Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Farnsworth House

One of the things I loved most about architecture school was making scale models.  And I felt that building my own gingerbread house would be a way to revive my model-making skills and get into the spirit of the gay ole holiday.  I had a whole tackle box full of scale model-making tools that were yearning for use again.  I used my X-acto knife for the first time since architecture school making this gingerbread house--paring knives just weren't cutting it.  It was fun.  

For those of you who don't know, the Farnsworth house is a residence--former residence turned architecture tourist attraction--in Plano, Illinois.  It was designed by Mies van der Roe some time during the 1940's-50's.  And I like it.  But that actually wasn't the reason I chose to re-create it using gingerbread cookie.  I thought it would be easy and also I have the Lego Architecture series Farnsworth house already built at home so it was easy to use it as a model for my model.  I basically made it 1 1/2x the size of the Lego house.  

And about that thought I had that there would be some ease to making it... I was semi-wrong.  I mean, if you look at the house it's just a glass box--simple enough?  Well yes and no.  That glass was what gave me some trouble.  I read that you can make sugar glass by the same manner you use to make caramel--you just have to cook it slowly and take it off the heat before it begins to turn that caramel color.  I practiced doing that several times and it worked but then the sugar would re-crystallize on the surface of the sugar glass and it would look like frosted glass.  I wanted clear glass.  But after several attempts, I gave up and just let the frost win.  I figured it would just make it look like the glass had frosted over in the winter climate.  Whatever.  

But that was actually the most difficult part about it.  I thought I was going to have some issue with propping the house up with the gingerbread columns but that royal icing works wonders and is seriously an excellent adhesive.  

Aside from that, I just decorated the rest of it as I pleased using m&m's, jelly beans, gummy bears, sno-caps and some other random candies--that part is completely up to you.

Recipe for gingerbread cookie dough from the Joy of Cooking:

1c butter
1c granulated sugar
1c unsulphured molasses
5c all-purpose flour DIVIDED
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1T ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Once it's melted, add the sugar and molasses and stir constantly over low-medium heat until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Dip your finger in the saucepan (make sure you don't burn yourself) to make sure it no longer feels gritty.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to cool to a lukewarm temperature.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk 4 1/2c of flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the lukewarm butter/molasses/sugar mixture and mix on low speed until fully combined.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a wooden spoon or a big silicone spatula, fold in the remaining 1/2c of flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool-cold.  When you are ready to bake the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the dough and cut the patterns or shapes of the parts of the house you need and bake them for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool completely before use.

For the sugar glass, I went to Martha:

1 1/2c sugar
3/4c water

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the sugar and water until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil.  Stop stirring and turn down the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches 290 F or just before it starts to turn that caramel color. Immediately pour the mixture into a mold that you are using for whatever shape you want--let me know if you want to know precisely what I did.  I'm happy to share.  Let the sugar glass harden and cool completely before picking it up and using it.

Royal icing

1 large egg white
1c confectioners sugar DIVIDED

In a small microwave safe bowl, stir the egg white and 2/3c of the sugar together until fully combined. Place the bowl in the microwave and microwave it on high in 10 second increments until the temperature reaches 160 F.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Pour the remaining sugar in the bowl.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form and the icing has cooled completely.  Use immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for a few days.  Just make sure you place some plastic wrap directly atop the icing so it doesn't harden before you use it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yule Log Cake (Bûche de Noël)

One of my favorite cafes makes a yule log cake each year around this time.  They look pretty traditional--at least from the ones I see on Pinterest.  But this year I saw one in their glass display case that was a little different--it had a bit of a modern take on it.  It had a beautiful sleek chocolate glaze covering it and then it was speckled with macarons.

It was interesting looking and I wanted to copy it.  So I found a swanky looking chocolate glaze recipe and I decided to give macarons one more shot because they were just going to be decorative pieces anyway so what did I really care if they turned out right or not...  And after much deliberating I decided to go with a chocolate genoise cake recipe in my Joy of Cooking cookbook.

Roll cakes can be tricky because they can crack when you roll them.  Thus far, I've only made a handful and I've never actually had that much trouble with them--but that might just be luck.  This one cracked a bit at one end but it wasn't devastatingly bad.  And that wasn't my qualm with this cake recipe.  It was the non-separation of egg whites and yolks that annoyed me.  Usually, when I've made these types of cakes, you separate the whites from the yolks and then whip the whites into a giant meringue and then fold it into the batter.

But here, you whip the whole egg into a giant frenzy--along with the rest of the wet ingredients--and then fold the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder) into the whipped up egg mass.  And then it takes forever to fold the dry ingredients into the puffed up egg mixture and just when you think you are done, you dive your spatula into the bowl and end up finding more and more dry ingredients that haven't been incorporated into the batter.  So you keep folding and folding and deflating and deflating--it's a pain in the ass.  I find that folding a meringue into wet batter is a much easier and less time consuming process.  Maybe this is the way it's supposed to be, maybe I was doing it all wrong to begin with but never again will keep my egg yolk and white together to make a cake like this.  Some things are better left to be separated.

Despite all of that baking drama, the cake turned out pretty good.  My macarons were just eh--they looked fine but I'm not going to go into it anymore than that.  I decided to make a butterscotch cream filling with a little bit of whiskey in it--from the recipe of another roll cake I made a while back.  It was pretty darn tasty.

The glaze was pretty swanky.  I still have a hard time glazing cakes with an even finish.  Plus it's hard to tightly roll a cake like this.  I ended up with some gaps at the ends of the roll so I couldn't get the glaze to set over them too well.  Thus, I ended up covering the holes with some decorative macarons. All in all, it was a good project.


Chocolate genoise cake from Joy of Cooking

1/2c + 1T cake flour sifted
1/2c + 1T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3c unsalted butter at room temp.
6 large eggs at room temp.
1c granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2c of moistening syrup of your choosing--I used just a simple sugar syrup

Line a 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Sift together the flour and cocoa powder a few times to make sure it's very fine and set aside.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then remove from the heat and set aside.  Next, in a large heatproof mixing bowl add the eggs and the rest of the sugar.  Then, fill a large skillet--one that is big enough to fit your mixing bowl that is holding the eggs--with water.  Heat the water until it is barely simmering and then place the bowl with the eggs and sugar inside the skillet of water.  While whisking constantly, heat the mixture until the temperature is 110 F or just warm to the touch.  Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until they have tripled in volume and are light in color--about 5 minutes.  Next is the hard part in my opinion...  Sift the flour/cocoa mixture over the top of the egg mixture in 3 additions and fold it into the egg mixture.  Be vigilant because you will constantly find more dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl so dig deep but with care until everything is fully incorporated.  Now, re-heat the butter until it's hot and transfer it to a medium bowl.  Then take about 1 1/2c of the egg mixture and fold it into the butter along with the vanilla. Lastly, pour that back into the rest of the egg mixture and fold to combine.  Spread the batter into the prepared baking sheet evenly and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.  Meanwhile, using a tea towel or some sort of clean dish towel--something large enough to cover the cake--lay it flat on your work surface and sprinkle cocoa powder over it evenly.  When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes in the pan.  Then, run a knife along the edges to make sure the cake has detached from the sides of the pan and invert it onto the tea towel.  If the cake is "hot", then let it cool a bit more but you want it warm to the touch when you roll it.  So when it's warm roll it and the towel together as tightly as you can.  Place the roll on a baking sheet and let it cool completely--I let mine go overnight so I could make the glaze.

Chocolate mirror glaze courtesy of Chef Rachida

10g gelatin sheets
210g granulated sugar
110g water
65g unsweetened cocoa powder
65g heavy whipping cream
50g dark chocolate--I used semi-sweet

Using a medium bowl filled with very cold water, place the gelatin sheets in it to bloom them--making sure they are fully submerged--for about 10 minutes.  In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar, water, cocoa powder and cream to a boil stirring constantly.  Once it's boiling, stir in the chocolate until it is completely melted.  Remove the pan from the heat while you wring out the excess water from the bloomed gelatin.  Then stir in the gelatin--excluding the water--until it's dissolved into the chocolate.  Using a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, pass the chocolate through the sieve into the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Whiskey butterscotch filling

3/4c butterscotch sauce at room temp.
1 T whiskey
2c cold heavy whipping cream

Transfer the butterscotch to a small bowl and stir in the whiskey until fully incorporated.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.  Then, pour the whiskey butterscotch sauce into the whipped cream and stir to fully combine the two.  Cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

To assemble

First, unroll the cake carefully.  Next, brush the moistening syrup over the entire cake and let it soak in for about 10 minutes.  Then, spread the whiskey butterscotch cream over the entire surface of the cake evenly.  Now, roll the cake back up--minus the tea towel--carefully and as tight as you can get it.  Place the rolled cake on a cooling rack of some sort that is sitting on some aluminum foil or wax paper, etc...or a rimmed baking sheet.  This is because you are going to pour the glaze over it and you want all of that dripped chocolate glaze to catch on something for ease of clean-up.  Take the cold glaze and warm it up in the microwave until it reaches 105 F.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, pass the warmed glaze through the sieve over the cake and then begin using an offset spatula to guide the glaze along the surface of the cake making sure that you cover the whole cake with glaze.  The sieve will help get rid of any bubbles in the glaze but it's not a necessity.  You'll have a lot of glaze leftover but that's not a bad thing because it's really fucking good and you can use it to cover brownies or something like that.  After you've glazed the whole cake you can decorate it with macarons or anything you like (nuts, chocolate chips, something else...) or leave it as is because it looks pretty swanky on it's own.  Lastly, refrigerate the cake for a few hours so that the glaze sets and everything is kosher before you transfer it to a serving platter or wherever it's final destination may be.

Cranberry and Gingerbread Eclairs

I made this cranberry mousse a few weeks ago intending on using it to add as a layer to a fancy cake I was making.

But that didn't work out--which is a different boring story in itself.

So I still had this mousse and I wasn't sure what to do with it until I was talking to a friend and he suggested I use it as a filling for some donuts. This seemed like a brilliant idea.

I made the dough for the donuts and a chocolate glaze to top them off with.  But that didn't work out either.  I couldn't get all of the donuts to proof and the ones that I could get to rise were like bricks when I fried them.

So I still had this fucking mousse and now I had a fucking chocolate glaze that wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Then I thought of eclairs and everything seemed to be going in a zen direction from then on.

Eclairs are actually pretty easy to make.  Pate choux--the dough for eclairs--takes about 5 minutes to make and piping them out to make eclairs (or spooning them to make cream puffs) is a cinch.  I think they are a pretty forgiving pastry to make.

The only trouble that one might have is making sure you bake them enough to dry the insides out enough to fill them.  But I think I've figured that part out. Another thing I've noticed about pate choux is that a little dough goes a long way.

The recipe I use makes a lot of 4 inch eclairs.  In fact, I used up all of my cranberry mousse and still had over a dozen unfilled eclairs left.  So, I had to come up with another filling.

And in the spirit of it being the holiday season, gingerbread flavored pastry cream seemed to be appropriate.


Cranberry mousse:

12oz or 1 bag of fresh cranberries
2c granulated sugar
2c heavy whipping cream
1/4c orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
1 1/2 tsp gelatin

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine and cook the cranberries, sugar and orange juice until the cranberries start to pop.  It took me between 20-30 minutes if memory serves.  Once they have all popped, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cranberries into a blender or food processor and puree them until you have smooth mixture.  Pour the pureed cranberries back into the saucepan and stir in the gelatin.  Turn the heat back onto medium-low and cook until the cranberries thicken and can coat the back of a spoon--which took me about 10 minutes.  Remove them from the heat and let them cool completely, then put them in the fridge for at least an hour to get them cold. Once the cranberries are cold, place the cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk (either with a hand-held mixer or a standing one) until stiff peaks are formed.  Remove the cranberry sauce/jelly from the fridge and fold them into the whipped cream until you have a cohesive mixture.  Use immediately or store them in a covered container in the fridge.

Gingerbread flavored pastry cream:

4 large egg yolks
1/3c sugar
2T all-purpose flour
2T cornstarch
1 1/2c milk
1T vanilla extract or paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until pale yellow and a bit thicker--about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the milk to a very light simmer or just until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.  Once that happens, remove the pan of warm milk from the stove.  While whisking constantly, pour about a third of the warm milk into the egg mixture until well combined.  Once you've whisked it, pour the egg/warm milk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return it to the stove. While whisking constantly over medium heat, cook the pastry cream until it becomes thicker and begins to bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook it for about 45-60 seconds longer still whisking.  I can't emphasize enough the importance of constantly whisking the pastry cream over the heat because if you don't you can easily burn the bottom of it and then you'll have to sift out burnt portions of pastry cream and that just sucks (I speak from experience).  Lastly, remove the pastry cream from the heat, add in the vanilla and spices and whisk to combine. Scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of it and let it cool completely--you can also place it in the fridge to speed up the process but just make sure the plastic wrap is sitting directly on top of the pastry cream.

Pate choux (choux paste):

1c water
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1c all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt.  Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once and begin to stir it rapidly.  Continue stirring--the mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and form a sort of dough/paste mass in the middle.  Once this happens continue to cook it while stirring constantly for another minute or two in order to cook off some more of the water.  Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes--before you add the eggs you don't want the dough/paste to be too hot or else you'll cook them too quickly but at the same time you want the dough somewhat warm/hot.  After your 5 minute cool-down, add each egg one at a time stirring after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated.  It might look like the dough is breaking up but just keep stirring and it will come back together.  Once you've added in each egg, let the dough cool to room temperature--or again you can place it in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap over it.

Chocolate glaze:

1/2c unsalted butter
1/4c whole milk
1T light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
4oz semi-sweet chocolate
2c powdered sugar

Combine the butter, milk, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over low until the butter is melted and everything is fully combined.  Once the butter is melted, add the chocolate and stir over low heat until it's all melted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until it's fully incorporated.  Use immediately or set aside to cool a bit.  But if you wait too long to use it, you may have to warm it up a tad before you glaze the eclairs because otherwise the glaze might be too thick.

To assemble:

First, bake the eclairs.  Line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Place the choux paste into a piping bag fitted with a plain half inch tip.  Pipe 4" long logs onto the sheet pans leaving about a 2" separation around each log--you'll end up with a couple dozen of them--not all on one baking sheet.  Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes longer--I tend to go the full 20 minutes to make sure I dry out the middles of each eclair.  Remove the eclairs from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once the eclairs are cool, place the cranberry mousse into a piping bag fitting with a plain 1/4"-1/2" tip.  Do the same with the gingerbread flavored pastry cream.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut a little slit on each end of the eclair.  Carefully insert one of the tips of the filled piping bags into each slit and pipe in the filling slowly.  Fill them to your liking but I usually fill them until I inflate the empty eclair a bit--I judge this by feeling along the length of the eclair and making sure the filling has reached the entirety of it.  Fill as many eclairs as you can using all of the filling.  I had some empty eclairs leftover which I just placed in an air tight container and froze for another day.

Now for the chocolate glaze...  If your glaze has cooled and is too thick to dip an eclair in and glaze it then place it in the microwave for about 10 second intervals until it is at a consistency where dipping is possible.  Once you have a good dipping consistency, dip each filled eclair into the glaze.  Set aside to the allow the glaze to set.

Eat eclair.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Apple Strudel

This was supposed to be easy-ish.  The filling was.  But the dough was another thing.

It's not actually making the dough that was hard--that part is a cinch.  It's manipulating it once it's made.

You have to do a lot of pulling and tugging and stretching to it--until you get it tissue paper thin. And when you get it tissue paper thin, it tears so easily.

So you start over and then start over again and then realize that it's not going to stop tearing so you just learn to live with the fact that your strudel dough is going to look like Freddy Kruger's wretchedly burnt skin.

And then you sigh to yourself and come to the conclusion that making strudel dough and rolling it out is something that probably just takes practice--something German and Austrian bakers have been doing for centuries or something like that.

It was sort of a frustrating endeavour but on the plus side, it tasted really good!

I do have one note about assembly.. I suggest that once the dough is rolled out, do one of two things: Either place it over a piece of parchment paper or silpat that you will then transfer to the baking sheet.  Or, find a second person to help you pick it up and transfer it to the baking sheet.  I suggest this because I did not do either of these and once the strudel is rolled out, it's kind of unwieldy.  It took a bit of maneuvering to get it in place after I rolled it out and I was cursing myself for not thinking ahead.

From the beautiful blog, lilvienna.com

Dough ingredients:

1/3c/80g lukewarm water
1T+1/2tsp/15g vegetable oil
1/2tsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/8tsp table salt
1c + 2T/145g all-purpose flour
1/2tsp vegetable oil for brushing dough
flour for dusting

Filling ingredients:

3 1/2T/50g unsalted butter
3/4c/100g fine plain bread crumbs
5T/65g granulated sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
4T/50g raisins
3T rum or lukewarm water
2lbs tart apples--I used granny smith
1T lemon juice
2T melted butter for brushing dough
confectioners sugar for dusting the finished product

For the dough:

-Using a big bowl, mix the lukewarm water, oil and lemon juice together
-Add in the flour and mix until everything comes together
-Knead the dough on a clean, lightly dusted work surface until it is tacky but not sticky
-Slam the dough against your counter a few times.  According to lilvienna.com, this helps promote gluten development.
-Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Brush the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temp. for 1 hour

For the filling:

-Using a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum--or lukewarm water--for at least 10 minutes
-Using a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat
-Add the breadcrumbs to toast them stirring them constantly so you don't burn them.  You want them golden brown.  Remove them from the heat and let cool completely.
-In a small separate bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside
-Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/8-1/4 inch wedges or slices
-Using a large bowl toss the apples with the lemon juice and the raisins (not the rum)
-Once the bread crumbs are cool, mix them with the cinnamon and sugar mixture and set aside

To assemble:

-Start by rolling out the dough on a lightly floured clean surface
-When it starts getting about somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick, start to stretch it gently with your hands and or place the dough over the back of your hand and use the back of your fingers/knuckles to stretch it (lilvienna.com has a good tutorial on this--although I do think it requires practice)
-Then when it gets to be too big or thin to handle, place it  back on the work surface and lightly stretch it to a large rectangular shape--trying to avoid tearing it all the meanwhile.  You want it to be paper thin (so you can basically see through it) so whatever sized rectangle it takes you to reach that goal, then that's the size.  It will be a big rectangle.
-Once you have your rectangle, move it to a silpat or piece of parchment paper that will allow you to transfer the rolled up strudel to the baking sheet with some ease
-Next, spread the bread crumb mixture over half of the dough leaving about an inch or two around the edges
-Spread the apple/raisin mixture atop the bread crumbs evenly
-Then, fold the edges in--about an inch or two--and starting with the filled end, carefully roll the thang
-Transfer the rolled strudel to a baking sheet (good luck!)
-Brush the rolled strudel with the remaining 2T of melted butter and set aside while you preheat the oven to 375 F
-Bake the strudel for 30 minutes
-Remove from the oven and let cool completely, dust with confectioners sugar and then slice it up and enjoy--it maybe with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bourbon Oatmeal Brown Butter Cream Pies

I've had my eye on these cookies for a while now.  I tend to forget about how much I like other cookies.  You see, I--like most people in the world--gravitate towards chocolate chip cookies.  What's not to like?  They have a sweet buttery dough with chocolate morsels dispersed throughout and every time you bite into one of those morsels it's quite pleasant.  Quite pleasant indeed.  So every time I want a cookie I always just default to the chocolate chip cookie.  But every once in a while I'll take a bite from a peanut butter or oatmeal raisin cookie and I'm like, oh this is also a fucking amazing cookie!  So one day I saw these oatmeal cream pies and I felt drawn to them, to both make them and shove several of them in my mouth in a glutinous, greedy fashion.

A few weeks ago I made an attempt to make them but I was thwarted by lack of butter.  This recipe calls for five sticks of butter.  I only had four.  So I put the kibosh on that endeavor and decided to put them on the back burner when I had a sufficient supply of butter.  And a couple of days ago I had such a supply and moved forward with the cream pies.  There are a lot of things that appeal to me about these cream pies.  As if two cookies sandwiching buttercream isn't enough, they also called for bourbon in the cookie batter and browned butter for the cream filling.  It seemed so warm and cozy and boozy and perfect for the crap cold Fall weather that just engulfed our city.  And they were. These cream pies were damn good, amazing.  I loved them.  But I felt there were a couple of things that could be improved.

When I was reading through the recipe I saw that, for the cookies, it included mostly brown sugar plus some molasses which made me think these were going to be very soft and chewy.  And they were--so much so that they immediately reminded me of those Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies--which for some reason I had completely forgotten about.  But these weren't as wholesome as the Little Debbie ones because--and since I'm not a parent I suppose I couldn't vouch for this--I don't think a parent would send their kids to school with something that had bourbon in it.  However, since these only had a tablespoon they actually weren't so boozy.  Maybe it's because I used Makers Mark instead of actual bourbon?  I doubt that actually.  I think they could use more than a tablespoon perhaps to taste the liquor.  But that wasn't the only thing that I felt could be improved with the cookie portion of the cream pies.

Overall they were good but they were also a little bland. They either needed more salt to bring out some of the flavor or some other spice like cinnamon or nutmeg or allspice or some shit like that.  I think I would try maybe some more salt and some cinnamon.  As for the cream filling, I wouldn't really change a thing (except I added a bit more salt because I'm really into salting buttercreams lately).  Browned butter is good in itself --as an addition to most things.  But browned butter buttercream is so fucking good. And as the thing that ties these two seemingly blander cookies together, it's truly the shining star of the overall cream pie.  And maybe it's supposed to be that way and that's why the cookie portions are a little just so..  But, I personally would like to try to add a little zing to the cookies too.  Nevertheless, this is a fantastic recipe and it reminded me that I should be more open-minded with my cookie making and consuming (I still love chocolate chips more than anything) because there are a ton of good ass cookies out there.

Original recipe just oh so slightly adapted from Food52

*Bring everything to room temperature--specifically the stuff you normally keep cold (butter, eggs)

-Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats and set aside

Ingredients for the oatmeal cookies:

2c all-purpose flour sifted
1tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt (next time, I might use 3/4tsp)
1c/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp.
1c light brown sugar
1/2c granulated sugar
2T unsulphured molasses
2 large eggs at room temp.
1T whiskey (original recipe called for bourbon)
1 1/2tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 1/2c rolled oats

-In a medium bowl, sift and whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
-In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the sugars and butter for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.
-Add the molasses and beat to combine.
-Add both of the eggs and beat until well combined
-Add the whiskey and vanilla and beat until well combined
-Add the flour mixture all at once and using the lowest setting of your stand mixer, mix until just fully incorporated
-Add the oats and still using the lowest setting mix until just incorporated.  Or, cease using the mixer at this point and using a rubber spatula, fold the oats into the batter.
-For each cookie, place a heaping tablespoon on the baking sheets.  I fit 12 on each sheet and spaced them apart about 2 inches on all sides.
-Bake for 8-12 minutes (took me 10) or until golden brown.
-Remove from oven and cool completely on some cooling racks or something like that.

Ingredients for the cream:

1 1/2c/3 sticks of butter at room temp., divided
2T heavy cream
2tsp vanilla paste or extract
3/4tsp kosher salt
3c confectioners sugar

-First, brown 1c/2 sticks of the butter (here is a great tutorial on browning butter if you have never done it--it's very easy).  Once browned, remove from the heat and place it in a freezer proof bowl. Let it cool for about ten minutes and then place it in the freezer for about 25-30 minutes until it solidifies but isn't frozen.
-Once all of that is done, in the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream both the browned butter and the third stick of unbrowned butter together until well combined and light and fluffy.
-Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix until well combined.
-Add the confectioners sugar, 1 cup at a time, until fully combined.
-Beat until fluffy and light--another minute or two.

To assemble:

-Place a giant spoonful of cream onto the bottom of one, completely cooled, oatmeal cookie.
-Top that with another cookie and press them together very lightly to make sure they stick together.
-Eat and enjoy them in a major fucking way--with a glass of milk.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Candy Corn Cake

I've been thinking a lot about Christina Tosi's famed Crack Pie and Corn Cookies--both of which I have made.  To get the corn flavor in both, she uses freeze-dried corn that's pulverized into a powder. When I first made the Crack Pie and tasted it, I wasn't so sure I liked it.  The corn flavor seemed strong to me and I like corn but I don't love corn.  But it also had this salty taste which I did like.  But then I made the corn cookies--which had that same corn flavor and salty taste--and I realized I had in fact fallen for Tosi's culinary witchcraft.  And I wanted to do one of two things:

Make the Crack Pie again or create a cake that could match the flavors she so flawlessly imbued into my psyche.  And since it was Halloween and I wanted to make something festive and I love candy corn, I sat down and tried to make a cake that was inspired by the crack pie and corn cookies of Momofuku Milk Bar and also that captured the spirit of the candy corn candy.  That part may be lame--like Pinterest lame--but sometimes I like doing kitschy things.

Anyway, I had some problems with the outcome of the cake.  For one thing, the salty corn flavor didn't come through so much.  My partner says he can taste it a bit but I don't--at least not to the extent I could when I bit into the Crack Pie.  So I think that either I need to add more of the pulverized freeze-dried corn OR cut back on the butter so that flavor doesn't come through so much? Or maybe both.

The cake tastes good, but it tastes just like a normal yellow butter cake.  Also, and this is purely aesthetically speaking, I wish my frosting deco had come out better.  It's funny how much I can envision things in my head--for example the look of this cake--and then how they actually come out. I had an image of clean lines--or at least cleaner lines--of separation between the colors and then I imagined a rainbow ribbon of candy corn that was strewn across the cake.  It was going to be magical...like something out of a candy fairyland or some shit like that.

Of course I wasn't sure how this ribbon would come to fruition.  But then I was thinking on my way to work one day how I haven't even had a piece of candy corn during the build up to Halloween--which was odd because I love it.  And I was like, well I wonder how hard it is to make it... Turns out it's not hard at all.  So I made that too and decided to somehow make this magical ribbon come true.

But that didn't pan out so well. Making the candy corn was easy enough but trying to make an actual ribbon of it kind of failed.  So I just decided to place the candy corn all over the cake at random--which looked ok.  It wasn't the vision I had dreamily conjured in my head but it worked out well enough.  I probably need to look into cake decorating classes because sometimes I do good stuff, but other times it's just a fucking mess and then I get mad.

Recipe for 1 - 6" 3 layer cake


200g cake flour
40g corn powder ( I bought this brand at Whole Foods and pulverized it in my food processor until if formed the powder)
300g granulated sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2tsp salt
150g large eggs at room temp.
1c milk at room temp.
150g butter melted and cooled to room temp.
40g vegetable oil
3/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
candy corn for decorating

At least 3-4c of buttercream frosting of your liking.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease 3 - 6" cake pans with butter and line the bottoms of each with a 6" circle of parchment paper.

-Using the bowl of a stand mixer, sift all of the dry ingredients together and set aside
-In a separate medium bowl, whisk all of the wet ingredients together well
-Pour the wet into the dry and using the paddle attachment of the mixer and on the lowest setting, mix everything until just combined (the batter will be very liquid-like)
-If you want to make the candy corn theme, the divide the batter equally between 3 medium bowls and dye one bowl with orange food coloring and the other with yellow food coloring.  The 3rd bowl will be the white color and can basically just be poured into the baking pan right away.  After you've stirred in the dyes, pour the batters into their respective baking pans
-Bake cakes for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean
-Remove cakes from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes before remove each cake from its respective pan.  Let cakes cool completely on some cooling racks
-Once the cakes are cool, frost as desired and decorate with candy corn.

If you want to make your own candy corn, then follow the instructions from thekitchn.com found here.  It's quite easy and personally I think it tastes better than the actual stuff...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sweet Green Tomato Hand Pies

You know those McDonalds apple pies?  Yeah, well these tasted like those.  I know, it's sorta surprising because these are made with tomatoes--green tomatoes at that--but yes, I swear that's what they tasted like.

I have an aversion to trying things that I'm skeptical about.  Not like trying tofurkey or pickled eggs--which are the two things in this world that will undoubtedly make me gag.  But things that I think might be good and probably are good but I'm still iffy on.

These were one of those things.  Which is funny because I really do love tomatoes.  But I love them for the natural sweetness they acquire as they ripen or roast--or the way they taste when you sprinkle some salt and balsamic vinegar on them.

However, when you intentionally try to make a dessert out of them, I'm thinking... umm... ok... maybe...  It's one of those times where I'm pretty sure they will be good because I got this recipe out of a cookbook and they wouldn't intentionally and knowingly put a recipe in there that tasted bad...

But at the same time it grosses me out a bit.

Nevertheless, this iffy feeling was unfounded--as expected because these were good.  But I might have mucked up the pastry dough though.  I don't think it cooked through all of the way so it was soft and not very crispy or flaky--maybe also because I used part whole wheat flour and part cake flour.

I didn't have any all-purpose on hand so I compensated.  I don't think it worked too well  And they got worse after the first day so I actually ended up throwing them out in a fit of anger/disappointment/annoyance.  It was sad and a waste but--and I need to work on this issue--when one of my culinary concoctions fails in some way, all I want to do is get rid of it and pretend it never existed--out of sight, out of mind.

Anyway, I think the problem was that the dough didn't bake long enough--which is just one more good reason to always use a recipes baking time as more of a guideline than a rule.  Or, in other words, know your oven.

I feel like I know mine but during the process of making this dessert we somehow grew distant and our connection was lost.  I have no one to blame but myself.  Alas, I do think this is a good recipe. The sweet green tomato filling is a bit unique and is pretty tasty.

I would say that the acidity that does come with tomatoes is washed away with this recipe--maybe it's just cooked off--and you're left with pure sweetness (also, the added sugar that goes into the recipe probably helps a bit too).

Recipe--just oh so slightly adapted from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook:

For the dough:

1c cake flour
1/2c whole wheat flour
(The original recipe calls for just 1 1/2c all-purpose)
1T + 1tsp of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8T unsalted butter chilled and cut into small cubes
1/2c whole milk Greek yogurt

(You can use a food processor for this part, but I did it by hand)

-In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt
-Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs
-Add the yogurt and mix in--just until completely combined so that when you pick a piece of the dough up and pinch it together it will hold together
-Divide the dough evenly into two discs, wrap each of them tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least one hour

For the filling:

2 green tomatoes (recipe calls for each to be about 10oz each--mine were less and I still have extra filling leftover) cored and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1 other tomato (the recipe calls for a plum tomato but I used an heirloom variety I had on hand--I don't think it really matters) cored and chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1/3c granulated sugar
1/2tsp grated orange zest
1/8tsp salt
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground ginger (the recipe calls for 2T finely chopped crystallized ginger but I used what I had on hand)
1T fresh lemon juice
1T cornstarch

-In a medium saucepan, mix everything together EXCEPT for the orange juice and cornstarch
-Cook over--stirring constantly-- medium heat until the sugar has dissolved
-Reduce the mixture to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes are soft and tender--took me about 20 minutes
-Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the orange juice and cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch is fully dissolved
-Once the tomatoes are soft and tender, add the cornstarch/orange juice mixture to the filling and stir over low heat until the mixture has thickened--about a minute
-Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature

Egg Wash:

1 large egg
1T cold water

To assemble:

-In a small bowl make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water until fully combined and set aside
-Remove the chilled dough from the fridge, roll one disc out at a time on a lightly floured cold surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick
-Cut out 4 1/2 inch circles using some sort of round cookie cutter or something similar (you should get about 8-9 circles)--re-rolling the dough as needed to get all circles
-For each circle, spoon about 1T (maybe a little less because it will spill out otherwise when you fold each pie) of the filling onto the bottom half of each circle leaving 1/2 inch border all around
-Using a pastry brush, brush the border of each pie with the egg wash
-Fold the top half over the filling and press the edges to seal
-Brush each pie with the egg wash and place on a parchment paper or silicone lined baking sheet
-Place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill while you preheat the oven to 325 F
-Bake pies for at least 20 minutes--checking to make sure that the dough is fully cooked through
-Serve warm