Monday, July 13, 2015

The Baking Bible: Molasses Crumb Cakelets

These were a huge hit at our house. Mark has declared them one of his favorite things I've baked from the book. Eliot tries to shove an entire cakelet in his little toddler mouth if we don't divvy it up for him. He asks for them all the time. I am enjoying them for many reasons: they were a snap to make, and just as easy to eat. In fact, maybe a bit too easy to eat. We are going through them pretty fast.


At first I railed against their tiny mini muffin size, as I don't have mini muffin pans, and didn't forsee a need to ever use a mini muffin pan again. Then I remembered I have a toddler, and mini muffin sized anything is the perfect size for a toddler. So I changed my mind. The recipe calls for four 12 cup mini muffin tins, but I decided to buy two 24 cup tins, and bonus, they were non-stick. This turned out to be really important since I discovered I am out of baking spray with flour, and if these weren't non stick pans I am pretty sure just spray would have caused all of my muffins to have stuck. Luckily, they all turned out of the pans beautifully.


The recipe also called for Grandma's light molasses, but I could only find it in huge jars. I was against buying a huge jar of molasses when at home I had a moderate sized jar of what I thought was dark molasses. It turns out what I have is "full flavor" molasses, whatever that means, but it turned out delicious cakes so I will continue to keep using it.

This is what Rose calls a "quick and easy" cake, and it truly is. There's no butter or eggs in the recipe, so there's nothing you need to wait to warm up to room temperature. With possibly the exception of the molasses, everything you need you already have. The batter came together in a couple of minutes. Pouring the batter into the mini muffin tins, and making sure each cavity got precisely 17 grams of batter, took the longest time. But then baking the cakes took ten minutes and not long after that we were eating the cakes. So, that extra break to precisely fill the pans was, in the end, worth it.


Super moist, incredibly flavorful, the Molasses Crumb Cakelets are a winner. I suspect I'll be making these often.  

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Baking Bible: 4th of July Cheesecake

A perfect showstopper of a cake, the 4th of July Cheesecake hits a home run on all counts. Lots of components but all pretty easy, make ahead so not too stressful, visually stunning, and super delicious.



Even though the recipe for the red velvet cake component comes first, the cheesecake really should be baked first as it needs 6 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator to firm up. My cheesecake needed to bake an extra 30 minutes to get up to temperature!

Mark was concerned since the cheesecake has more sour cream than cream cheese but I assured him he would like it anyway.

The Red Velvet cake component is just a little one inch high cake, baked in a ten inch cake pan and then trimmed down to nine inches after it cools.


Then there's all these shenanigans about inverting the cheesecake, inverting the red velvet cake, spreading jam on the bottom of the cheesecake (I opted for strawberry although the recipe calls for raspberry), reinverting the red velvet cake, placing it on top of the upside down cheesecake (on top of the jam), reinverting now the entire cake so the cheesecake is on top. It all goes pretty smoothly, just take it one direction at a time. Then a little more jam gets spread on the sides of the red velvet cake base to seal in the crumbs.


Then it is time to frost. I have never frosted a cheesecake before, but what the heck. The frosting in question is the Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. (Is that the real name? I have always called it the Dreamy Creamy Etc so I don't remember how many words come after.) This frosting is a super fancy version of cream cheese frosting. Butter, melted white chocolate, a little bit of sour cream and a bit of vanilla get blended in the food processor. And, done. I have been using El Rey's Icoa white chocolate and, oh my god, I can't recommend it enough. It is the best white chocolate I've ever had, better than Valhrona, plus the added important bonus of being from an environmentally and socially responsible company. You can find it at Chocosphere.com, if you're looking to try something amazing.


Anyways, the El Rey Icoa white chocolate made this version of the Dreamy Creamy Etc so delicious. I liked it with Green and Black's white chocolate but this time the frosting is something I think about off an on during the day.

So frosting the cake: first a crumb coat on the Red Velvet Cake, then after that firms up, the cake gets a frost. I kept the frosting to about 1/4 inch all around--which now I kind of regret as I love the frosting so much--and opted not to pipe shells around the top.


So then the cake firms up in the refrigerator while the fresh blueberry topping is made. It is super simple. Arrowroot, sugar, water, and lemon juice get cooked up in a pan until the mixture is clear, then the blueberries are tossed in and strained to get the extra goo off. Then the fruit is arranged on top of the cheesecake. Phew! All done. Have a slice of cake.


It sounds like a lot of steps and dirty dishes and pains in the asses, and it is. But when you start eating your slice of cake, or when you cut it open to reveal the stunning layers and your friends ooh and aah, then you will find yourself thinking about when you'll make it again. 
     

  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Baking Bible: Pecan Praline Meringue Ice Cream Sandwiches

Just in time for the heat wave, this week we are making ice cream sandwiches. Actually, the recipe is for the cookie and how to assemble the sandwiches; there's no ice cream recipes in this book. The cookie, as you may have guessed from the blog title, are Praline Pecan Meringues, and they are made with muscovado sugar and lightly toasted pecans.


The meringues are really easy to make. Basically egg whites and the muscovado sugar are whipped to stiff peaks then the pecans are folded in. There are chopped and whole pecans in the mix; I think I would have preferred all the nuts to be chopped. Also, I would have preferred a heavier toast on the nuts. I doubled the toasting time but it still wasn't toasty enough for my tastes.

The fidgety part comes when getting the meringues onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets. It took a bit of time to get each blob to specified weight, then I had to go back and spread each out into a disk-like shape. Everything was sticky and I didn't bother to measure the size of the blobs. (Rose gives a measurement so that all the cookies come out pretty much the same--easier for sandwiching.)

The cookies bake for about ten minutes then are left to cool on their pan. They were really fragile as I was putting them away in an airtight container so I wondered how they would work for sandwiching. One cookie just fell the fudge apart.

Then comes the sandwiching part. We chose coffee ice cream which paired nicely with the cookies. Maybe the ice cream wasn't soft enough even though it was melting around the edges, but most of the cookies crumbled as I pushed the sandwiches together. The cookies held together enough for me to freeze them and wrap them individually, but I only did the first batch. The second batch we are snacking on as just a crumbly, yummy cookie. Mark doesn't like these cookies as much as he did the Dattelkonfekts but I like them as much but for different reasons. The muscovado sugar brings an almost boozy note to the meringues which I enjoy. Like I said before, I just wish the nuts were more toasty.

crumbly sandwiches

I skipped the optional ganache drizzle glaze because I am lazy, and if something's optional, I will most likely take the option to not do it. :)

As an ice cream sandwich, they are hard to eat. The cookies practically dissolve as the ice cream softens which is a bummer. I would prefer to have them on the side of the bowl of ice cream instead of being the bowl itself.

All said, I am looking forward to trying the other ice cream sandwich in the book and I would make these Praline Pecan Meringues again, but just for cookies.