Currently viewing the tag: "baking"

We entered September with a bang: school for everyone except me, birthday celebrations, anniversary dinner (we ate here, it was incredible), and then we splurged on U2 tickets and saw the Joshua Tree tour (and they did play the Joshua Tree from start to finish and it was amazing) (also the poems they scrolled on giant screens before the show are worth reading) and then saw Maria Bamford the very next night (along with Jackie Kashian who was also hilarious) and then family visiting and then meet-the-teacher night and then scrubbing my house from top to bottom because summer made it embarrassingly dirty. There is still so much packed into the rest of this month I am actually looking forward to October, along with some cool fall breezes and falling leaves, long walks and even longer books.

September started out rather chilly, but this past week we found ourselves in a major heat wave, so naturally I found myself in the kitchen making pies, puff pastry, and Danish dough. I have this odd desire to bake on extremely hot days, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but then again, I have the same desire on icy cold days, so maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with baking. Whatever the reason, this Danish braid was made, and I’ve declared it my new favorite. The braid itself was inspired by Zoe Francois – she made this beautiful Raspberry braid with Bread in 5’s no-knead dough, and the second I saw it, I knew I had to try one with my Easy Danish Dough. It worked wonderfully, and I have a feeling any guests I have for the next 6 months will be served some variation of this.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. This Danish braid was made Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, and it turned out *fantastic*. The layers were perfectly flaky and each bite rang out with pure butter flavor.

Danish Braid with Apple and Cream Cheese
The Easy Danish Dough recipe is from my book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.

Easy Danish Dough
Notes: The dough does need to rest overnight in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly. It’s important for the Danish dough to come to room temperature before you roll it out, or the butter will not incorporate correctly. This dough can be frozen, but doesn’t rise quite as nicely as when it’s fresh. If the dough is not used right away after being out and turned, it will puff up in the refrigerator. This will make it a little harder to roll out, but you will still have good results.

3/4 cup whole milk, warm (100-110F)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (355g) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick | 57g) Land O’Lakes European Style butter, room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks | 170g) Land O’Lakes European butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
Apple Jelly or Apple Butter

Cream Cheese Filling
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2-1 teaspoon lemon juice

Glaze
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-4 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon creme fraiche (optional)

For the easy Danish dough
Grease a large bowl.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, yolks, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt on low. Add the room temperature butter and mix on low until it is incorporated into the flour and no pieces are visible. Add the cold butter and mix on low, until it is broken down and smashed a bit, but still in 1/2-inch pieces. Add the milk mixture and mix on low until combined. The dough will be very sticky and there will be visible lumps of butter. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days.

The next morning, transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface. Knead 10-12 times, until the dough forms a ball. Cover the top lightly with flour and cover with a tea towel, let rest until it comes to room temperature. Pat the dough into a 6-inch square and roll into a 16 by 20-inch rectangle. If the dough sticks at all, sprinkle more flour underneath it. Brush any excess flour off the dough, and, using a bench scraper, fold the short ends of the dough over the middle to made three layers, similar to a business letter. This is the first turn.

Flip the dough over (seam side down) and roll into an 8 x 16-inch rectangle. Fold the short ends over the middle, business letter style. Repeat the steps again, for a total of four turns.

On the last turn, gently use the rolling pin to compress the layers together slightly. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using or keep refrigerated for 2 days.

For the cream cheese filling
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and mix on low until completely combined. Taste the filling, and add a little more lemon juice if the flavor is dull. (The filling shouldn’t taste like lemon, but a little bit of lemon juice will add a bright note to the filling. When tasting, look for a bit of a zing in your mouth that doesn’t scream lemon.) Cover the filling and set aside until ready to use.

For the glaze
In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and salt (if using the creme fraiche, add here, too). Add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin the icing to a preferred consistency. Add 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and taste for brightness (add more if needed, but again, you don’t want a lemon flavor here).

To assemble
Cut the Danish dough in two equal pieces. Roll the first piece of dough into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle, using enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface or the rolling pin. Transfer the piece of dough to a piece of parchment paper (this will make moving the braid much easier).  Spread half of the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Top the cream cheese with about 3/4 cup of the apple jelly. Carefully cut 1/2-inch thick strips of dough (a pastry cutter works best here), doing your best to make the strips even and equal on both sides. Starting with the top two pieces, gently twist then cross the pieces over the top of the filling. Continue the same motion of twisting the pieces and crossing them all the way down the braid. When you get to end of the braid, tuck the loose ends underneath the braid (this way they won’t pop out when baking). Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Move the braids (on the parchment) to baking sheets, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the braid rise until puffy (similar to a marshmallow when pressed), about 1 1/2 hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. (I like to bake mine one at a time, but you could bake them together – adjust oven racks instead to upper and lower middle positions, then rotate sheets to opposite oven racks half way through baking.

Lightly brush the braids with egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until  golden brown. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Drizzle the braids with the glaze.

 

One must know
how to be quiet in all
the languages
and everywhere,
always
allowing
the leaves to fall,
fall,
allowing them to fall,
fall. *

The house is quiet again. The constant laughter, pitter-patter of feet, splashing of pool water, and occasional bickering has been replaced with the sound of measuring cups scooping out flour, rolling pins on cold stone, and the mixer paddle clunking against stainless steel. For most of my life autumn was a loud month – filled with nervous thoughts and new classrooms, espresso machines hissing and cash registers ringing. Now it is still and silent, like red and yellow leaves slowly making their way onto city streets. I appreciate the time to collect my thoughts and work uninterrupted, but I miss the noise and chaos with my whole aching heart.

But the commotion returns, at 4 pm each afternoon. Two little people burst through the door and throw their backpacks and lunch boxes here and there, telling me stories of what happened in class and what so-and-so said on the bus, and I hardly remember I was ever feeling lonely. It’s a slow adjustment, from autumn to winter, winter to spring, and then on to summer again, but somehow each year we cycle through.

It’s difficult
to
be autumn,
easy to be spring.
To ignite everything
that is born
to be ignited.
But to turn the world off,
sliding it
as if it were a hoop
of yellow things,
until colors are melted
– *from Ode to Autumn, Pablo Neruda

***If you are able to give to help Houston, Wit & Delight has a post highlighting several charities and organizations.***

The copper measuring cups pictured here are from the Martha Stewart Collection, and were sent to me to use. You can find them exclusively at Macy’s.

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Little Gidding V,
Four Quartets.
— T.S. Eliot (1943)

Somehow I am turning 40 this week. I’ve gotten over the freaking-out part of things (that happened at 39) and I’ve moved into some ‘next phase of life’ business. I’ve found I like myself better the older I get (although I will give a nod to my therapist here – her help is part of why aging has been going so well!), and almost-forty has given me confidence I didn’t know I possessed. Often when I am afraid to do something, or stand up for myself, a simple reminder that ‘you’re forty years old. You can totally do this,’ has been very helpful. I guess I’m officially an adult or something now.

My husband turns forty right around this time as well, and we also celebrate our 15-year wedding anniversary, so it’s sort of an epic end of summer for us. I try not to remember the signs hanging up at my parents’ ‘over-the-hill’ parties: halfway to heaven isn’t something I want to focus on quite yet. Although I’ll admit there are moments each month, as the year quickly passes yet again, that the unknown, whatever is after all of this, is a more present, lurking thought. Sometimes it’s joyful, and hopeful, other times I quickly shove it away, not ready to deal with my fear. Either way, it’s a reminder to not waste time, to speak up for what is right, and to enjoy all the days I have this side of the hill. Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. -Ursula K. Le Guin

I made a small birthday cake for myself this year. The chocolate cake is a scaled down version of the chocolate cake from my cookbook, with sour cream instead of buttermilk, and butter added in place of some of the canola oil. I really liked how it turned out. I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their unsalted butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands.

The seven minute frosting is a nod to my Grandma Ethel, who used to make a version of  this quite frequently (though she never toasted the top of hers), and as a child I thought it was the worst thing ever – I didn’t understand how anyone could ruin a perfectly good cake with it. My opinion has changed drastically over the years (another positive of aging, I guess), and I thought it would be a good accompaniment to the chocolate cake. I did share some with my family, and they liked it, too.

This post is sponsored by Land O Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Hello! And apologies for the silence in this space. The quiet is a good thing – my summer has been lovely and busy; my family and I enjoying quality time together. So baking and blogging has been on the back burner for the better (that sentence had too many ‘b’ words and a terrible attempt at a kitchen pun, which means I’ve had way too much coffee today).

I’ll be back again later this week with another recipe and some trip photos from the North Shore, but for now, I am going to leave you with some links.

*There has been so much good music released this spring/summer! I’ve been listening to Feist, Lee Bozeman, Greycoats, and Sufjan’s Planetarium on repeat for weeks.

*I still love Jeremy Enigk.

*I am spending the summer reading Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History series.

*Zoebakes’s Instagram stories are the best- I always learn something new.

*I actually bought a fanny pack (or belt bag, for the trendy) and have gotten mixed reviews on it. I will say it was amazing while hiking, and I did have an older gentleman compliment me on it (we almost had matching bags), which made my day.

*I have mint chocolate ice cream cake and mixed berry cream cheese ice cream on Handmade Charlotte.

*I have grilled breakfast pizza on Artisan Bread in Five.

*Can’t wait to start baking from Pizza Camp. I also have a gigantic stack of cookbooks I need to bake from and share with you, that I hopefully will get to soon.

That’s all for now! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Don’t forget to #bakeamericacakeagain.

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My children are curious ones, often on tip-toe or climbing up onto kitchen stools, trying to figure out what I’m always doing in the kitchen. Sometimes they jump in and help: throwing on their little aprons and grabbing spatulas and whisks, and other times they are content with just peeking into bowls and moving on. I find their interest in that space constantly ebbs and flows, and the days I’m in a hurry and don’t need help are the days they seem to want to offer it, and the occasions I’m dying to bake with them and teach them new things, well, those are the days they’d rather be doing anything else. Every once in awhile we land on the same page. My daughter is more eager than my son; he wants to sneak cookie dough, she wants to shape and bake cookies. I’ve watched her come a long way in the kitchen, and enjoy the moments when we make something together.

I’ve discovered that while she’s come a long way, I, however, still  have some needed areas of growth. Basically, I can be a control freak. I find myself hovering and managing. I want to pre-measure the ingredients, and find the right bowl. I don’t fully trust her to dip and sweep or mix things fully. She is well aware of my tight grip while sweetly encouraging me to step back and let her try. She is sure of her abilities, and isn’t worried when she’s lacking. This is the hardest part of parenting for me: watching your child get to a place you’ve been training them for, and then having to let go, trusting they can do whatever it is you’ve been preparing them to do. I’ve spent so much time nurturing and caring and equipping, that when my child is finally ready, I want to keep tagging along to micromanage any mishaps, not fully confident in her abilities.

I’m slowly making progress.

We did have a lot of fun together, making this cake. My kids could have gobbled up the crème fraîche layers plain (I could have as well), but the berries and white chocolate buttercream take this to the next level.

Le Creuset kindly sent us this 5 piece utensil set (with crock) from their Craft Series to use on our cake experiements (or #cakexperiments, as I like to call them on Instagram), and so far I’m impressed. The spatulas are ‘made for scraping the bowl clean’, and they do an incredible job. Their smooth surface is great for scraping batter from the surface in just two strokes, and the ergonomic handle keeps hand secure when scraping or spreading. And yes, this spatula can also spread, which is a dream come true. And guess what! One lucky reader can win this utensil set! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below (along with an email). This contest is open to US residents only. Winner will be announced June 20th, 2017. (For an extra entry,  follow Le Creuset on Instagram.)

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom every day – I get two littles up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own

-Mary Oliver, from The Journey

I think I will celebrate the big Day this year with a fabulous cake, for both myself and my own Mother. I’m excited to share the one pictured above with you: an almond cake with chocolate and Amaretto buttercream. Andre Prost sent me several boxes of their imported Odense Almond Paste (from Odense, Denmark) to experiment with.  It is made in a factory where only almonds are used so there is no risk of other nut allergies in this cake. If you have never used almond paste, it is found in the baking section of the supermarket. I love almond paste in so many applications (paired with puff pastry, especially, and also in a Danish braid), but I had never used it in a straight up yellow cake. I love the way it turned out; the cake is rich and full of almond flavor, without the need for extra almond extract. Amaretto is an under-used liqueur in my cabinet, and it pairs nicely with the cake and thin layer of chocolate (side note: on the rare occasion I order a drink when I’m out on the town, I do always get an amaretto sour. I’ve also been informed that this is an old lady drink, but dang, it’s so good!). The flowers on this cake are inspired by the lovely Molly Yeh and her own fabulous cake. She has a lot of good links posted for making flowers, and I have a few more at the bottom of the post, too.

Giveaway: Enter for a chance to win 6 boxes of Odense Almond Paste! Leave a comment below with your email for a chance to win. No special comment is required, but if you want to let me know what cookbooks you are currently baking/cooking out of, I would love that. Winners will be picked one week from today, May 9th.

This post is sponsored by Odense Almond Paste. As always, all opinions are my own. You can find more recipes using almond paste on their website.

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‘I believe food should capture your spirit. Your food, I believe, is a compilation of your journey in life – it collects bits and pieces as you go. From youth and culture, from travel, and from day-to-day experiences. It is also very much an evolution…

Food’s ability to bring people together is unparalleled. It is at the foundation of our cultures; it is the goodness we can bring to ourselves and others. When we celebrate food and retain its inherent quality, we nourish ourselves and our lives. We take the time to source good ingredients and produce. We support our local farmers and artisans, and we help sustain a beautiful cycle of goodness that extends to the people around us.’ -Karen Mordechai, Simple Fare

I received Karen’s new book this past week, and instantly was drawn to this dark chocolate cake. It did not disappoint. You may know Karen’s site Sunday Suppers, and her book is filled with the same beautiful photography and thoughtful recipes found there. I recommend checking it out.

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How to Eat a Poem
Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or steam
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.
-Eve Merriam

*************************************************

Nicole Gulotta, of the blog Eat This Poem, has a new book out, where both the poem above and the coffeecake below are found. It’s a lovely book, filled with poetry and recipes and thoughtful musings, much like her site. I’ve met Nicole a few times over the years and have followed her progress on this book; it’s been years of work and a labor of love. I highly recommend putting it on your wish list. I especially love the poem above, and have found a handful of other poets I need to check out. There are many recipes I am eager to try as well, but, I just can’t help myself and gravitated first towards the baking section (this is the case in any cookbook I pick up). I started with this coffeecake. Nicole’s version has pears but I used raspberries, in hopes that the usually warm April we’ve been having is here to stay. My family agreed it was delicious.

A few other things

I can’t get enough of this song.

Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious is in full swing (every month you receive an exclusive, limited-edition 12? vinyl record featuring an artist covering a full-length album of their choice). I received the first LP: Yumi Zouma covering Oasis’ What’s the Story Morning Glory, and it is so good!

I just ordered this sweatshirt from Miss Jones Baking Company and I absolutely love it. It’s so comfortable.

The Blackberry White Chocolate Cake from my book found it’s way into the Sunday Times, Ireland this month, which was very exciting. You can view the recipe here (although, you have to sign up to see it – it’s free.)

Yossy used my yellow cake recipe for the base of her Meyer Lemon and Raspberry Cake (her video is lovely!)

I have Banana Cupcakes with Banana Buttercream and Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars on Handmade Charlotte.

The dishware was sent to me by Martha Stewart Living, and is part of the Fleur collection, found exclusively at Macys.

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mini cakes

“Who I am is certainly part of how I look and vice versa. I want to know where I begin and end, what size I am, and what suits me… I am not “in” this body, I am this body. Waist or no waist.

But all the same, there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time.

There’s the ideal beauty of youth and health, which never really changes, and is always true. There’s the ideal beauty of movie stars and advertising models, the beauty-game ideal, which changes its rules all the time and from place to place, and is never entirely true. And there’s an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other.”
-Ursula K. Le Guin on Aging and What Beauty Really Means (you can read more on Brainpickings, or find her book here.)

mini cakes

mini cakes

mini cakes

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citrus poundcake

‘What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.’ – TS Eliot, Four Quartets

Somehow we’re back to blood oranges. A year ago I made doughnuts with them, and quick bread. I’m not quite sure where the time went – months have flown by, with so many changes, yet somehow it is all a blur.

This Bundt cake is adapted from Yossy’s beautiful book Sweeter Off the Vine (the doughnuts mentioned above are found among its pages, too). I find myself taking far too many trips to the refrigerator to sneak another sliver; the sweet, tart flavors and pieces of citrus flesh scattered throughout the cake (Yossy describes them as ‘jammy pockets’) are worth any extra indulgence on my part. If you don’t have Sweeter Off the Vine, I highly recommend it. It’s a stunning collection of recipes and photographs, and everything turns out delicious.

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