide my emotions. It's about striking a balance, I suppose. So...let me tell you about my job. I'm a real baker now. Not that I haven't always been real, but you know what I mean. I get up between 4 and 5 in the morning and start whipping out scones, biscuits, and muffins. It's fast paced, time sensitive, and I love it.

A part of me can't believe that I'm doing what I've wanted to do for so long. My dreams are coming true. And yeah, it's been a lot of work, a lot of trawling through job postings and a lot of rejection. But I did it. And now, I feel like I can take on the world. 

I don't bake bread at work (maybe in the future?), but I make a lot of it at home. We go through it pretty quickly, which I love, because it means I can make lots of different kinds. Hawaiian bread is easy, lightly sweet, and makes killer hamburger/sandwich buns. Or, if you're like me, toast it and break out your secret Biscoff stash. It's worth it. 

Hawaiian Bread
(This amount made a smallish loaf and 6 rolls) 

4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 teaspoon ginger
2/3 teaspoon vanilla
2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes yeast
1/3 cup butter, melted

Beat the eggs. Add the pineapple juice, sugar, ginger, vanilla, and butter.
Place flour. Stir in the egg mixture until well-combined. Sprinkle in the yeast, one packet at a time, and mix. Blending with a spoon will be hard, so you may have to use your hands. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Alternatively...use a stand mixer. The dough will be soft and kind of sticky.
Cover the bowl with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
Place in greased and floured loaf pans or shape into rolls. Cover and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or golden brown.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rhubarb Syrup

Sorry for the gap in posting. I shouldn't let this get pushed to the wayside. I have been one of two things these past two weeks: incredibly busy and sleep deprived, or in that awful, fidgety yet also completely paralyzed by anxiety phase. I'm leveling out now. I have a part time job (more on that in a different post) and I'm learning to navigate the area. And forcing myself to get out of the house more. Soon I will be more comfortable here. 

I'll keep this one short, with the promise that I will post again later this week. A friend offered to bring me some rhubarb, and I'm not going to turn down someone giving me ingredients to mess around with, even if I'm not a huge fan. Rhubarb is too tart and stringy for me to normally enjoy, but making it into a syrup just leaves the delicious parts. Add this to club soda/seltzer for a super refreshing soda, or use it as a mixer for a cocktail.

Rhubarb Syrup 

10 oz chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
seeds of 1 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. When the mixture boils, turn down the heat and simmer it for 10-12 minutes. Strain the mixture into a bowl/whatever vessel you want to keep it in. Press on the rhubarb chunks with a spoon to make sure you get all the liquid out. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Brazo de Mercedes

Moving is hard. I've never actually picked up my life and moved, at least not in this way. I've lived in a dorm and a different country, but I've never had to pay bills, set up internet, or set up a piece of IKEA furniture (it SUCKS). This is more...permanent. Real. It can be scary, and a little bit lonely (I'm so glad I have my roommate), but I have people who really care about me in my life. Transitions will never stop being difficult. So I just have to wait and let time settle things down. 

That up there is my kitchen. It's not the biggest or flashiest, but it belongs to me. I can put whatever I want in the cabinets, I can make sure it stays clean. So I think it's wonderful. I didn't get a chance to bake in it until last night, since I've been running around crazy like a headless chicken, trying to get my life in order. I went straight home and packed immediately after graduation, and made the drive up here after a week. 2 SUVs full of stuff, 5 hours on the road, and 3 trips to IKEA later, things are finally resembling normal. 

Before I left, I wanted to give myself a baking challenge. I'd never made a rolled dessert before, and had a bunch of eggs that needed to be used, so I found this recipe for Brazo de Mercedes on Jun-blog (check him out, he takes great photos!). Brazo de Mercedes is a Filipino dessert comprised of a layer of sticky sweet meringue rolled around vanilla custard. I was so pleased that nothing went horribly wrong--rolling cakes isn't so bad! I especially enjoyed my slice cold, straight from the freezer.

Keep your eyes peeled for posts from my new kitchen! 

Brazo de Mercedes 
from Jun-blog

For the custard
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
8 egg yolks

For the meringue
10 egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the condensed milk, butter, vanilla extract and water in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until well combined, about 5 minutes. Beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl. Place the mixing bowl over a double boiler over low heat. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the yolks, stirring to prevent curdling over low heat until the mixture has the consistency of a custard. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Line a 14 x 16 in cookie sheet with greased parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. make the meringue by beating the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the meringue forms stiff peaks. It is important not to overmix the meringue. Then gently fold in the vanilla extract.
Spread the meringue evenly on the lined cookie sheet to form a 1/4-in thick layer. Tread a cake decorating comb lightly on the surface of the meringue to create a ridge pattern. Bake in the preheated oven until browned, about 20 minutes or until the meringue has set.
Remove the meringue from the oven and invert it onto another sheet of greased parchment paper. Peel away the parchment paper on the top and spread the custard evenly on top of the cooked meringue. Roll it carefully to form a log. Brush the top of the log with softened butter and brown again in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the log from the oven and slice thinly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Daring Bakers! Pão de Queijo

I am a college graduate now. I can no longer call this a blog about messing around in a dorm kitchen, because in a few days I'll be moving into an apartment with my own kitchen. College was wonderful, and helped me to discover what kind of person I am, and who I want to be. That process doesn't ever stop, but these four years have been some of the most formative of my life. 

That would be me.
I don't really do goodbyes, and I'm trying not to be sad. The people that matter most in my life will stay in my life. Yes, I'll miss not being able to walk next door or down the street just to stop by and say hello to my friends. That will be hard. And no matter how many times I return to campus, nothing will ever be the same as when I was a student. But that can't be a cause for sorrow. It's time to keep moving forward. And I'll be able to have experiences I never did in school. Dinner parties and movie nights in my apartment, concerts and farmer's markets...

I promise I will keep you updated on my life. The blog is not going to stop. Now on to business...Pão de Queijo. I love saying this. It basically means cheese bread in Portuguese, and is enjoyed in Brazil. I've actually had something like it before, from a mix my sister bought. These are gluten free, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. The secret is tapioca flour, which is actually pretty cheap. Check out the Asian food aisles of your grocery store for a bag that looks like this. Try them out if you please.

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge took us on a trip to beautiful Brazil! Renata of "Testado, Provado & Aprovado!" taught us how to make Pao De Queijo, tasty cheese buns that make the perfect snack or treat, and that will make your taste buds samba!

Pão de Queijo

250 gm (2 cups) tapioca starch (If you have access to sour tapioca, you can use 250gm (2 cups) of each)
1/2 cup (125 ml) whole milk
1.5 tablespoons (20 gm) butter
1/2 teaspoon  salt (or to taste depending on how salty your cheese is)
1 1/2 cups (125gm) Monterey Jack Cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan), coarsely grated
2 large eggs

Heat milk, butter, and salt in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil. Watch closely as it may boil over. Remove from heat and set aside.
Sift tapioca starch into a large bowl.
Pour the boiled (hot) mixture over the tapioca and start stirring with a fork. The milk mixture will not be enough to form a dough yet. You will have a lumpy mixture, that's what it is supposed to be.
Keep stirring with the fork, breaking down the lumps as much as you can, until the mixture cools down to warm.
At this point, preheat your oven to moderately hot 400° F/200° C/gs mark 6
Add the grated cheese to the tapioca mixture and mix well, now using your hands.
Add one egg at a time, mix with your hands until dough comes together. I suggest you lightly beat the egg with a fork and add little bits until the dough comes together into a soft but pliable dough. You only have to knead it a bit, not as much as you knead a yeasted bread. It's OK if it is slightly sticky.
Form balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon mat or lightly greased with vegetable oil. If necessary, you can oil your hands to make shaping easier. The size of the balls may vary from small bite-sized balls to the size of ping pong balls. They will puff up quite a bit after baking.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until they just start to brown on the bottom. You may have golden spots of cheese on the crust. Don't over-bake as they will get hard and bitter.
 Serve hot or warm. If you don't want to eat them all immediately, form the rest of the dough into balls and freeze it.