February 17, 2019

Iced Fingers

I'm a huge fan of The Great British Bake Off and this recipe for Iced Fingers was featured in one of the earlier seasons of the show.  I'd been meaning to make them ever since I first watched that episode all those years ago so you could say these are long overdue.  There's just something so inviting about a soft and fluffy bun filled to the brim with whipped cream and jam. 

The recipe comes from Paul Hollywood, GBBO "male judge" and bread baker extraordinaire, so you can pretty much assume it's going to be a winner.  And you would not be wrong.  Enriched dough is not as difficult to make as you might think and this one has the most beautiful texture to work with.  You could make the dough by hand, as suggested in the recipe, but I'm too lazy for that and leveraged my trusty Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  It makes your life so much easier!

Baked to a lovely golden brown the fingers had a beautifully soft and fluffy interior.  My main deviation from Paul's recipe was in the filling.  Rather than using whipped heavy cream on its own I added softened cream cheese to give it more structure and stability.  The last thing you want is a weepy iced finger!  Once iced and filled with cream cheese whipped cream and raspberry jam these fingers were a dream to eat.   

One caveat though: I highly recommend making the buns all in the same day to get the maximum freshness and flavor.  I spread it out over two days and found that the buns weren't as soft and fluffy as they were when they were freshly baked...still tasted great though!

February 12, 2019

Cake Pops & Surprise-Inside Heart Cupcakes

Since I made the Surprise-Inside Heart Cake in a 6-inch size rather than 8-inch I ended up with some extra cake batter and buttercream frosting.  I couldn't bring myself to bin them so I asked myself what could I do?   Immediately I thought of Cake Pops and Surprise-Inside Cupcakes!  I love how one dessert can produce two more.

The cupcakes are really simple to put together, trust me.  Since I only ended up using half of the baked pink cake I turned the rest in to little heart shaped cake bites with the help of a petit fours cutter.  To make the cupcakes I poured a spoonful of the white cake batter in to a paper lined muffin  pan and placed the heart cake bite standing upright.  I then spooned more cake batter over to cover it completely and baked like normal.  A swirl of the buttercream and a dusting of pink, red and white jimmies finished it off.  It's not until you slice the cupcake do you discover the surprise heart inside!

Cake pops were the perfect way to use the leftover cake trimmings and buttercream.   I recommend reading this post from Bakerella who is the queen of cake pops.  The technique couldn't be easier.  You just break up the cake in to crumbs and mix in some buttercream to create a Play-doh like dough.  Roll in to ping pong sized balls and refrigerate until firm.   Then you dip the cake balls in to melted candy melts (I got mine from Michaels) and decorate with sprinkles!

February 9, 2019

Surprise-Inside Heart Cake

This was my first attempt at making a surprise-inside cake and I think it turned out okay.  I preface that by saying I'm a perfectionist so I'm always going to be my worst critic.  But while the cake does look pretty cool I would have liked the heart shape to come out with more distinct and sharp lines.  I'll save that for my second attempt I guess!

I was inspired to make this cake after seeing an Instagram video post by Baking With Blondie.  Between you and me I think I probably watched the video at least twenty times to learn how she put the cake together.  The cake was too cute not to try and replicate and Valentine's Day was the perfect occasion to practice.

For the cake I used Stella Parks's White Mountain Layer Cake and frosted it with her American Buttercream.  Normally I would use my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream but I'd been meaning to try her take on the American classic.  I baked the white cake layers using three 6-inch pans and for the pink cake filling I used a quarter sheet pan.

A bonus to making this surprise-inside cake was that it produced two additional treats using the leftover cake and icing.  I'll post them shortly so stay tuned!

January 23, 2019

Raspberries & Cream Angel Food Cake

I debated whether or not to wait until February to post this Raspberries & Cream Angel Food Cake, you know for Valentine's Day and all, but then I figured why wait?   For those of you looking to make a dessert to celebrate the holiday this will give you a leg up and time to prepare.  The inspiration for this beautiful cake came from two baking masters: Zoë Francois and Stella Parks

For the angel food cake I made Stella's recipe which uses a slow and steady approach to whipping  the fluffy meringue base.   I also love that her recipes uses egg whites straight from the fridge - no need to get them warmed to room temperature.   As for the pale pink raspberry cream frosting, I literally stopped in my tracks when I first caught sight of it on Zoë's Instagram feed.  I couldn't get over how visually stunning it looked.  Whenever I use whipped cream as a frosting I like to add in some cream cheese which gives it a delicious tang and much needed stability.  Cue the raspberry jam and you end up with the most beautiful and delicious frosting! 

As I write this blog post I am literally enjoying a big slice of the cake.  It's heaven, I tell you.  Whereas most angel food cakes tend to be cloyingly sweet this one is anything but!  I highly encourage you to give it a try.  Trust me, you won't regret it.

p.s. I used this fabulous angel food cake cutter and it works like a dream!

January 17, 2019

Almond Anise Biscotti

One of my colleagues recently did me a huge favor at work and as a thank you I wanted to bake something to show my appreciation.  I vaguely recalled her mention in passing that she loved a good biscotti so that's what I set out to make.  Lucky for me I'd been hankering for an excuse to make these Almond Anise Biscotti I saw posted on Serious Eats a few weeks ago.  The recipe comes from Stella Parks who is one of my baking Yodas.  I seriously love everything she makes!  

Anise is not a spice I normally gravitate towards in baking but in this case the hint of licorice flavor it provides to the biscotti is spot on - just subtle enough and not overpowering.  A technique in this recipe that I'm definitely going to steal going forward is how the biscotti is shaped.  The dough is rolled in to a log that extends to the full length of a half sheet pan.  Doing this I think helps to ensure even thickness in the baked cookie. 

To gild the lily even further I ended up dipping some of the biscotti in bittersweet chocolate.  I tried tempering the chocolate using the seeding method but I'm not too convinced of how they turned out.  They still taste great though!

January 13, 2019

Passion Fruit Tart

Happy New Year!  

For my first blog post of 2019 I wanted to showcase something tart and refreshing so I present to you a Passion Fruit Tart.  This past holiday season I definitely didn't pass up any opportunities to over indulge - four raclette dinners in the span of three weeks was evidence of that!  I made this tart for dessert at one of those dinners and it was the perfect ending to such a heavy meal.  Besides, I don't think passion fruit gets all the love it deserves.  I myself am a huge fan of the tropical fruit and try to use it in baking wherever I can.

While fresh fruit is always best I find the cost of passion fruit, at least here in San Francisco, can be quite prohibitive.  My local Asian market was selling the fruit for $4 each and when you normally need at least five for any given recipe that tends to be expensive.  I found a fantastic alternative though - frozen passion fruit pulp.  Head to your local Hispanic supermarket and nine times out of ten they'll carry this item.  Plus, it's so much cheaper than the fresh fruit.  The only downside being that that you forgo  colorful seeds but I'm ok with that.

To make this tart I started with Cook's Illustrated's classic lemon tart and simply substituted the lemon juice with passion fruit pulp.  Easy peasy!   What I particularly love about CI's recipe is that you make a curd first and then bake it in a warm sweet pastry crust.  This leads to a firm filling and a tart that's easier to slice and serve.  I encourage you to give this dessert a try - you won't regret it!

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