Saturday, January 19, 2019

Madeira Cake with the Cake Slice Bakers

It's a new month and a new year, so we are now baking from a new book, The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. If you can bake with butter and mascarpone cheese and cream cheese then you will be in heaven with this book. There are fairly simple cakes and cakes with nuts, cakes with fresh fruit, fancy get the idea. Unfortunately I didn't have any idea that out of 65 recipes there are only 14 that I think I can bake...and some of those 14 use cream cheese which I might be able to find a very expensive non-dairy version I am left feeling sad knowing that I might have a month when none of the choices (we have four a month) are ones I can bake. This is particularly humorous because I was one of the bakers who advocated for this book choice!

The good news is that this month there was one recipe that I could make and it is a delightful, delicious madeira cake with lemon. It is a bit of a drizzle cake, too, since the syrup used to cook the candied lemon slices or peel is also used to drizzle over the cake to give it extra moisture and flavor. The texture of this cake is very tender, delicate and moist with a very tight crumb, similar to a pound cake. The addition of lemon zest and lemon juice, plus the candied lemon ensures that there is a good, bright lemon flavor.

The recipe called for two eight-inch layers, the drizzle, a glaze, and the candied lemon slices. Since I knew that I wanted to give away most of the cake (Sweetie continues to lose weight and I'm still doing OK, too, although at a much slower pace), I decided to bake the batter in small Bundt pans. I still used the drizzle, just 1/3 the amount, and I candied some lemon peel using a method of removing the peels that I saw on a Great British Baking Show masterclass. The lemon peel went on the top of the cakes, using the moist glaze (also about 1/3 the amount in the recipe) to 'glue the pieces' to the cake.

This is sure to be a recipe I bake often, especially at this time of year when lemons are fresh and wonderful. Next time I'll try it with Meyer lemons since they are in season now. Do consider baking this yourself. It makes a great after dinner dessert or tea time treat. The first give-away has already happened since I gave one of the small cakes to a friend yesterday afternoon. She was delighted. You'll be delighted if you try this recipe yourself!

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

This month our choices included Bird's Milk Torte, Chocolate St. Honore' Cake, Madeira Cake and Torte Birne' Helene.

Madeira Cake
from The European Cake Cookbook

1 cup unsalted butter, softened (I used non-dairy margarine)
1 cup sugar
zest from 1 lemon
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
1 3/4 cups (219 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (48 g) almond flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (I used 3 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 335 degrees F (168 degrees C). Line two 8-inch (20 cm) round cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides. (I used four small Bundt pans, spray oil that includes flour.)

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter. In a small bowl rub the sugar and lemon zest together (this is not how the recipe was written, but it works well). Add sugar mixture to the butter and cream until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the lemon oil and the sour cream. Mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. (This works well with a scale that has a tare feature so that you can return to zero. Each ingredient just gets put in when zeroed.) Whisk together. Add to the butter batter and mix until just combined. Use a rubber or silicone spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bow and the beaters and then use the spatula to combine everything with a few more strokes.

Divide the batter between the pans. Level the tops and rap pan on counter a couple of times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes (less for the small Bundt pans...about 25-30 minutes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the layers completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile prepare the candied lemon peel (or slices in the regular recipe - just increase sugar and water by 2/3, add thinly sliced lemons and cook 7-8 minutes. Remove and cool). Peel the lemon skin into thin strips. In a saucepan place 1/2 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then add the peel and cook over low heat 7-8 minutes. Peel will be limp. Remove peel to a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper and immediately sprinkle with granulated sugar. Let dry for 1/2 hour, then roll peel in the sugar to coat and set aside on a clean piece of paper to dry. Add the juice of 1 lemon to the sugar water. Keep the sugar water for drizzling over the cake.

While the cake cools and the peel dries, measure 2 cups confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Juice a lemon - you should have 1/4 cup, so juice another if needed.

When the cakes are cool, make sure the syrup is thin and sugar is dissolved. (If not, heat it again to dissolve sugar). Drizzle half syrup over each layer. For Bundt cakes drizzle 1/4 syrup over each small cake.

Put layer on serving plate. Mix some of the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar and stir vigorously. Add juice, a very small amount at a time, mixing well after each addition, until glaze is desired thinness. Pour half over first layer, add second layer and pour rest over it, then arrange candied slices around the edge of cake. For Bundt cakes, drizzle glaze over each small cake, then decorate with small pieces of the candied peel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Play with Garnet Yams and Onions

The delightful bread that our Kitchen of the Month, Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen, is an unusual combination of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (garnet yams in my case) with that wonderful golden color, and caramelized onions. It has the fascinating name of Elbow-lick Sandwich Bread because the author made a juicy tomato sandwich with it and the tomato juices ran down her arm all the way to her elbow.

The bread is on the slack side, so I ended up with a flattish donut shape. The crumb is moist and the flavor is strong but good. This one took a lot of kneading and I even added an extra half cup of whole wheat flour towards the end of kneading so that it would hold it's shape enough to be shaped into a round with a hole in the middle. It rose a bit in the oven but was still pretty flat. You can really taste the onions in this bread, so be sure that you like onions in your bread (or just skip putting them should still be a great bread).

I used active dry yeast since my sourdough starter bit the dust a while ago. Using commercial yeast (a bit more that what was called for since this bread has a lot of veggie mass to lift) worked well and meant I didn't need to do the float test. I did some kneading in the mixer and some on a board.

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes blogs to see what they did with this bread. If they followed the directions (I didn't...are you surprised??), there should be loaves with the marks from having the dough rise in bannetons. Some will have holes, some not, but I bet they will all be great breads.

If you want to be a Buddy, contact Elizabeth after you have baked the bread and taken a photo or two of it, and send her an email with a short description of your experience baking the bread and attach the photo(s). Deadline is January 29th.

Wishing you a Happy New Year of bread baking!

Elbow Lick Sandwich Bread
based on the recipe for Sweet Potato Onion Bread in "Deep Run Roots" by Vivian Howard for 1 loaf  


·                     spoonful (10ml or so) active natural wheat starter at 100% hydration (OR 0.5gm (1/8 tsp) active dry yeast)
·                     60gm (60ml) water, body temperature
·                     60gm (118ml) 100% whole wheat flour
Sweet Potato 

·                     1 five-inch-long orange sweet potato (about)
Caramelized Onions 

·                     375gm (2.5 large) onions, diced
·                     7gm (1.5 tsp) sunflower oil
·                     3gm Kosher salt (0.5 tsp table salt)

·                     232gm (400ml) bread flour, OR 225gm unbleached all-purpose + 7gm vital wheat gluten
·                     5gm (10ml) wheat germ
·                     200gm (200ml) water at body temperature, divided (hold back about 18gm for mixing in the salt)
·                     All of the Starter from above
·                     7gm (5 ml) honey
·                     9gm Kosher salt (1.5 tsp table salt) + 18 gm (18ml) from above  
·                     120 ml (~100gm) roasted sweet potato puree
·                     All of the caramelized onions from above
1.             leavener IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Put the starter (or active dry yeast, if you're using that) and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon. Use the wooden spoon to stir the flour in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on.
2.             sweet potato IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the ends off of the sweet potato and place it whole on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tender. This should take about 45 minutes. Vivian Howard wrote the following:
Once you start to smell them, probably after about 45 minutes, give the potatoes a look. My mom always looked for a little of their juice to have leached out and caramelized, but that is more romantic than necessary. When the potatoes are done, their skins should have separated slightly from their flesh and they should pierce easily with a knife or fork.
Slice the baked sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside in a cool place until the next morning. 
3.             onions IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Heat oil for onions in a cast iron pan. Add the onions and salt and caramelize the onions over medium heat until they are golden brown. Vivian Howard says this will take 30-40 minutes. Set aside in a cool place until the next morning.
4.             mix the dough IN THE MORNING OF THE DAY YOU WILL BE MAKING THE BREAD: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float. (If you have used active dry yeast, you can safely skip the floating test.) Put flour, wheat germ, all but 18ml water, leavener, honey, sweet potato puree into a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
5.             adding the salt: In a small bowl, whisk the salt into the final 18gm (18 ml) water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.
  1. kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
  2. stretching and folding the dough and adding the onions: Put a quarter of onions on top of the dough and turn it by folding the dough into the center. Let sit 20 minutes. Repeat at 20 minute intervals until all the onions are in the dough. You'll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Once all the onions are added, leave the covered bowl in the oven - with only the light turned on - for a couple of hours to allow the dough to double. (A good way to tell if the dough is reading to shape is to run your index finger under water, then poke a hole in the center of the dough. If the hole disappears immediately, the dough still need to rise. If there is a slight whooshing sound and the hole remains in place, the dough has probably over-risen. If the hole very very gradually begins to close, the dough is ready to shape.
  3. prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, you can use any other kind of flour. Note that higher gluten level make it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket....
  4. pre-shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and let the ball rest for about 20 minutes.
  5. shaping: Without breaking the skin, tighten the ball further. Place it seam side UP in the well floured (rice) brot-form. Sprinkle the reserved bran evenly over the top of the bread. Loosely wrap the shaped loaf with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on for 3 or 4 hours (until it has about doubled and there are bubbles). Please note that Vivian Howard shapes her bread into rounds with holes in the center:
    Shape [the dough] into a round. Let [it] rest for 10 minutes. [...]Line [a baking sheet] with parchment and dust with flour. Stick your finger through the center of [the dough ball]. [...] Stretch it slightly to form a little hole. Transfer that dough round to the baking sheet and continue to carefully stretch the center into a 3-inch hole. Your bread round at this point will look like a giant flat doughnut." 
    - Vivian Howard, Deep Run Roots, Chapter 14: Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato Onion Bread
  6. baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, for the round loaf, put combo cooker (or a cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl) into the oven and preheat all to 400F.
  7. When the oven is preheated about fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper (the bran covered part will now be on the bottom). Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop...). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the lid of the combo-cooker (or stainless steel bowl) overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven on the middle rack and immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake for 40-50 minutes in all, removing the hat half-way through baking. Turn the oven down to 350F when you remove the hat. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

:: why hand mixing? These instructions, as usual, do not mention using an electric mixer: I don't have one; I don't know how to use one. But of course, if you want to use your electric mixer for mixing and kneading, you should do so.  
:: brotform: If you do not have a brotform, you can use Jim Lahey's method for proofing the shaped loaf: he coats a parchment covered cookie sheet with bran, than shapes his loaf into a ball and places it seam side down onto the bran. He scatters a little more bran on top before covering the shaped loaf loosely with a clean tea towel. He lets it sit at room temperature that way until it has almost doubled in size. Or, you can use Vivian Howard's idea to place the bread on a flour covered parchment papered cookie sheet....  
:: cooking container: If you're lucky enough to have Le Creuset or a cast-iron combo cooker, of course, you should use that. But if you don't, do use your cast-iron pan and cover the bread with an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl for the first half of baking. The dome creates a steam chamber that encourages oven spring.  
:: oven temperature and baking times: Howard suggests preheating the oven to 450F and baking for a total of about 30 minutes at 450F. Because of the presence of honey and sweet potato, and fear of scorching, I lowered the oven temperature.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Maple Works for Winter

Having experience five years of drought (and a major wildland fire just over a year ago that was so major partly due to that drought) in the not too distant past, it is understandable that everyone I meet in Sonoma County is thrilled that this winter seems to be a rainy one. December was a bit dry, but the New Year has seen a goodly amount of storms and this week we are supposed to have rain for seven days running. Since all except a tiny bit of our precipitation happens in the fall and winter, this is good news.

The flip side is that it feels damp and chilly. A great time to make soup and stew and braises of all sorts, plus a good time to bake. A few days ago I baked some Maple Blondies using a new recipe I found in the Holiday 2018 issue of Sift, the King Arthur Flour publication that has so many tempting recipes. This was part of an article on maple syrup and it included lots of recipes including a Maple Oat Bread that I'll probably be baking soon.

Maple syrup, the real kind, not the ersatz pancake syrup kind, is made from maple tree sap that is boiled down until it is a syrup. The sap starts flowing towards the end of winter, so I always think of maple as a winter flavor. This recipe has maple syrup in the blondies themselves and in the optional glaze (which I skipped), plus maple flavoring. I don't care for the way maple flavor tastes, so I substituted pure vanilla and that worked out well.

These are a firm, springy kind of blondie with a close crumb. The chopped walnuts add both flavor and crunch. The maple flavor develops over time. The blondie I ate the day I made them was OK, but the ones that were in an airtight tin which sat in a drawer for a few days were excellent and very much immersed in full maple flavor.

These are easy to make. For one less bowl to wash, sift the dry ingredients together onto a large piece of waxed paper. Gather up the sides of the waxed paper and you can slide the dry ingredients into the butter mixture when it is time and then re-use the paper to wrap some of the cooled blondies for lunch boxes if you like.

Just be sure to read the recipe carefully. I forgot to add the maple syrup at the right time, so I had to add it to the batter later, which may have changed the texture a bit.

Happy snacking!

Maple Nut Blondies
from Holiday 2018 Sift, a King Arthur Flour publication
Makes sixteen 2" squares

1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter (I used non-dairy margarine)
3/4 cup (5 5/8 oz) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 5/8 oz) maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon maple flavor (I used same amount of vanilla extract)
3/4 cup (3 oz) chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8" square pan.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl in the microwave, or a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Remove from the heat and stir in the syrup.

Let cool to lukewarm, then stir in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla (or maple if you are using maple flavoring).

Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until evenly combined. Stir in the nuts.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the top is shiny and the edges just begin to pull away from the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting.

Optional: Make a glaze by whisking together 1 cup (4 oz) confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons (1 3/8 oz) maple syrup and 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream (using enough liquid to get a pourable consistency) and drizzle over the cooled bars.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

January Musings

There is something about cold, rainy weather that allows me to reduce my expectations for myself enough that there is room for introspection. It's sort of like new years resolutions, but different because I'm not actually making any promises to myself for behaviours, just reviewing how its worked out with the way I've been doing things.

This past year was a good one as far as art is concerned since I finished both the large sea paintings and the smaller portrait. I've already decided on at least two projects for this year and will probably start next week.

Although the photo above is from a few years ago, we do have these sheep and a few others eating the rich green grass that is the result of all the rain we have been having. We are fond of them and, except in the morning when they are hungry and want their hay, they are quiet and lovely to have around. With additional fencing recently installed and provided by G & AM (the sheeps' owners) Sweetie will now be able to skip mowing the hillside facing the back deck, so it is a win-win. He feeds them a half flake of hay in the morning, so the sheep are very fond of Sweetie, too.

This past week has been a study in putting Christmas away. One day it was clearing the greenery and apples and pomegranates, another day taking down the tree and storing the ornaments, another day the garlands on the front porch, another day the wreaths, another day (today) taking down the Christmas cards and cutting off the fronts to send to a friend who recycles them in cards for next year. She is a true artist and so they don't look recycled at all when she is finished. Somewhere in there the contents of the liquor cabinet that were moved to the hutch for the holidays (since the Christmas tree would have made it impossible to get into the cabinet) were moved back into the cabinet. Still need to update the changes in the Christmas card list when we found that a few people had moved without our knowing about it. There might be one gift to return or exchange, too. When I was working this would all have happened over one weekend, but now I have the luxury to spin it out over a whole week! One of the joys of retirement. Of course part of the reason is that it seems to take twice as long to do anything as it used to.

This coming week will include the baking of a new bread and maybe a cake. The Bread Baking Babes have a good one for January and the Cake Slice Bakers are starting on an new book! I've also transcribed a recipe that Charlie wants a taste of from the Great British Baking Show master classes.

 I've also been having fun looking through travel books about London as I prepare for a potential trip there this year. With Brexit looking very volatile, it's hard to know when the trip will happen. I was hoping for May but if the UK does a 'hard' Brexit at the end of March with no 'divorce agreement' then it may be months and months before it makes sense to visit. They are projecting shortages and employment problems and other upheavals that don't make spring in England very appealing. Still, it's always fun to see what is recommended and to plan which sights I'd like to see and activities I'd like to do when I do get there.

Cooking has been pretty much already posted recipes like Turkey Pot Pie, Pizza (and I still haven't found a good non-dairy replacement for pizza cheese), Split Pea Soup, along with plenty of green salads. Sweetie continues to lose weight and only has five pounds to go to reach his goal. I've lost a few pounds myself and find that I have to keep hoisting my jeans up when I get out of the car or get up from a chair because the waistline is too loose now. A nice 'problem' to have.

Hope to have a recipe for you in the next post. Want to share what you have been up to the last 10-12 days?

Friday, January 04, 2019

Delicious Without Dairy

It's been about three years now that I have known that I have a severe dairy allergy. It does limit the ingredients available, especially for baking, but that has challenged me to see what I can do with alternatives to dairy while still baking delicious things to eat.

A few days ago I visited a wonderful bakery where everything is made from scratch with high quality ingredients. They make super special cakes for special occasions so I wanted to see if they ever bake without dairy so that I could order something. I was told, kindly, that they never bake without dairy because they don't feel that they can maintain the quality and 'if it was easy everyone would be doing it'. Fair enough. It isn't easy, but I know that most people can't tell if I've baked with butter or not. Baked goods carefully made with non-dairy ingredients can be really delicious!

Last Wednesday I provided cookies for a punch and cookies reception after a meeting our our scholarship group, P.E.O. In case you have forgotten...or never knew... receptions for things like baby or bridal showers and sometimes even for weddings used to be fairly simple and the refreshments were usually punch and cookies or cake, plus tiny pillow mints and maybe a small bowl of nuts. I wonder if we should think about going back to that low key style of entertaining for more occasions. It's is relatively inexpensive and easy.

I made lemon bars with non-dairy margarine (located near the punch in the photo above). They were the first thing to go so obviously no one knew that there was no butter in them. I also made a refrigerator cookie with red and green cherries (yes, baked for Christmas, but still delicious since they had been stored in an airtight cookie tin) that had butter in them. Those went quickly too. Some Spritz cookie in the shape of a flower also made with butter didn't get eaten very much at all, but Linzer Bars without butter were eaten right up! This leads me to believe that cookies can easily be delicious without dairy.

Cakes and pies can also be delicious when made with non-dairy margarine and with soy milk creamer or almond creamer instead of whole milk or half and half creamer. I have even successfully made ganache (chocolate melted and mixed with whipping cream) using chocolate and soy creamer. A friend makes a whipped cream substitute from chickpea canning liquid (aquafaba) but I find that it doesn't hold up very long, so is OK if you are eating it right away.

I also cook savory things with the unflavored soy creamer, but it still has a slight sweetness to it, so I always check the seasonings and add some lemon juice or vinegar or salt and pepper as needed.

My most favorite non-dairy cake of late is this lovely one that has custard and apples on the bottom and a light sponge layer on top. Do try it with either dairy or without dairy - it's a winner and perfect for winter when apples are so delicious. One of the key bits of this recipe is to microwave the sliced apples a bit until they are pliable, so don't skip that step. Also, remember to remove part of the batter to another bowl so that you have it for adding the flour to for the top sponge layer.

French Apple Cake
from The Perfect Cake, America's Test Kitchen
serves 8-10

1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced 1/8 inch thick crosswise
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 oz) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup (7 oz) plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup [1 stick/8 tablespoons] non-dairy margarine, melted and cooled, plus 1/2 cup plain vegetable oil)
1 cup whole milk (I used Silk Original [unflavored] soy creamer)
1 large egg, plus 2 large yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
confectioners' sugar

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray 9-inch spring form pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Place apples in microwave safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apples with rum and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.

Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.  whisk oil, milk, whole egg and vanilla in second large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture to milk mixture and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to third bowl and set aside.

Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan, using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer and smooth surface.

Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan, spreading batter evenly to pan edges, and smooth surface.

Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.

Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1 1/4 hours, but check at 45 minutes and keep checking until done.

Let cake cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run thin knife around edge of pan to loosen cake, then let cool completely 2-3 hours. Remove sides of pan and slide thin metal spatula between cake bottom and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto platter. Dust cake lightly with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Favorite New/Old Recipe for 2018

Here we are in 2019 and I'm glad to be in January, but I realized that I never did a round-up of 2018. Instead I'm going to tell you my favorite post of 2018. When I first made this onion tart I used puff pastry as called for in the recipe, but I found, in March of 2018, that a regular pie crust works even better. The filling is the same because I've yet to find a savory tart filling I like better. This one has lots of onions (caramelized), white wine,  bacon 'Hello! Bacon!', honey and a nice yogurt based base so that you have creamy, sweet, savory, salty, flaky deliciousness. With pre-made pie crust it is a fairly easy recipe, too. If you haven't tried it, here is the may want to see why it's my fave for 2018.

This year I posted 82 recipes or links to recipes on this blog. Most were actual recipes, new ones at that. If you have checked out my index you'll see that I have been terrible at keeping it up to date. Part of the reason is that adding about 82 new links per year is a chore that takes more time than I have to devote to it. Sorry about that, but for about the last five years you can just click on the sidebar calendar of months and many posts have a descriptive title to help you know what is posted. Play around, wander around...and you might find a new favorite recipe yourself.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Almost New Years

Amazing how quickly days fly by, especially during the holidays. Had a great Christmastide with family, especially Sweetie, our daughter, and Straight Shooter, and with friends/family and with friends/neighbors and with friends/friends. Lots of baking and cooking and festivities.

The photo above is of some of the Christmas cookies I baked. Katherine helped decorate the gingerbread ones, including the Ugly Christmas Sweater series she did. On this plate it's right in the middle, looking festive. Actually one of the cookies (on the right with the mini peanut butter cups) isn't one of mine, but a regifting when I needed just one more cookie for the plate. The rest of the gifted cookies were delicious and quickly eaten. No recipe for that...sorry.

This is the only new cookie I made this year - Gluten Free Chocolate-Dipped Almond Crescents. Found the recipe in the newspaper and it uses almond paste and almonds and the ends get dipped in melted chocolate. Awesome and delicious. Here is a photo of the last piece! The whole cookie is shown on the cookie plate at the top. This recipe only makes 1 dozen cookies, which really isn't enough, so plan on making two batches once your friends and family get a taste. Recipe is below.

Wishing you and yours a delightful New Year dear reader!   XO, Elle

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Dipped Almond Crescents
from Kim Laidlaw, a Petaluma, CA-based food writer. Reach her at

1 cup sliced almonds
7 oz. almond paste (I used and 8 oz. package and it was fine.)
2 oz. almond flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional but good)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sliced almonds into a shallow bowl and lightly crush them with your hand.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the almond paste, almond flour, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture becomes grainy, about 3 minutes.

Add the egg white and beat until the mixture smooths out, about 2 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 oz.  Roll each piece into a log that is about 4 inches long. Roll the logs into the crushed sliced almonds, then place on the prepared baking sheet, forming each piece into a U shape. Space the cookies apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, checking at about 12 minutes to make sure nuts are not getting too browned. If they are, place a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the cookies.

Let cool on the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate chips (in the microwave or the top of a double boiler with the bottom simmering with a small amount of boiling water) and stir until smooth. Dip the ends or the base of the cooled cookies into the chocolate. Let dry on parchment or waxed paper. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Raspberry Kringle With Almond for Christmas

For years we would buy an Entenmann's Raspberry Danish to serve on Christmas along with our fruit salad, scrambled eggs and bacon. Then they stopped making that pastry (or stopped selling it here...not sure which) and I had to figure out a substitute.

Until a few years ago the search was unsuccessful. Pastries from other sources were just not good enough and my attempt at making one was also less than successful.

Two years ago I saw that King Arthur Flour website had a recipe for a Pecan and caramel Kringle that sounded delicious and I decided to see if I could adapt it to make a Raspberry and Almond version. It was good, so last year I repeated it but baked it on Christmas morning...not so successful because I was distracted.

This year I baked it on Christmas Eve in the evening and then let it sit in the microwave overnight, then finished the raspberry jam, toasted almond slices and lemon glaze in the morning. It was exceptional! Pastry on the bottom, a hidden bit of almond paste gave a great almond flavor and additional texture, then puff pastry on top puffed up in the oven but sank overnight which made it easy to spoon on raspberry jam and spread it out, then top with the almond, then drizzle with the glaze. The hint of lemon in the glaze went so well with the other flavors. I highly recommend this pastry! Don't wait for next Christmas...invent an excuse to bake it.

There are six parts to this pastry, but each is easy, so relax and take them one at a time.

First you make the pastry bottom. Cut or rub the cold butter or margarine into the flour mixture just like for pie crust, then sprinkle the water in a little at a time, as you should do for pie crust. Gather the moist bits together and shape with wet hand into a ring on the prepared sheet pan or pizza pan.

Secondly you create a rope of almond paste by rolling it with your hands into a rope on a surface lightly dusted with confectioners' sugar. The rope gets flattened a bit, then placed in the center of the pastry ring.

The third part isn't difficult, but you need to have everything ready when you start. You will be making the same kind of dough used for cream puffs and eclairs. It starts out being cooked in a pot, then gets transferred to a bowl, where you beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a wooden spoon. That mixture gets spooned and smoothed over the ring, completely enclosing it, and then all the components, now joined, get baked until medium golden brown like the photo above (although this photo above shows a kringle that has cooled and deflated a bit).

At this point you can put the pastry aside as I did, or you can let it cool and then put on the jam, almonds and glaze. The kringle with jam and almonds is shown below and the finished kringle at the top. Have fun with it! You can change the kind of jam and it will still be delicious!

Almond Raspberry Kringle
Based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine, cut into pats
  • 1 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 4 oz. almond paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) non-dairy margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • about 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2-3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 cup confectioners'  sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy milk, enough to make a thick but pourable glaze
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet that's at least 18" x 13"; or a 14" round pizza pan.
  2. To make the base: Combine the margarine, flour, sugar and salt, mixing until crumbly. I used a pastry blender to cut the fat into the flour mixture. Add the water, and stir to make a soft, sticky dough. I used a fork and added the water slowly as I do for pie crust.
  3. Wet your hands, pick up the dough, and shape it into a 12" x 8" oval ring on the sheet pan; or a 10" ring in the pizza pan. This will be messy going, but just keep wetting your fingers and pushing it into a ring. An easy way to approach this is to first divide the dough into four pieces; roll each piece into a 9" rope, then connect the ropes and shape them into a ring.
  4. Once you've made the ring, flatten the dough so it's about 1 1/2" wide; basically, it'll look like a train or NASCAR track. Make a thin rope out of the almond paste and put it over the dough, connecting the ends so that the whole 'track' has a ring of almond paste in the middle of the track.
  5. To make the pastry topping: Place the water, margarine, and salt in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the margarine is melted and the mixture is boiling.
  6. Immediately add the flour, stirring with a spatula until the mixture is cohesive and starts to form a ball.
  7. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the almond extract at the end.
  8. Spread the pastry along the ring, covering it and the almond paste completely; you'll now have a much wider ring, though it won't be completely closed in the center; it should still look like a ring.
  9. Bake the kringle for 50 to 60 minutes, until it's a deep golden brown. When the kringle is done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool completely on the pan.
  10. To add the filling: First, have the sliced almonds all ready beside the pan of kringle; you'll be sprinkling them atop the jam as soon as you put it on.

  1. Stir the jam with a fork to break it up and then spread it over the kringle in a thin, even layer, mostly in the middle. Sprinkle sliced almonds atop the raspberry jam, pressing them in gently. Allow the kringle to cool completely.
  2. To make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners' sugar, salt, flavor almond extract and enough soy milk to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle it over the kringle.
  3. To serve, cut the kringle in 2" slices.

If you prefer, you can bake the base, almond paste and cooked dough topping the day before serving, then wrap well and let sit on the counter overnight. In the morning add the jam and glaze. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you, dear reader, a very merry Christmas and a most happy holiday season!

Twas a busy day in our household because not only did we meet with our neighbors about hosting more sheep, but we  moved furniture to make room for the tree and then brought in the tree in a rainstorm, decorated cookies while the tree drip dried, did laundry, decorated the tree (see photo above) - (it's a family tradition to decorate on Christmas Eve.)

We also wrapped a few packages (but not enough- more to wrap tomorrow morning...the advantage of only having adults for Christmas), had some lovely soup for dinner along with fresh green beans, put away all the Christmas decoration boxes until Epiphany, arranged the nativity scene on the hutch, and finished up with me baking a kringle for tomorrow's breakfast.

A fun and festive day but a tiring one. Christmas Day this year will be very laid back!

Do you have Christmas traditions you'd like to share in the comments?

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Cake Slice Bakers December Cakes

I'm supposed to have a different title for the post, one which includes the name of the cake I baked, but this month I'm not able to because I baked two different cakes from our 2018 book, The Perfect Cake. In December we get to choose from the whole book. Turns out that I needed a cake for two parties so I baked two cakes! One was so good that I'll be making it again for Christmas with family. The other was spectacular looking, but wasn't as delicious. It's still a good chocolate cake, just not a great one. It didn't really have a strong chocolate flavor despite the fact that I used a large quantity of chocolate for both the cake and the ganache icing. Sweetie said that I've baked better and that's what I was feeling, too.

The first cake, the one that looked a little rustic but which everyone loved, is French Apple Cake on Pg. 182. It's pictured above and at the top of the post. Look at those thin apple slices interlaced with the custard. See how appealing the golden top crust with sugar is?  I used Granny Smith apples, just as required, some rum instead of Calvados, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. This cake is very moist with an apple and custard base and a bit of sponge cake on top. You get those two textures by taking some of the batter and setting it aside before adding the apples and egg yolks to the larger amount. The apples have been briefly microwaved first so that they are a lovely soft but firm texture when baked instead of crisp as they might be if not microwaved. The remaining batter gets some extra flour which seems to lighten it. The top gets nice and golden brown, too. That might be because of the sugar sprinkled on. All in all, a really delicious cake with great textural contrast.

The second one, which is the Chocolate-Raspberry Torte, is similar to a flourless chocolate cake, but it does have ground almonds and a bit of flour. It's very lovely to look at but disappointing when eaten. Even with a full 8 oz of best quality bittersweet chocolate and another 5 oz for the glaze, the chocolate flavor wasn't strong. I did use the called for amount of espresso powder, too. The other problem was the filling. By combining uncooked, crushed raspberries and raspberry jam, the filling was very liquid and it tended to squish out when I was cutting the cake. It did add a nice sharp note to a pretty heavy, uninspired chocolate cake. This cake looked really pretty, but left something to be desired in the taste. 

In case you want those glazed raspberries on your next cake, just melt a small amount of the raspberry jam in a small bowl (I used the microwave), then paint each berry with the glaze. This way you'll get the jam glaze on the berries, but not the ganache glaze. 

The toasted almonds on the side are fiddly, but look so professional. Just remember to put the sifted nuts in a small bowl to work from. 

I kept them in the strainer and then proceeded to sift tiny bits of nuts onto my beautiful smooth glaze as I patted the nuts onto the sides! Fortunately it still looked great, just not perfect. Perfect is overrated anyway.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through.  This year it is The Perfect Cake from America's Test Kitchen #atkcake.  We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can also click on the thumbnail pictures below to take you to each of our cakes, or visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details.

No recipes, as usual, since the America's Test Kitchen folks asked us not to post any.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Babes Bake Donuts For December

Every month on the 16th the Bread Baking Babes bake a different bread for your enjoyment. This month I'm the Kitchen of the Month, which means that I was able to choose the bread we bake.

December is always a busy month, so I chose something that is tasty but not too time-consuming. When I saw this recipe for baked currant donuts in the Food and Wine seasonal magazine it seemed like it fit the bill. I love anything with currants and this donut is baked! It's from a yeast dough, so you do need to allow time for rising, but hands-on time is pretty brief.

I have never made baked yeasted doughnuts so that was a big part of the appeal. With the granulated sugar coating they also look sort of chilly or covered with frost...seasonal. This is an enriched dough with butter, eggs, and milk so they are quite delicious and rich, which is perfect for a celebratory time of year.

You can use a different dried fruit instead of or in addition to currants, you can play around with the flour and how you treat them once they are baked, but do make them as baked donuts, preferably with holes.

I made them over two days, mostly to fit in with my busy schedule. Holding the dough overnight after the first rise didn't seem to harm it at all, nor did it make it more sour since it was only for about 12 hours.

I found the dough to be just a bit too hydrated, so I added about a half cup additional all-purpose flour. Of course I didn't use butter, either, so my margarine could have had more water in it than real butter.

Allow plenty of time for making the dough, especially when it's time to add the walnut sized pieces of takes a while on low speed to incorporate those pieces. Rising time is a little over three hours, too. If you do as a traditional baker does and begin at 3 or 4 am these could be ready by breakfast!

These make soft, tender doughnuts with just a touch of spice. The currants and spices remind me of hot cross buns, but the texture is very different than the ones I've made...much more tender with a fairly open crumb.

Hope that you enjoy these between now and December 29th...which will get here sooner than you think. If you do, send me an email at plachman at sonic dot net along with a photo and your baking experience and I'll include you in the Buddy post, plus send you a gorgeous Buddy Badge designed by Elizabeth.

Do check out the donuts of my sister Bread Baking Babes, too!

XO, Elle

Baked Currant Doughnuts
adapted from a recipe by Robert Jorin, of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY

1 cup dried currants
1 quarter oz. (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (I added about another 1/2 cup in 1 tablespoon increments)
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 tablespoons melted butter (I used margarine for both)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Canola or other vegetable oil, for greasing (I used foil to line one pan and parchment paper the other and was able to skip greasing)

In a medium bowl, cover currants with hot water and let stand until softened, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir yeast with 2 tablespoons warm water and a pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon with 1/4 cup of sugar. Add milk, egg, egg yolk and half of softened butter; beat at low speed for 3 minutes. Beat in yeast mixture, then add salt. Beat dough at medium speed until soft and silky, about 8 minutes; the dough should pull cleanly away from bowl.

With machine on, add remaining softened butter to dough in walnut-sized lumps, beating at low speed between additions until incorporated.

Drain currents, pressing out any excess water. Add to dough and beat in at low speed.

Transfer dough to a greased bowl, turn to coat dough with grease. Cover and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 hour. Punch dough down, form into a ball, and return to bowl. Cover and let stand until billowy, 1 hour.

Grease two large baking sheets. (Or line with parchment or foil.) Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface & cut it into 12 equal pieces. Pinch each piece into a ball and arrange six balls on each prepared baking sheet, smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes.

Using lightly floured hands, press each ball into a flat 4-inch disc. Using a 1 1/4-inch round cutter stamp out center of each disc. Return holes to baking sheets. There will be six donuts and six donut holes on each sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour, until risen slightly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position racks in upper and lower thirds. Bake donuts and holes for 25 minutes, shifting pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking time. Donuts are done when they are golden and puffy and when the internal temperature at thickest part registers 200 degrees F.

Spread sugar in a shallow bowl. Brush hot donuts and holes on both sides with melted butter and dredge them in sugar. Transfer to a serving dish and serve at once.

Thanks to Elizabeth we also have measurements:

1 cup dried currants [144gm]
1 quarter oz. (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast [7gm]
2 tablespoons warm water [30gm]
[1/4 cup] granulated sugar [50gm]
3 cups all-purpose flour (I added about another 1/2 cup in 1 tablespoon increments) [375gm + 63gm]
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg [scant 2gm]
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon [scant 1gm]
3/4 cup milk, warmed [173gm]
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk [50gm + 17gm]
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 tablespoons melted butter (I used margarine for both) [114gm + 60gm]
2 teaspoons kosher salt [6, 7.5, 10, or 11gm - depending on which kind of kosher salt is used]
Canola or other vegetable oil, for greasing (I used foil to line one pan and parchment paper the other and was able to skip greasing)

About salt:
Scroll down on this page shows the various weights for different salt

Real Salt Kosher Salt 2tsp = 11gm 
Morton's Kosher Salt 2tsp = 10gm
Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 2tsp = 7.5gm

I'm thinking that 6gm or 7.5gm makes the most sense for a 1.6%-2% Baker's percentage of salt. I'll probably use 8gm if I up the amount of flour the way that Elle did.