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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baking for a Reception

This is a photo of goodies I made for a reception at our Church this past Wednesday, March 25th. I had the responsiblity of doing the sweet stuff and others presented delicious savories.

I made chocky cake, mini-mini tartlets with cream and blueberry pie filling, mini tartlets with lemon curd cream and some almond cookies. The chocky cake and the mini-mini's are in the picture. My project involved making around 300 items - a lot of work, but very creative for me and much fun except for a couple of hair-raising moments when the pastry wouldn't come out of the tart tins!

A new trick - after using a press-down method for dough in the tartlet tins, refrigerate for about an hour. This makes the tartlet dough rise evenly when blind-baking.

Another new trick - after baking, freeze cooled pastries in their tins for about 30 mins then dip the base of each tin into some boiling water for a few seconds, remove, then ease the pastry shells out of the tins by thumb - they will come out nicely - paper thin and even. (This took hours of practice - I finally have it right).

I used Dorie Greenspan's Pate Sucre recipe for the pastry dough (will I ever use anything else!) and a great Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake recipe(from Diana's Desserts).

Here are the recipes:
Dorie Greenspan's Pate Sucre Recipe


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

To make the dough: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely – you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that’s just fine. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.

Very lightly and sparingly – make that very, very lightly and sparingly – knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

If you want to press the dough into a tart pan, now is the time to do it.

If you want to chill the dough and roll it out later (doable, but fussier than pressing), gather the dough into a ball (you might have to use a little more pressure than you used to mix in dry bits, because you do want the ball to be just this side of cohesive), flatten it into a disk, wrap it well and chill it for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.

To make a press-in crust: Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be stingy – you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don’t be too heavy-handed – you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake - from Diana's Desserts


1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C. Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter and cocoa with the 1 cup water.

With an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla and baking soda. Beat in sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, then the buttermilk and lightly beaten eggs. Spread batter in prepared baking pan. Bake cake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes (I found 30 mins. was the correct time). Transfer cake (in pan) to cooling rack.

Makes 1 (9 x 13-inch) sheet cake, 24 servings.

And then there's the frosting from one of my favorite sites. It was rich and delicious:
Creamy Chocolate Frosting.

2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa, and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

The reception went very well and the cakes certainly contributed to its success.