Monday, May 13, 2013

Winning Neighbours and Friends


I just moved this month. What a pain. Exhausting. My place is a mess. But I've found time to bake. I've always got time for sweets and deliciousness. In fact I had eggs whites lying around. And sugar. And not much else. The solution was simple. 



Meringues are a favourite in my family. I have been trying to perfect them for years. I have even been gifted a gorgeous copper bowl. The story goes that copper makes the nicest, fluffiest egg whites. There's also this explanation, with fancy words like conalbumin, if you're interested. 

The trick to a perfect meringue, if you ask me, is a crisp and crunchy outside with a gooey, chewy inside. However, I have found that with the drawn out process of baking meringues at a low heat for a long time doesn't always work. I don't get that crispy outside. Not so with this recipe. Martha. Martha knows what she's doing. My theory is that it's the cornstarch. I've never used it in a meringue recipe before. But this worked, without a single complication. And a shorter baking time. Colour me impressed. 


I had seven egg whites, so I doubled the recipe. Also I left out the espresso, as I don't, nor have I ever, stocked any. 

I took these around to my new neighbours and landlords and they were a hit! Everyone really enjoyed them, and I think I have won them over for now. 


Also, some day I promise to try something chocolate free. 

Chocolate Chip Meringues

(adapted from Martha Stewart's Mocha-chip Meringues)


1 ½  cups berry sugar

2 tbsp cornstarch

7 egg whites, room temperature

½ tsp salt

6 tbsp cocoa powder

¾ cup chocolate chips





1.     Preheat oven to 300 C.

2.     In a large bowl, beat egg whites and salt on medium until frothy.

3.     Once frothy add sugar and cornstarch, a bit at a time, beating constantly.

4.     Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

5.     Scrape down bowl, and beat in cocoa.

6.     Fold in chocolate chips.

7.     Scoop meringue onto baking tray, about one inch apart.

8.     Bake until crisp, with cracks showing, about 40 minutes.

9.     Cool completely.

10.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Birthday And An Engagement

All right friends. I know it has been a while. So let's ease back into this with something somewhat familiar: a chocolate cake. But this time it is a fancy three layer vegan cake! And in between the layers?!?!?! Chocolate ganache, marshmallows and peanut butter, and peanut brittle! And yes it's all vegan. And yes it's all delicious. So let's get started shall we?



This is Laura, and her cake.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LAURA!!!!

It was super tasty. And fun to make! There were a lot of steps but I'd say worth it. I used the Rebar vegan fudge brownies recipe for the cake layers. Then for the filling I just went a little hog wild. I had recently made a candy bar pie(coming soon) that had a peanut brittle nougat filling. Holy eff but was it delicious. So I wanted to try and use that between the cake layers for a peanut butter and chocolate-esque cake (Laura is obsessed with peanut butter. Eats it by the spoonful). Biggest impediment for transitioning the nougat to this cake? Nougat's main ingredient is egg whites.  I decided to substitute vegan marshmallows, which I have worked with before. Therefore I knew that they would have the texture and taste that I was hoping to achieve.

I melted the marshmallows with peanut butter and layered them with ganache and peanut brittle between the chocolate cake layers. 


Pre melting

I just popped them in the microwave, then stirred them together. With only a little hiccough along the way.
 
Sorry bowl!

I had made the peanut brittle ahead of time. For the cake I crushed it up a little smaller to mix in with the marshmallows, and to sprinkle right in between the layers. 

Peanut Brittle
I baked the cake in one giant layer. I doubled the recipe, poured it onto a quarter sheet pan (10 x 13" with high rims) and baked the whole thing at once. Then I used a round cake pan as a stencil. I got this method from Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. This book is amazing. Blows my mind. Caity gifted it to me and I am obsessed.  In fact this entire cake was inspired by how they do their cakes, from the cookie sheet baking, to the layering, brittle, and leaving the sides icing free. It was just up to me to veganize and pick my cake/filling/icing combination.

This single layer became three!
The layering process. Cake, then ganache. . .
Then I sprinkled brittle right into the middle as well as the marshmallows.
I actually wrapped as I layered so everything stayed in place. You can just make out the different layers of filling.
I froze the cake to a)help all the layers harden/settle (especially the gananch and melted marshmallow) and b)to keep it fresh for Laura's arrival. Because of the somewhat complex assembling process and my schedule I made the cake two days ahead of time, then took it out of the freezer day of.


I call this one Fist Pumps of Excitement

I enjoyed the look of the cake without icing on the side, so you can see and appreciate all the layers. Also this is the Momofuku method.

Check out them layers! Delish.

One issue: the vegan brownie recipe was soooo moist that it made it hard to handle when making the layers. A proper cake recipe would probably work better. However it made for delicious eats!


And then we went out to celebrate. 
Because not only was it Laura's Birthday, but these beautiful suckers got engaged! Congratulations!
Congratulations Bre and Sean!
Also, we wanted in on the action. Not quite as elegant.


Rebar Vegan Fudge Brownies

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¾ cup coffee
¾ cup soy milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil


1.     Preheat oven to 325 F.  Flour edges of sheet pan. Line with Silpat
2.     Sift together the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt
3.     In a separate bowl stir together the coffee, soy milk and vegetable oil.
4.     Combine wet and dry, and stir until well mixed.
5.     Pour into prepared baking sheet.
6.     Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Turn 180 degrees half way through.
7.     Cool on a wire rack.



Vegan Ganache

8 oz semisweet chocolate
1 can coconut milk

Warm milk over low heat until just boiled. Pour over chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk to combine. Letting it melt before stirring leads to a smooth finish.  

For regular ganache the ratio is usually 4-5 ounces chocolate to half cup of cream. Sometimes  corn syrup is added to help  with a glossy finish.  Martha breaks it down pretty well!


Peanut Butter Marshmallows

1 package Vegan marshmallows

¼ cup peanut brittle
½  cup peanut butter

1. Throw all ingredients in a bowl. 
2. Melt in microwaves in increments until melted enough to stir together. 
3. Spread onto cake layer. 

Here's the Brittle recipe!

Cake Assembly

To assemble your cake first cut out your cake layers. 
Take a 6 inch springform cake pan, and use the bottom as a your stencil. You should be able to get two whole layers, and two halves to make the third layer. 
Cut out your first layer and put it in the springform pan. Then start layering! I went cake, ganache, brittle, marshmallows, next cake layer, then all over again! Topped it off with ganache frosting and popped it in the freezer!

Brittle

This recipe is simple and tasty. Brittle is great on it’s own or in, on, with anything you like. I've used it in pies and cakes so far. The recipe is from Momofuku Milk Bar book.  Their method is to make a dry caramel( just sugar, no water) and then stir in the nuts! Pick your nut then use the method below.




Peanut
1 cup white sugar
½ cup peanuts

Hazelnut
1 cup white sugar
½ cup hazelnuts

Cashew
¾ cup cashews
1 ½ cups white sugar



1.   Line a baking an with Silpat.
2.   Heat sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.
3.  Stir sugar continuously as it starts to melt, until it reaches a  dark amber colour. 
4.  Once you have reached the target colour, add nuts.
5.  Coat nuts with caramel then spread onto Silpat. Let harden. 
6.  Break up brittle or crush into little bits.
7.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Every once and a while I get an unstoppable craving for peanut butter and chocolate together. Its such a good combo. This is the perfect recipe for such a situation- I find that I usually have most of the ingredients already in my cupboard and don't have to buy anything extra. Its tasty and takes 40 minutes tops! 

Double chocolate just means sifting cocoa powder in with the cookies and then adding the chocolate chips as well. I added extra peanut butter, and since I had no peanuts lying around subbed pecans. Still really good. 

I got the recipe from Food 52, and I have to say they have some of my favourite cookie recipes- check it out. You can find the recipe here.

Final tip- this recipe makes slightly more dough than needed for two pans. Freeze it. Then eat it frozen right out of the freezer and realize its even better that way. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Trifling Left Overs

So now that you have made your special shaped cake, I bet you are thinking to yourself "what do I do with the leftover cake pieces?" Indeed it would be wasteful and down right sad if you were to throw them away. 

My leftovers; still moist and delicious, weeks later

The great thing about cake ( and cookies, and other baked things) is that they keep well in the freezer, for up to a month ( or three!).  Just wrap in plastic wrap and then put in a heavy duty resealable bag. 


Layers

I did this with my leftover pieces. I knew I would use them, it was just a matter of how. I played around with the idea of a variation on a bread pudding, when I realized the perfect dish would be Trifle! I had never made trifle but it seemed super simple, just layered cake, fruit and cream. I also liked the aspect of it being a bit old timey. It's time to bring back trifle, which has been pushed aside for banana caramel cakes, grilled peaches and stout cupcakes! So when I next visited my Grandad, and my Great Aunt Dorothy was there, I confirmed with her that a classic trifle ( by her standards, which are pretty great standards)is made of layers of a simple sponge cake, fruit, cream and maybe a jello layer. I decided to skip the jello/ fruit in jello layer. 

Trifles are usually displayed in a beautiful crystal dish. I do not have one of these. But jars are very in right now.

Another reason trifle is great is that it is dead easy with lot's of room for adaptation and variation, which are valuable assets in a leftovers dish. Finally, I made this right at the end of summer when all the berries were still local, fresh, juicy and delicious!

I've given measurements for the ingredients but it truly does not matter. Use as many of any berry or fruit that you choose. I think peach or cherry with their juices saved and soaked into the cake would be amazing. I also saw variations on the cream used, such as devon cream and heavy cream, not whipped. Go crazy!


Ingredients

500ml whipping cream
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
1 cup strawberries
raspberry cake
about 3 cups leftover cake

Method

Rinse and slice fruit. Whip cream until just starts to hold shape, slowly adding 1-2 tbsp of sugar, depending on how sweet you like your whipping cream. Add vanilla. 

I currently do no even own electric beaters, but the cream was whipped in no time in my blender.

Place cake one layer thick in the bottom of your dish. I cut my cake into half inch thick pieces. This gave me more cake to work with. Also you will be doing a couple of layers so you don't want it too thick. 

Begin layering.

Next spread with raspberry curd. 
Then with Berries, or fruit of your choosing. 
Then whipped cream. 




Repeat until you have used all your cake, whipped cream, curd, berries and/or the top of your serving bowl/jar. I made both a bowl and a jar full. 




Finish with whipped cream. Make sure to put some berries aside for decorations for the top. Then shave/grate some chocolate on top.




ENJOY!( I certainly did).



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One More Cake

203 Years of O'Briens




I've celebrated my birthday with my grandfather as long as I can remember. His birthday is the 5th of August mine the 8th. Every summer my family would head up to my grandparents place in Sicamous, spend some glorious days on the Shuswap, and always, always, always enjoy Grandma's Chocolate Cake for our birthday.



Claire and Lloyd turn 7; a few years later they turn 77; making the infamous chocolate cake with the original cake master.
 
This year my birthday was on Saturna Island where Caitlin made a delish cake for me, with fresh blackberries. I admit I did not realize it was from a box, although she was acting a little odd until I took the first bite and proclaimed it delicious.

The celebrations were not over, however. Once back in town, we headed out to Langley to celebrate the O'Brien August birthdays; my great aunt's on the 3rd, my grandfather's on the 5th and mine on the 8th. Now you don't show up to Lloyd's birthday without Grandma's Chocolate Cake or you may as well not come at all. 

I love this tradition, and the cake is a super tasty moist delight, but I wanted to do something to make it a little more special. I decided to spell out our combined age with numbers. When Caitlin and I were young, our mom would make us these beautiful cakes in the shape of the age we were turning. We always loved it, and I feel that making a cake in a meaningful shape really brings it up a notch. I added our ages together and went with that number: 203.


Aunt Dorothy turns 92, Grandad 86, and me 25.


About the cakes: I knew that one had to be Grandma's chocolate cake, which always has a strawberry jam filling. However I had three numbers and three cakes of the same flavour seemed a bit much. So I made one a white cake with raspberry curd filling, to give people an option. I picked a white cake since it would be simple and is the perfect canvas. The flavour is mild and sweet which lets you get a little crazy with the icing and filling. 

Vanilla cake with Raspberry curd filling.


I used the white cake recipe from Baked:New Frontiers in Baking. Caitlin got me this bake book for Christmas a couple of years ago and I. Love. It. My one negative is that the recipes can be a little more complicated, but when you bake for a living, like these guys do, it makes sense to go all out. You will see the difference in the recipe's. Grandma's is a depression era family recipe based on your classic devil's food cake, whereas Baked's recipe has more ingredients and specific instructions. Both cakes are delicious.


Cross section of Grandma's chocolate cake. Please note jam filling.

As previously mentioned, I filled the white cake with our raspberry curd, and the chocolate cake with strawberry jam. Homemade is best. For the icing I just did classic vanilla and chocolate butter icing.

 


Cake shapes. 
As for the shapes, simply trace the shape you want on a piece of wax paper and use that as your template for both layers. I did this for the chocolate cakes. Before you start you do want to think of how to be most efficient with your cake for your shape. For example, for the three and the two, both are from a two layer round cake. The round of the two is half the cake with the centre cut out, and the bottom bar is from the other half. If this makes no sense don't worry. Once you get a pan out and start trying to visualize it it will come together. The zero is simply a round cake, with the centre cut out with a glass, and the edges cut straight.


Grandma's cake recipe is on an old and faded cue card, with the simple instructions "alternate wet and dry ingredients into cocoa and sugar mixture. Mix in order of ingredients listed. Oven @ 350. About 20-25 mins". I've gone into greater detail below.

Considering the shapes and candles, I didn't go all out with icing decorations.



Grandma Jean’s Chocolate Cake

¾ cup margarine
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup cocoa
½ boiling water
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla

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Method


1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare two 8 inch cake pans*.

2. Bring water to a boil and add to cocoa. Mix and set aside. 

3. Sift together all dry ingredients. Set aside.

4. In another large bowl, cream margarine and sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs to sugar mixture. Beat until just combined. Add vanilla. 

5. Add cocoa to sugar mixture. 

6. Alternate folding in flour and milk into cocoa/sugar mixture. Be sure not to overmix.

7. Separate batter into your prepared cake pans.

8. Bake at 350 for 20-25 mins or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

To put the cake together flip pan onto a flat surface and gently remove cake. Place stencil on cake and trace out cake shapes with a knife. Place first layer on plate. Top with Jam. Place second piece of shaped cake on top. Cover cake with a crumb layer*. Let dry. Then finish with icing and decorations.




For the vanilla cake, I altered the ingredients measurements so that I only had batter for two layers.  Also I only had all purpose flour, which worked just as well as the cake flour. However, for simplicity’s sake I have written their specific instructions, ingredients and measurements. (and honestly I don’t remember my exact changes!)

Baked Whiteout Cake   
2 ½ cups cake flour
¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ cup shortening
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 lg egg
1 ½ cups ice cold water
3 lg egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 325. Prepare three 8 inch pans.

2. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Set aside

3. Beat butter and shortening until creamy/ fluffy and pale.
  
4. Scrape down bowl and add the egg, beat until just combined.

5. Add the flour mixture, alternating with ice water, in three separate additions, ending with flour. Scrape down bowl again

6. In a medium bowl whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Do not over beat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

 7. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, until toothpick comes out clean. 

8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool before removing from pan.


Icing

For icing I used Roger's classic butter icing. 

Cream 1/2 cup soft butter with 2 cups icing sugar. Beast 2 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp milk and 1 cup icing sugar into mixture. 
Grradually add 1 to 2 tbsp milk into icing until smootha and of desired spreading consistency. 
For a chocolate icing, add 1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder to the first addition of icing sugar. 

I doubled the recipe for the chocolate icing since I had two chocolate cakes, but used just one for the vanilla. It makes more than enough since I do not use it for filling.




*Notes on the cakes

-- an alternative to baking soda and tartar is one tsp baking powder

-- to prepare a cake pan simply butter the pan, then knock flour in the pan until you have coated the buttered pan with flour. It is now ready to use.

-- a crumb layer is a simple thin layer of icing that you do to catch all the crumbs! That way when you do the proper icing layer it will be smooth and clean. It is important in these cakes since you will have 'raw' edges from cutting them into shapes.  Otherwise I don't often worry about a crumb layer

--I've noticed that cook books recommend turning the cakes half way through. If you have a good oven I don't think this is really necessary but it can't hurt for even baking. 

-- Cookbooks also recommend using an electric mixer but ever since I've moved out of my parents place I've been lucky to get my hands on an electric mixer let alone electric beaters. Using electric beaters or even by hand will work just as well, it will just take longer. I'm sure baked goods were just as delicious before electricity!

--all eggs and margarine/butter should be at room temperature unless otherwise specified. This helps you cream or incorporate them into the mixture more quickly.  Do cream your butter/sugar mixture until fluffly/pale. This step is what helps dissolve the sugar as well as add air. The eggs help emulsify as well as bond the sugar and butter. 

Sorry for all the notes. I think Caity and I will do a tips and tricks post soon. AKA techniques and how they help.