Friday, December 27, 2013

Books and Whoopie

Erica and I are also part of a book club with some of our friends from law school (and some fantastic non-lawyers!). We try to meet once a month as well, and when our friends are lucky and the recipe isn't too complicated, we do daring bakers at the same time as our discussion. Whoopie pies made the cut, which was particularly good given hectic Decembers.

(Fun(?) fact - I don't think Erica and I have completed a December challenge since this awesomeness).

Whoopie pies are fantastically easy to make. It's a quick chocolate dough scooped out and baked. Apparently you can buy fancy molds to make your whoopie uniform and "cookie-cutter" so to speak, but who wants that? We opted for a more rustic creation:

Next came the filling. We contemplated the traditional marshmallow filling, but given that the the benevolent overlords at Whole Foods believe that marshmallow creme is from the artificial, GMO, too-much-sugar devils, we went with the vanilla recipe. We enjoyed the "cooling" process - using some edamame to bring it down to the right temperature.

Assembly was a breeze, which was great so we could continue our discussion of Eleanor and Park (a fantastic and sweet young adult novel - perfect for spending a day on the couch with a cup of tea). We had lots of extra filling, which was taken away by a book club member to make a cake -- Rachel, how did it turn out?

Word to the wise -- if you have any leftovers, these are divine straight from the freezer. Will and I traveled to Florida shortly after we made these, and they made for an excellent 10 pm treat when we got back from the airport.

Finally, given that it's the end of the year, I took a look through the archives to see what we did over the year. Award for best tasting: Chocolate Beet Cake (February). Award for prettiest (possibly ever): Prinsesstarta (March). Biggest fail (this one was easy): Sfogliatelle (November). Anyone else want to share their best or worst?

The December Daring Bakers' Challenge had us all cheering - the lovely and talented Bourbonnatrix of Bourbonnatrix Bakes was our hostess and challenged us to make fun, delicious and creative whoopie pies! Delicious little cake-like cookies sandwiching luscious filling in any flavors we chose... What else is there to say but "Whoopie!"

Servings: 8 large or 16 small whoopie pies

For the Whoopie Pies
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) butter
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) espresso coffee powder, optional
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4½ gm) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup (120 ml) (1½ oz) (45 gm) Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (10 oz) (285 gm) unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) milk

1) Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
2) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, espresso coffee powder (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla till smooth. Add the egg, again beating till smooth.
3) Add the cocoa, stirring to combine.
4) Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating till smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat again briefly to soften and combine any chunky scrapings.
5) Drop the dough by the 1/4-cupful (60 ml) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving plenty of room between the cakes; they'll spread. A muffin scoop works well here.
6) Bake the cakes in a preheated moderate oven for 15 to 16 minutes, till they're set and firm to the touch. Remove them from the oven, and cool on the pans. While still lukewarm, use a spatula to separate them from the pan or parchment; then allow to cool completely.

Servings: way more than you actually need to fill the whoopies

1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) (225 gm) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (about 35%)
1 cup (2 sticks) (8 oz) (225 gm) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into ½-inch (15 mm) cubes
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool, at least 7 minutes. (You can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.) Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. You can’t overbeat this mixture. Just let it go until it’s nice and smooth.

Add the vanilla and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sfogliatelle (noodles?)

Erica and her *husband* TJ joined our family down in Big Sur for Thanksgiving this year. After a day of running, biking, hot springs and lots of food, we spent much of Friday in recuperation mode. Finally, we urged ourselves off the couch and got down to baking: our challenge? Sfogliatelle, and Italian pastry dessert. 

We mixed up the dough and let it rest, making sure to keep it "very dry" per the recipe. Erica and I are both as-you-go tasters, and we should have known something was up right from the get-go. This tasted strongly of playdough. Hmm. 

We were also so thankful for the kitchen aid - given the hard consistency, I'm not sure how we would have ever managed to get this thin enough. 

The filling was better - our homemade ricotta was easy enough (even though more than half our cream was accidentally used for pie the night before...), and the semolina paste was quite tasty, bringing back memories of cream of wheat for both of us. 

But then the real disasters started. Our attempts to "stretch" the dough even further resulted in many many holes and butter everywhere. I'm not sure where we went wrong on that one -- anyone else have that problem?

We did forge ahead and end up with a log, which ultimately sliced up well. The pictures don't do it justice, but each slice reveals little tree rings inside. Pretty nifty!

We pushed out the dough into the little triangles and added scoops of the filling. Our ratio appeared to be way off, however -- we ended up with about 15 times more filling than we needed.
This picture doesn't reveal the next catastrophe. We popped the shaped triangles into the oven on a jelly roll pan, which only had lips on two sides. About 20 minutes in, the kitchen starts smelling like smoke, and we have to jump up from our yatzee game. Most of the butter, it seems, has melted off the pastry and into the bottom of the oven, where it has started smoking  like crazy. Two fire alarms start going off, and none of our family members are all that happy. 

It didn't get better once we served the dessert. While the Sfogliatelle looked quite pretty, with the ridges revealing themselves nicely, the outer "pastry" tasted distinctly like dried, ready-to-be-cooked noodles. Erica demonstrates: 

Not so good. A few of our family members choked down their entire treat, but most ended up in the trash. We looked back at the recipe to see what went wrong, but nothing obvious emerged. Perhaps its a Big Sur curse? After all, we did end up with these oft-ridiculed cannolis (looking back at that recipe, perhaps the key is -- if your dough tastes like playdough, abort, abort!). Maybe we just don't like Sfogliatelle? None of us had ever had the real thing. 
Thankfully, the dessert was preceded by these beauties. In a Baking JDs first, we re-made the pot pies from last month, this time adding some leftover turkey. Delicious!

In case this post really tempted you (up for a challenge, perhaps?), here's the recipe: 

Fresh Ricotta Cheese (makes 2 cups)
Servings: Makes 2 cups
8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (or goats milk)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream (about 35%)
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1. Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth over a large glass; set aside.
2. Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what you want it to do. Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
3. The liquid in the bowl is the whey, a very nutritious and tasty leftover byproduct from making cheese. It is excellent to use instead of water when baking bread, or added to soup stock. I love the stuff and never discard it. Here is an excellent article on the wonders of whey! (Note to Baking JD readers -- we used this in the pot pies with excellent results!)

Semolina-Ricotta Filling

1 cup (250 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) fine semolina or cream of wheat (I have tried both and personally like the semolina version)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (13-1/4 oz) (375 gm) whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 teaspoon of extract)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) candied orange peel (commercial or home-made)
zest of 1 lemon
Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch (15 mm), to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel and lemon zest. (Maybe even some mini chocolate chips? Or pistachios?? mmmm...I can't wait to see what you come up with)
Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days).

Sfogliatelle Ricci
Servings: 14-18 pastries
You will need a large/long workspace for this. I used my dining room table for this though I am sure someone will be more creative with limited space!
3 cups (750 ml) (15 oz) (420 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
teaspoon (6 gm) salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm water (about 100°F/38°C)
4 oz (115 gm) lard (I used Crisco butter flavored shortening)
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, softened
Semolina-ricotta filling (see above)
1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the water, or use your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. The dough will be very dry. If you feel absolutely compelled, add an extra teaspoon of water but it is supposed to be very dry. Turn this out onto a clean work surface and knead the dough together, bringing in all the dry bits. At this point get your pasta roller out and ready. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch (10 mm) and pass through your pasta machine at the widest setting. I find it much easier to cut my dough in half and work 1/2 at a time for this step. Fold the dough in half after each pass also change the direction of the dough occasionally. After about 15 passes the dough should be very smooth. Knead the dough back into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours, or overnight.

2. Beat the lard/shortening and butter together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Place into a bowl and set on the workspace in easy reaching distance.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece pass it through the pasta roller set at the widest setting. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches (10 cm) in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip. Once even, pass the dough through every setting, ending with the highest (mine is 7)
4. You should end up with a long 4 inch (10 cm) wide strip. Repeat with the other three remaining pieces of dough.
5. *For my own ease of use I made my own rolling pin contraption like you can see on many instructional videos. I turned 2 bowls upside down and placed them on my table where I was planning to work. I then took a rolling pin (with handles, not French) and taped the handles to the bowls. Every time that a piece of dough is finished and ready I lightly floured the dough and rolled it up onto the rolling pin. When all 4 pieces of dough were finished it made it much easier to pull out a section at a time to stretch the dough. If you are clumsy like me you might like to try this too!
6. Place one piece of a strip on you clean work surface and paint (or smear) it liberally with the lard/butter mixture. I do about a 8 inch (20 cm) section at a time. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it, starting from the middle and going out, until it is about 8 or 9 inches (20 or 23 cm) in width. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, overlap the end of one to the beginning of the other; continue to pull, stretch and roll up.

7. Spread the lard/butter mixture over the entire finished log and starting in the middle gently run the hands down the length to extend the length another inch (30 mm) or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches (25 or 28 cm). .
8. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months, at this time. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using.
9. Preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6
10. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
11. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch (30 mm) from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch (15 mm) slices. Put the semolina-ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch (20 mm) opening (A disposable pastry bag or even a ziploc bag with the corner cut off is fine).
12. Take one slice of dough and place it on your workplace. With the heel of your hand, push out from the center in one direction. Rotate the dough and do this in all four directions. This forms the dough and opens up the layers. Pick up the piece and insert your thumbs on the inside with your forefingers on the outside meanwhile gently stretch the center to make it more into the shape of a cone. You don't want the layers to actually separate. Holding the cone in one hand, squeeze some of the filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly push the opening closed. You do not have to seal the opening as the filling is too thick to ooze out during baking.
13. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each completed pastry with the lard/butter mixture. Bake them in a preheated moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
14. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. These are best served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar on the day they are made. To reheat them, just place them in a moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 5 minutes.

Sandie of the lovely blog, Crumbs of Love, was our November hostess. Sandie challenged us to make a traditional Italian dessert, along with its American version – Sfogliatelle (or better known in the US – lobster tails!) The flakey, 1000 layers of super thin dough, shaped into a horn and filled with a scrumptious filling. Così buono!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Savory Pot Pies to Celebrate "Fall"

Around this time of year, both Sara and I get nostalgic for some good old East coast fall weather. Well, perhaps I do more than Sara, the native Californian, but she kindly plays along. So this challenge was especially appealing, and we got excited about making it and enjoying some warm cider. The Bay Area weather even seemed like it would cooperate... cool, crisp...

... until that weekend, when we were supposed to bake. It got very warm and sunny -- ahh, the much-loved San Francisco summer in October -- which was perfect for watching bluegrass in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, but not so perfect for hot cider on Sunday. Undaunted we forged ahead. We are suckers for a good savory challenge.

The recipe we chose* was relatively easy and totally vegetarian. Lots of chopping.

Then everything into a big dutch oven to thicken up.

And then into individual ramekins.

Then we made the feta scallion biscuits, using our handy butter technique from a previous challenge. I think all of my biscuits should have feta and scallions in them from now on. These were that good.

Delicious biscuits onto delicious filling, and into the oven they went.

Sneak peak inside the oven in the middle of cooking. The house smelled so wonderful.

Ahhh... the finished product. We are in the background trying to control ourselves while they cooled a little.

I think a little drool slipped out of my mouth here. 

What a delectable, if unseasonable, challenge. We loved it. I think it is a meal we will both make again!

All photo credit to my husband (!) TJ.

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

Whoops, not "double crusted," per the challenge, but still worth your while! The biscuits are really, really, really, really good. We also didn't do a very good job of "showing off flavors and fillings from our own home or region." But did I mention that the biscuits are really good? And so is the filling.

Vegetarian Pot Pies with Feta Scallion Biscuits
Annie's Eats

Yield: 4-5 servings


For the filling:
3 tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
12 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced
¾ cup frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups veggie broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the biscuit topping:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped scallions
½ cup plus 1-2 tbsp. buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Lightly grease 4-5 ramekins or other small oven-safe serving dishes. (Alternatively, use a pie plate or 2-quart casserole dish). To make the filling, melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid and softened. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the flour and stir so that it evenly coats the vegetable mixture. Cook for about 1 minute. A bit at a time, stir in the veggie broth, mixing each addition until it has been fully incorporated. Once all the liquid has been added, let cook, stirring occasionally, until the filling bubbles and thickens. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peas. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the filling mixture between the prepared serving dishes.

To make the biscuit topping, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend. Stir in the pieces of butter and toss to coat in the dry ingredients. Using two forks or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse largest butter chunks are the size of small peas. Stir in the feta and scallions and toss briefly to combine. Pour in ½ cup of the buttermilk and stir gently with a fork until a dough has formed. If necessary, add the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of buttermilk to form a fully cohesive dough. Be careful to avoid overmixing or kneading, otherwise you will end up with a tough dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat to a thickness of about ¾- to 1-inch. Use a biscuit cutter 2½-3 inches in diameter to cut out rounds of the dough and place atop the veggie filling in the serving dishes. If necessary, reroll the dough scraps to make additional biscuits. Lightly brush the tops of the biscuits with additional buttermilk and add a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. (There may be enough extra dough for 1 or 2 additional biscuits. Feel free to bake them as extra to enjoy with the dish!)

Transfer the baking dish(es) to a rimmed baking sheet, and place in the upper half of the oven. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the biscuits are light golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 20 minutes total. Let cool briefly before serving.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Preztels of Love/Shame

First off, a hearty congratulations to my co-blogger, Erica, and her husband, TJ, on a fantastic wedding - the weekend was such a treat, and I know these two have a long and happy partnership ahead of them.

I know you must be thinking -- didn't Erica just post about a delicious cake? What is that a picture of? Are those pretzels?? And, um, beer?

As I think most of you are well aware, at this point, I am the delinquent blogger. If a post is late, or doesn't have photos, it's probably my fault. This summer has been particularly rough, and I've been sitting on a JULY post until now. and now that I actually went to write it, lo and behold, I have no photos. Good think I have mad skills in paint.  (Jen, where are you when I need you?)

The July challenge was pretty nifty -- we were allowed to pick any prior challenge and give it another go. Erica and I reached far back into the archives, to before we were daring bakers, and selected a early, easy, and delicious challenge -- preztels (I know you're sad we didn't pick suet pie). They became the center of a carb and cheese-centric meal shared with our partners (pretzels, beer, and pizza), particularly once we added a delicious cheese sauce to the mix. Making pretzels is actually quite easy (what, you want a recipe? I tried to find it, I promise, but that disappeared along with the photos, oh look at that -- see below). You throw together a quick dough, roll out into logs and form, coat with a baking soda topping, and pop in the oven. Done!

Fingers crossed for a delicious (fall themed?) October recipe! 


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel, as illustrated. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Moveable Pastel de Tres Leches

As we've done in the past, Sara and I decided to make September's challenge for our book club. We didn't have a nice camera so the pictures do not do it justice, but it was a big hit.

The cake did indeed contain tres leches, although one of the "leches" was really some delicious crema.

We beat the egg yolks.

And folded them into egg whites, along with some flour. The cake really did have a lovely light texture.

We were supposed to let the cake sit in the milk mixture overnight but we couldn't wait. We poured it in -- as seen in the picture above -- and then stuck it in the fridge for a little while. I'm sure it tastes even better when fully absorbed and cold, but it was pretty darn good as it was.

Sara got a little overzealous in whipping the cream for a topping and ended up making some sweet butter, which she saved in a jar for later consumption. Fortunately we had more cream, as well as some fresh strawberries and raspberries.

Yummy. What a cake.

We were reading A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Although our book club is not normally thematic, our friend, Emily, cooked a French-ish meal of soup, salad and quiche. We had some French wine. Our pastel de tres leches didn't exactly fit in, but there is a weak connection -- it's popular in Spanish-speaking Central and South America, and Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in Spain around the same time period that he covers in A Moveable Feast ... where they also speak Spanish ... ... ...

But really, who cares, it was delicious, and Sara and I were happy to be baking again after a bit of a hectic hiatus -- during which I got married! The Baking JDs are back in action.

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

RECIPE: Classic Three Milks Cake

  • Whipping cream -- The topping whipping cream must be very cold.
  • Sponge Cake:
    • You should not over fold the mixture it will lose volume from the bubbles breaking.
    • Avoid knocking the cake tin when containing batter
    • Add the flour slowly like rain showers.
Preparation time: 1 hour and a half

Equipment required:
• A scale for measuring all ingredients
• Some bowls
• Stand mixer
• Strainer to sift the flour
• Egg Whisk
• Square Cake pan 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan
• Saucepan
• Pastry brush
• Pastry Spatula

Servings: 12

For the vanilla sponge cake
5 large eggs (separated)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) (5 oz) (140gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)

For three milks syrup
1 can (14 oz) (400 gm) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) (340 gm) evaporated milk
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream (about 35% fat) or 1 cup of half & half or 1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons (10 ml) rum (or other flavoring)

Topping and filling
2 cups (500 ml) of whipping cream (about 30% fat)
½ cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (125 gm) sugar
Canned or fresh fruit (to fill and decorate the cake)

For the Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Prepare a square 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan
Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
Beat the egg whites on medium speed, 3 - 5 minutes.
When soft peaks form slowly add the sugar in small batches.
Whip until stiff peaks form about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a medium bowl beat egg yolks at medium-high speed for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the egg yolks become pale colored, creamy and puffy. Stir in vanilla.
Pour the egg yolks over the egg whites, gently fold until just combined trying not to lose any volume from the mixture.
Fold in the flour little by little in the form of rain. Mix until just combined (over-beating will result in a denser, flatter cake).

Pour the batter into the prepared 9”x9” (23cmx23 cm) square cake pan or 9” (23 cm) round cake pan.
Bake in the preheated moderate oven for 25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean

Let it cool
Once cool, split the cake in half, flip the top of the cake and place it on a base. Poke using a fork holes all over the cake to better absorb the three milk soaking liquid. [We cut slices in the cake to maximize absorption; we didn't cut it in half.]

Three milks syrup
In a saucepan add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Remove it and let it cool.

Once it is cool, add the rum or any other flavoring you are using.
Gradually brush all the milk soaking liquid into all sides of the cake (including the cut surfaces) until all absorbed. Best to rest the cake in the fridge overnight to complete the soaking process. [We pretty much pour the whole shebang over it (gradually) and then set it in the fridge for ~15 minutes.]

Whip the cream, when soft peaks form add the sugar little by little, continue whipping until stiff peaks form about 2 mins.

Layer some whipped cream on the bottom layer and cover with canned or fresh fruit and decorate the top layer with whipped cream and the fresh or canned fruit. [We just put the whipped cream on top with the berries.]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Addicted to Crack (Pie)

When we saw the options for pies in this month's challenge, Sara and I both independently and immediately knew what we were going to make: crack pie. Although she hasn't had the real deal, Sara had made Momofuku Milk Bar's famous dessert before. I'd only heard it raved about countless times.

Me oh my, the results didn't disappoint. This pie was out-of-this-world delicious and dangerously addictive.

Although the steps took a while, this was a relatively easy recipe. First, we baked the large oat cookie.

We then crumbled this and made it into a simple crust.

The filling was egg yolk-based with lots of sugar and other good things. It turned from a yellowish tan to a darker brown upon baking. Not the prettiest pie ever, especially since we neglected to dust it with powdered sugar.

We were supposed to chill it overnight -- yeah right. We cooled it in the fridge for a bit and then popped that sucker in the freezer for a little longer. So the consistency of the first few slices wasn't perfect, but they were damn good.

And the pie was even better the next day. The following day, it was gone. Only two lucky men got to share the results of this particular challenge with us.

Crack may be whack, but I'm already thinking about my next slice of crack pie. A pilgrimage to Momofuku Milk Bar may be in order, too.

Finally, check this out if you want a behind-the-scenes look at a Momofuku Milk Bar pastry chef making this superstar pie. I think we got it right!

RECIPE: Crack Pie
Source: Bon Appetit

Servings: 12
Preparation time: 20 + 20 minutes
Baking time: 18 + 50 minutes
Cooling time: 1 hour + 2 hours, approx.
Chilling time: overnight


Oat Cookie Crust
9 tablespoons (1 stick + 1 tbsp) (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125g) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided (6 & 3 tbsp; 85gm & 40gm)
5 1/2 tablespoons (85 ml)(2½ oz) (70 gm) (packed) light brown sugar, divided (4 & 1½ tbsp; 50 gm & 20 gm)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) white sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup (120 ml) (2½ oz) (70 gm) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 gm) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 gm) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (1½ gm) salt

3/4 cup (160 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) white sugar
1/2 cup (packed) (120 ml) (100 gm) (3½ oz) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (8 gm) (¼ oz) dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon (1½ gm) salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120mlk) (4 oz) (115gm) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons (100ml) heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting


Oat Cookie Crust

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 13x9x2 inch/33x22x5cm metal baking pan with parchment (baking) paper. Lightly spray or butter a 9 inch/22cm diameter glass or ceramic pie dish.

2. Combine 6 tablespoons (85 gm) of the softened butter, 4 tablespoons (50 gm) of the brown sugar and the white sugar in medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

3. Add egg and beat until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute.

5. Dump oat mixture into prepared baking pan and press out evenly to edges of pan.

6. Bake until light golden, 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to wire rack and cool cookie completely, about an hour.

7. Using your fingertips, crumble the cookie a into large bowl - there should be no identifiable pieces of cookie remaining. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 gm) butter and 1-1/2 tablespoons (20 gm) brown sugar. Rub in with your fingertips until the mixture is moist and sticks together when pressed between your fingers.

8. Transfer cookie crust mixture to pie dish. Using your fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish (about 1 inch/2.5cm up the sides if your pie dish is deep). If your pie dish is shallow, place it on a baking sheet in case of overflow.


1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. If possible, use bottom-only heat, or the filling may brown too quickly.

2. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

3. Add melted butter and whisk until blended.

4. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended.

5. Pour filling into crust.

6. Bake 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble up). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3. Continue to bake until filling is brown on top and set around edges but center still jiggles slightly, about 20 minutes longer.

7. Cool pie completely in pie dish on wire rack. Chill uncovered overnight.

8. Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into thin wedges and serve cold.

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I highly recommend that you start saying the word "prinsesstarta" in a slightly maniacal "swedish" accent as you read this post - it will help emulate our afternoon in the kitchen. 

Erica and I, along with some law school friends, spent cinco de mayo weekend down in big sur. Though we failed to find an overlapping weekend to bake April's challenge (a yeasted dough Savarin), we weren't exactly itching to make the complicated, and pretty, princess cake. Something about the tiny little marzipan decorations (see the roses *and inchworm* above) and the interior structure....

So it wasn't until after we consumed copious amounts of carnitas tacos that we started in on the cake.

Our first success was ending with a cake that actually rose completely in the middle. Though we aren't above filling in holes with whipped cream (see this success), it makes it much easier to cut when you have a center to cut through. 

We then layered the springy cake with custard and apricot jam.

And finished with a mound of whipped cream. For those of you playing along at home, I think one reason for our success was to get the whipped cream quite hard – you want to be able to form some structure.

Next came the scariest step. You take the middle layer of cake, and add it directly on top of the mound of whipped cream, hoping and praying that it doesn’t end up smushing out the sides or that the cake doesn’t spontaneously crumble into bits.

 Miracles of miracles, we ended up with a near perfect dome. 

But of course, it wouldn’t be a baking-jd challenge if there wasn’t at least one minor mishap. We rolled out the amount of marzipan suggested in the recipe, but it wasn’t nearly enough to cover the cake. We could have started over at this step, but instead we improvised.

See the green ring at the bottom? That covers up the otherwise exposed sides. 

But despite the slightly marred aesthetics, the cake was a success. The structure held up as we sliced into it, and the marzipan flavoring was a delicate balance to the light cake, dense custard, and loads of whipped cream. 

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

And now, per the request of one of our loyal readers, we’ve included the recipe. Go forth and make your own! If the entire recipe is intimidating, the sponge cake is an excellent place to start - it's simple and delicious.

Traditional Swedish Prinsesstårta
Servings: 8 – 10. Makes one 9” round cake.

Vanilla Custard Ingredients
1 cup (240ml) heavy cream, divided
4 egg yolks from large eggs
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) cornstarch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm) (1 oz) granulated white sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream until smooth.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining ½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream and the scraped vanilla bean and bring just to the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean pod, leaving behind the seeds. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the bowl with the egg mixture to temper the eggs.
2. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick like pudding and just comes to a boil. The mixture must hit a boil for the cornstarch to properly thicken the custard, and also to cook out any starchy taste. If it starts to look curdled or lumpy, remove it from the heat and whisk vigorously until smooth, then return to the heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat. If using vanilla extract, add it now.
3. Pour the custard into a clean bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cold. Can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

Sponge Cake
Fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan (such as crushed panko)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) granulated white sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup (120 ml) (65 gm) (2¼ oz) potato starch (or cornstarch)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Thoroughly butter a 9” (23 cm) round springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, then butter the paper. Dust the buttered pan with enough breadcrumbs to coat the bottom and sides, just like flouring a cake pan. Set aside.
2. Place the eggs and granulated white sugar in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed with an electric mixer or stand mixer with whisk attachment until the eggs are tripled in volume and very light coloured and fluffy, about 5 minutes. The mixture should fall from the beaters in thick ribbons. Don’t overbeat the eggs – once they form thick ribbons and stop growing in volume, stop beating.
3. Sift the all-purpose (plain) flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt into a bowl, then sift the flour mixture over the whipped eggs. With a balloon whisk, fold the flour into the eggs until blended, keeping as much air in the batter as possible. Use large, gentle yet confident strokes, bringing batter from the bottom of the bowl to the top. Once mixed, the batter should be quite thick and smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread it out evenly, and bake in the lower third of the preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.
Let the cake cool in the pan for a few minutes then run a knife around the edge and remove the sides of the springform pan. Don’t worry if it sinks a bit in the middle.
Invert the cake onto a cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper. If the cake is lopsided, press gently to make it level, then allow it to cool completely before continuing. The cake can be made a day ahead and stored, well-wrapped in plastic, at a cool room temperature.

Marzipan Covering and Rose
10 oz (285 gm) marzipan
Green and yellow food colouring
Icing sugar, for rolling
Red food colouring
1. Set aside a small amount of plain marzipan (about the size of a walnut) to make a rose for decoration. Knead the remaining marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar until it becomes softer and smooth (the warmth from your hands will help this).
2. Add a small amount of green food colouring (I used 3 or 4 drops of liquid food colouring) and knead it into the marzipan to get the desired shade of green. You might need to add a little more green or yellow food colouring to get the right colour – anything from pastel green to bright spring green (just not neon green!) Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until you are ready to cover the cake (or store as directed on the marzipan package).
3. To make the rose, tint the reserved plain marzipan with a tiny bit of red food colouring to make it pink. Dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll the marzipan into a log. With a rolling pin, roll it out into a long ribbon, about 1” (2 ½ cm) wide and 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar so that the marzipan doesn’t stick.
Press one long edge of the ribbon with your fingertip to thin it out slightly. Begin rolling up the ribbon, leaving the thin edge loose to form the petals of the rose. Start the roll off tightly, then loosen up as you go, pinching and gathering the marzipan to create creases and ruffles. Gently flare out the petals of the rose with your fingertip.
When the rose is large enough, cut off any remaining marzipan ribbon. Pinch off the excess marzipan from the bottom of the rose and set aside to dry slightly.

Prinsesstårta Assembly
2 cups (480 ml) heavy cream, chilled
granulated white sugar, to taste (scant 1 tablespoon is plenty)
Sponge Cake, cooled
1/3 cup (80 ml) seedless raspberry jam (or regular jam pressed through a sieve to remove seeds)
Vanilla Custard, chilled
Marzipan Covering and Rose
Icing sugar, for rolling and dusting
Optional: melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel
1. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste (keep in mind that the rest of the cake components are sweet, so the whipped cream should be very lightly sweetened at most) and continue whipping the cream until stiff. You want it to be sturdy enough to provide structure to the cake, but not over-whipped enough to make butter. Set the whipped cream aside.
2. With a long serrated knife, slice the sponge cake into three even layers. This cake is very delicate, so do this as carefully as possible. Use a gentle sawing motion to move the knife through the cake instead of trying to pull it through the cake. Use a spatula to help you lift off each layer after you cut it. Set aside the middle layer – this will become the top layer of the assembled cake as it is the most flexible and therefore easiest to bend into a dome over the whipped cream.
3. Place one of remaining layers on a cake board or serving platter and spread it evenly with the raspberry jam. Spread or pipe half the chilled custard over the jam in an even layer, leaving enough room around the edges so that it doesn’t spill over the sides of the cake.
4. Top the custard with another layer of cake. Spread or pipe the remaining custard evenly over it, again leaving some room around the edges.
5. Reserve ½ cup (120 ml) of the stiffly whipped cream. Pile the rest into a mound on top of the custard. Spread it into a thick layer with a thin, flexible spatula or off-set spatula, then hold the spatula at an angle to shape the whipped cream into a dome, piling it up in the middle of the cake as much as possible.
6. Place the final layer of sponge cake (the one cut from the middle of the cake) on top of the whipped cream. Do not press on the top of the cake – instead, gently tuck the edges of the cake layer into the whipped cream, so that they are flush with the cream. This will create a smooth, seamless dome on top of the cake.
7. Gently spread the reserved ½ cup (120 ml) of whipped cream over the entire cake to fill in any cracks and even out the surface. If necessary, refrigerate the cake to firm it up before continuing.
8. Dust your work surface with icing sugar and press the marzipan into a 6-inch (15 cm) disc (knead it a bit to warm it up first). Coat both sides with icing sugar and roll it out into a 14” (35½ cm) diameter circle less than 1/8” (3 mm) thick. Use plenty of icing sugar to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, you can roll the marzipan out between two wide sheets of parchment paper (still use plenty of icing sugar).
9. Use the rolling pin to drape the rolled-out marzipan sheet over the cake and smooth it around the cake gently with your hands.
If it seems like it wants to fold or buckle around the cake, gently lift and stretch it away from the cake with one hand while smoothing it down with the other.
Trim the excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake with a paring knife or spatula blade.
10. If desired, cut leaves out of the scraps of green marzipan (you can knead in another drop of green food colouring to make the leaves a slightly darker green). Use a paring knife to score vein-like lines, then pinch one end of the leaf to give it some shape.
Dust the cake with icing sugar, then place the marzipan rose and leaves in the middle of the cake.
(You can also use melted chocolate, royal icing, or piping gel to pipe a design on top of the cake, if you wish.)
11. To serve, cut the cake into wedges with a large, sharp knife (run the blade under hot water and wipe it clean after every cut for neater slices). The cake can be served immediately but will be easier to slice after chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Storage and Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The finished Prinsesstårta should be refrigerated until serving, and any leftovers refrigerated as well. Ideally the cake is eaten the day it is made, but will keep in the refrigerator for a day or so, after which it may lose its structural integrity and aesthetic appeal (but it will still taste good!)