January 13, 2017

Zebra Bundt Cake

If you peeked in to my pantry you'd think I was trying to set up my own kitchen housewares shop.  I can't help it - I'm the first to admit I'm a total addict.  Call me a sucker for the latest cake pan or baking equipment out there.  

The inspiration for this Zebra Bundt Cake stemmed from my recent acquisition of NordicWare's Kugelhopf pan.  I'm a huge fan of this company and love all their bundt pans.  Over the years I've amassed quite a collection because they never seem to fail in terms of quality and aesthetic.  I call it effortless baking when the pan does all the cake decorating work for you.   

My intention was to make a marble cake and when I happened upon Bakers Royale's Zebra Bundt on Pinterest it immediately caught my eye.  I just love how the alternating stripes of vanilla and chocolate batter make the cake look so interesting and inviting.  When I took a closer look at the recipe I was even more pleased because it was based on one from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book.   Tish's cookbook is one of my favorites so I knew it was going to be a winner.  I wasn't wrong.

The crumb on this cake is really incredible, so tender, moist and melt in your mouth.  I was a tad bit concerned that the depth of the bundt pan would require extra baking time, leading to a drier cake, but this was not the case at all.  I'll definitely be making this recipe again!

January 7, 2017

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)

Have you heard of hygge?  When the weather turns chilly hygge is all the rage.  But what exactly is it?  In a nutshell, hygge is the art of being "cozy"...think candles, cashmere and warm fireplaces.  On a cold, dreary and grey day I have to say there's nothing better.  The Bay Area was bracing for a major storm this weekend (it's ok, we need the water!) and nothing sounded better to me than staying at home and baking.

I love a good cinnamon bun and the Swedish version, Kanelbullar, has been on my to do list for a while.  They evoke not only hygge, but also fika, the Swedish slang for coffee breaks.  To be perfectly frank I was really drawn to them after seeing this gorgeous photo on Edd Kimber's (aka The Boy Who Bakes) Instagram feed.  There was something about the twisted treats topped with pearl sugar that looked so appealing...I had to make them!

I found the recipe for the kanelbullar on SwedishFood.com.  The dough is similar to any other cinnamon bun recipe except it has the addition of cardamom, a very popular spice used in Scandinavian baking.  The other distinction is how the buns are shaped.  Rather than being rolled up in a log and cut the dough is stretched, twisted and shaped in to a striped round.  I found a great video here on YouTube that shows you how to do this. 

These kanelbullar are so good!  Straight from the oven I devoured two of them as they were the perfect accompaniment to a hot cappuccino.  Storm, schworm...I say bring it on!  I'll be inside gettin' hygge with it.

January 1, 2017

Millionaire's Shortbread


If you've never made Millionaire's Shortbread before, no better time than the present to give it a try!  Trust me, you won't regret it.  While Scottish in origin, millionaire's shortbread is basically a delicious homemade Twix bar with it's crispy shortbread cookie base, soft and chewy caramel filling all topped with rich chocolate.    

I'd seen recipes for this treat before on various UK-based sites and actually attempted making them in early 2016 with less than stellar results.  That all changed when I saw the version from Cook's Illustrated in the November issue of the magazine.   They've never failed me before and this time was no different. 

The instructions couldn't be easier to follow and I was delighted with the final cookie.   I veered a bit from the original recipe and sprinkled Malden flakes on top of the caramel layer to add a nice salty/sweet contrast.  I have to admit that my one trepidation with this recipe was in slicing the bars but in the end my concerns were unfounded.  When you're dealing with chocolate it can be a bit finicky but the method CI used to temper the chocolate worked out fantastic and I had no issues whatsoever in portioning the bars.   

I gifted the millionaire's shortbread to some friends for the holidays and they were immediately devoured.  While I do prefer bittersweet chocolate I think the next time I make these cookies I'll switch it up and use some semisweet or milk chocolate.

December 23, 2016

Springerle Cookies

One of the best things about my job is that I get the opportunity to travel to Europe every now and then.  Last month my department had a global meeting at company headquarters in Basel.  I was especially looking forward to the trip because it was just at the start of the holiday season in Europe.   Even though I travel to Europe quite frequently I've never been right before Christmas, always after. 

My friends Steve and Becky took me to the Basel Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair) that was in the heart of of old town.  Out of the myriad of stalls my favorite was the one that sold springerle cookie molds.  Springerle cookies are German in origin and made by pressing a carved mold onto rolled dough to make a pattern impression.  Normally they appear around Christmas time.  There were so many beautiful designs to choose from but in the end I went with a traditional tree. 

I searched the internet for a springerle recipe and found a great one here on House on the Hill's website.  This company makes springerle molds so I figured they'd be the authority on everything about the cookies.  

The dough is pretty straightforward, however it does call for a very particular ingredient as a leavening agent that isn't well known in America - hartshorn,  aka baker's ammonia or ammonium carbonate.   You can use baking powder as a substitute, but hartshorn helps the cookies retain their intricate design and their texture crispy.  Luckily I had some in my pantry...acquired on a trip to Norway where they sell it in the supermarket.

The key to success is making sure you flour the mold really well before you press it in to the rolled out dough.   My only complaint was that I didn't have a rectangle cookie cutter large enough to fit the design so I had to hand cut each cookie.  Note to self: buy a mold that fits within a cutter I already have!

After all the cookies were stamped and cut they had to air dry for at least 12 hours in a cool, dry place.  Don't skip the air drying because it sets the pattern and forms a nice skin on the top of each cookie.   The springerle are baked in a low oven (around 300-325 degrees) until the bottoms are lightly browned.  Make sure not to get the tops of the cookies brown!  The amount of time in the oven really depends on the size and thickness of the cookie.  The springerle I made were 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 in size and about 1/3 inch thick and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.  

For my first attempt I think my springerle came out pretty nice.  I want to try a speculaas recipe next time.  And you can be certain that I'll be acquiring more molds on my future trips to Europe!
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