Monday, August 27, 2018

Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing

In July, I talked a bit about a book, The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller, that had a baking storyline and a few cake recipes. I already tried the old-fashioned 1-2-3-4 Cake, but couldn't get a recipe that had a bigger plot point out of my head. I posted the progress to Instagram and ended up chatting with the author, who is herself a baker. It is with her permission that I reproduce this recipe in full. (I also did receive a copy of the book from the publisher, but I had read her first novel and even gave it as a gift.)

I was happy to stare down my longtime nemesis, caramelizing sugar, in the syrup stage of this recipe. It worked the first time! The burnt sugar syrup lends a beautiful color to the cake, and a very distinct flavor that works well with the maple.

If you like stories about relationships and towns like Stars Hollow, you should definitely check out Louise Miller's books. The Late Bloomers' Club is more about the town and the relationship between two sisters, while The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is more focused on romance. Both are great reads and both have a lot of baking in them. The author, a pastry chef, can be followed in Instagram.

Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing

For the syrup:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water

For the cake:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
9 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract*
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup burnt sugar syrup

For the icing:

1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp heavy cream

To make the syrup

A quick note: Never walk away from sugar syrup and never touch it. Caramelizing sugar is an extremely hot process. Please use caution.

Place the sugar evenly in a pan and turn the burner on high (a cast-iron skillet is great for this). Let the sugar melt. You don't want to stir the sugar - it will form sugar crystals and clump up - but you can gently move the pan to swirl it. The sugar will dissolve, then start to turn light brown. While the sugar is cooking, boil the water. When the sugar has turned to a golden amber color and is smoking a bit, take it off the heat. Very carefully drizzle in the boiling water. It will sputter when you do this - make sure you are wearing long sleeves. Return the pan to the heat once all the water has been added, and stir until combined. Set aside to cool.

To make the cake

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream together the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. In a separate small bowl, mix together the sour cream and 1/2 cup of burnt sugar syrup. You will have extra syrup. Save it - it's delicious in coffee!***

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter, sugar, and eggs, mixing just until the flour is incorporated, then add 1/3 of the sour cream/ burnt sugar mixture. Repeat until you have a uniform cake batter, taking care not to overmix. Scoop the batter into a well-greased 10-12 cup Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 F until the top springs back when you press it and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour.**

Let cool completely before unmolding and icing.****

To make the icing

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, salt, and confectioners sugar. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup. Add the heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time, until the icing is a nice, spreadable consistency.

Place the cake on a platter. Using an offset spatula, spread the icing over the top of the cake. 

Jenny's notes:

*-I had maple extract in my pantry so I used 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp maple.
** - Knowing my Bundt pan, which is a garage sale find of the old metal variety, bakes hot, I checked at 45 minutes and it was done. Know your oven, know your pan, check early so you don't overbake.
*** - It's true! I added it to my cold brew coffee.
**** - Again, knowing my pan and how cooling sugar crystals can merge a cake with pan, I let it cool for 10 minutes and then turned it out to cool completely.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Chestnut Flour Brownies (grain-free, gluten-free)

Two weeks ago, I told the story of why I'm experimenting with chestnut flour, so I won't replicate that information here. But that went well enough to keep going, and I had this brownie recipe as a must-try. This is absolutely hands down the best alternative brownie recipe I have made. Great flavor, great texture, nothing sacrificed, and in fact the flavor of the chestnut flour may even be an improvement. I can't get over how good these are.
Chestnut Brownies
(This recipe comes from the gluten-free baking cookbook Alternative Baker, as seen on Chocolate and Marrow)
  • 6 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz (230 g) bittersweet chocolate (60–70% cacao mass), chopped (about 11⁄2 cups)
  • 1⁄2 cup (50 g) chestnut flour
  • 2 tbsp (15 g) tapioca flour
3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3⁄4 cup (150 g) organic granulated cane sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper cut to fit widthwise, leaving an overhang on each side. This will make the brownies easy to remove from the pan.
  2. Place the butter in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over the lowest possible heat.* Add the chocolate and let melt together, stirring frequently to prevent the chocolate from scorching. Continue cooking until the mixture is pleasantly warm, but not super hot, to the touch. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Sift the chestnut and tapioca flours into a small bowl and set aside (chestnut flour tends to clump, so don’t skip this step).
  3. Meanwhile, place the eggs, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and whip on medium-high speed until the mixture is very light and fluffy, 5 minutes.** Turn the mixer to low and stir in the vanilla until just combined, then the warm chocolate-butter mixture. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a flexible silicone spatula to give the batter a final stir by hand, scraping the bottom of the bowl and making sure all the flour is incorporated.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake the brownies until the top is puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, 24–30 minutes, taking care not to overbake. Let the brownies cool completely, then use the parchment handles to lift them out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a sharp chef ’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut to slice the brownies into 16 squares.
  5. The brownies keep well, airtight at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 5 days.
*I did this in the microwave at 50% power because I'm not going to risk burning good chocolate!
**Don't skip this time, at last 5 minutes.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Creamed Mushrooms on Low-Carb, Grain-Free Savory Waffles

Back in 2009, I tried for a time to keep up with a separate cooking blog. It was called Jenny Also Cooks, because JennyCooks was taken. I got a request to try making a savory version of my low-carb, gluten-free, grain-free crisp waffles, and I had this memory of creamed mushrooms on waffles. I originally posted it over on my cooking blog, two recipes from the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook - Creamed Mushrooms and Cornmeal Waffles. You can follow that link to make the creamed mushrooms, and I will focus my posting on the savory version of the low-carb waffle, which worked great!

Grain-Free Savory Waffles
(original sweet version here)

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup tapioca starch/flour
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk (unsweetened) or buttermilk
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  1. Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, tapioca starch, and baking powder. Whisk or stir to combine well.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined.
  4. Use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter at a time and use waffle maker as directed.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Banana Chestnut Muffins

Although we are watching it behind the British (so no spoilers please), we are still devoted to reality baking shows, particularly The Great British Bake Off. Did you know that is called The Great British Baking Show in the USA? On Episode 4: Desserts from Series 3, the bakers are instructed to make a dessert without wheat flour. Brendan uses chestnut flour to make a Clementine and Chestnut Torte. My husband and I turned to each other and exclaimed, "Chestnut flour?" You see, my cupboards are full of gluten-free flour options. I've experimented with many alternative flours - tapioca, chickpea, rice, sorghum, coconut, and many nut flours including almond and peanut (hmm, actually, I have purchased the peanut flour; still need to use it!) But I had not heard of chestnut flour. He ordered me some and I've been looking for ways to use it.

Some recipes say some helpful things about chestnut flour - that it needs to be sifted, because it clumps easily. That it is best combined with other flours because it is strong in flavor. That it causes problems similar to coconut flour in the way it absorbed liquids (this was not my experience but I've only used it once so far.) That it evokes a feeling of sweetness, and you may be able to get away with less sugar. That it should be combined with other flours. The recipe I based these muffins on used a small amount of All-Purpose flour, and I used the same amount. I think especially in muffins, that amount could be replaced with tapioca flour or one of the nut flours. I used coconut sugar in place of the sugar mentioned, and only half what was called for. I added an egg based on some of the comments. I also combined the ingredients in a different way. So while I will credit and link you to the originating recipe (Banana Chestnut Cake from Always Order Dessert by Alejandra Ramos), mine is really something different from it!

Banana Chestnut Muffins

Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 cup chestnut flour
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon of coconut oil (melted) or olive oil
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)*
2 over-ripe bananas, smashed and whisked until smooth and creamy
1/4 cup coconut milk or buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a muffin tin or silicone muffin tins.
2. Mash bananas. Stir in oil, eggs, milk, rum, vanilla extract, and coconut sugar.
3. Combine flours with spices and other dry ingredients. Mix into wet ingredients. Stir until no visible flour remains.
4. Fill muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until inside of muffins are not mushy.

*Like usual, I used banana liqueur in place of the vanilla and rum, because I have a giant bottle that would never go away.