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Monday, June 28, 2010

Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

My Rum-Drenched cake has a little bit of a history - in my eagerness to work with small pans I initially baked half the portions in a small loaf pan; it rose way above the level of the pan and I didn't bake it for long enough. The next morning there was a pale, gummy loaf sitting on the table. So I will have to be careful with my size experiments. I read only glowing reviews of the cake in the P&Q so I gave it a second shot. This time I halved the recipe again but baked it in the recommended 8-1/2x4. I also reduced the amount of sugar to about 7/8 of one cup. Tomorrow will be the taste test when I will find out if my second attempt is a success. For the recipe, check out Wendy's blog at Pinkstripes. Thank you, Wendy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

I'm sneaking the Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake in a week late - it was almost ready to make for last Tuesday, that is, the dry ingredients were sifted and sitting in a bowl on the kitchen table. But I ended up coming home late so I did easy shortbread cookies instead. Now is my chance to catch up.

I have the ambition to make small cakes like the stunning presentations that one sees in shops like Citarella - little comma cakes with mirror glazes, small cylindrical opera cakes, and so on. I just stand at the counter and gaze at the beauty; fortunately the staff are used to me and don't seem to mind if I don't purchase a cake. I'm a long way off from reaching my goal but as long as I enjoy myself along the way I guess that's good. Today's cake is a half-size - I used a 5x5x3 inch square pan that I purchased at New York Cake..

I was very worried at first as the cake looked as if it would be permanently sunk in the middle; however, after 45 mins. at 325 F it rose beautifully. I was advised to use 325 F for chocolate cakes generally (my Baking 911 club)and it seems to have worked very well.

Cream Cheese frosting from "More from Magnolia" on top and some cherry jam in the middle are the dressy components of this lovely chocolate cake recipe.

The recipe is on Amyruthbakes.

Pavlova - Daring Bakers

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

Here's my Daring Bakers' Challenge Pavlova. One comment I got was "awesome" while another was it was good but that it would be more appropriate for an after-dinner dessert (I served them in the morning at work).

My own feelings - the mousse and creme anglaise are indeed awesome - there was quite a lot of mousse left over so I had some large spoonsful just for me. But I was disappointed in the meringue - it was way too hard; I like meringues to be soft-centered and puffed up high. Made with puffy meringue this dessert would be fabulous.

I'm all in gear for trying Audax's tradional Aussie Pavlova when it's not so humid, as it is here in NY at the moment. All in all, an exciting and challenging challenge in which I got to make desserts which I had never made before.

Thank you Dawn for a great project.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lemon Sables - Cooks' Illustrated

Lemon Sables

I made these for the weekly co-worker treat. The recipe is from Cooks' Illustrated and has an interesting twist to it - hard boiled egg yolk is used in place of uncooked egg yolk. The reason given is that this will give a more sandy, crunchy texture to the sables. Well, they were delicious anyway - I'm not sure if the egg yolk thing made that much of a difference. I may well use this method again, but boil two large egg yolks, weigh the first, then keep some of the other one to make up any loss of yolk when putting the first one through the strainer.


Make sure the cookie dough is well chilled and firm so that it can be uniformly sliced. After the dough has been wrapped in parchment, it can be double-wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 2 weeks.

1 large egg
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (2 3/4 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I used 3 teasp. as I did not want it too lemony.)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
Confectioners' sugar

1. Place egg in small saucepan, cover with 1 inch water, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill small bowl with ice water. Using slotted spoon, transfer egg to ice water and let stand 5 minutes. Crack egg and peel shell. Separate yolk from white; discard white. Press yolk through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl.

2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and cooked egg yolk on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl and beater with rubber spatula as needed. Turn mixer to low, add vanilla and lemon zest, and mix until incorporated. Stop mixer; add flour and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, press dough into cohesive mass.

3. Divide dough in half; roll each piece into log about 6 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in 12-inch square of parchment paper and twist ends to seal and firmly compact dough into tight cylinder (see illustrations below). Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

4. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Using chef’s knife, slice dough into one-quarter-inch-thick rounds, rotating dough so that it won’t become misshapen from weight of knife. Place cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets.

5. Bake until centers of cookies are pale golden brown with edges slightly darker than centers, about 15 minutes (mine took 20 mins.), rotating baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes; using thin metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Once cookies have cooled, dust with confectioners' sugar. Store cooled cookies between sheets of parchment paper in airtight container for up to 1 week.

After tasting and comparing - These cookies are definitly more crunchy and sandy than those with an uncooked yoke as an ingredient. It seems the more uncooked yoke (two in my next trial) the more the cookies become like delicious butter biscuits but very, very light. Both kinds are good.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Raisin Swirl Bread

This is something new for me - I have only made a couple of yeasted bread recipes up to now. I've quite often used a bread machine for baking bread (perhaps the equivalent of a cake maker using a cake mix instead of the real thing). Now I feel rather thrilled that I have actually made real bread, using the dough hook of course, not kneading by hand. Maybe kneading will be my next progression.

This is a lovely recipe, with such clear instructions for the various stages of baking. It came out nice and soft. I made cinnamon-raisin rolls instead of the regular loaf. Only thing is they got a bit distorted and uneven in shape, maybe because they needed more room to expand (I used a 9-inch square baking pan and stuffed 12 rolls in it).

This recipe makes a light, quite plain, not really sweet loaf, ideal for eating with butter or cream cheese. I expected it to be sweeter but it was a rave in the office; the large bag of rolls vanished early in the morning.

Susan of Food.Baby picked this recipe. I will definitely make it again, probably in a regular loaf pan. Great choice. The recipe is on Susan's blog.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tender Short Cakes - Tuesdays with Dorie

These were a huge success! I am feeling quite proud of myself for making something really new - I have never made shortcakes before (or biscuits or scones)- Opera cake yes, but shortcakes no. They tasted delicious with the cream and a cherry compote I cooked up; one of my co-workers liked the plain shortcake as is, saying it made an excellent breakfast cake to have with his coffee.

I made a half quantity which gave eight large cakes. Although I'm feeling really good about them, I think I still need some practice in getting them light. We had them the next day and they were a little bit dense. I thought the dough was quite dry when making it, even with adding another 2 Tbs. of cream.

I thought the compote was good too; it's from My Recipes website. I used half quantities here as well. It was not too sweet.

4 cups pitted sweet cherries (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

To prepare compote, combine cherries, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in extract. Cool. Serve with shortcake.

Cathy of The Tortefeasor picked this one for us. It was a wonderful choice. Thank you, Cathy.