Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Gingersnaps

I skipped last week's Alpha Bakers recipe, Golden Orange Panettone with Chocolate Sauce, because I'm not a fan of Panettone (no candied fruit for me, please!)...however, everyone's loaves look so beautiful and delicious that I may try it another time with orange zest and raisins. Or, I may just go all in and make my own candied orange peel, as did several of the Alpha Bakers.

Moving on to this week of the bake-through adventure with the Rose's Alpha Bakers were the quick and easy Gingersnaps, from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible. These cookies were delicious and my British husband declared them very authentic!

lovely crackled gingersnaps

a close-up view

As promised by Rose, the cookies were chewy, not hard and crunchy as some gingersnaps are, and the cookies baked-up with a gorgeous crackly top. Add a cuppa or glass of cold milk and they were the perfect snack.

The only thing missing from the recipe (IMO) was actual, fresh ginger, so I added some! I absolutely love ginger so would have been happy with more, but having never made the recipe before I didn't want to push it. I added about 1 teaspoon. Bakers tip: use a spoon to peel ginger...saves you from worrying about cutting yourself with the knife and you don't lose any of the ginger flesh.

Overall, it was a very simple recipe. Mix up the dry ingredients, melt the Lyle's Golden Syrup and butter, add that to the dry ingredients and stir, then add the eggs're done! Shape into balls and bake. Bonus? The house smelled amazing while they were baking!

Here are my photos:

mise en place...very easy!

peeling my fresh ginger

and grating your fingers!

I added the fresh ginger into the dry ingredients

the golden syrup and butter are melted together

everything all lined up and ready to mix

adding the golden syrup-butter mixture to the dry ingredients

mix until it looks like sand

add the eggs, mix again, and voila the dough is done!

roll into balls...

...and bake

the smell was amazing!!

enjoy with a nice cup of hot tea

Bye for now...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Black & Blueberry Pie

Another week (the 7th), another recipe from my bake-through adventure with Rose's Alpha Bakers. Up this week is the Black & Blueberry Pie, from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible.

There is something about making pies that I love. I don't know if it's all of the different steps involved or the rolling out of the dough. Or maybe it's the fact that you can combine, basically, flour and butter and a little liquid, fill it with something yummy, and it's transformed in the oven. I guess I should keep making pies until I figure it out!

gorgeous...pies, pies, pies!

time for a slice

I ended up making more of a blue & blackberry pie (heavier on the blues) because 1) blackberries are super expensive in New England in the dead of winter, and 2) I had 4 cups of frozen blueberries leftover from a huge box of organic Maine wild blueberries that I got delivered with my Boston Organics service last summer. I had a wonderful summer full of blueberries and baked goods full of blueberries, including these amazing Blueberry Muffins with a Cinnamon Crumb Topping (recipe posted) which I made several times.

organic wild blueberries, a taste of Maine

Overall, the pie was very good, especially with vanilla ice cream. I've never made a cream cheese crust before, but it was delicious! It was super flaky and tender. As a whole pie, it looked gorgeous with my "berry" steam holes on the top crust and the little leaf cutouts. My pie filling, however, was way too liquidy! I'm glad I wasn't serving it at a party or it would have been a huge disappointment (although the taste was great, so hopefully no one would have minded). It barely held up taking it out of the pie plate.

I waited the instructed 2-hours before cutting into it, but am guessing that using mostly blueberries and/or frozen berries is probably what made it so liquidy. I probably should have cooked it longer but was worried the top was becoming too brown. The pie was also a bit on the sweet side, which again, is probably because I used more blueberries than blackberries. It would have been nice to have a recipe adjustment for all (or mostly) blueberries and for using frozen berries.

I'm going to pour out the liquidy juice, puree and strain it, and make some sort of cocktail with it...I bet it will be amazing! {update...} Yum, my first Black & Blueberry Pie Cocktail! I spooned some of the pie juices into one of my 1920s style champagne glasses, topped it up with prosecco and voila...deliciousness!

take a few tablespoons of black & blueberry pie juice and
a couple of blueberries, then add prosecco...

...and YUM! A sparkling, blueberry-flavored drink.

Here are my pie photos...

mise en place for the crust

I prefer to make pie crusts by hand so I used a bowl and the countertop.

First, the dry ingredients are whisked together. Next, the cream cheese is added and, using your fingertips (be sure they're covered in flour the whole time), it's incorporated until it's the size of coarse meal.

the different stages of the cream cheese incorporation

After the cream cheese was fully blended, I added the butter, then dumped everything onto the countertop. I used my pastry blender and bench scrapper to incorporate the butter until it was broken down into pea-sized pieces. During this part, I didn't use my hands or their heat would melt the butter which would ruin the flakiness of the final pie crust.

starting to cut the butter into the pastry

nearly there...

...that looks good!

The liquid ingredients - vodka (which I substituted for cider vinegar) and heavy cream - are drizzled over the dry ingredients.

adding the cream and vodka

Then I used my bench scrapper to "cut" the liquid ingredients into the dough. When it was starting to come together, I used my hands to quickly knead it all together (again, don't use your hands too much or the butter will melt).

cutting in the liquid ingredients

starting to knead it all together...nearly there

Finally done and the dough has completely come together. The dough is cut into two equal pieces (for the top and bottom crusts), placed between plastic wrap, then refrigerated so the dough can rest. At this point, I like to give it a little bit of a roll before putting in the fridge. I find it's easier to roll this way.

my top and bottom crusts

slightly rolled out, then popped into the fridge to rest

after it's rested and chilled, the dough is ready to roll

using the top piece of plastic wrap, I eased it into the pie plate

cleaned up the edges, then back into the fridge to chill while
I make the filling

mise en place for the pie filling

so juicy!
I might just eat these right one would notice, right?

I love lemon zest! After mixing the dry ingredients,
the zest and then lemon juice are added.

even though it was only 15 degrees outside, it was a clear, sunny morning
when I made the pie. Here are the berries sitting in the sun.

the other ingredients were mixed together then the berries added...
stir gently!

the perfect amount of filling! Rose's recipes are always
perfect in this respect

I decorated the top crust with leaf cutouts, brushed with heavy cream and then sprinkled with sugar to give it some shine when baked.

ready to pretty :)

all done! Gorgeous. I think this is why I love pies -
so basic in parts, yet so amazing in sum.

the juices are bubbling through

here is a slice...a bit too juicy and the filling too "loose" for my liking

I had a bunch of dough scraps so I re-rolled the dough and made these little strips. The pink ones have the leftover juice from the berry mixture. The juice was so delicious! For the other ones, I brushed them with cream and sprinkled with sugar.

brushed with juice or cream and sprinkled with sugar

then baked...yum

a good shot of how flaky the pie crust was

Bye for now...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Rose's Alpha Bakers: Chocolate Cuddle Cake

Week six of my bake-through adventure with Rose's Alpha Bakers is the Chocolate Cuddle Cake, from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Baking Bible. I'm back in school this semester and had some studying and a paper to write this week so I made an abbreviated Cuddle Cake; I omitted the caramel whipped cream topping and just covered the cake with the ganache. I had some darker ganache left over from my Ischler cookies so I drizzled that over the top in a sort of crisscrossing pattern. Not the prettiest cake I've ever made, but it was chocolatey and delicious!

a very light and tender cake

The cake was a chiffon cake, so it's leavened by beating the egg whites into a meringue and folding that into the batter. The recipe called for what seemed like a lot of sugar, so I was a little worried that the cake would be too sweet, like some chiffon cakes are, but the cocoa powder cut the sweetness and it was just right. 

The cake's texture was extremely light (almost fluffy) and very tender. It was also very moist (some chiffon cakes can be dry, in my opinion); going on day 3, it's still very fresh and moist. My only complaint was that the ganache was very firm when it cooled so it was less like frosting and more like...almost like a chocolate truffle topping. The ganache melted in your mouth, so still delicious, but I would have liked a softer ganache as frosting.

The ganache is made first and set aside to firm up for a few hours. Next time I might add a touch more kahlua because the flavor got lost in the finished ganache.
the ganache called for kahlua...yum!

so easy, but I forgot to add the kahlua when it was in the food processor...
no problem, I'll just stir it in

Now on to the cake!

mise en place for the cake

The cocoa powder is melted with boiling water and the cooled slightly. Then the oil, egg yolks, and vanilla are added.

combining the wet ingredients

mixing the wet and dry ingredients

Then the wet ingredients are added to the dry ingredients and mixed well. I only have one bowl for my stand mixer and didn't want to take the chance of my meringue being deflated by any traces of oil, so I just mixed these ingredients by hand. Whisk whisk whisk!

after whisking for several minutes my batter is smooth and shiny

Now it's time for the meringue. This was actually quite fun and easy to make and was very pretty when done. The egg whites and cream of tartar are whisked until soft peaks form. Then some sugar is added and the mixture is whisked again until stiff peaks form. The final meringue was smooth and glossy.

soft peaks...still very foamy and bubbly

now whipped into stiff peaks...a gorgeous meringue!

When you reach the stiff peak stage, you're ready to incorporate the egg whites into the chocolate batter. Gently fold in the egg whites otherwise your beautiful meringue will deflate.

looks like a snowy cute!

carefully folding the meringue into the chocolate batter

don't completely incorporate the meringue (until the final addition)
or the egg whites will deflate and the cake will be flat

I had to improvise with my pan set-up because I didn't have the required cake strips (which go around the pan and help it bake evenly) I just wrapped a few layers of aluminum foil around the side of my cake and it came out just fine.

Before baking a flower nail (used for making sugar flowers) is inserted into the batter which helps the batter rise evenly.

voila, my handy-dandy flower nail

my finished cake! It even has cracks on the top,
just like Rose said it would.

The cake is cooled upside down on this ingenious cooling rack set-up. Cooling it upside down helps to avoid the dip in the center of the cake often seen in a chiffon cake.

the cooling rack is elevated on the edges of some glasses

and here is my upside down cake, cooling

when the cake is completely cooled, the pan is removed and the
parchment strip is carefully peeled away

now it's time to frost!

My crisscross ganache decoration was a bit messy, but tasted delicious!

I'll just pretend I was going for an avant-garde look

the finished cake is lovely

time for a bite...yum!

Bye for now...