Archives for posts with tag: Cake

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It is likely impossible that my sweet tooth could ever be lost, but it has definitely been tamed.  After working in a bakery for some time, testing very sweet pastries over-and-over, I no longer rich pastries (read: creme brûlée, eclairs, cupcakes) or fancy layer cakes dressed in buttercream.

What will never get old is a treat that I can enjoy when my pang for second breakfast hits and goes well with coffee.

Oh yes…second breakfast.

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I knew I was in the right place once I realized that, like me, the guys I work with at the bakery pretty much follow the feeding schedule of hobbits.  Just swap the tea and pints with coffee and…yup…pretty much hobbits.

Second breakfast and elevenses are for real and very serious.  To avoid early-, mid-, and late-morning grumblings (and to stay on the guys’ good sides), inevitably we must all take a break for coffee and a not-so-sweet baked good.  Be it cornbread, croissants, muffins,  or some form of coffee cake, we all feel much better after we have taken a moment to re-energize and re-caffeinate (and I am no longer afraid to ask one of them to open that pesky bucket of honey).

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Speaking of honey…  One of my favorite cookbooks from 2012 is Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson.  Full of beautiful recipes and photographs, this book really cover the gamut from decadent special occasion cakes to whip-it-together-during-naptime treats.

And, I absolutely cannot get enough of the honey cake recipe.  It fits all my requirements for cake: not too sweet, super moist, naturally beautiful (no fussy decoration required), it is perfect at 9am (second breakfast) or 9pm (because if I were a hobbit I definitely wouldn’t stop at supper), it is easy to make using ingredients you likely already have on hand, and it can sit happily on your counter for several days.

Honey Cake

Makes 1 9-inch Cake

Adapted slightly from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Cake:

Heaping 1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Glaze:

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spread almonds evenly on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Set aside and keep oven on.

Grease a 9 by 3-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.  In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla on low speed until blended; increase the speed to high and beat until very light and fluffy 5-7 minutes.  Stop mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.  Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time until well incorporated.  With mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour.   After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.  Stop them mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not overbeat the batter.

Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan.  Rap the pan firmly on the counter to release any air bubbles.  Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  The cake will turn a deep golden color and be firm on the top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle will have moist crumbs attached.  The cake may crack on the top, this is okay because it will be covered by almonds and will allow more of the glaze to be absorbed into the cake.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze in a small saucepan by stirring the honey, sugar, and butter over medium heat until combined.  Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer.  Turn off heat, but leave saucepan on the burner to keep glaze warm.

Remove the cake from the oven and poke holes all over the top of the cake with a wooden skewer or fork.  Pour half of the glaze over the cake, evenly sprinkle the cake with the almonds, and then pour the rest of the glaze over the almonds.

Place back in the center of the oven and bake for 5 more minutes.

Cool cake on a wire rack for about an hour.  Remove the sides of the pan and transfer cake to a serving plate.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Cake will stay fresh up to five days, stored well wrapped at room temperature.

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Besides being a wonderful place to work (and *ahem* having a pretty darn beautiful pastry case if I do say so myself!), one of my absolute favorite things about the gourmet grocery store Central Market, is the produce department.  While you may have to pay a pretty penny, you will come home with (hopefully) multiple bags of high quality, high flavor, fruits and vegetables.

Central Market also offers an astounding variety of different produce and does a nice job of highlighting what is in season.  Come citrus or tomato season, you are bound to be blown away by the abundant and beautiful shrine honoring the prized produce and will likely learn a thing or two about varieties you never knew existed.

Being in Texas, we are fortunate enough to be knee deep in stone fruit season right now and once again the miraculous display stopped me in my tracks one morning while perusing the produce department for berries to top my fruit tarts (can you tell I am like a kid in a candy store every time I go to work?).

In my opinion, nothing is worse than a flavorless, mealy, out-of-season peach.  It’s just one of those things that should never be consumed anytime other than the short, summertime, window, when they are at their peak.   I always know it’s safe to dive in when you walk by a pile of peaches and their sweet smell overcomes you.

In addition to some amazing Texas peaches that I poached and paired with a wonderful tres leches cake, I wanted to share a few of the more unique and eye-catching varieties of stone fruit that we are carrying right now.  Hopefully you learn a little something and are lucky enough to try some yourself.

Texas Peaches. Smaller than the Georgia Peach, but still wonderfully plump and sweet.

Sugar Plums are not just for Christmas stories, these oval stone fruit have a nice bite and a subtle sweetness.

Petite Black Apricots, while dark and brooding on the outside, boast a bright, honeyed flesh.

Like their namesake, Mango Nectarines have a striking green skin and warm yellow meat, but the taste is all nectarine.

Saturn Peaches may look far out, but with their intense floral aroma and flavor each bite brings you back to their familiar cousin.  Interesting note: the skin of these peaches never blushes like a typical peach.

Tropical Plumana Plumcots with exotic leopard skin and sensual tropical taste make you wish you were relaxing on an equally exotic beach.

Black Plums.  Their vibrant red interior, flavor, and firm texture are reminiscent of bing cherries.

Tres Leches with Poached Peaches

Serves 8-10

Cake recipe adapted from May 2011 Saveur magazine.  Poached peaches adapted from September 2005 Gourmet magazine.

For poached peaches:

4 medium ripe peaches

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 cups water

1 (1-inch piece) vanilla

For tres leches:

Unsalted butter, for greasing pan

1 cup flour, plus more for pan

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons rum

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 13.5-oz can coconut milk

1 12-oz can evaporated milk

Poach peaches: Cut a shallow X in bottom of each peach with a sharp paring knife and immerse fruit in a 4-quart heavy pot of boiling water 30 seconds, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Transfer peaches to a cutting board and peel, starting with cut end, then cut in half, discarding pits.

Combine sugar and water in cleaned pot. Halve vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape seeds into pot, then add pod and bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add peaches, pitted sides down, to sugar syrup, then reduce heat and poach, covered, at a bare simmer 6 minutes. Turn peaches over and continue to poach, covered, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes more.  Cool peaches in poaching liquid in pot, uncovered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Make cake: Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan; set aside.  In a bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and eggs on high speed until tripled in volume, pale, and thick, about 12 minutes.  Add vanilla extract until combined. Add flour and gently fold with a rubber spatula until just combined; pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Let cool.

In a large pitcher, whisk together rum and condensed, coconut, and evaporated milks.  Pierce cake all over wit a toothpick and slowly drizzle milk mixture over top.  Chill until milks are completely absorbed, about 4 hours.  Slice into wedges and top with sliced poached peaches.

Whether you’re a home cook or a professional cook, a vital component to a successful recipe is:  taste.

When a recipe says, “season with salt and pepper to taste,” this means you should actually taste what you are working on and let your taste buds help you decide if more seasoning is warranted or not.

Not only does this lead to seriously flavorful food, but it can help you detect mistakes as well.

For instance, last week at work, one of the cake decorators was cutting pounds of strawberries and mixing them with sugar to make the filling for our strawberry short-cake.  One of the ladies that works in the bakery kept asking if she could taste the strawberries, but the cake decorator was preoccupied with her work and said, “no”.  Being persistent, my coworker snuck a few strawberries, and to her surprise got a mouthful of salty strawberries.  So yes, this wasted a bunch of fruit, but saved a lot of customers from an unpleasant piece of cake.

Once, one of my fellow pastry cooks mistook lemon curd for pecan pie filling.  Fail. Lemony nuts?

I thought the vanilla buttercream was whipped cream.  Oops.  Buttery.

Someone didn’t read the label on the sheet of brownies they were cutting and accidentally cut brownies filled with hatch chiles instead of plain chocolate brownies.  Uh oh.  Spicy.

I don’t tell you these things in order to make all of us pastry cooks look stupid, but to show that 1. we all make mistakes and it usually ends with a funny story and 2. even if you are in a rush or you have made that recipe a million times, taking a few seconds to taste your work can save you from an embarrassing mistake or simply help you improve your dish.

This week I made carrot coffee cake…twice.  Twice, because I made a mistake the first time around.  I made the dreaded mistake of forgetting to add the sugar to the batter…blech.  I always give batter (yeah, yeah, I know there is raw eggs in it) a taste.  I believe that even batter, while somewhat different then the final product, can tell you if the sweetness and saltiness is balanced.  And, I think batter is just plain good.

This recipe was no exception, except I waited until after the cake, with streusel topping already applied, was happily baking in the oven before I tested the batter.  No good.  I decided to let it bake and see how it tasted without sugar.  No good.

Despite my disapointment, this mistake gave me time to contemplate the original recipe a little more and led me to change it up a bit on the second go.  Very good.

Today’s lessons: take a second to taste what you are cooking, double check your work, and don’t let mistakes get you down, laugh about it, learn, and make it even better the next time.

Spelt Carrot Coffee Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake or 12 muffins

Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Note:  First off, I promise this will be the last recipe from Good to the Grain for a while.  It’s just such a darn inspiring cookbook and if you like baking, whole grains, and good photography, you should probably go buy it already.

This cake is made with spelt flour.  Spelt is and ancient whole-grain that was commonly used in medieval Europe and is now touted as a health food due to it’s relatively high fiber and protein content. I like spelt for it’s grassy and earthy flavors that works well the the sweet carrots in the recipe.  Spelt flour can be found in most grocery stores in the “healthy living” section.

In the original recipe, these are muffins, not cake and would make 12 muffins if you decide to adapt this recipe.  Distribute struesel topping evenly over muffins.

I upped the butter and eggs in the recipe, which I think improves the crumb.  Instead of melting the butter, as directed in the recipe, I creamed it with the sugar.

Streusel topping:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour

2 tablespoons oat bran

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

For cake:

1 cup spelt flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup oat bran

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter.

For the streusel topping, measure the flour, oat bran, sugars, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the butter and rub between fingers, breaking it into smaller bits.  Continue rubbing until the mixture feels coarse, like cornmeal.  The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe.

Combine flours, oat bran, allspice, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract, continue to beat until well combined. In three batches, alternate adding dry ingredients with buttermilk until well combined.  Fold in carrots until evenly distributed.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan.  Top with streusel, lightly pressing into surface of batter.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.