Monday, March 19, 2012

Baking Bliss....

I pretty much blinked and my spring break from classes was over! It was awesome that I had the opportunity to go away for a work conference in the same week of break, so I wouldn't miss any classes, but now I'm feeling like I need a whole other week off to recoup... 

Before I went away last week, I was able to travel to a magical, wonderful place, filled with all the joys a baker could dream a very uncertain location of William St and Bailey Ave. Also uncertain is the name of this maps will tell you that your destination is Bake Mark USA, while the sign out front very much says Maple Leaf Foods. No worries- it was wonderful inside! 
I realize this is just some bowls and dough scrapers,  but it's really not. And yes, I have mixing bowls and spatulas. But honestly, you can never have enough. And in all different sizes. Now that I'm learning more about the way things need to be done and in what order, it's necessary to have separate bowls for everything. Dry ingredients. Wet ingredients. Measuring out egg yolks. Egg whites. Chocolate chips. Everything. And the scrapers are perfect for folding in certain mixtures with others. 
It's time. It's been put off for way too long. I am now the owner of three different sizes of round cake pans- a 6, 8 and 10 inch pan. And of course, some cake boards to get me started. 
Pretend these pans are the cake. Envision the prettiness I will create with said pans/cakes. I want to get started immediately. Sadly, there is only so much time in a day...
And last, but not least....a cannoli shell roller! I completely forgot all about this crucial tool! I attempted making cannolis a few times last year with my pizzelle maker, and everything went just fine, but it was hard to roll the pizzelles before they cooled and hardened. This should hopefully make life a tad bit easier.

I love falling asleep at night on a day when something totally unexpected happens. When I woke up that morning, I had NO IDEA that I would be the proud owner of a cannoli shell roller! Life is so wonderful that way...

The bad news about all of this?? I think it's safe to say I'm running out of storage room for all my kitchen tools....let's just say I spend a lot of time day dreaming about my future kitchen someday! 

Life is so good.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Blueberry Pie

As I have off from school this week, I plan on catching up on some baking I've been doing since school started. Last month, I didn't get a chance to make blueberry pie in class, so I decided to make one to bring to a friend's house for dessert. It turned out I had time to make it the week after in class as well, which pretty much makes me a blueberry pie pro now!

I received this nutrition food scale for Christmas last year, which was pretty good timing for all the scaling out of ingredients I've been doing in class. I just plop a bowl on the scale, tare it out, and add the ingredients to the bowl.

To make any kind of pie dough, you're going to toss some flour, butter and water together. This will always be in a 3:2:1 ratio, respectively, with a little salt in there for good measure. You'll start by measuring out your dry ingredients...

...and then cutting your fat into cubes. Here, I used butter, but you could also use shortening if you wish. I would strongly suggest butter though.

For some reason, I loved doing everything by hand here. I haven't even tried making pie dough in in a mixer yet. Since I've gotten my mixer, I've become quite obsessed with doing absolutely everything in it. I selfishly believe that I couldn't live without it now. But there is something about making pie dough that makes me feel that by using my bare hands, and crumbling up the butter into small pieces into the dry ingredients, it's going to make the crust taste that much better. It also makes me feel like I can skip my upper body workout at the gym that day!  ;-)

Once you get the consistency of the flour, salt and butter mix to be crumbly, but still have quite a few small, pea-size nuggets of butter in there, you should add the water.

With the water added, you will want to continue to mix the dough until everything just comes together. This kind of pie dough is referred to as flaky pie dough. All that this means is that the crust will come out "flaky" (obviously)- the way to achieve this is to leave those pea-sized nuggets of butter in that crust! Yes! Visible butter = visible flakiness in dough = ultimate-in-your-mouth deliciousness! (I feel like I've known this for my entire life- but yes, it's only been 2 months. You, too, can be this knowledgeable and awesome at pie dough making if you continue reading on. What a pie dough snob I sound like!)

The recipe I have below here will yield approximately 3 lbs of pie dough. You'll want to divide the dough into three pieces, wrap them tightly in plastic saran wrap, and leave them refrigerated for at least 1 hour before rolling. Again, this essential step is all about those delicious, fatty pieces of butter in your crust! You'll want to keep them cold so they stay firm until you pop this crust in the oven- the firmer your butter pieces, the flakier your crust will be when you pop this baby in the oven.

You can go ahead and leave this dough in your freezer for awhile, if you wanted to make a bunch of dough ahead of time. Just make sure it's wrapped up tightly. Just thaw the day you're ready to use it. Then roll it out, and plate it in a pie pan like so. Again, you'll want to stick the pan back in the fridge, so the dough doesn't warm up and melt the pieces of butter at all. Don't underestimate a little warmth in the kitchen- save those firm butter pieces for the oven to flake up your crust!

For the blueberry pie, you'll use two thirds of the recipe here, so you'll have an extra piece of pie dough hanging around in case of an emergency. ;-) Again, the flaky pie dough you'll have here is best for flakier crusts- this includes crusts that will be baked with raw fruit filling (ie, apple pies), that won't be pre-baked (for example, you would pre-bake a pie shell before pouring in chocolate cream for a chocolate cream pie). 


Basic Pie Dough
makes 3 lbs

  • 1.5 lb all purpose flour
  • 0.5 oz salt
  • 1 lb butter
  • 8 fluid ounces cold water
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a mixer. Add the butter and blend on medium speed with the dough hook attachment until pea-sized nuggets form, about 3 minutes. Add the water all at once and continue to mix until the dough just comes together.
    • Here, I used my hands instead. I just worked the butter into the dry ingredients until I got those pea-sized nuggets of butter.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Scale the dough as desired. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. (The dough can be held under refrigeration or frozen). 

From what I gather, I get the impression that most people are intimidated by pie dough. I've never given pie a second thought before, so I had no preconceived notions coming into this. But honestly, after you do it a couple times, it's probably going to be easier and take less time to put this pie dough together than the time it takes to drive on over to the store and find a pre-made pie dough. I'm not just saying that either. Try it! Your taste buds will thank your efforts afterwards!

Now on to the good stuff! The blueberry pie filling!

The recipe I use here called for frozen blueberries. It also called for blueberry juice from the thawed frozen blueberries, but you could substitute that for water. Here, I have some blueberry juice, sugar, salt, frozen blueberries, lemon juice and clear gel starch boiling in a pot. You would potentially have a problem finding clear gel starch in the store, so using an internet recipe for blueberry filling would be just fine instead- you'll probably just end up using a different thickening agent.

Once you're done cooking the blueberry mixture, you're going to want to let it cool completely before filling your pie shell. In the meantime, you can get busy setting up your lattice crust. 

Take one hunk of that pie dough you wrapped up and saved and roll it on out. Here, I cut slices with a butter knife, about 1/2 inches wide. 

Again, when the filling is completely cool, it's safe to pour the pie filling into the shell.

Then you'll want to carefully arrange those cut strips on top of the filling, like you see here below. From here, I picked up alternating strips one at a time, and weaved in the perpendicular strips...

And ended up with something like this! A messy, but decent first attempt.

Before popping your beauty in the oven, spread some egg wash on the crust with a pastry brush. This is just some eggs with a splash of water.

45 minutes later.......


You did it! You just made a blueberry pie! It looks gorgeous, I'm so proud of you, it's going to be so delicious!
Blueberry Pie
makes 1 pie, 10 inches

  • 2/3 of basic pie dough recipe above
  • 14 fluid ounces blueberry juice, drained from frozen berries (substituting water here is fine)
  • 3.5 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.375 oz clear gel starch
  • 1.5lbs blueberries, drained, frozen
  • 0.5 fluid ounces lemon juice
  • egg wash as needed
  1. Roll out a single portion of dough, 1/8 inch/3mm thick and line the pie pan. Reserve the remaining dough, wrapped tightly, under refrigeration. (you'll want to grease the pans before adding the pie dough).
  2. Bring 12 fluid ounces of the blueberry juice, the sugar and salt to a boil in a sauce pan.
  3. Combine the remaining 2 ounces blueberry juice with the clear gel starch and mix until smooth.
  4. Add the starch mixture to the boiling juice, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Bring the mixture to a second boil. Boil for one minute.
  5. Add the blueberries and lemon juice; stir and cook for one minute, until the mixture thickens.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool completely.
  7. Roll out the second portion of dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut into strips 1/2 inch wide. Weave a lattice over the top of the pie, leaving a 1/2 inch space between each strip. Brush the lattice crust with egg wash.
  8. Bake the pies at 420 degrees F until the crust browns, about 45 minutes.

And now....enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Russian Apple (improvised pear) Tart

Russian Pear Tart
Yesterday, my instructor decided to toss a bunch of random stuff together in a tart that she decided would taste delicious. Then, she called it a Russian Apple Tart. Not sure what makes it so Russian, but I couldn't really find anything like it online. Maybe the brandy? Does brandy automatically make something Russian? It's a mystery! 

Anyhow, we started with lining a tart shell with some basic short dough, 1-2-3 Cookie Dough. A basic building block in the kitchen for recipes, it contains sugar, butter, vanilla extract, eggs and cake flour. Short dough contains a high percentage of fat, which produces a very tender and crumbly crust. 

We popped this crust in the oven to pre-bake. How this usually works is you blind bake it- you dock the crust by poking holes throughout with a fork, line the crust with some aluminum foil/parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or uncooked beans. Once the crust seems to bake and hold it's shape, you can take the foil and weight out to let the bottom finish baking.

At the beginning of this week, my partner and I baked a vanilla sponge cake. We sliced a piece a 1/2 inch thick,

and after spreading a thin layer of apricot jam on the bottom of the baked and cooled pie tart, we placed the sponge cake on top of that. Then we soaked the cake with a brandy and simple syrup liquid. 


On top of this, we spread some pastry cream. No, we're not done yet!

 Because this is the part where the magic happens, incorporating the caramelized fruit into the mix. We meant to use apples, but were all out in the kitchen, so we sliced and sauteed three pears mixed with granulated sugar and vanilla bean instead. 

Ta-da! One last step! 

We prepared some streusel to crumble on top. Just a butter, flour, white sugar, brown sugar, and oats mixture, baked until crispy. Then, crumbled on the tart, like so!

 In case you were wondering, yes, it was one big crumbly mess to cut. But pretty good! Again, note the lack of chocolate here, and myself reporting this as g-o-o-d. Unusual. Branching out? Good for me! (Don't worry chocolate, you'll always be my go-to dessert! Heart!)

If you're interested in any of the recipes along the way (sponge cake, pastry cream, streusel), let me know and I'd be happy to post it. This was just a wacky post of how to create a dessert out of stuff you've got lying around the kitchen. Don't you feel the creative juices flowing now?! Maybe you should go make up a dessert of your own! (Don't be afraid to use that brandy, either....)


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Angel Food Cake

It turns out that angel food cake just doesn't come out of a cake mix box! Who knew?!

Surprisingly enough, angel food cake is one of my absolute favorite cakes, despite it's massive lack of chocolate. A simple cake, it takes precise care to develop the correct volume, texture and color. To me, it is considered complete with the addition of fruit, usually strawberries, and whipped cream. I wish I had taken a picture of the angel food cake my mom had made for my birthday- it was pretty, AND delicious!

Angel Food Cake
makes 1 tube cake, 8 inches

  • 10 oz sugar
  • 3.5 grams cream of tartar
  • 3.875 oz cake flour or all purpose flour
  • 0.375 tsp salt
  • 10 oz egg whites
  • 1/4 tbsp vanilla extra
Angel Food Batter in 8inch tube pan
  1. Sprinkle the insides of the tube pans lightly with water.
  2. Combine half of the sugar with the cream of tartar. Sift together the remaining half sugar with the flour and salt.
  3. Whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks on medium with the whip attachment.
    • This will seem very foamy at first. Wish I had taken a picture! It will grow in volume.
  4. Gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar mixture to the egg whites, whipping on high speed to maximum volume.
  5. Gently fold the sifted sugar and flour mixture into the egg whites until just incorporated.
    • Work quickly. The more time this step takes, the less volume your baked cake will have- time allows the batter to deflate.
  6. Pour batter into prepared tube pan.  
    • The picture to the left shows the tube pans we used in class. The side of the pan is a separate piece from the bottom, which consists of the bottom and tube portion in the middle.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F until cake springs back when lightly touched, about 35 minutes.
  8. Invert tube pan onto a funnel or long-necked bottle on a rack to cool. Alternatively, for each cake, invert a small ramekin on top of a rack and prop the cake pan upside down and at an angle on the ramekin. Let the cakes cool completely upside down.
    • Cooling upside down helps the cake come out of the tube pan more easily after cooling. 
Angel food cake cooling. If you look carefully, you can see how the sides of the pan is separate from the bottom.
      9.  Carefully run a palette knife around the sides of each pan and around the center tube to   
           release the cake. Shake the pan gently to invert the cake onto the rack.
    • Here, I used an offset spatula, to careful loosen the sides and middle of pan. Once I did that, I popped the bottom from the sides, and the cake came right out.

 Looks like you just made yourself another delicious baked good! The best part about this cake is that it won't set you back in the calorie department. Which saves room for lots of whipped cream and strawberry toppings! Yum!