Sunday, December 28, 2008

French Yule Log

Most often, Erica and I struggle to come up with time to bake - as the name of this blog implies, we're both law students and time where both of us are available to spend extended time in the kitchen is often hard to come by.

We though this month was going to be the same - with studying and finals and far-flung locales for the holiday, it initially seemed like we were going to be taking another month off. I was, in the end, able to convince my brother to stick around the Bay Area for an extra day before heading down to our parents house, and a yule log was made...

Contrary to appearances, this is not a mess on the floor, but the beginning of a delicious Praline Crisp insert. We took the easy way out this time, and used rice krispies instead of the lace, and just ground up some hazelnuts instead of making the full Praline, but the short-cuts worked and the crisp was delicious.

Usually, I would say that Erica and I are pretty precise bakers - we plot out the steps in advance and plan how much time everything is going to take. This felt different - maybe it was the mulled cider, the Christmas movies or the fact that we had just finished finals, but the yule log was surprisingly ad hoc. Aside from the creme brule (which, by the way, was not BRULE at all, much to Erica's disappointment), we mostly made one piece (such as the dacquoise biscuit above or the mousse below) as we felt like it.

Assembly wasn't quite the most beautiful we've seen. Neither of us owned a yule log mold, and once I got over the fact that we really couldn't roll this one, a bread pan it was.

We had ambitious plans to mold some leaves, but in the end, we just raked a fork across and served it up, semi-frozen.

There was some disagreement as to whether the fully frozen variety was better, but I can't say anyone really complained. Again, another daring baker success!

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Caramel Cake

Lucky us - we got to bake this doozie in Sara's parents' Big Sur kitchen, which looks out right onto the Pacific Ocean. What a wonderful break from law school - a long-weekend trip to celebrate our friend Rachel's birthday and caramel cake!

Admittedly, we were both a little horrified by the quantity of sugar this recipe called for. But we gave it a go whole-heartedly, albeit wearing protection during the hot splatter moment the recipe warned us about.

The caramel it produced, however, was beautiful.

As usual, this recipe entailed its share of frightening moments - this time, the batter took on a strange grainy quality as we added the components per the recipe's instructions.

Our fears were not realized, however, as the cake that emerged from the oven was perfect. Unlike our hazlenut cake from the summer, it didn't collapse at all! The frosting was a breeze, and the finished product turned out beautifully (and deliciously).

We did make a valiant attempt at the chewy caramels, as well, but ended up with what turned out to be excelllent caramel sauce for ice cream. Ah well - apparently candy thermometers *are* important. Since we don't have a picture of these, let's close with two pictures of Sara's parents' adorable cats.

Recipe cookbook/blog: bay area bites ( … he-recipe/)
Recipe author: Shuna Fish Lydon
Hosts' blogs:,,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventures in Pizza-Making

Thanks to our dear friend Cat, and a well placed jar of honey, we have one of the most beautiful pizza pictures I have ever seen!

We made four different kinds of pizza, most of which followed the rules :-). The one above contained a carmalized onion "sauce," blue cheese and arugula. I love salad pizza and make it quite frequently at home. There's something about the warm, slightly wilted greens atop a sizzling, cheese bread that I just can't get enough of.

This pizza was based off of one of Erica's favorites from Boston - it contained a (japanese?) eggplant, thinly sliced, ricotta cheese and garlic. Some thoughts on this: the original version was with breaded eggplant. Thinly sliced eggplant worked well because it was much quicker, but this version was much less decadence. Also, be sure to salt this - if you have a non-salted ricotta cheese, it doesn't really bring out the flavors to the fullest.

Mmm.. An up close of a classic. Basil. Tomatoes, Mozzarella Cheese. Garlic. Olive Oil. This one got devoured quickly. As you can tell, we have an aversion for sauces. Erica doesn't like pesto. I'm not a huge fan of tomato. We think garlic and olive oil does the trick....

Last, a word on our dough experience. I make pizza quite often (probably twice a month or so), and for the last 2 years, have almost exclusively made the dough from scratch. Usually, I'll make it after getting home from school, and then let it rise for the proper hour or so. Sometimes, I'll get lazy and not even let it rise at all, usually to no detrimental effect. Given that I wanted to try something new, we let this dough rise for THREE WHOLE DAYS in the refridgerator. I'd heard rumors that leads to more flavorful dough.

Instead, we had dough that required being rolled out with a rolling pin. It was flat, and didn't stretch very well at all (as Erica said, it didn't pass the "window pane" test). It didn't really taste any better or any worse than usual. I suspect, perhaps, that it was the fact that I used regular yeast, instead of rapid rise, which I usually do. I also wonder if the type of flour had something to do with it. I'm sticking with my short cuts...

Looking forward to November! Erica and I already have a weekend date set in mind down at my parents house in Big Sur. I'm hoping it's something warm, fragrent and autumnal....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lavish lavash!

We underestimated what a hectic ball of mess the beginning of 2L year would be. Nonetheless, we managed - after many e-mails exchanged - to set aside a few hours on Thursday evening before our Fall Break (aka "Fly-back Week" - for interviews, see below) to whip up some lavash, olive tapenade, and nectarine-apple salsa.

We're in the midst of interviewing for summer law firm jobs, which sometimes turn into full-time jobs post-graduation. In fact, Sara flew in from an LA interview less than an hour before we got started baking, and Erica had an interview lined up for the next day. See - hectic, right?

Thank goodness for quick recipes! And delicious ones...

The dough was simple enough. We had some concerns about whether it would rise, but we needn't have feared - the yeast worked its magic

We're not sure we rolled out the dough thin enough, as our crackers took substantially longer to bake than the recipe indicated. Still, they tasted perfect to us.

Sara chose to make an olive tapenade to accompany the lavash. In one word: delectable. Erica may or may not have snuck her finger into the bowl a few times, forgoing the cracker.

Erica took on the peach-melon salsa recipe included on Daring Bakers. Finding no peaches at the grocery store (weird!) she opted for nectarines. And not liking melon, she subbed in apples. It worked - deliciously!
Though we didn't eat until late in the evening, and though emergency pasta was made in the meantime, this recipe was worth the coordination and the wait. As we both agreed, definitely one we might actually try again!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Filbert Gateau

Wow! What a cake. One of the most ambitious that either of us has ever undertaken... It turned out beautifully but there were some dark moments when the middle of the cake fell through and we ended up with a serious (but small!) doughnut hole.

That's what frosting is for, right?

And what a crazy recipe - to make homemade brittle, only to crush it up, turn it into a paste, and integrate it into frosting...

Also had an interesting moment folding the nuts and butter into the cake batter - the melted butter at the bottom was something we sought hard to avoid dumping into our light and fluffy concoction. We seemed to avoid nearly all of it, so I'm going to blame the deflated cake on something else, something entirely out of our control - the cycles of the moon perhaps?

All of the sweat and (near) tears were worth it, though, to see the look on everyone's faces when they ate our creation. Yes - of course we had a party to celebrate this baking achievement (thanks to TJ for standing in as faux birthday boy)... Like I said: wow!

Thanks to our down-the-street neighbors for providing some beautiful (and edible) flowers as the crowning decoration!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danish Braid

From Erica:
Our first challenge taught us a valuable lesson - plan ahead. After inviting several friends to join us during the baking - to keep us company and taste our first creation - we realized that the recipe would require more than one evening to make.

Undaunted, I prepared the dough alone on Wednesday evening , the last day of my one week vacation. And what a pleasant way to end it - with ground cardamom and orange zest. Though intimidating on paper, the dough turned out to be a breeze. By 8 PM it was chilling in the refrigerator and ready for Sara's arrival on Thursday after work.

Later that night, while baking a batch of cookies, I discovered that the oven in my new apartment runs on the *extremely* hot side. To bake at 350, the oven had to be set at around 200 or 225. After burning one batch of cookies, and with no time to call the landlord and complain, I stuck a candy thermometer in there and hoped for the best.

From Sara:

I had the easy part - I arrived Thursday evening at Erica's house, friends and burritos in tow, to find the dough already completed - smooth, elastic and smelling of cardamom and oranges. Yum!

As my friends, and most of my acquaintances, will tell you, I had a rather strong dislike of cooked fruit. So while I was so excited about joining daring bakers, I was a little disappointed at my first glance at the recipe. Carmelized apples? Ich. (I know, I know, it's practically un-american to not like apple pie, but something about the warm, gooey sweetness makes my stomach turn).

So I set out to find an improvised filling for one of the braids, and stumbled upon this recipe: Brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and pecans? Sounds good to me! Perhaps a little like a breakfast pastry, but a welcome alternative to the apples.

In truth, I think Erica got the tough end of the recipe this time around. Her dough was a cinch to roll out, and once the fillings were whipped up, we managed to spread them out, wrap them in beautiful braids and pop them in the oven. Though Erica and TJ were worried about the temperature, the candy thermometer did the trick, and soon their cute SF apartment was filled with the smells of cardamom, apples and cinnamon. I brushed the pecan braid with a sugary glaze, and we were ready to serve...

Though it was somewhat strange to eat a breakfast pastry at 9:30 pm, but both were divine (or so I hear). I tried to coerce our friends into divulging which they thought was better, but all I got out of them was that they would be perfect at brunch - would we mind making them again?

So all and all, the baking was a smashing success. Photo documentation? We're still learning on that one, though Erica's boyfriend TJ has some obvious skills (see his photo below)....