Sunday, July 28, 2013

lemon cornmeal cake with blueberries

i had a dream that joseph stalin was trying to befriend me and i kept running away and making him angrier.

Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Blueberries

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tbsp finely grated lemon peel
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup blueberries

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tbsp (or more) fresh lemon juice

preheat oven to 350 degreesF. 
butter a 9 inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend. whisk buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla in a small bowl. pour buttermilk mixture and melted butter into flour mixture. using a rubber spatula, gently fold liquids into flour mixture until just combined. (don't stir!) then fold in blueberries

bake until a tester inserted in the middle of cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. 

glaze: combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. stir with a spoon until smooth and paste-like, adding more lemon juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread. 

let cake cool in pan for a few minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack using oven mitts. flip over once more so cake is top side up.  spread glaze over the hot cake. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

marlow & sons shortbread

lorna doon.
those round tins of cookies someone gave your mom during the holidays and their different exciting shapes deceived you into thinking they were different but they were all butter cookies, which in the end was fine-BY-ME.

in fact. the trefoil was always my favorite girl scout cookie, but for an 8 year old, with the pressures of society and 3rd grade conformism, i would never admit it.

now i am proud to say that i believe the basic shortbread cookie to be one of the most beautiful things on the planet.

it's the very basics of baking.
butter. flour. sugar. salt.
what a concept.

there is a lot of over-the-top-ness going on all over these internets. cookies stuffed into cookies stuffed into cake batter. all wrapped up into a cheesecake. on a stick.

i'm gonna barf all over the pinterest screen.

how about we just settle for some big bakery sized squares of crumbly shortbread and call this gross nonsense a phase?

Marlow and Sons Shortbread

notes: this recipe will make lots of shortbread. feel free to halve the recipe and bake in just one quarter sheet tray. 
bread flour? yes bread flour. 

1 lb (4 sticks) plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
9 oz light brown sugar
5 oz white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 lb 3 oz king arthur bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

preheat oven to 325 degreesF. 
prepare a half sheet tray, or two quarter sheet trays, by buttering and lining with parchment paper. allow for a two inch overhang on the long sides of the pan to help release the shortbread after baking. 
cream the butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. add eggs and vanilla until combined, then mix in dry ingredients. combine completely. 

divide dough evenly between the prepared sheet trays, spreading smooth and level. sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake until golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. 
let cool completely before cutting into squares with a sharp knife. they will keep well at room temperature for a week. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

strawberry + blackberry cobbler

"the early bird need not pursue the worm when he can order pizza at midnight."


this cobbler is as easy and as delicious as pizza at midnight. really

Strawberry + Blackberry Cobbler

notes: this could be the simplest, most straight forward recipe of all time. and it's so good it doesn't make sense. i swear i was 3 glasses of sangria deep and had everything mixed and dumped together in the oven in 4 minutes. (minus the slicing of the strawberries). I doubled the original recipe to bake it in a 9x13 inch pan, swapped half the blackberries for strawberries, decreased the sugar a tad because the strawberries are so sweet, and threw some poppy seeds into the dry mix. i think next time i'd try adding a bunch more poppy seeds for an even more awesome speckly looking cobbler. either way, it's absurdly good and comforting for these airy summer nights. and vanilla bean ice cream scooped on top is absolutely demanded. 

8 oz (1 cup/2 sticks) unsalted butter 
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 tsp salt
a tablespoon or two of poppy seeds
2 cups milk
3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup blackberries

preheat oven to 350 degreesF. melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave. grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. combine the 1 3/4 cups sugar, flour, salt, and poppy seeds in a large bowl. whisk in the milk, mixing well. then pour in the melted butter and whisk it all well together. pour the batter into the baking dish. sprinkle the berries over the top of the batter, distributing evenly. sprinkle a few tablespoons of sugar over the surface. 
bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. 
seve warm with lots of ice cream. 

summer lovin!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

wedding cake part II: how to make a wedding cake in the forest

i shoved my kitchen aid mixer behind the seat cushioned with a pillow and my backpack. it was thursday morning. ...i wonder if i'll need more parchment..? i should grab a couple more..

he had a ukulele and a guitar. i had two coolers, a  cake stand, a box of tools..2 spatulas, whisk, a double boiler
Ripe nested down by my feet, for some car entertainment.. aside from my occasional outbursts of song lyrics changed to pertain to things around us.

the point is, we had a lot of shit. and a long ride.
i thought a lot about how i still had a whole wedding cake to build.
i had deli cups filled with caramel and hazelnut paste, and rounds and rounds of individual frozen and slowly defrosting cake layers, all sandwiched together as snugly and safely as i could arrange.

my plan of cake attack was to assemble the "bodies" of the two cakes when we got there later in the night, and then have them in the freezer overnight.
we got there in the late evening, we unloaded our truckful of junk and explored around the beauty of the place, we ate eggy english muffins and, what do you know, it was 10:30 and i was pondering where to begin.

well. make vanilla bean custard, that is where. that needs to get in the fridge cooling asap.
next, figure out how to approach doing this in this little studio kitchen strip.
oh look it's 11:30.
i haven't even started unwrapping and leveling the cakes out when one self-proclaimed 'sous chef' had clearly dropped out.

i chose to take the momofuku route in building the insides of the cake into one drum.
i compiled them in 10 and 8 inch springform pans lined with acetate.
i love this method of building cakes in a perfectly round mold, particularly for cakes with several layers and components. the sides are smooth and it keeps everything tighter. Also.. generous layers when it comes to the fillings. okay?

i finished up around 2 or 3.
i shoved (carefully maneuvered them with caution) them  into the freezer,
and then, to face my messy mini kitchen that i had turned into a warzone. oh yay
i glanced over at joe in enviable disgust.

the next day,  
in the afternoon, i took them out of the freezer, peeled the acetate paper off immediately to ensure nice sides and let them thaw a bit. in the meantime make a giant batch of caramel swiss meringue buttercream.
crumb coat on each cake. refrigerator.
then frost each. back in the refrigerator.

oh. what? buttercream? i haven't told you about the frosting. the one to tie everything together. the one that had to pair deliciously with the two (very different) cakes.
i had a few ideas, but the second i made caramel swiss meringue buttercream, the other frosting candidates got kicked to the curb. there truly isn't a cake i can think of that it wouldn't be delicious on.
in essence, you make a swiss meringue buttercream which isn't nearly as intimidating to make as it sounds.
caramel softens in the sun.
caramel gets whipped into the buttercream. it's beautiful.

now. the wedding day. it's a few hours before the ceremony. i shove a bunch of neon straws into the bottom cake, snip them so they are level. i make sure that no one is around me and everything is completely silent. i hold my breath, and stack the one cake on top of the other.
whoa. it worked.

i took out the racks in the mini fridge, and slid the cake in. all that was left to do was put the topper and flowers on it.

YES. sweet success!
then i hit the wine, stuffed my face with chorizo and brie, and hoped the night would never end.

things learned: the dishes now. not later. apparently there are millions of ants in the forest that will flock to every miniscule crumb and frosting smudge you can't even detect with your eyeballs.
2. i work pretty messy alone when there is no one around to get mad at me for being a mess.
3. flimsy neon straws can work together to achieve great strength
4. salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream > everything

Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
adapted from here and here

10 oz egg whites
10 oz sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 lbs unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
8-10 oz caramel

combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean together in a clean bowl (if using vanilla extract, don't add til the end). set the bowl over a pan of water and turn the heat on medium low. you don't need the water to boil, just hot enough to steam and heat the whites. 
whisk frequently to prevent the whites from cooking. cook until the sugar completely dissolves, and should reach 150 degreesF on a thermometer. (i don't use a thermometer for this, i just touch the whites and rub it between my fingers, if it's still grainy it needs more time, but if it's smooth, the sugar has dissolved and it's ready.)
when the mixture is sufficiently hot, remove from heat and using the whisk attachment of a kitchen aid mixer, whip on medium high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and turned white. continue whipping until the meringue is cool. feel the bowl, it should not be warm. 
turn the mixer down to medium-low and begin adding the butter, one chunk at a time. scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion. don't panic if it looks curdled at a point. just keep the mixer running and continue adding the butter chunks and it will emulsify. finally, splash in some vanilla extract if using and drizzle in caramel with the mixer still running. let continue to whip until it's fully incorporated. adjust salt to taste

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the california coast

road trip poetry. 

i fear that a rock
nay, a boulder, will decide
to fall on my car

drive through this tunnel
i cannot spy the end
fuck. i forgot to hold my breath. 

this just might be
the most beautiful
i will
ever see. 

i've done this drive more times than i can count now. it never seems to lose it's magic. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

wedding cake stuff: part I

this has been an intimidating post to begin. mainly because, there is just so much. but enough is enough, i will not procrastinate any longer.
let's begin, shall we? i hope you're ready for cake tidbits flying at your brain.

long story short. i made a wedding cake for a wonderful wedding.
in the month leading up to may 11, i used/blamed this project as an excuse to immerse my after-work world in all things cake.

everyone wants to make delicious cake. everyone wants to eat delicious cake.
the thing is, cake is good.
unless you've forgotten the sugar or accidentally spilled nail polish remover in your batter, the cake is (most likely) going to be something that you want to eat.

but i want better cake. the i-need-another-piece-right-now kind.

it's got to look nice, which is part of the fun.
but before that, its insides need to be on point. the flavors and textures need to mingle with each other in harmony. 
let's recipe test.. can i getta hot tub!

cake bones and innards.
i made big batches of each component, then ate them in different combos with the cakes. just like putting together outfits but without changing sweatpants or needing to fit into outfits.

i took a few of my favorite elements from my favorite cakes...
the salty caramel and ganache from the sweet and salty cake. and my beloved hazelnut crunch from momofuku...
and figured out a way to smash them all together in one fat cake.

white cake. 
for 2 weeks i was all up in white cake's business, reading and comparing recipes and mixing methods.
i finally decided on a fluffy white cake base from Sweetapolita. if there is anyone that can be thoroughly trusted when it comes to cake, it is her.

raspberry strawberry filling. easily the simplest component. stewed for a couple minutes with a touch of sugar, lemon, and cornstarch. it should taste like fresh raspberries and strawberries.

next, i turned to cream cheese. obviously. 
i tried out a cream cheese filling in the center of the cake. hmm..
i tried momofuku's spreadable liquid cheesecake, which i really dug on its own, but wasn't sold on it for this cake. it needed something more mellow/creamy/complementary. 
i then turned to a basic vanilla bean custard. i spread it onto a hunk of cake with the rasp/strawb filling and hazelnut crunch and hoped for the best. WINNER. 

and for the top cake. one for chocolate and salt lovers. and anyone with taste buds. 
the standby awesome chocolate cake that i will forever count on, built with valhrona cocoa, strong coffee, and buttermilk. 
thin saltier-than-the-norm-caramel, to seep into each layer of cake. maldon sea salt. 

a crazyface whipped ganache that starts with boiling sugar and water. 
sugar and water boils until it is deep amber. 
deep amber = pull off the heat. stream in cream. bubble bubble bubble. boom caramel. 
a boatload of dark chocolate gets dumped to melt into the hot caramel. 

(do you see what's going on here? in a typical ganache, chocolate gets melted into hot cream. 
here, chocolate gets melted into hot caramel...this makes you veeeery excited i know!)

and lastly. after the caramel ganache is cool. it goes into the kitchen aid bowl and butter is whipped in, bit by bit, until 1 pound of butter has disappeared into glossy chocolate bliss. 

and that, my dearest darlings, is what gets spread in between the layers. 

ok. are you exhausted? that's enough cake talk for one night. 
i will continue with the building of this wedding cake beast shortly. 

Fluffy Vanilla Cake

notes: this recipe yields 2 9 inch rounds of cake. i most definitely made more than that. 

5 large egg whites (5 oz/150 g) room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk (6 oz) room temperature
2 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
zest of 1/2 an orange (optional)
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (10 oz/285 g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 oz/350 g)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder (19.5 g)
3/4 tsp salt (5 g)
12 tbsp unsalted butter (6 oz), at room temperature

preheat oven to 350 degreesF. grease, line with parchment, and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. 
in a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, vanilla, vanilla bean, and zest. set aside. 
in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds. 
add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds. 
scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. if you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers. 
bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. be careful not to over bake. 
let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. gently turn cakes back up, so the tops and up and cool completely. 
wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen up to 2 months. 

Vanilla Bean Custard
adapted from smitten kitchen

1 cup whole milk
seeds from 1/4 to 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 sheet of gelatin

in a small saucepan, combine your milk and vanilla bean. heat the mixture until it is warm, then set aside. 
in the bottom of a small saucepan, off the heat, beat or whisk your yolks and 1/4 cup sugar together vigorously, until it pales in color and it form a ribbon off whisk when lifted. whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. 
whisking the whole time, drizzle the warm vanilla-milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, just a bit at a time at first. whisk constantly. 
bloom sheet of gelatin in ice water. 
place the saucepan over medium heat whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. once bubbling whisk it for 1-2 more minutes then remove from the heat. immediately stir in vanilla extract (if using) and butter until combined. squeeze water out of bloomed gelatin and whisk until melted and fully incorporated. pass it through a fine mesh strainer. 
to cool quickly, place the custard in a bowl set in an ice bath. 
press a film of plastic on the surface of the custard as to not develop a skin. 

Hazelnut Crunch here
Salted Caramel Sauce and Whipped Caramel Ganache here