Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

This week, the Tuesday's with Dorie bakers are celebrating with Perfect Party Cake, chosen by Carol of mix, mix… stir, stir. I get a little sentimental over this cake, as it was my first Daring Bakers challenge, and my first blog event ever. (Awwwww.)

The first time around, I made it exactly as directed, with the berry filling and Swiss meringue buttercream. My thoughts at the time were that the cake was a tad dry. But on the up side, it was the first meringue buttercream I actually liked. I found it to be less buttery than those I had tried before. You can read about it here if you like.

Here's my first party cake.

This time around, I knew the berry filling and meringue buttercream wouldn't fly with my brother-in-law, a.k.a. the birthday boy. So I switched it up and used cream cheese icing with a filling of dulce de leche (store bought) layered with more cream cheese icing.

I followed the Perfect Party Cake Tips from Dorie on the TWD forum in hopes of getting a moister cake. They seemed to help, although I have to admit that I wrapped and froze my cakes while still warm. I used to do that back in my cake-decorating days and it helped a lot with making the cake more moist. (I have heard concerns from some over whether that's good from a food safety standpoint. But hey, my family members are still all kicking, so who knows.)

And how was it? with the cream cheese icing and dulce de leche.. Incredible! The cake was more moist this time and the filling was out of this world, although perhaps not for the faint of heart.

The one drawback, though, was that the dulce de leche layered with icing was not stable and after short car ride, the top three layers of cake slid slightly off the bottom layer (I was able to fix it OK, and it was for family, so no big deal). If I were to use this filling again, I would pound some skewers or pointed dowels into the cake and down into the cake board for stability after filling and before icing. (I wouldn't use the layered filling for a stacked cake, I don't think... too scary.)

OK, that's it for this week! Please stop by Carol's site above for the recipe, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cookie Carnival: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

This month, the Cookie Carnival bakers made Strawberry Shortcake Cookies from Martha Stewart's site.

These "cookies" were really sweetened little biscuits with chunks of strawberry scattered throughout.

Mmm, they were so GOOD! I will definitely make these again. The kids (normally chocolate chip cookie snobs) were scarfing them down faster than me.

The directions say they are best the day they are made, and I agree. By the second day they were headed toward soggy land.

They were a little strange to make up, not like your typical cookie dough. They were somewhat crumbly before adding the strawberries, but once the strawberries were in, they moistened the dough and it came together.

Here they are before baking.

OK, over and out! See you next month.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Bakewell Tart... er... pudding

When I was in 9th grade, we had our first *real* dance, complete with long dresses, corsages, and dinner out with our dates.

The theme song for the dance was put to a vote beforehand. I'm pretty sure the school staff was not amused when the ballots were counted and the winning song turned out to be "Another Brick in The Wall" by Pink Floyd.

(For the not-Pink-Floyd-fans out there, it's a decidedly anti-education song.)

Anyway, the end of the song always stood out in my mind, the part where the meanie school-master is screaming:

"If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding.
How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

It was many, many years later that I learned that the pudding of which they spoke was not the same pudding I knew and loved. (It's still not clear to me what makes a pudding a pudding, I might add.)

And so I sit and ponder what exactly makes a pudding a pudding as I nosh on this month's Daring Bakers challenge, Bakewell Tart... er... pudding, and watch Pink Floyd videos on YouTube.

This particular... I'll just call it "dessert"... was fairly simple. A tart crust is filled with a thin layer of jam and then frangipane, an almond filling, and baked. I have to admit that I thought it was just OK the first day. It was a tad dry. But by the second day, it was pretty good!

My mediocre first impression might have been my fault... I used a mini pie pan rather than a tart pan, so mine was thicker than it was supposed to be, I think. I'm thinking a higher proportion of jam to frangipane would have made it more appealing.

It's definitely worth another try.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. Thanks ladies!

See you next month!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TWD: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

Andrea of Andrea In The Kitchen chose Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise for this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.

Oooh, fancy!!

This was not your "whip it up in no time with minimal fuss" dessert. Oh, no. There was serious time and labor involved, people, and sink-fulls of dirty dishes to prove it.

With this type of dessert, one has to question whether it was ultimately worth it. Well, let me lead you through the process and then I'll tell...

First we made dacquoise, a meringue with ground nuts and coconut folded in. The meringue was spread into three thin layers and baked for 3 hours in a low oven.

(I quartered the recipe and ended up with 3" by 6" pieces.)

Next, fresh pineapple is quartered, sprinkled with confectioners sugar, and broiled in the oven.

Finally, cream is heated to a boil and poured over white chocolate to form a thin ganache.

This is whisked, chilled thoroughly, and whipped to a soft peak. I have a lot of Guittard "white ribbons" hanging around and so used them, the white chocolate wannabees that they are.

Next came the fun part... layering. First meringue, then ganache, then pineapple. Times three. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Next, refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. (I skipped the sprinkling of toasted coconut around the sides out of respect for my coconut-hating hubby.)

And after all that you get... the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters? in dessert form?

Is that funny or what? But no matter... this dessert was...

Darned GOOD!! if you're a pineapple and coconut fan that is. I loved it, my hubby did not. (My one tiny criticism was that it was messy to serve and eat.)

Yep, I'll go ahead and say that was worth it.

Thanks Andrea! I would have never tried this if you hadn't picked it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cake Slice: Pina Colada Cake, and an Award

This month, the Cake Slice Bakers made the Pina Colada Cake, from the book "Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes", by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne.

My Pina Colada Cake took a wild ride through three airports, two planes, two taxi rides, and several rental car rides before making it to it's final destination atop a lovely cupcake tower at my sister's wedding. (The cupcakes were done by Be My Cupcake in Cedar Park, TX.)

The Pina Colada Cake was made up of a lovely rum-soaked brown sugar cake with a pineapple-lime-vanilla filling, all wrapped up in a coconut buttercream. Since I knew this cake would have to hold up to the rigors of air travel, I opted to ice it with my sturdy cream cheese icing and then cover it with fondant. I wasn't sure how the coconut buttercream would fare and decided to play it safe. Bummer, though. I was anxious to try the buttercream since all of the icings in this book have been wonderful so far.

And how was it? The cake was delish! My sister and her new hubby really loved it.

Feel free to stop by the Cake Slice Bakers Blogroll to see how everyone else fared this month. For the recipe, click ---> here.

I also want to give a shout out and thanks to Chris from The Mixed-Up Files of... Me for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award. Thanks, girlfriend!

The RULES of this award are:

(1) Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
(2) Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
(3) Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
(4) Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
(5) Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
(6) Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
(7) Leave a comment on each of the blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

I'm going to nominate Vibi from La Casserole Carree and Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies for this award. Girls, feel free to do what you want with this award. Post it or not, it's up to you.

Aaand lastly, seven things about myself (ugh)... OK...
1. I'm embarrassed to talk about myself.
2. I never really got South Park.
3. I can't think of anything interesting to say for #3.
4. I think high heels are a conspiracy against women.
5. I rarely watch TV. I've never seen Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol or most of the other hit shows.
6. I'm 43 and I'm still waiting for the real adults to show up and manage this household.
7. I still have a thing for Loverboy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey-Peach Ice Cream

Hey everyone! We just got back from vacation. As soon as school ended, we jetted down to Texas for my sister's wedding and a little sight-seeing. I've got a wee little wedding cake to share and some trip pics, but I'll post them later in the week.

Right now, we've got some Tuesday's with Dorie to talk about. Tommi of Brown Interior selected Honey-Peach Ice Cream for this week's recipe. Thanks, Tommi!

Based on the discussion on the TWD forum, I opted to steep my peaches, er, nectarines, in my hot milk/cream mixture. I wanted the fruit flavor to really shine through.

It looks a little gunky, I know, but a quick pass through the strainer and all was well.

I cooked all of the nectarines, and also pureed the whole batch because I, like apparently lots of other folks, don't like chunks of icy fruit in my ice cream (too ouchy on the teeth.) There were still a few small pieces.

And how was it?

Good! ...nice and fruity tasting. I couldn't really detect the honey flavor, though. I'm looking forward to trying it with some perfectly ripe, tasty peaches (the selection of peaches at the store this week was not good).

OK, that's all folks! Thanks for stopping by and if you'd like to see the recipe, please stop by Tommi's site above, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlets

If you can believe the folks over at NY Apple country, the world's longest apple peel was created by Kathy Wafler Madison on October 16, 1976, in Rochester, NY. It was 172 feet, 4 inches long. She was 16 years old at the time.

That's about as long as half of a football field, including one end zone. Way to go, Kathy!

I wonder if there's a record for "Number of Apples Peeled in a Lifetime". I'm pretty sure I would be in contention to break that record someday.

So it was with confidence that I tackled this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Parisian Apple Tartlet. Thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for this great pick.

Talk about an easy recipe! Peeling the apple was the hardest part. You take a circle of puff pastry, arrange four apple sections on top, and sprinkle on some brown sugar and butter.

Pop it in the oven and you're done!

And how were they? Surprisingly delicious! At first, I thought they tasted like warm, soft apples. But when combined with the brown sugar-glazed, flaky crust? Awesome! It was even better in the spots where the sugar ran over the sides and caramelized along the bottom.

My only "criticism", and it's not even really a criticism, is that the apples are pretty bare by the time they come out of the oven. At least mine were. There was no brown-sugary goodness on top, like in the picture in the book. No problem, though. I grabbed some caramel and started drizzling, more for looks than anything.

OK, chalk it up as another successful week for TWD. If you'd like to see the recipe, please stop by Jessica's site above, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rainbow Cupcakes and some Awards

We're on the homestretch, folks! One more day of school and then (sing Alice Cooper style with me, now) ... "schoooooool's out... for.. the sum-MER!". Three months of not getting kids ready for school, not supervising homework, and not getting up so early.

Of course, there's also the flip side of "not having a moment's peace" for three months, but I'm sure it will be at least a week before I notice that.

I thought I'd share some cupcakes I made for one of my son's school parties.

There's really not much to them. I piped a circle of white icing onto a cupcake using a large star tip. (I think it's a "1M" tip.) Then comes the spray color. If you're lucky enough to have gone through a serious cake decorating phase like me, you might have an airbrush (by far my all time *favorite* cake toy). If not, you can pick up the canned sprays wherever Wilton products are sold, plus I think maybe Betty Crocker makes some sprays, found in the baking aisle at the grocery store.

To make them, you first line your work area with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth to catch the overspray. (Seriously, don't skip this step or you'll be cleaning food coloring off your counters for weeks.) Next, arrange your cupcakes, kind of scrunched close together without actually touching. Then you get busy with the spray color. I sprayed in wide lines that that covered maybe half the cupcake, but you can do whatever suits your fancy. Don't get too close with the spray or you'll blow holes in your icing.

While these colorful treats might not be your first choice when entertaining your country club friends, they're easy and a big hit with the elementary school set.


I also wanted to give a shout-out to a couple of really sweet bakers, Marthe and Carly.

Marthe of Culinary Delights shared not one, but two awards with me.

Thanks, Marthe! (Lucky girl is in Paris right now.) Marthe lives in The Netherlands and always shares such interesting recipes and history too, be sure to stop by and give her a holler.

The rules for both awards are:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Carly of Carly's Kitchen was nice enough to pass along this award:

Aaaw, thanks Carly!

You must stop by Carly's site. Besides being a serious sweet tooth and passionate baker, this girlfriend's got some great travel photos to drool over.

The rules for this award are: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

I'm going to pass each of these awards to one person. Awardees, do with this what you will. If you want to pass them along as instructed, please do. If not, don't worry about it. As you can see, I'm not much of a rule-follower myself.

I'm giving the "Friends" award to Megan at My Baking Adventures.
Uber Amazing Blog to Wendy at Pink Stripes.
Triple Awards to Avanika at YumsiliciousBakes.

The rest of y'all, please pay these three wonderful bloggers a visit, they all have lovely yummy-filled blogs.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cherry Turnovers

Oops, I'm supposed to be posting this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe. Well, you see, I accidentally spent way too much time watching Stevie Nicks videos on YouTube during my only free time for baking this week. Then the old "I want to be Steve Nicks when I grow up" fantasy took over, and, well, you know...

I made my You Want Pies with That? entry recently, so I'll share that instead.

Well, I can't really share these, since they're long gone. (Can you blame me? Yum!)

This month, Ellen at Kittymama, challenged us to bake a pie or tart that was inspired by a favorite childhood memory.

It didn't take me long to recall one of my very favorite ways to spend my baby-sitting money... Hostess cherry pies. I loved those things!

When I was a kid and I'd go to the grocery store with my mom, there was no contest when we hit the Hostess display. Twinkies? Ding Dongs? No thanks, I'll take the humble cherry pie.

Fastforward to today...

I haven't had a Hostess pie in eons.

Of course, I had to buy one for comparison.

Really, there is no comparison between the two. Look how light and flaky the pastry is (see my cheater peach-version recipe below).

These were so good, I had to hurry up and ship them off to the neighbors before I devoured them myself. I loved how they were so portable too. I can see why they've earned the name "hand pies".

Thanks go out to Kittymama for inspiring me to try these. They were fantastic!

Once again, I chose a recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I took excerpts from the recipe that apply to the cherry turnovers. If you want a boatload of variations for both fillings and pastry for Fruit Turnovers, please pick up a copy of this book. You won't be disappointed, I promise!

Taken from the Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Reprinted with permission.

Rose says: Turnovers are for those who adore pie dough, because this pastry contains the highest proportion of flaky golden crust to fruit filling. For this reason as well, I prefer to keep them small in size; in fact, for me, the miniatures offered below as a variation are perfect. I also like to roll the dough as thin as possible. Sprinkling the top of the dough with sugar makes it crackly/crunchy.

In a turnover, I prefer a cream cheese or basic flaky pie crust to puff pastry. Not only is there a better proportion of filling to crust, but no matter how you seal and vent the puff pastry, it always opens at some point along the seam, spewing out some of the filling. I asked one of my favorite pastry chefs how she managed to keep the fruit in the puff pastry turnover she served me. Her answer: "Are you kidding? It always leaks out - I spooned it back in!" It's always great to know you're not alone.

Jacque says: I have a few comments here and there, denoted in italics with an asterisk (*).


A 17- by 12-inch baking sheet (half-size sheet pan) lined with aluminum foil or parchment (*I used the non-stick side of non-stick aluminum foil and that was a mistake... my turnovers were sliding around like skaters on a skating rink.)


Cherry Filling, cooled (see below)
Basic Flaky Pie Crust, for a 2-crust pie (see below)
1/2 large egg white, lightly beaten (1 Tbsp. or 0.5 ounce or 14 grams)
Optional Glaze (1 large egg, lightly beaten & approx. 2 tsp. sugar)

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (1.75 ounces/50 grams each) (*I divided mine into 16 equal pieces.)

Using a floured pastry cloth and sleeve or two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap, roll out one piece of dough slightly less than 1/8 inch thick and large enough to cut out a 6-inch circle. Using a cardboard template and a sharp knife, cut out the circle. Transfer it to the bottom end of a 9-inch-long piece of plastic wrap. Brush the bottom half of it with the egg white. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit onto this section, leaving a 1-inch border (* I used about 2 tablespoons). Using the plastic wrap if the dough is at all sticky, fold the top part of the dough over the fruit, so that the edges are flush. With your fingers, firmly press the 1-inch border to seal it. Fold the edge up over itself, pressing again to seal it. Cover the turnover with the top section of the plastic wrap and lift the turnover onto the foil-lined sheet. Repeat with the remaining turnovers. Refrigerate them for 1 hour or freeze them for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. at least 20 minutes before baking. Set the oven rack in the lowest position and place a baking stone or large cookie or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Unwrap the turnovers and space them evenly on the foil-lined sheet. If desired, brush them lightly with the egg glaze and sprinkle lightly with the sugar. Use a small sharp knife to cut 3 steam vents through the dough into the top of each turnover.

Place the sheet directly on the stone and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbling thickly out of the vents and the pastry is golden. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. These are best eaten warm.


14 ounces cherries (2 1/2 cups or 400 grams)
2/3 C. sugar (4.6 ounces or 132 grams)
1 Tbsp. + 2 1/4 tsp. cornstarch (16.5 grams)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract or 1 tsp. Kirsch

(*Rose gives two methods for making the filling - I am including the method I chose here. Note that the cornstarch varies slightly if using the other method.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and salt. Add the fruit and lemon juice and, using a rubber spatula, toss together gently to coat the fruit. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.

Transfer the berries and their juices to a saucepan. Stir the lemon zest and cornstarch into the fruit until the cornstarch is dissolved and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring gently. Allow it to boil for 30 seconds to a minute, until the juices become clear and very thick. Gently stir in the Kirsch or extract. Empty the mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool completely, without stirring.


14 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter (7 ounces or 200 grams)
2 1/4 C. + 2 Tbsp. pastry flour or 2-1/4 C bleached all-purpose flour (11.25 ounces or 320 grams)
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. salt*
optional: 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (if not using, double the salt)
5 to 7 Tbsp. ice water (2.6 to 3.6 ounces or 74 to 103 grams)
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar (0.5 ounce or 14 grams)

* for savory recipes, use 1-1/2 times the salt.

Divide the butter into two parts, about two thirds to one third:
4.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces (9 tablespoons and 5 tablespoons)

Cut the butter into 3/4-inch cubes. Wrap each portion of butter with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the larger amount and freeze the smaller for at least 30 minutes. Place the flour, salt, and optional baking powder in a reclosable gallon-size freezer bag and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Food Processor Method

Place the flour mixture in a food processor with the metal blade and process for a few seconds to combine. Set the bag aside.

Add the larger amount of butter cubes to the flour and process for about 20 seconds or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the remaining frozen butter cubes and pulse until all of the frozen butter is the size of peas. (Toss with a fork to see it better.)

Add the lowest amount of the ice water and the vinegar and pulse 6 times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together, add half the remaining water and pulse 3 times. Try pinching the mixture again. If necessary, add the remaining water, pulsing 3 times to incorporate it. The mixture will be in particles and will not hold together without being pinched.

Spoon the mixture into the plastic bag. (For a double-crust pie, it is easiest to divide the mixture in half at this point.)

Holding both ends of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the mixture by alternately pressing it, from the outside of the bag, with the knuckles and heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

Wrap the dough with plastic wrap, flatten it into a disc (or discs) and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.


(*Take a 15-oz. can of sliced peaches in light syrup and drain the peaches. Cut the slices into about 3 pieces each. Place about 2 slices worth of peaches on a egg-white coated dough circle, sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar (or to taste) and give it a shake of cinnamon. Proceed with sealing the turnovers as directed above.)