Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Daring Bakers June 2013: perfectly pleasing pies!

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie! :)

I knew this month would be a "must-do" because, as I'm sure I've mentioned before, my husband loves pie. Wanted wedding pies instead of a wedding cake kind of love for pie. I've also been wanting to experiment with different pie crusts because I haven't quite found that one recipe that I really like as my go-to. When I was looking through the 4 different recipes Rachael provided, I was intrigued by the crostata. I am always looking for a use for my tart pan and the idea of using fresh summer fruits as a filling really sounded great. I used peaches, plums and blueberries in my crostata, although you can use any combination of fruits or jams that you like! I love a flexible recipe.
When I was making the dough I was so pleased with the fresh smell from the lemon zest and the wonderful texture as I rolled it out. This is a great dough recipe! The only issue I ran into was that my tart pan is a bit bigger than the original recipe called for, so I didn't have quite enough to make the lattice top look great. That could also be due to me being a little lazy with the rolling and cutting and actually putting the lattice pieces on. Either way, I'll definitely be using this dough recipe again!

A quick update on project babies: At the writing of this post, we are 37 weeks into the pregnancy. By the time this gets posted, we will be one day away from holding our two little ones in our arms (or will have had them already! crazy thought!) Now that school is finished for the summer and I am just waiting for labor to begin at any moment, I find myself planning kitchen projects that are a bit more optimistic than the realities of my physical situation will allow. This was a great, simple project that I could handle, even when I can barely reach the counter due to my giant stomach being in the way. I can't roll out dough without having a line of flour on my shirt, nor can I wash dishes by hand without also giving the front of whatever I am wearing a good soaking as well. I don't mind too much, and the babies must be getting lots of happy endorphins from me being in the kitchen, because they are always dancing around when I'm happily cooking away.

Stone Fruit Crostata (filling adapted from Ina Garten's Summer Fruit Crostata )

Pasta Frolla (basic Italian pie pastry)

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 medium lemon
1-2/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
pinch salt

Fruit Filling
1 pint blueberries
1 lb firm peaches (peeled)
1/2 lb firm black plums
1 tbs flour
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs orange juice

1. Using a paddle attachment on a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer or whisk, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 2 -5 minutes. The amount of time you cream the butter will affect the final
dough - longer means lighter which in turn means a softer, more fragile dough which is less easy to work, but I prefer the texture of the cooked pastry this way because it's lighter too. If you want to do a more intricate lattice, I'd recommend a shorter creaming time so you have a firmer dough.

2. Add the egg, vanilla and lemon zest, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

3. Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together but remains soft, about 1 minute using a stand or electric mixer or a wooden spoon if mixing by hand. Don't over-mix.

4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. When getting ready to bake, rest dough at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

5. Lightly grease a shallow metal pie or tart pan. On either a piece of parchment or a lightly floured surface, roll 2/3 of the dough out to a circle to generously line the pie dish.

6. Transfer the dough to the pie dish, press in gently and roll the edges to form a good surface for attaching the lattice later. Prick all over the bottom with a fork.

7. Refrigerate the dough-lined pie dish for 30 minutes to reduce shrinkage during baking. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F.

8. Line pastry with parchment and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake until set, around 15 minutes.

9. Remove the weights and parchment and allow to cool. If using a springform or loose based pie dish, remove the side of the pan.

10. Preheat oven to moderately hot 400°F. Roll the remaining dough to fit the pie dish and cut it into roughly half inch wide strips.

11. Spread the filling over the par-baked crust. Arrange the strips of dough in a lattice over the filling, trim as needed and lightly pinch the ends onto the rolled edge of the bottom crust.

12. Place pie dish on a baking sheet and place in center of oven. Bake until lattice is golden, around 20 minutes.

1. Cut the peaches and plums in wedges and place them in a bowl with the blueberries. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the orange juice. (that's it. simple, right?!)

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Daring Bakers May 2013:Traditional Swedish Prinsesstårta

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesst√•rta!

This one came in just under the wire, kids. As in, I finished the recipe about 5 minutes ago. This month was truly a challenge (as they all have been recently- I know, I know, quit whining about being pregnant and tired) in more ways than one. First, I didn't quite get the sponge cake spongey enough, so it didn't rise as much as it should. Second, I had to make two batches of pastry cream and neither one was up to my standards (although, the second was usable where the first was just disgusting.) Third, I had plans to make and use marshmallow fondant rather than marzipan, which is great, but I've never made nor used marshmallow fondant before so there was a bit of swearing and tantrum throwing before I finally wised up and used enough icing sugar to make it not stick to the counter.
Updated to add this photo of the awesome layers!
We haven't cut into it yet, but I'm excited to try it. I'll edit this post with more photos after we have some. The best part is all the layers inside! I think that with practice this would not be a very difficult cake to make, and it sure looks impressive. I'll put this recipe into the "try again another time" pile and hopefully in the future give it another go. Until then, I'm going to put my feet up and wait the 5 or so more weeks until my own little baking projects arrive!

Here is a link to the recipe on The Daring Kitchen website.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Daring Bakers April 2013: Savarin

Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina challenges us to make a traditional Savarin, complete with soaking syrup and cream filling! We were to follow the Savarin recipe but were allowed to be creative with the soaking syrup and filling, allowing us to come up with some very delicious cakes!

Yep, still alive. Yep, still bad at updating the blog. I kept looking at all the wonderful challenges and telling myself I'd make it later, but then next thing I knew it was the posting date and I hadn't done the challenge. This month I made a concerted effort to find the time to do the challenge and we enjoyed it at a brunch with friends. This was a delicious cake that was well worth the work. This is a great recipe to make when you're in the 3rd trimester with 5 lbs of babies kicking around inside of you and you need to sit down frequently while cooking. 

I decided to simply follow the delicious looking recipe that Natalia had provided, as I was lucky to be doing the challenge in the first place. The peach flavors were a lovely fresh addition to our brunch. I'd definitely like to experiment with different flavor combinations in the future. 

Savarin Servings:8/10

21⁄2 cups  bread flour
2 tablespoons water, lukewarm
6 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1⁄2 satchel  instant yeast 
4 teaspoons sugar
2/3 stick  butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon  orange and lemon zest (optional) 
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup butter for greasing the work surface, hands, dough scraper & baking pan

In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons flour and yeast , cover with cling film and let rise 60 minutes

1. After 30 minutes put the egg whites in the mixer bowl and start working with the paddle at low speed adding flour until you have a soft dough that sticks to the bowl (about 2 cups) and work until it comes together , cover with cling film and let rest 30 min
2. Add the sponge to the mixer bowl along with a tablespoon of flour and start mixing at low speed (if you wish to add the zests do it now)
3. When it starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl add one yolk and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour
4. Add the second yolk , the sugar and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour
5. Raise the speed a little
6. Add the third yolk and the salt and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour
7. Keep on adding one yolk at the time and the flour saving a tablespoon of flour for later
8. Mix the dough until is elastic and makes “threads”
9. Add the butter at room temperature and as soon as the butter is adsorbed add the last tablespoon of flour
10. Keep on mixing till the dough passes the “window pane test”
11. Cover the dough with cling film and let it proof until it has tripled in volume (2 to 3 hours)
12. You can prepare the Pastry cream now if you chose to use it, and refrigerate it
13. While you wait prepare your baking pan buttering it very carefully not leaving too much
butter on it
14. Grease your dough scraper, your hands and your work surface and put the dough on it and fold with the Dough Package Fold two or three times around (5 folds twice or three times). Cover with cling foil and let it rest 15 minutes on the counter
15. Turn the dough upside down and with the help of your buttered dough scraper shape your dough  in a rounded bun
16. Make a hole in the center with your thumb and put it in the prepared pan
17. Cover with cling film and let rise in a warm spot until the dough reaches the top of the pan (about 1 hour)
18. Pre-heat oven to moderate 340°F
19. Bake the Savarin for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown
20. Meanwhile prepare the Syrup
21. When the Savarin is done take it out of the oven and let it cool.
22. You have two choices now : you can immerse it in syrup right now or you can let it dry out (so
it will lose some of his moisture that will be replaced by the syrup) and soak it later on.
23. To immerse it in syrup it is a good idea to place it in the mold you baked it in (I’m afraid a
spring-form one wouldn’t work for this) and keep adding ladles of syrup until you see it along the rim of the pan. Or you can just soak it in a big bowl keeping your ladle on top of it so it doesn’t float. Once the Savarin is really well soaked carefully move it on a cooling rack positioned over a pan to let the excess syrup drip.
24. The soaked Savarin gains in flavor the next day
25. Whatever you decide the day you want to serve it glaze it and fill the hole with your filling of
choice and decorate it. You can serve the Savarin with some filling on the side.
26. Enjoy it!

Peach Flavored Syrup:
Servings: 1 savarin
11⁄2 cups peach tea
11⁄2 cups peach juice
11⁄2 cups water
1 cup sugar 
zest of one lemon
one cinnamon stick

1. Combine tea, water, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil
2. Let boil 5 minutes and remove from the stove
3. When cooled a bit add the peach juice.

Servings:1 savarin
2 tablespoons apricot Jam 
2 tablespoons water
1. In a saucepan mix jam and water and warm up
2. When the savarin is cool and soaked brush it with the glaze

Pastry Cream and Chantilly:
Servings: 1 savarin plus some for serving
2 cups milk
1⁄4 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch 
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup  heavy cream

1. In a saucepan bring to a boil milk and sugar
2. In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and sugar
3. Add the hot milk to the eggs one tablespoon at the time to temper it
4. Pour in the saucepan again and bring to a boil stirring constantly
5. When the cream thickens remove from the stove
6. Put cling film onto the cream (touching the surface) and cool
7. Pour 1 cup cold heavy cream in mixer bowl with the whisk attachment
8. Beat until whipped
9. Combine with the cooled pastry cream adding a tablespoon at the time of whipped cream until it gets to the right consistency. (or it looks right to you!)

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
You can store the dried savarin for 5 days in a closed container. If you have soaked it cover well with cling foil and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daring Bakers January 2013: Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

Well, this is not only the first challenge of the new year, but it is also my first challenge back post the  nausea and exhaustion of my first trimester. At the holidays I really wanted to try December's challenge, but since my family was coming for the first official Christmas in our new house and I didn't feel well in general I knew it wasn't going to happen. But when I saw that the January challenge was a Dutch recipe, I knew that it was a sign. I was going to feel better someday and I would finally rejoin the ranks of Daring Bakers the world over. You see, I'm some percentage Dutch and anytime I get a chance to make a recipe with a nod to my heritage I'm very excited.

Two Christmases ago I made speculaas cookies simply because they were a Dutch cookie. And I fell in love with the spice mixture. I love how all these spices work so well together and none takes over the flavor completely. So when I saw that this was January's challenge, I was in!

This was the perfect recipe to test the waters of being back in the kitchen. You can do it in small steps, which I really appreciated since one of the twins has decided that they like pinching a nerve on the left side of my body and my leg goes numb when I stand too long. It is a recipe that can even be done over the course of a couple days, although I did it it just one.

The spice mixture which takes this just from a simple spice cake to out of this world delicious is very easy to put together and store what you don't use. Reading through the recipe, I noticed that the spices could be used in a cheesecake. My mouth started watering. Definitely make more than you need because you will want to use them again!

Speculaas Spices
Speculaas spices can be bought in a store. But it's more fun to make your own mixture, so that you can adjust the flavor. Here is a representative recipe from the extensive Dutch tradition.

Mandatory spices: cinnamon, ground cloves, mace, ginger
Optional spices: white pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise, nutmeg
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

Almond Paste

7/8 cup raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups ground almonds)
5/8 cup  granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.

1. Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)

2. Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.

3. Add the egg and lemon zest and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.

Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.

Speculaas Dough

1¾ cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
¾ cup (1½ stick) unsalted butter


1. Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Cut the butter in dices and add.
2. Knead until smooth. Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
3. Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas

speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration 1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch or, round with 10 inch diameter

1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.

6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)

9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.

12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A different kind of baking

So, friends. You have probably noticed (or just not, because in the absence of posts, my blog doesn't show up in readers) that I have been quiet lately.

That is because I have been working on a project that has taken up pretty much all of my energy and even made me not want to be in the kitchen all that much lately. I have been cooking and baking, of course it was the holiday season, the kitchen has been busy. But I haven't been up to documenting.

I've been working on a long term project, that won't even be ready until this summer for the debut. As projects usually do, this one got even bigger than I had expected it to in December. This long term project- a nine month project to be exact- turned out to be not one, but TWO babies in my future. My husband and I found out that we were expecting twins on the Fateful Day of Monday, December 3rd, and our lives haven't been the same since.

I hope you can understand that wrapping your head around twins takes quite a bit of time. I've been lucky enough to not be too sick, but food has not been appetizing for quite a while now. Some days getting everything ready for spaghetti and meatballs was too much for my queasy stomach to handle. Understandably, mega kitchen projects like Daring Bakers and Cooks were just not going to be manageable. I'm hoping that as I ease into the next phase of this pregnancy in my second trimester I can be back in the kitchen.

So here's a little image of what I've been busy making. I've got a little bunk bed in my belly, I guess. 

Happy New Year!