Sunday, April 30, 2017

Brazilian Ombre Cake

With the Cinco De Mayo celebration right around the corner, things are gearing up here in Texas. Restaurants are starting to advertise specials and the party gear is prominent. While some celebrate in the standard tradition, some have tweaked some changes to make their own traditions.

Twisting tradition can catch on like wildfire. One of the most unusual twists I have seen is the change in the pinata. Through the years, pinatas have been something for the kids, filled with candy for them to enjoy once it is broken open. However, if there are no kids in the picture-you can always switch to the adult version. To host a party with the adult version all you need to do is fill your pinata with the small plastic airline bottles of some type of spirit, such as tequila. Also, have a gallon drink dispenser ready, filled with ice cold margarita mix. Once that pinata is broken open, it is time for happy hour!

The break from tradition falls right in line with this recipe. As a blogger, I am always looking for something new and different when it comes to baked goods and this cake recipe is exactly that. So sorry hard core traditionalists- there is no flan, churros or tres leche cake recipe here. Instead we have a a moist cake with brown to ivory layers filled with dulce de leche and frosted with whipped cream.

Due to the texture and sweetness of the filling-each layer of cake is does not have the standard thick filling that is in most cakes. The whipped cream topping balances out the sweetness. Each cake layer has its own unique flavor (going from bottom to top):
brazil nut

This cake is fairly easy to make, but a kitchen scale is essential. The recipe comes from the UK and was modified from a 7 inch cake recipe into one for a 9 inch cake. Like most people here in the US- a 7 inch cake pan is not all that common and having 4 of them is even more uncommon.  So let's get baking!

Brazilian Ombre Cake
adapted from Dr Oetker recipes

10.6 oz flour
2 2/3 tsp baking soda
7 oz dark brown sugar
2 oz ground almonds
4 oz sugar
2 oz coconut (unsweetened or desiccated)
4 oz light brown sugar
2 oz ground brazilian nuts
3 oz dark chocolate (chopped or chips)
1 1/4 plus 1/3 cup buttermilk (room temp)
1/2 cup and 2 tsp butter
4 eggs (room temp)
1 tbs caramel extract

Ingredients/filling and topping
1 1/2- 2 cans dulce de leche or caramel (about 20 oz total)
20 oz heavy cream
2 oz of sliced or ground brazil nuts

Prepare four 9 inch cake pans by greasing the interior and lining the bottom with parchment paper.

The cake batter is formed like an assembly line, so take out about 5 medium size bowls. Fill each bowl as follows:

1. Flour and baking soda, sifted together
2. Dark brown sugar (free of lumps)
3. Ground almonds
4. White sugar and coconut, whisked together
5. Light brown sugar and ground brazil nuts, whisked together

Using a kitchen scale and a zip lock bag, empty the sifted ingredients in the bag and weigh. Measure out half of the mixture and add to bowl of dark brown sugar. Whisk together. Place the other half of the sifted ingredients back into the original bowl.

Then measure out half of the dark brown sugar mixture and pour into the bowl of ground almonds. Go back to the bowl with the remaining flour/baking soda and measure out half. Whisk into the white sugar and coconut mixture and take the other half and whisk into the light brown sugar and brazil nut mixture.

The end result should be a 4 bowls: flour/dark brown sugar mixture, flour/dark brown sugar/ground almonds, flour/coconut/white sugar and the final bowl with flour/light brown sugar/brazil nut mixture. At this time, preheat the oven to 355 degrees. Set up a double boiler and fill the top bowl with the chocolate. Also, fill a saucepan with the butter. As both of these are in the melting process, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a medium size bowl.  Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients in each of the four bowls.

Remove the saucepan of melted butter from the heat. Let cool 20 minutes. Then whisk into the egg/buttermilk mixture. Divide this batter evenly into 4 small bowls. Fill the well formed in each of the bowls of the dry ingredients with 1 measured out small bowl of batter. Stir together until just blended. Whisk the caramel extract into the bowl with the ground almond ingredients. Also, whisk the melted chocolate into the bowl of the brown sugar/flour mixture.

Each batter mixture makes up one layer. Pour each into one prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Place in oven and let bake for 10 minutes, then rotate and bake for an additional 10. Cakes are done when tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert to a rack. Carefully remove parchment paper and let each layer cool completely.

Once the cakes are completely cool, prepare a cake board by placing a sheet of wax paper with the center cut out over the edge of the cake board. Then fill a small prep bowl with hot water.

Place the chocolate cake layer on the center of the board. Scoop out 1/3 of the dulce de leche/caramel from the full can and place on top of the center of the cake layer. Take a small offset spatula and dip in the hot water and carefully smooth it over the surface of the cake layer. Repeat this process of smoothing on the caramel with each layer, placing the caramel flavored cake layer next, then the brazilian nut. Since the coconut is the top layer, it will not have any caramel spread over the surface.

Whip the cream until thick and fluffy. Spread on the sides and top of cake. Pull out the wax paper from between the cake and the cake board. Then sprinkle the top with the ground or slivered nuts. Use the remaining 1/2 or whole can of caramel/dulce de leche to serve on the side with each slice of cake. The other alternative (prior to topping with nuts) is to thin out the caramel/dulce de leche with some cream and drizzle over top of the cake.

Tips and Notes:
1. Should you only have 2 cake pans, only add the liquid ingredients to two of the bowls of dry. Bake those layers. Once inverted, clean the pans and prepare again by greasing and lining with parchment. Blend up the other two bowls of dry ingredients as directed and fill pans and bake the same way.

2. Room temperature is important for the buttermilk and eggs. If cold, the melted butter will turn into cold chunks in the batter.

3. I noticed the second layer was the same color as the third. This might be remedied with a 1/2 white sugar and 1/2 light brown sugar blend when making the brazilian nut layer. Also use skinless brazilian nuts.

4. If you do not plan to serve right after making, keep the caramel to serve on the side instead of topping the cake and use whipped cream stabilizer in the topping.

5. Some of the dry ingredient blends look identical, so labeling the bowls will guarantee that there is no mix up.

6. I used the same zip lock bag to measure and split out the dry ingredients when using the scale.
                              **LAST YEAR: Southern Cotillion Peach Cake**

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Key Lime Cupcakes

This weekend was a key lime fest, mainly due to the upcoming expiry date on the bottle of key lime I had purchased. Which brings me to an issue concerning expiry dates.

The way I read expiry dates is based on unopened. If the package has not been opened, it will stay good up until that day. This is directly in conflict with another opinion. The other opinion is that it is good until that day, opened or not. Of course, this thought stems from someone that favors a lot of dairy type of sauces, but ironically, has to have their meat cooked very well done.

In comparison, we both could eat the same thing and I would be the only one getting sick. I have zero tolerance for warm mayonnaise and I will not eat a leftover sandwich from the day prior that has been prepared with mayo and vegetables. 

However, since this recipe was made with a bottle of key lime juice that was just opened-there is no issue with expiry dates. The issue is that I would rather have this than warm potato salad!

The cupcake has a dense but moist texture. The key lime zest and juice is very well balanced in the frosting as well as cake. As you devour one of these wonderful cakes, you will notice that the flavor ingredients provide an occasional pop of tangy lime. This recipe makes about 1 dozen cupcakes.

Key Lime Cupcakes
adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes

2 egg whites
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs key lime zest
2 tbs of key lime juice
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar

2 sticks or 1 cup of butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbs key lime juice
1 tbs key lime zest
3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp of milk (if above mixture is too thick)
Key lime wedges (optional for topping)

Prepare a 12 cavity muffin tin by greasing the top edge and lining with cupcake papers. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter and beat until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat and add 1/2 cup of sugar. Once blended, beat in the additional sugar. Set aside.

Take out a small bowl and whisk together only 1 tbs lime juice, milk, vanilla extract and key lime zest. Using a larger bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set both mixtures aside.

Return back to the butter/sugar mixture and beat in one egg on medium speed. Then add both egg whites and blend into the batter. Continue to beat, but use the low speed. Add 1/2 of the sifted ingredients and let the mixer run until blended into the butter batter. Then add the milk mixture and run the mixer until blended. Remove bowl from mixer stand and fold the remaining dry ingredients into the batter by using a wooden spoon.

Fill the 12 lined muffin cavities evenly with the batter. Put in oven and bake for 10 minutes and then rotate pan and bake an additional 12 minutes. Use a tester for doneness, surface of cupcakes will be dry to the touch. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool for 15 minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes in the top of the cupcakes. Then brush the surfaces of the cupcakes with the remaining 1 tbs of lime juice. Let the tops dry prior to frosting cupcakes.

 For the frosting, beat the salt into the butter until smooth and creamy. With the mixer set on low speed add 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar and beat until all sugar is blended into the butter. Repeat this process with an additional 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar. Add the key lime juice, zest and vanilla extract. Beat together until evenly distributed into the batter. Then mix in the remaining confectioners' sugar in increments until no dry sugar remains. Should it seem too thick, beat in 1/2 tsp milk. Be careful not to over blend, you do not want a whipped frosting but one that is very thick.

Frost cupcakes as desired and top with key lime wedge. Enjoy!

Tips and Notes:
1. The mixture of milk and lime juice will curdle, but the recipe states the mixture has to set after blended before adding it to the cupcake batter.

2. How much juice you want to brush on top is a matter of personal preference, but be sure to wait until completely dry before icing.

3. The batter, once blended rises quickly-so be prepared to fill the cavities immediately.

4. The cupcakes did not have a tower of icing on them, if you prefer a thicker topping increase the frosting recipe.  

                                       **LAST YEAR: Hawaiian Breakfast Rolls**

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blackberry Ginger Kouign Amann

Easter Sunday is celebrated in many different ways across the world. However, here in the US, it is eggs and more eggs; egg hunts, deviled eggs, bunny eggs and the list goes on. The last Easter egg hunt I remember was very "old school"- it was with real dyed boiled eggs. The memory that is etched in my mind is finding an egg that was covered with ants because it had a broken shell. Needless to say, since then I am not really into egg hunts these days. Even though the tradition has changed to using plastic eggs filled with candy, it has not lured me back into egg hunting.

So, today I present a recipe that is completely void of any egg, the Kouign Amann pastry-otherwise known as Breton cakes. Processing the dough is much like the croissant, a butter sheet is placed on top of the dough and the dough folded on top. Then there are several steps of rolling and folding.

While all these types of cakes are crunchy and buttery on the outside, this particular recipe has a few flavor twists that result in an addictive pairing. On the outside and folded into the dough layers is homemade ginger sugar. Then a blackberry sugar mixture is pursed inside the dough and baked. The end result is a crunchy ginger cake that compliments the blackberry filling in the center. This recipe makes 1 dozen pastries.

Blackberry Ginger Kouign Amann
adapted from Baked From Scratch

Ingredients/Ginger Sugar
2 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 cups granulated sugar

1 3/4 cup salted butter (softened)
2 tsp salt
4 cups flour
2 1/2 tbs yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-105 degrees)

1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups blackberries (cut in half)

The first step is to make the ginger sugar. Fill a food processor bowl with grated ginger and sugar.
Pulse the mixture together until ginger is distributed throughout the sugar. Prepare a pan by lining with parchment and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Pour the sugar mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Bake for seven minutes and then stir. Place back in oven and let bake for an additional seven minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled fill a grinder with some of the mixture and grind for about 2 minutes. Continue with this process until all the sugar lumps are ground up. Pour into shallow bowl and set aside.

For the dough, start by whisking together the yeast and the warm water. Then add the salt. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook and add 1/2 cup of flour and beat at low speed until blended. Repeat the process until all the flour has been blended to form a dough. Form the dough into a ball and enclose in plastic wrap. Leave on counter and let sit to rise for about 20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, the butter block can be formed. Place butter between sheets of waxed paper and roll it out to form a 10x8 inch rectangle. Place in fridge for about 5 minutes.

After the dough has risen, prepare a flat surface by dusting with flour. Place dough on prepared area and roll out to form a 16x10 inch rectangle. Take butter block from the fridge and peel off one sheet of wax paper. Place butter square on top and in the center of the dough rectangle. Enclose the butter block by folding the dough over the top and pinching together any exposed edges. Roll the dough again, this time forming a 18x8 inch rectangle. Then fold dough into 3rds (much like a letter), which makes a 8x6 inch rectangle. Repeat the same rolling process again, starting with forming a 16x10 inch rectangle and ending with one 8x6 size. Wrap dough and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

After the dough has chilled for at least 30 minutes, prepare a 12 cavity muffin pan by liberally greasing with butter, covering the interior and upper edge of the cavities. Then cover a flat work surface with the ginger sugar. When the dough has completed the chilling time, remove from refrigerator and let set uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover the dough with a sprinkling of ginger sugar and roll out, forming an 8x18 inch rectangle. Fold up the length of the dough into 3rds forming a letter size rectangle. Sprinkle on more sugar and roll out again, this time forming a 17x13 inch rectangle. Cut off about 1/2 inch from all 4 sides, making a straight edge.

Once this is complete, take out a medium size bowl and mix all the filling ingredients together. Then go back to the dough and cut out 12 squares, each 4x4 inches. Place the squares in the prepared muffin cavities and fill with 1 tablespoon of filling. Take each corner of the dough and fold and pinch together in the center. Cover lightly with a cloth and let rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Once dough has risen, place muffin pan on baking sheet and put in oven. Let pastries bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on rack. Then transfer to serving platter.

Tips and Notes:
1. The rising time and the temperature of the water are crucial. My pastries were more cake like than flaky due to the variation from these 2 factors.

2. There is a lot of butter and quite a bit drips out, so the baking sheet is necessary to catch those drips.

3. I had a lot of sugar, so after cutting the squares, I placed each dough squared on top of the sugar in the shallow bowl and pressed lightly. I did the same for the other side, prior to placing it in the muffin cavity.

4. If the pastries stick after cooling, place pan in the warm oven a few minutes to melt the sugar edges and try to remove pastry again.

5. Filling is to be used immediately, so it cannot be prepared hours in advance of baking.
                                 **LAST YEAR: Banana French Toast Muffins**       

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Walnut Mini Loaves

Today I have decided that I need to tackle one of my fears. Even though it is not a huge fear, I need to get past it. It is the fear of running out of an ingredient in the middle of creating something in the kitchen. The fear was built on having that irritation and inconvenience happen 3 times, back to back.

I am not alone, for there may be several bloggers out there that have this affliction. It is silly, I know. It is simply a matter of being organized. Instead of minimizing it to being organized, it would appear that I have over compensated by hoarding certain things. One of them that came to light recently is the amount of packaged nuts I have in my freezer.

Now it is time that I relieve some of the inventory, by baking up some nut bread. This particular recipe uses walnuts and whiskey. It yields 6 mini loaves that are really moist due to the texture from the oil in the ground nuts. Also, these little nutty loaves are even further enhanced by a sweet whiskey syrup ladled on top.

This does make a good base recipe that you can experiment with. Chocolate ganache can be drizzled on top after the syrup sets. Using hazelnut and a nut liqueur is another flavor choice.

Walnut Mini Loaves
adapted from Dr Oetker Recipes

1 cup ground walnuts
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs melted butter
1 cup whiskey
3 tbs milk

remaining 3 tbs whisky reduction from above
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbs water

Start by making the whiskey reduction. Pour whisky in a saucepan and place over medium high heat and let cook down until only a little over 1/3 of a cup, or 6 tablespoons remains. Set aside to cool.

Grease the interior of 6 mini loaf pans, making sure all corners and sides are well covered. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the baking powder and flour. Whisk in the sugar and then the walnuts. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, milk and 3 tbs of the whiskey reduction. Fold the liquid into the dry mix until all is blended. The batter should be quite thick.

Spoon the batter evenly into each of the pans, evening out the surface by using a spatula. Place in oven and let bake until tester comes out clean and edges are golden, about 15-20 minutes.

As it bakes, prepare the whiskey syrup. Fill a saucepan with the 3 tbs of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Stir and let cook until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining whiskey reduction.

Once the loaves are baked, remove from oven. Set pan(s) on cooling rack and poke holes in top of each, using a wooden skewer. Then drizzle a tablespoon of the syrup on top and continue to drizzle by tablespoon until all the syrup is gone. Let loaves cool completely in pan, then turn out onto rack.

Prior to serving, you can add an additional topping of whipped cream, chocolate or caramel.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Citrus Ginger Cookies** 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spicy Date Filled Cookies

Sometimes baking in the kitchen can be like resolving a mystery. You see something that you have never made nor have you ever tasted. Then you review the recipe, noting that it has some challenges that take time. Like most bloggers, we step up to the plate, eager to create and push our skills further.

This particular recipe originates from the Middle East, so there are special ingredients as well as a special tool needed to create this traditional cookie called Ma'amoul. However, you can scale it back in a few ways. The mold is only for appearance, so the cookies can be formed by hand. Also, clarified butter can be made from real butter, if you have the time. The specialty spices can be found on line or at an Indian or Middle Eastern grocers. Also, the mold can be ordered on line.

These may be called cookies, but they are definitely more of a pastry type of item. The outer part contains yeast and the dough is used in a manner much like a crust rather than a cookie. The crust houses a blend of sweet dates, spices and walnuts. All in all, this recipe mystery unraveled into round pastries housing exotic flavor that were both pleasing in appearance and taste. The recipe is definitely a keeper, especially when you want to impress for special occasions. 

Now, without further delay, below is the recipe, which makes about 2 dozen cookies. Note that the spice mix yields more than required in this recipe, but the mix can be stored for later use.

Spicy Date Filled Cookies
adapted from an Edible Mosaic

Ingredients/Spice Blend
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground anise
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground mahlab (ground cherry pits)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tbs canola oil
3/4 lb of date paste
1 1/2 tsp of spice blend (above)

1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup clarified butter (ghee)
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar (for dusting on top/optional)

Start by whisking all the spice ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

To create the filling, a food processor or stand mixer will need to be used. Prepare the blade and the interior of the bowl by coating with oil. Place the date paste in the bowl and then pour in the oil. Pulse the food processor or beat on medium speed with mixer until the oil is blended with the date paste. During this process you may need to stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Oil the surface of a cutting board and empty the date mixture onto the board. Separate out 1 1/2 tsp of the spice blend and store the remaining in a small jar or time for later use. Oil your hands and sprinkle some of the spice mix on the date mixture. Knead the spice into the date filling and then add some more spice and knead again. Repeat the process until all the spice is blended into the filling. Then do the same with the chopped walnuts. Set the bowl aside.

For the dough, get out two saucepans. Fill one with sugar and water. Fill the other with the butter and oil. Place the saucepan with the sugar/water over medium high heat. Let the mixture heat up to boiling and swirl a few times to get the sugar swirled into the water. It should boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat and set aside. Put the saucepan filled with the butter and oil over the medium high heat and let cook until the butter is completely melted. This saucepan is also to be removed from heat and set aside.

Sift together the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter/oil mixture. Using a wooden spoon, fold the liquid into the flour mixture. Once this comes together, blend in the sugar syrup in three increments until a dough is formed (it will be oily). Dust a flat surface with flour and knead the dough on the surface for 2 minutes. Form into a flat disc and cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for about 7 minutes. Remove and knead again for 2 minutes.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

To form the cookies by using the mold: Take one tablespoon of dough and fill the mold and shape it much the same way as you do a tart pan, flattening and bringing up the sides. Once this is formed, take a knife to remove the excess dough, running the knife from the center top edge outward to the left then the right. Separate out a teaspoon of filling and flatten it into the center of the dough in the mold, being careful that it does not touch the sides. Then separate out a teaspoon of dough and flatten it into a disc, big enough to cover the filling. Place it on top of the filling and press down, so the edge is compressed with the edge of the first layer of dough. Make sure there are no cracks and the filling is completely covered. Lastly, tap the side rim of the mold on a flat surface and the cookie will fall out.

To form the cookies by hand: use the same measurements above, but use your palm as a mold and create the same coverage of the filling and make a slightly flattened circle. Use the tines of a fork to make a cross hatch on top.

After making 6 cookies and placing them on a cookie sheet one inch apart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make 6 more, spacing the same on the cookie sheet. Place pan in oven and let cookies bake for about 10-12 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Cookies are done when the bottom is toasty and golden.  Remove and transfer to rack to completely cool.

Once cooled and prior to serving, you can dust with powdered sugar.

Tips and Notes:
1. Do not worry about the filling bubbling up and bursting the cookie, it does not hold that much liquid, so fill these cookies with as much as they can hold. In the beginning, I was too sparing on the filling resulting in more cookie than filling. The cookie is only to be a crust.

2. The dough is oily, so if you find it becoming too slick while forming the cookies, put it the fridge for 3-5 minutes to firm up. I did spend a lot of time forming these, so I needed the re-chill in the process.

3. If you find the cookie release from the mold requires too much effort, use a light dusting of flour in the mold before forming another cookie.

4. As stated before, specialty items can be ordered on line or can be found at a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store. Also, you can always grind whole spices (Anise, Fennel) if the "ground" version is not available.
                               **LAST YEAR: Sawdust Pie**