Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers March 2010 - Orange Tian

Orange Tian slice
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I would like to give myself the award for Officially Not Procrastinating For Once on the Daring Bakers Challenge, as I had this done the first week of March! The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

From what I understand, a tian can be sweet or savory, and is probably what you are having in a nicer restaurant if it looks like the layers of something were in a ring before you get it. I didn't have enough smaller rings or cookie cutters, so I made it all as one dessert in a springform pan.

Orange Tian from Above
The recipe calls for oranges, and I used a combination of navel and cara cara (also a kind of navel, but pinker in color). The combination was unintentionally striking on the top layer! It looks like grapefruit, but was all sweet and orangey.

Orange Marmalade
My favorite part of this recipe was the chance to make orange marmalade, which I hadn't done before. Of course, the directions said to cook until it reached jam consistency, rather than giving me a number of minutes, and I thought it meant until it was jammy and still HOT. So I ended up scorching some of the orange rind, and the final marmalade was almost a soft candy, but the burnt flavor was actually nice and the rest was good on crackers and toast.

Side view of Orange Tian
The tian had four layers - the pate sablee crust, which is like a cross between pie crust and sugar cookie, the marmalade, stabilized whipped cream, and the oranges in caramel mixture. Then you drizzle an orange caramel sauce on top. Yes, I said caramel sauce, my old nemesis. It worked out okay this time.

Over all, this was way too sweet for me to want to make it again, but it did look pretty.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vegan Baked Goods in San Diego

Stephanie at Stephanie's
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
This was intended to be a fantastic review post of Stephanie's Bakery in San Diego, where I was this last week for the Music Library Association Annual Conference. Unfortunately, despite nothing on their web site to the contrary, and no signage at the bakery itself, they were not open the three different times I tried visiting throughout the week. I hope they are just on vacation, and have a beach-town mentality that doesn't always think to put up a sign, because the idea of a vegan bakery that serves fantastic lunch and dinner sounded amazing! My friend Stephanie, pictured, is not the Stephanie of Stephanie's, but was also disappointed. She is a vegan living in California who has been to Stephanie's before, and was looking forward to going back.

Meeting a blog fan
I know this picture is very blurry, but I was delighted to meet a new music librarian who says she has been following JennyBakes for two years or so. I tried whisking her away on a bakery adventure to Stephanie's. We still had fun, but not as much as we would have had if we'd actually had a bakery to review.

Goddess Bar
There was vegan food to be had in San Diego, even baked goods. I ate several times at the OB People's Food Co-op, with the grocery on the first floor and fantastic deli on the second. I bought their cookbook, so you might see some of their vegan recipes in this blog in the near future. This goddess bar, for instance, was fantastic.

Categories: Bakery, Vegan

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cookbook Review - The Whimsical Bakehouse

Whimsical Spring Cake
In the Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen, you are confronted with page after page of vibrant, whimsical cakes. The recipes seem pretty standard, but what drew me in was the chocolate art. I was intimidated by how beautiful it looked, since Liv is clearly an artist who happens to use chocolate as her medium, but the directions were clear and took away the complexity.

So the cake and frosting and filling recipes - fine. Good, even. But to me, the joy in this book is about working with chocolate, something I have wanted to learn more about.

Chocolate Outlines
The process starts by outlining images in chocolate. I found some good butterflies online, and drew one freehand. The spirals and squiggles were just done freehand with extra melted chocolate. The examples in the book are far more delicate and intricate than mine, but I was just curious if I could do it at all! Melted chocolate is harder to work with than something like buttercream, because if it is warm enough to flow easily, it is pretty liquidy, and the cooler and thicker it gets, the harder it is to be precise. The book describes an advanced method where brushes are involved, but I found myself just using the brushes to help with the next stage. Maybe next time I can create feathered effects!

First color
The next step is to use colored white chocolate. For simplicity, I only made yellow and green, but on a week with more time I would have liked more varied butterflies. In the book, Liv also creates almost a watercolor texture with colors that flow into each other within an outlined space, whereas I tended to put one color per outline. It really just creates a difference in style - hers were more realistic, ethereal, and mine are more cartoonish. Cartoonish isn't bad!

Finished butterflies
After filling in all the spaces and adding extra to the back, the chocolate has already started to harden. Then they can be flipped over and viewed. This technique does create chocolate decorations that have to be used on one side, but the possibilities are endless here.

There are a few questions I had that weren't answered in the text. There weren't really any indications on how far in advance you could assemble the cake, and since all of them were quite intricate, this would have been helpful. I almost waited until the last minute to add the chocolate parts, but that didn't really fit my schedule, so I decided to chance it and iced and decorated the cake the night before. I used their house buttercream, which is made with an interesting recipe that combines boiling water, powdered sugar, and cold butter (I didn't think it could possible come together but it worked great!), and put the chocolate decorations on right after icing the final layer. They stayed through the night in the fridge with no problem, and still seemed rather stable.

Whimsical Spring Cake
I made the golden butter cake, and was surprised that the book did not include any soaking syrups, since butter cakes can be a little dry. At least the one I made was! I suspect I should have split the two layers in half again so there was a higher ratio of filling to cake. I should have made filling but I had so much buttercream that I just used that in the middle - but the filling recipes look amazing.

Another thing I'd say about the recipes is that they aren't for standard cake pan sizes, and I really wish they'd made each one for the same size cake and included recipes on cutting back or increasing them. I made the golden butter cake which is for 10" pans but I only had 9" pans, and some of the others call for 8". I'm not sure the typical home baker would have an entire cupboard of cake pans - I bake a lot, and I certainly don't!

Categories: Cookbook Review, Cake, Buttercream, Chocolate

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cupcakes vs. Muffins

Cocoa Banana Muffin
Is there some kind of definitive distinction between cupcakes and muffins? Two recipes I made recently have made me question it. Both were tasty, and that was definitely not the problem. The first is this Cocoa Banana Muffin from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. Chocolatey with banana chunks - for breakfast? Yes please! But really, if I'd slapped some buttercream on the top, what would distinguish it from being a cupcake?

Carrot Raisin Cupcake with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
When I was looking for a way to use up the rest of my homemade mascarpone from my tiramisu experiment, I found myself back in The Craft of Baking, making a recipe for carrot cupcakes with mascarpone whipped cream. It was one of those great moments where I had everything on hand for a recipe, and even added some raisins and nuts, both of which seemed awfully muffin-esque. Now... is it because it had frosting that it was a cupcake and not a muffin? I would have eaten that for breakfast. In fact, I brought them into work and handed them out around 9 am.

Does anyone have an answer? I'll keep baking the tasty treats....

Categories: Banana, Bread, Breakfast, Carrot, Chocolate, Cupcake, Muffin, Raisin

Monday, March 01, 2010

Daring Bakers February 2010 - Tiramisu

Tiramisu Closeup
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
I know, I know. It is no longer February. I have been catching up on my fun-things to-do list, which also included a bunch of gardening this weekend. So I literally made the elements of tiramisu - lady fingers, mascarpone cheese, zabaglione, pastry cream, and whipped cream - in between gardening ventures, which I now blog about over here. Trust me, I know even less about gardening than I do baking, so if you have any advice to give, hop on over. (For instance, it could snow - what should I do for the spinach and lettuce I planted? Ah, crazy weather).

Back to tiramisu. The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Homemade marscarpone cheese
Included in the challenge was that everything had to be made from scratch, including the lady fingers (savoiardi) and mascarpone cheese. I've made tiramisu before, although not such a complicated recipe, so I was honestly the most excited about making cheese from scratch, something I've never done! First I had to hunt down cheesecloth, and I had some funny phone conversations with people working at various grocery stories until I found some at a craft store. It seemed essential, and I'm glad I bought it since it was pretty liquidy before it cooled. I actually got to a point in the recipe where I'd already cooked it twice as long as it said and it wasn't getting any thicker, so I called it good and thought I'd see what happened.

I loved how it turned out - thick, spreadable, soft - I now have almost a cup left over, and would love suggestions for how to use it! I will never buy mascarpone at the store again. This was probably 1/4 of the cost to do it this way, and simple.

The four parts of the filling
Ultimately I was unhappiest with the filling. It was made of four components - the mascarpone, whipped cream, the zabaglione, and the pastry cream. It was pretty soft when I layered it with the lady fingers, but I was hopeful that it would set up. Maybe it isn't supposed to entirely in "real" tiramisu, but I just feel like I must have done something wrong. WIth all the variables and my complete and utter last-minuteness (actually overdueness at this point!) I didn't have time to retrace my steps. I'd hate to think it was something as simple as underbeating the whipped cream.

During one of the stages, I think when I made the zabaglione and pastry cream, Sleepless in Seattle was on the television. If you know the movie enough, you probably know what comes next, but probably the best movie quotation about tiramisu ever:

Sam Baldwin: What is "tiramisu"?
Jay: You'll find out.
Sam Baldwin: Well, what is it?
Jay: You'll see!
Sam Baldwin: Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!

Unbaked lady fingers
A few years back, I had developed a chocolate tiramisu recipe based on the cheater recipe we used at the tearoom where I worked (it involved pudding, cream cheese, and pound cake, be very afraid). I hope I can track it down because this entire venture has made me really want to make that again. Until next time....

Categories: Cheese, Custard, Daring Bakers