Posts Tagged ‘baking’

If you recall, several weeks ago I announced a little something I am starting here on my blog.


This FUN will begin on Friday May 1st. Which just also happens to be Rachel’s birthday and we will likely be baking something yummy! I will tell you more about it as we go but for now…how about signing up? I will conduct this very cool blog activity in much the same way Kelly is doing her Blue Ribbon Mondays. Which is VERY VERY cool!! And seriously, if you have not stopped by Kelly’s blog and signed up for her Blue Ribbon Mondays…get your happy self over there!

Just sign up below and more instructions and such will follow over the next week as I work out the kinks and will have some buttons and such for you to use to link us all together. Oh yeah and you know there will be prizes. Baking related prizes…now that IS cool huh? For now all you really need to know is:

  1. It is going to be fun!
  2. You know you want to participate
  3. It involves recipes and baking and prizes
  4. That’s enough isn’t it???

Anywho, leave me your name and let me know you are up for the challenge. Oh, I didnt mention it would be a challenge did I??? Oh well it will. I will give you a recipe on Friday(beginning May 1) and by the next Friday you have to have made it and posted about it on your blog WITH PHOTOS. There will be several ways to get your name in the now extraordinarily famous mason jar for the drawing to be held each Saturday for the week’s participants. Each Friday one challenge will end and another will begin. Doesn’t this sound AMAZING???

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I really, REALLY need you all to read over the text for my Biscuit Making 101 booklet I am handing out at my first cooking class.  Tell me honestly what you think and if it is enough information.  Just pretend you have never made a biscuit in your life.  What do I need to add?  Leave out?  Just tell me what you think. Thanks!!!

Here is what I have so far:

Biscuit Making 101

Very Important Announcement:
I am not even kidding you.
Here is a list of the flours I have tried and what I have found to be true about each of them.

  • Gold Medal Self Rising: Not good for biscuits AT ALL.  Very packy, dense biscuits.
  • Sunflower Self Rising: Again, packy, dense—better than Gold Medal but not what I wanted at all.
  • Martha White Self Rising: Same old, tired story.  Just not up to par.
  • Pillsbury Self Rising: Same song, different day.
  • Wondra: Blah, Blah, Blah
  • White Lily Self Rising: Folks, we have a winner!  Light, fluffy PERFECT texture   biscuits.  Hands down, THE BEST!

You may tell yourself that you don’t really care about WHY White Lily is the best, but you should! And even if you don’t, I am going to tell you anyway!  It is 100% soft winter wheat and it has a much lower protein content.  And the facts are: less protein = better for quick breads and more protein = better for yeast breads.  Also, handling your biscuit dough too much result in developing the gluten (all very scientific) and in quick cooking bread, muffins and biscuits~this is a no-no.
You have to trust me on this: ALL FLOURS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  And quite honestly, they shouldn’t be.  Different flours~different uses.  Makes perfect sense.  It also makes perfect sense to use the right ingredients for the recipe.  What are we trying to teach in our children??? A job worth doing is worth doing right.  This certainly goes for cooking and baking as well.  Without a doubt, having the right tools and proper ingredients can make a good cook into a great cook!  Having the right    instruction and technique makes things even better.

There are so many little hints and helps in cooking and baking that can make all the difference in the world.  Take heed when you learn something new.  Write it down.  Keep a kitchen notebook.  And ask yourself why.  Asking why and getting the answer will make it memorable.  For example, not twisting the biscuit cutter when you cut  your biscuits makes a huge difference in how they rise when baking.  No joke ~ makes a HUGE difference.  That tiny little tidbit is essential information in my opinion.  So, therefore, I am passing it on to you.  Now don’t forget!

Now for the fat content of your biscuits~again VERY important. Unless you are vegan there is no reason NOT to introduce a tiny bit of animal fat in your diet from time to time.  None of us eat biscuits every day.  If you make yours from scratch then time constraints alone prevent it.  Maybe our grandmothers did but it just doesn’t fit into our already ridiculous schedules.  So here is where I drop the bomb shell.  The very best, most tender, flaky, perfectly textured    biscuits must be made with lard.  You read that correctly.  LARD.  Cheap, old animal by-product lard. You are welcome to render your own, but the bucket or box at the grocery store is more than sufficient.  If you just can’t bring yourself to use all lard, then use half shortening or even butter.  But don’t complain if your biscuits are not light and fluffy because they won’t be.  If you really want to get crazy make your biscuits using part duck fat.  OH MY!  I can’t describe them.  They are amazing.  But hey, I like just about anything cooked with a little duck fat.

Frankly, I think fat is a much misunderstood ingredient in fine cooking.  You cannot cut fat from your diet and if you think I am nuts, read Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.  Not the gospel of healthy eating but raises some very good questions.  And I look at it like this: That lard biscuit I eat once or twice a month will not be what kills me.  So ENJOY!

The next important factor is the liquid you add.  Not just WHAT but the amount as well.  I personally, use only Bulgarian Style Buttermilk.  It is thick and tangy ~ two very important things to look for in buttermilk.  I much prefer the Foremost brand in the waxed paper carton. It is fresher and well, I hate for my food to be stored in plastic.    Anyway, there is a BIG difference in the types of buttermilk and how things will turn out using each one.  Oddly enough, buttermilk is relatively low in fat and considered yet another animal fat~since it comes from cows~duh! And what have we learned so far?  Animal fat = delicious!
Back in the day it was what was left after butter was churned.  Now, it is just whole or skim milk with lactic acid bacteria added for fermentation.  Let me just get this out of the way before we go any further: Adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk does NOT        Buttermilk make.  So stop right there if you are considering it.  Go ahead, splurge on the cultured buttermilk and don’t worry about the date and if you will use it before the date runs out.  IT IS SOUR MILK.  If it isn’t growing something green, then it is still fine to use past the date.  Using buttermilk gives your biscuits that tart, tiny bit salty taste that just makes you go mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

The amount of liquid added is very important.  If your recipe says 1/2—2/3 cup then start with the 1/2.  If it is a nice crisp dry Autumn morning, you might have to add a bit more.  If it is humid or rainy, the 1/2 might be enough.  You can add more, but you can’t take any back out! And if you have to start adding flour…well you are cooking up a recipe for disaster!

On to TEMPERATURE.  OH SO important.  Both in your raw ingredients and the baking temperature.  Chill your ingredients.  In fact, keep your flour in the freezer and your lard in the refrigerator.  Then you are always ready to whip up a batch of biscuits.  And preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  That’s right.  FIVE  HUNDRED DEGREES.  No more, no less. This insures a quick “shock” to the cold biscuit dough and whoop ~ a terrific, tall beautiful biscuit!

If making biscuits for breakfast I mix my flour and lard and put it back in the refrigerator, covered, until I am ready to mix in the buttermilk. They bake for 15-18 minutes so I try to time having my other food started and then getting my biscuits ready to bake.  Don’t let your ingredients come to room temp even after you mix the flour and lard.  Keep it chilled.

Here is where you can decide what biscuit is perfect for your taste.  Do you like soft sided biscuits?  If so, place them close together on your pan. Do you like them very crispy on top?  Brush them with milk or melted butter before baking. Do you like “layers” ? Then fold your dough over on itself a couple of times before cutting.

Always brush them with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Oh please, you know you want to.  What’s a little more butter in the scheme of things?

That’s it – still have to add the recipe and a few more little hints.  Please be honest…is it easy to understand?  Enough info?  Too much info???

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WOW and what a challenge it was!

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Chris at Melecotte.

Quite frankly, Rachel was the big player in this. I was the assistant ~ And not a very good one at that! I pretty much watched and handed her stuff.

But it was wonderfully rich and delicious!

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temp
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 1/4 cup unsalted  butter at room temp
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift both flours, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, at medium speed, beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth and lightened slightly in color (about 1 minute).  Stope the mixer and scrape the sides.  Add the vanilla and mix until blended.  On low speed add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated and smooth.

For each cookie, roll a level teaspoon in to a smooth ball.  pLace the cookies on the parchment lined baking sheet spacing them two inches apart.  Use a fork and gently flatten the cookies into a 1 1/4″ disk.  Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and the cookie bottoms are slight browned – about 30 minutes.  The tops of the cookies should not color.  Repeat with the second pan.  Cool on the pan 10 minutes and them using a wide spatula, gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling: In a medium bowl use a wooden spoon to stir the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla together until smooth.  Stir in chips.

Turn half of the cookies bottom side up and using a thin spreader, smooth a rounded teaspoon of filling gently and evenly over each one.  Place the remaining cookie halves right side up on the filling and press VERY gently.

What a sandwich cookie!! The name just popped out of Rachel’s mouth when we asked her what they were.  The do resemble the lovely and delectable French Macarons we made earlier in the year.

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