The Great British Bake Off

This would go under the inspiration column of this blog.
One of my favorite newly discovered shows is this British baking competition that is enormous in the U.K. It's fun, informative, and it lead me to the wonderful duo of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. I wish the American one wasn't so bad, but sometimes British just is better. Besides the metric measurements and the strange names (biscuits for cookies, and what the heck is suet pudding?) this show translates perfectly to an American baker.
Unfortunately all I can find is the fourth season on Youtube.



Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

Winter break is here! I was finally able to go home and sleep properly, and not worry about exams or papers or anymore of that craziness. It's great to be back home, but even better, yesterday I woke up to this beautiful scene:

My mother had pulled out all of the baking things from the depths of our kitchen; it was Christmas Cookie Day. We made a list of the seven kinds of cookies and candy we planned to bake that day. Why you might ask?  To just, you know, gorge ourselves give them to our loving friends and family.

So I tried to record some of the treats I was in charge of. The first is a rich chocolate crinkle cookie. I got the recipe from Epicurious' beautiful list of holiday cookies.  They're really quick to bake, but the dough takes a little time to form. If I learned anything, it's that cookie dough chillin' takes forever. By noon we had 7 little packets of dough resting in the fridge, but no cookies to be seen! Patience, as always, is the supreme overlord of all bakers.

Total time: 2-3 hours
Bake time: 15-20 minutes

2/3 cup hazelnuts
2 Tb sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (no more 60% cocoa)
2 3/4 cup flour
2 Tb cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk

Even got my little brother involved.
Short Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool.
3. Toast the hazelnuts, rub between a clean towel to remove skin. Grind until fine with the 2 Tb sugar.
4. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
5. Beat the softened butter and light brown sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time.
6. Add the flour mixture, then the milk and vanilla, and beat medium-high speed until smooth.
7. Finally, stir in the chopped hazelnuts. Chill in fridge 2-3 hours, until cool and malleable.
8. Roll dough in 1-2 inch balls, roll in powdered sugar, place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie tray.
9. Bake 12-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Extended Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
2. Melt the chocolate, and set it aside to cool.
I used a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, but using the microwave works just as well.
3. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven, about 5-10 minutes, until the hazelnuts are golden brown and the skins are loose. 

4. Place the hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub between your hands to remove the skin.

5. Grind the hazelnuts and 2 Tb sugar till they are the consistency of coarse sand. 

6. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.

7. Beat together the softened butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until well incorporated.

8. Add the eggs one at a time.

9. Next beat in the flour mixture slowly. Add the milk and vanilla, and the melted chocolate.  Beat on med-high till smooth.
10. Finally mix in the ground hazelnuts. 
11. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours (till malleable).

12. When they're ready, form the dough into 1-2 inch balls and roll them in powdered sugar. You can make one half while the other is chillin' in the fridge, or let them sit in the fridge after they are formed, you want them to be nice and cool.
13. Bake at 350 degrees, for 12-18 minutes.
Sorry this is the best picture I got...
14. The cookies are ready when they break and the crinkles are dry.  
Delicious, pretty, and simple to make; these would be really fun for kids to roll themselves.


Orange-butter Filling and Orange Buttercream

Curtesy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, this is a duel recipe for a creamy filling and a traditional French buttercream, both very simple and delicious. They go perfectly with the Orange and Almond Sponge Cake from the same cookbook. The original recipe recommends whipping the mixture by hand, but I'm just going to assume Julia Child had guns of steel and knew her way with a whisk better than I ever will, so I just use my stand mixer.

Ingredients for Orange-butter Filling:

-1 stick of unsalted butter
- rind of 1 orange
-1/4 cup strained orange juice
-1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs + 2 extra yolks
-1 Tb orange liqueur (optional)

1. Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan over a low-medium heat. Beat with a whisk constantly, so that the eggs don't scramble.
2. Beat the mixture until it begins to thicken, almost like honey, and steam just begins to rise from the surface. It should feel hot to the touch.

 3. Pour the hot mixture immediately into a cold bowl sitting in ice water, and whisk vigorously until the mixture cools. 
* I placed mine in a mixer bowl I had just taken out of the freezer, but when that didn't last, I used a random bag of ice we had in the freezer. My roommates wonderfully refrained from laughing at me as I rubbed the sides of bowl with ice like a crazy person.

4. When the mixture has completely cooled, it will be thick but runny, almost like Hollandaise sauce. Spread it between the layers of a cake, or use as filling in cupcakes, or drizzle it over scones. Use only half and save the rest for the Orange Buttercream (or just use all of it, your choice).
*It runs, so putting it on top of a cake doesn't work quite so well, unless you want it too look like this:
Attempt #1, October 2013

Instructions for Orange Buttercream:
1) Take the cool Orange-butter filling from above and add an extra stick of softened butter. Beat with paddle attachment or a hand mixer until it's pale, thick, and fluffy.

It looks like this on a cake...
Voila! Two great fillings and/or toppings to add moisture and sweetness to any cake. 


Orange and Almond Spongecake

This has become a favorite in my apartment recently. I've made it three times this semester upon my roommates' requests, and each time I've tried to make it a little differently. This time I made it for Jade's 22nd birthday as a very thin sheet cake, that I sliced into quarters and stacked into layers, but the original recipe calls for a round nine-inch cake.
This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, way in the back of the volume with the other classic french cakes.  It's made of really simple ingredients, but can be a little tricky because the spongecake has no rising agent, like baking soda or powder, instead it relies on the whipped egg whites for the fluffiness. You can make this by hand, but I (and Julia) would recommend a hand or stand mixer to help.

-1 stick of butter
-2/3 granulated sugar
-3 large eggs
-1 orange, grated grind and 1/3 cup orange juice.
-1/4 tsp almond extract
-3/4 cup ground almonds
-1/2 cup cake flour, sifted
-1 Tb granulate sugar

Short Version:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter and flour the cake pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
3. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and beat until pale yellow and fluffy. Add the grated orange peel, orange juice (1/3 cup) and almond extract.
4. Beat for a moment or two until it's light and foamy. Then beat in the almonds and the flour.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks, then add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold the butter into the cake batter. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.
7. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake until springy and light brown, about 30-35 minutes.8. Let cool for 10 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides and a knife comes out clean. Take out the cake carefully onto a baking rack and allow to cool for an hour or two.    

Extended Version (with pictures):

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. 
2. Butter and flour the cake tin, cut out parchment paper to fit the bottom. 
*You don't necessarily need parchment paper on some tins, but it helps a lot. And please don't use wax paper!
3. Melt the stick of butter and set aside to cool (can use microwave or stove, whatever just melt it.)
4. Grind 1/3 cup almonds with 1 or 2 Tb sugar in a blender or food processor.
5. Grate the rind of the orange, trying not to get too much of the yellow (bitter) part of the rind. Then juice the orange, about 1/3 cup OJ. I always just use my hands or a fork to crush the orange over a measuring cup, seems to work pretty well.
6. Separate the eggs, save the whites (you'll need them later).
7. Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy.
*You can do this part by hand in a separate bowl, I actually recommend it if you only have a stand mixer. I had to clean this bowl three frickin' times to make this cake and buttercream.

8. Add the orange rind, juice, and 1/4 tsp almond extract. Beat for a moment until the mixture is light and foamy.

9. Add the 1/4 cup almonds and 1/2 cup cake flour (I used all-purpose flour, just about 2 Tb less).
*If you lift the mixer (or whisk) and swirl a figure-8 pattern with the ribbon of batter onto the surface of the mixture, it should be able to stay put for 5 seconds. Then it's ready.
10. Set aside. Now it's time for those egg whites! Beat with a pinch of salt.
11. Beat until soft peaks form, then add 1 Tb granulated sugar. Beat again until stiff peaks form.
12. Like so. Now take the cake batter, and fold in the cool melted butter.

13. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, than carefully fold in the rest.

14. Immediately pour into the cake pan, spreading down to the edges with a spatula if it's a sheet pan. Bake until puffed, browned and springy. A knife or needle through it should come out clean.
 -9 inch cakes will take 30-35 minutes.
-My sheet cake took about 18 minutes.
Place the tin and all on a baking rack to cool for 10 minutes; until the edges pull away from the sides.
15. Carefully remove the cake onto a baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely before icing, about 1-2 hours.

 This cake smells so good when it's baking, the orange fragrance fills the entire apartment. The almonds weigh the cake down, I haven't been able to find a way to make it really light, so it's a little heavier than traditional sponge (almost the consistency of carrot cake). 

I made an Orange-butter Filling and Orange Buttercream from Mastering too, which I'll put in another post, if you are lazy ain't got time for that, this would go well with store-bought vanilla frosting or a just a dusting of powdered sugar. 



A Year in Review

In the last year, I've baked a lot. Like an unhealthy, slightly-embarrassing-to-admit, a lot. So I figured I'd make a system to document and display my productions, since I'm already putting a lot of time, energy, and just overall thought into it.
I really got into this black hole of deliciousness my sophomore year, while I was living in a dorm room equipped with a 45 sq.ft. kitchen and the bare minimal of kitchen supplies. I was forced to make everything by hand and I usually had to improvise, and it was super fun
So I didn't stop.
Since then, my collection of baking equipment has expanded enormously, especially when I learned that some things are really cheap (whisks and candy thermometers) and that baking gear makes awesome gift ideas for people (rolling pin, mixers). 
First rule: Bake with love. (Like, you know, feel good things towards what you're making, hope its short life is delicious and doesn't end in the trash. Or think lovely thoughts towards the person you're making it for, cause sharing food is the best.)

Here's some stuff I've made this passed year:

Chocolate Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes
Earl Grey Tea White Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Flower Cupcakes
Chocolate Layer Birthday cake
Chocolate Strawberries and Cream Cake
Green Tea Cupcakes 
Peach and Blackberry Tart 
Chocolate Pudding

Mini Blueberry Muffins
Chocolate Espresso Tart
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Tart
Bread Pudding
Orange and Almond Cake
Spice Easter Biscuits

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