Monday, February 23, 2015

Lemon Posset Shortcakes

                               This week the Alpha Bakers made Lemon Posset Shortcakes, which are genoise cakes with a  creamy Meyer lemon topping.  And since forever, I have had horrible luck with genoise.

So it was not with excitement that I began The Bake this week. Still, how can anyone be cranky when these beauties are in season?

Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and common orange or mandarin. Grown in pots as ornamental trees in China, they were brought to the United States in 1908 by Frank Meyer during a trip with the United States Department of Agriculture.  

Thank you Frank!  

But it was Alice Walters and Martha Stewart who popularized the lovely, mild lemons in the late 1990's.  For being such delicate things, they are a hearty tree that yields fruit within four years after planted from seed.  They are capable of producing thousands of lemons.  I know one thing, they have vicious spikes to protect their fruit.  

Years ago we transplanted a Meyer lemon tree from a lady who was determined to chop it down.  Nothing could persuade her otherwise, not even a batch of Rose's lemon curd, which she loved.  The neighbor agreed to let us move it next door to my mother in law's former home.  It lost its leaves and a harsh below freezing cold snap threatened its very existence.  And then it burst into bloom.  It was truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  The scent was glorious. 

  They can even be grown indoors.  

Ramekins for the genoise sponge cakes which worked well.  They turned out easily. 

                Unexpected surprise!  This time they didn't have any flour balls and rose to a good height. Out of Baker's spray, I used coconut spray oil and dusted with the Wondra flour.

Once cooled,  a very sharp knife easily cut out the tops to hold the cream, thanks to Monica's posting on Facebook.  I missed seeing that bit in the book.  This is what is incredibly helpful about the Alpha Bakers FB page; helping to avert disaster..

Brushed with lemon syrup and then sealed with apple jelly, they were ready for the Lemon Posset which had been chilling in the refrigerator, separating into two layers.

The l-o-n-g wait was finally over.  Well, it wasn't really because they were supposed to set in the frig between the first layering of the thicker Posset and the second layer of the thinner Posset, but I missed that part, too.  I also missed the instruction not to use the watery Posset at the very bottom of the dish and happily spooned it over the top and down the sides. The presentation wasn't as professional looking but it didn't matter.  They tasted like an upscale Twinkie with the most amazing exquisite lemon cream.  This is definitely on the Make Again list but next time, no fiddling about with individual ramekins.  Too many requests for seconds!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

Happy Birthday to me!

Rose's Alpha Bakers are baking the delicious Chocolate Pavarotti cake with Wicked Good Ganache, which is her tribute to the great tenor, Luciano Pavarotti.  I went in search of Pavarotti singing Happy Birthday to hear what a tenor who can reach the E above high C sounds like.  No clue what E or high C is but if Rose is impressed, it must be spectacular

I found many people singing Happy Birthday to Pavarotti but not he himself singing the jingle.  I did find a nice surprise; Pavarotti singing one of my all time favorite songs, Volare .. I was just a little kid when Dean Martin came on the radio with this catchy tune and instantly loved it.  Volare means "to fly" in Italian.  I think that is what all great tenors do, they open the soul to depths that daily life makes us forget. 

Pavarotti would have loved this cake.

A fairly simple chocolate cake covered in ganache with chili for something extra, it did not disappoint.  Out of complete curiosity I tried Lindt dark chocolate with chili for the two part ganache.  First corn syrup is brought to the boil, then mixed with unsweetened chocolate.  After pulverizing the chili chocolate,  simmered cream was added and then the corn syrup/chocolate mixture plus a smidgeon of cayenne pepper.  Not quite certain why it is then strained through a fine wire mesh except to give me something else to lick wash.  Left to cool, it turns into a smooth ganache with just a hint of heat to accentuate the chocolate.

Forget the baking soda, that's not in the recipe.

The cake batter was easy peasy to put together.  The divine Lindt white coconut chocolate sat patiently in the cupboard so that's what I used.  Melted, cooled and stirred into the ingredients a fluffy batter soon appeared.
 The only thing which caused me confusion were the directions on a new Fat Daddio 9x2 inch pan to lower the temperature and shorten the baking time.  Lots of testing with a toothpick and it finally came out of the oven nice and high.  Once again the most difficult thing about a Baking Bible recipe was waiting for it to cool.

And Voila!  One wicked birthday cake.

                Rose's Raspberry sauce unstrained by request           

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread was discovered by Rose at the Riddarbagariet bakery in Sweden.  She bought their  cookbook, had the recipe translated from Swedish to English and adapted it for the home baker in the Baking Bible.  Lucky for us  Rose went to Europe, visited this particular bakery and had the foresight to bring home the recipe ultimately working her artisan magic.

 This recipe was a lesson in rye flour vs pumpernickel flour, the disappearance of flour mills in California what happened to the hippy health food grind your own flour shops and now a field trip to historic Napa Bale Grist mill is top of the list because they stone ground real pumpernickle flour,  biga vs wild yeast starters (who knew they could be patent protected), natural leaveners are so entertaining Disney offers a tour through the Boudin bakery at Disneyland, gold rush miners and wild yeast sourdough bread's history are inextricably linked and opening the oven door after ice has been thrown in is guaranteed to fog glasses with an instant facial.  

After the rye flour is stirred into a biga and given a refrigerated rest,  it turns into dough with the addition of  water, flour, yeast and salt.  Raisins and walnuts are mixed in which kicks this rye based bread up a few notches into party mode. This is not your dad's toaster rye bread with seeds that get stuck in your teeth.

A bit of pummeling, resting, rising rotations,  the very sticky dough is patted into a rectangle, top corners folded  down and apricots lined be rolled into a sort of  roly poly pudding.  

 Baked with a handful of ice cubes for a  steamy oven, the aroma begins to permeate the kitchen. Letting it cool for two hours was the hard part.  The time was well spent with a trip to Whole Foods for Cowgirl Triple Cream Cheese, thanks to Michele for asking Rose which cheese would best compliment this bread.   The outer crust was brushed with butter while warm for a softer crust. 

Dollops of  favorite Trader Joe's apricot jam accent the bread and cheese perfectly.

I couldn't resist throwing one under the broiler for a Swedish crostini.

It is my favorite.   Toasting the bread brings out the flavors.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Q&E.  Quick and Easy.  Quick and Easy Gingersnaps are up this week with Rose's Alpha Bakers, out of the kindness of Marie's Post Panettone heart.

You know what was not quick and easy?  Finding Golden Caster Sugar. When even Amazon is out of Golden Caster sugar, you know that it must be seriously good sugar. Not one grocery, market or deli, including three Whole Foods in three separate counties had or heard of golden caster sugar.

A lovely bag of sugar sat on the grocery shelf calling me with its Island Ausukal song and the bewitching name:  Mascobado  Cane Sugar.  It promised "to have all the versatility of everyday  granulated sugar plus an amazing depth of flavor that makes it the ultimate secret ingredient".  Sounded good to me.

Batch # 1 Fail

I was wrong.  Mascobado Cane Sugar made the dough incredibly dry.  It's on a long time out in the freezer until I can figure out what to do with it. A second try with regular brown sugar mixed with standard Trader Joe's organic sugar and the Gingersnap dough finally looked like dough.

You know what I've never done with cookies before?  Weigh each of them before baking.

Or taken their temperature.

 I can't believe I've lived my entire sweet toothed life without ever knowing the versatile joys of golden syrup.  Thank heavens  in 1883 a brilliant chemist named Charles Eastick figured out how to take discarded leftover teacle syrup and turn it into a sweetened preserve for cooking.  This was no easy feat.  It involved a lot of chemistry alchemy.  
Abram Lyle & Sons was never the same.  Do you think Mr. Eastick got promoted or at the very least a large annual bonus?  Stock options?

Real Q&E batch # 2.

I then made batch number three, well half a batch, substituting coconut oil for the butter.  Melting in the pan with the golden syrup, it began to smell heavenly.  I added a bit of vanilla and dose of cinnamon to help boost the flavor lest the absence of butter make the dough too bland.  It did not disappoint.  

Batch # 3 Dairy free version

The flavors are nearly identical and now the entire family can partake of Mr. Eastwick's brilliant concoction.  No one thinks they resemble gingersnaps at all.  My brother thinks they taste like something called 
Stone cookies from Hawaii which truly are named after a rock.  These "gingersnaps" are nice and soft and chewy.  Not a snap in the bunch.  They are definitely going on the holiday cookie baking list..   

But look what cookbook was on Amazon promising sweet mischief. It can't arrive soon enough.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Panettone Milanese from Emporio Rulli

The San Francisco Chronicle had a full page article featuring a bay area bakery that is somewhat famous for its panettone called Emporio Rulli,  owned by Pastry Chef Gary Rulli and his wife Jeannie.  He was seriously trained in Milan in the art of panettone.  It fascinated me and when I clicked on the video, I was mesmerized.  And eventually a little disappointed that we did not  have to hang our Golden Orange Panettone upside down like Milanese bakers.

Reading his panettones are sent worldwide and to VIP chefs in the U.S., I  ordered one

It arrived today!

Unwrapped,  the orange scent was reminiscent of  the one we made, only less fragrant,  not being straight out of the oven.  Cutting into it, the crumb and texture looked just like some of the Alpha Bakers.  Here's the fun part, it tasted almost identical to Rose's recipe!  The raisins were soaked in something different and chestnut honey is referred to in the article instead of golden syrup, but that is all.   I, and others,  actually think Rose's recipe has the better flavor.   Can you believe it?    We made panatonne that seriously equals a very respected Italian bakery 's signature bread.  High fives to all of us and a big giant Well Done to Rose!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Golden Orange Panettone with Chocolate Sauce


This is the Golden Orange Panettone from Rose's book The Baking Bible.  An epic feat to produce not because it was difficult but because it took extraordinary mental energy for me to understand the many steps.  At  first I diagrammed the recipe into a crazed map with arrows pointing here and there and everywhere.  I then resorted to outlining.  Pages and pages of outline.  It slowly began to make sense but I still felt befuddled.  LIGHT BULB  List the steps numerically!  They numbered one through thirty three.  A visual presentation perhaps? Yes!  Feeble attempt of drawing the dough into a cartoon strip began with La Biga and the journey there of. 

 The only thing I didn't do was to turn it into a three act Broadway play with the Rockettes singing and dancing their way through flour and yeast, flinging orange peel confetti. 

Act I
La Biga

Or as I like to call it Edible Silly Putty.  Seriously, was this what it was supposed to look like or was it a total fail?   I had no idea.  To The Google and landing on Youtube  featuring  Julia Child baking Italian bread with Carol Field, her biga looked as rubbery as mine so I carried on.  

Candied Orange Peel

Way back when I read a wonderful post on Kate's, of Kate Flour fame, delightful blog, A Merrier World explaining how to make orange peel.  It sounded intriguing.  The flavor turned out to be far superior to the very expensive imported Danish candied peel at the local Italian market.  It was messy but not difficult.
The biggest surprise was the mountain of pith produced from quite small oranges. 

Into a long soaking bath along with the raisins. Triple Sec (I used fresh orange juice), vanilla and the elusive Boyajian Orange Oil found at Sur Le Table, a most dangerous den of baking iniquity.  I walked in for oil and walked out with a marble pastry slab, pastry cloth set and oh ya, a triple oil pack.  Post Christmas sale=Too Good To Resist. A few tablespoons of the reserved liquid is saved to pour into the dough and it was so incredible, I couldn't bare to toss the rest.

Act II

Or the day I nearly lost my mind.  How many doughs are there exactly in this Panettone? THREE.  I finally figured out Panettone is sort of a transformer magic act, dough by dough.  Biga is the first on stage who then goes into a water, flour, egg yolk, golden syrup yeast concoction.  That's dough number two,  or  its professional stage name,  The Sponge.  
Next up, Dough Number Three, simply referred to as: Dough.  Flour, dry milk (what is up with the scarcity of dry milk in stores these days?), yeast and salt are mixed together and  poured over the Sponge, blanketing the starter sponge for an eventual trip to the refrigerator after a short warm respite.  

Insert swear word of choice I forgot the salt oh well let's just whisk it right on top of the dough.  

This poor dough, first it gets nice and warm and them BAM!  banished to the cold refrigerator for character building.    Out it comes for softened butter, egg yolks, more golden syrup and candied orange/raisin liquid,   eventually turning the very peculiar original Silly Putty Biga into a smooth and sticky dough, but dough none the less.This is where I panicked.  Was I supposed to let the cold dough warm up first?  Had not a clue but in for a penny in for a pound.

The alchemy continued until it all came together into a gorgeous golden dough.  The fragrant candied orange peel and raisins are sprinkled like pixie dust and a bit of folding tucks them gingerly inside.  Another lovely warm rest and banished to the cold once again, this time to set the butter lest it escape and make a run for it.  A quick and gentle knead to redistribute the yeast,  into an oiled coated baggy.


After a deep sleep with the fishes cocooned in a Ziplock bag, the citron studded dough is brought forth from a long hypothermia slumber and slowly resuscitated back to the land of the living with a warm rise in a steamy DIY  microwave steam bath sitting in the elusive almost proper sized paper mold. 

  Lo a miracle!  The dough rises and fluffs and begins to look like, well dough.  Real dough.  And so the dough graduates to the end goal; the oven which contains a new pizza stone (the imported $90 Panettone at the Italian deli is starting to seem like a good buy) because my ancient one is MIA, with ice thrown in a pan on the oven floor for a burst of steam.  Almost immediately orange begins to scent the air.  Thirty minutes in a foil tent is offered for protection against over-browning and a short time later, the Golden Orange Panettone is finally done.  Nice and warm, the leftover citron/raisin syrup seemed the perfect thing to brush over the crust.  

This Panettone has staying power and doesn't require being hung upside down to prevent collapsing like a souffle.  An eight hour rest and The Golden Panettone is ready .  It's better, much much better at 24 hours. 

 Rose's Panettone is milder, more refined than the commercial ones I am used to.  I loved making this bread, even though I was sleep deprived miscalculating rising times and tending to dough at 3 a.m., got dizzy trying to remember if it was time for a warm rise,  cool rise, first, second or fifteenth rise..  Actually making Panettone seemed way beyond my reach and so I buy them every year at Christmas from Trader Joe's..  The ingredients are essentially the same but that is where the similarity ends. I can't wait to make it again, doubling the amounts of candied orange peel and raisins and brushing it with the leftover orange syrup elixir. Drizzled with Lindt Orange Chocolate Sauce, thank you Faithy for the Lindt tip, and it is spectacular.

Final Curtain Call
Better known as OMGEEEEEE. Breakfast

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Candied Orange Peel

Quick run down should anyone else want to try Kate's (of Kateflour UK fame)  recipe found here for the Panettone..  There are not any weighed amounts for ingredients, it was a bit of a guess. My oranges were on the small side so I added an extra.  Using a spoon did not work for me but a small knife with a wavy edge did.  This was the "hardest" part of the entire process other than patience while the peels bubbled away in the syrup.  Near the end, it was difficult to tell how much syrup was left due to the amount of bubbles produced while simmering.  Taking it on and off the heat was the only way to tell.  She's not kidding when she says "Don't let it burn."  It would be very easy to burn at the end thinking there was more syrup underneath all the bubbles.

I debated about spraying the cake rack with oil for drying but didn't know if it would affect the flavor.  I should have lined the pan underneath with plastic wrap as some fell through and hardened.  Covered with plastic wrap they dried overnight resting on the rack/pan combination.

I was afraid I hadn't made enough and was shocked to find it weighed exactly the right amount.  Still, extra would not have been a bad thing.  The flavor is far superior to the expensive imported Danish brand the Italian deli has and I'm very fond of those.  This was a surprise.