Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Pleasure of Showing Some Baking Tricks

Over the holidays Sweetie and I were blessed to have not only our wonderful daughter at home, but also her Sweetie and his 10 year old son, Raine. The whole time together was a delight, but I particularly enjoyed showing Raine some baking tricks and skills.

He was an enthusiastic companion in decorating gingerbread cutouts and also in making the pastry for Christmas morning. In particular, we made choux paste and he produced the lightest choux paste topping yet. Next time we'll do eclairs.

His part was stirring the butter into the water and bringing it to a boil, then adding the flour and stirring until a ball of the paste formed and a film coated the bottom of the pot. He seemed fascinated with the process and watched carefully as I gradually added some egg to the slightly cooled paste until it was just the right consistency...which left some of the egg unused. I think that may have been my mistake in the past...using too much egg. I really got a kick out of his interest and questions and skill building. Everyone enjoyed the Christmas pastry so much that there was only one piece left by the time breakfast was over.

Here is a photo of the plate showing some of cookies we decorated. I particularly like that the gingerbread girl turned into an angel. I look forward to further cooking and baking adventures with Raine.

The recipe links can be found HERE for the pastry and HERE for the cookies.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas - Have Some Eggnog!

I'll bet you have lots of holiday traditions that you follow year after year. It makes you feel good to know that this year, many years before, and many years after your family will put up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving...or on Christmas Eve. A favorite Christmas movie will be seen...Home Alone anyone? Die Hard?? Of course there are always food and beverage traditions. One of ours is to drink eggnog while decorating the Christmas tree. Usually it's eggnog from a carton with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top and maybe some whipped cream if we are feeling decadent. An added shot of bourbon was welcome for the adults.

The trouble with that, for me, is that the eggnog in the carton from the market is usually made with dairy products, which meant that I couldn't imbibe. This year I decided to do something about that by making my own eggnog. I really wasn't sure if it would still be good eggnog, but it turned out to be better than the usual.

I used Alton Brown's recipe from Good Eats as a starting place. It uses egg yolks and whites, and sugar, and nutmeg for flavor, plus it calls for both whole milk and cream. I substituted Soy creamer for both the whole milk and the heavy cream. You could also use another non-dairy creamer. I think that Ripple makes one from pea shoots. Just make sure that it is a creamer not a milk because the creamer has the thicker consistency that you need.

We actually do some cooking with this recipe. The yolks and sugar get beaten together until the sugar dissolves and the yolks become lighter in color. Mine became fluffy, too. The soy creamer gets heated up to a boil with the nutmeg. Then comes the fun part...tempering the egg yolks.You do this so that the yolks don't become hard cooked eggs. Tempering means that you add a small amount of the hot liquid and stir it into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Then you add a little more and stir it in, then a little more. Then the whole mixture, now warmed by the addition of the hot creamer, gets added back into the pot with the rest of the hot creamer and you stir it well and cook until the mixture thickens a bit.

Bourbon is added, the mixture is cooled (hopefully overnight in the fridge) and when ready to serve you beat up the egg whites with a bit of sugar until soft peaks form, then you fold that into the cold eggnog and serve it up. This is quality stuff my friends! Certainly worth the effort of making it.

The recipe below makes 6-7 cups but it can be doubled (which I did) for more eggnog.

Merry Christmas!

Alton Brown, Food Network, Good Eats


4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon
3 cups soy creamer - I use Silk original
3 oz. bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites *
         Cook's Note: For cooked eggnog, follow procedure below.
         In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

         In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the soy creamer and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees  F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and set in the     refrigerator to chill.
          In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add  the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled    mixture.
*Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat may increase the risk of foodborne illness.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Bake Holiday Perfect Pastry

It's always a bit of a challenge coming up with a recipe for December because there are the twin pulls of 'let's do something festive' and 'let's do something easy' given that the month is often crowded with events, parties, and family festivities. As Kitchen of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes this was actually something I had to figure out.

After considerable thought I decided to go with something that I hope covers both. Although the recipe looks complicated, it's really just a buttery base, some choux paste, some purchased marzipan, some purchased jam or caramel sauce (although you could make your own), and some purchased flaked almonds or pecan halves and an easy glaze. You can actually do the baking part in advance and then put on the toppings and glaze right before serving. You can also do the whole thing in one go if that works better for you. Since there is no rising time needed, you can get on with holiday decorating, wine drinking (or something stronger), and package wrapping and things like that.

This is an American Kringle. I made this for Christmas last year and although it would probably have been better if I chose something new to me for our challenge, this year has been and promises to be more stressful than usual for me, so I'm taking the easy way out. I can tell you that this makes a delicious pastry that looks impressive and it may become your new Christmas tradition. I realize that it is a departure from our yeasted breads, but we've done that before, and I hope this is fun for everyone!

According to Wikipedia, in the Netherlands the kringle is pretzel shaped but in the United States kringles are a Danish pastry using dough that has been rested overnight before shaping, filling, and baking. Many sheets of the flaky dough are layered, then shaped into an oval. After filling with fruit, nut, or other flavor combinations, the pastry is baked and iced.
Racine, Wisconsin has historically been a center of Danish-American culture and kringle making. A typical Racine–made kringle is a large flat oval measuring approximately 14 inches by 10 inches and weighing about 1.5 pounds. The kringle became the official state pastry of Wisconsin on June 30, 2013.
I discovered a wonderful kringle recipe on the King Arthur Flour site and adapted it, using raspberry jam and some marzipan instead pecans and caramel. 
King Arthur website says, "This layered pastry is a great favorite in the Midwest. Our version combines a buttery base with an easy, piped-on layer of pâte à choux, baked to perfection and finished with a lavish caramel pecan topping and a sweet glaze." The buttery base isn't layered so this isn't really a traditional Danish pastry, but it goes together fairly quickly and is quite delicious. I'm going to give you both the King Arthur caramel version and my raspberry version, but you are welcome to create your own version, with or without marzipan. If you make this to be a Buddy, I would ask that you use this type of buttery base and pate a choux, although you may choose to use other flours. Be as creative as you like with toppings. 

To be a Buddy, just bake the Kringle and post about it by Dec 29th and by that date send me an email about your baking experience. Include the post URL and a photo so I can include you in the roundup. My email is plachman *at* sonic *dot* net.

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes sites to see what they have done to make the Kringle their own. I'm sure you'll be inspired!

Here is a link to Kelly of A Messy Kitchen, the first post I've seen. HERE. She includes some notes on making choux paste that will be very helpful.

These links are from last month, but still get you to their blogs. Happy Baking!

King Arthur's Butter Pecan Kringle
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 113g) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, preferable unbleached
1/2 teaspoon salt*
 1/4 cup (57g) cold water
*Reduce salt to 1/4 teaspoon if you use salted butter.

1 cup (227g) water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 113g) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt*
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour, preferable unbleached
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon butter-rum, eggnog, or vanilla-butternut flavor, optional but delicious
*Reduce salt to 1/4 teaspoon if you use salted butter.

12 ounces caramel, cut from a block (about 1 cup, packed); or about 3 dozen individual caramel candies*, unwrapped
 2 cups (227g) toasted pecan halves
*Use fresh, soft caramels. If using harder, supermarket-type caramels, add a couple of tablespoons milk or cream when melting, to keep them soft on the kringle; or substitute caramel sauce.

 1 cup (113g) confectioners' or glazing sugar
2 tablespoons (28g) heavy cream, half & half, or milk, enough to make a thick but pourable glaze
1/8 teaspoon butter-rum, eggnog, or vanilla-butternut flavor, optional but good
 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.   For the base: Mix together the butter, flour, and salt in a medium bowl until crumbly. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing in between until you’ve made a soft, sticky dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and roll each piece into a 9" rope. Connect the pieces into a 12" x 8" oval on the prepared baking sheet and, with wet fingers, flatten the dough to 1 1/2 ̋" wide, retaining an oval opening in the center.
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.   For the pastry: Place the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture is cohesive and forms a ball. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is absorbed before adding the next. Add your choice of flavoring at the end.
5.   Spread or pipe the pastry over the ring, to make an oval of pastry that completely covers the oval of dough. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
6.   For the topping: Melt the caramel in a heatproof measuring cup at half power in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after each round, until the caramel is smooth. Pour the caramel over the pastry and immediately top with the toasted pecans. Let cool.
7.   For the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, salt, flavoring, and enough cream (or milk) to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle over the kringle before serving.
8.   Store at room temperature, lightly tented with plastic wrap, for a day or so; freeze for longer storage. Kringle is best served the same day it's made. If you plan on serving it the next day, add the caramel, nuts, and glaze just before serving.

9.   Want to get a head start? Bake the base pastry up to two days ahead, then cool, wrap, and store at room temperature. Top with filling and icing just before serving.

Here is my version which is non-dairy:

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.

11.    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.

12.    To make the glaze: Stir together the confectioners' sugar, salt, almond extract and enough soy milk to make a pourable glaze. Drizzle it over the kringle.

13.    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, almonds and glaze. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Festive Chocolate Cake

At this time of year you are often asked to bring a potluck dish or a dessert to a gathering, especially if people know that you are a good baker. Here is a good choice. Almost everyone likes chocolate!

This cake is a single layer or can be a loaf cake. It's a pound cake with a fairly tight crumb. The intensity of the chocolate flavor depends on the cocoa you use. This time I used Trader Joe's cocoa and it was delicious but mild. For a deeper chocolate flavor I've used King Arthur Flour's XX cocoa. I also went off recipe as usual and added just a touch of espresso powder (1/4 teaspoon added to the dry ingredients) to deepen the flavor profile.

This cake goes together fairly quickly. If you bake it in a decorative, flatter pan as I did, it's also fairly quick. I think it took 35 minutes to bake. In a loaf pan it takes longer, just over an hour. That's the recipe I'm giving below.

If you bake it in a loaf pan, drizzle the mint icing over the top and sprinkle the crushed peppermint candies over it. For the snowflake pan I put the icing into a ziploc bag and cut off the tip and piped it over the snowflake pattern, then added the candies to just those areas.

Hope you find some time to make this delightful cake!

XO, Elle

Chocolate Cream Pound Cake
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf cake(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

6 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (1stick) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

MethodHeat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan and dust with flour.

Sift the cocoa powder into a heatproof bowl. Place the cream in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30-60 seconds until just boiling. Pour the hot cream over the cocoa and stir and mash with a spoon to make a thick paste. Set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Beat in the cocoa powder paste until smooth.

With the mixer on medium-low speed add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely. Slice and serve, or decorate with icing and crushed peppermint candy canes:

Mint Icing
Heat 2 teaspoons milk in the microwave or over the stove for a few minutes until just hot. Add two drops mint extract.

In a small bowl sift 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Add the hot milk, a little at a time, mixing with a small whisk or a fork, until consistency desired. There may be milk that is not used; discard.

Drizzle icing over loaf cake with a fork or put into a sealable bag and cut tip and use to pipe a design. Immediately sprinkle with peppermint candy that you have crushed in a disposable bag using a rolling pin. 

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Missing Mom

Mom always said her career was being a mother of this large group. A success story!

She's been gone for years now (four I think but it could be five) but on this day I miss her more than usual. Mom was a very good mother and, in later years, a friend. I feel very blessed that she lived into her 90s, so we had time with her and I have many, many good memories. Love 'ya Mom.

Monday, December 09, 2019

A Great Brother

A few days ago my older brother, who has blogged here as a guest blogger called No Handle, lost his fight with cancer. He was a great brother and a good man. There really are no words that would do him justice, or perhaps the words are just not available to me right now. R.I.P. James Maxwell.