Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

I got up early this morning to bake a cake. I only have one large sheet cake pan so I had to bake two layers, separately. I used the same recipe that I used for my friends wedding cake last summer. Last night while reading through some cookbooks, I came across a useful tip. When baking large cakes, reduce the oven temperature by 25*F to allow for more even cooking. I tried this out today and I am pleased to say that my cake turned out quite nicely, no dry or crispy edges and the center is cooked through!

While the first layer was baking, I prepared the batter for the second layer. With both layers baked and cooling…

I thinly sliced some strawberries. (Normally I don’t buy like to buy fruit out of season but I had a request for strawberries and they actually looked pretty juicy so I went for it.)

I put the berries in a bowl and sprinkled a some sugar (maybe 2 Tbsp.) on them.  I whipped some cream and assembled the cake. I put the strawberries in between the two layers with just a touch of whipped cream…

…then covered the entire cake with whipped cream and dusted it with a little cocoa powder.

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Last weekend I went for a little drive and wound up Michigan. Among many things I (I should really say we, as it was a group effort) made some delicious chocolate chip cookies. The recipe that we used is from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. They were delicious, especially with a large glass of milk!

I am back home now and tonight I wanted to make some more cookies, I decided to play with the recipe and use yogurt with a little baking soda as a substitute for the eggs. They were quite tasty, though a bit thinner and more chewy with crispy edges. It’s hard to compare the two cookies, they are totally different. I enjoyed the eggless version but I am not completely satisfied. I will let you know when I come up with the perfect compromise, until then here are some more pictures.

This time, I used chocolate morsels from Askinosie Chocolate. They were well worth it! These dark chocolate morsels are a nice break from sweet cookie.

Ready to go in the oven…

and finally cookies before bed….

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Sarah Bernhardts

Yesterday I did a cooking demo at the At Home Store. I made some really wonderful cookies that are a cross between a macaron and a truffle. The recipe that I used is from The Sono Baking Company Cookbook:The Best Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion by John Barricelli. They were really fun to make! They were pretty simple even though lots of different steps were involved. The first step was making the chocolate ganache.

Secondly, I made the almond macarons. I used a pastry bag to pipe out tiny little rounds…

Then I melted some chocolate for the hard casing. (This was the only place that I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. It calls for a little bit of vegetable oil, to keep the chocolate looking shiny, but I only had olive oil pressed with tangerines–so that is what I used instead. The orange was very nice although maybe a little too strong. If I were to use it again I would use even less and maybe mix it with some vegetable oil.

With all of the elements ready, it was time to assemble the cookies. I piped some ganache onto each cookie…

…and then dipped each one  in chocolate.

They were really tasty! I had a lot of ganache left over! I think I could have made about a third of what the recipe called for and had enough.

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There was a blizzard last night and when I woke up this morning, everything was under at least a foot of glistening white snow. Since I was forced to stay home, I took the opportunity to do some baking. I decided to make some shortbread and since I couldn’t decide which kind to make, I made two – half batches.

The first one I made was pecan shortbread, here is the recipe:

1 stick butter, softened

1/4 c powdered sugar (not sifted)

1/4 c ground pecans

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c flour

1/2 tsp. salt

*dark chocolate shavings

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the pecans and vanilla, mix until combined. Add the flour and salt and mix until it comes together.  Press into a buttered baking dish, I used a pie plate. Bake at 325*F for about 30-35 min. *Optional, sprinkle a thin layer of chocolate shavings on top of the shortbread while it is still hot, using a rubber spatula or a spoon, smooth it out over the surface.

The second kind I made is orange cornmeal shortbread:

1 stick of butter, softened

1/3 c sugar

zest of an orange

1 tsp. orange juice

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 c flour

1/4 c cornmeal (I used half fine and half coarse)

1/2 tsp salt

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add orange zest, juice and vanilla, mix well. Add flour, cornmeal, and salt. Mix until the dough comes together. Press into ad buttered baking dish (I used a pie plate.) Bake at 325*F for about 35-45 min. Cool completely before serving… If you can stand to wait.

*Sorry there aren’t any pictures this time around, I am house sitting and don’t have my camera with me.

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A birdday cake

My sister made this cake a while ago and it looked delicious! When I was deciding what to bake for my brother for his birthday, the “Chocolate Guinness Cake” came to mind, it is rich, chocolaty, and moist. Perfect for a wintry day like today.

The first step was to pour the Guinness in a wide saucepan, add the butter and warm it until the butter melts.

Next, I whisked in the cocoa powder and the sugar, until it was smooth. I slid the pan off the  hot burner and beat the eggs with some vanilla and sour cream. I added the egg mixture to the pan and mixed again. Lastly, I added the flour and a little baking soda.

I poured the batter into a springform pan and popped it in the oven for about 45 minutes. When it was done, I put the cake outside to cool.

Meanwhile, I made up a batch of cream cheese frosting. The recipe calls for a little whipping cream to be added into it, making it fluffy, somewhat resembling the foam on top of a pint of Guinness.

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I made a variation of this galette (inspired by my friend Emily) for Thanksgiving last year and have been dying to make it again ever since, I am going to a birthday party this evening so I thought it would be a nice thing to bring along.Today’s variation is a bit heavier on tangerines, because I was running out of cranberries.

For the crust, I combined two of my favorite recipes (Pastry for Pies and Galettes from Deborah Madison, and Pâte Brisée from James Peterson) to get a crust that, I think, came out quite nice.

2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces

3 Tbsp. cream

1/2 tsp. vinegar

3-4 Tbsp. ice water

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Add cream and vinegar and mix gently. Add water 1 Tbsp. at a time until the dough comes together. Wrap and chill for at least 30 min.

While the dough was chilling, I prepared the filling.

3-5 tangerines-preferably organic, washed well

3/4- 1 1/2 c. cranberries, washed and sorted

1 1/4 c. sugar

First, cut a few thin slices from the widest part of the tangerines and set aside. Cut the remaining tangerines into pieces and remove any seeds.

Put the chunks of tangerine in a food processor and pulse until there are only small pieces left. Add 3/4-1 cup of cranberries and pulse again. (The first time I made this I had more cranberries so 1 c. of cranberries here, and 3 tangerines. This time, I only had about 3/4 c. cranberries so I used 5 tangerines.) Scrape cranberries and tangerines into a mixing bowl and add 1 1/4 c. sugar. (For the first version, at this point I added 1/2 c. whole cranberries as well.)

By this point, the dough was chilled, I rolled it out into a rather large rough circle.  Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the filling to about 3 inches from the edge of the dough. Place the tangerine slices on top of the filling and fold the edges over. (I had a little extra filling and dough so I made a tiny galette also.) Sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of the crust. Bake at 400*F for 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 375*F and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the filling sets up a bit and the crust is golden. Serve with whipped cream.


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Hedgehog Cake

I have been wanting to make this cake since last winter. I couldn’t find any chestnut paste in Michigan and when I finally got some from my mom’s store, it seemed too rich and wintry to make in April. My sister loves chestnuts and hedgehogs I made it for her birthday last week. The recipe for this “Hedgehog Cake” came from Simply Sensational Desserts by Francois Payard, you might recall a lime tart I made a while back- also from this wonderful book.

I started by making the cake, a chocolate sponge. I baked it in on of my favorite pans, my mom’s all-clad jelly roll pan.

While the cake was baking, I made the chestnut ganache! I chopped up a bunch of bittersweet chocolate and poured boiling cream on top and whisked away. When that was smooth, I added some chestnut puree and whisked some more. I cooled it in the fridge for about 45 minutes, stirring it occasionally.

By this time, the cake had cooled and everything was ready to be assembled. I used some bowls to trace around and cut out the layers. I lined a bowl with some saran wrap and spread a generous layer of the ganache evenly across it.

I placed the smallest of the three cake rounds in the bottom and smeared on some more ganache. Then more cake, more ganache, and a big dollop of whipped cream. I topped it off with the last of the cake rounds and sealed it with some ganache. I put it in the freezer over night so that it would hold its shape.

In the morning, I filled the sink with hot water and set the bowl in it long enough that the cake would unmold.I turned it out onto a cake plate and with the back of a spoon spread the spiked the rest of the ganache on it to resemble spines. (I think this step would have been a little better if I had let the ganache warm up a bit more.) I decided to leave it headless. I thought that it would be too disturbing to have to cut off the head of a hedgehog. Eeek. I dusted it with cocoa powder.


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Pear Spice Cake

I woke up this morning thinking about what to bake with the last of my pears, (I say last even though there are still several on my counter.) I opened my email and saw a recipe for a spiced applesauce cake, it looked so good that I decided to do a spin-off using pears. I made a quick batch of pearsauce, I didn’t mill them this time, I just mashed them up a bit.

I also cut the sugar back and adjusted the spicing slightly. I used fresh ginger instead of powdered and added a bit of lemon zest to the batter.

There was a bit or pearsauce leftover so I served the cake with a spoonful of that as well as some whipped cream.

For the cake:

Cream together…

1 stick butter

1 scant cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

zest of 1/2 lemon


2 farm fresh eggs, one at a time.

Beat in…

1 3/4 cups pearsauce (or unsweetened applesauce)

Mix together in a separate bowl…

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 – 3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground clove

Slowly add dry ingredients to the applesauce mixture. Pour batter into a well-greased cake pan or square baking dish. Bake at 350* for about 35 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with pearsauce and whipped cream.

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A couple of weeks ago I went to my friends land south of town. He is developing a very beautiful orchard, King Edward’s. This spring he planted about 50 fruit trees! Lucky for us, he already has a giant pear tree that is loaded with fruit.

I like to let my pears ripen off the tree quite a bit, so they get really sweet and juicy. The other day my friend and I canned  some pearsauce and lemon-ginger pears. The pears were so sweet that we didn’t have to add any sugar to the pearsauce and cut the sugar in half from what I used last year for the lemon-ginger pears. We also dehydrated a few to make pear chips.

Still having tons of pears left, I decided to make a couple of pies. I made the crust last night so I would have plenty of time to chill, resulting in a flakier crust. I also added a little bit of lemon zest in with the flour, butter, and water for the crust, I think this will be especially nice with the pears. This morning, I peeled and sliced a whole bunch of pears, tossed them with some sugar, flour and a touch of freshly grated ginger. I filled the bottom shells with the pears and dotted it with butter. A while ago, a friend made a pear galette with chocolate, this inspired me to shave on a little chocolate before I put on the top and sealed it up.

The pies are now cooling and I am having a hard time not slicing into the pies while it is still hot because they smell so good!

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Forgive me for being so behind on my posts lately. I have been quite busy. Recently, we had another great cooking class at The Store! Kathy Dubois and Steve Boss (hosts of Great Taste on KRUUFM) taught us how to make risotto and farrotto! Farro is prepared very much in the same way as risotto with the exception of using farro in place of rice. Farro is an ancient Italian grain, great for soups, stews, and salads. It is a bit chewy in texture and has a very nice nutty/earthy flavor. We also made a couple of starters and an apple cake!

We started with some slow roasted beets drizzled with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Next we had a fresh brussel sprout salad. It was very simple, shredded brussel sprouts, pecorino toscano cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Kathy and Steve roasted some garden tomatoes ahead of time and made a nice big pot of veggie broth for the risotto and farrotto. Both dishes were prepared in a similar fashion. We began by sauteing some leeks, carrots, and celery. Then adding the rice/farro followed by a splash of wine. Once the wine has evaporated off, you can begin adding broth one ladle at a time stirring often. As the liquid cooks off, add some more. I always find that the longer the risotto has been cooking the more I need to stir it. Once the rice/farro was sufficiently cooked, still a little toothy, we turned off the heat and added some butter and parmigiano reggiano. We finished the risotto with a roasted red pepper sauce that Kathy made, and the farrotto with the roasted garden tomatoes.

For dessert, Kathy had prepared a delicious apple cake with a crumb topping and, of course, whipped cream!

Click here for the risotto and farrotto recipe.

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