Tag Archives: baking

I LIKE BIG BUNDTS (AND I CANNOT LIE)

Right now, the traditional bundt is my favorite cake shape. I love the clean lines and the perfectly symmetrical shape. I love how it slices into a fat, round wedge, and I love how well it holds a draped glaze or icing. At Marlow & Sons, we have a few recipes that work nicely with the bundt shape and volume — fresh ginger and creme fraiche; sesame seed and orange blossom water; spiced pumpkin and chopped dark chocolate; and homemade goat’s milk caramel, or cajeta, pound cake. Bundt cakes feel plentiful, unpretentious, classic, and simple. Exactly what I want all my cakes to taste like.

There are so many beautiful bundt molds out there, vintage shapes especially (like Nordic Ware, well-known for manufacturing the molds back in the 1960s and 70s). At work, we use one similar to this, but I like the smooth lines of this ceramic mold, too.

Tomorrow is National Bundt Day, so it’s a great time to invest in a beautiful pan!

QUEENLY BIRTHDAY

If you have a fear of sugar — the kind that’s heaped into quantities that makes your hands tremble and eyes twitch — then this cake is probably not for you. But for us, the sugar-high-riding gang at Lawrence (gummi worms at 5pm is a daily kitchen snack), well, we pine for the Queen Elizabeth cake, which is sweetened with not just regular granulated sugar, but also brown sugar, dried coconut, and dates.

The Queenie, as we affectionately called it, lived on the menu much longer than most of our desserts because it was so popular with clients. (It was also topped with a scoop of homemade Makers Mark-infused ice cream, so that probably didn’t hurt, either). And in the kitchen, we never got tired of the coconut-topped cake either, and we regularly ended shifts with a shared slice or two.

The Queen derives most of its sweetness from dates, which are soaked in hot water until a thick, mashable paste forms.  The rest of the cake is a breeze to assemble — cream some butter and sugar, add a few eggs and vanilla, then alternate sifted flour with the warm date mixture. I love making this cake in a single bowl, creaming butter and sugar by hand, with a good wooden spoon. No mixer required. The batter puffs and swells into a lovely tan-colored cake, which is then topped with cooked mixture of (more) butter, heavy cream, unsweetened shredded coconut, and brown sugar. Then, finally, the cake is broiled until the topping caramelizes into a crunchy, amber crust.

So when Jessica’s birthday rolled around, I surprised her with a Queenie encore, this time gussied up, American-style, into a three-layer birthday cake smothered with vanilla buttercream frosting. (I was in such a rush that the cake didn’t completely cool before I frosted it, which is why you can see that top layer sliding around in the final photo!) I can make this cake in my sleep — I realized I still had the recipe memorized — but it was an entirely new challenge to bake this cake during service with her only a few meters away from me. Jess could totally spy the action from her garde manger station (as in, she saw the cake layers cooling on our speed rack and overheard us whispering about it, oops), but I think she was surprised anyway.

Note — Warm out of the oven, this cake is cozy and comforting, but it’s even better the next day. The flavors are richer, the topping even crunchier, the innards moist and sticky. I’d bring it to a picnic for a sweet finish to a long afternoon.

MEMORIES OF PALMIERS

In the course of preparing endless amounts of sweet things for the restaurant, I end up with lots of odds and ends — bits of dough, packets of pastry, things we can’t serve to customers. I still am racking my brains over how to use a small lump of marzipan I made almost two months ago! I try never to waste anything, but it can be challenging to find new and interesting ways to use it all. (Right now, I love baking up the scone scraps into mini scone-nubbins for the staff).

We recently made a couple kilos worth of puff pastry for a major charity event (more on that soon!), and had so much puff leftover. I couldn’t bare to throw it away, so it became these tiny, crisp, light-as-air palmiers, some of which we gobbled up at work, and some of which I brought home with me to enjoy with hot coffee.

Palmiers have a special place in my heart. When I was growing up, my parents and I would head down to La Jolla Shores every Sunday morning to hang out on the beach for a few hours. We read the newspaper, walked in the sand, and collected seashells. It was the one time of the week that I was allowed to eat junk food (powdered sugar mini-donuts and orange juice), while my parents opted for more sophisticated choices like croissants and bagels. My mom, however, always went for the gigantic palmier — her favorite cookie. It appealed to me both in its sheer size (they’re called elephant ears, after all), and its impressively high sugar level.

It was really fun to recreate this special pastry at work, and insanely easy, too (if you don’t count the days that go into preparing a bar of puff). You could easily recreate this at home with store-bought frozen puff — just make sure that the list of ingredients only lists butter as the fat used. I roll out the puff very thinly, scatter with sugar, and curl both sides like a book. Cut thinly, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with more sugar, and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the sugar caramelizes and gets sticky. Sprinkle with even more sugar and eat hot. One of the best treats I’ve had in ages — buttery, flaky, and sweet.

A SIMPLE TART, ADAPTED

Now, I know I’ve written in the space before how much I love David Tanis’ easy fruit tart. It’s a simple, clever dish from a book packed to the gills with simple, clever recipes. I recently adapted Tanis’ recipe to make an easy savory tart, topped with tiny zucchini from the market. (That it looks like a pizza was entirely unintentional, I swear!)

I rolled out the pastry, cut it into a circle, then brushed it lightly with heavy cream. To make the topping, I sprinkled a cup of finely grated gruyere, and layered baby zucchini, sliced thinly on a mandoline, and drizzled with good olive oil. After 30 minutes, the tart was finished! We ate big slices with a lemony salad of bitter greens and radishes, and the meal was just the right balance of sumptuous and lightness. In the future, though, I would cut the zucchini thicker and use even more cheese — the buttery, rich crust can handle more aggressive toppings!

A SIMPLE TART

There are a handful of cookbook authors that speak to me — I know I’ve mentioned Nancy Silverton, Richard Olney, Elizabeth Schneider, Sam and Sam Clark, Marcella Hazan, Elizabeth David and a few others in this space — but it’s been a while since a title has had a truly profound effect. I first started thinking about David Tanis while Adam was doing research for a story on private restaurants (Tanis runs a 6-seat “restaurant” in his tiny apartment in Paris), and while I was familiar with his name — mostly in association with his past life as a chef at Chez Panisse, and more recently with his (outstanding) NYT lamb curry  — I had never opened one of his books.

A Platter of Figs is one of the best, happiest cookbooks that I’ve come across in a long time. The photos are lush and inspiring, and Tanis’ writing is honest, loving, and thoughtful. Plus! The recipes are organized by season and menu, an organizational technique I first admired in Olney’s The French Menu Cookbook.

When I first got hold of the volume, I was in the midst of planning the menu for Cool Fest. I started flipping through the book, and wound up reading the entire thing, front to cover. Right now I’m obsessed with his apple tart, which I made at Cool Fest, and continue to make at dinner parties and for work. It’s delicate, sweet, and crisp — think faux-puff pastry. I love it.

The recipe is so basic I already have it memorized — though you can find a proper writing-out of it here — and was so easy to execute I was able to make it at midnight at Cool Fest, half-drunk and exhausted. Not bad for a pastry recipe! Like the rest of his recipes, this fruit tart lacks fussiness or complexity, but the final product emerges with a richness and elegance that I really appreciate. Right now I’m loving his tart with a mixed fruit blend of plums, pears, and apples, and a big, fat spoonful of freshly whipped cream. It’s the perfect everyday tart.

ROSE BAKERY

Has anyone had any experience cooking from the Rose Bakery cookbook? It’s published by Phaidon and is beautiful. People have told me that the Rose Bakery’s Anglo-inspired baked goods remind them a little of my style at Le Pick Up, so I recently purchased this book on a whim while showing my friend Steve around the neighborhood. This last photo — ‘The Counter at Tea-Time’ — is totally my dream fantasy of what the baking display at the Pick Up would look like in a perfect world. Lots of pound cakes, muffins, madeleines, and tiny scones. Excited to delve into these recipes and see what works and what doesn’t.

MOLDINGS + NOT-SO-SUBTLE HINTS

Wouldn’t these be perfect for molded marzipan? They remind me of the shortbread molds my mother used when I was growing up, which featured elaborate engravings of old botanical drawings. They were beautiful.

I know my boyfriend reads this here blog, so I’m just gonna leave these images here and hope for the best. Not subtle, I know, but Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away, people!

[via House on the Hill]

WHOOPIE PIES, MORNING BUNS

Happy Independence Day to my American friends! There is perhaps no better wholesome, all-American holiday with which to share the news that you can now read my story about the wholesome, all-American baking and pastry community in Portland, Maine over at enRoute. We had the most tremendous time during our brief stay there earlier this year, and I’m already scheming ways to return. On Standard Baking Co:

Portland’s most renowned pastry shop, Standard Baking Co., is located under its sister restaurant, the James Beard-award-winner Fore Street, whose wood-fired kitchen can take much of the credit for Portland’s foodie reputation. Standard’s sweet wonders are inspired by old-world traditions: caramel-coloured pain au levain, impossibly tender croissants, spongy financiers and sumptuous morning buns swirled with caramel and nuts.

On Scratch Baking Co:

Some of Portland’s most heavenly baked offerings are found over the Casco Bay Bridge in South Portland. At Scratch Baking Co., unpretentious American desserts like graham crackers and shortbread studded with sea salt tumble forth from woven baskets. Scratch’s masterful blueberry scone is feather-light and tastes faintly of sweet cream. Its most popular item is an outrageously addictive, chewy-yet-crisp bagel, lovingly made with a nine-year-old sourdough named Lulu.

Click through the whole slideshow to read it all! I took so many more photos during our trip, and I’ll post more soon.

 

SUMMER BAKING

Consider this a recipe dump for all things regarding baked goods. At a recent St. Jean bbq at work, I may have gone slightly overboard, featuring:

This cardamom-scented upside-down strawberry cake from Joy the Baker…

This (quite lopsided) raspberry-rhubarb galette from Lottie + Doof…

This stupendously rich chocolate cake with raspberry compote from David Lebovitz, via Cucina Nicolina…

And this lemon cake from Vitae Curriculum, with my own lemon curd recipe (use lots of yolks, no sugar, and more zest than you think you need).

And with leftover lemon cake batter and leftover chocolate ganache, I made a pan of cupcakes, too. And finally, a bit of homemade whipped cream, made by whipping a cup of heavy cream with a few tablespoons of sugar.

RHUBARB DOCUMENTATION

Some photos from our recent workshop with Patisserie Rhubarbe’s Stephanie Labelle. I soaked up every second we had with this insanely talented pastry chef, and this workshop was probably the most advanced one we’ve done yet. Not a single person in the room had ever made a panna cotta or marshmallows by scratch, and the workshop was full of people madly scribbling notes as Stephanie explained the complex recipes. There was also an almond tart, tangy rhubarb compote, and rhubarb-spiked lemonade — I was buzzing on sugar until about 2am that night. More photos at Le Pick Up’s site.