Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ilvermorny Cranberry Pie

I don't often show it on here, but I'm a huge Potterhead. I've stood in line at midnight for book releases. I've seen every movie at least 20 times at this point. If I see a picture on Tumblr featuring Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein I burst into yowling tears. The fact that we're learning more and more about America's own Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has gotten me more excited than a niffler in a bank. You can learn more about Ilvermorny on Pottermore, and hear all about its wonderful history, and all about James and Isolt, and Cranberry Pie.

Oh. And I'm a Pukwudgie at Ilvermorny. (Slytherin at Hogwarts. Der.)

Cranberries are a native plant here in the northeast, and they date back to the first Thanksgiving. Now, don't take my Basic Bitch card for this, but I'm a little over pumpkin pie. Cranberry Pie, though? Now that's where it's at. It's old-fashioned, delicious, and unbelievably fast to pull together. It's perfect to bring to a Friendsgiving or to throw together for a family affair when granny won't let go of the pumpkin pie recipe. The best part of this recipe? It's dairy-free and I used coconut sugar in it! Now, what's so great about coconut sugar? I'll tell you.

Coconut sugar is a wonderful alternative to cane sugar that you can use 1:1. It's conflict-free, sustainable, and super tasty. It's getting cheaper and cheaper, too, which is good news for those of us that spend all of our money on rose wine and avocado toast.

Ilvermorny Cranberry Pie
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1 package (a little over 2 cups) fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cups toasted pepitas(pumpkin seeds)
  • 2/3 cups coconut sugar + 1 cup coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz or 1/2 cup vegan butter substitute(I love Earth Balance, melted)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease your favorite pie dish with either butter substitute or pan-spray. Add in your cranberries and sprinkle over the 2/3 cup of coconut sugar and pepita seeds. Give it a little toss to mix and coat evenly. Snap a photo for Instagram.

Combine the flour, remaining cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and butter and whisk together until rather smooth. Pour it over the berries in thin ribbons.

The batter will be rather thin and dark-looking, but it'll taste really good, almost like sweet molasses.

Shinnyyyyyy - like the treasure from a sunken pirate wreck...
Bake this at 350 for 45 minutes and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. It's a pleasingly tart pie and I just adore it with a dollop of whipped cream. This little dollop looks just like the Sorting Hat! Oh, and look, the recipe's over, just like that. See how quick that was? It'll be even quicker to cook. I promise!

Happy cooking and happy eating and HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I wish you luck with your family and friends. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Simple Popovers

My gunkles(gay uncles) are moving to Texas, so I get first pick of all the pastry/antique stuff they had from their St. Louis home. Of course, they gifted me a beautiful copper tea kettle that freaking sings...

Some gorgeous copper canele molds, a copper strainer, a copper bowl, and a new pan...

Shinyyyyy like a treasure from a sunken pirate wreck...
Oh, and three nonstick popover molds, along with a kiss on the cheek and a cheeky "I want popovers for Christmas brunch" before handing me everything.

So I must confess: I've never actually had a popover. The first time I'd even heard of them was when I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott when the March family shares their Christmas feast with the Hummels, and I think I was around six or seven when that happened. It happened again when I was watching a dubbed episode of Sailor Moon on Cartoon Network's Toonami when Serena/Usagi goes to the ball in search of the Silver Crystal disguised as a guest with the nomme "Duchess Popover" in a poofy pink dress. I don't think I even looked up what a popover was until I was already in culinary school, so I'm basically going into this whole thing blind.

A popover is described as an airy pastry that, to me, resembles a choux puff in structure. They're baked in a fairly deep cup pan that has high sides and seems to be structured as such to allow as much heat as possible to penetrate each popover as individuals, rather than as a unit, like a cupcake pan would.

This tells me that it is ideal to have a crisp crust on the outside and plenty of high sides for the dough to cling to as it rises and domes over the top. A quick google search of "popovers" will tell you that many struggle to get it just right, which tells me that it takes a certain amount of skill to do so, or at least have a basic understanding of baking/pastry chemistry.

To get a rise out of something - an angel food cake, for example - you generally do not grease your tins. This is because, as the cake/muffin/popover/whatever is baking, gas is rising and being trapped in the glutinous web that is generally the flour. As this batter rises, it must have something to cling to, and it can't stick to something that's been greased all to heck. That being said, most recipes I've seen tell you to grease your popover tins. This seems counterproductive to me, but whatever, I'll try it.

Most popover recipes comprise of four basic ingredients: milk, flour, eggs, butter. The ratios are different, but this seriously reminds me of a pate a choux dough in many ways. There are even recipes that tell you to heat up the milk before adding it to the flour - I mean, seriously, that's exactly what you do with a choux paste. The differences are ratios - a popover recipe yields a thin batter, thinner than pancakes but thicker than crepes. Also, there's not a lot of fat in popovers in comparison to choux buns. This intrigues me because it tells me that most of the gas and bubbles are going to come from the eggs and milk versus the evaporating fat, but hey.

So, what do all of these things tell me? High heat. Non-greased tins. Gluten is essential. Oh, and one thing most recipes seem to agree on: the batter must rest before baking. This is similar to canele batter, another thin-battered treat that requires certain pans and certain methods to be successful. Most recipes for six standard popovers are the same, but the methods all vary. I tried Ina Garten's first, which does not mention resting...

There was an attempt. 
Okay so these were tasty, but they were rather close-textured and a bit pale. They had some good bubbles starting, but I think that there were some factors missing: gluten, for example. I think these ones may have been a little high in fat - not butter fat, but milk fat - and were pale because of the lack of sugar. Also, upon watching the instructional video, I noticed that Ina had a 12-popover mini pan versus my standard 6-popover pan, so that honestly explained a lot.

so smol
Another thing I should probably mention is that there are no dairy products in my house. My partner, B, is violently lactose intolerant and I get mildly fart-y when I eat too much cheese, so it's just easier to have no dairy products in the house. I use almond-coconut blend because, to me, it works the best with most recipes and it tastes most-like dairy milk. I used the almond-coconut blend in this recipe as 100%, but I still suspected that the amount of fat in it may be the culprit. I decided that some lateral thinking was in order, so I switched it up to water.

With a mere 1/2 cup of the almond-coconut milk and the rest being water, I also decided to switch to bread flour with the second batch. The bread flour will allow larger bubbles, and react better with the water to create more gluten, and it will hold the steam in better for the fat from the "butter", which is really vegan butter substitute. The eggs and such were still the same - only the water and the type of flour were different. Oh, and this time I was going to let the batter rest. Most recipes say you can do this overnight or for up to 24 hours, but I just let this batch rest for 45 minutes - half because I'm impatient, half because I had work around 2:30 and didn't want to be late.

I filled up the tins(only lightly greased this time) a little more than 2/3rds full rather than the "less than half-full" instruction from a previous recipe, and preheated the pans by letting them hang out in the oven for about 2 minutes. I suspect that this is to allow an initial 'crust' to form on contact so that the popover batter will really have something to cling to as it goes up.


I added a longer baking time to ensure that these puppies do not collapse, while only lowering the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees instead of the 425. You want these to be crisp, after all, so the longer the better. When I opened up the first one, there was quite a bit of steam coming up, so a few more minutes in the oven wouldn't hurt, especially since it was still rather custardy in the middle. The final bake time was about 45-50 minutes. Seriously, the difference was phenomenal.

Me vs. you

Take the popovers immediately out of the tins and allow them to cool on a rack. I highly recommend eating them fresh and hot, because nothing will quite beat these babies when they're steaming and crispy.  They're great with "butter"(Earth Balance, that is) or with any kind of creamy soup to mop it up. I can't wait to try a blueberry popover for Christmas.

Simple Popovers
Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe
yields 6 standard popovers or 10 mini popovers

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c warm water
  • 1/2 c coconut/almond milk blend(any dairy-free milk will do)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 oz vegan butter substitute (roughly 3 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 8.5 oz bread flour
Combine everything in the pitcher of a blender and blitz for 30 seconds, then scrape down, and blitz again for another 5 seconds or so. Pour into a container with a spout(a big measuring cup would be ideal, or possibly a pitcher) and cover with plastic wrap. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. (Apparently, the longer the better.) If you plan on only letting it rest for 30 minutes, take this time to preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Prep your popover pan(yes, you need POPOVER PAN, not muffin tins) with a light bit of either pan spray or melted butter. Preheat the pan itself by putting it in the oven for 2 minutes. When the pans are ready, break out your batter!

Pour your batter into the molds to a little over 2/3rds full. Turn your oven down to 400 and then set the timer for 45 minutes. DO NOT PEEK. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR ANYTHING. TAPE IT CLOSED IF YOU HAVE TO. DON'T PEEK. Just let them bake until rather dark brown and crisp on the outside.

Evacuate them from the pans immediately and let cool for at least 5 minutes before consuming. You can eat them piping hot(which I recommend) or have them at room temperature with jam, with cheese and fruit, or just on their own. They're honestly perfect mid-afternoon snacks, and I really think that more Americans should be baking these on the regular. For as technical as they are, they're truthfully the quickest things ever to prepare. The batter takes mere minutes to prepare, and the longest time is the waiting. If you do try them, with success, without the resting period, please let me know - I'd like to meet a superior human. 

Have fun trying this one, you guys! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Kinda-Sorta-Definitely Cheesecake

Creamy and delicious; brush it with rum.
Okay so here it is: my partner is lactose intolerant to a violent degree and I love him enough to not let that stand in the way of our happiness. Cooking and eating a dairy-free lifestyle is oddly easy, once you know what you're doing, and you'll slowly start to wake up from the spell that you have to have dairy-milk every day.

Sure, it's great when you're a kid, but here's the thing: it's the breast milk of another animal. We can't even handle breastfeeding in our own species, and yet the average American guzzles 199 pounds of a four-legged mammal's breastmilk per year. Yeah, dairy milk is awesome, but it's not the end-all, be-all. The spell that it has so many of us under is so thick it's a little staggering; we won't even try other milks, even though they're often just as good in many different ways. Anyway.

We have a lot of great milks available for baking, for drinking, and many of them can be nut-free. I really like rice milk for drinking, and coconut milk for baking. B, my partner, really loves the almond-coconut milk blends, because it is the closest thing we've found, in his mind, to the regular dairy milk. I've had pea milk before, and I love it for savory cooking - such as mashed potatoes! The point is that there are so many non-dairy options available that there's really no reason to be consuming dairy milk. Nowadays, thanks to modern science, they've come up with all kinds of dairy-free substitutes for milks, cheeses, sour creams, and butters. I've got my favorites, of course, but your best bet is to try different kinds and see what you like best. And you know what? They work just fine for baking; and take it from me - I was a Pastry Chef for 3 years!

Baking and pastry work is nothing but chemistry, science, and math - quite simple and logical! It is working within the constraints and rules of such where creativity is born. Creation is not the opposite of constriction - but I'm getting ahead of myself. The point is that I wanted cheesecake the other night and I only have dairy-free stuff in my fridge. Here's what I put together:

Kinda-Sorta-Definitely Cheesecake
serves 12 

For the crust

  • 144 grams graham crackers, crushed up
  • 92 grams dairy-free butter (I love Earth Balance), melted
  • 46 grams coconut sugar
For the custard
  • 2 8-oz packages (450 grams) plain Daiya cream cheese
  • 175 grams coconut sugar
  • 120 grams egg yolks(about six)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 170 grams Tofutti sour cream
Toss the melted butter, coconut sugar, and graham cracker crumbs together and press against a 10" springform pan to form a crust. Bake the crust at 400 degrees F for five to seven minutes, just until it's set. Remove the crust from the oven and lower the temperature to 300 degrees F. Take a cake pan of any shape and size and fill it with water, then place it in the bottom rack of the oven; this will help.

For the custard, beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment until smooth, then add the vanilla paste and sugar. Mix until creamy and smooth, then turn the speed up to high to make the mixture rather light and fluffy. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time, and let them incorporate fully before adding the next one. When the yolks are fully incorporated, scrape down the bowl, mix for a little longer, then add in the sour cream. Whisk together until fully incorporated, smooth, and shiny, and give it a little taste - does it taste like cheesecake? Would you like to add a little lemon or orange zest? You can; it's your cheesecake, after all.

Pour the custard into your crust and give it a gentle tap-tap-tap on the bottom to pop out any big bubbles there might be. Pop in the oven in the middle rack, directly over the pan of water on the bottom rack, and bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, give it a very gentle shimmy in the pan; if it seems liquid in the middle, let it go for about 10 minutes before pulling it out. When it's just set, turn off the oven and crack the door open; let it sit in the nice warm environment for at least another 15 minutes before removing from the oven entirely.

Let the cheesecake chill in the fridge for at least a few hours before cutting into it; overnight, of course, is best. You can also freeze the cheesecake for up to a month and thaw it in the fridge overnight for when you want it. 

To serve, run a small, sharp knife around the outside edge of the pan and pop it away. This cheesecake serves 12 very attractive slices, and you can top it with a berry compote, non-dairy whipped topping, or just eat it plain with a cup of coffee. It's an extremely tasty cheesecake with just a hint of coconut flavor from the sugar. Oh, sure, you can use cane sugar, but coconut sugar is a much more sustainable alternative, and has a lovely depth of flavor. Even better, brush it with rum and flambe it. You're an adult; you can do what you want. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Triple-Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie was my shining star at the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale on October 7th, 2017!
We all need a standby recipe for chocolate chip cookies. This particular recipe is the modified version of my pistachio chocolate chip recipe for smaller batches, which is excellent when I'm baking for just myself. Most chocolate chip cookie recipes can be easily modified, so long as the dough remains consistent and the add-ins are accounted for properly. Baking can be art, so long as the science and chemistry of such are respected along the way.

The No Kid Hungry bake sale was a total success! The bake sale itself raised over $8000 against childhood hunger in the United States. Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in the USA don't know where their next meals are going to come from? Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I work as the chef for a hunger relief network, now, and the amount of hungry people in the United States is pretty staggering, especially considering that 2 out of 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese. What we see is a huge amount of inequality, and you can do something about it.

No Kid Hungry has made it easier than ever to combat childhood hunger. Did you know that you can host your own bake sale in your own community? Just sign up to host your own bake sale!

I realize that I'm a very privileged individual. Yes, I'm a woman of color, and a first-generation American...but I'm also from a good family, have a stable, salaried position, have a group of good friends, have a reliable mode of transportation, and I am a homeowner. I'm also privileged enough to own nice things like standing mixers, scales, fancy equipment and marble countertops, things that the average home baker might not have. In the spirit of checking my own privilege, I'm posting the recipe below in both weight and volume, so everybody can bake these cookies, because everybody deserves to have homemade cookies.

I love this recipe because you can do this one without a standing mixer and only the most rudimentary of tools. Yes, you do want either a food processor or a coffee/spice grinder for the oats, but you can honestly chop them by hand, or throw them in straight if you're feeling lazy. It's 100% cool.

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies
yield 3 dozen 1 oz cookies
  • 6 oz butter, cubed(Earth Balance butter substitute works great, too, or shortening, for the dairy-free option!)
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar(3.5 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted (4 oz)
  • 1 scant cup rolled oats (3.5 oz)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1/2 cup toffee chips/candies, crushed
Melt half your butter in either a saucepot or microwave, and then pour it over the remaining butter in a separate bowl. Stir gently with a whisk to allow the temperatures to come together nicely in a smooth mass and set aside. 

Meanwhile, blitz the flour and rolled oats together in a food processor (or coffee grinder, if you have one) and whisk them together with the baking soda and baking powder. Take out your ritz crackers and crush them by hand ; stir them right in! Don't worry about getting the crumbs to be especially fine, because you actually want larger chunks dispersed here and there. You can also substitute potato chips for this part, and get a very similar result - I've used original flavor and jalapeno, and both are pretty freaking delicious. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this - the salty and sweet work!

Now that you've taken care of your dry ingredients, let's continue on the wet side! Whisk in both of your sugars, and add in the vanilla flavoring. Whisk-whisk-whisk until quite smooth and fluffy; yes, you can do this in a standing mixer, but the appeal of this recipe is that you feel okay skipping arm day at the gym after doing these by hand. Also, not everybody has a standing mixer or a hand mixer, so let's check our privilege, okay, Nicole? 

Once the sugars are fully incorporated, whisk in the egg until fully blended. Now, let's get rid of that whisk and grab a spatula (unless you want to be dealing with a club of cookie dough). Gradually add the dry mix in thirds, alternating with the chopped chocolate and toffee bits, until everything is incorporated. You can proceed two ways from here:

  1. You can scoop out teaspoons of your cookie dough onto prepared cookie sheets(as in, they've either been greased or lined with parchment paper) and chill them in the fridge by the batch 
  2. You can cover the whole bowl and chill the dough all at once
Either one of these you choose is fine; I prefer option two, just because it takes up less space in my already-crowded fridge. Also, waiting to turn on  the oven to 325 degrees F will give you no choice but to chill your dough. So, hey! Turn on your oven and heat to 325 degrees F while you're waiting.

Bake your cookies for 11 minutes, or until just brown on the outside, and let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating. I know, I know, it's torture, but trust me on this one - if you don't wait, this wonderful cookie will crumble and fall apart into a big gooey mess. You'll want to wait, so you can dip this in an ice-cold glass of almond-coconut milk blend.

If you wait even longer, to let them cool completely, you can wrap them in groups of five in cellophane packages, instagram them with a special hashtag, and sell them for your own bake sale endeavors. It can be to end childhood hunger, to donate to the ACLU, or even to show your own child how to run a business.

Please comment below if you try it - and tell me all about the results! Oh, and I'm hosting my own bake sale soon...follow me on Instagram to learn details!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies

Note: The cookies made for the No Kid Hungry Bake Sale were made with dairy butter,
but I make the ones at home for me using vegan butter substitutes.
Before we start, let's just establish this:
Vegetarian means no meat, no animal flesh. All cookies are vegetarian.
Vegan means to meat, no eggs, no dairy, no honey - no animal products, whatsoever.

I am not a vegan or vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have quite a bit to thank the vegans for. It's because of the vegans that I have such wonderful substitutes for cheeses, sour creams, and - of course - butters. Most East Asian people are, in fact, lactose intolerant. My darling partner, B., is highly lactose intolerant, and we've since purged all dairy products from our home. We've been living a dairy-free lifestyle for a little over a year and a half, and I must say that adjustments have been made with much more ease thanks to our vegan friends.

When a friend of mine, a spritely lass called Gina Reardon, approached me to help her do a repeat of last year's No Kid Hungry bake sale, I couldn't say no. I didn't have my bakery in full-scale anymore, since I'd moved on to working for a hunger relief network here in Kansas City, but I still wanted to help. The noble shortbread came to my rescue, along with triple-threat chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin spice cakes. These three recipes are phenomenally easy to make, rather cheap, and rather appealing and inoffensive to the timid palette. They're not threatening cookies - they're your friends!

Shortbreads are simple cookies. They're not frilly or fancy, but rather plain-looking butter cookies that pack a subtle and familiar flavor, almost like the cookies in the tin at grandma's house. You know, the one that she saved to keep all of her sewing supplies in? These aren't piped butter cookies, of course, but these rolled-and-sliced cookies aren't any less spectacular, and you'd be surprised at how easy they are. They don't necessarily look like the most-appealing thing in the world, to some, but I think the simplicity of the shortbread cookie is a fabulous thing, especially when made vegan. But what is a shortbread?

Long story short, British folks call it "short" because the glutens in these cookies are not long. They're not stretchy, they're rather crumbly. Perhaps if you watch The Great British Bake-Off, you'll hear the phrase "shortcrust" pastry? That's what they're talking about when they say 'flaky pie dough.' The gluten strands are short, so they crumble delightfully all over your pants and down between your boobs when you eat them. Isn't that wonderful?

Vegan Tea & Cherry Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Thomas Keller's Shortbread recipe

  • 180 g vegan butter substitute (I love Earth Balance!)
  • 90 g granulated sugar plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 270 g AP flour
  • 120 g dried cherries, chopped
  • 2 tea bags(I love chai, but I've used Earl Gray before with great success)
Tear open the tea bags and pour them into a small sauce pot along with half the "butter"and gently melt it to steep the tea. While that's going, put the rest of the butter into a medium-sized bowl. Oddly, I prefer mixing these by hand, so leave the standing mixer alone, unless you want to use it instead. I'll be whisking the butter and sugar by hand, but if you want to use the standing mixer, by all means break out the whisk attachment. 

Once the butter is melted with the tea, you can let it hang out for a few minutes to let it steep, but it's not 100% necessary. This is all to your preference, and I prefer to keep it light and fragrant versus terribly strong. Once you're ready, though, pour your melted butter into the bowl where your solid butter is and whisk gently to combine. You're basically whipping it to cool down, and when all of the fat is at a same-texture consistency (meaning that it's smooth without lumps), add in the sugar and whisk the bejeezus out of it until the sugar has completely dissolved. This may take several minutes, and you might feel the need to cuss; that's okay, you're allowed. 

Switch to a spatula and combine the remaining ingredients and stir until it becomes a solid dough. Cover and let chill for at least 10 minutes. Once chilled enough to handle, turn out onto a layer of parchment paper (or a layer of plastic wrap) and roll the dough into a single log. This may take some doing, but if you work quickly, it won't be so bad. Just do your best to make sure that the log is even and you've packed it all quite tightly and that there aren't any air bubbles. Freeze this log for an hour, or chill in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready to bake, heat your oven to 325 degrees F and sprinkle a handful of white sugar out onto your counter. Take out your dough and unwrap the log, then roll the log in the sugar so that you have a nice, even coating all around the outside. (This is an optional, but recommended step!) Using a small, sharp knife, slice discs from the dough log and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I like quarter-inch thick cookies, but you can do thicker or thinner to your preference. If you like, you can sprinkle even more sugar on top of the cookies to give them an extra bit of crunch, and it makes it look very pretty. 

Bake at 325 for about 11 minutes, or until the cookies are just golden on the outside. You want them to be quite pale, and they will be quite pale, considering the low sugar content. I've also used this recipe with coconut sugar and date sugar with success, but it does affect the color slightly. I think the light color is the appeal of these cookies, but that's just me.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, or make these for a bake sale to end childhood food insecurity in America, selling them in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lemon Swiss Roll with Strawberry Jam

Me: Hi, my name is WannaBGourmande. I'm a Great British Bake-Off Addict.

GBBO Addicts Anonymous Group: Hi, WannaBGourmande.

I love how chill it is. I love how supportive the bakers are of one another. You might say "Hey, why don't we have an American version?" They tried and it was garbage. They called it "The American Baking Competition" and they couldn't do anything without cheesey stock electric guitar music and too-dramatic cutaways. All of the charm was lost and replaced with Jeff Foxworthy.

The point of all of this rambling is that it's a charming and chill way to get people baking. Being a classically-trained Chef, I learned how to bake in culinary school. I learned all of the special French terms and every bit of science there is on the topic, but I'm missing a lot of things that a home baker might have in their arsenal, so I might come off too calculating and technical to ever be in the same league as Granny baking cookies. It was honestly my grandfather that did most of the baking, and he never let me in the kitchen. He was a professional baker, so I imagine he didn't want someone getting in the way while he was creating; I understand him more and more as I get older. His thing was cinnamon rolls, and I've created my own version to safely work with at any restaurant I might be the Pastry chef at; I didn't want his recipe to be screwed with and it was so important to him that I never let the recipe become property of another that was outside the family, so I respectfully tweaked it just enough to not be his recipe and all be my own. The results are awesome, and I make it every so often, but we never had anything like the grannies made on the Great British Bake-Off. Swiss Roll, for example!

A Swiss roll is a sponge cake that's spread with jam, buttercream, mousse, or some other filling and then rolled up to create a log that - when cut - shows a signature spiral. I think it's a gloriously fun little cake, and I just love the way they look, and how easy they are to make. The best part about them is how unbelievably versatile they are; you can have just about any flavor profile you'd like! For this application, I chose to do a lemon cake with strawberry jam, simply because that's what I had available. Here we go!

Strawberry Lemonade Swiss Roll
yields 1 1/2 sheet pan, serves up to 16

  • 6 eggs
  • 175 g granulated sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 115 g AP flour
  • Strawberry Jam(homemade or store-bought) A/N
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and prepare a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Snip a slit in each corner of the paper so that your paper lays flat up and over the edges without bending or puckering in any funny shapes. 

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt over a sheet of parchment paper and set aside. Meanwhile, whip together your eggs and sugar until they've become rather thick, have tripled in volume, and are rather pale in color. You'll know when it's ready by the very soft peak it'll leave when you move the whisk attachment and run it through and up your mix. 

Gently fold in your flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, and fold in your zest at the end. Pour your batter into the prepared pan. Spray an offset spatula with a little bit of pan-spray and gently encourage your batter to be in all of the corners of the pan. You'll want it as even as possible, but you'll want to not disturb the bubbles you've created. Give it a little shimmy, too, if you like, but not too much. 

Place your cake pan in the oven and let bake for about 15 - 17 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the edges of the pan and bounces back when pressed lightly. It may take longer, depending on the elevation of where you live, but patience is a virtue. You may as well work on your filling while you're waiting - simply take your jam out and warm it just to body temperature on the stove, just enough to let the pectin relax without melting away entirely, and damaging the flavor of the jam. 

When your cake is ready, let cool for about three minutes before turning out over a clean tea towel(or parchment sheet) that's been dusted lightly with powdered sugar. Peel away the parchment very carefully. If you like, you can squeeze that zested lemon into a bowl and then brush the juice onto the warm cake, but it's not necessary by any stretch of the imagination. 

With the long side of the cake facing you, bend a little seam into the length of the sponge and tuck it in to begin the roll. You won't want to roll it up entirely, but getting it started and then rolling it about halfway while it's still warm is a good idea, to make sure it doesn't crack when you roll it all the way up. You only need to let the cake cool about 10 minutes before adding your jam, and that's just to make sure that the bubbles you've baked in are now set. 

Take your jam and spread it evenly all along the sponge, leaving about a quarter inch free and away from long edge that's on the opposite side of you. Roll your sponge up in a nice roll and squeeze to shape. Do your best to create a round log and don't squish downward to create a mounded semicircle. Leave to cool and then decorate!

I chose a dairy-free whipped topping combined with mini meringues, to give it a bit of crunch while still lending to the monochromatic look. Mini meringues are a great thing to have in your cupboard; they use up extra egg whites and you can keep them forever so long as you have a silica gel packet or two hanging out in the bag with them. 

This dessert is a simple showstopper that you can throw together in an hour before a party that you'd forgotten you were invited to, and can be a perfect accompaniment to a tea party you might feel inclined to host. I always like to have bits of cake lying around the house, just in case someone drops in or I feel like I need something to keep me company while binge on GBBO on Netflix. Plus, it's got strawberry jam, so that means there's fruit in it, so you can totally have a slice for breakfast with your morning coffee. And did I mention how instagram-worthy it is? 

Enjoy! Happy baking and happy eating!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Pistachio Pound Cake

Follow me on Instagram for more awesome photos!
I'm in love with dairy-free baking. Sure, I miss butter every once in a while, and it's a little hard to do pumpkin pie without whipped cream, but it's still amazing to be able to source things that are other than dairy milk to create delicious foods. The dairy-free diet is much easier than you'd think it would be to do, and the fact that I haven't had to check in to heavy cream rehab should be something commendable.

But what can be done when one is craving a certain something that is so iconic in its American roots that simply everyone that hears its name conjures the same image? Oh, yes, my friends, I'm talking about the all-American Pound Cake.
Please don't judge me by how many tabs I have open.

Just a quick Google will show you images and recipes for this beloved classic, so simple to make, nearly anyone can do it. All you need for a pound cake is:

  • 1 lb flour
  • 1 lb butter
  • 1 lb eggs
  • 1 lb sugar
That's. It.

This doesn't stop everyone and their mother from coming up with their own versions, of course. There are olive oil pound cakes, sugar-free pound cakes, gluten-free pound cakes...you name it! The best part about a pound cake, in my opinion, is that it freezes perfectly. Seriously, you can just bake off one or two of them when you feel like it and freeze the one you don't eat. It'll thaw nicely, and if you bake it in a loaf, you can slice off pieces as needed and use them as a bread substitute for French toast. 
I baked it in a bread loaf pan to make myself feel better about it. Please don't judge me. I was hella single.
Pound cake is so versatile that it can be used in many other desserts after you've had the slice that you want. You can cube it up and use it in trifle, or (again) the best darn French toast you've ever had in your life. No really! Try pound cake French toast. But you might want to write a last will and testament beforehand. You know. Just to be safe.

I love pound cake because I don't have to go looking up a recipe when I feel like making a cake. The best part about baking pound cake is that it's such a stable recipe that you can screw around with it without ruining the entire thing. Whole wheat flour, for example, can be substituted for white flour if you want to feel a little less guilty about it. You can also use olive oil in lieu of butter for a healthier version, so long as you adjust accordingly.

Yes, folks, it's tragic, but it's true. You can't always substitute ingredients 1:1. For example!

If you want to make an olive oil pound cake, use 12 oz olive oil with the 16 oz of everything else. This is because the olive oil is a liquid and must be treated differently than a solid. 

If you wanted to substitute honey for sugar, simply measure out your sugar, by weight, then scoop out one cup of it and replace it with 2/3 cup of honey. 

There are plenty of ways you can mess with the recipe without totally ruining it, so let pound cake be your guide when you're feeling adventurous...but not too adventurous. This recipe, for example, is an attempt at a healthier pound cake. A fair portion of the flour is substituted for whole wheat, and the fat portion is a melange of oils that are good for you.

Pistachio Pound Cake
  • 1 oz flax oil
  • 9 oz grapeseed oil
  • 6 oz coconut oil
  • 1 lb(16 oz) granulated sugar
  • 7 large eggs
  • 4 oz AP flour
  • 10 oz whole wheat flour
  • 2 oz raw pistachios, ground finely(you can buy pistachio meal or use a spice grinder)
  • 1 tsp pistachio extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
Combine the sugar and the oils in the bowl of your standing mixer and whip together using the whisk attachment until tripled in volume, about 2 minutes on high. Meanwhile, crack all of your eggs into a bowl and add in one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated, about 30 seconds per egg. Add in your extract. 

Sift together ALL of your dry ingredients, including the seeds, into a separate container and remove the bowl from the standing mixer. Gently fold in the dry ingredients using a spatula, in about four parts. The batter should be rather smooth and quite voluminous still, with a pale yellow color. 

The Nordicware pan(left) was purchased from Sur La Table;
the Bundt pan was found at a thrift shop in Englewood for about $4.
This batter makes a full bundt cake or two rather-full pound cake tins. I did a not-so-full pound cake tin and a not-so-full bundt cake tin, because I couldn't decide. The cake itself is rather dense but it's made with whole wheat flour and flax oil, so you don't have to feel bad about eating it. Flax oil is high in Omega 3s, and whole wheat flour gives you lots of fiber and nutrients that your body is likely craving. So you really can have your cake and eat it, too! (Especially if you make a nice drizzle from powdered sugar and coconut milk!)

Happy baking and happy eating!