Momofuku-Style Peach Pie Cake

momofukupeach
It’s my birthday this week so I made myself a cake. If you’ve hung out around here at all you’ve probably noticed I really like making cakes (possibly more than eating them…), so honestly I was quite excited to do so. Originally I had planned to make a pretzel cake because I LOVE pretzels. But then we went peach picking and ended up with a refrigerator full of peaches; and hence this peach pie cake was born.

I started making Momofuku-style cakes this past spring because my husband really wanted their chocolate malt cake for his birthday; and I can’t stop! Honestly, they are super fun to make and not as horribly difficult as they might appear. As long as you have the right tools and pace yourself (I usually spread the process out over days), they are totally doable for a home baker.

My biggest tips for making a Momofuku-style cake:

  • Get the right tools. Two things definitely worth sourcing are a 6×3 cake ring (I found mine at a local cookware outlet) and 3-inch acetate (I get mine by the foot at a baking supply store; it’s super cheap). You *could* probably get away with a similar sized springform pan and parchment paper, but if you plan on making more than one I’d say it’s worth it to get your hands on the real goods. The acetate will give you nice clean lines and will make your cake-stacking more secure.
  • Other notes on tools:
    • I bake cake layers in a regular 9x13x2 cake pan.
    • I use ziplock bags with a corner cut off to squeeze out the more liquidy layers (i.e. liquid cheesecake). The first couple times I just used the back of a spoon; but the ziplock is a lot easier, especially getting stuff right to the edges (which is key to getting the cool naked-cake look).
    • I use a small offset spatula to spread the layers as evenly as possible.

Tips for cake assembly:

  • Make the cake portion at least a day early and chill it thoroughly in the fridge or freezer before cutting out rounds / assembly. Cold cake is a lot easier to handle.
  • Make sure you have enough room in your freezer AND fridge. These cakes are 5-6 inches tall, which is quite a bit of freezer real estate. The cake needs to be frozen overnight and defrosted in the fridge for at least 3 hours, so plan accordingly (I’ve been caught madly reorganizing at the last minute; it’s so stressful).
  • Pace yourself for sanity’s sake. The nice thing about Momofuku cakes is that a lot of elements can be made ahead. For this cake, I made the pie crumb on Tuesday; the pie filling and cake on Wednesday; and the liquid cheesecake and frosting on Thursday. I assembled on Thursday, froze overnight, and served Friday night. I’ve never tried to do everything in one day. It’s probably possible, but knowing myself I’d get baked-out halfway through and wouldn’t enjoy the process. Plus, the dishes would be out of control…
  • Write out your cake anatomy before assembly. It sounds kinda lame, but I find it super helpful to list out the cake layers and quantities so I don’t screw the order up. Way easier than scrolling on your computer with sticky fingers.

Baker’s Notes:

Momofuku cakes are…intense. This is generally a good thing — the unique mix of crunchy / sweet / salty / creamy is what sets them apart, in my book. But sometimes they are a little TOO intense in the sugar department. Obviously these cakes are special occasion desserts and “treat yourself” and all that, but I actually prefer them a little less sweet. For this cake, I:

  • Used a cake base that isn’t too sweet (see recipe below).
  • Used half labneh and half cream cheese in the liquid cheesecake recipe. I also cut the sugar to 1/2 a cup, and used just 1 Tbsp of milk (to account for extra liquid in the labneh).
  • Reduced the sugar in the pie filling recipe to 3 Tbsp dark brown sugar.

In the end, I was very happy with the level of sweetness and would make these adjustments again.

Hope that helps — go forth and cake!

Momofuku-Style Peach Pie Cake

momofukupeachvertFollow the recipe for the Momofuku Apple Pie Cake, except…

  • Make 1/3 a recipe of this cake for the cake portion.
  • Replace apples in pie filling recipe with an equal weight of peeled, diced peaches and reduce sugar if desired (see Baker’s Notes, above).
  • Use milk in place of the apple cider soak.
  • Add some sprinkles if you want to be extra festive.

In summary, cake anatomy from bottom to top is:

  • Peach Cake
  • Milk Soak
  • Liquid Cheesecake
  • Pie Crumb
  • Peach Pie Filling
  • Peach Cake
  • Milk Soak
  • Liquid Cheesecake
  • Pie Crumb
  • Peach Cake
  • Pie Crumb Frosting
  • Pie Crumb & Sprinkles

Labneh Panna Cotta

labnehpannacotta
I really like experimenting in the kitchen, but I’m also kinda cheap. The contents of my fridge inspire many of my food experiments (and dinner plans). Lately I’ve been on a labneh kick. And as much as I really like labneh on toast, sometimes you need to mix it up a bit. I’ve also been on a cake and cake decorating streak. And while I love the process of making fancy layer cakes, sometimes you want a dessert that takes less than 10 minutes and zero oven time. This, my friends, fits that bill.

This panna cotta is on the thicker, more pudding-y side. It’s also quite lightly sweetened, making it breakfast-appropriate in my book. You can dress this up or down as you like. I think panna cotta is improved with some contrasting textures, so I like adding toasted nuts, granola, or even some Momofuku cornflake crunch. Some fresh fruit is also excellent; or even just a drizzle of honey. Let your fridge inspire you.

Labneh Panna Cotta

Serves 4-6 | Adapted from A Brown Table

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk, low or full fat (I used soy)
  • 80 g / 4 tablespoons honey + extra for drizzling, if desired
  • 7 g / 1 packet gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 1 lb labneh, lightly whipped

Method:

  1. Place the milk in a small saucepan along with the honey and vanilla and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the milk is heating, sprinkle the gelatin in a small mixing bowl containing the cold water. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes.
  2. Once the milk has come to a simmer and the honey is dissolved, remove from heat and add the bloomed gelatin, stirring to combine.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into a large mixing bowl containing the labneh. Whisk to combine evenly, ensuring no lumps remain. Divide the mixture among serving glasses, or into a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 4 hours until firm.

Berry Balsamic Pie + Pie Tips

berry pieSummer is here, which for me means it’s farmers’ market season! One of our favorite Saturday summer activities is going early to our local market and letting the fresh produce inspire us for the next week’s meals. I especially love checking out (and sampling) the fresh berries — I can eat them like candy. And then, of course, there is pie. Delicious berry pie.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on improving my pie game. My first couple of homemade crust attempts were pretty scary and not so pretty, but each time I’ve learned something new and I finally feel like I’m getting it down. I know there are a million tips out there for making perfect pie crusts; and I think every pie maker eventually learns what works best for him or her. But for what it’s worth, here are some things that have helped me improve my pies.

Cold ingredients = more tender, flaky pie crust. Everyone emphasizes this because it’s true. I chill my flour and freeze my butter at least 1/2 an hour before mixing up a crust. If you ever feel your butter starting to get too soft, just stick your operation in the fridge for 10 minutes so you don’t end up with melty butter.

Fraisage and roll. I’ve started using these techniques for my last few crusts. It’s not necessary, but it does seem to make the crust flakier and easier to roll out in the end. I especially recommend these couple extra steps with partially whole-grain crusts.

Chill out. Pies bake up best from a chilled state. Your crust won’t shrink as much and the lattice you spent so much time doing will have a better chance of not collapsing into your filling. I like chilling my completed pie at least 20 minutes before baking (or until crust is firm). You can also roll out your bottom crust the night before and chill it in the pie plate, covered. Chill your lattice strips before weaving too; they’ll be easier to work with.

Macerate your fruits. With fruit pies, toss your fruit with a few tablespoons of sugar and let sit for an hour or more. This will draw out the juices which you can either leave behind or boil down and add to your pie in a concentrated syrupy form (i.e. your pie will be flavorful but not soggy from all the excess juices).

Take it easy with the decorations. I love looking at beautiful, fancy pie crusts on Instagram and Pinterest; and designing a fancy top is a great way to flex your creative muscles while making a traditionally rustic dessert. Just be careful not to overhandle your crust and go too thick on your cutouts / braids / lattice. Otherwise your top crust will take a lonnng time to bake and end up being tough and gross; and that would just be sad. Also, if you do want to make one of those extra fancy crusts with the braids and lattice and cutouts, plan to make at least 1.5 times a regular amount of crust. (For the pie pictured here I used a normal double crust recipe but used every last scrap.)

Happy pie making!

Berry Balsamic Pie

Adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

For the crust:

  • Your favorite double all-butter double pie crust (9-10 in.); I like this for a classic all-butter and this for a partially whole-grain

For the filling:

  • 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 lb. mixed berries, rinsed and quartered if large (5 to 6 cups) — I used a mix of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries
  • 1 small baking apple (such as Northern Spy or Golden Delicious)
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. minute tapioca, finely ground
  • A few grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 1 teaspoon water or cream and a pinch of salt)
  • Demerara sugar, for finishing

Method:

  1. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the berries. Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Roll out half of your pie crust and place it into your greased pie plate. Refrigerate while preparing the filling. Roll out your top crust and either leave whole or cut lattice strips if desired. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet and refrigerate as well.
  3. Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater. Drain the berries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple.
  4. Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and Angostura bitters. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, tapioca, black pepper and salt. Gently fold the sugar mixture into the berry mixture.
  5. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired. Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry. Meanwhile, position the oven racks at the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Brush the pastry with the egg wash; if your pie has a lattice top, be careful not to drag the filling onto the pastry (it will burn). Sprinkle with the desired amount of Demerara sugar. Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at room temperature for 2 days.

Labneh Cheesecake

cheesecake fullI’ve been lactose-intolerant for 20 years. I’m not allergic to dairy; am fine with butter, yogurt, and eggs (whew!); and can handle small amounts of milk / cream baked into food. But I can’t drink a glass of milk or eat a normal ice cream cone without unfortunate consequences. Although there are lots of dairy alternatives nowadays, there are a couple of things I’d resigned to just living without — delicious melty cheese on pizza and cheesecake.

Lately, though, I’d been pondering the idea of using labneh — or yogurt cheese — as the basis for a cheesecake I could eat. Strained Greek yogurt can be a delicious accompaniment to cake, and even added to whipped cream for extra flavor; so it seemed like it was worth a shot.

cheesecake sliceGuys, this recipe is a game changer for me. I actually ate a whole piece of cheesecake without worrying about stomach issues and ENJOYED IT. It was smooth and creamy and subtly tangy. It also went over well with people that aren’t lactose intolerant — a good sign in my book. Oh, and as far as desserts go, it’s quite healthy!

I made this with homemade labneh (lowfat Greek yogurt strained for 24 hours – Liberte brand). I suspect it’ll work fine with store-bought labneh; though as it is the main ingredient you’ll want to go for a good quality one with a nice firm texture. I topped mine with salted caramel sauce, but imagine it would go well with any number of toppings (you could go fairly sweet if you prefer as the cheesecake itself is mildly sweet).

This recipe is quite easy, though for best results make it a day ahead so it has time to set overnight in the fridge. This improves the texture of the cake and makes for easy slicing.

Salted Caramel Labneh Cheesecake

Makes 1 six-inch cheesecake | Adapted from Hungry Couple NYC

For the base:

  • Your favorite graham cracker crust (I used a half recipe of this one, swapping out toasted walnuts for the pistachios)

For the filling:

  • 250 gr / 1 cup labneh (lowfat or full-fat; storebought or homemade), room temperature
  • 60 gr / 1/4 cup lactose-free sour cream, full-fat, room temperature
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 1 t pure vanilla etract
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 50 gr / 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 65 gr / 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • hot water, for the water bath

For the topping:

Salted caramel sauce, storebought or homemade

Method:

  1. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 6-inch springform pan or cake ring with parchment paper.
  2. Prepare your graham cracker crust, pre-baking and cooling completely if needed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare your pan for a water bath by wrapping your springform in a double layer of foil and placing in a large roasting pan (or a larger cake pan at least 1/3x bigger).
  4. Mix together labneh and sour cream on medium speed until smooth.
  5. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Sift in cake flour and sugar and mix on low speed until just combined.
  7. Add egg and mix on low speed until just combined — do not overmix, but the batter should be smooth and uniform in color.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
  9. Transfer pan to oven and fill the larger pan with 1/2 – 1 inch of hot water.
  10. Bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are firm but center is still a little jiggly. Turn off oven and allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from water bath and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  11. Once completely cool, refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight before de-panning.
  12. Spread top with salted caramel sauce (or your topping of choice), slice, and serve!

Raspberry Lime Pie

full-topped
One of my pet peeves is having little bits of ingredients taking up space in the fridge. It seems like I always have a touch of sauce or cream or frosting leftover and I feel wasteful throwing it away. The bright side is that this forces me to get creative with dessert flavor combinations, and I end up making things I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

This pie, for example.

swirlOriginally I’d planned on just making plain old key lime pie, as it’s one of David’s favorites. (Confession: I’ve never been able to easily find key limes, so I always use plain old limes…someday, someday.) But I had a couple spoonfuls of raspberry sauce leftover from one cake, and a handful of crushed pistachios from another. And also some sour cream from…something. So in they all went. I’m quite happy with the end result — it’s a nice springy twist on an old standby.

I’ve never been very happy with my graham cracker crusts — they’ve either shrunk or bled butter. This adaptation from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook has been the most successful to date. I’ve also found freezing the crust before baking helps minimize shrinkage, and you can use a piece of parchment paper to gently “fix” slumps or unevenness while the crust is still warm.

Raspberry Lime Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie | Adapted from Milk and Smitten Kitchen

Graham Pistachio Crust Ingredients

  • 190 g / 1.5 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 35 g / 1/4 c crushed raw unsalted pistachios
  • 20 g / 1/4 c milk powder
  • 14 g / 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 g / 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 55 g / 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 55 g / 1/4 cup heavy cream

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to evenly distribute.
  2. Whisk butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss to evenly distribute. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand.
  3. Press evenly into a greased 9-inch pie pan. Freeze crust until hard, about 10 minutes.
  4. Bake for 8-10 minutes in preheated oven. If crust slumps during baking, use a piece of parchment paper to gently reshape it while still warm. Allow crust to cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Raspberry Lime Filling Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 14-ounce (396-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup (155 ml) fresh lime juice (from about 1 dozen tiny key limes or 4 persian/regular limes)
  • 2 T seedless raspberry preserves or jam

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Zest limes into the bottom of a medium bowl until you have 1 1/2 tablespoons. Beat zest and egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until thickened again, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined. Pour filling into graham crust.
  4. Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, drop dots of raspberry preserves on top of filling. Use a toothpick or knife to swirl into the filling.
  5. Bake pie for 10-15 minutes, until set but not browned on top at all. Let pie cool completely before adding topping (ideally, chill at least a couple hours in the fridge).

Topping Ingredients

  • 3/4 – 1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sour cream (optional)
  • Lime zest and crushed pistachios (optional garnish)

Method:

In a medium bowl, beat cream until soft peaks are formed. Add sugar and sour cream, if using, and beat until desired thickness (do not overbeat). Spread over top of chilled pie. Ideally, pie should be chilled at least another 2 to 3 hours with the cream on top so that it can fully set before you take a slice.

slice

Chinese Swiss Roll

sliced swiss roll

Sometime last year, I thought it would be fun to make a Swiss roll. Even though my family didn’t eat much cake when I was growing up, we did all enjoy these roulade cakes from the local Asian supermarket — usually plain, but also coffee or chocolate flavored. If you’ve never had one before, Swiss rolls are a light and fluffy sponge cake usually rolled up with whipped cream. They are a nice, not-too-sweet dessert that pairs well with coffee or tea.

Anyways, my first Swiss roll attempt was a flop. The cake broke when I flipped it out of the pan. It tasted ok, though the bake was a bit uneven (probably because I didn’t rotate the pan and slightly underbaked it). I didn’t try again until last week, when I was looking for a recipe to use up some whipping cream from my last cake.

Second attempt: also a fail. The cake made it out of the pan in one piece, but it stuck to the paper and broke when I tried to roll it.

At this point, it became less about actually wanting to eat Swiss roll and more about wanting to BEAT MY NEMESIS. I read a bunch of Swiss roll recipes and tips and decided to try a different baking method. I was really careful about measuring out all the ingredients ahead of time and prepping the various baking utensils and surfaces. And…success! The cake came out in one piece and actually resembled a roll when all was said and done. I tried again a couple days later just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, and it worked again! Very exciting.

untrimmed swiss roll

Some things I learned:

  • Measure out all your ingredients ahead of time and read the instructions through to the end a few times. The batter isn’t hard to put together, but it does require you to move quickly so your batter doesn’t collapse.
  • I highly recommend weighing your ingredients for best results.
  • Watch the cake carefully at the end, checking every 30 seconds or so when it’s near the end. Because it’s so thin, it can go from underdone to overdone just like that. That being said, make sure the cake is completely done before you take it out our you’ll end up with gross mushy cake.
  • I’ve tried to explain the rolling process below, but it’s easier to watch it. This video from Fine Cooking is helpful.

uncut swiss roll

Chinese Swiss Roll

Serves 8

Ingredients

Batter A

  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 85g / 1/3 c milk, at room temperature
  • 55g / 1/4 c neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g / 1 c cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Batter B

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 50g / 1/2 c caster sugar

Other

  • 1-2 tbsp icing sugar

Filling & Garnish

  • 1/2 c whipping cream
  • 3-4 tsp caster sugar or to taste
  • Icing sugar, optional garnish

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 13″ x 9″ inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Batter A:

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, caster sugar and salt into a thick batter. Pour in milk and mix well. Pour in oil and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Sift in cake flour and baking powder into the batter and stir slowly into a thick batter. Do not overmix.

Batter B:

  • In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy. Slowly add in the caster sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

Combine:

  1. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the egg yolk batter. When they are almost combined, add another 1/3 of the whites. When almost combined, add the final 1/3. Fold gently, but thoroughly. When you are finished, the batter should be a uniform color with no streaks of white remaining.
  2. Immediately pour batter into prepared oven and spread evenly with a knife. drop the tin on the counter several times to pop and large air bubbles. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-17 minutes, rotating pan once after 10 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a tester comes out clean.
  3. While the cake is baking, prepare a clean linen tea towel (larger than the cake) and measure out some icing sugar.
  4. As soon as the cake is done, run a knife around the edges. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the cake. Spread the tea towel over the cake, and place a large sheet pan or cutting board on top of the tea towel. Invert the cake onto the towel. Gently remove the parchment paper. Starting on a short end, gently but tightly roll the cake up with the towel inside. Allow cake to cool completely inside the towel.
  5. When the cake is cool, beat the whipping cream and sugar to taste to stiff peaks. Gently unroll the cake and remove the towel. On one short end of the cake (whichever looks more curled), use a sharp knife to score three parallel lines about 1/2 a centimeter apart (this will help the rolling process). Spread the cream evenly over the cake, leaving about an inch around the edges so the filling doesn’t seep out. Starting from the scored end, gently roll the cake back up. Transfer seam side down to a serving plate, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

To serve

  • Slice the ends off the cake and dust with additional icing sugar if desired.

Another Chocolate Cake

full
This past Valentine’s Day, I asked David what kind of cake he wanted. He told me, “I like that chocolate raspberry one.” I like that one too, but was also itching to try some new recipes. So I made another chocolate raspberry cake, this time with Swiss meringue buttercream (more on that later), espresso ganache, and more of that raspberry sauce from the original cake, because it’s just that good.

I never baked layer cakes until last year. My family wasn’t really into cake (often we’d just turn a carton of ice cream into birthday “cake” by decorating it with candy and sprinkles), so there wasn’t much reason to learn. While I think I’m still more of a pie person in general, I’ve started to find real enjoyment in making layer cakes. In a weird way it reminds me of planning a themed concert, which was one of my favorite parts of running a chamber music collective. We’d start out with a theme, and then try to think of different ways of representing that theme. Contrast was important, but all the components still had to make sense together. Other considerations included timing, instrumentalists available, and audience.

With layer cakes, you choose a general cake flavor, then the contrasting / complimenting ones. You have to plan when to make each component so that that everything will be ready at the same time. In my very limited experience, I’ve learned that it’s a 3 day process for me — bake the cake layers first so they can chill/freeze, then make all the components (frosting, filling, glazes etc.), and finally assemble everything and decorate. I’m sure it could be done in a single day, but I usually don’t have that much uninterrupted time; plus, it keeps me from burning out and getting lazy (which is when I tend to forget / drop things).

Anyways, if you got through all that cheesy analogy stuff, wow — thanks. You’re probably a good friend of mine or a family member, ha. So about this cake…

I’d been wanting to bake this particular chocolate cake for awhile as I’ve seen it raved about on The Vanilla Bean Blog, Hummingbird High, and a few other baking blogs. Also, it has coffee, which is never a bad thing in my book.

The consensus: this cake is a keeper. It’s moist and not too sweet, with a beautiful dark color from the cocoa + coffee combo and a rich chocolatey flavor. The other cake has a finer crumb and a nice buttery mouth feel, but this one is more moist. Let’s just say I’d make both of them again.
chocodrips

Buttercream: frosting is my least favorite part of cake (unless it’s cream cheese frosting) because it’s often so cloyingly sweet. So, I wanted to try making Swiss meringue buttercream, because it seems to be the preferred frosting for a lot of pro bakers — main reasons being it’s easy to work with and not too sweet. However, it’s also a bit finicky to make because you have to dissolve the sugar in the egg whites and make sure all the ingredients are the right temperature before combining everything. There are lots of articles about “how to fix buttercream” and “why your buttercream broke” etc. etc., so I knew I was in for a bit of a challenge.

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of fun making this buttercream. I don’t own a stand mixer, so it took a LOOOOOOONG time to beat the egg white mixture with my handheld until it was cool enough to add the butter. I also made it the night before decorating (because that was when el bebe was asleep for the night and I’ve learned not to attempt lenghty-ish processes during the day), so I had to re-beat it the next day anyways. I found it difficult to keep at a good temperature for decorating because our kitchen was a smidge warm, plus I did get interrupted a few times by the infant child. So I had to keep refrigerating and re-beating and it got a little annoying. In the end it turned out ok — it was much less sweet than American buttercream. There are a ton of recipes out there, so next time I might try one with a higher proportion of egg whites to butter because I’d like to get it even lighter and silkier. Also, I’d probably borrow a stand mixer. And make it the day of decorating. Basically I need more practice and experimentation.

Ganache/Glaze: SO GOOD, and so easy. I had to freeze the leftovers so I wouldn’t eat it all with a spoon. I basically let it sit while I wrestled with the buttercream. Definitely not high maintenance. If I ever feel like making truffles, I’d fill them with this ganache.

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Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream and Espresso Ganache

Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (200g) cake flour
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (69g) good cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken (I substituted 1T vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee (I used dark roast)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8×2 inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pans.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With a mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans (it will be very liquidy) and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely, removing parchment paper. Note: these cakes are quite delicate, so I recommend refrigerating and then freezing the layers overnight before decorating so they will be easier to handle.

Buttercream

Use your favorite vanilla buttercream (this is a good start) with a few spoonfuls of raspberry sauce and/or food coloring to get your desired shade of pink.

Espresso Ganache / Glaze

Makes one cup

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 3/4 -inch pieces
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Method

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles appear around the edge; remove from the heat (this can also be done in the microwave). Add the espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for several minutes. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Let the ganache stand at room temperature until firm enough to spread.

Raspberry Sauce

Make one portion of the recipe here.

To Assemble

  1. Allow cake rounds to chill completely. Level if necessary.
  2. Set one layer on a cake round or platter and spread with a layer of ganache (you can be fairly generous, though reserve at least 1/3 cup or so if you want to glaze the top and sides), topped with a layer of raspberry sauce (leave a thin border around the edge so your fillings don’t seep out from the weight of the top layer).
  3. Set the other layer on top; spread a thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour before spreading a heavier layer of frosting over the entire cake.
  4. Chill again for at least half an hour before adding ganache drips along the sides and spreading it over the top (you will need to gently heat the ganache to get it to a glaze consistency — this was about 20 seconds in the microwave for me). Style Sweet CA has a great tutorial on drippy cakes.
  5. Garnish as desired (I used fresh raspberries, cocoa nibs, and crushed pistachios). Chill if not serving right away, but serve at room temperature with plenty of raspberry sauce. Cake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake yayDavid and I are celebrating our second anniversary today — yay! As part of the celebration, I thought it’d be fun to make carrot cake, which was the top tier of our wedding cake. I’d actually never made carrot cake before, despite it being one of my favorite types. But I knew exactly what I wanted — moist but not too oily, tons of carrots, nuts and raisins but no pineapple or coconut, and — of course — delicious cream cheese frosting.

For the cake, I reviewed dozens of recipes before settling on the Flour Bakery one as my starting point. For the frosting, I went with the recipe used on our original wedding cake — a white chocolate cream cheese concoction from The Cake Bible. White chocolate may sound like a strange match for a carrot cake, but it really works nicely — the chocolate lends a rounder, richer flavor compared to just plain icing sugar; and a touch of lemon juice provides the perfect tang. This frosting is definitely decadent — I frosted the cake conservatively (with about half a cup left over), and that was rich enough for my taste.

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Carrot Cake

Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang | Makes one 2-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (360g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (200g) canola oil
  • 3 tbsp buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (70g) Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups (520g) grated carrot, tightly packed (about 4 medium)
  • 1 cup (160g) raisins, soaked for at least 1 hour in boiling water and drained
  • 1 cup (100g) toasted walnuts, chopped (100g)

Method

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 2 8-inch cake pan and line the bottoms with parchment paper; then lightly grease parchment.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 3–4 minutes, or until the mixture is light and thick. (This step will take 8–10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.) In a small bowl or pitcher, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. On low speed, slowly pour the oil mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. This should take about 30 seconds.
  3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg-sugar mixture. When most of the flour mixture has been incorporated, add the carrots, raisins, and walnuts and continue to fold until the batter is homogeneous. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  4. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pans on a wire rack. Refrigerate or freeze cake rounds until ready to frost.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from The Cake Bible | Makes enough to frost one 8-inch, 2 layer cake

  • 9 ounces (255 grams) good-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (23 grams) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between. When the chocolate is almost all melted, allow the residual heat to complete the melting. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in the lemon juice and melted chocolate. Use immediately to frost cakes (can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks ahead; bring to room temperature before using).

To Assemble

Allow cake rounds to chill completely. Level if necessary. Set one layer on a cake round or platter and spread with a thin layer of frosting (about 1/2 – 3/4 cup). Set the other layer on top; spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides. Chill for at least half an hour before spreading a heavier layer of frosting over the entire cake. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Cake keeps well in the refrigerator for several days.

New York Style Bagels

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A few years ago, I got into a bread baking kick where I wanted to bake ALL THE BREADS. There’s something therapeutic about kneading dough and watching very basic ingredients transform into loaves of deliciousness. (Needless to say, I could never be gluten-free.) Although most bread recipes take quite a bit of time (this one included), a lot of that is simply waiting. And waiting is probably the hardest part!

I love making individual-sized breads and rolls, so bagels have been on my to-bake list for awhile. I’m happy to report they were a resounding success — my husband says they were the best bagels he’s ever tasted! Crisp exterior with just the right amount of salt and a wonderful chew — perfect with a schmear of cream cheese. The original recipe for these New York style bagels is from one of my favorite bread experts: Peter Reinhart. His Bread Baker’s Apprentice is one of my favorite cookbooks and showed me it was possible to good bread in a home oven. While there is a recipe for bagels in BBA, I chose to use a version from Epicurious because it made a smaller batch and the process was a little streamlined.

As with all Peter Reinhart recipes, there are a lot of detailed instructions; and you’ll definitely want to read the recipe through to the end a couple times to get a feel for the process. However, it really isn’t too difficult — if you’ve made soft pretzels before, you’ll find bagel-making very similar.

Notes:

  • I’ve edited the recipe to reflect the methods and timeline I used. Consult the original for other options.
  • The original recipe in BBA suggests high gluten flour as ideal for bagels. I couldn’t find it easily so I just used bread flour. The bagels were satisfyingly chewy, though I do want to try high gluten sometime.
  • The original recipe says the yield is 6-8 bagels. I like mine smaller so I made 12, and they were still pretty good-sized.
  • The original doesn’t call for an egg wash, but after reading comments online I decided to use one to ensure the toppings would stick well.

New York Style Bagels

Adapted from Peter Reinhart via Epicurious | Makes 6 large or 12 small bagels

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 tablespoon (0.75 oz / 21 g) barley malt syrup, honey, or rice syrup, or 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) diastatic malt powder
  • 1 teaspoon (0.11 oz / 3 g) instant yeast (Note: I used a heaping tsp of active dry, and it worked fine)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (0.37 oz / 10.5 g) salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz / 255 g) lukewarm water (about 95°F or 35°C)
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) unbleached bread flour

Poaching liquid

  • 2 to 3 quarts (64 to 96 oz / 181 to 272 g) water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz / 28.5 g) barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (0.25 oz / 7 g) salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Garnish

  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Any mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes, and coarse salt

Preparation

Do ahead

  1. To make the dough, stir the malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the lukewarm water. Place the flour into a mixing bowl and pour in the malt syrup mixture. If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix on the lowest speed for 3 minutes. If mixing by hand, use a large, sturdy spoon and stir for about 3 minutes, until well blended. The dough should form a stiff, coarse ball, and the flour should be fully hydrated; if it isn’t, stir in a little more water. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Resume mixing with the dough hook on the lowest speed for another 3 minutes or transfer to a very lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 3 minutes to smooth out the dough and develop the gluten. The dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or overly tacky, mix or knead in a little more flour.
  3. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Baking Day

  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator 60 to 90 minutes before you plan to bake the bagels. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat, then misting it with spray oil. Divide the dough into 6 to 12 equal pieces. (A typical bagel is about 4 ounces or 113 grams before baking, but you can make them smaller [I made 12]. If you make more than 6 bagels, you may need to prepare 2 sheet pans.) Form each piece into a loose ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand. (Don’t use any flour on the work surface. If the dough slides around and won’t ball up, wipe the surface with a damp paper towel and try again; the slight bit of moisture will provide enough traction for the dough to form into a ball.)
  2. Use both hands (and a fair amount of pressure) to roll the ball into a rope about 8 inches long on a clean, dry work surface. (Again, wipe the surface with a damp towel, if necessary, to create sufficient friction on the work surface.) Taper the rope slightly at each end and moisten the last inch or so of the ends. Place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle, going between your thumb and forefinger and then all the way around. The ends should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together by closing your hand, then press the seam into the work surface, rolling it back and forth a few times to seal. Remove the dough from your hand, squeezing it to even out the thickness if need be and creating a hole of about 2 inches in diameter.
  3. After 1 hour, check whether the bagels are ready for baking using the “float test”: Place one of the bagels in a small bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn’t float back to the surface, shake it off, return it to the pan, and wait for another 15 to 20 minutes, then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they’re all ready to be boiled. If they pass the float test before you are ready to boil and bake them, return them to the refrigerator so they don’t overproof. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and gather and prepare your garnishes (egg wash, seeds, onions, garlic, and so on).
  4. To make the poaching liquid, fill a pot with 2 to 3 quarts of water, making sure the water is at least 4 inches deep. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain at a simmer. Stir in the malt syrup, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the pan, domed side up. (It’s important that the parchment paper be lightly oiled, or the paper will glue itself to the dough as the bagels bake.) Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle on a generous amount of whatever toppings you like as soon as the bagels come out of the water.
  6. Transfer the pan of bagels to the oven, then lower the oven heat to 450°F (232°C).
  7. Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and check the underside of the bagels. If they’re getting too dark, place another pan under the baking sheet. (Doubling the pan will insulate the first baking sheet.) Bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bagels are a golden brown.
  8. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving.

Baked Donuts, Two Ways

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unfrostedHappy New Year! We had a great time spending the holidays with my family in Seattle. Now that my brothers and I are scattered around North America, it’s rare for us to all be in the same place at once. So it was a treat to have everyone “home” again, joking and eating and enjoying each others’ company. Of course, it was particularly special this year because it was Marcus’ first Christmas. Naturally, he got the most presents (even though he slept through us opening them for him…).

It’s become customary for David and me to cook a couple meals when we’re back in Seattle, with one of them being breakfast / brunch. This year, we scored a couple donut pans during some after-Christmas shopping; so we decided to try our hand at baked sour cream donuts. We tested a couple recipes, and this one was the clear winner. I know some people will pooh-pooh thought of baked donuts; and I won’t pretend these are like the deep-fried delights we all enjoy. But they are pretty darn tasty — the double rising power of yeast and baking powder give these babies a nice light texture. Plus, they are super easy and quick to whip up — you can mix, bake, and glaze a batch in under an hour.

I’ve included a two glaze ideas here — zesty lemon and classic chocolate. Each recipe will make enough for a dozen donuts; I’ve halved the glaze recipes to do a mixed batch and had plenty of each left over. Or feel free to dress your donuts up with another flavor of your choice — this list is a good place to start. I’m definitely looking forward to playing around with some different flavors!

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Baked Donuts

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn | Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm water or milk
  • 200 g / 2 cups cake flour
  • 215 g / 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 228 g / 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 56 g / 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two (6-count) doughnut pans with a flour-based baking spray, Arrange a wire cooling rack over a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk or water and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla, and yeast mixture until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Transfer the batter to a disposable piping bag (or zip-top bag, snipping off one corner for piping) and pipe into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake the doughnuts until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool the doughnuts in the pan for 5 minutes. Transfer the doughnuts from the pan to the wire rack.

For the lemon glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
  • 1-2 tbsp milk, plus more to thin if needed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Poppy seeds, optional
  1. Combine the powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice. Whisk in the milk, adding gradually until the glaze reaches desired consistency.
  2. Dip the top side of a doughnut into the glaze and twist to coat. Return to the wire rack and immediately cover with poppy seeds. Continue with remaining doughnuts. Allow glaze to dry for a few minutes before serving. (Note: You can glaze both sides if you prefer a sweeter donut.)

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk, plus more to thin if needed
  • Rainbow sprinkles, optional
  1. Cook the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until ingredients are melted (or melt in the microwave in 15-second increments). Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk, and whisk vigorously to combine. If it seems too thick, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Remove the pan from heat.
  2. Dip the top side of a doughnut into the glaze and twist to coat. Return to the wire rack and immediately cover with sprinkles. Continue with remaining doughnuts. Allow glaze to dry for a few minutes before serving.

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