Monday, September 27, 2010

Love in little packages...

In case I've only slightly alluded to my new job as a baker for a vegan cafe/bakery... yes. It is true. Thus, I am leaving behind the job and company I have been a part of for over three years. Time to follow my dream!

And of course, I'll be missing my co-workers. They all threw me a going away party. A potluck, in fact, which made me tear up. It was nice to see them MAKE food, given that we work for a catering company I would have expected a platter of whatever from our kitchen. So, just to humanize myself a bit for you all... it goes like this: "So, who made all the food?" "We all did. Since you've been making us treats, we wanted to repay the favor!" "*CRY*"

I decided that night to bake up one final treat for everyone... a parting gift.

No new recipe, but the office's fav! Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars - I've made this COUNTLESS of times for them... and always so well received!

Rice Krispy Treat initials to personalize!
the amazing treat!
Slap the two together in a cello bag.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Class II Day 3: Butter

Yeah, that's right. Butter. Plenty of butter. (Ok, well not as much that went into croissant/danish/puffpastry.)

Viennesse Tart with Almond Filling and Poached Pears
Blind baked Viennesse tart shell, filled with Frangipane, topped with poached pears
Out of the oven - Done!
I do like almond filling. Poached pear - blah.
What another student did with the pears. Pretty huh? I just couldn't be bothered with slicing pears so PLOP - in they went!  
Next up, Linzer Torte.
No actual torte though.
The teacher demo'd the dough, and made linzer cookies for us to snack on.
Raspberry filled linzer cookies. Delish!
Rich Roll Cookies
Very much a butter cookie. Decorated with royal icing. I should have rolled the dough out thicker.
Bite-sized cookies.
Why I don't do detailed decorations.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Turning 26! (Been there, done that.)

Mine has already passed, and now... on to the next one!

And we celebrated the one way we always celebrate - food, friends, and fun. Usually pretty low key. In fact, I can't really remember back to when we've been off-the-wall ridiculous. 22? 23? Lightyears ago it seems.

Anyways, on to the quintessential birthday cake!

Triple Layer Lemon Chiffon Cake with Lemon Curd and Italian Buttercream
Cake recipe from Tender Crumb
Lemon Curd - recipe to follow
Italian Buttercream - recipe to follow

This cake took me an entire afternoon. That's what happens when you have no ingredients and bake completely from scratch. (I might as well have also churned the butter myself!)

I wasn't 100% confident in my chiffon cake abilities, since my cakes generally turn out to be more dense than light. SO! Here we go:
BOWL FULL of fluffy cake batter
out of the oven! Cakes pull away from the pan as they cool. (the tops of mine were still sticky - so i worried a bit).

Lemon Curd:
4 Eggs
4 Egg Yolks
1C Sugar
Zest from 2 Lemons
3/4C Lemon Juice (took me about 5 lemons, why?!?!?!?!)
8oz butter, cubed

Combine eggs, yolks, sugar, zest and juice over double boiler.
Add butter and cook. Stir until thick - a light sour cream consistency.
Strain (in case of any unfortunate cooked egg chunks, or pulp.)
Hmmmm. Note to self: Distribute cake batter EVENLY among pans.
Italian Buttercream:
5 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
1lb Butter, room temp
1/4C Sugar + 3/4C Sugar
1/4C Water

Combine water and ONLY 3/4C Sugar in small pot. Heat to boiling.
When sugar starts to cook, turn on stand mixer with egg whites and pinch of salt. Let beat to fluffy meringue.
(Should get soapy looking - if not, re-do with CLEAN egg whites.)
Continue to boil sugar until it threads in ice water, and you can pick up the piece in your hand. (detailed explanation to follow)
Egg whites should be "soft peaks" by this time. CAREFULLY, pour in the hot sugar to the egg whites.
Continue to beat until the mixing bowl cools back down to room temp/comfortable to the touch.
Throw in butter cubes as mixer continues to beat. BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT! And.... DONE!
In my experiences, the meringue does deflate once you throw in the butter. I haven't been able to get it back to being as light and fluffly as I did in class - the first time I've ever made this buttercream. (Maybe I misremembered the texture...)
Iced Water Test:
So you got the sugar boiling - HOT HOT HOT - use a metal spoon and dip in to scoop up just a bit of the bubbling sugar. Drizzle into the bowl iced water. You should be able to SEE the thread of sugar in the iced water. Try to pick up that sugar. If  you can pick it up, and roll it into a ball - its ready to be poured into the meringue! (I forget what the exact term would be... "hard ball", "soft ball"?)

Final Notes - yummy! Cake was light and fluffy - success!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ultimate Killer Cookies

UHHHH... YEAH. This cookie recipe is amazing. Corn flakes? Coconut? Oatmeal? Chocolate Chips?
So insanely good!

The Ultimate Killer Cookies of All Time...

Try it! The texture is awesome with the crushed corn flakes, and the coconut isn't overpowering either. There's a nice crunch and chew to this cookie. MMMMMmmmmm!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Class II Day 2: Danishes and Diner Cinnamon Rolls

We finished up the danish dough from last week... danish galore!

My personal favorite:
Pecan Alligator ('cause it looks like an alligator tail, get it?)

Pecan Filling (can be prepared and stored up to 1 week in fridge) - soooo good!
This can also be almond instead of pecan. (Or any nut in fact)
Yields 1 Cup
1C Pecans
1/2C Powdered Sugar
1oz Unsalted Butter, room temp
1/2t Vanilla Extract
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Pulse nuts and sugar in food processor. Once finely ground, add in butter, extract and egg white. Mix together.
Use at room temp.

Other danish shapes: bearclaw (with almond filling), pinwheel with a cream cheese filling, and triangle with an apricot filling.
All this shaping and rolling was reminiscent of the croissant and puff pastry class.
After crappy rolling and shaping.
Bear Claws with Almond Filling
Pinwheels with Cream Cheese Filling
Apricot "Triangles"
All packed up!
Diner Cinnamon Rolls
YUM! Similar but so different from the Pain au Raisin and Brioche Cinnamon Rolls from before...
Let the sugar rush commence!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

We all know about Babycakes in NY, now also in LA, yes? And needless to say, with all the vegan researching and experimenting, I was sure to come around to it... and Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow's blog) featured a Q&A with founder Erin McKenna! Along with some recipes!

I tweaked it to be vegan, but NOT gluten-free. (One thing at a time people!) Also, halved the recipe.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2C Coconut Oil
105g Sugar
44g Applesauce
1/2t Salt
1T Vanilla Extract
3/4C AP Flour (except now that I look at my notes, it might actually be 1-1/4C AP Flour, oops. Go fig.)
11g Flaxseed Meal
1/4C Cocoa Powder
1/2t Baking Soda
1/2C Chocolate Chips

(yields about 6 medium sized, and 1 large cookie)

Preheat oven to 325.
Mix together all wet ingredients. Combine all dry ingredients, then add to wet. Beat well.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Drop onto parchmented baking sheets.
Smoosh down to help spread*. Bake for 9 min, rotate pan and bake for another 5 min. (I added on another 2 min.)
Remove from oven and let stand for 10 min.
Best served warm (hell YEAH they are).

*The cookies didn't spread much other than to the shape I smooshed it down to. Could be the extra flour perhaps?

Another double chocolate chip cookie recipe I messed around with for vegan eats is:

2oz Vegan Butter
3oz Crisco
3/4C Brown Sugar
2 Egg replacer "eggs"
1t Vanilla Extract
1-3/4C AP Flour
1/2t Espresso Powder
1/3C Cocoa Powder
1/2t Baking Soda
1/8t Salt
1/2C Semisweet Chocolate Chips

(yields approx 6 medium and 4 large cookies)

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat butter and crisco with brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Then add in flour, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Mix together well, then fold in chocolate chips.
Drop onto prepared baking sheets. Smoosh down to spread. Don't smoosh down too smoothly though, or the top of the cookie with be super flat and textureless.

Bake for 10-14 min. Let cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

These cookies lack the "depth" of the double chocolate chips non-vegans usually get... so I'm still working on this to try and figure it out. Hmmmmmmm.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Class II Day 1: Baguettes and Sourdough

Yay! Class! The short break between sessions just flew by!

And first day back was just like we never left. We dove into preparing danish dough to bake off the following class. (Needless to say, with all the rolling and folding, there was little time to take pictures.)

So, we completed baguettes in class, and took home our prepared sourdough dough to bake the next day in our own kitchens.

Sourdough made from rye starter.
oops. forgot to slash the top.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Did I forget to mention?

Baking classes have started up again! Pro Baking II... so here comes 6 more weeks of new baking adventures!
The New School of Cooking - Check it out!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Homemade Granola

I'm not usually a partaker of granola... I like plain granola on my yogurt, but that's about it.
But I decided to make some granola after some inspiration online and while looking at the "bulk" section in my local Sprouts market.

It was easy peasy! Just mix everything together and bake.
And I like how its easily customizable to what your tastes are.

Homemade Cranberry Nut Granola, adapted from Food Network - Giada De Laurentis
For the almonds, I used a mix of slivered and sliced. And pretty much guesstimated on the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I mean, really, throw in however much you feel like! (Within reason, of course.)

This seems like an "autumn" granola, what with the pumpkin seeds and cranberries. Reminiscent of Thanksgiving no?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vegan transition

Not that I've ever been opposed to vegan foods, but I just never had much "exposure" to it. And ignorance is bliss, perhaps?

So needless to say, with the new job coming up working for a vegan cafe/bakery... I've spent lots of time practicing the transition of "regular" baker to vegan baker. After spending an entire evening making these items, I have come to the epiphany that while simply subbing out "regular" items for vegan items (egg replacer, vegan butter, soy cream cheese, etc) is easy enough... the results aren't going to yield the same results. Maybe close, but not perfection. Especially for someone like me who has been (and always will be) fully nommaging on everything - vegan or not.
Plum Kuchen. Made this before... this time came out super dense. Eek.
Caramelized Pear Upside Down Cake. Made this before too. I forgot that I didn't really like it. This time was no different - in fact, it was probably worse.

Vegan Othello Cookies, adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Baking book
(I halved the original recipe to make these "tester" cookies.)
4oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped - for melting
1Tbsp Earth Balance vegan butter - for melting
1.5Tbsp AP Flour
1/8t Baking Powder
1 Egg Replacer egg
1/3C Sugar
1/2t Vanilla Extract
5oz. semisweet chocolate chips - for folding in

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt bittersweet chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Let cool slightly.
Combine flour and baking powder.
Combine egg, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy. Fold in melted chocolate mixture, then the flour mixture, then the chocolate chips. Don't overmix.

Scoop mounds of batter onto prepared baking sheets (parchment or foil), approx 1Tbsp placed 1.5 inches apart.

Bake for 6 minutes. Then turn sheet 180 degrees, continue to bake until tops appear dry - approx 5 min. The cookies will come out very soft. Let cool completely on baking sheets before removing.

Yields about 6 - 10 cookies, depending on size.

These came out kind of weird. "Greasy", due to the fake butter I suppose. Put these in the fridge, and they came out white, and very hard. Oops. Not a major fail - but still a no bueno kind of cookie test.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Computer failure...

My computer died last week. And I just now got it back. Not to say I missed it much... I DEFINITELY had lots of household maintenance to catch up on! But now, I have to catch up on all my blogging and blog reading... all things interwebby fabulous! So, while I get back into the groove of having a computer back in my life, and while I still have to finish up the rest of my cleaning "extravaganza" - please be patient and I will be back! :)