1 Apt. 2B Baking Co.: February 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'll Bake You a Cake

Ombre Cake

If you are feeling sick, let me make you some soup. Feeling sad? I’ll make you something warm and comforting. Watching your weight? Well you look great to me, but I’ll make you something really healthy. Are you celebrating? I’ll bake you a cake.
  Ombre Cake

I am terrible at small talk, but really good with food. I’ll probably have a hard time explaining myself so let me make something with my own two hands to show you.
 

When you are away, I’ll send you a care package full of things to nourish you and make you smile. I'll wrap everything in newsprint and tissue paper and include a little note, but the love is in the treats.
 

I sent my brother and his wife a package today. For their new little ones, I’ll make birthday cakes like this one every year even if I am not with them because that's what I do. I know first impressions are everything so I made this one tall and pink and carefully constructed to make sure they know their aunt is no slouch.

To see how I put this cake together Check out this set of photos on flickr to accompany the instructions below

Almond Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 1/2c, 3 sticks, softened butter
9oz almond paste, room temperature
1 1/2c sugar
6 eggs
1/2t vanilla extract
1 1/2c cake flour
3/4t baking powder
1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 350º and butter and flour 2, 8'' cake pans (3'' tall works best here) If you have shorter pans, I suggest you divide it into 3 pans to prevent overflow.

1. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, mix the almond paste and sugar until the almond paste is broken up into very small pieces. Add in the butter and beat until light and fluffy, 5min.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Fold in the dry ingredients.
4. Divide the batter between the two pans, smooth the tops and slide into the oven. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30min. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10min, then carefully invert on a cooling rack and cool completely.
5. Once cool, trim each cake flat on the top, then in half horizontally. You will have 4 layers of cake when you are finished. If you baked the cake in 3 pans, just trim the tops flat.

Simple Vanilla Buttercream

1 lb softened butter
2 lbs sifted confectioner's sugar
1T vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup room temp milk
big pinch salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer or with a hand mixer cream the butter until it is well mixed, about 1 min. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until very light and fluffy, about 5 min. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Slowly stream in the milk until the frosting is soft, smooth and spreadable. If you plan on finishing the cake with an ombre design it is helpful if the frosting is very soft, but not runny at all. 

To Assemble the Cake

Trimmed Cake Layers
Vanilla Buttercream
12oz of cherry jam (raspberry or apricot would be great too)
Cake Turntable (not necessary, but SO helpful)
1. Anchor the first layer of cake to the turntable with a bit of buttercream. Spread a thin layer (about 1/3c) of buttercream on the cake, taking care to leave the frosting a little thicker on the edges to make a dam to hold the jam. Top the buttercream with a few tablespoons of jam and top with the next cake layer. Repeat until you use all of the cake layers finishing with the flat bottom of the last cake layer facing upward.
2. Crumbcoat the cake with a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides and refrigerate for at least 30min.
3. While the cake is chilling, prepare the colored frosting. Split the remaining frosting into 4 bowls, tint three of the bowls dark, medium, and very light pink using food coloring. I use gel food coloring and use VERY little even for the darkest frosting. Leave one of the bowls white for the top of the cake.
4. Starting at the bottom of the cake with the darkest color, use a small offset spatula to apply frosting to the bottom 3rd of the cake, then follow with the medium color in the center of the cake and the lightest color towards the top. Top the cake with white frosting to finish. Using a tall spatula, smooth the frosting on the sides as much as possible, don't worry if the colors mix together a little bit, but try not to smoosh them together. Smooth the top.
5. Finish the cake by holding the tip your offset spatula horizontally, pressing gently on the frosting at the bottom of the cake. Smoothly spin the cake turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula up the side of the cake, stop when you get to the top. Wipe the spatula clean, then gently press the tip of the spatula into the middle of the top of the cake and spin the turntable while simultaneously dragging the spatula towards the outside of the cake. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Curried Cheddar Gougéres

Curried Cheddar Gougéres

I've been trying to write this post about curried, cheesy party snacks for two days, but all I can think about is how I just became an aunt! Two times over! I've been thinking about how my brother is a father to two beautiful girls and my parents are now grandparents and my sister-in-law is a superhero for carrying around those little ladies for nine months. I keep thinking that there are two sweet new babies that I get to go to visit in Seattle to smother in kisses and cuddles as often as I can make it. I keep thinking that I should have made a mountainous birthday cake a few nights ago instead of these curried cheese puffs, but here we are, with party snacks instead of birthday cake. Things could definitely be worse. These tasty little gems are made by mixing together simple ingredients in time tested proportions, then spiced up, cheesed up, heated up, and eaten up, preferably with an icy cold beer.

Curried Cheddar Gougéres
yield about 36 gougéres

1c water
8T butter, cut into slices
1c flour
1t curry powder
1/2-1t aleppo pepper
1/8-1/4t cayenne pepper
1/2t salt
1/4t black pepper
4 large eggs
1 1/4c shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425º and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats

1. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, bring the butter and water to a boil then lower the heat a bit.
2. Add the flour, salt and spices and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a smooth mass and smells a bit toasty. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture occasionally until it is cooled slightly, about 3min.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until each egg is thoroughly mixed in to the flour mixture. Then add 1c of the cheese and stir well to combine.
4. Using a piping bag with a large round tip or two spoons, portion the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets in to tablespoon sized mounds about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4c cheese and bake the gougéres for 5min then turn the oven down to 375º and continue to bake until they are golden brown, 20-25min. Serve warm.

Notes:

- These are great snacks that can be prepared in advance. Just pipe the goúgeres onto lined baking sheets freeze until firm enough to handle, then place them in a zipper bag and freeze. Cook as directed above, allowing a few more minutes of cook time.
- You can also bake them in advance, freeze them and warm them in a low oven when your guests arrive.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Honeyed Grapefruit Granita



You'll have to excuse the me for publishing this recipe today, you're probably looking for something a little more heart shaped, red velvety or made of chocolate. Well I'm sorry to say that I can't offer you anything like that. What I do have is this bright, tart, and dead easy to put together dessert which is a nice way to top off a hearty meal like the one you may be cooking for your loved one(s) tomorrow. For this batch of granita I used grapefruit that were labeled pink, but as you can see the finished batch was decidedly pale yellow. Try using texas ruby red grapefruit or a splash of hot pink Campari in your granita if you'd like a more pink finished product.

Are you all cooking tomorrow? What are you making, I still need some ideas!

Honeyed Grapefruit Granita
yield about 1 1/2 pints

1/2c sugar
1/2c water
1/4c mild honey
2c fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
juice of one lemon
mint leaves and grapefruit segments to garnish (optional)
sparkling wine to serve (optional)

1. In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil to make a simple syrup. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and chill the mixture. Measure 2/3c of the finished chilled syrup, you may have a bit extra that you can save for a cocktail or to sweeten iced coffee.
2. In a medium bowl, add the simple syrup, honey, grapefruit juice, and lemon juice. Whisk well to combine. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 glass baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Slide the dish into the freezer and chill for 1hr. Remove the dish from the freezer and scrape the granita with a fork to break up the mixture, cover and place back in the freezer. Scrape the granita every 30min or so until it is frozen and crystals have formed.
3. To serve: Spoon the granita into small dishes and top with fresh grapefruit segments, mint leaves, and a splash of champagne, cava or prosecco if you are feeling festive.

Notes:

-If you have an ice cream machine, you can churn this mixture into a delicious sorbet.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Chocolate and Bergamot Cookie Sandwiches



To be honest, these cookies did not start as the deep dark chocolate sandwiches that they eventually became. I had been hemming and hawing about what to do with my very first bergamot for awhile and when I finally decided that some powdered sugar tea cookies would be the way to go, my plan hit a little snag I like to call, "not really reading the recipe before cooking." Rookie mistake. I had my butter and sugar creaming in the mixer and I opened the pantry to find myself undeniably short on flour. So, I grabbed my trusty Callebaut cocoa powder and a little cornstarch, upped the salt and squeezed in some bergamot juice and turned these cookies into a chocolate and citrus pairing. I am normally not a fan of chocolate and fruit together, so I decided to up the chocolate flavor by sandwiching the cookies with a bit of melted chocolate and it worked perfectly to mellow the acid in the fruit. That said, if you don't feel like taking the time to make cookie sandwiches, don't! The cookies bake up crisp and tasty on their own and they are perfect with a nice hot cup of earl grey.

Chocolate and Bergamot Sandwiches
yield about 15 cookie sandwiches

1c softened butter
3/4c powdered sugar
1t vanilla extract
zest of one bergamot orange
2T bergamot orange juice
1 1/2c flour
1/2c cocoa powder
2T cornstarch
3/4t salt
2T cacao nibs (optional)
6oz chocolate to fill the cookie sandwiches

1. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. Set aside
2. Combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and zest in a medium bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined, then stir in the bergamot juice.
3. Add in the flour mixture and the cacao nibs and stir until just combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30min before rolling. While the dough is chilling preheat your oven to 350º.
4. Remove half of the dough from the fridge and roll out on a well floured surface or between 2 pieces of lightly floured parchment paper, the dough should be between 1/4''-1/8'' thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on lined baking sheets. If your dough has warmed up a bit, chill the cut cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes before baking. Repeat with the other half of the dough and make sure to save and re roll the scraps. Bake for 12-15min, rotating the pans half way through the cooking time, until the cookies appear completely dry and are firm to the touch.
5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10min, then remove to a rack to cool completely. The cookies should be crisp when done. If you find your cookies are a bit soft and crumbly put them back in the oven for a few minutes until they are baked all of the way through.

To Fill the Cookie Sandwiches

1. Turn half of the cookies over to expose the smooth underside.
2. Chop the chocolate very finely and melt over a double boiler or in the microwave. Let the chocolate cool until it is the consistency of mayonaise, about 15min, then use a spoon or pastry bag to fill each cookie with about 1t of chocolate. Top each chocolate topped cookie with another cookie, smooth side down and press gently. Let the chocolate harden completely before serving. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Notes:

-Bergamot is the floral, citrus flavor used in earl grey tea.
- If you find that the bergamot flavor is too strong, let the cookies sit for a day or so. The flavors mellow and blend really nicely.
- I haven't tried yet, but I think these chocolate cookies would make an excellent homemade oreo base.
- If you can't find bergamots in your area you can substitute an orange zest and juice.