Monday, September 30, 2013

Successful Pinspiration (Part 2)

Dorie Greenspan's White-Out Cake
Recently my little brother has done a number of things that have made me feel really old, but more than that they have made me realize that he's all grown up.  In a short period of time he has become a father, gotten a really great job and has moved into a new home.  I couldn't be happier or more proud of him...they grow up so fast don't they...tear, tear...where's my kleenex!!

Sorry, I got a little sappy for a second I was saying, this weekend he invited me and my husband over for a small housewarming party and since I wanted to celebrate his accomplishments and I didn't want show up empty-handed, I jumped online to do a little Pinterest browsing and found this very popular recipe for Dorie Greenspan's White-Out Cake from her cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Believe it or not, I have had this cookbook on my Amazon wish list for a while now, but I have yet to hit the "buy with one-click" button.  Geez, Amazon makes it too easy...I am trying to keep my cookbook addiction in check, which is exactly why I love Pinterest and food blogs so much.  I am able to get some honest feedback from other bakers on different recipes as well as test out a few of them on my own before making my cookbook investments.

Now that I have made, tasted and tested this recipe on my family I can honestly say that this cookbook purchase is no longer a frivolous want, but a real all seriousness, it's a great recipe.  The cake is moist and chocolatey while the frosting is light as a cloud with the perfect amount of sweetness.  I assure you that your guests will not be disappointed when you pull this beauty out.
White-Out Mise En Place
Sifting, Creaming & Combining Eggs, Vanilla & Melted Chocolate
 Incorporating Dry & Wet Ingredients with More Chocolate!!
Baking Before & After
Mise En Place for Billowy Marshmallow Frosting
Clouds of Frosting Covered in Crumbled Cake
White-Out Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's
Baking: From My Home to Yours
Houghton Mifflin 2006.

Makes makes 12 servings

Cake Ingredients
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Filling and Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the full recipe follow this link: Dorie Greenspan's White-Out Cake and please let me know how you like it :)

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Who Doesn't Love Buns!?!

I'm not talking booty buns here...don't get me wrong...I like a nice set of buns too, but I'm talking Chelsea buns, cinnamon rolls and any other variation of the bun.  They are not only delicious, but they are also the perfect excuse to have sweets for breakfast and nobody is going to look at you funny.
Date & Apricot Chelsea Buns
This week I finished up the enriched yeast dough section with the preparation of Chelsea buns.  You are probably wondering, what the heck are Chelsea buns, well according to wikipedia "The Chelsea bun is a type of currant bun that was first created in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea (a region in the UK) an establishment favored by Hanoverian royalty...".  I know, I am such a nerd.  I love to learn about the origins of classic baked goods, but basically, instead of a cinnamon and sugar filling it's filled with currants, brown sugar and citrus zest.

I'm not sure exactly where the grocery stores are hiding all the currants, but for the life of me I could not find a single currant anywhere (if anyone knows where they are sold please leave a comment!!).  So instead, I decided to change it up and use some chopped dates and apricots, which were a very tasty combination.
Bun Dough Preparation
But before you can move on to the easy part of filling and rolling you have to work those arm muscles and prepare the dough...or you can cheat and use your Kitchen Aid with the hook attachment!!  Much like the brioche dough from my last post, the ingredients were pretty basic and are staples found in any well stocked baking pantry: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and butter.

I started by making a well in the sifted flour and combining the yeast with some warm milk.  Once the yeast became active (bubbly and puffed up) the rest of the ingredients were combined and turned out onto my counter for kneading.  Once the dough became elastic, shiny and smooth it was set in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic wrap until it doubled in size.
Chelsea Bun Mise En Place
While the dough was proofing I assembled ingredients for my mise en place.  This recipe consisted of chopped dates and apricots, brown sugar and orange zest.  **Side note, this rolling pin is one of my favorite tools in my kitchen because it was personalized with the words "Made with Love ~ Danielle" and given to me by my really great friend, Lina Alicia of Punch-Drunk Style who is not only very stylish, but also very thoughtful...check out her site!**
Punch it, Roll it, Fill it, Roll it & Cut it
This dough is so delicious and versatile.  The combination of the dates, apricots and orange zest gave it a flavor very similar to Italian panettone bread.  Today my mom and I were brainstorming filling flavors and we both began to drool when we talked about filling the dough with chopped almonds and almond paste! YUM!!  Baking is a science after all so experiment!!
Breakfast is Served
I would love to hear your ideas for some filling flavor combos...I definitely see the almond/almond paste variation in my future!!  Have a great weekend.

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Homemade Brioche - Feeling Accomplished

Bread has always intimidated me and it's not because I am scared of a little arm workout, even though a Bar Method workout class with my girlfriends recently kicked my butt!  I think it's the yeast and it stresses me out that those little dry beads can make or break your bread!

Currently I am learning about enriched doughs, which are doughs incorporated with yeast.  I am discovering that as long as you are good to the yeast and give them a nice warm home with plenty to eat they will be good to you.  Yeast are basically little beads of fungus that like to eat sugar.  Once you add them to your dough they have a little sugar eating party and overindulged to the point that they begin to burp.  Typically burping is rude, but when it comes to yeast, it's essential because their little burps release gases into the dough that create the rise and the little nooks and crannies.
Plated Brioche w/ Huckleberry Jam
This week I baked some brioche for class and I can't tell you how accomplished I felt pulling the golden brown loaf and rolls from my oven...and the smell...pure heaven.
Brioche Mise En Place
As you can see, the ingredients aren't too crazy, but are actually pretty basic: Flour, yeast, milk, sugar, eggs and salt.  You can put the dough in traditional brioche molds or do something a bit fancier like braiding, twisting or knotting the dough. 
Getting the Dough Ready for the First Proofing
Kneading of the Dough, Proofing and Shaping
The process required time more than anything.  Multiple proofing periods (periods that you let the dough rest to double in size) let the yeast do their thing, but once the bread is baked you'll forget all about that waiting time.
Warm and Golden Brown Brioche
Brioche has a flavor close to that of Hawaiian bread because of its sweet and eggy taste, but it's a bit denser. It would be perfect toasted and spread with butter or even used for french toast on a sunday morning.
Homemade Deliciousness
If you haven't tried your hand at making bread you may want to dip your toes in slowly by trying the No-Knead Bread recipe recommended in my last post.  Then, try to make homemade brioche or any other bread for that matter and I promise you will not be disappointed.  Nothing tastes better than homemade.

So what types of breads have you tried to make?  Do you have any winning bread recipes? If so, please share!

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Friday, September 20, 2013

Death By Fudgey Brownie

Ahhhh, Mark Bittman, where do I begin.  There's something I love about him.  He's like your really funny uncle who knows his way around the kitchen.  According to his Wikipedia page he is an "American food journalist, author, and columnist for The New York Times."  I actually became familiar with his name when I first learned of his now famous No-Knead Bread recipe, which is this super simple way to make delicious, crusty, homemade bread without all of the elbow grease typically required for bread making.  This is a must try recipe for anyone with the slightest obsession for warm, freshly baked bread...mmmmm breaaad!!!

Sorry, I was daydreaming a bit there, as I was saying, Mark Bittman has a way of teaching the art of cooking and baking in a very non-threatening way that really encourages you to do what we all should be and eating at home!!  Nowadays it seems so easy to just jump in your car and drive to your nearest drive-thru, which I am totally guilty of, but if you think about it...the time it took you to drive there, wait in line, drive back home trying to avoid all of the terrible drivers out there and finally sit down to eat some crappy, not so warm, greasy food, you could have made something delicious and nutritious in your own home.  I know, it's not the first time you've heard this, but it really just takes a tiny bit of planning to reap the rewards of really good food and you will actually know what all of the ingredients are because you put them there!

At the beginning of the year I purchased Mark Bittman's book, How to Cook Everything the basics, because even though pastry and baked goods are my first loves, I wanted to add some classics to my cooking repertoire and I must say, I love this book.  Not only are the recipes straight forward and easy to follow, the step-by-step pictures are so helpful.  You really do feel like he's in your kitchen with you reminding you that you are doing great while giving you little tips and tricks along the way.
How to Cook Everything the basics
by Mark Bittman

(Isn't my little Frankie girl cute ~ a pain, but cute nonetheless)
The first recipe I made from this book was his classic banana bread.  It really was so good...the crumb was tender and the perfect way to use up those browning bananas on the counter.   I don't know about you, but banana bread always gives me that nostalgic feeling of being a kid.  I guess it's just a reminder of those cold winter days when my mom would pull out a warm loaf from the oven.  Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

Fudgey Brownie mise en place
So, my husband is a real desserts kind of a guy.  He's one of those people who would gladly have dessert before dinner just because he doesn't want to be too full from dinner to enjoy dessert!  More often than not he's an ice cream man, but last night I thought I'd make him some homemade brownies.  After all, who doesn't love a good brownie!?! Anyone, anyone? Didn't think so.  If you click the brownie link it'll take you to Mark Bittman's actual recipe on Amazon!!
Melting Chocolate au Bain-Marie
First things first, you must melt the chocolate.  I chose to melt mine on the stove via double-broiler (au bain-marie en fran├žais!), but he did say that you can just pop the butter and chocolate in the microwave for 10 second intervals if you prefer.
Ooey Gooey Melted Chocolate
Once the butter and chocolate were fully melted I was left with this yummy ooey gooey chocolate, but I restrained myself from licking the bowl because I knew warm, chewy brownies were on the horizon.
A Chocolate Addict's Dream
VERDICT:  They were definitely chocolatey and fudgey, which I think was due to the fact that he advises you to under bake the brownies leaving the center slightly jiggly.  He also says that you should not rely on the toothpick test that we have all been taught from the moment we started baking because doing so would yield a cakey consistency rather than a chewy texture.  Personally, I think that next time I will bake them longer.  I like my brownies to have a crusty edge with a chewy center and I think that under baking them left them a little too underdone for my tastes.  Side note, have you seen that brownie baking pan that looks like a snake?!? Once the batter bakes up, all of the sides get that yummy crust eliminating the center crustless pieces all together...brilliant!!  I do think it'll be a winning recipe after just a few tweaks, not to mention these brownies were super easy to make.

So, how do you like your brownies?  Are you a chocoholic?  If so, you will love this recipe.  Oh and don't forget to check out the other books by Mark Bittman...they really are great go-tos for any cookbook library.  Until next time, have a great weekend and as always...

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pastry School Online...Whaaaat!?!

Wow...where do I has been quite an adventure so far.  Last year I was knee deep in books and stressed out beyond belief studying the law and now I am knee deep in flour studying the science of baking and loving every minute of it.

My first choice was to attend the very prestigious and well known Le Cordon Bleu, but being a thirty-something, wife and full time paralegal the very strict schedule was not something that was realistic for me.  I admit that for a moment there the wind had been taken out of my sails.  I had finally decided to do something that I knew I would love, but I found myself at a road block.  Not easily defeated, I knew there had to be another route so I searched and searched the web looking for any sign of hope and one beautiful day the heavens opened up and shined brightly on my computer screen, well that's how I remember it anyway.

That day I found Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy , which offers an online version of their culinary arts program and pastry arts program found at their schools in Austin, TX and Boulder, CO.  More specifically, "Escoffier Baking and Pastry Academy provides an outstanding online baking and pastry experience that offers classical skills while incorporating contemporary baking and pastry trends from around the globe. The combination of classical and contemporary techniques provides an in-depth exploration of the source of ingredients and sustainable practices that are increasingly relevant for today’s baker or pastry chef." (Couldn't have said it better myself!)  As a side note, click here if you would like to learn more about Auguste Escoffier.

Many people may give a wrinkled brow at the thought of an online culinary/pastry school, but to tell you the truth, the Escoffier program has been amazing thus far.  I am learning so much and for a fraction of the price it would have cost me to go to Le Cordon Bleu. The chef mentors have umpteen years of experience in the field and I am able to study and bake as my schedule allows.   The best part though is that I haven't lost any more precious moments with my husband, friends and family as I had in my law school days.

I will make sure to update you with my pastry school journey, but for now I leave you with a few pics of my "homework"...

Buttercream Frosting
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache
Viennese Cookies Five Ways
Whole Wheat Apple Pecan Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Compound Butter
Rosemary Focaccia
It's my goal to continue to learn from my mistakes, perfect my craft and to never look back.  I am excited to be a part of something new and innovative and would love to hear what you think of online culinary and pastry programs or just online schools in general?  Until next time...

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Successful Pinspirations (Part 1)

If you are like me, you love Pinterest and can spend countless hours perusing the site for inspiration and recipes to wow your friends and family.    So I thought it would be fun to start a series of posts to show you the recipes I have tested and have received stellar reviews because although a picture can be worth a thousand words it may or may not equate to tasty results. (Links shown clockwise)

1.  Cookies & Cups ~ Strawberries & Cream Bars.  Shelly is a whiz with sweets and I can't get enough of her site, not to mention these bars.  They were delicious and a perfect way to celebrate the fruit of the season.   Here's a picture of the ones I made:

2. My Baking Addiction ~ Tagalong Cupcakes.  One of my favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors and a hit at my little brother's baby shower.

3. Smitten Kitchen ~ Hostess Cake.  OMG! Sooo good!  I made this cake for my brother's birthday.  I used the marshmallow frosting for the center and covered the cake in chocolate ganache accenting the top of the cake with the Hostess Cupcake's signature swirl.

4. Cookies & Cups ~ Butterfinger Krispie Treats.  These were the perfect way to take traditional krispie treats to the next level.  My friends devoured them.

5. Chocolate & Carrots ~ Stroopwafel Carmel Cupcakes.  My husband and I went to Paris and Amsterdam for our honeymoon and while we were in Amsterdam we fell in love with stroopwafels, which have an amazing salty carmel sandwiched between two waffles.  You can imagine my excitement when I found this recipe.  FYI, if you have a Cost Plus World Market in your area they carry stroopwafels there.

6. Sally's Baking Addiction ~ Red Velvet Cheesecake Swirl Brownies.  These are decadent so if you make them I would recommend cutting them into bite size pieces.  Here are a few pictures of the ones I made, which I took to a friend's Fourth of July BBQ:

Please let me know if you try any of the above recipes and let me know what you think.

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo

Monday, September 2, 2013

Cookbooks Anonymous

I'm addicted to cookbooks!! There, I've said it and I don't care who knows it!!

Over the years I have developed quite a collection, but not nearly enough to satisfy or even curb the craving. As I type this, my Amazon wish list is overflowing with titles I am dying to get my little mitts on, but all things in moderation...right?

I love everything about them and it's not just the mouth watering's the pictures, the tips, the feel of the book's dust jacket. I know...weirdo right?!? Well, like I've said before...I love to learn and who better to learn from than the pioneers in the field who came before me.

Recently I gave into my desire and purchased The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco. Her name may or may not sound familiar to you. She is a James Beard Award-winner and former pastry chef for Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio's Craft and Craftbar (to name a few).

The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox
The cookbook addict in me loved it without question upon it's arrival, but then the rational side of me thought that maybe I should open it and I don't know, try a few recipes!

I decided to try out her Grandma Rankin's Cashew Brittle recipe since it was blistering hot today and it didn't require me turning the oven on. 

There was one catch though, I didn't have any cashews and i wasn't about to make a run to the store on Labor Day. No problem...the great thing about her book is that it's all about developing your craft.  She gives many tips on how to manipulate the recipe and even encourages you use your imagination.  I had pumpkin seeds on hand and after I toasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes to bring out the flavor I was ready to go. 

Pumpkin Seed Brittle Mise En Place
Butter, Sugar and Light Corn Syrup Boiling to a Dark Amber
Brittle Cooling on a Greased Cookie Sheet
Plated and Ready for Devouring
The Verdict: Delicious. They are buttery and have a salty/sweet thing going on.  Next time I may cut back the salt just a bit, but that's to my taste.  They would also make a great holiday or anytime gift for someone special.

Do you have a cookbook addiction? I would love to hear about your favorite cookbooks...for now I will be working may way though The Craft of Baking and many other titles while simultaneously developing my own craft.

Happy Baking,
Dani xoxo