Friday, May 27, 2016


We made a fun and easy twist bread for this month's daring kitchen challenge. 

The dough came together quickly (and tasted delicious). 

As we waited for it to proof, we took my semi-unruly toddler to see the Oscar de la Renta exhibit at the De Young museum. Nothing like trying to convince a 15-month-old that he can't touch the pretty, shiny, feathery dresses....

When we got back, we rolled out the dough and scavenged my kitchen to see what we could include within the dough -- sundried tomatoes + kalamata olives + random italian herbs seemed to be a good option. 

Then we rolled it up, taking care to twist all of those gorgeous innards. 

The dough baked for a long time, developing a beautiful, dark crust. Despite the recipe's insistence that we leave it to "cool completely" before cutting, we ripped into it immediately. Delicious!

Sun Dried Tomato and Rosemary Bread

From Tandy Sinclair at Lavender & Lime

680g / 5 1/2 cups (spooned & scraped) bread flour
15g / 4 3/4 tsp instant yeast OR 20g / 7 tsp active dry yeast
118g / 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
375ml / 1 1/2 cups water
1 large egg yolk
60ml / 1/4 cup canola oil (if your sun dried tomatoes are in oil, then use that oil), plus extra for the dough
22g / 3 1/2 tsp flaked salt
150g / 1 1/3 cups sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
5g / 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 large egg lightly beaten with 5ml / 1 tsp water, for egg wash
10g / 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, water, egg yolk and oil into a stand mixer bowl
NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first
2. Use a dough hook and knead for 1 minute
3. Add the salt and knead for a further 5 minutes
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface
5. Knead gently and shape into a ball
6. Rub the bowl with a little bit of oil
7. Place the dough back into the bowl, seam side down
8. Cover and leave to prove until doubled in size
9. Lightly oil your hands and punch back the dough
10. Cover and prove for 1 hour
11. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface
12. Knock back and roll out into a rectangle
13. Spread on the tomatoes and rosemary
14. Roll up tightly, lengthwise
15. Trim off the edges
16. Cut in half, down the middle, but not going all the way to the bottom
17. Slightly open the two halves
18. Twist the dough to resemble a length of rope
19. Shape into a circle
20. Place onto a lined or sprayed baking tray
21. Cover dough with a damp cloth and leave to prove for 30 minutes
22. Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas Mark 5
23. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle on the sesame seeds
24. Bake for 10 minutes
25. Reduce the temperature to 175°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4
26. Bake for a further 45 minutes
27. Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for 15 minutes
28. Place onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely before cutting

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kouign amann AKA butter cake

This month's baking challenge didn't exactly go as planned.

The plan was for Sara to make the kouign amann dough in advance, and then to come over to my house on a Sunday to shape and bake the pastries in advance of our book club meeting. As it turned out, once Sara got started on the recipe, there was no stopping point until the pastries were in the muffin tin, shaped and ready to go.

So Sara did the legwork on this one, and I preheated and used my oven. The good news is that they were delicious -- both fresh out of the oven, and with coffee the next day. No surprises there, since the name literally means "butter cake."

And, so I got to bake, too, I made a cake.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Our million $$ idea (the one that got away)

Back in 2007 or 2008, a friend of mine was working in Amsterdam. She came to visit, and brought us a heavy, aromatic stack of stroopwafel. My husband and I had to ration them out -- allowing just one cookie at a time with a big mug of tea or coffee. Both of us were training for various endurance events, and discussed just how great these cookies would be as a during-run or on-the-bike food.

But law school got in the way, and we never managed to bring stroopwafel to the athletic masses. Turns out, however, that other folks had the same idea (oh, Lance...). Fortune could have been ours!

Needless to say, we were pretty darn excited by this month's stroopwafel challenge. We briefly considered buying our own waffle cookie iron from amazon, but our law firm's quirky culinary side came through, and one of our co-workers had a pizzelle iron to lend us.

The delicious dough came together quickly. We channeled our Great British Baking Show compatriots and doled out precisely the same amount for each cookie.

Our pizzelle iron didn't have an instruction manual, and the "red light" "green light" sequence left something to be desired in terms of obvious meaning. Despite some uneven browning, however, our cookies came out perfectly -- puffy, easy to cut, and nearly perfect in shape.

Erica whipped up some amazing butterscotch, and we quickly assembled the stroopwafels. So very tasty, especially with a cup of coffee (or a long run). While I tend to avoid one-purpose kitchen equipment, I do have a pizzelle iron in my amazon checkout cart right now...

Recipe: Traditional Stroopwafel
Servings: 24
For the Wafels:
1/2 cup / 120ml warm water (105-110°F / 40-43°C)
1/4 ounce / 7g / 1 envelope active dry yeast (regular, not quick rise)
1/2 cup / 100g granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
4 cups / 500g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Stroop Filling:
1 1/2 cups / 300g brown sugar, packed
1 cup / 2 sticks / 8 ounces / 225g unsalted butter
1/3 cup / 80ml dark corn syrup (see note below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Oil spray for cookie press
Admin’s note: The role of corn syrup in cooked sugar recipes is to reduce the risk of crystallization, but dark corn syrup is a North American product that can be hard to find elsewhere. In that case, here are some possible substitutions for 1/3 cup / 80ml dark corn syrup:
1/4 cup / 60ml light corn syrup plus 4 teaspoons/ 20ml molasses
1/3 cup / 80ml molasses
2/5 cup / 80g packed brown sugar mixed with 4 teaspoons / 20ml hot water
In a stand mixer bowl combine water, yeast, a pinch of sugar from the ½ cup and salt. When the yeast is foamy (about 3 minutes) add the remaining sugar and butter, blend together. Add the eggs and mix. Add the flour and cinnamon. Mix one minute beyond just combined. Allow the dough to rest, covered or wrapped in film, while you make the stroop.
In a heavy bottom pan combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil, not stirring. Attach candy thermometer.
Brush the sugar down from the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Bring to 234-240°F / 112-115°C / soft ball stage. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test it - at this point the syrup dropped in to cold water can be formed in to a soft and flexible ball. Remove from heat, add cinnamon. Stir until smooth.
Preheat waffle iron.
Measure the dough into 24 to 26 x 1 1/2 ounce / 42g balls. Roll into round balls.
Lay out a cutting board, round or decorative cookie cutter, knife, and offset spatula.
In quick order spray the cookie press, put in a ball of dough into each side of the cookie press. Close quickly using pressure to flatten the dough. Timing varies for each iron, roughly 1-3 minutes, allow your cookies to cook. Look for the steam coming from your press to diminish noticeably. You are looking for a dark golden brown. If they are undercooked they will not be crispy when cool. If they are overcooked you cannot split the cookie to fill it.
As soon as the cookie is cooked (it may be puffed, if you’re lucky) cut with the round cutter. This gives you a clean edge to halve the cookie.
Cut it through the middle to make two disks. It will be hot, use a clean tea towel to handle the cookie if necessary.
Spread 1-2 tablespoons stroop onto one half of the cookie, then top with the other half. Allow to cool.
If you move quickly, you can refill the cookie press after you’ve cut and split the cookie. Those cookies can cook while you are filling the ones you just removed from the iron.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Great Daring Bakers Baking Show

As evidenced by many challenges on this blog, our forte is taste and not beauty when it comes to baked goods. So we took our own path this month, whose challenge was "cake design." Not that we don't appreciate a beautiful cake, but we'd rather focus on the baking rather than the decorating.

Enter the Great British Baking Show, which inspired Sara to suggest we make a schichttorte.

First, we made an egg yolk mixture, into which we blended vanilla, lemon zest, flour, and "corn flour." I only had corn meal, which seemed to work out alright, although masa is what we should've included. The British recipe had a few alternate names including golden syrup (corn syrup) and vanilla bean paste (closer to extract than scraped beans). Then we stirred in beaten egg whites.

The interesting trick to this recipe is that you spread a very thin layer in the cake pan and put it under the broiler for a couple minutes. Unusual! Then you pull it out, and do it again, layer after layer, until you get to 20 (theoretically, but we only got to 14 before we ran out of batter). 

Our first try was not great. It burned. Here's evidence of that mistake plus the erroneous corn meal. 

But then we got the hang of it. Our final step was an easy chocolate glaze. Thanks to honorary Daring Baker Emily for her help with the glaze. Because we were dealing with two babies rapidly approaching nap time, we skipped the addition of vanilla glaze decoration.

How lovely!

And the layers turned out beautifully.

The texture was a tad bit rubbery and that could've been the corn meal. Overall it was quite tasty and fun to make. And we got to enjoy the company of friends and babies, and enjoy some brunch tacos and homemade guacamole from our friends' bumper crop of avocados. 

Thank you Daring Bakers and the Great British Baking Show!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Gateaux Pithiviers -- still a winner, though not "officially"

This fall brought a big change to the Baking JDs -- after spending the past five years at two different law firms, Erica and Sara are now colleagues, in addition to baking partners.

This move has provided fun opportunities for mid-afternoon coffee breaks, outfit consultations, and post-work libations. It also presented the once-a-year chance to participate in our annual office baking challenge. We discussed the possibility of bringing our daring baker challenge before the December recipe even came out, and we were glad to see a beautiful cake appear for this month's challenge.

Due to the craziness of the holiday season, we prepared the component parts separately. Erica kindly offered to make the puff pastry. I had the much easier task of preparing the frangipane.

Despite the fact that I had the easier recipe, I'm the one that faced difficulties. I ground by almonds in the food processor, as instructed. The recipe said to combine the ground almonds with the other ingredients, so I just dumped in the eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and flavorings and pulsed a few times to combine. I'm not sure whether using the food processor was the error or something else, but my frangipane was decidedly not in a solid state when finished mixing. I tossed it into the fridge to cool overnight and hoped for the best.

Erica brought over the puff pastry dough the following night, and we performed the quick task of assembly. The frangipane was still giving us trouble, but it stayed solid enough to form a thin-ish layer (see above). We mastered the swirly top, and had a great time watching it bake -- first puffing up, then turning a golden brown.

Fortunately, we had enough leftovers to make both a perfect cake for the competition and a bonus cake (pictured above) to try that night. The one right out of the oven was amazing -- so flakey and warm, and full of almond flavor. We thought we would be a shoe-in for the office competition.

While the cake held up remarkably well (thanks uber, for getting it to the office in one piece!), it lost some of its magic when cool. I'd say we took a strong second place, but we ultimately lost to a brown butter almond cake that was pretty darn tasty.

We hope you are all enjoying a great holiday season, and wish you a happy new year!

For the month of December, Kat challenged us to make Gateaux Pithiviers. 

Gateaux Pithiviers

1 pound / 450g puff pastry
1 batch of frangipane
1 large egg
granulated, superfine, or powdered sugar (optional)

Beat the egg well to make an egg-wash. Add up to one teaspoon of water, if necessary, to loosen the mixture up. Divide the pound / 450g of puff pastry in half, and return one half to refrigerator. Roll out the remaining half on a lightly floured surface. Using a plate or bowl approximately 8” / 20cm in diameter and a very sharp knife, cut out a circle of puff pastry. Carefully move the pastry to a silicon mat or parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush a ring of egg-wash around the outside of the pastry, but do not allow the egg-wash to go over the sides, as that will prevent the edges from rising prettily. Center the disk of frangipane on the pastry and place the baking sheet in the fridge to keep cool.
Roll out the second half of the puff pastry and cut a circle the same size as the bottom. Retrieve the Pithiviers from the refrigerator and place the top layer of puff pastry overtop. Quickly use your fingers to mush the two layers of pastry together without warming the pastry or allowing the filling to squeeze out.
Press two fingers of one hand into the pastry and use the back of a small knife to push an indent in between your fingers. Repeat all the way around the Pithiviers. This will form the scalloped edges Pithiviers are known for.
Brush entire top with egg-wash, again trying your best to not let the egg run over the edges. Starting at the middle of the pastry, draw long sweeping s-curves out to the edges. When you’re satisfied with your work, return to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7.
Bake the Pithiviers for 10 minutes at 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7, and then reduce the heat to 350°F / 175°C / Gas Mark 4 and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The top should be a dark bronze color, and the filling (which you won’t be able to see) should be set. At this point, you can sprinkle sugar over the top and return to the oven at 500°F / 260°C / Gas Mark 10 for a few minutes to develop a beautiful glaze. I burned it every time, so I just skip this step now.
Allow the Gateaux Pithiviers to cool completely before serving. The taste is a little nicer when it’s warm, but the texture is better when it’s a room temperature. This can sit on the counter for a day, but longer storage is attainable using your refrigerator.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Mmm... Cheese...

First, I'll confess: we did not completely comport with the rules of the challenge this month. Basically we were at the whims of a baby's sleeping schedule and had a limited time window on a Sunday in which to bake together, so we needed a recipe that could be prepared and eaten in a few hours. Most of the savory cheesecakes out there required a lot of waiting (like 6 hours to overnight). This one didn't. It also had no crust. But it was absolutely delicious!

Also: thank goodness for food processors. Because hand-grating all of those carrots and zucchinis would've taken ages.

Very pretty results though.

We sauteed them all up with some onions and garlic.

Then into the buttered, bread-crumbed pan. 

Not the most attractive thing ever, pre-baking.

Midway through, we took it out of the oven, dredged tomatoes in breadcrumbs and parmesan, and layered them on top. This was our "crumble."

The end product smelled divine and was pretty to boot.

We had a little difficulty getting it out of the springform because we didn't let it sit as long as we were supposed to (due to cranky baby) but in the end it turned out fine. Better than fine. Quite delectable and decadent, nicely complemented by salad and a baguette. This recipe was a keeper!

For the month of November Krista & Nicole of Two Cups of Sugar.” challenged us to make our own version of cheesecake crumble pie.


Savory Vegetable Cheesecake

"This delicious main-dish cheesecake comes from Mollie Katzen's "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," which is a delightful vegetarian cookbook. A wonderful way to use us those garden veggies. It is also wonderful served as an appetizer that guests can spread onto little pieces of toast."

3 cups grated zucchini
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated carrot
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup freshly minced parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (please use fresh)
4 large eggs
fresh ground black pepper
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds,then sliced in half so the slices look like the letter D
3-4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees farenheit.

Butter a 10" springform pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, set aside.

Put the grated zucchini into a colander. Salt lightly, and let is sit about 15 minutes, then squeeze out any excess moisture.

Saute the onions in butter with 1/2 t salt. When they start to turn translucent, add the carrots, garlic, zucchini, flour, basil and oregano.  Keep stirring and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and lemon.

Beat the cheeses and eggs together until well blended. (Hello, Kitchenaid mixer!) When the cheese and egg mixture is nice and fluffy, fold in the veggies. Season to taste with black pepper.

Pour the mixture into the springform pan.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes-- then pull it out for a minute.

Remember those tomatoes? Dredge them in the breadcrumbs and decorate the top of the cheesecake with them in a pretty spiral pattern. [We added Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs!]

Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees, and bake another 30 minutes.

Turn off the oven and just let the cheesecake sit in there for another 15 minutes. Then, take it out of the oven and let it cool about 10 more minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, November 2, 2015

For want of a scale (and a photo of our finished product!)

Erica and I were challenged to make macarons for this month's daring bakers event. Even though we've done this before, we were excited to try a new method. And to partake in the customary fall baking strategy -- making everything taste like pumpkin pie.

While we lacked a kitchen scale to really perfect this recipe, we did try to make sure our almonds were finely ground.

We went with pumpkin pie spice in the meringue, and pumpkin in the buttercream. And some orange food coloring for style.

Piping went well, despite our ad hoc pastry bag. 

Per the new "Italian" method, we left the finished merigues out to dry before baking.

 Sadly, however, our cookies were without the tell-tale feet, and certainly a little squishier than we would have liked. Good flavor though, especially after being chilled in the freezer.

For the month of October we got to take on one of many bakers' deepest, darkest kitchen nightmares : macarons. Our talented bakers Korena from Korena in the Kitchen and Rachael from pizzarossa made the intimidating task of mastering these French beauties a breeze.

Macaron shells using the Italian meringue method
Servings: 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” filled macarons
(original recipe in grams)
140g / 4.9 oz ground almonds, room temperature
140g / 4.9 oz powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
100g / 3.5 oz egg white (from approx. 3 eggs), room temperature, divided 50/50
100g / 3.5 oz granulated (white) sugar
40g / 1.4 oz (weight) water
A few pinches of pumpkin pie spice
1. Prepare 2 parchment (not wax paper) lined baking sheets. They need to be big enough to hold 30 x 4cm / 1 1/2” diameter shells each. (I have my piping guide under the baking paper here.)
2. Mix the ground almonds and powdered sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) together in a bowl, then grind in a food processor until you have an extra fine texture. You may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor.
3. Sift into a large bowl (I use a mesh strainer and push the mixture through with a spatula), putting any bigger pieces of almond back into the food processor to re-grind.
4. Add 50g egg whites and mix thoroughly into the almond mixture. At this point, you can add food colouring or flavouring such as vanilla seeds, citrus zest, essense, if desired. (I added 1/2 tsp vanilla paste and 1/2 tsp red powder food colouring to this batch.) Set aside.
5. In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, scrupulously clean and free of any oil or egg yolk, beat the other 50g egg whites to stiff peaks.
6. Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar and water into a small heavy-based saucepan and heat on medium-low to 118°C / 244°F, without stirring.
7. While whisking constantly on low speed (to avoid splashing hot syrup), slowly add the cooked sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites, pouring it down the inside edge of the bowl. You’ll get a bit of it hardening on the side of the bowl, but that’s okay – just leave it there.
8. Whisk at high speed until the mixture is cool, about 3 minutes. About 1 minute before the end, you can add food colouring, if not done at the almond paste stage. The mixture should increase in volume and become firm and shiny, and it should be thick and marshmallowy when you lift the whisk.
9. Scrape the meringue onto the almond mixture and incorporate with a rubber or silicone spatula. You do actually want to get a lot of the air out of the mixture – you do this by folding and squashing the mixture against the side of the bowl, rotating the bowl a quarter turn with each fold. Be sure to firmly scrape the bottom of the bowl with the spatula, so you don’t leave a layer of almond paste there.
10. Mix until you have a homogenous batter that runs from the spatula in a thick ribbon.
11. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 7 – 9mm / #10 - #12 plain round tip (this is best done in two batches, so you don’t overfill the bag). Pipe 60 equally sized rounds, about 4cm / 1 1/2” in diameter, in staggered rows onto the prepared sheets. Hold the piping bag upright with the tip just above the sheet and pipe without pulling upwards or swirling in circles, so the batter comes out in a round blob around the tip, and give a little sideways flick at the end to break the stream.
12. Tap the baking sheet firmly on the bench several times to release air bubbles and obtain a smooth surface. If you have any tips sticking up, press them gently down with a damp fingertip.
13. Leave the tray to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until a slight skin forms. If you touch it, it should be only just tacky.
14. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark 2. Bake the macarons in the centre of the oven for 18 minutes (20 minutes if using cocoa in the shells), one sheet at a time, turning the sheet half-way.
15. Remove from oven and remove the parchment from the tray with the shells still on it and place on a cooling racks for at least 30 minutes, until completely cool, then remove macaron shells carefully from the parchment.
16. If not filling straight away, store in an airtight container at room temperature, separating layers with parchment. Otherwise, fill and store in an airtight container in the fridge to mature for at least 24 hours before eating.

Swiss meringue buttercream frosting
Servings: about 2 cups of buttercream (approx. twice the amount needed to fill 30 macarons, but the excess can be frozen)
1/2 cup / 100g / 3.5 oz granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch salt
1 1/2 sticks / 3/4 cup / 180 g / 6 oz unsalted butter
1. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch / 1 1/2cm cubes and set out to soften to room temperature.
2. Put the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a large, scrupulously clean heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture constantly (this is to prevent it from turning into scrambled eggs, not to beat it into a meringue) and heat it until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved completely (about 130˚F / 54°C).
3. With an electric mixer, beat the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until it turns into a thick, fluffy, stiff-peaked meringue (mine never quite reaches stiff peaks and still turns out fine). Test the temperature of the meringue with your finger – it should be completely cooled to room temperature and not warm AT ALL. If it is still warm, keep stirring on low speed until the mixture is completely cool to the touch. (This is very important because the next step is to add butter, and if the meringue is warm it will just melt rather than emulsify into a buttercream.)
4. While the meringue cools, check on your softening butter cubes: you should be able to squish the butter with your finger. You want it soft enough to spread but not at all melted. The key to successful Swiss meringue buttercream is to have the meringue at room temperature and the butter just soft enough to mix in.
5. Once the meringue is cool and the butter soft, turn the mixer to medium-low speed and begin adding the butter to the meringue one cube at a time, waiting until each cube is incorporated before adding the next. Your meringue may collapse and look kind of curdled and shiny: this is normal. Just keep slowly adding the butter, one cube at a time, and continue mixing. It will start looking thicker and chunky, and then suddenly it will be buttercream. Once all the butter is added, increase the speed to medium and mix until it is smooth, thick, and fluffy.