Friday, December 27, 2013

Holiday Baking

One of my biggest issues—at least that I tell myself—that I have with keeping up with my blog is that I can’t take good pictures at nighttime.  So if I make something during the week I have to do it after work when it’s already dark.  And then obviously when I go to take pictures of my end product it’s still dark and I miss all of that great daylight that bleeds into my apartment.  I don’t know…  Maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it is but I find it to be an irritating dilemma because I do bake a lot during the week and I want to share those things on my blog.  But because of the not being able to take decent pictures in my apartment with my little ole iPhone at night I usually omit those projects.  Thus, I limit my blog posts to things I make on the weekend which is ok.  I guess. Sort of ok.  Actually, no it’s not.  It’s not ok at all.  I’m still annoyed thinking about all of the things that I’ve excluded just because I can’t take pictures of them in the daylight.

So I’m just going to have to use fancy photo editing effects and stuff.  Until I get better at editing and taking pictures I’m going to muscle through this dilemma.  Yes, I will post more—I will be like a night blogger or something like that.  It will be my “thing”—the niche of my food blog—crappy night time photos!  Well, not crappy but developing and optimistic and photos that endeavor to be daylight photos. 

Anyway, the reason I got to thinking about this (again) is because I baked and confected a lot during this recent holiday season.  I made fudge—which I did blog about—and a cake, chocolates, toffee (twice), cookies, two apple pies, doughnuts and a whole Christmas eve dinner for my parents.  That’s a lot of stuff right?  Too much to just dismiss and pretend like it never happened.  I mean, I was one busy baker.  Well luckily I took some pictures—reluctantly—thinking I might be able to post them and mention them. 

So that’s what this post is—a small amalgam of things I baked over the past couple of weeks. 

Let’s talk about his bundt cake first.  It’s a gingerbread bundt cake that I grabbed from Sprinkle Bakes’ blog with one slight adaptation.   I iced it with a quick chocolate glaze instead of the coffee one cited in the recipe.  Aside from that I followed the recipe to the letter.  It’s turned out great, was very tasty and I didn’t have a complaint about it.  

Now let’s move on to these cookies.  My goal of these cookies was to replicate the Italian bakery style turtle cookies that I fell in love with over the past year.  This is a sugar/butter cookie with caramel, fudge and usually topped with pecans.  I’ve found three bakeries that sell this style cookie and I can’t get enough of them.  So I used an easy spritz cookie recipe from one of my cookbooks, a fudge frosting recipe from a different cookbook of mine and then I kinda made up the caramel concoction myself.  I omitted the pecans that tend to make up a turtle (I think..) but only because I didn’t have any and personally the fudge and caramel are the best parts.  As a whole it was a good cookie but the spritz base wasn’t exactly the right one that I get from a bakery so I’m gonna have to work on that.  I think I’ve found some more authentic recipes so I will definitely come back to this.  The fudge was on target and the caramel was close but I may have to continue to sample some of the real things to prefect it…

From The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski:  The spritz cookie

360g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
185g plus 2 tbsp of butter at room temp.
125g confectioners sugar
1 large egg at room temp.
1 tsp of vanilla extract

In one bowl whisk the flour and salt together.  Set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and light (2-3 minutes)
Add the egg and the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated
Slowly add the flour mixture mixing just until the flour is fully incorporated
Drop or pipe the cookie dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Here, I made about 1 inch diameter round balls of dough and then flattened them out with the tines of a fork (like when making peanut butter cookies).
Place the cookies in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 325
Once the oven is preheated bake the cookies for 15-17 minutes
Remove and let cool.

I made the fudge using the chocolate fudge recipe from my previous post.  The only difference was that at the end I added 1 tbsp of half and half to get the right consistency so I could pipe it onto the cookies.

For the caramel, I made a simple caramel base using this recipe.  Then I just added some powdered sugar until I got the right consistency--not an exact science I know but I need to work on that...

Once I had everything made, I piped on a big dollop of the caramel onto the cookie and on top of that the fudge-- fancy style course.

Lastly were the donuts.  I just used some of the leftover brioche dough that I made weeks ago and froze because the recipe made so much.  The recipe came from Hummingbird High and this time I used the honey glaze that she cites in her post.  The dough froze great and the donuts tasted amazing—especially coming straight out of the fryer.  I think this is a fantastic donut recipe.  Try it.  

Those are my mom's santa salt and pepper shakers--they made for some good props!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

(Happy Holiday's) Fudge

It's been almost a month since my last post.  Not because I didn't want to post.  No no--that was certainly not the case.  The reason I haven't posted is because I was in Italy!!  Yes, for two weeks my partner, his parents and myself were trekking around the Italian peninsula--from Milan to Sicily--eating and drinking and sightseeing and eating and drinking and eating.  I really enjoyed the eating part.  The patisserie's are basically on every corner so I was in heaven.  It was mega fun but I'm happy to be back mostly because I missed baking.  Maybe that's weird but whatever.

Anyway, you might think my first post back would be some sort of Italian baked good or pastry but I didn't really want to do any of that now.  What I wanted to do was make fudge.  And not just one type of fudge but three types.  I never make fudge but I love it.  This past Memorial Day weekend we went up to Mackinaw Island and bought like a giant box of several types of fudge.  We said we would cut a small piece of each type for ourselves and then give the rest to our co-workers but that never happened.   Those small pieces for ourselves turned out to be the entire brick.  I mean....I really like fudge.  You know?  So that happened.

But this time I couldn't keep all of the fudge for myself.  I promised my sisters that I would send them some so I divided it up evenly and shipped it off.  Of course I sampled it.  I'm not dumb.

The three types I made were peanut butter, salted caramel and chocolate.  The chocolate fudge was a traditional recipe that I took from one of my cookbooks and it was perfect.

It tasted classic--just like the stuff we got in Mackinaw.  The other two types were more of a quick type of fudge that I grabbed from another great blog that looked and sounded beautiful.  They are less intensive and use condensed milk as a base.

So this method of making fudge is amazing and easy and the end product tastes sweet, creamy and bad-ass.  But.  But, I think that I prefer the more classic fudge.  It has the melt-in-your-mouth texture which the other recipes didn't necessarily have.  I think it's also a bit smoother and although it's more of an intensive method to make it's worth the effort.  That said, I would certainly make the other types again and I encourage all to try them.


For the Peanut butter fudge I used this

For the Salted caramel fudge I used this

For the Chocolate fudge I used this recipe from the Joy of the Cooking:

2c sugar
1/8tsp salt
1/2c half-and-half
1/2c heavy cream
1/4c light corn syrup
6oz bittersweet chocolate
2tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla

Line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper
Combine the sugar, salt, half-and-half, heavy cream and corn syrup in a large heavy bottom saucepan.
Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved which can take up to five minutes
After the sugar has dissolved, crank up the heat and bring it to a boil or one full minute
Reduce the heat after the minute to low, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush and add the chocolate
Stir the chocolate until is completely melted
Once the chocolate is melted, heat the mixture until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees F.
After the temperature has reached 234, remove it from the heat and place the saucepan in cold water.
Just float on top the butter and the vanilla.  Don't stir it in or apparently you risk making the texture of fudge be grainy.
Let the fudge cool down to 110
Once it has cooled to 110, place the mixture in a bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low until the fudge has lost its sheen which took me about 10 minutes.
Lastly, pour the fudge in the 8x8 square pan and let it set for a few hours
Cut into and enjoy