Monday, September 1, 2014

Pretzel Crunch

This is my new favorite snack! The kids can't wait for it to cool, and my family just can't get enough. I made a double batch to package some for the kids' teachers, but when it came time to package it up, I just didn't want to! (I did anyway...)

Sure, they are not much to look at and not very complicated to make, and that might just be the dangerous part! Too easy to make just another batch!

Pretzel Crunch

Recipe created by Christina Tosi - Milk Bar
4 cups salted mini pretzels – about 1/2 of a 16-ounce bag
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons milk powder
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
14 tablespoons butter (1 stick, plus 6 tablespoons), melted

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

2. Pour the pretzels in a large bowl and crush them with your hands to one-quarter of their original size. Add the milk powder, malt powder, sugar, and salt, toss to mix. Add the butter and toss to coat. As you toss, the butter will act as glue, binding the dry ingredients to the pretzels and creating small clusters.

3. Spread the clusters on a parchment- or silpat-lined sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, until it looks toasted, and sugar coating bubbles and coats the pretzels.

4. Cool the pretzel crunch completely before storing. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the crunch will keep fresh for 1 week; in the fridge or freezer, it will keep for 1 month. 

I used small letter shaped pretzels so I didn't crumble them up, just left them as-is. The last few times I made this recipe, the butter separated from the rest of the ingredients while baking, so I might try to reduce the amount of butter next time I make this. I also toss the mixture once while baking, and a few times while its cooling so that the sugar coats the pretzels properly. And lastly, if the pretzels aren't very salty, I suggest adding a pinch of salt of two. The very first batch I made with the bottom of the bag where all the salt had collected, and it was my most favorite batch to date. I'm sure the added salt made the difference!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

chewy chocolate mint cookies

Two Baked Sunday Mornings posts in a row: I'm on a roll! And these cookies were crazy good, so I'm really glad I made them!

They remind me of the chocolate cream cheese snacking cookies we made last summer in that they are soft and tender but... refreshing. And I totally didn't expect that. The mint, and there's a lot of it in this recipe, took them to a whole other level.

Instead of the chunks called for in the recipe, I used callebault chocolate chips and I didn't roll them in sugar before baking. These only bake for 10 minutes and stayed nice and soft after cooling.

I had plans to turn these into ice cream sandwiches but I was assured that they wouldn't last long and they didn't.

For the recipe, and to see how the other bakers enjoyed their cookies, click on through to the Baked Sunday Mornings blog.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

vanilla bean malt cake

This morning's recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings is one that I made last fall, then again, at xmas time, one of the first recipes I made from Baked Elements.

I'm not a big fan of malt, but really liked this recipe. It produces a really nice and moist vanilla cake that doesn't scream malt but has that little something extra.

I had first tried to make little acorn cakelets but I overfilled my moulds and it made a big mess. The cake is a bit too airy to keep the distinct impression of the mould anyway. But the rest of the batter made for really cute mini bundt cakes! These are about 3 or 4 inches across the bottom and perfect to share!

Love this recipe. To find it and to see how the other Baked Sunday Mornings bakers did, head over to the blog!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

boston cream cake

We were celebrating my SIL's birthday today, so I quickly whipped up this easy but quite delicious Boston cream cake.

I kept going back and forth all week trying to decide what to make. I had a ton of egg yolks left over after making an angel food cake earlier in the week, so I quickly decided to make pastry cream out of them before they dried out and went bad.

Pastry cream  
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, half of the sugar, the salt, and cornstarch until the mixture is pale, thick and smooth.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the milk and the remaining half of the sugar. Continue stirring until the mixture boils. Remove the pan from the heat, and slowly stream the liquid into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer the tempered egg mixture back to the saucepan and, whisking constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until thickened to pudding consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, and vanilla until combined. Strain throught a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
Once the pastry cream have cooled for about 15 minutes, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours of overnight.
 Recipe source: Baked Explorations
I was still hesitating between a strawberry shortcake style cake, or one with rhubarb and strawberry compote as the filling with the pastry cream but settled on the Boston cream cake after my husband suggested it.

I used a basic yellow chiffon style cake recipe because I wanted the cake to stay nice and fluffy even straight out of the refrigerator.

Great Yellow Cake
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup apple juice
2 cups (9 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray or butter two round cake pans, each 8 inches in diameter and 2-inches deep, and line the bottoms with parchment.
In a liquid measuring cup, mix the oil, water, and apple juice and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set that aside as well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is thick, has tripled in volume, and makes a fat ribbon that holds its shape for a few seconds on top of the batter when you lift the whisk, about 4 minutes.
With the motor running on medium speed, add the liquid in a slow, steady stream. (The trick here is to incorporate and emulsify the liquid into the eggs without causing the eggs to deflate. Adding the liquid slowly in a constant stream is the name of the game.)
Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth and lump-free, about 30 seconds. (Be careful not to overbeat, which will make the cake tough.)
Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake until the cakes are golden, spring back to a light touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 40 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and let cool completely.
Recipe source: Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones (Bi-Rite Creamery)

I had a hard time deciding on the glaze, but went with a modified version of the glaze I had made for the Mile high cake, just cutting out some of the cream so the glaze wouldn't be too soft.

Milk Chocolate Glaze
5 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60–72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 ounce unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup and bring just to a boil.

Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes, then slowly blend the chocolate and cream together, whisking from the center, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk for another 2 to 3 minutes to release excess heat from the mixture. Add the butter and whisk again until the butter is completely melted and incorporated. Leave the glaze at room temperature for about 3 hours, until slightly thickened (it should drip thickly when poured slowly from the spoon).
Spoon teaspoonfuls of glaze up to 2 inches apart around the top edge of the cake, allowing glaze to drip down the sides of the cake. Spoon the remaining glaze over the top center of the cake and smooth with an offset spatula, covering the top completely. Chill the cake until the glaze sets, at least 1 hour.
Recipe source: Baked Explorations
I split each cake into two layers and filled each layer with 3/4 cups pastry cream. Once all my layers were stacked, I left the cake set in the refrigerator over night. The next morning, I made the glaze first thing, and finished the cake around noon. A quick trip into the refrigerator to set the glaze, and that was it!

I think the pastry cream between the layers helped the cake stay moist and gave it a really good texture. The glaze consistency was just right, and the flavor spot on. I had lots of leftover glaze, but I'm sure we'll find a way to use it up :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

cinnamon buns

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!
I had never made cinnamon buns before, so I stuck to the provided recipe and made the classic pastries filled with cinnamon sugar.

Although whenever we buy cinnamon rolls, we get the kind frosted with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, I glazed these with a powdered sugar, milk and vanilla mixture, and we quickly ripped into them, effectively ruining our dinner.

Cinnamon Buns
(from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)
Makes 8-12 large or 12-16 smaller buns

6½ tablespoons (100 ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
5½ tablespoons (85 ml) (2¾ oz) (80 gm) shortening, unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract OR vanilla extract OR 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated lemon zest
3½ cups (840 ml) (16 oz) (450 gm) unbleached bread (or all-purpose/plain) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (¼ oz) (6 gm) instant yeast (active dry worked as well)
1 1/8 – 1 ¼ cups (270-300 ml) whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup (120 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) cinnamon sugar (6½ tablespoons (100ml) (3 oz) (90 gm) granulated sugar plus 1½ tablespoons (20 ml) (1/3 oz) (10 gm) ground cinnamon)

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar, salt and shortening. Add the egg and extract to the creamed sugar and shortening and mix together until smooth. Add the flour, yeast and milk to the mixer and mix on low speed until the dough begins to form a ball.

At this point, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes. The dough will be silky and supple, but not overly sticky. You may need to add a touch of flour if your dough is too sticky.

Lightly oil a bowl, turn the kneaded dough out into it, turning to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Allow the dough to rest (ferment) until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.

Once the dough has rested and risen, you are ready to shape the cinnamon buns. Prepare your a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper.

Spray your work surface lightly with cooking spray and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, into a rectangle about 2/3 an inch (15 mm) thick, 14 inches (350 mm) wide and 12 inches (300 mm) long (for large buns) (or 18 inches (450 mm) wide by 9 inches (230 mm) long for smaller ones). You may need to sprinkle the dough and/or work surface with a bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling over the surface of the dough.

Starting with a long end, roll the dough, creating a spiral, into a log shape, making sure to end with the seam side down. Cut the dough into pieces approximately 1¾ inches (45 mm) thick (for large buns) (1¼ inch (30 mm) for smaller buns).

Place buns approximately ½ inch (15 mm) apart on the prepared pan. They shouldn't be touching at this time.

Allow the shaped buns to proof at room temperature for 75 – 90 minutes until they have nearly doubled in size. They will now be touching each other.

If you are not planning on baking the buns the same day as you are preparing them, you can place them into the refrigerator after they are shaped (before this rise) for up to 2 days. If you do so, you will need to allow them to return to room temperature prior to baking, which means removing them from the refrigerator about 3 or 4 hours before baking.

Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 degrees at the end of this proofing time.

Bake the buns for 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown

Allow the buns to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then drizzle with glaze (recipe below). Remove the buns from the pan to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for at least 20 minutes before eating.

White fondant glaze

Sift 4 cups (500 gm) (17½ oz) of confectioners' (icing) sugar into a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of lemon, orange or vanilla extract and between 6 tablespoons to ½ cup (90 to 120 ml) warm milk, whisking well until all of the sugar is dissolved. (Add the smaller amount of milk first, whisking briskly, then add slowly until you have the consistency you want for drizzling over the buns.)

I used lemon extract in the dough, and next time, I'll use vanilla instead. I also used shortening in the dough, mainly because I was too lazy to let the butter reach room temperature. I used 1/3 cup of white sugar, and 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp cinnamon for the filling. I also spread some butter on the dough before rolling it up.

It's a good thing it takes a good part of the day to make cinnamon roll, because fresh out of the oven, they are amazingly soft and delicious! I'm very happy the Daring Bakers pushed me to make this! Another item off my to bake list!

Thanks Shelley for an amazing challenge, and for compiling all of this month's variations on Pinterest! I loved seeing how every Daring Baker interpreted this challenge differently!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

brown sugar shortcakes

Last year, I had the pleasure of testing some of the new recipes in Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's newest cookbook: Baked Occasions. All were awesome, as expected, but of the recipes I tested a few of them really stood out, including these brown sugar shortcakes.

They are soooo good! We used to buy shortcakes from the strawberry farm where we go pick berries every year, but no more. This is THE recipe. So delicious, and the texture is perfect.

Can't share the recipe just yet, but be sure to pre-order the new book so you can make these shortcakes, and other insanely delicious recipes when the book comes out in October. I can't wait to get my hands on this one!

Monday, May 26, 2014

"world's best cake"

I made this quick cake for my parents' wedding anniversary after seeing it a million times on my instagram feed.

worlds best cake

Called the World's Best Cake it's a yellow cake based topped with a vanilla meringue sprinkled with sliced almonds. The whole thing is baked, then sliced into two sections so it sandwiches a filling of whipped cream.

I had made something similar in the past, with a zabaglione filling, so I was familiar with the technique and resulting cake.

I baked my cake in two 6 inch cake pans, but because I was using short pans, the meringue rose over the top and baked in an unattractive mushroom shape. The cake layers were also too thick to be stacked, so I ended up with two small 6 inch cakes that I covered with whipping cream. Next time I would bake the cake in 8 inch pans, a change that I have reflected in the recipe below.

World's Best Cakerecipe source: Sweet Paul via Bakers Royale

10½ tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 1⁄2 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 2⁄ 3 cups granulated sugar
1 1⁄ 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 large eggs, separated
1⁄ 3 cup whole milk
1⁄4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 vanilla bean

Heat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle position. Line two 8 inch removable-bottom cake pans with parchment paper. 

Beat the butter and 2⁄ 3 cup of the sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well on low speed. Mix in the egg yolks and milk. Evenly divide the batter between the pans.

In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites and the remaining 1 cup sugar to soft peaks. Evenly divide meringue and spread on each cake layer. Sprinkle with the almond slices. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown and puffed. 

Cool on a wire rack in the pan. 

When the cake is cool, put the cream in a medium bowl and scrape in the vanilla seeds. Discard the vanilla pod. Beat to soft peaks with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Spread the cream on top one cake layer and then place the second cake layer on top. Let the cake sit for 1 hour in the fridge before serving.