June 13, 2018

Lemon Streusel Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This was me the other day:  standing in front of the fridge and eyeing a big bag of lemons and a package of cream cheese.  What to do with them?  First thing that came to mind was a lemon cream cheese pound cake.  A) it's relatively easy to pull together and B) could feed the crowd at the office.  Done! To gild the lily a little further I decided to add a streusel topping.  Streusel qualifies the cake as a breakfast food, right?     

Be forewarned that while the batter comes together pretty quickly, the cake does take a while to bake in the oven.  I had to check for doneness three times when I made this one for the blog and even then it wasn't 100% to my satisfaction.  Seasoned bakers will notice that the inside top part of the cake could have taken another ten minutes.  Impatience on my part was to blame! It's long baking duration was most likely attributed to starting the oven at 325 degrees which was too low.  Next time I'll get the oven to 350 and then bake.  Oh well, still tastes pretty dang good!

June 3, 2018

White Lily Buttermilk Biscuits with Strawberry Rerigerator Jam

Last month I found myself in Florida with the primary purpose of going to Universal Orlando.  I'm a Harry Potter fan and had been wanting to check out the two HP themed attractions there.  I was especially excited about Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride since the California location didn't have it.  You would think that as an enthusiast I would have brought back a wand or similar as a memento, right?  Wrong!

What was my Floridian souvenir you may ask?  Flour!  Yes, way, flour.  More specifically, White Lily flour.  [Don't be too surprised though, I am a baker after all.]  I'd heard a lot about how amazing White Lily flour was, especially for biscuits, but unfortunately it's accessibility was mainly limited to the South.  [Yes, I know you can find it online, but I'm too cheap to pay shipping fees for flour!]   

During some down time in Orlando I made a beeline to the closest supermarket I could find which happened to be Publix.  Call me strange, but checking out local grocery stores is one of my favorite things to do whenever I travel.  The store was your typical market, but as I was strolling the baking aisle I suddenly remembered about the White Lily flour.  I can't tell you excited I was to see it on the shelf!  I promptly bought four 5 lb bags to bring back to San Francisco with me.  Three of the bags were self-rising flour and the remaining one was all-purpose.  Luckily I managed to fit this haul in to my carry on suitcase.

I finally got around to making the buttermilk biscuits today and I have to say I am blown away by how light, fluffy and utterly delicious they are.  All the hype around White Lily flour is most well deserved in my opinion.  Who would have thought that just three ingredients (self-rising flour, shortening and buttermilk) could create something so delicious?  I give it the highest compliment I know by saying they are just as good, or even better, than KFC's buttermilk biscuits, which until now were my benchmark.

To accompany the biscuits I made a quick strawberry refrigerator jam using a recipe from Cook's Illustrated and local organic strawberries I bought at the farmer's market.  The jam is super easy to make and tastes fantastic with the buttermilk biscuits.  Pure heaven I tell you!

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 again...next time I think I'll try a savory version. 

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