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,

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, 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 ( 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 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 found here.  It's quite easy and personally I think it tastes better than the actual stuff...