Bakealong Berry Blitz Tort

Its a new month which means a new bakealong challenge. Need a refresher on what that means? Check out this post for more info.

I know I’m pretty late on getting this month’s challenge, but I did just get married, so I feel like that’s a pretty good excuse (there’ll be a whole other post about my wedding).

I ended up making use of it for an inpromptu Memorial Day BBQ we had. It’s a little involved, but it’s nothing crazy hard, and definitely worth the work. The basic elements are pastry cream, butter cake and meringue, but you end up with an impressive looking cake. The flavors are great, especially if you’re a sucker for berries and cream like me. This would be a great dessert for any kind of summer get together.

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Ingredients

PASTRY CREAM FILLING

  • 20 ounces whole milk
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/8 ounces cornstarch
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces heavy cream, whipped; optional
  • about 6 3/4 to 9 ounces fresh raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries
    *For a simple shortcut filling, see “tips,” below.

CAKE

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks (save the whites for the topping)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 ounces milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 1/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

TOPPING

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 5 1/4 ounces Baker’s Special Sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 ounces sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
  • 1/2 ounce sugar*
    *Substitute prepared cinnamon-sugar, if desired.

Instructions

  1. To make the filling: In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.IMG_0398
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, egg yolks, and whole egg with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.IMG_0397IMG_0397
  3. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks/cornstarch to temper the yolks. This keeps them from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk. If you’ve never had to make anything with a hot milk/egg mixture, this step is very important. IMG_0399
  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk, pouring it through a strainer to capture any bits of egg. Bring to a boil over medium heat (this may happen very quickly), stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly; the mixture will thicken significantly.IMG_0400IMG_0401
  5. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
  6. Transfer the filling to a heatproof storage container, and top it with a piece of buttered plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the filling so it doesn’t develop a skin). Refrigerate until cool, or for up to several days. I strained my mixture to get out any chunky bits.IMG_0402IMG_0403
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Or lightly grease the pans, line with parchment rounds, and lightly grease the parchment as well. I only had 9″ pans but it worked fine, for the most part. Also, if you bake cakes frequently enough, pick up some parchment rounds in the size of your pans. They save a lot of time and energy.IMG_0404
  8. To make the cake: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and egg yolks until well combined. Scrape the bowl, and beat briefly to incorporate any sticky residue.IMG_0405
  9. Beat in the vanilla, milk, baking powder, and flour; the batter will be stiff.
    Spread the batter in the prepared pans (it will barely cover the bottom of the pans; that’s OK).IMG_0406IMG_0407IMG_0410
  10. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy; gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and somewhat stiff (but not stiff enough to form rigid stand-up points).IMG_0408IMG_0411
  11. Spread the meringue on the cake batter. Sprinkle the almonds over the meringue. Mix the cinnamon with the sugar, and dust on top.IMG_0412
  12. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. The cakes will puff up significantly; don’t worry, they’ll settle as they cool. If you used a 9″ pan like me, I would recommend checking them at 20 to 25 minutes. I pulled mine a minute early and the bottoms were a bit over done.IMG_0413
  13. Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes. Carefully and thoroughly loosen the edge of each cake, and gently turn it out onto a rack to cool completely. The best way to do this is to place a flat object (a giant spatula, a small baking sheet) atop the pan, and to turn everything over.IMG_0414
  14. Lift the cake pan off the cake, then place a cooling rack against the bottom of the cake. Turn everything back over again, so the rack is on the bottom. Some of the almonds will fall off during this process; just sprinkle them back on top. I used a sheet pan to turn the cakes out then flipped the cakes back over to the cooling rack.IMG_0415
  15. When you’re ready to finish the cake, remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator. Stir it gently, just to loosen it up enough to spread; stirring too vigorously can break it down and turn it watery. It’ll probably have a few lumps; that’s OK. For slightly richer filling with greater volume, whip 1/2 cup heavy cream to stiff peaks, and gently fold it into the pastry cream. Again, don’t beat the pastry cream; it’ll be a bit lumpy, but that won’t affect the taste. Add the cream, it’s totally worth it.IMG_0416IMG_0417
  16. To assemble the cake: Place one of the cake layers, meringue side up, on a serving plate. Spread with the filling. Add a layer of fresh berries. Top with the second cake layer, meringue-side up. I spread half my filling on the first layer, spread out the berries, then spread out the second half on top of the berries to keep the berries in place and secure the top layer of cake.IMG_0419IMG_0420
  17. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving time.IMG_0422

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I ❤️ Churros

I know cinco de Mayo isn’t really much of a holiday in Mexico. I know it’s just turned in to another day for Americans to drink in excess, but as with most holidays, instead, I see it as an excuse to make something tasty.

I think you would be hard pressed to find too many people that don’t like churros. Fried piece of dough, warm, covered in cinnamon sugar? Sign me up. I know one of my favorite snacks at Disneyland are their famous churros, and if I spot some on the menu in a restaurant, there’s a good chance I’ll order them.

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Churros may seem intimidating, but they’re really not that hard. If you’ve ever made choux before, like cream Puffs or eclairs, you can make these, as they use the same dough. You can make these as regular sticks, pipe them in to fun shapes, or make some over the top ice cream sandwiches.

You can fry these in a deep frier, or any kind of wide, deep pot, but a Dutch oven does work best. You have a lot of space, and it holds heat well, which helps for consistent frying. I also can recommend using a digital thermometer enough. I love this one from polder. I use it for roasting meats, making candy, and with deep frying, it’s easier to watch the temperature, and make adjustments to raise or lower the temperature of the oil.

While churros are best fresh, you can also fry the doug ahead of time, then warm them in the oven before tossing the churros in the sugar mixture.

Churros

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 6 oz butter
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 c + 2 tbsp flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • Ice cream (optional)IMG_0383
  1. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 quart of vegetable oil over medium heat until it reaches 330 degrees.IMG_0392
  2. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat , bring the milk, butter, vanilla, first amount of sugar and salt to a boil.IMG_0382
  3. Once the mixture comes to a boil, mix in the flour, little by little, moving quickly. The dough will come together in a ball.IMG_0381
  4. Continue cooking the mixture, until the dough leaves a thin film on the bottom of the pan.IMG_0380
  5. Transfer dough in to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle.IMG_0379
  6. Running the miser on medium/low, slowly add the eggs, one by one, waiting until the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one.IMG_0378
  7. Once all the eggs are added, mix until the dough comes together and is glossy.IMG_0376
  8. Place dough in a piping bag fitted with a medium/large star tip.
  9. Mix together the second amount of sugar and the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  10. If you’re making shapes like circles or hearts, pipe these shapes on parchment, before frying. You can also use this meathod for the more traditional stick shapes, for more consistent pieces. When frying the dough, place most of the paper in the oil, dough side down, until it comes off the paper, being careful not to touch the hot oil.IMG_0373IMG_0371
  11. When the oil is up to temp, pipe the dough in 3 to 4 inch long pieces, straight in to the oil, using your finger to separate the end of the dough from the tip.IMG_0366IMG_0365
  12. Fry until dark golden brown, flipping the churros once one side has browned.IMG_0370
  13. Once the churros are done, place them on a wire rack, and let cool for 5 I minutes.IMG_0364IMG_0369
  14. Toss the slightly cooled churros in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Eat warm.IMG_0391IMG_0368
  15. If you’re making ice cream sandwiches, let the churro rounds cool completely before placing a scoop of ice cream on one churro and sandwiching it with the other.IMG_0386

Spring Carrot Pots

Even as an adult I have a soft spot for the ever popular cup of dirt. I know their generally geared towards kids, but who doesn’t like chocolate pudding and cookies?

As I mentioned in my Robins Egg Cake with Filo Nests post, I love the spring, and I get really inspired by spring and Easter, and cups of dirt seemed like a great base for a cute Easter dessert. Wanting to up the cuteness quotient, I wanted to make carrots you could pull out of the dirt and eat, and because no one wants a real carrot in their pudding, I went with peanut butter carrots. The carrots are great on their own too, you can set out a plate of them with other Easter candy, or stick a few in a basket.

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The base is my favorite chocolate pudding recipe. It’s thick and rich, but if you want something a little sweeter sub milk chocolate for the dark chocolate. For the cookies, I used extra chocolate cookie dough, but you can just as easily use nabisco famous wafers, or Oreos.

Ingredients

Chocolate Pudding

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, choppedIMG_0341
  1. Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt in a medium sauce pan. Whisk in the milk, and half and half.IMG_0343
  2. Place yolks in a medium bowl.
  3. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally until hot, but not boiling.
  4. Temper milk mixture in to yolks, and return to the pan.IMG_0342
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbling.IMG_0344
  6. Remove from heat and mix in butter, vanilla and chocolate, until incorporated.
  7. Strain into a clean bowl. Press plastic wrap to the surface, then refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.IMG_0345

 

Peanut Butter Carrots

  • 3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temp
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, or as needed
  • 1 package orange Wilton candy melts
  • Green frill toothpicks or Easter basket grass (see notes below)

For the carrot tops I tried to different things. The first was using Green frill toothpicks that I cut the pick down to 1 1/2 inches. The other was using Easter basket grass. I gathered in to bundles of 12-14 pieces, then tied them off before cutting  a  1 1/2 inch piece with the knot at one end.IMG_0347

  1. Combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a mixer.
  2. Cream on low until blended.
  3. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating until blended. Beat in additional powdered sugar until mixture is thick and dough like, and will hold its shape.IMG_0339
  4. If you’re using the basket grass, form a cherry tomato sized ball of peanut butter mixture. Stick a bundle of grass in the middle, closing the mixture up around the knot, then roll in to a 2″ carrot shape.IMG_0337IMG_0336
  5. If your using the toothpicks, shape the mixture in the a carrot shape before inserting the toothpick through the length of the carrot so only the top frill shows.IMG_0338IMG_0335
  6. Place all the carrots on a parchment lined sheet pan, and freeze for at least 3 hours.
  7. Melt the entire bag of candy melts over a double boiler, stirring occasionally until smooth.IMG_0334
  8. Place melted candy melts in a glass ( a tall narrow container makes it easier to dip the carrots).
  9. Working quickly, dip each carrot until the coating just touches the “carrot greens”. IMG_0332
  10. Shake off any excess coating before placing back on the parchment. Repeat until all carrots are coated.IMG_0331
  11. Refridgerate until the coating is firm.

 

Assembly

  • chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 12 oz chocolate cookies (homemade, nabisco famous wafers, or Oreos)
  • peanut butter carrots
  • mini chocolate eggs
  • large piping bag
  • Container of choice (see note below)

I made my mini pots in mini silicone cupcake cups that look like  terra-cotta pots. You can use real mini pots, but you need to plug up the hole in the bottom. You can also make a large pot of carrots using a wide shallow pot, or a serving dish (I used a clear pirex bowl so you can see the layers).

  1. Whisk the cooled pudding until smooth.IMG_0330
  2. Whip the cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of a mixer until stiff, but not over whipped.
  3. Fold the whipped cream and pudding together until just combined. Place in piping bag, set aside.IMG_0329
  4. Crush the cookies, either in a food processor, or in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. It’s ok if it’s a little chunky, it’s supposed to be dirt.IMG_0328
  5. Sprinkle enough cookie crumbs at the bottom of the container until just covered.
  6. Pipe the pudding mixture next, until just before halfway full.
  7. Sprinkle on more cookie crumbs.
  8. Pipe in more pudding until just below the top.
  9. Sprinkle with more cookies.IMG_0327
  10. Stick a carrot, greens up, in each mini pot. Or multiple if using a large pot.IMG_0357
  11. Decorate with mini eggs. IMG_0349
  12. Enjoy!

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Robins Egg Cake with Filo Nests

Some would say you shouldn’t have to make your own birthday cake, but a lot of the time I look at it as an opportunity to try something new. I’m especially inspired by the fact that my birthday’s in spring and close to Easter.

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This year I came up with the design based off of mini filo birds nests I made last year. I wanted to go big so I made a robins egg cake with a large filo nest. It took some experimenting but I’m happy with the results.

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For the nests I use shredded filo dough known as Kataifi. You won’t usually find this in a normal supermarket so it may take some searching but it’s worth it.

Filo birds nests

  • 3/4 box Kataifi
  • 6 oz melted butter plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 c cinnamon sugar
  • mini Cadbury eggs

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  1. Place the Kataifi in a bowl. Wrap up the rest and freeze for later use.
  2. Pour the melted butter and cinnamon sugar over Kataifi and mix until it is evenly coated.IMG_0264
  3. For the large nest, use a 7″ ring mold or draw a 7 inch diameter circle in parchment to form the mixture in to a ring around the 7″ circle that will fit around the cake. Remove the ring mold before baking.
  4. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.IMG_0268
  5. Once cooled, carefully slide the nest on to a 10″ cake board.
  6. For mini nests butter 2 cupcake tins.
  7. place enough mixture to fill each tin 3/4 of the way up.
  8. Using your finger form a well in the middle, but leaving some of the mixture still on the bottom. IMG_0267
  9. Bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes, until golden brown. IMG_0269
  10. Once cooled, use a small offset spatula to lift he nests out of the tins. Transfer nests to a plate or sheet pan.IMG_0278
  11. Place 3 mini eggs in each nest.IMG_0279

Robins egg cake

  • 6″ cake of your choice, crumb coated (I went with raspberry and cream, yum!)
  • Robins egg blue tinted buttercream
  • brown petal dust
  • vodka
  • A stuff brush
  • large Kataifi nest on a 10″ cake board
  • Fresh violas
  • mini nests for plating

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  1. Final coat the cake in the blue butter creamIMG_0272
  2. Place the cake on an extra 8″ board and cool until firm.
  3. Mix together about 1/4 tsp brown petal dust, and just enough vodka so the mixture is thinned out and not a paste. IMG_0275
  4. Place the cooled cake on a turn table. Cover the surrounding area in paper so the splatter doesn’t cover everything in the surrounding area. Trust me.IMG_0276
  5. Dip the tip of the stuff brush in the brown mixture, and using your finger, splatter the cake until lightly covered, slowly rotating the cake as you go. Cover the side and top. Splatter in action.IMG_0277
  6. Carefully transfer the cake on to the board with the nest, being carefully not to crush the nest.IMG_0281
  7. Decorate nest and cake with violas. IMG_0282
  8. When serving the cake, place a mini nest on each plate.IMG_0285

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The mini nests can also be used to top cupcakes. I filled the pests I made last year with marshmallow and sugar cookie mini eggs as well as the Cadbury eggs.

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Now enjoy!

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Lucky Ice Cream Pie

 

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I love any excuse to make something delicious. Christmas, Mother’s Day, Arbor Day, it doesn’t matter to me as long as I can make something. This year my St. Patrick’s day was also inspired by another holiday, pi day.

I’ve seen a lot of recipes that utilize the marshmallows in lucky charms, but seem to neglect the poor cereal. All I can think of is that lonely box of de-marshmallowed cereal. So I utilized the cereal to make a pressed crust to form the base of the pie.

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A few tips for making this as well. You don’t need to warm up the ice cream before mixing it, that’s why I used the stand mixer.  If you let the pie sit overnight the marshmallows soften up nicely from the moisture but still add texture. Also, gel food colorings like americolor are best for this sort of thing, and you can change up the color or flavor of the ice cream for other holidays.

 

Lucky Ice Cream Pie

 

Lucky Charms crust

  • 4 ounces lucky charms cereal, marshmallows set aside
  • 3 ounces butter, melted
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
  1. Place cereal in a food processor and process until broken in to small pieces. 20170315_213842
  2. Transfer cereal to a bowl and mix in remaining ingredients.
  3. Press crust mixture evenly in to a pie tin.20170315_233944
  4. Bale for 8 minutes. Cool completely before use.

 

Marshmallow ice cream filling

  • 1 gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 1 1/2 cups lucky charms marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups Marshmallow fluff
  • green food gel coloring

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  1. Place 3/4 of the ice cream in a stand mixer with 3 drops of green food coloring. Mix until evenly colored and smooth.20170315_234037
  2. Quickly fold both marshmallows in to the ice cream. 20170315_234134
  3. Place the filling in the cooled pie shell, and carefully spread evenly in the shell.20170315_234433
  4. Freeze for at least 2 hours.20170315_234545

 

Whipped cream cloud topping

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup lucky charms marshmallows
  • gold dragees
  • rainbow sprinkles

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  1. Whip heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff but not over whipped.
  2. Place in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.
  3. Pipe various size dollops across the top of the pie, covering the ice cream.20170316_235452
  4. Sprinkle with gold dragees, rainbow sprinkles and extra lucky charms marshmallows.20170317_000011
  5. Enjoy!

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Happy pi day!

I’ve been celebrating pi day for at least 14 years now (we won’t talk about how old this makes me). It started when a coworker, who knew my love of baking and all things nerdy told me about it. I celebrated this was a pretty mediocre tasting, but great looking cherry pie. This pie managed to gain quite a bit of Internet fame, and I still see it around every pi day.

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The original

 

I’ve made a few more pi pies, including a pretty great peanut butter chocolate pretzel pie. Or just what ever pie would strike my fancy. One year I even toted 2 pies out to Arizona because I went out to watch spring training and couldn’t stand to miss pi day, even if I was out of town.

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peanut butter pretzel pi pie

Over time my friends and I started going out every pi day to celebrate and eat pie. It became our tradition. The location would vary, people would come and go over the years but it was our tradition.

 

Time has gone by and our tradition has slowly faded but I can’t pass up a slice of pie on march 14th. So to celebrate this year, I offer up my favorite pie dough and some pictures of my favorite pies.

Pie dough (makes enough crust for 2 pies)

  • 140 g + 165 g Ap flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 227 g cold butter, cut in to small pieces
  • 58 g water
  1. Mix first amount of flour, salt and butter in a mixer until mixture forms marble sized pieces.
  2. Add remaining flour, mix for 10 seconds.
  3. Add water, mix until incorporated.
  4. Form dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until completely cold.
  5. Roll out to 1/4″ thick. Place dough in a pie pan. Cut off anything dough going more than a ½ inch over the side of the pan. Crimp edges and cool until solid.