"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Getting Into a Sticky Situation

I am insane about sticky buns. 

I've made them before in a yeast dough/baking workshop taken with Clemence De Lutz Gossett, a wonderful, well-known baking and dessert guru and mentor, but I have yet to make them at home.

I am definitely curious about the process domestically. I don't have the luxury of a full scale commercial kitchen to bake them in and more specifically, flatten out and eventually roll out long sheets of thinly-placed ingredient-layered dough.

The process was very fun and fascinating in the workshop. I was all eyes, wanted to try my hand at everything and wanted to learn as much as I could, while finding time to snap pictures of everything and take notes in my notebook intermittently.

I have a few pictures of the workshop I attended last year for yeast doughs. I snapped these and several others, but I'll post a few in sequence. We also made brioche bread. We made apple cinnamon raisin sticky buns and caramel pecan sticky buns. The results were madly addictive. Seriously, once I got in the car with my share of what I had made in the class, let's just say no one would have been able to see my car driving out of the lot until like 20 minutes and one big empty box later. No actually, I did leave some to bring home for family. LOL

I am not sure what kind of sticky buns I'll make over the weekend. Maybe one of the two flavors I did in the workshop or something else different. Maybe I should try a basic and classic recipe first, to see how I do at home, and then innovate with unusual flavors.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Baking Adventure 8: Mango Cream Cake

As a followup to my last entry, I decided to make and bake a mango cream cake. I wasn't able to get very good shots from my results, but I managed to get a few. I will be making this cake again, in the future, so no worries. I always want to use my camera for food shots.

Food photography is something I am also very fascinated by and I marvel at all of the amazing photo sets and collections I see on sites like Flickr.com and specific baking and food websites.

Anyway, I've never made a mango cake before but I wanted to give this a try. I snapped a few shots of some slices I cut from the cake. The cake went really fast, so by the time I got around to snapping, not much of the cake was left. Great statement about the results, but bad for photo-taking. lol

I decided to make a white cake batter by scratch. I used mango extract, as well as pulp and juice from 2 fresh medium-sized mangoes. I think in the end, I could have used included far more mango. But the mango could still be tasted well once the cake was done (next time I will include photos of the process) because the cake layers came out beautifully and perfect in exactly 35 minutes in the oven.

I created a buttercream frosting and added both mango extract and mango pulp. Once I beat all of the ingredients together for the frosting, the mango pulp was barely noticeable, but it did give the icing a nice orange-yellowish tint and if one looked carefully, you could see a small amount of mango pulp nicely dispersed throughout the icing.

I also added vanilla bean paste in the cake batter. Some of the vanilla bean seeds can be seen in the batter during and after baking, which is something I enjoy in the texture. It provides more of an intense flavor over the extract.

I made some whipped cream from scratch for eating with the cake. I also used whipped cream (in addition to the usual meringue in white cake) in the cake batter, which is why I call it mango cream cake. The homemade whipped cream was gone very quickly. It will ALWAYS be better than anything you can get from the supermarket.

---Make your own. It is very easy to do. ---

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Sugar Train: Next Stop?

I've been thinking about what I'll do for my next baking adventure. I've been browsing through my dessert magazine collection and see that even they've picked up on the new whoopie pie trend that's erupted lately. There the new "cupcake craze" so to speak.

I am starting to see whoppie pies show up in all sorts of place. They tend to range from 3-5 dollars in commercial bakeries. Not exactly cheap, so even more of an incentive to make them at home.

What are whoopie pies? Well, they aren't pies technically nor are they cakes or cookies, really. They are their own breed of dessert that borrows from each category. They kind of look like little pies from the top, the two halves look like fluffy cookies but have a flat cake texture. Whoopie pies are soft cookie/cake-like sandwiches filled with icing or marshmallow cream.

You can be as creative as you want with whatever you want to sandwich the two "soft cookie" halves with, but traditionally they are filled with some sort of cream or frosting and the most common batter flavor used is chocolate. I've even read that another traditional flavor for the cookies is pumpkin (now that sounds heavenly!).

It's a New England dessert that's been around for some time and has Amish roots. The legend is that Amish women/wives/mothers would bake these desserts from scratch and place these treats in their children's and husbands' lunchboxes as surprises and when were discovered, the child or husband would shout out loud, "Whoopie!!"

Is this true? I have no idea, but it's a playful, lighthearted story with a few versions floating around. Plus, it kind of makes sense. I know if I frequently found surprise treats in a lunchbox on my way to work, I'd shout out in joy, too. LOL

Why did I mention whoopie pies? Well, because they are one of several desserts I am considering making for my next baking adventure. Here's a tentative list of dessert ideas I have so far:

  • Whoopie pies (with marshmallow cream made from scratch)
  • Fruit parfaits or trifles (I've made these before but I'd like to experiment further)
  • Mint chocolate cake
  • Some kind of cold or frozen treat (sorbet, gelato, ice cream)
  • Sticky buns (a yeast dough recipe: LOVE these, have only made them in a workshop but would love to try my hand at them at home)
  • Ice cream cupcakes

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baking Adventure 7: Sweet Shop Colored Candy Meringues

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I had planned to make meringues since I'd never made them before and always enjoyed the curious look of them. I baked a couple of batches yesterday and they turned out quite charming, cracks and all. I also love how the colors and flavors came out.

I actually, just from having made this recipe once, will say that I prefer my meringues to not be completely airy. I will explain how the texture of my meringues came out in a bit. But first, here are some pictures of my meringues.

I made several flavors with corresponding colors:

Pink - Strawberry
Purple - Cotton Candy
Green -Crème de menthe
Cream (off-white) - Vanilla
Orange - Citrus Orange

I planned to add chocolate (light brown) and blueberry (blue) as additional flavors but I've used up all of my Valrhona cocoa powder and I am in need of a trip to Surfas to get more flavoring oils and extracts, which would include blueberry.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Wonder of Meringues

I've seen many photos of meringue cookies and I love how many of them look like dollops of icing or stiff swirled cream in various colors.

Here are a few photos of meringues that I not only enjoy looking at but that showcase the various ways meringue cookies, biscuits or drops can be made:

Meringue "cookies" don't incorporate flour into the mixture like most cookies do. Meringue cookies or drops, as their name suggests are made primarily from egg whites using other ingredients such as sugar (traditionally white although I have seen brown sugar meringues), cream of tartar, flavor extracts and coloring. Some people add other inclusions such as sugar pearls, chocolate ganache (sometimes sandwiched between two meringue cookies like in two of the photos displayed above), nuts, white chocolate and so forth.

You can be as creative and wild as you want to be with custom meringue recipes. I personally love when they come in a collection of hues from a sweet shop color palette. So fitting.