Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Boston Cream Cupcakes #TheCakeSliceBakers

You've probably heard the name Boston Cream Pie at some point in your life. The immediate visual that comes to mind if you have never had this dessert is a creamy pie in a nice crust with maybe some maple syrup for flavoring or something. In fact, a Boston Cream Pie is a cake. Vanilla cake is sandwiched with a vanilla pastry cream and then topped with a rich chocolate ganache. It's a great combination of flavors and textures and a classic for a reason.

This month the Cake Slice Bakers are baking again from The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen, #atkcake, and our choices included Boston Cream Cupcakes. Being an iconoclast and not a lover of working with lots of pieces, I changed it to a small Boston Cream Pie cake, made using a 6-inch in diameter springform pan with tall sides, plus three smaller cakes made using mega-muffin pans- pretty close to Boston Cream Cupcakes. Two of those small ones were tall enough to split and fill, but the smallest on worked well for the original instructions for cupcakes, so I cut out a divot in the top, sliced off a bit of the point to make room for the pastry cream, then filled the depression with a tablespoon or so of the cream, topped it with the cake hat, then poured the chocolate glaze over it all. Here is what that one looked like:

I made this treat for Valentine's Day. Two of the little cakes went to a neighbor couple and the other went to another neighbor. Sweetie and I enjoyed ample portions of the large cake. It was delicious. This cake is not as fine crumbed as a pound cake, but still has a fairly tight crumb. It rose well and had a nice, mild vanilla flavor. The pastry cream, which I made with soy non-dairy creamer and non-dairy margarine, was wonderful...very smooth and creamy and strongly vanilla. I chilled it so that it would make a sturdy filling, which is especially important when you are cutting the cake. A too soft filling just squishes out as you cut.

The genius part of the ganache topping is the plain corn syrup. It really makes it easy to work with. Since I did use bittersweet chocolate as called for, the topping was a nice deep chocolate contrast to the vanilla in the cake and pastry cream.

I decorated the iced cakes with tiny sprinkles in heart shapes. It made a really pretty Valentine's Day gift for Sweetie, who loves Boston Cream Pie!

Because the book that this recipe comes from isn't in print yet, I'm not including the recipe. It should be published next month. You are probably going to want to buy this if you make a lot of cakes, or just want recipes for cake that are tested and perfect! Sometimes the instructions seem different, like cutting the fat into the flour for a cake like this. It's a technique often used for pie and biscuits, but not that often for cake. I'm sure it helped this cake rise so nicely and probably contributed to the tenderness, too.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen #atkcake.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

The choices this month were Chocolate-Espresso Dacquoise, Blitz Torte, Bananas Foster Cake, and Boston Cream Cupcakes.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Big Ten And A Crown

Ten years ago, a small group of beautiful, brave babes baked bread together and thus was born the Bread Baking Babes. To celebrate all of those years of friendship, fun, and baking all kinds and shapes of bread together, with some Babes taking a break and some new ones being invited to join in, this month we baked one of the earliest breads, the Royal Crown Tortano. Happy Anniversary to us!

This lovely artisan bread includes the humble potato. If you have never baked a yeasted, kneaded bread with potato in it, you may not know that often the potato leads to a sticky dough...at times it almost seems liquid and like it has a mind of its own. It also helps to make a flavorful, moist bread and one that seems to keep a bit longer, too.

Our Kitchen of the Month is Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups blog, one of the original Babes. The badge is by Lien of Notitie van Lien, another one of the original Babes. If you ask them, they might explain about the bottle on the back bench...or not.

I enjoyed making this bread and noticed that when I mixed in the potato, honey and salt that the fairly stiff dough became very loose, which was a pretty amazing transformation. I did get decent if not spectacular oven spring and also, because I baked it on parchment, but with a perforated pizza sheet below the parchment, the bread had a really nice lower crust. I put the pizza pan there because I was worried about some of the dough taking off and dripping over the side of the parchment. The dough, parchment, pizza pan sandwich was also laid directly on a preheated baking stone. That helps with a good bottom crust, too.  As usual my skills in scoring need improvement. You can barely see where I scored the cross. I did use the potato water and I did weight the ingredients, using grams. A good scale with a tare feature is your friend if you like to bake.

Look at this bottom crust!

Delicious bread; a keeper. Makes a great base for avocado toast, among other things.

Be sure to check out the other Babes to see what their Crown looks like and to congratulate them on this round number anniversary!

To be a Buddy, bake the bread, take a photo, post about it and send Tanna an email with the URL, photo, etc. by Feb.28.

Now bake this bread, please! It is worth every moment.

Royal Crown Tortano - revisited

(based on Karen's (Bake My Day) 2008 take on Maggie Glezer's recipe 

Recipe Synopsis

The Evening Before Baking: Make the starter and if you like the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:

Pre-Ferment Ingredients 
1 gm (1/4 tsp) instant yeast
240gm (1 cup) water 105 - 115 degrees F
100gm (2/3 cup) unbleached bread flour
85gm (1 small) potato

Stir the yeast into the water in a glass measure and let it stand for 5 - 10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the pre-ferment is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow it to come to room temperature 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough

Preparing the Potato: For efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter it, then boil it in water to cover until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only 1/4 cup puree.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Dough Ingredients 
575gm  (3+3/4 cups) unbleached bread flour
420gm (1+3/4 cups plus 3 Tbsp) Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
all of the pre-ferment
11gm (2 tsp) honey
60gm (1/4 cup packed) Potato puree
16gm (scant 1 Tbsp) salt

By Hand: Use your hands to mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in a large bowl. Cover the dough and let rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes. 

Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato, and salt, and knead the dough until it is smooth, 5 - 10 minutes. It will start off feeling rubbery, then break down into goo; if you persist, eventually it will come together into a smooth, shiny dough. If you do not have the skill or time to knead it to smoothness, the bread will not suffer. This is a tremendously wet and sticky dough, so use a dough scraper to help you but do not add more flour, for it will ruin the texture of the bread.

By Stand Mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer. Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 - 20 minutes, or until very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splaterring back around the bowl. This dough is almost pourably wet.

Fermenting and Turning the Dough: 

Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour. Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours. Using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time. Do not allow this dough to over ferment or forment to the point of collapse, for the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should have about 12 inch diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven's second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (230 C)

Baking the Bread:

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper. Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not overproofed. Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake. Let the bread cool on a rack.

Baker's Percentages
100% unbleached bread flour
% Water, including the potato water 
0.15% yeast 
2% honey
10% potato puree
2.4% salt 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Happy Birthday To Me

This year I was really able to enjoy my birthday, so I did things I love...going to the gym (I know, hard to believe that I'm addicted), walking the dog with Sweetie, picking out flower seeds at the Hardware store, talking with my daughter and others on the phone (they called me!), a little gardening, a little watercolor time, starting one of the parts of tomorrow's Valentine baking, a lunchtime visit from a dear friend, TV with Sweetie after a nice dinner with grandma, a little Facebook time and ending it with some fun with Photoshop. It was a very pretty day, too. Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes, brought flowers, gave cards, and to Sweetie for the perfect gift and day.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's the Chocolate

As a kid my favorite kind of cookie was Toll House chocolate chip cookies. I like 'em with nuts and without nuts, with pecans, with walnuts, with macadamia nuts...but they have to have chocolate and lots of it.

Today I made a version of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie. Knowing my you are already waiting for the changes I made to the recipe, and you're right, I made changes.

First, I used some safflower oil in place of some of the butter. I also adjusted the sugar. Usually you use equal amount of white sugar and brown sugar, with the total being one and a half cups sugar. I went with 1/2 cup white sugar and a full cup packed brown sugar because I wanted some chewiness...and it worked. I also added a tablespoon of white vinegar. It reacts with the baking soda to lighten the dough a bit, which is important when you realize how much chocolate there is in proportion to the dough.

For the flour I decided to use a mixture, so I used a combination of all-purpose flour, Irish wholemeal wheat flour, barley flour, and ground flaxseed. It's not healthy (and cookies aren't health food anyway, right?), but you get a nice hit of fiber and good for you things from the wholemeal and flaxseed. The barley flour is milled very fine, which is great when you are also using fiber-rich flours. The all-purpose is a workhorse flour and evens things out nicely. You get a little crispy effect at the edges, but a nice, soft chewy center.

I combined regular semi-sweet chocolate chips with Scharfenberger chocolate semisweet chocolate chunks. For nuts I used chopped pecans. There is a lot more chocolate than nuts, but you could add more nuts if you really want them to show up.

All in all this is a great cookie recipe. Do let the batter sit for an hour. Do leave some space between mounds of dough because the cookies spread a bit. If you make these, eat one for me, OK?

I treated Sweetie to a nice plate of cookies. They were still warm from the oven, with melty chocolate. Yum! Tomorrow I'm taking some gift bags with a few cookies in each to the gym for the trainers. Early Valentine's Day gifts.

Classic Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies
King Arthur Flour website Makes about 33 cookies

¼ cup (1/2 stick, 2 oz.) unsalted butter (or, in my case, non-dairy margarine)
½ cup vegetable oil
Note: I used a full stick of soft margarine and ¼ cup safflower oil instead
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3//4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼  cup whole barley flour (If no barley flour available, substitute unbleached all-purpose flour) ¼  ground flaxseed flour
½ cup whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat flour (I used Irish wholemeal flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup (8 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz. semisweet chunks (or use 2 cups chocolate chips total)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or line with parchment or a silicon baking mat) two baking sheets.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugars, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

Beat in the egg to combine. Beat in white vinegar. In a large bowl combine the baking soda and baking powder, the barley flour and whole wheat flour, and the all-purpose flour and the ground flaxseed flour. Combine thoroughly, then add to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add the chocolate chips. It looks like too many chips, but don’t worry. Add the chopped nuts. Beat just to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least an hour and up to four hours. If room temperature is above about 68 degrees F, put dough in the fridge for the standing time.

Drop the dough, by tablespoonfuls, onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving room for cookies to spread a bit. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until the cookies are an even golden brown, with just a hint of softness in the center. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

If you manage to nudge a side of a cookie with the pot holder while turning the pan in the oven about halfway through (optional, but a great idea) like I did...that cookie is for you!

Friday, February 09, 2018

A Sweet Sister

Beth's Birthday was a couple of days ago. Her siblings toasted her, as did some other relatives, and I sent a photo collage to our siblings, too. Yesterday I posted the collage on Facebook, but realized today that not everyone does Facebook (or even blogs...but it's another venue for those who do), so here is the collage from when she was fairly young to recently. Her favorite was as Vina with the green face and the most recent was toward the left in the cowgirl hat. She was a sweet sister and will always be missed and loved.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Queen Mum Revisited

I've baked Maida Heatter's version of the Queen Mother Cake a number of times and it is always a hit.

 After hearing a request for a chocolate cake, covered in chocolate...well, anything covered in chocolate actually, I had some fun paging through cookbooks and visiting online sources, too.

In the end the Queen Mother Cake sounded like the perfect thing to make, but with a slight variation. I decided to make it birthday worthy by including some sour cherries that had been bathed in cognac for awhile. It made for a surprise here and there in the cake rather than a dominant theme.

Of course the star of the dessert was the moist, dense but tender cake and that awesome ganache covering it. This is a flourless chocolate cake made with ground almonds instead of the flour. Spend plenty of time creaming the butter and the sugar and adding the eggs because that, plus the whipped egg whites, are what keeps the cake from being flat and too dense to enjoy. The finished cake was fragrant with chocolate and so rich that you only needed a small slice. To gild the lily (and provide a nice contrast to the intensity of the chocolate), those who enjoy dairy had a dollop of softly whipped cream with their slice. Decadent, and delicious. Happy Birthday G!

Queen Mother's Cherry Chocolate Cake with Ganache On Top
12 portions
A variation of Queen Mother Cake in Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

6 oz. almond flour (I used King Arthur Flour's)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used Scharffen Berger's)
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) non-dairy margarine or butter, at room temperature
6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup pitted sour cherries, drained if needed
Enough cognac to cover the cherries, about 3/4 cup

Adjust a rack one-third up in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner (parchment works well) cut to fit. Grease the paper. Dust the pan all over the inside with fine, dry bread crumbs. Invert the pan over paper, and tap lightly to shake out excess crumbs. Set the prepared pan aside.

In a small bowl marinate the cherries for at least an hour, pouring the cognac over the cherries. When ready to make the cake, drain the cherries thoroughly. The liquid can be used in cocktails or discarded.

Sift the almond flour into a small bowl and stir in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove top pan from double boiler and set it aside until tepid or room temperature.

In a stand mixer bowl put the butter. Beat the butter until soft. Add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and beat to mix. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the almond flour/sugar mixture and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated. If you have only one stand mixer bowl, transfer batter to another large bowl. If you have two, leave batter in stand mixer bowl and set aside while you prepare the egg whites.

Wash and rinse out and dry the stand mixer bowl if there is batter clinging to the sides. In that large bowl of a stand mixer, with clean beaters (I used the whisk attachment) beat the whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. On high speed continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Do not overbeat. Whites should not be stiff or dry.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften it a bit. Then, in three additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary.

Turn 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan and spread to sides. Scatter the marinated cherries over the batter evenly. Cover with the remaining batter. Rotate the pan a bit briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. and then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Do not over bake; the cake should remain soft and moist in the center. (The top might crack a bit, but that is OK.) NOTE: I found that I needed to check the cake after about 30 minutes and that it was done, so check early and often.

Let cake stand on cooling rack until tepid, 50 - 60 minutes.

Release and remove the sides of the pan. Do not cut around the sides with a knife - it will make the rim of the cake messy. Let the cake stand until it is completely cool, or longer if you wish.

The cake will sink a little in the middle as it cools. Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top level, removing the higher sides. Brush away loose crumbs. (I skipped this part, iced the cake right side up, and was very happy with the results. When the icing goes on its a little thicker in the center, which we found to be fine.)

Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper lining. The cake is now upside down; that is the way it will be iced (unless you do as I did and ice the top). Place four strips of baking-pan liner paper (each about 3 x 12 inches) around the edges of a cake plate (although I forgot to do this and the drips were enchanting). With a large, wide spatula, carefully  transfer the cake to the plate; check to be sure that the cake is touching the papers all around. The paper help to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake. (I chilled the cake, still on the springform pan bottom, overnight, then turned it out onto my hand, finger spread, removed the pan bottom & the paper and set the cake on a cake plate. Because it was cold it wasn't difficult to work with.)

1/2 cup soy creamer (or whipping cream)
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used Scharffen Berger semisweet for both cake and icing)
Scald the soy creamer  or whipping cream in a 5-6 cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges.  Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and whisk or stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the icing barely begins to thicken.

Stir to  mix the icing and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring onto the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing until a little runs down the sides, then use a small, narrow metal spatula to smooth that icing over the sides. The icing on the sides should be thinner than that on the top.

Remove the strips of paper by pulling each on out toward a narrow end.

If desired, sprinkle decorations on top while icing is still wet.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Spiral Butternut Squash

For Christmas Sweetie gave me a fancy spiralizer attachment set for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I finally had time to play with it yesterday and used it to make a loooooong spiral of butternut squash. It was pretty fast and a lot of fun. One thing I found out, though, is that it leaves a fair amount of the squash untouched, so I used a sharp knife and turned the rest into smaller pieces of squash, mostly matchsticks about the same thickness as the squash spirals.

Then I had to figure out what to do with it. One idea was to boil it like pasta and make a pasta sauce with chunks of chicken and some mushrooms. Another was to coat the strands with oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and air fry it like french fries. What I finally decided to do was to put it into a baking pan after mixing it with sliced mushrooms and then pour on a mixture of soy creamer, egg, pepper, and vegan pesto to make a baked casserole.

That worked out pretty well. I did find that the squash had done some releasing of juices, so the casserole was soggy at the bottom. I also discovered that the sauce was prone to curdling, probably because I baked it at 350 degrees F. Next time I'll cook the squash in a frying pan first to make it less soggy, then bake it at a lower temperature so the sauce stays nice and smooth.

The taste was outstanding! The pesto sauce was a counterpoint to the slightly sweet squash and the mushrooms added an earthy component. Sweetie had two helpings, so I know that it was a hit.

Butternut Squash Spirals Casserole

About 4 cups spiralized butternut squash (skin and any seeds removed before turning squash into spirals)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (or more, to taste)
1 cup unsweetened soy creamer or milk or half and half
1 egg
1/2 cup prepared pesto
salt and pepper to taste (I didn't use any salt but should have)

Line a 9-inch by 9-inch baking pan with foil. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large clean produce bag or gallon ziploc bag combine the squash spirals, oil and mushrooms. Pour out of bag into prepared pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together the soy creamer, egg, pesto, salt and pepper. When fully combined, pour evenly over the squash. Use kitchen shears to snip any very long spirals of the squash.

Cover the baking pan with foil to seal and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and return to the oven and bake another 15 - 20 minutes, or until squash is tender and ends sticking up start to brown a bit.

Serve at once.

Optional: Shake together the squash spirals and the oil and then cook the squash over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until juices have been released and cooked off. Cool slightly, then combine with the mushrooms, put into the pan, and proceed as directed in the recipe.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Lemon Curd for January

In this day and age where imports allow U.S.A. consumers to have fruits and veggies of all sorts all year long, it's good to remember that most things are at their best when eaten during the season when they ripen locally. A perfect example would be the Meyer lemon. Although it can be found at the market, in California in January you are just as likely to find it for free at the gym, the club meeting, or church because the lemon trees often grow to such a size that dozens and dozens of lemons ripen at once and the lucky homeowner finds that there are plenty to share. It is a little like the zucchini in summer - an embarrassment of riches.

I've recently been gifted with quite a few Meyer lemons by friends and friends of friends, plus I had egg yolks left over from making the Pretzel Peanut Butter Cake, so I decided to try making one of my favorite lemon recipes, lemon curd, but with non-dairy margarine instead of butter. The curd is delicious and in flavor very hard to tell apart from the butter based curd, but it is interesting that the curd itself is just a bit more opaque that curd made with butter. Both are very rich...you only need a small amount on your toast, English muffin or biscuit or scone. (Worth making scones so that you can lavish them with this curd and maybe some raspberry jam and a little whipped cream if you can do dairy...)

You can also use the curd to fill thumbprint cookies, to fill layers of cake if you are making a layer cake, as a pie or tart filling as so on. Some people find that their favorite way to enjoy lemon curd is spooned directly from the jar.

I've had this recipe a long time and I don't remember where it came from. I know there are other ways to make lemon curd, but this one produces a curd that has body, a nice zesty lemon flavor, and a richness but it isn't overly sweet. It takes a little time to zest the fruit, then juice it, to beat the eggs and sugar long enough that it is truly fluffy, and then to whisk the mixture constantly for about 15 minutes, but you are worth the effort!

Zesty Lemon Curd Yields 3 Cups  - Stores up to 3 months in fridge

3-4 fragrant, bright-skinned lemons
1/2 Cup (1 stick) plus 2 Tablespoons butter (or margarine), cut up
Pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 1/4 Cups sugar

1) Run 2 inches of water into the base pan of a double boiler and set over medium heat to come to a brisk simmer.

2) Boil water in a large pot and use it to sterilize three half-pint canning jars and lids and screw-on bands. Remove from water bath and drain on a tea towel. When cool, turn right-side up, ready for the curd.

3) Grate or shred enough lemon zest from washed & dried lemons to make 1 1/2 tablespoons, packed, lemon zest. Place the zest in the top pan of the double boiler. Juice the lemons and strain juice to make 1/2 Cup; add to the zest. Add the cut up butter & salt to the pan. Set aside.

4) Beat the egg yolks and whole egg together at high speed in the large bowl of an electric mixer until they are foamy; gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat the mixture until it is pale, fluffy, & very thick, about 5 minutes.

5) Scrape the egg mixture into the double-boiler top and set the top into the base containing simmering water. At once begin whisking the mixture; cook it, whisking constantly, until it has thickened smoothly and is steaming hot, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the curd; it is done when it will coat a metal or wooden spoon heavily. Remove the upper pan from the hot water.

6) Pour the curd into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula, leaving the shreds of zest behind (discard shreds). (It is o.k. to leave the zest in the curd, but the texture is different.) Scrape the curd into sterilized jars. Let it cool uncovered. Cap jars of cooled curd with sterilized lids. Refrigerate the curd.

Note: This can be made with lime zest & juice. Use 1 Tablespoon lime zest and 1/2 Cup lime juice and follow the recipe the same way for everything else.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Cake Slice Bakers Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake

The Cake Slice Bakers are super excited because we have been given access to unpublished recipes for the book The Perfect Cake and this month we are baking some of those cakes. We had a choice between
  1. Fallen Chocolate Cakes p.96
  2. King Cake p.280
  3. Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake p.166
  4. Saffron-Orange Bundt Cake p.342
I chose the Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake because it had a technique I've never tried before and I wanted to see how well it worked. The usual process for a butter cake is to cream the butter and the sugar, add eggs and incorporate them, and then add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients, often alternating between wet and dry.

This cake is quite different since the dry ingredients are mixed together, then the butter is basically cut into the dry ingredients until peas sized, similar to how you start a pastry. The wet ingredients, including the egg white, are mixed together in a glass measuring cup and then added to the butter/dry ingredient mixture in two parts.

Because this makes a three layer 8-inch in diameter cake I decided to divide the recipe and bake one third in a 6-inch diameter cake pan. I figured that would make it tall enough that I could just cut the layer in half and have a small cake. There are only two of us and so making a three layer large cake is silly. Unfortunately, the cake didn't rise very much, so I ended up baking another third of the recipe so that the finished cake would be proportionally tall enough.

I ran into another problem. My food processor isn't working at the moment and the recipe called for making a flour out of the broken small pretzels. My work-around was to put them in a plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. It worked pretty well, but the ground pretzels may have allowed for a taller layer. For the second go round I was also low on pretzels, so I substituted almond flour. For both I weighed the ingredients on my food scale. The almond flour layer had a much finer texture but we ended up liking the pretzel layer a little better, even if it was a bit lumpy...it just had a nicer crumb overall.

The frosting is delicious, with a true peanut butter flavor and it's very rich and fluffy. I made a full recipe, having forgotten that I didn't need that much. It was the next day and I was tired, to tell the truth. Still, I was able to be generous with the frosting. Although I didn't have a large number of pretzels left, I did have enough to circle the bottom of the cake with whole ones. I don't like candied peanuts, so I skipped that part, and then I decided to have the cake pop by using a small amount of ganache to decorate the top and down the sides. The tiny bit of extra bitter ganache really tempered the super rich and sweet frosting, so, even though the recipe doesn't call for it, you may want to add it if you make this recipe.

Because The Perfect Cake is not in print yet, I won't be including the recipe, but you can order it in advance to be sure that you can make this wonderful cake once the book is available.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Tartine Polenta Bread for the Babes

Seems like a long time since I've posted, but until the day before yesterday I've not been cooking or baking anything that warrants posting...boring! That has changed!!

Fortunately, Elizabeth of 'blog from OUR  Kitchen', the Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month, chose a Tartine bread for our enjoyment. Tartine is an artisan bakery in San Francisco. They make slow-rise natural yeast breads with attention being paid to the crust and to a soft, moist, somewhat holey interior (think Swiss cheese). The extra holes are created by both using a high-hydration dough (lots of water) and careful handling so that air from the expanding yeasts is retained in the dough during shaping.

I was fortunate to find a copy of the Tartine Bread book at the library. It has many, many photos to help with understanding the methods described so well by Chad Robertson. The polenta version, which is what we made, adds toasted pumpkin seeds, soaked polenta, oil, and fresh rosemary to the basic recipe. It is a wonderful bread and smells delicious, but the taste is what takes it over the top. I highly recommend that you get a copy of the book and make this bread.

The thing to know is that this is a bread that takes time. Time to create the leaven, time to let the dough sit after water and flour and salt are mixed, time to combine the additions of the seeds, polenta, oil and herb, time to do the bulk fermentation, time to let the slightly shaped dough sit, time to let the shaped dough sit in the basket or brotform, and, finally, time to bake it, both with and without the cover. The good news is that most of the steps don't take much time on their own. You go to the dough, wet your hand, do the turns in a minute or less, and you are good to go on with other things for a half hour...this is during bulk fermentation.

I started with my own sourdough starter to make the leavener. I also used the recipe directly from the Tartine Bread book, not the one below, although they are almost identical. It makes two large loaves. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the leavener sat in the fridge for a few days until I had a day free to take the time needed to finish the dough. Even so, I only baked one bread loaf and finished that at 10 pm. Mostly that was poor planning. If I had done everything up to the brotform stage and then put it all in the fridge overnight, I could have baked two loaves the next day. Of course part of the reason I did it the way I did was because even in the rising stage, the rosemary called my name and I wanted to bake it right away. The good news is that because I baked it late at night, by the morning it was very slicable and I made an outstanding avocado toast with smoked salmon tartine for breakfast. (A tartine is an open faced sandwich on toasted artisan bread.)

I didn't read the instructions at first and made the basic dough with only 600 gm water instead of 750 gm, so it was a tight, dry dough (remember, this is the full two-loaf recipe). While Sweetie and I took the dog for a walk, that dough sat in the fridge and the polenta sat in it's boiling water and soaked. Since I shorted the water at the beginning, I kept all of the water used to soak the polenta (200 gm) and added 1/4 cup additional whole wheat flour when I added the polenta, seeds, oil and rosemary to the original dough. Once it was all squeezed together, it made a dough that felt right and, indeed, it turned out right, too.

For the first loaf I used a basket with a tea towel liberally spread with a mixture of flour and rice flour. That ended up on the top of the bread, which gives it the craters of the moon appearance. The top of the dough also had some whopper air bubbles, which expanded and those are the blackened bits. I baked the first loaf in a cast iron skillet with a large round and tall cake pan over it in my very large toaster oven. It gets hotter than my regular oven and browns nicely.

The second loaf is slightly smaller. I let it rise on a sheet of parchment and then slide all of it into the preheated oval Dutch Oven that was in the regular oven. Less flour and different environment gave it a different look. It has a thinner top crust, too, than loaf number one.

Be sure to check out the other Bread Baking Babes to see their versions and to become a Buddy, by baking it yourself and then posting about it. Send Elizabeth the posting URL and a photo by January 29th and she will send you a Buddy Badge. Her email is on her website.

Thanks for continuing to join me on my cooking and baking journey. I'm hoping to put a little more of my thoughts about non-cooking/baking things in posts this year, but this one is long enough!

Elizabeth's recipe, based on the recipe for 'Polenta Bread' in "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson

makes one round loaf:


  • dessert spoonful of bubbling wheat starter from the fridge
  • 75gm (~2/3 c) 100% whole wheat flour
  • 75gm (75ml) water at body temperature
Polenta mixture

  • 70gm (.5 c) raw pepitas (shelled dried pumpkin seeds)
  • 61gm (.5 c) grains for polenta (coarse grind) - I used medium-grind  cornmeal  millet
  • 240gm (1 c) boiling water
  • pinch salt
  • 21gm (1.5 Tbsp) sunflower oil (Robertson calls for unfiltered corn oil)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

  • 100gm floating leavener (stir the rest into the jar in the fridge)
  • 500gm flour:
       » 375gm (~3 c) unbleached all purpose (no additives) flour
       » 125gm (~1 c) 100% whole wheat (no additives) flour, sifted (reserve the bran - should be approximately 4gm)
       » 4gm (~1.5 tsp) wheat germ
  • 350gm (350ml) water, at body temperature
Adding the Salt

  • all of the Dough mixture
  • 10gm salt (approx 1.5 tsp table salt - but please see Salt is salt, right?)
  • 25gm (25 ml) water at body temperature

  • rice flour
  • brot-form (or bowl)
  • reserved bran from sifting whole wheat flour

  • parchment paper
  • cast iron frying pan
  • large stainless steel mixing bowl

  1. Leavener and refreshing the starter: On the evening before baking the bread, put the leavener ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Using your dough whisk (use a wooden spoon if you don't have a whisk), mix the leavener ingredients until all the flour is incorporated. Leave 100gm in the bowl. Mix the extra into the jar in the fridge. Cover the bowl containing the 100gm with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on overnight - until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse.
  2. polenta mixture:Spread pumpkin seeds evenly in one layer into a dry cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon, until the seeds begin to pop, changing from light green to brown (Robertson says this takes about 10 minutes but for me, it took about 5 minutes). Set aside and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.
      1. Pour boiling water into a bowl and stir in cornmeal (or whatever grain you are using). Set aside for about 10 minutes. Put the raw grains into a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until they are turning gold and smell toasty (not more than 5 minutes). Add the water and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat, stir and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Turn the heat down to very low, cover the pot and allow the grains to simmer for about 15 minutes. Avoid the temptation to lift the lid. When the water has absorbed, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
      2. Add oil, rosemary and pumpkin seeds.
    dough: When a small spoonful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. (If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float.) Put all the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl along with the now bubbling leavener. Mix as well as you can with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter to rest for about 40 minutes. Chad Robertson says Do not skip the resting period. Working with the nature of the dough, the resting perod allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.adding the salt: Pour the 25gm water over-top of the mass of dough. Sprinkle on the salt, making sure that it goes onto the water. (Alternatively Chad Robertson recommends adding the salt to the Dough Mixture for Polenta Bread, rather than waiting until this step)
  3. kneading:Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy. But persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
    stretching and folding (part 1): About 30 minutes after adding the salt, run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it's a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You'll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter, in the oven with only the light turned on) for about 30 minutes.
    Repeat the above step
    adding the polenta mixture: Add the polenta mixture to the dough. Run your dough-working hand under water and use it to squoosh the polenta, pepitas and rosemary into the dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes
  4. stretching and folding (part 2): Repeat the stretching and folding step 1 or 2 more times (Robertson says it should be done 4 times in all). Robertson writes [N]otice how the dough starts to get billowy, soft, and aerated with gas. At this later stage, you should turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. [...] A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be [...] shaped
  5. prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, you can use wheat flour. However, it makes it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket....
  6. shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Place it seam side UP in the well floured (rice) brot-form. Evenly spread the reserved bran on and around the seam. Loosely wrap the basket and bread with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on for 2 or 3 hours (until it has about doubled). You can also refrigerate the shaped bread overnight. Just be sure that it is in a large enough container.
  7. baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, put the cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl into the oven and preheat all to 425F.
  8. About fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper. Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop...). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the stainless steel bowl overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven and immediately turn it down to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the hat and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the crust is a nice dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. cooling: When the bread is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.
  10. Notes::: salt I urge you to weigh the salt. For more raving about this, please see Salt is salt, right?

    Leavener- The leavener is a 100% hydration and takes about 5 days to make. (Please see our take on Jane Mason's Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)

    If you're too afraid (or don't have time) to take five days to make a natural starter and still want to bake this by using commercial yeast, I think what I'd do is create a poolish - say 50gm water, 50gm flour and a few grains (not more than 1/8 tsp) yeast stirred together, covered, and left overnight. And then proceed as written. I confess I haven't tried it but don't see why it won't work. If you're really worried, you could probably add few more grains of yeast into the dough itself as well.

Friday, January 05, 2018

A Milestone

Dear Readers,

When I looked at my stats today I discovered that sometime in the last couple of days this blog passed the 1 million mark of pageviews. Glad that over the 12+ years I've been blogging that so many pages were viewed by you , dear readers, in aggregate. Thank you.

Here's to more cooking and baking fun in the next million pageviews years!

Love, Elle