August 31, 2009

Daring Bakers

I recently joined an online baking group called The Daring Bakers that I'm really excited about. What exactly is it, you might ask? Basically it's a bunch of baking fanatics from around the world who convene once a month and try out the same recipe. A member of the group is picked each month to host the challenge and choose that month's recipe. Each baker interprets the recipe in their own way so the end product won't be the same; think that's what I like best about this idea.

My first challenge will be for September. Unfortunately I can't reveal what the recipe is or what my interpretation looks like until the end of the month. That's the rule...members find out the recipe on the 1st of the month and the reveal date is the 27th. See you then!

August 25, 2009

Mini Fruit Tarts....Part II

My first attempt in making the can't-fail Parisian piecrust from the Sunday Chronicle turned out so well I decided to make it again. I'm bringing these tarts to the office to celebrate a co-worker's birthday this week. In addition to strawberries and blueberries, this time I also used raspberries and kiwis. I really like how the green color of the kiwi contrasts so nicely against the red berries and dark blueberries. The sweet Caillat crust is definitely a keeper that will be a great addition to my baking repertoire.

August 23, 2009

Mini Fruit Tarts

The food section of today's SF Chronicle featured a recipe for a tart crust that is a bit unconventional. As luck would have it I happened to have some leftover vanilla bean pastry cream in my fridge, from a macaron filling experiment gone awry, and plenty of fresh fruit. What better time than the present to try out this unusual crust? Rather than making one big tart I decided to use tartelette pans because I think they're so cute. Plus, if the finished product turned out ok I could easily share them with friends and family.

The Sweet Caillat Crust is made in a similar manner to pâte à choux dough, except without the eggs. Butter is melted with oil and water and when it reaches a boil, flour and sugar are added. The dough is mixed until it becomes like a thick paste. Here's the best part: instead of rolling out the dough you simply pat it into the tart pan and bake in a hot oven. For someone like me who hates washing dishes this is a godsend. I have to admit I was rather skeptical about this technique when I initially read the article, but the results were great. The crust was really tasty with a nice brown color and flaky, crispy texture.

Filled the cooled crusts with the pastry cream and fresh strawberries and blueberries. The final touch was brushing the tops with a bit of melted apple jelly to give the tartelettes a beautiful sheen. I think they look like the ones you see in the boulangeries of France. They'll make a great after-lunch dessert at work tomorrow! :-)

August 22, 2009

Macarons for barter...

My friend Jessie just returned from a whirlwind month-long tour of Asia with her family. She's a great photographer, so in exchange for teaching me some DSLR tricks and tips I'm making her macarons and chocolate chip cookies. I think it's a fair trade.

Jessie's never tried my macarons before and I hope she likes them. Made her some classic flavors (lemon poppy-seed, pistachio and chocolate) and one I've never made before, mango. I added finely ground freeze-dried mango slices to the macaron batter and mango puree to the buttercream filling. It's a fine line between adding enough puree to get that mango flavor but not so much that the buttercream separates...think it turned out ok.

Still not satisified with the chocolate macaron, so my search continues. Tried several recipes but have gotten inconsistent results across the board: too brownie-like, no feet, super thin crust. When they say macarons are finicky they're not kidding and chocolate is, by far, the diva of them all. It's frustrating, but I'm determined to get it right...come hell or high water. I'll definitely be rejoicing when that day comes.

August 17, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Wanted to thank some colleagues at work who went above and beyond tonight to help solve a mystery. We had to follow a trail of bread crumbs, but I think we might have found the answer. What better way to express my gratitude than with some chocolate chip cookies?

Thank you DP, BH and MS...enjoy the cookies!!

August 16, 2009

Mimi's 21st Birthday Cake

My cousin is celebrating her 21st birthday this week so I wanted to make her a cake to celebrate the momentous occasion. She requested chocolate so I turned to one of my favorite recipes, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake, from America's Test Kitchen: Test Kitchen Favorites. The cake is really moist and tender and the frosting is like a whipped ganache, not too sweet with great texture. Hope she likes it.

Happy Birthday Mimi!!!!

Di Truc

August 8, 2009

Oatmeal Cherry Walnut Cookies

My mom loves oatmeal cookies so while I'm visiting my parents this weekend I made her a huge batch. I baked off some of the dough today and she can freeze the rest to bake later.

Got the recipe from this great baking book my sister borrowed from the library called Advanced Bread and Pastry, written by Michel Suas who founded the San Francisco Baking Institute. It's a comprehensive guide to making breads, viennoiserie, cakes and cookies. Definitely geared more towards the serious baker and/or professional and it's written in that vain. I liked it so much I promptly ordered it online.

Used the oatmeal raisin cookie recipe but substituted dried cherries for the raisins and also added toasted chopped walnuts. Made the cookies super size and I think they turned out great...nice golden brown color on the outside and chewy inside. All it's begging for is a glass of milk.

August 5, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

Had a bunch of blueberries in my fridge that I didn't want to go to waste so I decided to add them to a lemon pound cake. Lemons and blueberries are always a great flavor combination. Used a butter pound cake recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's fantastic book The Cake Bible.

Followed Rose's recipe and added finely grated lemon zest and blueberries just at the end. I tossed the berries lightly in some flour before adding them to the batter so that they didn't sink to the bottom, but as you can see, it didn't really help. The blueberries were much heavier than the cake batter.

The glaze is really simple; freshly squeezed lemon juice whisked with powdered sugar until it has a consistency similar to condensed milk.

August 1, 2009

Macaron Flavors: Lemon-Poppy Seed, Strawberry and Pistachio

Stayed up late last night to bake the shells for the pistachio and lemon-poppy seed. Pistachio is my old standby and it's my personal favorite. But for the lemon I added the poppy seeds to the batter as a new twist. They turned out quite nice and I like the contrast of the black seeds against the bright yellow shell. This was my first foray into making strawberry. Added freezed dried strawberry powder along with powdered red food coloring to the batter. I love how the pink color turned out.

For the fillings I flavored buttercream with pistachio paste, lemon curd and pureed fresh strawberries. Really yummy!

I think I've done pretty well with the pistachio and fruit flavored macarons but I haven't found a chocolate one that's yielded good results. The search continues..stay tuned!

Macarons, macarons, macarons...

Ever since I took a tour of the Gerard Mulot bakery in Paris last summer I've been a bit obsessed with macarons. I'm not a novice baker but these things are definitely not easy to make; tempermental and finicky is an understatement. 

My first attempt at making them was Dec 2008 but the end product was kind of crap so I threw in the towel..temporarily. Over the last few months have gotten back on the horse and the results have improved after doing extensive research online. Who would have thought there would be hundreds of blogs about these cookies.

I can't explain the elation you feel when you finally get that first good batch...smooth, crispy outer shell and those little feet! Ever since then I've been trying to perfect the recipe and technique. It's still not 100% right, but I'm getting close. Just need to keep practicing.

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