Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.

Archive for the ‘Baked Goods – Sweet’ Category

I went to see District 9 at Kabuki Cinema yesterday.

Everyone always talks about this theater because of the whole allure that comes with ‘boozing at the movies’. So, naturally I was stoked when I found out the film my brother and I wanted to see would be showing in this part of the cineplex.

The living-room-theaters I’ve been to (all in Portland) have been brilliant (esp. the Kennedy School one)—plush love-seat sofas, gourmet movie nibbles and a full bar. Kabuki is not like this—no comfy sofas and no side-tables to put your bevis on. Just a regular auditorium experience that makes you wish you’d snuck in those red-vines after all.

As for the movie itself, wow—weird. I get the theme’s relevance to real life immigration issues as well as it’s relevance to redefining the human condition to include those of all living creatures, i.e. aliens. (I was totally pro-Prawn by film’s end.) But why so violent? What was Peter Jackson thinking? People were actually laughing in the theater when aliens and humans would get literally blown to smithereens. My reaction was more along the lines of covering my face with my hands, cringing and waiting for the shooting to end. (>.<“)

I feel traumatized by all the blood and blowing people to bits stuff. And I’ve decided the best way for me to cope is through cake. A nice, homey, afternoon-tea cake with chocolate and nuts.

Again, TipTopf provided me with exactly what I was looking—a recipe for ‘Tirolercake’, which is basically a sponge cake with ground hazelnuts or almonds and nibs of dark chocolate.

A no-fuss cake that makes all the images of Prawn exploitation and human indecency disappear. All is right with the world again. \(^o^)/

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Tirolercake (recipe from TipTopf)

Makes one 22-25cm cake

INGREDIENTS

125g unsalted butter, at room temp.

3 eggs

125g super-fine sugar

a pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla sugar (I didn’t have any, so I used vanilla extract)

150ml milk

250g all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

80g ground hazelnuts or almonds (You can replace some of this with roughly chopped nuts for texture.)

80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

a handful of almond flakes

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg. C. Grease and line with parchment paper a 22-25 cm cake form.

2. In a stand-mixer or by hand, beat the butter until little peaks form.

2. Add in the eggs, sugar and salt. Mix until the mixture takes on a light yellow color.

3. Stir in the vanilla and milk.

4. Combine the flour and baking powder. With a sieve, add both into the batter. Stir.

5. Add in the ground nuts and chocolate. Mix to combine.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake form. Bake for 40-45 min.

I never eat brunch, let alone breakfast. Yes, I am fully aware that I am setting myself up for overeating and carb-loading later on in the day. But I am just not one of those people who can stomach solids at 8 in the morning. Coffee is about all I can handle that early in the AM. Even on weekends.

So the fact that I fantasize about breakfast and brunch foods—all the time—doesn’t make much sense. Maybe it’s the idea of getting up after a long sleep-in, throwing on jeans and a hoodie and meandering over to the diner around the corner for a big stack of fluffy, syrup pancakes that gets me. Even better is when the person you love joins too. Or maybe it’s the thought of sneaking out of bed to bake and then seeing the look of surprise and joy on that special someone’s face when they see that you baked for him/her…

Scones usually do the trick, especially ones chock full of fresh berries. If only they weren’t so easy to make, and if only I didn’t have the most perfect recipe (thanks to Nicole at BakingBites)  for super quick and airy blueberry ones! Actually, I’m so grateful for this recipe because these are seriously too delicious for words.

As for preparation, this is what I have to say:

-Use good-quality butter.

-The original recipe calls for dried blueberries, but I prefer fresh or frozen. If using fresh or frozen, be sure to toss them in a little flour before mixing them in with the rest of the batter. This will somewhat prevent the batter from staining.

-Do not overmix.

These take literally 25 minutes from start to finish—so you can stay in bed all morning and still be able to bake and enjoy warm scones with your loved ones.

I wish it was brunch RIGHT NOW!

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(Crappy picture is better than none at all.)

Blueberry Drop Scones (adapted recipe from BakingBites)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk, plus more if needed
coarse sugar, for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, toss and coat the blueberries in a little flour.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

4. Add cut up butter and toss to coat. Using your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles very coarse sand. A few large bits are ok, but try not to have any pieces larger than an average pea.
5. Stir in blueberries. Add about 2/3 of the milk and stir. Add remaining milk gradually until the mixture comes together into a slightly sticky ball.

6. Divide dough in eight even pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse sugar, if desired.
7. Bake for 16-19 minutes, until scones are a light golden color. A toothpick should come out clean, but color is a reliable indicator for these.

Life is really quiet right now. Simple. This is what I wanted—or thought so anyhow.

At the same time, I feel like I am on the brink of something big. Life is about to change, and I wish that I could see how or wish that it would just happen already!

In the meantime, life continues on and I just go with the flow. And wait for this strangeness to pass.

I haven’t really been in the mood to do much cooking or baking. Yesterday, for example, I got home, and didn’t feel like cooking or eating! This NEVER happens.

This is a phase. I’m not even going to try to pretend to be inspired today. So I’ll leave you with a recipe for a cake I’ve made a few times in the past but never got around to blogging about.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I got this recipe from. I have a feeling it’s another one I adapted from TipTopf, but I could be wrong. (If anyone recognizes the base recipe, please let me know!)

The times I’ve made this, I’ve always halved the recipe and kept the original bake time, which in the end worked out well. This might have to do with the fact that I only have an 8-inch cake pan rather than a 10-inch as the recipe calls for.

The cake is dense, banana-rich and super spongey. You can experiment with nut types—I’ve used almond, walnut and hazelnut, which resulted in a slightly different sponge character each time. Thinking about it, I wonder how banana and salted pistachios would work together.

Chocolate Banana Nut Cake (adapted from a recipe in TipTopf?)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz unsalted butter, diced

6 oz bittersweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup  extra-fine sugar

1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 cup lightly mashed bananas

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pecans

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease and line a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler till it is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Sift together flour and baking powder and baking soda. Add sugar, ground hazelnuts, and salt. Blend thoroughly.

3. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla extract and banana just until combined. Set aside.

4. Add the eggs to the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir until well combined and thick. Stir into the banana mixture until well combined.

5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 20 min. Remove and sprinkle chopped pecan nuts over the top and continue to bake for another 25 to 30 min. until skewer comes out clean.

6. Cool cake on rack. Serve either plain or a dollop of spiked whipped cream.

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It’s Labor Day weekend here, and guess what—it’s sunny. And warm. Crazy!

No big plans for the long weekend. The family was down from Portland all last week—the family-fun marathon ended only Wednesday—so I’m taking it easy.

I’m not being completely anti-social, though (^_^”) My friend invited me to a barbecue she and her boyfriend are throwing. And my contribution for the occasion? Brownies. Fudgy-hazelnut-dark chocolate brownies actually.

Though I had originally planned on using my stand-by recipe from Martha Stewart, I ended up having to try a new one—one that doesn’t require any cocoa (forgot to pick some up).

The recipe is from Emiline over at (Visions of) Sugar Plum. It’s different from any other I’ve tried, as it requires one to place the direct-from-the-oven brownies into ice water and then into the freezer for an hour. The mixing process was also a bit simpler—no messing with bain maries; butter and chocolate are melted directly in a saucepan.

OMG—they are incredible. Sharp, intense, rich and luxurious. When I took them out of the freezer, I was afraid they would be frozen solid through but after cutting them into squares and tasting them, I realized they were anything but. Velvety smooth fudge in the middle with chopped hazelnuts throughout. The hazelnuts really add texture as well as cut through the intensity of the dark chocolate a bit (but definitely don’t take away from it either).

My verdict? Freezing the brownies is such a good idea—you have a chilled brownie that is super dense and holds a nice shape. Here’s hoping they hold up on the bus, light-rail and walk to the barbecue!

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Fudgy-Hazelnut-Dark Chocolate Brownies (Adapted from a recipe by Emiline)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup organic unsalted butter

14 oz. organic 70% dark chocolate

1 cup organic all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 large organic free-range eggs

1 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup organic sugar cane)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup organic hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 11×8-inch baking dish/pan with foil. Coat foil with shortening/non-stick spray/butter etc.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Turn heat off, and stir in chocolate, until melted. Set aside pan, to cool slightly.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together flour and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla, for 4 minutes. (I did this by hand—exhausting (-.-“)—and experienced no problems.)

Reduce mixer speed to low, and beat in melted chocolate, until combined.

Stir in flour until just combined.

Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, evenly. Bake at 375 degrees F, for 23-25 minutes. Plunge pan into a larger pan filled with ice water. When brownies have cooled off a bit, freeze until cold, about 1 hour. Slice into bars.

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Two posts back, I blogged about my day of apple-picking in Sebastopol (Still can’t get over the name (^o^) and about how  I came back with a big brown bag of Gravenstein apples. I was so excited/inspired/motivated to get crazy creative with the little darlings. As it turned out, besides the apple tart, I managed to make nothing—yes, it is a classic case of greedy girl eating with her eyes and not her stomach.

In any case, 2 weeks later, I am stuck with about 10 apples of the worst sort—waxy, soft and sad. And though I’ve been doing the whole “apple-a-day” thing, I can’t keep up. There.are.just.too.many.of.them.

I suppose I haven’t really had too much time to think about baking lately. Love life’s a mess; been drinking too much; been spending way too much. Last night, though, I was alone in the house—both L. and M. are in deeply committed, loving relationships blah, blah—and found myself staring at the apples (and vice versa).

I’ve been wanting to have a go at pound cake for some time now. (What’s with all the quickbreads, cake-loaves and pound cakes—I know; I’m not sure why I’m so into them right now.) And I recently discovered a tub of whole milk ricotta that I had planned on using for an Italian ricotta cheesecake (which I still plan on making).

So what to do with waxy apples and a tub of ricotta. Of course—make apple-ricotta pound cake.

There were recipes for apple pound cake and ricotta pound cake but none which used both. So I adjusted this Gina de Palma recipe (found on the Proud Italian Cook website) for ricotta and added 2 grated Gravensteins to the batter.

Love the recipe and LOVE the richness of the ricotta. As for the apples, I can’t taste them. I don’t really care this time—2 down, 8 more to go—but next time, maybe I’ll rough chop the apples or add less ricotta.

This is one heavy mother of a pound cake—I swear it weighs at least 2 lbs.—which is probably why it took about 70 minutes to bake, instead of the 35 as per the recipe’s instructions. Actually, when I read 15 min. at 350 deg. and then 25 at 325, I already knew this was unrealistic.

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This is a stunner when it comes out of the oven—golden, well-risen, syrupy even and with the signature pound cake crack on top. So I was kind of disappointed when I took it out and came back 15 minutes later to find that it had lost about 1 1/2 in. in height.

I waited until the morning after to slice into the thing and do my little amateur 8am photo shoot. So I’m supposed to be on a diet—it’s driving me crazy—but I went ahead and had a piece. Oh, it’s good. Maybe the best pound cake ever.

Hope you try it! Let me know how it turns out! (Will add the picture soon!)

At last—the recipe:

Ricotta Pound Cake (adapted from a Gina de Palma recipe found on Proud Italian Cook)
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 c cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c fresh whole-milk ricotta
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 vanilla bean (Didn’t have any, so upped extract amount by 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting (skipped this—it’s sweet enough.)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and position rack in center. Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. With your mixer cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 2 min. Beat eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out, and beat into the batter along with the extract. On low speed beat in the dry ingredients. Scrape down and beat for 30 seconds more.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth down with a spatula. Gently tap pan on counter to remove air pockets. Bake just for 15 min., then turn pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning. Lower temp to 325 degrees F and bake till cake springs back lightly, the sides start to pull away, and when it comes out clean in the center, about 25 min. more.

Note: Proud Italian Cook said if the ricotta is too wet, you should drain it. I wish I would have read that far. That’s probably why mine took AGES to finish baking.

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P1060740I’m confused–is it summer or fall? If it really is summer (it IS August), then why am I wearing a scarf every day, and why am I already thinking about booking my plane ticket home for Thanksgiving? Because this is San Francisco, and like Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Though I must have heard this quote at least 10 times since moving here, it is actually true.

This last weekend, I left the chill of the city to go Gravenstein apple-picking and picnicking in Sebastopol, a cute town about 50 miles North of San Francisco. I know–Sebasto-what? Sebasto-hole? No–Sebasto-pol! As in the Gravenstein apple CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!

It was altogether loads of fun–turning out to be an all-day apple-picnic extravaganza! I left with about 5 lbs. of fruit and a brain full of all the fab things I wanted to make–apple butter, apple jam, apple tart, and apple tarte tatin!!

The bounty of Sebastopol before my eyes, I set out to find the ultimate apple pastry–as in apples in the crust, apples in the filling and apples in the topping.

I didn’t find a recipe with apple in the crust (I suppose I could have just added it–you know like when you add lemon or orange zest–but maybe I will next time. Grated apple essence crust? Has anyone ever done this before?). However, I did find one that utilized apples in both filling and topping, namely a “Zuercher Pfarrhaustorte” (Zurich rectory tart) that I came across on 1x umruehren bitte. Apparently, it’s another Betti Bossi recipe–the Betty Crocker of Switzerland!

I eschewed all plans I had made that Sunday–skipping Ballet in the park and a birthday party (not a close friend; someone’s mom)–staying home instead to put together this ravishing pastry. And I’m so glad I did; I enjoyed every minute–even grinding the hazelnuts by hand with my pestle & mortar (I haven’t gotten round to buying a voltage converter for my food processor yet.)

This tart is perfect for these fresh summer days in the city–it’s all hazelnuts, grated apple and flaky, butter tart crust. According to Zora, the hazelnuts are replaceable with almonds. I also didn’t have quince jam, so I used apricot. Lovely, lovely (>^_^)<

Zürcher Pfarrhaustorte (from 1x umruehren bitte and Betti Bossi)
30 cm tart pan

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shortcrust pastry (recipe see below)

150 g hazelnuts, grated
2 eggs (M)
80 g sugar
1 ts cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon
2 apples, grated

4 apples, peeled, halved, cored and finely incised
2 tb quince jelly, melted (I used apricot.)

Roll out the pastry and line tart pan with baking paper and pastry. Poke small holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Put in fridge, until the rest of ingredients are ready.

Preheat oven to 220 C.

Sperate eggs.
Mix yolks, hazelnuts, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and grated apples.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form, fold them gently into the hazelnut/apple mix.

Spread the hazelnut/apple mix over the pastry. Put the halved apples on top, cut side down.
Coat apple halves with quince jelly.

Bake tart for 35 minutes.

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I recently made the biggest leap of my life–giving up job, friends and Asia–for love. Traumatic, sad and teary-eyed, I boarded a plane for San Francisco and haven’t looked back since. But, that isn’t the point of this post.

The point is what happened after–how my life has transformed; how I have grown and learned all over again what real love is. I thought life was going to stop, but it didn’t. Despite everything, life has continued and so have I. Here in San Francisco, I have been able to build a new life for myself. I’m working again, I have a good, safe home with kind roommates, and I am completely and utterly surrounded by love. It’s as if I were meant to come here. From the moment I arrived, I have been cradled and taken care of. And somehow, I have been able to heal.

This banana bread recipe comes from my adopted mom and sister here in the Bay area. Like any good banana bread, it is moist, spongey and–best of all–is completely adaptable. So for people like me who can’t help but want to mix in as many dried fruit-nut-chocolate combinations, this recipe is ideal.

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Mrs. Zuehlke’s Banana Bread (recipe from Martha)

INGREDIENTS

2 C flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C butter

1 C mashed ripe banana (= 2 long or 3 short)

1 C nuts or candied nuts if desired

1/2 C buttermilk (yogurt, sour cream and milk work too)

1 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla or extract of your choosing

1 tsp. salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Combine wet ingredients and whirl in blender.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. (If you want to add any nuts, dried fruit and/or grated chocolate, do so now.)

3. Pour the whirled wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix for as little time as possible.

4. Pour batter into a greased pan and bake in a 350F oven for 45 – 60 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  (One may need more minutes for a smaller, deeper pan than for a larger, shallower one.)

5. Frost if desired.



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  • Fudgy Brownies for a BBQ « Cook.Bake.Eat.Write.: [...] I had originally planned on using my stand-by recipe from Martha Stewart, I ended up having to try a new one—one that doesn’t requir
  • Mama Leah: Well, my darling, I am extremely impressed and inspired. I, of course, don't have one iota of the culinary skills that you have (except for baking, b
  • saffronandbasil: Thanks for the recipe. By the way, LOVE LOVE your site.