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. 

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.    

April 8, 2018

Maida Heatter's East 62nd Street Lemon Cake

Call it strange but in all my years of baking I'm pretty sure this is the first recipe I've ever made from Maida Heatter.  Who is Maida Heatter?  She's sometimes referred to as the "Queen of Desserts" and is the author of countless baking and dessert cookbooks.  This specific recipe, one of her most famous, caught my attention recently when it was published in the New York Times.  

It was the cake's name that really intrigued me.  It was Maida's daughter who had originally found the recipe and sent it to her mother.  In homage, Maida named the cake after the Upper East Side street where her daughter lived.  Kind of cool, huh?

What I love about this recipe is that it calls for some really basic ingredients that everyone has in their kitchen at any given time.  No fuss, no muss.  The finished cake is really delicious with a tender and moist crumb.

If you're going to use an intricate bundt pan I highly recommend greasing it liberally to ensure the cake releases completely.  I tend to use a lot of butter-flavored Crisco followed by a list dusting of flour.   My cake came out of the pan like a dream with the beautiful pattern completely intact.

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