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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

One of my dear friends got married on Saturday, naturally, I couldn’t resist making her wedding cake. We decided on carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. V and I were inspired by a cake with leaves vining up and around the tiers so I went with it. I got together some gum paste supplies and made a bunch of leaves ahead of time. I used two shades of green and made them somewhat irregular (although they ended up being pretty uniform.)

While I was in baking school we used a recipe for carrot cake that quickly became my favorite. It has buttermilk in it and is quite moist. The original recipe calls for walnuts but we chose to exclude them.

I was pretty nervous about making a cake that was big enough so I went with 14-10-6″ tiers. (As it turns out, I was VERY generous with my estimate.)

 

Each tier was 4 layers, two cakes split in half, each layer was filled with cream cheese frosting. I did a thin crumb coat before the final coat of frosting.

Finally I decorated it with the gum paste leaves. I also had a few fresh flowers leftover from the bridal bouquet so I snuck a few on as well.


The bride, the groom, and the cake.

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Tarte Tatin

One of my favorite kitchen items is this adorable copper pan with “ears” it makes it out of the cupboard in the fall when apples are a plenty. I have had it out for the past week or so, to admire and as a reminder not to let the apple season pass me by. Last weekend my friend Ila and I went to an orchard and got some fresh crisp apples.

Tarte Tatin is a classic french dessert, it is somewhat similar to an apple pie in terms of ingredients but the process is quite different and the result is caramelly . We mixed up a small batch of pie dough, enough to cover it only, and put it in the fridge to chill. We then melted some butter and sugar in the little eared pan.

As it was melting, we peeled and cored 7 apples.

When the butter and sugar were ready, we nestled the quartered apples into the butter in two layers and let them cook on the burner for about 30 minutes.

Then the butter was nicely browned and the apples began to caramelize, we transferred the pan to the hot oven and baked them for about another 30 minutes. Towards the end of baking, we rolled out the dough and placed it on top of the apples and baked it for another 20 minutes until the crust was golden.

Turning a tarte tatin out of its pan can be messy, especially if you wait to long. Most of the apples turned out of the pan for us but we did have a couple of apples that stuck to the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

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Oh my, I am way behind on my posts! I’m ashamed to say that this is from May. Yikes! I taught a class on tarts at the At Home Store. It was really fun and I had a great group of students. I made two types of crusts and five different fillings, both sweet and savory. One of my favorite ingredients to use in baking is rhubarb. I like it nice and tart and makes your lips pucker a little. For the rhubarb tart, I used some orange juice and a bit of zest, I actually used a recipe I came up with last spring.

I also made a tart with a light pastry cream (made without eggs) and fresh raspberries. Geri did a fabulous job arranging the berries and the mint!

I made two different asparagus tarts, one was more like a Quiche and the other was asparagus spears and jarlsberg cheese (gruyere would be even better!)

The roasted vegetable tart was especially fun, I prepared a bunch of individual tart shells so everyone could create one. I roasted beets, butternut squash, and onions with some fresh herbs. I also had some fresh goat cheese for people to use if they wanted. After everyone assembled their tarts I popped them in the oven so the flavors melded together a little.

Just as we sat down to eat, the power went out on our block. Perfect timing, we lucked out!

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Ever since I was little, I have wanted to be able to make candied violets that end up looking presentable; although I am not completely there, I am at least getting closer. My backyard is full of  violets so the other day I went outside with a little basket and collected some of the prettiest ones.

I made a simple syrup 2:1 sugar and water and added a little rose-water to it to enhance the flavor. I pounded some sugar in my mortar and pestle so it was “superfine” and then began to candy the violets. I dipped each flower in the syrup…

…carefully opened the blossom back up with a fine paintbrush, and sprinkled them with the superfine sugar – being careful to coat the front and back of the flowers. I placed the flowers on a sheet of waxed paper to dry. They have been drying for a day now and are still a little moist. I am hoping that when all is done, they won’t crumble.

I also am in the process of making a bunch of marzipan roses. Yesterday at the store I got some almond paste (which I prefer over marzipan because it is less sweet) and some natural food coloring, made from beets. I added the red coloring to the almond paste until it was the shade of pink I was going for. I took a small portion of the almond paste, rolled in to a log and covered the rest with plastic wrap so it wouldn’t dry out. I sliced off 6 small pieces and rolled them into little balls.

I then gently flattened them out with one end of the disc thinner than the other. I found the having a little bowl of water nearby to rinse my fingers every once in a while helped keep the “petals” from sticking to my fingers.

When all 6 petals were ready, I started rolling them together with the thinner end at the base of the blossom.

Overlay two petals and begin to roll them up, add a third petal and roll a little more, repeat until all the petals have been incorporated. (These pictures were taken in low light, I apologize for the poor quality but they should give you an idea of how to put the petals together.)

You can trim the end at an angle to help the flower sit upright.

Both types of flowers make great decorations, especially for cakes.

(Note: As long as the marzipan is stored in an air tight container you can make the flowers in advance. They are very simple to make but they do take quite a bit of time so plan ahead, maybe recruit some helpers if you need a lot.)

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No-Rouz

I am visiting some friends in Colorado. Yesterday we celebrated No-Rouz, the Persian New Year. The exact time of No-Rouz changes yearly in accord with the exact time of the beginning of Spring (This year it was in the late afternoon.)  We began by preparing the “Haft Sin.” or “Seven S’s.” As you might guess from its name, Haft Sin includes seven items that begin with “s”, however it is not exclusive to these items.

Our Haft Sin setting included the traditional seven:

Sabhez- lentil sprouts, symbolizing rebirth

Samanu- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence

Senjed- dried oleaster fruit, symbolizing love

Sir- garlic, symbolizing medicine

Sib- apples, symbolizing health

Somaq- sumac berries, symbolizing the color of the sunrise

Serkeh- vinegar, symbolizing patience

Plus some more recent additions:

Sonbol- hyacinth flowers

Sekkeh- coins, symbolizing wealth

Sohun asali- Sesame honey cookies

Shirini nokhod chi- Chickpea flour cookies with cardamom

Haj Badoom- Crispy almond cookies

Nargili- Coconut cookies

Ayeneh- a mirror, symbolizing honesty

Sham’- lit candles, symbolizing happiness and enlightenment

Tokhm e Morgh- decorated eggs, symbolizing fertility

Mahi-goldfish, symbolizing life within life

A book of Hafez (a highly respected Iranian Poet), and or the Qur’an

We prepared the Haft Sin setting together, each adding a little bit of the different items. After the sun passed over the equator and we had a quiet celebration, exchanged gifts, and gathered at the table for a traditional No-Rouz dinner.

We had sabzi polo – rice pilaf cooked with lots of fresh herbs and saffron, kookoo – a frittata like dish that is heavy on the greens and light on the eggs, maast – yogurt with shallots (a different variety than what we are used to in the states), and a tray of olives, mint yogurt, and naan khoshkeh – a crispy flatbread (literally “dried bread”) from Isfahan, and fish.

Sabzi polo:

3 cups basmati rice
water
3 tablespoons salt
3 cups finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, young leeks, cilantro, dill, fenugreek)
3 spring garlic shoots*

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/4 tsp. saffron powder

Rinse rice thoroughly. Combine rice and boiling water (cover about 1″ above the rice) and soak for about 4 hours. Strain the rice. In a large pot, boil some water, add some salt and the rice, cook for about 5 or 6 minutes, or until the rice is tender but not to soft (you can 2 or 3 Tbsp. of yogurt to the water if you like). Strain.

In a large pot, place about 2 Tbsp. oil and 3 Tbsp. water add the spring garlic shoots, cut in half lengthwise and saute for a few minutes over medium heat. Layer rice and herbs on top of the garlic and cover with a clean cloth or paper towel and the lid. This prevents the excess steam from going back into the rice and making it mushy. Let cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

In a separate pot, melt 2 Tbsp. butter and stir in 1/4 tsp. saffron powder.

Stir a little of the cooked rice in with the saffron butter to use as a garnish. Mound the rice on a platter and decorate with saffron rice.

*For a potato version: replace garlic shoots with a potato or two, thinly sliced. Add a little salt and a touch of saffron while sauteeing.

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French Butter Cookies

A friend of mine lent me a couple of french cookbooks to browse through. My eye was caught by a recipe for butter cookies from Normandy in the French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Loomis.. I love french butter cookies, they aren’t too sweet and they melt in your mouth. I immediately got some butter out to soften, waited patiently, and made some dough.

The recipe has you roll the dough out and cut out cookies but I chose to form it into a log and slice them. I find there is less waste this way, plus its tidier in the kitchen. After the cookie dough had chilled, I took it out of the fridge, sliced it up, and popped the cookies into a hot oven.

The first batch I was a little cautious about overcooking so I baked them until they were just beginning to brown around the edges. I put the second tray in. While the second batch was baking, I snacked on one from the first. While it was tasty and cooked through, I decided that they were better off being a little darker and more flavorful. (The picture below is from the first batch that went in the oven, just to give you an idea of color.)

They are excellent with coffee, tea, and especially hot chocolate!

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This afternoon while I was at the store buying roses for a cake, I remembered how I had been missing them in my pantry so I got some extras. I picked up some pistachios also, thinking they would be a nice partner for the roses in a batch of cookies. I made some cookie dough adding the pistachios, rose petals, and a touch of white chocolate at the end.

I formed the dough into a couple of logs and chilled them for an hour or so, cut them up, and baked them.

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