Oct 27, 2012
Just a quick post as the sun and warmer temps are hard to resist today. A few days ago Deb and I stumbled upon the Everett Family Farm in Soquel, near Santa Cruz. We were both enchanted by the vibrant persimmon orchard (I'd never seen one before) and variety of produce at the onsite farmstand.
Oct 26, 2012
Just a random Friday post.
More cookies to share... only visually, unfortunately. I'd love nothing more than to share them in real-life, especially the chocolate chip cookies (herein known as CCC) pictured above. It's actually called the Chocolate Chunk and Chip cookie and it's from the just released, 5lb impressive tome, Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel. What sets this cookie apart from your typical CCC is the smidgen of molasses, which I'm not too fond of (see previous post) but it works and makes this a memorable cookie. I'd say it rivals my all-time favorite, brown butter and fleur de sel CCC, which I bake so often I've practically memorized the recipe.
The candy corn cookies are a basic butter cookie recipe from the also new book Standard Baking Co. Pastries (my list for bakeries-I-must-visit-someday increases, and includes Standard). I used the same cookie cutter which came in handy for last fall's candy corn cake pops. The method I came up with for making these in the shape and colors of candy corn was more work than I would do again, but they turned out better than I thought.
Can't wait to bake more from both cookbooks though let's be honest; I read them as if they're novels or coffee table books.
Back to the topic of cookies... who is participating in the The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap? I haven't committed to it yet but chances are good I'll sign up. Surely this is why I've been churning out the cookies lately -- practice. This year there is a great cause and a cookie spatula to consider.
Be back later to post some shots from a short trip up north to visit a persimmon orchard.
Oct 21, 2012
Joe Froggers is the unusual name for the more descriptive Ginger Rum Molasses Cookies, the recipe for this week's Baked Sunday Mornings. I sound like a broken record these days because of all the things I bake but discover I'm not fond of... and no surprise then, I generally don't go for molasses cookies -- just not my thing. However, I'm not going to turn down the chance to bake and learn, and I'm usually willing to give something a second chance. Especially if it's a cookie.
This was a fairly easy recipe, quick to put together and let chill in the fridge overnight. The dough was a bit sticky and soft but manageable after working in some flour. I unintentionally left the rum out and don't know what I was missing.
All I know is that these cookies baked beautifully in the oven. I went for chewy and that's exactly what I got baking them for 8 minutes (had the option to go to 12 min for a crispier cookie). Their uniformity and simplicity -- just a sprinkling of sugar on top -- made them great photogenic subjects. And who knew molasses cookies could be so... moody? :)
It was a foggy day when I photographed the cookies, and while not my favorite weather, these type of conditions offer soft, diffuse light for shooting. It's like having a huge softbox right outside your window, and best of all, it's free.
Get the Joe Froggers recipe. Happy Sunday!
Oct 16, 2012
The 2nd Tuesdays with Dorie assignment this month was bagels. At first I was intimidated by the recipe but I forged ahead and don't regret it.
The recipe states dividing the dough in two after the overnight rest in the fridge and shaping them just prior to baking. I decided to halve the dough before the fridge, shaping one batch into bagels and placing them on a sheet pan, leaving the other batch in the bowl. Both went into the fridge.
The following morning I made the ready-to-go bagels and to my horror -- they were pretty tough and relatively flat (as in I couldn't slice them into two pieces). Still edible though. We ate 1-1/2 and would've considered playing ring toss with the remaining bagels. With those results I thought I had ruined the recipe.
A few days later I baked the second batch. It had been in the fridge a total of 3 days (1 more day than recommended in the book) so I didn't hold out much hope. But lo and behold, after having a bit of practice shaping the bagels and knowing the steps, this batch turned out much better than the first. They were fluffier and not as tough. I could actually split the bagels in two to spread on some cream cheese. I sprinkled poppy seeds on one bagel and left the others plain -- the way I like it.
My technique could use some improvement (especially shaping... the directions weren't the clearest), but I was happy with these and will definitely come back to the recipe. Adding bagels to the list of items I've baked for the first time this year ;D
- The first batch set the fire alarm off in my house. Second time around I turned the oven down to 475 instead of 500 and opened as many doors as possible. Seemed to do the trick... no screeching alarm to scare the neighbors and my dog.
- I boiled the bagels a minute on each side.
Oct 14, 2012
My family loved these scones; I was just lukewarm :( I did enjoy the crunch of the turbinado sugar on top and thought it gave the scones a nice finished look.
Since these were a hit with the fam, it's possible I'll make them again. I might halve the dough as one baker did and leave out the choco chips for the PB&J version.
Scone recipe here. I'll have a link to the roundup when it's up. Have a great Sunday! It's shaping up to be a sunny one here in Monterey.
Oct 13, 2012
We lost a much beloved pet a few days ago. I spent extra time in the kitchen that day... baking, sorrowful. I took his death the hardest, even more than my kids I think.
My husband, after years of astute observation, says I clean when I'm mad, and bake when I'm sad. It's true. Silly as it may sound, baking offers some measure of comfort, at least for me anyway.
Recipe for homemade jelly doughnuts on my good friend Denise's blog; hers look perfectly made, which is what drew me in to try the recipe in the first place. That and the fact that I already had everything, thus avoiding a trip to the store in my pjs, tear-streaked face and unbrushed hair to complete the look.
Below, a few of the Santa Cruz boardwalk where I hung out with my dear friend Alisa, who was visiting from Hawaii. Though it's been a year and a half since I moved away, we picked up where we left off -- us shooting, "talking story," eating butter mochi, marveling on how much our kids have grown. Good times. The weather was gorgeous to boot, couldn't have asked for better really.
What I'm reading/browsing through.
Very food-centric, eh? The top book, The Alchemyst, is the first in a series that I was introduced to rather randomly. On long drives I listen to the audio CD but at home I enjoy curling up with the book. I loved the Harry Potter books and this reminds me of the time I spent engrossed in that series.
Focus on Food Photography for Bloggers by Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites. The conversational tone and witty voice make this a fun read.
Food Photography & Lighting: A Commercial Photographer's Guide to Creating Irresistible Images by Teri Campbell. Really enjoying this book as the author has provided lighting set-ups and diagrams for shoots described in each chapter. Great for visual learners like me.
Extraordinary Cakes by Karen Krasne. I got this purely based on the stellar reviews, and someday when I'm crazy enough, I will spend several days attempting to make one of the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind cakes in the book.
Kinfolk Volume 5. Always a pleasure to receive Kinfolk in the mail. It's one to be savored for sure.
What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies. She's one of my favorite food bloggers/photographers. I couldn't wait for my copy to arrive and it didn't disappoint. Made the beef and guinness pie already (excellent) and have bookmarked the pumpkin ravioli and coffee hazelnut frangelico cake.
Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns (she made Kate and William's wedding cake). Only $2.41 on Amazon; strangely enough, the bargain price is $12.00.
Lastly. My sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jen Burgess Thompson. I've not been able to stop thinking about her. After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer a little over a year ago, she lost her hard-fought battle yesterday. She leaves behind two young sons. I can't imagine. I didn't know her but she was part of a huge and immensely supportive photography community so in a sense, I did know her, and am deeply touched and inspired by her. Rest in peace, Jen.
See you tomorrow for Baked Sunday Mornings.
Oct 7, 2012
I looked forward with much anticipation to this week's Baked Sunday Morning recipe: Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum Frosting (from the 2nd Baked book, Baked Explorations). I even bought a new baking mold (not a bundt pan) and was excited to use it. I set out to make the cake a few days ago.
Next to my first few failed macaron attempts, I've never felt so discouraged after baking something. If ever there was a recipe to make me weep, it'd probably be this one (ok, maybe I'm being overly dramatic...).
burnt sugar, before the addition of coconut and lemon juice
This stoneware bowl (from Anthropologie) is beautiful. Functional as a container (for fruit, etc.) and as a baking pan. While not a bundt in the strictest sense, I thought it would work... as long as I modified the baking time. I knew that without a center tube, and for how deep it is, a longer time in the oven was required for the interior to cook through. Keeping that in mind, I kept the cake in the oven an extra 25 minutes and tested with a toothpick. It came out clean... or did it?
Unfortunately, below is what the cake looked like when I cut into it. Like the cake, my heart sank.
What could I have done to prevent this messy disaster? Bake longer? At a lower temp? Use the correct pan next time?
As the cake cooled, the center part began to sink, drastically, much to my dismay. At least it was starting to look like a bundt cake, right? The "frosting" -- more like a glaze, it was so thin and grainy -- was poured on top and seemed to make things worse. I took a few photos of it anyway (header pic at the top), despite the ever-widening crater forming.
When I finally cut into the cake, "frosting" mixed with mushy batter spilled out. I suspect the addition of the frosting/glaze, a lot of which had pooled in the middle, caused the center to cave in, soaking the insides of the cake which were already wet. It wasn't a pretty sight. It was actually kind of gross. I should probably take down the picture...
when baking disaster strikes... and salvaging what is left
Everything sat in a pool of lovely frosting/batter for a few minutes before I decided not to chuck the whole thing into the garbage... oh but it had crossed my mind. I cut the cooked outer part of the cake all around and placed the good pieces on a plate. In my worried state, it totally slipped my mind to decorate the top of the intact cake with the caramel shards... so no picture of that (but I give you a photo of a piece of cake with a few shards).
I'm a little embarrassed to post but in the spirit of baking along with others, I feel like I have to share my experience. And despite the disappointing outcome, I ended up actually liking what was left of the cake. It's because of this that I'm determined to attempt the recipe again... using a bundt pan next time. The frosting is another story. I'll have to see how my fellow BSM bakers fared with it. Hope they had better luck in both cake and frosting departments!
A few notes:
- I added an extra 2/3 cups of powdered sugar to the frosting, and even refrigerated it for about 10-15 minutes. Still came out a runny, off consistency. As mentioned it was more of a glaze than a frosting.
- I used a dark-colored saucepan to make the burnt sugar/caramel. I recommend not doing that as it makes it difficult to observe the color of the sugar as it cooks. Use a light-colored pan.
- Not sure if it made a difference but I used coconut cream (not coconut milk) as that's all that I had on hand. The woman at the store told my husband it would be fine to use. I decided to use just the liquid in the can but there was barely enough to make the required amount of burnt sugar liquid.
Oct 1, 2012
I'm on a roll. Consecutive posts for two different baking groups deserves a pat on the back... or a chocolate chip cookie. The first recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie in October is this Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf from Baking with Julia. Considering my not so stellar record with recipes lately, I made certain to read and reread the recipe as it turned out to be a two-day affair with a couple of rising periods. Knowing this wasn't a quick bread, I saved the weekend to bake, crossing fingers, toes, and eyes that I'd have something to post on Tuesday.
To be honest, this was one recipe I wasn't particularly inspired by. I'm not experienced working with yeast so I had reservations and fears from past failures reminded me to really attention to times and such. I didn't have the exact loaf pans specified in the book but I got close, using two mini pans that had similar dimensions... I believe they were an inch longer and 3/4in less in width than the sizes mentioned. The remaining dough went in a 9x5 pan -- probably too large for what was left. Another modification, rather minor... used dried cranberries instead of fresh.
Fortunately, the dough had no problems rising or resting in the fridge overnight. However, on the second rise (with the dough separated in the pans the next day), I likely miscalculated the amount to put in each pan because the dough didn't rise above the rims or even completely fill in the spaces; hence slightly flatter loaves and no real "muffin" tops (hehe)... or, according to the book, beautiful crowns.
Overall I'm fine with the results. It's not my favorite bread nor do I see myself revisiting the recipe; I found the taste of pumpkin lacking and rather disappointing. But it's not bad and I plan on having a warmed slice with my coffee in the morning.
Sep 30, 2012
So I was absent last week from posting on the Baked Sunday Mornings site; not going to lie, I was bummed that it had to be the Whiskey Pear Tart that I missed. I love pears and tarts and no doubt feel I would've liked the two combined. There's always tomorrow.
Seeing how ill-prepared I was last week (in my defense, my in-laws were here and my husband had his grad school graduation ceremony) I planned ahead for this week's recipe. I had everything but the bread and whole wheat flours so after a trip to Whole Foods, I was ready to bake mid-week. I'm not a huge fan of pretzels to begin with but I figured I'd give it a shot since this would be my first time making them. Plus, who could deny the allure of cinnamon and sugar... not I.
The recipe is straightforward and I didn't have any real issues. I created some monster-sized pretzels, 8 total (the yield is 12-18). I had fun... rolling out and shaping the dough, sticking them in the bubbling baking soda bath -- I felt like a kid playing and conducting a science experiment.
baking soda bath
The texture of the finished pretzels was great, and they're best eaten warm, just a few minutes out of the oven. I didn't find them sweet enough (I know, yesterday I was saying I couldn't handle sweet...) so I wonder if the dough can be modified and made sweeter. The great thing about the recipe is that it's customizable and the possibilities for toppings are endless. The dough being as versatile as it is, I'd even go so far as to consider making pretzel dogs or bites for the kids.
Sep 29, 2012
Thought I'd post what I made a few days ago. A pumpkin chocolate cake from one of those current Better Homes & Gardens holiday specials on the magazine racks. I'm scratching my head wondering where my sweet tooth has gone because I can't handle more than a few bites of dessert anymore. This cake was was just a bit too sweet and chocolate-ly (gasp). Probably could've excluded the glaze because the chocolate batter in the middle was enough to satisfy. I attended an event last night where every dessert we tasted contained chocolate so perhaps that is marring my judgement right now. I still love you, chocolate, but I might need a brief break from you. :)
Sep 18, 2012
I wanted to post this on Sunday but my internet went out for a few days so I missed sharing for the first time on the newly found site (to me), Baked Sunday Mornings. This group is working through one of my favorite series of cookbooks, the Baked books, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I'm no stranger to brooksters, the recipe we tackled for Sunday. I made them last summer but undoubtedly had less work to do, having bought the box mix from Williams-Sonoma.
This time around I prepped everything the night before. I baked the brooksters in four 5" pie tins and four 4" tartlet pans, and I still had extra chocolate chip batter, which made delicious cookies all on their own. I left the brooksters in the oven a few minutes over the stated recipe time because they didn't appear cooked through. After taking them out the centers were still slightly undercooked but I deemed them edible... and they were good, just as I remember from last summer. Whether I'll make them again is another story; I love both chocolate chip cookies and brownies but probably prefer to eat them separately. Recipe from the awesome new Baked Elements book and the roundup of brooksters from fellow Baked Sunday Mornings bakers here. Whiskey Pear Tart up next :)
Sep 4, 2012
Hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. Yesterday I was a bit under the weather. I suddenly came down with a mysterious fever (with severe chills!) late Sunday night and spent most of the next day on the couch. No beach or BBQing for me. Today I went in for my yearly check-up and ended up walking out with a suspicious-sounding lung, a prescription for Zithromax and a shot in the butt because my doctor diagnosed me with pneumonia. Did not expect that. But it would probably explain the fever, not to mention why I've been feeling generally crappy lately.
While the discovery of a potentially serious infection during a routine check-up is not exactly serendipitous I'm certainly glad it was caught before things got worse. Let's see how long I can milk this for the family's sympathy...
So back to this cake. I was able to muster some energy to spend a few hours in the kitchen yesterday to bake this recipe with the Tuesdays with Dorie group... I couldn't let them down! It wasn't a particularly difficult recipe, just a lot of steps. After reading through the recipe several times I still messed up (see next paragraph).
In place of a 10" springform that I don't own, I used a 9" springform pan. I melted the butter for the topping in a glass measuring cup instead of in the pan directly on the stovetop (this made me nervous for some reason, and apparently some other TWDers felt the same way). I accidentally poured all 1.5 cups of sugar in with the egg yolks, instead of reserving half a cup to whisk with the egg whites. Doh. So I put a scant 1/4 cup of sugar during the egg white whipping stage, hoping that everything was not ruined at this point. Fortunately, I got a gorgeous meringue and was able to continue.
I baked my cake for 45 minutes, checked it, left it in for 5 minutes more, then removed it from the oven. But a nagging feeling and a peek at the reviews over at TWD that questioned the baking time made me double back. I stuck the cake back in the oven for 20 more minutes. I'm glad I did. Though the top was dark brown, the center of the cake was finally done, albeit sunken in after some time cooling.
I debated whether to make the streusel because some of the TWDers left it out. I decided to go ahead with it but left the top of the cake streusel-free, enjoying my slice with whipped cream instead.
I'm relieved the cake turned out fine even with the extra sugar. I think peaches would work just as well in place of nectarines; it did for Susan (one of the hosts this month). I'm looking forward to having a piece for breakfast with a cup of joe in the morning. Head over to Marlise's blog The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan's blog The Little French Bakery for the recipe and beautiful photos, and to the links page if you'd like to check out everyone else's posts.
Sep 2, 2012
This time of year cake and ice cream are frequently spotted in our house due to the spacing of birthdays a few weeks apart. No cute cheeseburger cake or funky, tall cake this year, though. These cakes are more subtle, less showy, yet still fit for a birthday or two.
I'm realizing how piping-challenged I really am. The roses kicked my butt as did the application of the dye. I was going for a gradient effect but clearly failed. Once you see past that and get to the red velvet cheesecake, it will make you forget about sucky dyed flower decorations.
The ice cream, a roasted strawberry and buttermilk recipe from Jeni's Splendid ice cream book, was worth getting seconds.
Flare... I love capturing it because it means there's sun. In Monterey!
checkerboard cake (lead photo): vanilla cake recipe from Joy the Baker's cookbook; cocoa-buttermilk cake recipe (just the cake) by Dorie Greenspan; pastel swirl effect inspired by Sweetapolita. I bought Wilton's checkerboard cake pan set from Michael's.
red velvet cheesecake recipe from Brown Eyed Baker. the layers were frosted with cream cheese frosting (I halved the recipe, which can be found on the same page as the red velvet cheesecake recipe). the roses were made using Wilton's buttercream icing recipe; inspired by i am baker's rose cake.
Jeni's roasted strawberry and buttermilk ice cream recipe.
I'm getting ready to make the first recipe of the month for Tuesdays with Dorie -- another cake. Plus I'm searching my baking books again for my own bday cake this week. I predict we'll be sick of cakes after this. Be safe this weekend.
Aug 21, 2012
I did the unthinkable and committed to something somewhat long-term: Tuesdays with Dorie. We are baking through the entire Baking with Julia cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. I'm a little late joining the party (they started in February) but there's still a while to go, with about 15 recipes out of nearly 200 done so far by the group.
I couldn't have joined at a better time. We baked popovers (contributed by the late Marion Cunningham) and they were easier than the box mix of red velvet whoopie pies I made yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised by their billowy tops and hollow interiors, the steam escaping as I pulled them from the oven. I enjoyed a couple of warm popovers with butter and Peach-Apricot preserves; next time I think I'll add cheese (Gruyere perhaps?) and herbs.
Aug 15, 2012
My last post of France (until I develop film from the trip).
bird's eye view from the 22nd floor. Sacré-Cœur in the far distance
oh, the architecture
the next two sets are actually not of Paris but of Blois, Amboise, Villandry...
Shakespeare & Co.
all-American lunch in Montmartre
one and only photo from inside Ladurée (I was asked not to take any pictures after this)
still dreaming about Pierre Hermé macarons...
bought my first copper pot here
our last morning
France is still on my mind a month and a half later. The view out of our Paris hotel window is one forever ingrained in my mind, as are the sights, smells, and sounds that filled my senses every day. I miss it but have a feeling I'll return in the future to pick up where I left off.
I couldn't forget the significance of today... Happy 100th Birthday to Julia Child! I adore the woman, and feel a sort of kinship with her because she also discovered cooking and baking in her thirties. I'll never achieve what she did as I don't have the passion it takes but I'll always enjoy a well-spent afternoon in the kitchen whipping up something homemade. Thanks for the inspiration, Julia, and your belief in home bakers everywhere.
made Julia's brownie recipe today and they're truly the best I've ever had.
Aug 5, 2012
I instagrammed this collage the day I got Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. I pre-ordered it months ago and when previews and recipes from the book started popping up, I found the recipe for the Lemon and Almond Streamliner cake and made it. Two thumbs up.
Yesterday I baked the Butterscotch Cream Roll-Up cake... the photo on the lower right up there convinced me. Or maybe it was the word "butterscotch." And when I finally made it, I couldn't decide whether my tastebuds loved the butterscotch sauce or frosting more. I'm not ashamed to say I ate both out of the container/mixer bowl, in large quantities. I'll be baking more from the book for sure. Maybe I'll end up baking the whole book and blogging about it. You know, à la Julie and Julia and in the same vein as Tuesdays with Dorie and Me-ette. A project to motivate me to continue blogging? Sounds good I guess.
Last week I needed to get out of the house so my girl and I took a little road trip up to Napa to visit a couple of bakeries and meet Julie of Always With Butter. We had coffee at Model Bakery in St. Helena.
I've been a fan of Julie's work forever; hers is one of the few blogs I follow these days. She was sweet to consider meeting up after work, a shift she started before most of us on the coast were even awake. We talked film cameras and photography, food, and blogging -- I gave her butter from France and she gave me baked treats that she'd made that day at work. Lucky me :) (thanks, Julie!)
My daughter and I stopped at Bouchon Bakery on the way home. We ordered Thomas Keller Oreos (TKOs) and peaches n' cream macarons. Eating these made me excited for the book coming out in the fall. I seem to have a thing for going to places that have cookbooks on the market. I think visiting Tartine and Bi-Rite Creamery in SF will make my Bay Area list complete.
Had a couple slices of pain au levain from Model Bakery the next morning. Yeah, an overall great couple of days of pigging out on breads and sweets.
Jul 26, 2012
Gorgeous chauteaux in the Loire region; each one unique and rich in history.
Chauteau de Villandry
Chauteau de Blois
Chauteau de Chambord
A few links:
* for breakfast this morning, had a slice of this lemon and almond streamliner cake (from Vintage Cakes cookbook). sorta looks like Pac-Man, no?
Jul 22, 2012
I bit the bullet and purchased an ice cream maker last week after coveting one for at least a year. I had some memorable gelato at Amorino in France as well as a taste of famous Berthillon glace, and while regrettably I can't have them here, I can at least try to recreate the flavors at home. No matter that, where I live, there's really no such thing as hot weather. Most days of the traditional summer months are characterized by blankets of fog and temps in the 50s and low 60s. But it's summer and may as well eat a little (or a lot) of ice cream.
I christened my new ice cream maker with Jeni's Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Roasted Cherries. I wanted something a little unconventional but not terribly far out there. Besides, the window to use cherries is so small...
Jeni's technique for creating the smoothest, creamiest ice cream appealed to my inner science geek, not to mention this particular recipe satisfied the cheesecake lover in me. Yes, this ice cream tastes like cheesecake, thanks in part to the small amount of cream cheese in the recipe, as well as the addition of tangy goat cheese. The roasted cherries and sauce are layered in the ice cream, creating random swirls and ribbons of crimson in white. Don't forget to reserve a little of the compote to serve as a topping.
I don't own Jeni's book yet but am convinced that it's one to place on my bookshelf.
Jul 18, 2012
We only got up close to this oft-photographed monument once, and it was on the day that France and Spain were playing against each other in the Euro Games (soccer, and Spain won). It was insane to be out that night with hordes of people everywhere, but it was strangely invigorating as well. My biggest regret is not reserving lift tickets in advance and therefore missing out on the chance to get a different perspective from up above. Next time (there's always a next time)...