May 2, 2018

Milk Bar's Birthday Cake

Here's my second attempt at making a Milk Bar recipe for this blog, the first being their Crack Pie.  While the latter was pretty straightforward to make (with ingredients you probably already have), I forewarn you that wasn't necessarily the case with the former. 

If you follow the recipe to a tee this cake requires clear imitation vanilla extract, a 6-inch metal cake ring and acetate cake strips.  I'd venture to guess that most people won't have those things lying around in their kitchen, unlike me the crazy baking lady who already had them in her pantry.  That being said, I really had no excuse not to make this cake, my curiosity alone was enough motivation. 

Don't let any of the aforementioned deter or scare you from trying this recipe. The components can be made in advance and assembled up to a week later so time isn't a hindrance.  In my opinion the aesthetics alone of the finished cake make it a worthwhile baking project.

When Christina Tosi, the cake's creator, first made this popular dessert what really set the cake apart was its "nakedness," i.e., the sides were left bare without any frosting.  Nowadays that technique is pretty normal but I guess back then it was revolutionary.  The other unique element was the addition of cookie crumbs that were sandwiched between the layers of cake and frosting.

At first glance I must confess the birthday cake looked too sweet to me.  I can't help it, that's my gut reaction whenever I see a cake frosted with anything other than Swiss or Italian meringue buttercream.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cake was moist and tender with just the right amount of salt to balance out the sugar.   I'm pretty sure I'll be making this birthday cake again!

April 29, 2018

Danish Pastries

My friend Julia and I attended a class recently at Baking Arts in San Mateo to learn how to make Danish Pastries.  I'm no stranger to laminated dough, having made croissants, puff pastry and kouign amman before, but never have I made Danish which is made from an enriched dough with eggs.   I was happy to learn something new!

Prior to class the instructor had pre-made and shaped a batch of the dough so that we could see what it would look like before going in to the oven.  Then he showed us how to finish off the baked pastries by brushing on sugar syrup and then piping a flourish of icing.  During the class we students made the dough from scratch and laminated it with a block of cold butter.  We then took the thrice-turned dough home to finish off later.

Because I was anxious to see how my Danish would turn out I woke up really early this morning to finish the recipe.  This dough is super easy to roll out which makes it nice to handle when it's time to cut your shapes.  I made a few pinwheels and with the rest of the dough turned them in to snails.

The key with Danish is that the finished pastry is brushed with a sugar syrup that gives them that beautiful shine and gloss.  Now I was definitely skeptical when the instructor repeatedly told us to be really generous when brushing on the syrup.  I assumed it would make the finished pastry too sweet, but I was wrong.  Even with a double coating of the syrup the Danish was just right.  I'll undoubtedly be making this recipe time I think I'll try a savory version. 

April 23, 2018

Milk Bar Crack Pie

Have you been watching the fourth season of Netflix's Chef's Table like I have?  The current series focuses on pastry/dessert and the first episode profiled Christina Tosi of Milk Bar fame.  I don't know about you but after watching it I felt really inspired to make the dessert that started it all, Crack Pie

I'd visited the original bakery in NYC many, many years ago and didn't recall ever tasting the pie so I was really curious to see what all the hype was about.  Luckily I had all the ingredients in my pantry so it was basically a no brainer that I was going to make it.  

What's unusual about this pie is that the crust is made from oatmeal cookies.  The filling reminded me of the ones you'd find in pecan pie, i.e., very dense.  I admit I was concerned after seeing the  amount of sugar that's in the recipe because I don't care for overly sweet things.  Luckily the salt acts as a good counter balance to the sugar.   

My review?  While I personally thought the pie was too sweet for my taste I can see how people really like it because of the sweet and salty combination.  I had a scoop of coffee ice cream with my slice which I think helped offset the sugary factor.  Would I make it again?  Probably not for myself, but definitely for someone else if they asked.

Next on the docket - Milk Bar's celebrated Birthday Cake.  Stay tuned....

April 15, 2018

Coconut Cookies with Sea Salt

Raise your hand if you're cuckoo for coconut because these cookies are right up your alley.  I certainly fall under that camp.  I love coconut in pretty much anything sweet, although I tend to stay away when it comes to savory.

I came upon this recipe for Coconut Cookies with Sea Salt by way of my sister this very morning.  She sent me a link to this blog post and I immediately wanted to make them.  I've made coconut macaroons before but what intrigued me about this particular recipe was it's technique and the addition of sea salt.  You whip the eggs and granulated sugar until very light and thick (like you're making a genoise cake) and then add it to the desiccated coconut and butter mixture.   Most recipes I've seen use either condensed milk or cream of coconut which made for overly sweet cookies.  This recipe eased up on the sweetness and the contrast of the sea salt sprinkled on top worked beautifully.

It's important to use unsweetened, desiccated coconut, not the sweetened shredded or flaked kind found at your local market.  Most health food stores will carry unsweetened, desiccated coconut and I've seen it sometimes at Trader Joe's.   To top off the cookies I used my favorite sea salt of all time made by Maldon.  I combined original and smoked flakes together to add a nice twist to the finished cookies.    

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