1 Apt. 2B Baking Co.: January 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Chocolate Cake fit for Celebrations

I take birthday cakes pretty seriously, in fact, I think it is one of my adult culinary responsibilities to be able to make kick ass birthday cakes. They can be tall and chocolatey and covered with fluffy frosting like this one or a bit more humble, maybe without any frosting at all. All I care about is seeing my pals smile and make a wish for themselves while bathed in flattering golden light from a mass of burning candles poked into the top. Can you think of anything more magical than an edible monument of joy that we are encouraged to stick with candles and set on fire? Me neither.

The recipe below is for my go to chocolate cake and my favorite chocolate frosting which I admit is a bit more labor intensive than American style buttercream. I won't blame you if halfway through you are standing over your mixer cursing me, but I promise if you see it to the end you will be rewarded will the smoothest, creamiest chocolate buttercream you've ever tasted.

Chocolate Cake
yield 1, 3 layer, 10'' cake

4c sugar
3 1/2c flour
1 1/2c cocoa powder
1T baking soda
1T baking powder
2t salt
2c milk
1c canola oil
1/2c sour cream
4 large eggs
1T vanilla extract
1 1/2c strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350º and prepare 3, 10'' cake pans by buttering, flouring and lining with parchment paper (see note for other size options)

1. Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Put the sifted ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer (or very large bowl) and stir well to combine.
2. In a medium bowl or pitcher, whisk together the milk, oil, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stop the mixer, scrape down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated, then turn the mixer up to medium and mix for 2 minutes.
3. Turn the mixer back down to low and slowly pour in the coffee. Stop the mixer and scrape down to the bottom of the bowl and finish the stirring by hand.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 20-25min or until a cake tester comes out clean. Double layers of cake will take 35-40min to bake.
5. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 min then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
yield, enough to fill and frost a 10'' cake, plus a little extra

For the Ganache
18oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2c heavy cream
1T vanilla extract
1T strong coffee or espresso
1/4-1/2t salt, depending on your taste

For the Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1 1/4c sugar
1lb butter, room temp
pinch salt
1T vanilla extract

To Make the Ganache

1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream over medium heat until just before it boils. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the mixture sit for 5 min, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla, coffee and salt then set aside the mixture to cool until it is cool but still soft. Don't let it harden completely or you will not be able to whip it into the frosting.

To make the Swiss Buttercream

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch, 5-7min.
2. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 10min.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment and reduce the speed to low and add the salt then add butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat the frosting until smooth. During this step it is very likely that the frosting will "break" and you will think you messed up. Good news! You didn't! Mine breaks sometimes too. All you have to do is turn up the  speed on your mixer for a few seconds and the frosting comes back together. Continue until all of the butter is incorporated then add in the vanilla.

To Make the Chocolate Swiss Buttercream

1. Whip the room temperature ganache into the meringue buttercream until no lumps remain. The finished buttercream will be glossy, smooth and fluffy.

To Assemble the Cake

Peel the parchment paper from the layers and trim the cakes so the tops are flat. Place one layer onto a serving platter or pedestal and spread about 1 1/2c of the frosting onto the cake in an even layer. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Finish by placing the last layer on top, trimmed side down so the top of the cake will be nice and flat and crumb free. Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumbcoat) and refrigerate for about 30min. (My apartment was so cold when I did this step, I just put my cake by the window for a few minutes, ha!) Pull the cake out of the fridge and add a second, heavier coat of frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with cacao nibs and chocolate sprinkles. Serve at room temp. Store any extra frosting in an airtight container in the freezer where it will keep for a few weeks.


- I usually bake this cake in 3'' tall pans. I fill one about 2/3 full and trim it cake into 2 horizontal layers, the remaining batter is used to make the other layer.
- You can also make a nice tall 9'', 3 layer cake with this amount of batter. For this option you will need  3'' tall cake pans. If you don't have 3'' tall pans I suggest you divide the batter between 4 pans instead of three. Confusing, I know. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, apt2bbakingco(at)gmail(dot)com.
- This chocolate cake tastes equally great with a simple vanilla buttercream if that is more your speed.- I used Cordillera Cacao nibs that I got from the Pantry at Delancy to garnish this cake and they are the most delicious nibs I've ever used. If you are anywhere near Seattle, you should pick them up and try to take a class while you are at it!
- The sprinkles came from Seattle Home Cake Decorating Supply Co. which is an incredible hole in the wall shop with a very helpful and knowledgable owner. Again, if you are in Seattle and you need any cake or cookie decorating supplies, this is your spot. You can find similar sprinkles online here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Parsnip Macaroons

I know that I am not alone when I say that I love parsnips because when I posted the bouquet of them that I happily carried home from the grocery store yesterday, I got quite the response. Ok, a percentage of those responses were from a certain family member of mine (hi mom!), but still, Parsnip Lovers Unite! With cookies! I know it sounds a little bizarre to bake with something usually used in savory preparations but I find that if you choose the right specimens, parsnips are just as sweet as carrots with a more complex flavor profile. The inspiration to bake them into macaroons came from Alice Medrich and her Spicy Carrot Macaroons that I've been meaning to try for ages. With a few substitutions they baked up into little golden haystacks perfect for teatime. The parsnip flavor is subtle, like a spice note in the background that pairs really nicely with sweet maple syrup, crunchy almond and chewy coconut.

Parsnip Macaroons
inspired by Alice Medrich's Spicy Carrot Macaroons
yield 18-20 cookies

2 egg whites
3.5oz unrefined cane sugar
2oz maple syrup
1t vanilla extract
1/4t lemon zest
1/4t salt
3oz unsweetened shredded coconut
4oz finely chopped almonds
4oz peeled and finely shredded parsnip (or carrot) make sure to choose small, slender parsnips as they are sweeter than their larger counterparts.

Preheat oven to 350º

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, lemon zest and salt until frothy.
2. Add in the coconut, almonds and shredded parsnip and stir well to combine. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow the sugar to melt and soften the coconut.
3. Set the bowl over a double boiler or in a skillet of simmering water and stir the mixture, making sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl. Cook until the mixture is very hot and the liquid in the bottom of the bowl has thickened and turned slightly opaque, 5-7min.
4. Using firm pressure, form the mixture into heaping tablespoon sized pyramids and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. The mixture will be quite loose and it helps to wet your hands to form the cookies OR just use a cookie scoop. Slide the sheets into the oven and bake the cookies until they are deep golden brown on the edges, 20-25min. Make sure to bake them thoroughly, mine may have been a bit underdone.
5. Let the cookies cool completely on the parchment sheets, peel them off carefully and store at room temp, covered loosely for 3-4 days. As they age they will become softer and the lemon zest flavor more pronounced.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A few things

Hi everyone! I don't have a recipe for you today, but I wanted to pop in and alert you to a few updates to the site. Over to the right you'll see I've added a recipes tab where you can click and browse all of the recipes I've posted by category. It was really fun to put together and I hope it's helpful! Then, if you look down the page a little further, there's a little box where you can subscribe to receive blog updates by email if that tickles your fancy. I hope these little changes help make this blog easier for you all to use and as always, thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rice Pudding with Old Fashioned Oranges

It's easy to hibernate in New York in the winter. It's cold and grey, the wind whips through the buildings straight to my bones, and the walk from my warm cozy apartment to the subway seems immeasurably long. This season, in an effort to spend more time together and keep ourselves from getting too lonely, some pals and I are going to make an effort to have a Sunday meal together a few times a month, a Sunday roast if you will. I don't know about you guys, but I will pretty much always show up when someone invites me for dinner, public transportation and weather be damned. Our inaugural dinner was a few weeks ago and I offered to bring along a sweet something to end the meal. I knew I needed something that was easy to transport and I wanted it to be both comforting and light, so I turned to the most comforting dessert I could think of then lightened it up with a healthy dose of citrus. Then, because it's winter, I put some booze in it. These chilled, boozy oranges are the perfect foil to creamy rice pudding and the perfect thing to share with friends, elbow to elbow, in someone else's warm cozy apartment. Now, getting up from the table and heading home is another story.

For the Pudding
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts

1c arborio rice
4 1/2c milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2c sugar
pinch salt
1 cara cara, navel or blood orange
3/4c heavy cream
1 egg yolk

1. In a medium bowl zest the orange directly in the sugar then scrape the vanilla bean and add the seeds into the sugar mixture. Rub the sugar, zest and seeds with your fingers until it is all evenly distributed.
2. Supreme the orange over a bowl, and squeeze the membrane to extract as much juice as possible. Strain off the juice and reserve for later, you should have between 1/4-1/3c of juice. You will use the orange segments later as well.
3. In a medium saucepan combine the rice, milk, salt, sugar mixture and vanilla bean pod. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 30min. Remove the vanilla bean pod, rinse it off and save it for another use.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg yolks and reserved orange juice. Slowly add the hot rice mixture while whisking constantly. Return the entire mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the mixture boils and thickens, about 10min. Remove from heat and cool slightly before serving. This can also be served room temperature or chilled. If you find the chilled rice pudding is too firm, loosen it up by stirring in a few tablespoons of milk or heavy cream.

Old Fashioned Oranges (like the cocktail)
Adapted from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

4 cara cara, navel or blood oranges (plus the one from the rice pudding)
2/3c sugar
3T whiskey

1. Zest the oranges into a medium sized bowl. Use a sharp knife to cut away the tops and bottoms of the oranges then using a sharp knife, cut the white pith away from the fruit and discard it. Over the bowl with the reserved zest, carefully cut the wedges of fruit away from the membrane and seeds, letting the fruit and juices fall into the bowl, add the reserved orange segments and juices from the rice pudding. Add the whiskey, then arrange the fruit and juices in a shallow dish, something like a 9x13 baking dish.
2. Spread the sugar into a large, dry skillet over medium heat and cook without stirring until the sugar starts to melt into a clear syrup. Turn the heat down a bit and continue cooking the syrup without stirring, you may shake the pan a little to distribute the sugar evenly.
3. When the syrup begins to color, stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to make sure it colors and cooks evenly. When the syrup is amber in color, remove it from the heat and stir until the syrup is a reddish amber color, the color of medium dark honey.
4. Immediately pour the hot caramel over the oranges, they may spit and sputter a bit. The caramel will harden when it comes into contact with the oranges. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 2 days. In that time the caramel will slowly melt into a syrup, perfect for drizzling.

To assemble:

Layer the rice pudding and oranges in small dishes and garnish with chopped pistachios, I forgot to add them in these photos.


- The host made some chocolate espresso cookies that we served alongside the pudding and it was a fantastic combo.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Saffron Vanilla Sugar Cookies

Saffron and Vanilla Sugar Cookies

I like to keep the spice cabinet open while I cook dinner so I don't forget that I have a whole mess of things that can make my meals more interesting, but it's a dangerous mess in there. Every time I add something new I vow to clean and organize the damn thing. Maybe 2012 will be the year I do it; especially after the little episode that led to the making of these cookies. Let's just say the spice cabinet is above the sink, I pulled something out, turned away, and when I turned back there was an entire container of saffron floating in a bowl of (clean) water. Cue sad trombone. I fished out as much as I could with a tea strainer, switched gears and got to work making a very saffron heavy meal. Lemonade out of lemons, right? These cookies were inspired by the legendary Saffron Snickerdoodles sold by Blue Bottle Coffee Co., but as I was putting them in the oven I realized a handful of things that I should have done to make a more accurate representation. That said, these aren't much like the cookies from Blue Bottle, but they have crispy edges, soft centers and a really pleasing complex flavor.

Saffron Vanilla Sugar Cookies

2 3/4c flour
2t cream of tartar
3/4t baking soda
1/2t salt
8oz softened butter
1 1/2c plus 1/4c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 vanilla bean
large pinch saffron threads

1. Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
2. In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron into a powder with a small pinch of sugar.
3. Add the saffron and vanilla bean seeds to the sugar and rub the mixture together with your fingers to distribute the seeds evenly.
4. Cream the sugar with the softened butter until very light and fluffy, about 5min. Add the eggs, one at a time, then slowly add in the flour mixture.
5. Form the cookies into 2T sized balls, place on a baking sheet in a single layer, cover and chill overnight. You can bake the cookies immediately if you like, but I find the cookies spread less after a night in the fridge which helps them have crisp edges and thick, soft middles.
6. When you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 400º. Roll the cookie balls in the remaining 1/4c sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it) and place them 2'' apart on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12min, rotating half way through the baking time. When they are done they will be very light golden on the edges.


-My mom informed me that you shouldn't consume too much saffron at one sitting because it slows your heart rate, we all survived this time...
-Rumor has it that the Blue Bottle Cookbook will be out in 2012
-If you can't commit to using saffron in cookies (I understand) these cookies are a great base to add other flavors, try some citrus zest or spices.
-I might attempt these cookies again, using a different base recipe. I'll post my findings on the end of this one.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mixed Citrus Marmalade

Last year I added some booze to my marmalade which was a fun, easy way to step up a classic preserve, but in the process of consuming those jars I learned something important about myself. I am a bit of a marmalade wimp. I can't handle the thick cut rind found in most marmalade and I found myself picking around it. This year I played it safe, turning back to my favorite (and first) marmalade recipe from Marisa at Food in Jars. This style of marmalade only uses the zest of the fruit sliced in very thin strips which give the marmalade great texture and cuts back on some of the bitterness of the thick cut varieties. It takes a bit of time to prepare the fruit, but I can't think of a nicer way to spend a dark winter afternoon than to dive into a big pile of sunny citrus.

Mixed Citrus Marmalade
adapted from Food in Jars
yield about 24oz of finished marmalade

40oz (2.5lbs) mixed citrus fruit, I used 1 grapefruit, 2 tangelos, 1 tangerine and 2 meyer lemons (It was a real clean out the fruit bowl affair)
3c sugar
2c zest poaching liquid (you will make this in Step 1)
clean, sterilized canning jars and lids

1. Remove the peels from your citrus using a vegetable peeler, careful not to get any of the white pith. Cut the peels into thin strips with a sharp knife. The peels wil not reduce in size after you cook them so make sure to cut them very fine, 1/8''-1/4'' depending on your preference. I like to cut them as fine as possible. Combine your zest strips with about 4 cups of cold water in a medium sized saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook the zest strips until they are very soft, about 30min.
2. While the zest is boiling away, get to supreming. Cut away the tops and bottoms of the fruit, then with a very sharp knife, cut the white pith away from the outside of the fruit and discard it. Over a bowl, carefully cut the wedges of fruit away from the membrane letting the fruit and juices fall into the bowl. Save the membrane and seeds and place them in a cheesecloth bundle. You will use this bundle to add some natural pectin while cooking the marmalade.
3. When the zest is finished, strain it over a large bowl, making sure to reserve 2c of the poaching liquid.
4. Grab your (non reactive) canning pot and dump in the fruit segments and juice, poached zest, poaching liquid, sugar, and the cheesecloth bag. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook the hell out of it until it reaches 220º and passes the wrinkle test. You may have to cook the jam for a few minutes after it reaches 220º, it all depends on the mixture of fruit you use. I ended up cooking my marmalade for about 50min, but I would start checking it for doneness at about 30min. When the marmalade is finished, give the cheesecloth bag a good squeeze and discard it.
5. Ladle into clean, sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

- Some folks say that the wrinkle test is unreliable for marmalade, so if you are concerned I suggest you cook the mixture until it reaches 220º then ladle it into jars without testing.
- This recipe can easily be doubled
- If you'd like to add any flavorings to the marmalade, like some booze or vanilla, add it in the last five minutes of cooking.