Tuesday, January 27, 2015


When I think of Gingersnaps, I automatically think of Molasses.  So, imagine my surprise when I start seeing my fellow Alpha Baker's cookies and they were all a light golden brown.  It puzzled me until I read the recipe and discovered that we'd be using two special ingredients: Golden Baker's Sugar instead of brown sugar and Golden Syrup instead of molasses.  I have to admit that I had no earthly idea what Golden Baker's Sugar was.  What did we ever do without Google?!  I can't help but wonder why I don't know about this sugar??  Two years of Pastry school and not once did we cover this.  Was I absent that day??  Rose provided an alternate means to achieve the same result, but I was fortunate enough to find it in the local grocery store.

Making the cookies was quite straightforward except for melting the butter instead of creaming it like most recipes.  Proper temperature of the ingredients was also key to keeping the cookies from spreading and obtaining the lovely cracked texture on top.  Chilling the dough before baking is key.

I put these cookies to the test with the picky guys in my family.  The light color threw them a little off, so I didn't fess up to the ginger part and just offered a "nice warm cookie."  Had I mentioned Ginger, which sounds like something healthy and ominous, they would have kindly refused.  My 7 year old always says "nah, I'm not hungry right now Mom, maybe later, I promise!"  What kid isn't hungry when offered a cookie?!!  Good grief, once again I'm that Mom forcing cookies on my child! ;)

The results......

7 year old: "Thumbs up Mom, but something in them made my mouth feel on fire."  (The cookies weren't temperature hot).  Quite discerning for such a young pallet.  I'm impressed!

Husband: Yum!  do these have Ginger in them?  I like that they don't have other spices.

I find the cookies subtle, but good. My mind does a little mental gymnastics trying to reconcile the taste with the name though...I keep expecting the molasses and snap!

As always, we're not allowed to share the recipes, but if you'd like to read more about our baking adventures with The Baking Bible, go here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Golden Orange Panettone

Whew!  What an arduous process this lovely looking Panettone required.  I must confess, I've never been a big fan of Panettone.  It always seems so dry and a lot of work... Not to mention that I dislike baking with anything orange flavored.

So....I've been kind of dreading this weeks baking...hard to believe I know, as I love baking, but the ROI has never been there for me with Panettone.

As I suspected, the Panettone required a lot of steps, (check out my fellow bakers outlines, and humorous methods of planning!) but I have to admit that I enjoyed a piece of it this evening and it's quite lovely.  I'm not sure if I'll make it again, but for anyone who's a big fan of Panettone, I think they would find this to be a winner. 

You first start with a biga nearly one week before you bake the bread.  It was a little confusing as I expected to see this glorious bubbling sea of flour and yeast, but instead it looked like the lump below.  I questioned myself for hours, before I just decided to go with it.

While the biga brewed for 3 days, I worked on making candied orange peel.  Luckily my neighbor has an orange tree sagging with at least 50 ripe oranges, so no trip to the store required and the oranges are organic and incredibly fresh.  I used the typical water and sugar, but added some vanilla paste to boost the flavor a little.  Tossed them in a little sugar in the end, and they were a hit with my husband.  :)

I've lost track of the number of times I punched down, folded and rolled the dough, but it was several over a couple days.  I've read this recipe so many times the book is now automatically opening to this recipe.  Perhaps I should have mapped everything out like my co-bakers, but like everything else in life, I flew by the seat of 
my pants...that's just how I roll. (Que the eye rolling from my family) ;)

When you don't really like orange, this seems like an incredible amount of orange peel to put in the dough, but I must admit that it's not completely overwhelming.  I must also admit that I skipped the recommended orange oil, but added a very nice pear brandy along with substituting dried pineapple for the raisins.  Adding raisins would have been a 100% guarantee that nobody in the house, except me would have even dared to taste this lovely bread.

After folding a couple times to distribute the fruit, and refrigerating a few times, it was time to shape the dough in a ball and place in the Panettone paper.  The paper looks a little frumpy because I had to dig it out of a box still unpacked from our move.

To aid in the proofing process, I placed it in the microwave with a cup of boiling water and allowed it to remain till fully proofed.

  I forgot to take a picture, but I cut an 'x' in the top and placed in the oven on a hot baking pan lined with parchment.  Baking time was a total of 65 minutes with an internal temp of 190 degrees.  Can you tell I was amazed by the height!  I wish that I had cut the 'x' a little larger to allow the top to open up more, but I was a little concerned that it might collapse.

Rather than drizzle chocolate on top, I went for the dipping method.  Chocolate and orange are just not appealing to me.  I never turn away a chocolate bar, except if it contains orange.  It will sit in my pantry for months, or even years before I would ever eat that bad boy.  Just yuck!

If I ever have to make Panettone again, which I hope there isn't another one in the Baking Bible! (sorry Rose)  I would definitely use this recipe. (but, shhh, I might condense some of the steps into a few days).  I don't want to me known as someone who can't follow directions.  :)

I think the final product has a nice crumb and is quite moist, which seems to be the complete opposite of those you can purchase in nearly every store in the US around Christmas time.

Now, off to bed.  I've started doing an exercise class on Tuesdays to ward off the hundreds of calories I now consume on Mondays testing the final product.  It's so worth it!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Black and Blueberry Pie

This B&B pie has elicited a lot of talk about its juiciness and what went wrong.  Listening to everyone's thoughts and baking methods, I took Rose's advice and tweaked the process just slightly.

The end result....

A beautiful pie that tastes great!  Every bit of its deliciousness made it onto my fork and into my mouth, instead of swimming around the plate.  Thus keeping me from the unseemly desire to lick my plate.  ;)  I know we've all been there, the dish is so good, you don't want it to end, so you find yourself looking around... and wondering...would anyone notice just one quick lick?  LOL

Thank you Ruth for saving me from such a social faux pas!

Seriously though, this pie is pretty straightforward.  The crust has a few steps I wouldn't usually take, but preserving it's flakiness by keeping everything as cool as possible is top priority.  Rose recommends using the food processor first and transferring the mealy mixture into a plastic bag for final kneading.  I'm honestly not sure if I'll do this all the time, as I prefer to place it between two sheets of parchment, but I did try it out, and it works just as well.


All the talk about the over abundance of juice from the frozen berries prompted me to take Rose's advice and concentrate the juice.  This consisted of tossing the berries in the sugar and lemon juice, and placing them in a colander over a bowl.  After collecting the juice, it's heated and reduced on the stove and then poured over the berries that have since been mixed with cornstarch and given time to absorb it.  It sounds like a long process, but it really only took about 10 minutes; so don't let this process scare you away from such a good pie.

BTW, need some lemons?  I've got about 50 from my tree.  It's been so good to me!  I'm freezing the juice and trying to decide if it's better to freeze, or dehydrate the zest.  Any advice??


The only thing left to do was figure out what I wanted the top to look like.  Rose provides a few recommendations, but anything you want, is really ok.

Unfortunately, I placed the metal ring to protect the crust on waaaay to early.  I think it heated the dough up too much, too early and caused the edge of the crust to flatten out.  :(

See the difference:

Despite the flat crust, the pie is great! 

An important number to remember this week is 212!  

That is...212 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's the temp required to activate the cornstarch added to thicken the berry mixture.

Now, off to get ready for next weeks baking.  It sounds like a doozer!  Wish me luck.  

Prep for this kitchen redo is killing me lately.  The good news: it's pushed back by two weeks, the bad news: it gives me more time to be indecisive about countertops and the sink color....

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Chocolate Cuddle Cake

Otherwise known as delicious and fabulous in my house!!  Oh my goodness, this cake will make any home baker feel/look like a world class Pastry Chef.  This cake will leave such an impression on your taste buds that you will not be able to get enough.  I know my fellow Alpha Bakers have experienced the same reaction.

While not necessarily a difficult cake, it does have a plethora of directions and details, which is what makes the results so wonderful.  Not matter what level of baker you are, Rose's directions will lead you every step of the way...and...just when you might find yourself questioning something, the "highlights for success" provides an answer.

A unique feature of this cake process is that you'll finally have the opportunity to use that springform pan you purchased years ago with high hopes of baking that cheesecake recipe you tore out of a magazine at the Doctor's or Hairdressers.  ;)

Ahem,,,,(head hanging down), I too am guilty! So, I finally used the square springform pan I purchased about 10 years ago.

See, even those of us who bake regularly have that pan or 2 in the cupboard collecting dust.  Just waiting for that perfect opportunity...and you just can't find it in your heart to get rid of them....because you might just bake that cake one day....

Well, here's your chance.  You won't be sorry.  I know nobody in this house has a single regret!!

I found myself so busy that I didn't take as many pictures as usual.  Making Caramel, Ganache and Whipped Cream, in addition to whipped egg whites for the cake, kept me pretty busy.

Chocolate Ganache  was used on the sides of the cake, and I chose to spread the caramel on top of the cake.  The recipe calls for the caramel to be combined with the whipped cream, but not everyone in our house is a fan of whipped cream, so I chose to use it sparingly.

To add a little extra flair, I sprinkled Fleur de Sel on top of the caramel. I cooked it past the recommended 380 to just about 388 degrees, which created that burnt caramel taste I love so much!  If you haven't tried it, you must!  A chocolatier in the Bay Area is well known for his burnt caramel and Fleur de Sel chocolates...yummmm.  You can find them in the Embarcadero Ferry Building.

These beautiful whipped egg whites are what make this cake so light and airy.  Be careful not to whip them too much!

The point sticking outside the center is a rose nail that assists with even baking in the center...I think ;)  The parchment plays several roles, most importantly preventing shrinkage, and smoother sides for unmolding.

Inverting the cake and elevating allows it to cool more efficiently.

Because I used a slightly larger pan than recommended in the recipe, the result is a slightly thinner cake than one from a round springform pan.  Either way, just adjust the bake time and you'll be fine.

The end result....Wonderful

As always, we're not allowed to provide recipes from the Baking Bible, but this is the perfect reason to run out and buy it!  We'll be moving on to pie next week.

Now, on to experimenting with my sugar cookie recipes.  I'm working on becoming a cookie artist!  Working through all the red tape to sell them will be nothing short of a miracle, but I'm patient and persistent.  :)