Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Michael Rostang's Double Chocolate Mousse Cake
It has been quite the year for baking projects. I just wanted to take a quick moment to wish all of my dedicated readers a happy new year! Pretty soon I'll post my culinary resolutions for 2011, but today is all about celebrating.

For our celebration I decided to make one of the desserts from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. As my readers know, I think she is one of the Goddesses of Baking, and I was really looking forward to this cookbook. It hasn't disappointed me, and I'll review it soon once I've tried more recipes from it.

On to the cake! I chose the recipe for Michael Rostang's Double Chocolate Mousse Cake because she says that it is one of her favorite desserts, and I loved that you could serve it three different ways. The entire cake is made out of chocolate mousse, and first 1/3 of it is baked as a sort of crust. From there you can do three versions - one where you pile the rest of the mousse on top and serve it as is (but chilled), one where you bake the rest of it and serve it warm (still with two layers), and the last, which she said she preferred, where you bake the two layers but then chill it before serving. I wish I'd had the pan the recipe calls for, because I only had a 10 inch springform, so my layers are quite a bit thinner than they should have been. Other than that, I always trust Dorie's judgment, and served it the third way. It was delicious - creamy and rich! I was worried it would taste just like a flourless chocolate cake, but it is a lot lighter than that in texture, and the bittersweet chocolate did not taste too bitter (and I sometimes find that to happen).

I'm not going to provide the recipe here. Around My French Table should go right next to your two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. :)

What did you make for your holiday?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Checking in with Culinary Resolutions of 2010

Hummingbird Cake
Back on January 2nd of 2010, I decided to make culinary resolutions for the year. I figured with the amount of time I spend in the kitchen, and the fact that I love baking, would mean that finally I would be making resolution I could keep!

Wrong! So wrong! Well, at least not all of them. I have listed the original goal in italics and discussed whether or not I followed through, and if so, how.

1. Make the third of the laminate doughs. I have made danish pastry (twice, actually) as well as puff pastry. 2010 will be the year I tackle croissants!
I am proud to say that I actually made croissants in 2010, and they were a huge success! After making puff pastry I swore I never would again, but croissants would be a pleasure. The only problem is, they are best fresh, and a person can only eat so many! And that's more than that person (ahem) should be eating....

2. Bread baking - I was given The Bread Baker's Apprentice for Christmas and I am so excited to get started. Looking back on several Daring Bakers Challenges, I have made his lavash, pizza dough (I make this all the time now!), and sticky buns. I'm looking forward to spending more energy learning about savory, non-sweet, yeast breads.
Other than pizza dough, I failed on this resolution. Pizza dough doesn't count to me because I've made it before for a Daring Baker Challenge, and continue to make that recipe frequently, as it was perfect. Not too long ago I made pizza dough from a different recipe that was the final straw for my mixer. I've made several sweet yeasty things, but that was not the resolution.

3. Cake decorating - I need to buy my own decorating supplies, or get my Mom to send me my old stuff from back when I first took the Wilton classes. I made marshmallow fondant in 2009, but I want to tackle the more standard stuff. I also want to try modeling chocolate. I have no aspirations to become a cake decorator, since technically I used to work as one in a bakery without all the fancy stuff, but I definitely feel I have a lot to learn!
Well, um, my Mom sent me my cake decorating supplies in November, and that is as far as I really got. I did get inspired to do some chocolate work as a cake decoration, a fairly easy technique that I tried again for a baby shower. Otherwise, I seemed to make cakes that didn't need decoration. I made cakes, okay? Just not pretty ones. There was the mocha study day cake, my diva chocolate cake for my birthday, Racines Cake from David Lebovitz's new cookbook, and many others. Full confession - I've had my old cake decorating supplies plus another box of pans of all shapes for two months and they remain unopened. Guess what is going on next year's list!?

4. Trifle. I have a beautiful trifle dish that has never been used. Shameful!
Yeah. Still shameful. I had every intention (even every ingredient) to make pumpkin gingerbread trifle for Christmas, but by the time we got there, after cookies and candy and stollen and birthday cake, I just couldn't face any more sweet stuff. Someday....

5. To be intentional about seasonal ingredients. Horror of horrors - last year I skipped both the peach and apple seasons in my area, which are possibly the best fruits coming out of southern North Carolina and northern South Carolina. Really, no excuse. :)
This year was the first year I had a garden, so I had seasonal ingredients up to my eyeballs, but not a lot to bake with (until I get more into savory baking, see #2).

However I still managed to do a good lot of baking with seasonal ingredients. My rhubarb fling included strawberry rhubarb pie and a rhubarb tart, but my raspberries that started out so promising were completely devoured by Japanese beetles, as were most of my strawberries.

July saw blueberries (some from my own garden) being made into crumb cake and breakfast cake. I did manage to throw my own herbs into a sweet/savory sweet potato pie.

During Apple season, I actually went to two different apple orchards around the Hendersonville, NC region. Part of the trouble is I often repeat recipes I have always made, and didn't photograph everything. I made my Grandma's apple cake recipe, crock pot apple sauce, and then did manage a few new things - caramel apple cake, Nick Malgieri's Breton Apple Pie (so pretty), and a Torta di Mele for the November Daring Bakers Challenge. I did discover in all of this that I have a new favorite baking apple - the mutsu! It is firm like Granny Smith but not as tart, and I adore it. So despite my apparent bypassing of peach season yet again, I feel like I accomplished this culinary resolution fairly well.

Despite my failings, I feel like I kept these in the back of my mind throughout the year. What is a resolution for, after all? I may need to make the cake one more specific or narrow if I want to continue with it, but stay tuned for 2011's culinary resolutions!

Holiday Cinnamon Rolls

Birthday Breakfast Cinnamon Rolls
One of the luxuries of the holidays, at least for me, is getting to do leisurely baking projects, even if something takes three hours on a morning before we can eat it. Who cares? There is coffee, there are books to be read, and snow to watch.

This year Nathaniel wanted cinnamon rolls for his birthday, and so I went off hunting for a good recipe. I wasn't enamored with the one I made back when I worked at a bakery, as it was rather bland. Sticky buns came up because I made them back in 2007 for another Daring Bakers Challenge, but they destroyed my oven and I wasn't anxious for a repeat of that mess. Plus they really do depend on nuts to balance out the sweet, and I was hoping for something more tender.

I ended up just doing a search for "best cinnamon rolls recipe" in Google and found two contenders - Alton Brown's Overnight Cinnamon Rolls and a Cinnabon Copycat Recipe. When I'm going to make a recipe from an internet site for the first time, I take advantage of the reviews. I knew both of these recipes were probably good because over 300 people had reviewed each of them and they still were five stars, which is always a good sign. But I was seeing some trends in the recipes. There were several comments that Alton's recipe was too dense, that they ended up too hard, too browned. I didn't want to risk it, as I really wanted a tender recipe. The reviews with the other recipe mainly took issue with the directions, which were terrible, not even including information proofing the yeast or a second rise, but said that with the correct steps the recipe itself was good. I also didn't want to use margarine, and thought some of the ingredients needed to be clarified.

(Does anyone out there have their own favorite cinnamon rolls recipe? Leave a comment and let me know!)

So with no further ado, here is the recipe that I used. The ingredients come from the recipe on, but the directions are mine.

Holiday Cinnamon Rolls

* 1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
* 1 cup warm milk
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs, lightly beaten
* 4 cups flour

* 1 cup packed brown sugar
* 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
* 1/3 cup butter, at room temperature (NOT melted)

* 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
* 1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/8 teaspoon salt

1. In a small bowl, heat milk until pleasantly warm, not hot. Sprinkle yeast over and let dissolve, about five minutes. The mixture can be stirred if some of the yeast on top isn't mixing in. You want to see it become a little gooey, maybe with a few bubbles on the sides, to make sure the yeast is working.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, and mix briefly. Add in melted butter, milk and yeast mixture, and eggs. Mix with wooden spoon or paddle mixer until incorporated. Switch to kneading hook or remove mixture to a floured surface.

3. Knead dough for 5-8 minutes by hand, or in a mixer at low speed for 5 minutes. Dough should be soft but not sticky, and hold an impression when it is poked.

4. Lightly oil a bowl. Place dough inside, first covering the top in the oil. Cover the bowl lightly and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 2 hours, until doubled in size.

5. Punch dough down. Roll out to a rectangle, about 21-24 inches by 16 inches. Spread softened butter out on dough. Cover entire surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, except for the last inch along a long side. It will be pretty thick, use all of it and pat it down evenly.

6. Roll tightly from the long side that has filling to the edge, ending with the piece just with butter, and use that to seal the tube. Rest it on this part to slice.

7. Slice 1-inch rounds, discarding the very ends if desired. Place in greased pans - one 9x13 or 3 cake rounds, leaving room for dough to expand. At this point the dough can be covered and chilled overnight, and taken out for an hour before baking. If you wish to bake immediately, cover and let rise until double or at least poofy, 1.5-2 hours. Remove the covering before baking!

8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Check after 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the rolls, you will probably need 5-10 more minutes. I like to take mine out when they are just getting to be golden brown on top and are barely cooked through inside (but not doughy).

9. While they are baking, mix the icing together until smooth. Spread on rolls immediately when they come out of the oven. Serve hot!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Nathaniel
Okay, it isn't what you think. This is not a happy birthday Jesus cake. My husband Nathaniel was born on December 24th, several years ago. For years and years, his yearly birthday cake was the chocolate chip mint roll cake from Baskin-Robbins. Back in 2007, I begged him to let me make something better, but that pretty much failed. This year, he had already agreed to let me make his cake before learning that all three Baskin-Robbins in Greenville closed.

Triple Ice Cream Inside!
I wanted to still pay homage to the chocolate and mint combination, so I used a Mint-Chocolate Roulade recipe from Southern Living for the cake part. I've been obsessed with Charlotte Royale since considering it for the Daring Bakers challenge I hosted (I ended up picking cheesecake), and I often return to this beautiful Charlotte Royale on Axis of Aevil. I didn't even read their directions, just modeled what I was doing after their pictures. I froze the roulade to make it easiest to slice, then lined a random bowl with plastic wrap and then slices of the rolled cake.

Slice of birthday cake
Inside are three pints of ice cream. The one at the top is Haagen Daaz Mint Chocolate Chip. In the middle is Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar, and on the bottom is Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. True, I could have really been challenged by making my own ice cream for this, but I wanted it to be good, and I haven't really sorted out the texture in my homemade ice cream yet.

I thought this was terrific! At the end of the day it isn't that time consuming, particularly if you use store-bought ice cream like I did. If I made it again, the one thing I would change is the filling for the roulade. I made whipped cream and it turned pretty icy in the freezer.

After the fact, I realized this was almost exactly what the July Daring Bakers Challenge had been, even though I missed it. To show I was at least trying to do the recipes, here are my required blog-checking lines - The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Daring Bakers December 2010 - Stollen

Apricot, Cranberry, and Hazelnut Stollen
The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I enjoyed this challenge! I knew I would need to bake this for people other than the man I married, who refuses to eat fruit in bread. Haha! Luckily my work holiday party was last Friday, so I planned to bring a stollen wreath as my contribution (we do potlucks or pitch-ins now, which works great because we have a lot of great cooks in the library!).

Dough before rising
I'm still not a master of yeast breads, but I really enjoyed working with this dough. It had a great feel to it, and I kneaded it by hand. I recently spent $150 getting my KitchenAid repaired and I'm too nervous to have it do any heavy labor. That's okay, because I actually enjoy kneading the dough, and I think I get a better sense of when it is ready when I'm touching it.

The major change I made with the recipe was simply in what fruits I used. I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins, and used dried apricots rather than citrus, although I kept the orange zest in the recipe. I also didn't have rum, so I soaked the fruit in a mixture of Grand Marnier, orange juice, vanilla extract, and almond extract. I also used Oregon hazelnuts, roughly chopped, because I have a bunch to use and I love their flavor!

Apricot Cranberry Hazelnut Stollen Slice
The picture of the slice is a bit blurry, because I'm still getting used to a new camera. I loved the tenderness of the stollen, and how it could have so much flavor while still being dense and rich. I snagged a bit of the leftover to take home to play with, and it was great toasted!

Stollen French Toast!
Then someone in the Daring Kitchen forums mentioned that they were going to make french toast, and I thought that was a great idea! I'm a fan of using what I have on hand, so my custard was made from eggs and Silk nog that I needed to use up, and it made my fruity stollen into amazing french toast!

I talked Nathaniel into trying a bite. I thought it was so delicious, not dried out like some store-bought stollen I've tried, that surely the fruit would be secondary to the sheer beauty of the stollen I had made. Hahaha. He looked like he wanted to scrape his tongue off.

I wanted him to have a good experience with it, and had an idea about infusing extra flavor into the dough during the milk scalding stage, so I pledged to make a version without any fruit or nuts. I also read a bit more in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and Peter Reinhart pointed out that the formula for stollen dough is almost identical to that of panettone, meaning you should be able to use the doughs interchangeably in the various shape options. This sparked another idea, of making little individual panettone with my new dough.

Mini Stollen in Panettone form
While the milk heated, I added a cinnamon stick, and also added some instant coffee to it before it cooled down. I added about 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and cinnamon chips to the dough while I kneaded it, and these all melted and made ribbons of darkness in the dough. I added an additional 1/3 cup of the chips to the various portions of dough before forming it. I made half into mini-panettone (using Reinhart's idea of just putting them in a muffin tin), and the other half into one typical stollen loaf.

Oh how I wish it had turned out! The coffee and cinnamon were pretty much in the background, and except for in the bites containing chocolate, the dough lacked the richness and moistness of my first stollen. I should have found a way to compensate for the alcohol-soaked fruit. I could tell the dough was too dry, but in my head this translated to it not needing to bake as long. Bummer.

It will still make good french toast....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Orange Nutella Pinwheel Cookies

Orange Hazelnut Cookies
Over a year ago, I saw a recipe for Orange Nutella Pinwheel Cookies, and bookmarked it for "later." It made such an impression that it was in the back of my mind as I started planning for holiday baking this year, and I went back to look for it (here is another blogger who made them without the orange, and her pictures are stunning).

The dough for these is a little persnickety, but the end result is so good! And the first time you slice your knife into the chilled pinwheels and see how perfect they look, you will know it was worth it.

I changed the recipe a tad by using almond extract (by necessity, I was out of vanilla, but I think it was a nice touch), adding some ground hazelnuts to the batter and decreasing the flour slightly, and sprinkling ground hazelnuts on top of the nutella before rolling up the dough.

I will probably add this to the holiday cookie list. This year, I made two batches instead of making sugar cookies, gingerbread, or wagon wheel cookies!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Gifts for Bakers - Gourmet Cookie Book

I think if I had my way, this cookbook would be called the Gourmet Retro Cookie Book instead of just the Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year, 1941-2009". I loved the idea of having one representative recipe from each year for almost seventy years, and it was really interesting to see words change (cooky used to be the preferred spelling, crazy!), recipe layout change, and how technology has made some recipes that used to be complicated so simple.

The recipes are printed as they were printed in Gourmet Magazine through the years, but each one has editorial notes. I found these to be very helpful, often including information on using appliances that didn't exist when the recipe was published to make it easier, as well as hints as to what a step should look like, a shortcut, a substitution, or freezing/bulk suggestions. I definitely followed some of the editorial suggestions in both recipes I made, and they added a lot of clarity to the process.

The pictures in the book are interesting too - everything is an aerial shot, very simple, but it is always nice when a cookbook has a photo for each recipe, and this one does.

Cajun Macaroon Cookies
The first recipe I made from the Gourmet Cookie Book, was the very first recipe, Cajun Macaroons, from 1941. I'm still not quite sure what makes them "Cajun," exactly, but they appealed to me because I had egg whites in the fridge and almond paste in the pantry, and beyond that they only required three more ingredients.

These cookies were fantastic. They look a little bland, but they have so much flavor, and an interesting texture with a crunchy outside and chewy centers. Super easy in my food processor, and I'd make these again in a heartbeat.

Mocha Cookies
The other recipe I made was from the 1990s, Mocha Cookies. According to the Gourmet Cookie Book, the 90s were the chocolate decade. These are shamelessly rich and super addictive, and I will make these again for sure. My only complaint is that the recipe makes it sound like you should mix them as little as possible (I always assume that with the "fold" word instead of "mix") but I had a few that didn't taste sweet at all because the unsweetened chocolate was the prominent ingredient. So when I make these again, which is going to happen for sure, I'll just mix it all a little better.

I wondered if buying this cookbook was redundant, because so many recipes from Gourmet magazine are traditionally available on But from what I can tell, the recipes on that website don't go back this far, and I couldn't find either there. This is a great retrospective cookie recipe collection that I think is a great addition to any kitchen. And honestly, who doesn't feel a little nostalgic about the demise of Gourmet Magazine? Retro... nostalgia... it suits baked goods somehow, especially during the holidays.

And just for full disclosure, I did get access to this title through NetGalley, so thanks to them for letting me take a look!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers November 2010 - Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Alsatian Apple Tart
Earlier in the month I had some Mutsu apples from Justus Orchard in Hendersonville, NC. I'd been wanting to do something interesting, and along came the Daring Bakers Challenge. All it said was that I needed to make the crust recipe provided, in a tart mold, and then I could put pretty much anything I wanted to inside.

I kept finding recipes for Torta di Mele (Apple Tart in Italian!) but most of the recipes were in Italian too. Along the way I kept running across recipes for Alsatian Apple Tarts that looked more along the lines of a crostata type tart - thinly sliced fruit, custard, and a rich crust. I ended up making Dorie's version since I had that cookbook at home, but used the challenge version of the crust.

Slice of Alsatian Apple Tart
The recipe was a bit confusing, because I had way more apple than one layer's worth, and other pictures I'd seen of other versions seemed to have multiple layers. So against my instincts I added another layer. This meant the layer on top wasn't covered by the custard and had a much denser texture, and some of the edges browned, and it probably wasn't as picturesque as it could have been. Still, it tasted good!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gifts for Bakers - As Always, Julia

I was lucky to get a review copy of As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon, through NetGalley. As if I needed to love Julia Child even more! But seriously, for people who are already fans, reading the letters between Julia and Avis will be a treat. Most of the letters are from the 1950s, when Julia was relocating frequently and working on what would become Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Avis was smack in the middle of the politics and culture of New England.

Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba Cake)
I was amazed yet again by the sheer number of times Julia would tweak each recipe, including the Reine de Saba, which I made two summers ago for my Julia Child party.

I learned a lot, and laughed a lot. It comes out December 1. You can read my longer review here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Dinner
Since we don't eat meat, I tend to plan something different every year for Thanksgiving. Last year was Native American food, 2006 was mushroom crepes, 2008 was peanut butter and jelly since we were on the road to a cruise in Florida.

This year I had my heart set on Mexican food, but recipes I hadn't made before. It all started when I came across Post Punk Kitchen's recipe for Butternut Rancheros, which I could tell from her pictures would be fantastic (and was!). But that didn't seem elaborate enough, and I knew this was the time to tackle tamales. Thanks to the loan of a few Bayless cookbooks and some steaming baskets, I was ready to go! (I made the spicy mushroom tamales from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, and made the masa recipe from the bag.)

So what do you have for dessert with Mexican food? I had bookmarked a recipe for pumpkin pie flan, but I knew my in-laws were bringing a Deep-Dish Pumpkin Pecan Pie from Strossners. This baker couldn't NOT make a dessert on a holiday, however.

Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme
My alternate dessert was Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme, a recipe from Stephanie Prida at It was simple but so worth it! It takes the flavors of the chalky Mexican chocolate tablet and transforms it into a decadent, smooth dessert. I thought I had overcooked it, but after putting it through a sieve everything seemed just fine.

Spicy Pumpkin Seed Pecan Brittle
The other somewhat sweet recipe I made was Spicy Pumpkin Seed and Pecan Brittle, a recipe I picked up from Although I figured out too late that I don't have an actual candy thermometer, merely a thermometer that goes up to 220, I guessed at the 300 and it turned out fine. This candy is an amazing combination of salty, sweet, spicy, and crunchy, and the flavors seemed perfect for this meal and for fall!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bakery Review - Cupcake Couture and Catering, Greenville, SC

Check out the peanuts
In one of the recent Living Social deals in my city, they featured cupcakes by Cupcake Couture & Catering. This was a bakery I hadn't tried yet, so I took advantage of the deal.

I picked up a box of dozen cupcakes, which were smartly packed in mini marshmallows so they wouldn't move around. We had strawberry, red velvet, coconut, butterfinger, marble, and a few other kinds.

Double Strawberry Cupcake
My favorite flavor was the double strawberry - both the cupcake and icing had a fresh strawberry flavor, nothing fake or cloying.

I'm not sure I'd pay the full price for cupcakes there, but I think the cupcakes they sell just with icing are cuter than the ones with the awkward fondant cut-outs. That's a personal preference, of course. But I can tell they are using high-quality ingredients, because the flavors are good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lemon Ginger Bars

Lemon Ginger Bars
Every time a new Harry Potter book or film comes out, I try to make treats to go along with it. In 2007, I made a fugly treacle tart and pumpkin pasties. Last summer I made a much cuter treacle tart (Harry's favorite) and cauldron cupcakes.

A few days ago, I saw a post on Nick Malgieri's blog for Lemon Ginger Squares To be honest, the flavor combination sounded a lot like what you end up getting from a treacle tart. I couldn't get it out of my head, so I have justified making it for Harry Potter Day by saying it sounds like something they could have served at Hogwarts. English-inspired desserts have more of an adult palate required, with ginger and lemon being very prominent in these bars.

Since my local favorite grocery store does not have crystallized ginger on the shelf, I did leave it out. I'm sure it would have made these bars even tastier. Also I read the recipe wrong at first, so I added one stick of melted butter, then the egg and lemon, and THEN the other stick of melted butter. I probably need to make the recipe again, properly, to do it justice. But it is delicious, and an intense flavor for a little bar cookie.

Gifts for Bakers - Desperate Cupcakes

As we approach Thanksgiving, you might be pondering what to get the baker in your life. I recently got a copy of Desperate Cupcakes by Anita Dyette. I wasn't sure what to expect, but inside is page after page of silly cupcakes dressed up in their own scenes. There are zombie cupcakes, cupcakes in the park, cupcakes getting married, well, you get the picture. The artistry is impressive, but it is all for the sake of a giggle at these desperate cupcakes.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pumpkin Scones with Spice Glaze

Pumpkin Scones with Spice Glaze
I didn't have a go-to recipe for pumpkin scones, so I literally picked the first hit from a Google search. I almost didn't use this recipe because it claimed to be a copy of the Starbucks scone recipe, and I find Starbucks scones to be dry and tasteless, depending on an overload of glaze for some semblance of freshness. But knowing that most recipes that claim to be copies usually aren't, I chanced it.

A lot of the reviewers suggested doubling up on the spices, only using the spice glaze instead of the original overkill of two, and adding vanilla to the one glaze. I followed all of their advice, and they didn't steer me wrong.

These were delicious and tender. The egg in the batter makes for a nice density, and the pumpkin replaces most of what would normally be heavy cream, making these quite a bit lower in fat than the usual (although there is still a hefty amount of butter, so don't get carried away and call them lowfat). We had these for breakfast this morning with the Rainforest Alliance Certified Guatemala coffee from The Brown Bean in Brevard, NC, which we ground fresh and brewed with freshly ground nutmeg.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Taking Back the Tea Party

No matter what your beliefs - tea parties are for scones and cute little sandwiches. I urge you to plan your own tea party on Thursday, January 20, 2011. Because tea parties should be delicious!

Link to WorldWide Facebook Event here

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Caramel Apple Cake

Caramel Apple Cake
Happy Halloween! This year for the work party I knew I wanted to do something with the rest of my Mutsu apples, and thought of caramel apples in cake form in the shower one morning. A quick internet search revealed several delicious-looking recipes, but this one won because it was simple, and I needed to make a double batch!

I won't retype the recipe into my blog, since you can find it everywhere online, like here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candy Corn Failure

Homemade Candy Corn
Happy Halloween! I was originally planning to bring this to a work party, but I'm going to have to make apple cake or something else, because I don't think I need to try a recipe more than two times!

Ever since I saw the Cakespy post on homemade candy corn, I have intended to try making this sugary treat. I couldn't believe the response from people.

"Why would you do that?"

"Ugh, I hate candy corn."

"Isn't that just corn syrup and coloring?"

As anyone who knows me knows, these types of comments only made me want to make candy corn from scratch that much more!

I tried for the first time last night, using Cakespy's recipe as written. I got about 3 minutes into the cooking time and my instincts told me to pull it off the heat, but I didn't listen. Well hello, following my instincts lesson. Nice to see you again.

By the time the mixture had even partially cooled, it was all dry, crumbled, and impossible to get out of the pan. Total failure, I didn't even take pictures.

In the comments of Jessie's original post, there was a link to a similar recipe in The Washington Post, which included a cooking temperature instead of just minutes. I was just about right with my gut reaction the first time around, because the mixture reached 225 at 3 minutes in.

Homemade Candy Corn
The next stage is the other part of the recipe that hasn't worked well, where you let the mixture cool. The recipe says 30 minutes to an hour, but I only waited 30 and that wasn't enough time to work with the mixture before it was too dried out and crumbly to properly knead and work color into. I was only able to make candy corn with about 1/4 of the mixture, and even that didn't stick together very well between the colors. I think the value of the commercial candy corn made by machines instead of by hand is that they can add color to magma-hot boiling sugar without fear of injury. I'm just not sure that this recipe is a great idea for the home cook.

Or maybe my sugar just boils hotter than anyone else's. :)

The Pizza Dough that Broke the Mixer

Carmelized Onion, Blue Cheese, and BBQ Pizza
I had it in my head that I wanted pizza with carmelized onions, blue cheese, and barbecue sauce. I usually make the Peter Reinhart recipe, which is fantastic, but I always get into trouble if I don't plan a day ahead. And sometimes you just have to have pizza right that minute!

One of the cookbooks I use a lot for baking is A Passion for Baking. I'm not going to include the recipe here because you should buy it for yourself, but I had to try the recipe that claimed to be the "best pizza dough ever."

I think the true secret to her claim is the method - you barely mix the ingredients together and let it sit and bloom, and after shaping the crusts and putting on the ingredients it rises one last time. I'm not sure if this attempt is a fair representation, because my Kitchen Aid of less than two years of age's motor QUIT while kneading the dough. I was frazzled and didn't knead it any longer after I got the bowl down, but I think it had already gone for the recommended 5 minutes.

The funny thing is, I don't even mind kneading dough, and actually enjoy it. I was just sticking to my guns of using the recipe as written the first time.

So the dough didn't have as much give to it as the Reinhart dough, and I really had to struggle to roll it out as thin as we like it. While baking it puffed up quite a bit, and was chewy and thick. The toppings combo was delicious (although you can see in the picture that I may have gone overboard when 'carmelizing' the onions), although the crust was pretty dominant. Knowing what I know now, if I made this recipe again I'd use a lot more sauce to help the balance.

In the meantime, I'm approaching Thanksgiving, and always do more baking in the fall, and I need to get my mixer fixed! There is a certified technician in town, so cross your fingers!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breton Apple Pie

Breton Apple Pie
I had a beautiful bag of Mutsu apples from a little farm stand between Flat Rock and Hendersonville, NC, just begging to be made into a delicious baked good for fall. Mutsu apples are a cross between Golden Delicious (for sweetness) and Indo Apples from Japan (a sturdy baking apple similar to Granny Smith, from what I can find out), so I thought they'd hold up well in a pie.

In this Breton Apple Pie from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri, the apples are prepared and cooked on the stove before they are spooned into the crust. The crust had more of a sugar cookie taste to it than pie crust, and looked beautiful when it came out of the oven.

Breton Apple Pie
The springform pan I baked this in is pretty dark, so I should have thought to turn the oven temperature down by 25 degrees. Since I didn't, some of the bottom of the crust got darker than I would have liked. I didn't have any other 10" pans. Malgieri says this recipe is freezer-friendly, and I think the next time around I might make it in a 9" cake pan instead. That way I can use a few less apples but end up with a slightly higher "pie."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie
Something Nathaniel said in passing yesterday as I was making my grocery shopping list made me announce, "That's it, I'm going to make a Boston Cream Pie." I hadn't ever made one from scratch. Who knows what triggered it?!

I used the yellow cake recipe that I used earlier this week for cupcakes, and froze one layer for later. I used Gale Gand's pastry cream recipe for the filling, which used up almost all the egg yolks I had leftover from making the perfect party cake the other day. Nice when it all evens out.

Boston Cream Pie Slice
I topped it with a slightly runny ganache, but it was good - homey. In the slice you can even see the vanilla beans in the custard.

Hey, if you've been following JennyBakes in Facebook, I discovered that the notes aren't importing. While I try to talk to a real person at Facebook to get past my error message, I may start manually posting to the page. But you've missed a lot if that's the only way you see me. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baby Shower Cakeage

Happy Duck Cake
One of my co-workers is having her first child, and I was asked if I could make a cake for the work shower. I had been wanting to play more with the chocolate work that I tried earlier from The Whimsical Bakehouse so I decided to make little ducks and frogs to go with her colors of yellow and green.

Happy Ducks on Cake
For the cake itself, I went with Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake, which truly is the perfect party cake. I've never made it exactly as written - there was "Da Lime in Da Coconut" version made for a Daring Bakers challenge, and the Peanut Butter and Jelly version from my birthday last summer. This time around I used the basic cake recipe, but omitted the coconut from the assembly stage, and used lemon curd instead of raspberry jam. So it was definitely lemony but still delicate, and the color accompaniment was nice. Unfortunately it was gobbled up so I don't have any pictures of the inside!

Happy Frogs on Cupcakes
I mentioned I had planned frogs so I could do yellow and green, but I didn't have any chocolate-friendly coloring in green. So I made purple frogs instead. I used my go-to yellow birthday cake recipe for the cupcakes, which I don't think I've ever blogged! I might as well include it here. It uses a cake mix as the base (shh, don't tell) but is so tender and delicious! I think both the cake and frosting come from The Cake Mix Doctor which I used all the time when I worked at a tearoom where we had to come up with new ideas a lot. I don't own a copy myself, but have used this recipe for years! All I have written down is the ingredients, no instructions, but just use the usual cake instructions (350 F, the usual range for cupcakes vs. layers, and mix everything together for frosting.... haha, amazing what those of us who bake all the time take for granted!).

Basic Layer Cake
1 cake mix (I usually use yellow, pudding in the mix, not butter recipe)
1 cup whole milk (or whatever you have on hand, nonfat, buttermilk, etc)
8 tbsp butter, melted (or oil, but butter tastes better)
3 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla

Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
8 tbsp butter, room temperature
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup whole milk (or whatever)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt <--- don't leave this out!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pumpkin Nutella Bread

Pumpkin Nutella Bread
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
We keep getting hints of fall and I had bookmarked this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod to make once I had Nutella and pumpkin in my pantry at the same time. I couldn't get the recipe out of my head, so that didn't take long.

It tasted really good, but all my Nutella clumped at the bottom when cooking. I did make it all in one loaf unlike their mini loaves, and that might have provided more stability for the chocolate!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust

Sweet Potato Pie
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
This may seem a bit out of season, but I used rosemary from my garden, so that ties it into summer.

The recipe is from Southern Living. The crust is all-butter, requiring some extra chilling steps, but has a nice crunch to it with the cornmeal inside.

This wasn't really my thing. I probably wouldn't make it again, but at least I can say I have made this southern staple at least once!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

G.O.R.P. Cookies

G.O.R.P. Cookies
A while back, we had eBook Boot Camp in the library, and I needed an appropriate snack. What do you have for boot camp other than G.O.R.P. (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts)?

Exactly. So I made these cookies. Because of the high amounts of sugar, these are crunchy, not chewy the way I prefer. That didn't stop other people from eating them!

G.O.R.P. Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine, room temp
1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups oats (I used non-instant)
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
3/4 cup raisins

Cream together sugars, margarine, and butter. Add eggs and mix well. Add vanilla. Gradually mix in dry ingredients. Stir in peanuts and raisins by hand. Drop by spoonfuls on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baking for Attention

I read Post Secret every Sunday, and while I did not submit this postcard, it made me smile.

I'll post again soon! Work has been crazy, but I have a cookie break coming soon for my student workers....

Monday, August 16, 2010

JennyBakes is on Facebook

For a long time I have had my baking blog posts update automatically to my Facebook page, but because of the way Facebook often doesn't work, sometimes my wall would get inundated with posts all at once. And since I don't post much to my wall it would look like all I did was bake and read!

My solution was to create a separate Facebook page for JennyBakes. If you're more likely to check Facebook before your blog reader, feel free to add me there!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leftovers - Banoffee Parfait

Banoffee Parfait
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
After making alfajores this past week, I had some unfilled cookies and some dulce de leche left over. I knew this was exactly what I needed for banoffee pie, so I whipped up some cream and sliced some bananas and layered them with the two leftover ingredients.

To be honest, it was way too sweet for me, but the first bite was delicious.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Alfajores are a shortbread-sandwich cookie originating in South America, often with dulce de leche in the middle and rolled in coconut or powdered sugar. I have been wanting to try making them ever since one of my virtual friends, who is originally from Paraguay, brought them up in passing. She got me really curious about them and even shared her Dad's recipe! I used a slightly altered version of it, after doing a bit of looking on the web, adding some cornstarch and egg yolks (which she said he often does anyway).

Dulce de Leche
First I needed to make the dulce de leche. I had often heard you can make it using cans of condensed milk, boiled in a pot, but that freaked me out a little, so I looked around until I found a recipe that didn't come with kitchen-explosion warnings. I didn't really know what color I was going for, but I'm suspecting I could have and should have baked it longer.

Because here's the thing. I'm pretty sure the cookies were spot on - they are dense and a little crumbly and very much a shortbread texture. But the dulce won't stay inside, even after cooling all night and chilling in the fridge. It oozes out the sides making an embarrassment of the coconut I tried rolling them in. I still took pictures of their shaggy selves, but I expected the caramel to be a thicker layer on the inside. (Should have cooked it longer).

Alfajores with cherry jam
With some of the cookies, I tried jam in the middle. If anyone has a magic formula for sandwich cookies, I'd love to hear it. When they are this substantial they are impossible to eat without everything oozing everywhere!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Racines Cake

Racines Cake
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
When we were in Black Mountain, NC, last weekend, we stopped in at Chocolate Gems, a local artisan shop with high quality chocolates. They use mostly Belgian chocolate but had a few truffles and a few other items from Black Mountain Chocolate, where a man does hand-crafted chocolate, single-origin. So at the shop they had some cocoa nibs for sale in little bags, and I remembered a recipe I had seen in Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz.

I made the cake, which while it has quite a backstory, is really just your typical flourless chocolate cake, and topped it with the cocoa nibs as urged in the recipe.

I'm not sure what to think. I found the cocoa nibs a little.... strange. Maybe they were not finely chopped enough. But it was a little like munching on cake topped with chocolate flavored tree bark. Nothing like on the movie Chocolat where Vianne gives a woman cocoa nibs to improve her marriage and it sounds so delicious and romantic (but now I think owwww).

Still, it is more interesting to make a cake with a story. Between David Lebovitz's story of finding the recipe on the mens' restroom wall at a Parisian restaurant, and my story of using local artisan chocolate, maybe you'll want to try it too. The recipe is actually freely available on Lebovitz's blog, although his cookbook is getting a lot of hype, so you might as well pick it up. I still haven't had a perfect culinary experience from it, but I shall keep trying.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Thai Tea Cookies

Thai Iced Tea Cookies
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I love Thai iced tea. Well, I love iced coffee from that region more, but the iced tea with its orangey color has a special spot in my heart. Sometimes we buy the Tessa Thai Tea powder, which I can't find anywhere online to link to. It could be that David Rio, the tea company that used to make it, isn't doing so anymore. That would be a shame, it was an easy guilty pleasure.

On the side of the box was a recipe for Thai Tea Cookies. I couldn't get it out of my head so I whipped up a quick batch yesterday. They are chewy and sugary but full of flavor, and my student workers devoured them. If you don't like coconut, you won't like these. And vice versa. :)

Thai Tea Cookies
1 stick (8 tbsp/4 oz) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup Tessa Thai tea powder
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup shredded coconut

My simplified instructions:
Cream butter with sugar and tea powder. Beat in egg. Lightly mix in dry ingredients and stir in coconut. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Bake at 300 F for 10-12 minutes (I baked mine for 14). Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Happy Blogiversary to JennyBakes!

Peach Cardamom Crisp
Four years ago, my first post was peach cardamom crisp, so I decided to recreate it today in tribute to four amazing years of blogging my baking. I made a smaller version with fresh SC peaches, and kind of threw the ingredients together for the crisp part, but it was a nice reminder of where everything started.

Thanks for reading! And for eating. :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Cake

I have been collecting cookbooks as souvenirs for at least ten years now, and it can be a great way to revisit a place in your kitchen. In 2000, Nathaniel and I were driving across the country around this time, from Oregon to Indiana, so that I could go to graduate school at Indiana University. We stopped at a bed and breakfast in Prairie City, IA. I remember it was out in the middle of nowhere, that the rooms were decorated with quilts and painted saws, and that the owners brought up a lot of morbid topics over breakfast. We also went to the Iowa State Fair because that is like "THE" state fair, but it was the hottest weather we had yet to experience as wimpy Northwesterners, and we didn't last long.

Before we left the house, we purchased a cookbook called "Sampling Iowa Treasures Cookbook," which professes to include recipes and trivia from bed and breakfasts in Iowa. I actually find it to be one of my staple breakfast cookbooks, because who knows hearty breakfast fare more than Midwestern bed and breakfast cooks?

I picked this recipe because it only made one round cake pan of breakfast cake, and the idea of adding oatmeal intrigued me. I only had about a cup of fresh blueberries from the garden and picked the recipe because it only called for that. The cake was okay. I am uncertain about the oatmeal because while it did add a nice chewy texture, I'm not sure that is what I expected when I took a bite. Just a simple, quick breakfast cake letting the blueberries shine.

Blueberry-Oatmeal Breakfast Cake
from The Grey Goose B&B in Adel, IA

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cooking oil
3/4 cup milk*
1 egg
1 cup frozen blueberries **
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2-4 tsp milk

Grease 8" round pan and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, rolled oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small mixing bowl, stir together egg, milk, and oil. Add all at once to dry mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake coffee cake at 400 F for 20-25 minutes, or until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.

Icing: In a small bowl, stir together sifted powdered sugar and enough milk to make icing of drizzling consistency. Serve warm. Serves eight.

*- I used buttermilk because I had a bunch on hand.
** - I used fresh berries, but tossed them with a bit of flour to try to get them not to sink to the bottom. The picture only shows them on the bottom, but they were at varying levels throughout the cake.