Archive | October, 2014

Catch-up: Denver

28 Oct

Nora and I are re-committing to the blog. It’s been a crazy (but mostly amazing!) half-year for me, packed with personal, professional, and academic growth…which unfortunately meant that I got LAZY about posting. Nora has been rising to meet similar growth/business. Recently, she suggested we each post sort of a mega-compliation of baking over the last several months, and then we’ll try to get back on track with more frequent baking challenges as per normal. I think it’s a great idea.

September is always a busy baking month for me, because both of my parents have birthdays in September! For my mom’s birthday this year, I made a cake that I am impossibly proud of. Often, my cakes are either tasty but look bad, or look good but aren’t delicious. This year, I nailed it. Using the recipe for almond paste genoise from one of my favorite cookbooks, I created an almond filling (marzipan, butter, and confectioner’s sugar), doused the cake in homemade vanilla bean simple syrup, and frosted it in vanilla Italian Meringue icing. This baby was SO good. And it was so pretty! I am very proud of how it turned out – although, I did run out of icing (oops) and had to finish the top of the cake with Sunkist Gems. It was pretty enough, but I would have liked to finish it just with the icing swirls.

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My dad’s cake this year was reflective of his fiendish love for chocolate. It was not as pretty as the cake I made my mom, in my opinion, but it was very good! This is a chocolate genoise (from that same book!) with chocolate Italian buttercream. The consistency of this icing wasn’t as good as the icing that was on my mom’s cake, so I found it hard to do much with it other than just plain old “smooth” frosting. I thought the sprinkles were festive, though.

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By the way, I did make croissants! It was WAY time consuming, but my products were pretty tasty! They were a little too big, and subsequently sort of doughy in the center. When I make these again, I’ll make them smaller. Maybe this will be a Christmas morning treat for my family. 🙂 Here are some photos from that process:

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the best butter in the world (the best butter available to buy at Sprouts on Colfax)

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obscene butter-to-dough ratio

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My lovely roommate, Kelsey, helping.

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YUM.

I also made a delicious pear-walnut whole-wheat focaccia this fall. It is finished with rosemary olive oil! I brought this baby to a cocktail party, and it was amazing. You can see the recipe on the New York Times Food and Wine section, which is amazing, if you haven’t seen it. I took a photo of it, but now I can’t find it! Lame.

My big baking project this fall and winter is going to be: learning to make Chinese pork buns! I am going to try the baked variety, and – if I can talk myself into investing the money in a steamer – steamed ones, too! I’ve been somewhat of a Pork Bun fiend since trying the real deal in Chinatown in New York. Look at this baby!!:

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That one is steamed, of course. The baked ones are golden brown and pillowy, and filled with…barbecue pork. Sounds a little bizarre if you’ve never had them, but trust me. God’s gift to your tongue. Here’s one recipe I’ll be trying out in November!

Also, Nora and I took a two-week vacation to Scandinavia this summer! In Amsterdam, we tried the city’s trademark “apple tart” (more like apple cake). It’s served warm, with fresh whipped cream. It is amazing. Here’s what one of these pieces looked like:

Amsterdam apple tart

Edit: whoops. Nora posted her version of this photo, too. Whatever – doesn’t it look so good?!

We roved Northern Europe fueled mostly on Almonds, Granola Bars, and Peanut Butter/Jelly Sandwiches. However, we also ate Dutch Pancakes in Amsterdam (duh!) – Nora got “the Brazilian”, which had Ice Cream and hazelnuts on it, and I had “The Norwegian” – Salmon and dilled cream cheese::

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We also were in the North for Herring Season. We tried. Both of us found the raw herrings to be a little too big and meaty for us to deal with.

And, you know, this happened:

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#DeeplyUnsorry.

Bonus – you can’t take us into museums, because we make a scene:

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What I’ve been baking: Portland

7 Oct

It’s been a busy summer and early fall — with trips to Europe and Nebraska as the highlights. Naturally, baking (or at least the sampling of baked goods) accompanied both. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve baked, what I’ve eaten, and what I’d like to bake this fall.

What I baked

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First, and most importantly, were Croissants a la Julia Child. Hannah’s blog challenge did not go unanswered, but it took me a while to get to these, mostly because I was intimidated by the method. I used a combination of recipes and tutorials to figure out what I was doing. They tasted great — with that much butter, how couldn’t they? — but the texture and shape weren’t quite right. They just didn’t rise like I’d expected. Still, they were delicious with some tomato marmalade I brought back from Malmö, Sweden.

Caramel apple pie

In Nebraska, my sister and I made an apple pie (improvised recipe for the filling!) for our annual family potluck. We used the peels to boil down a simple syrup and topped it with a caramel sauce. Though, to be honest, there wasn’t enough caramel.

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My cousin left for Air Force training this summer, so we gathered with her family for dinner. I contributed a strawberry pie, made with fresh Oregon farmers market berries. Lovely for an early summer day.

Just this weekend, my boyfriend and his roommate ran a marathon, so I cooked them a post-run meal, complete with fried chicken, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and (here’s the baking part) baking powder biscuits. My mom always used to make these from the Betty Crocker recipe, so they’re a definite source of nostalgia for me. (Sorry, no photos. They got eaten pretty fast.)

 

What I ate

Amsterdam apple tart

In Amsterdam, we ate apple pie/cake/tart — it really is a combination of all three. And it’s delicious, with a crunchy “crust” and a coffee-cake-like filling. Winkel is said to have the best, and I believe it. In fact, it was so good we went there twice.

Kolaches

Another annual family tradition when we visit Niobrara, Nebraska, (about three hours north of Omaha): We always eat kolaches. The town of Verdigre, about 20 miles south of Niobrara, styles itself as the “Kolache Capital of the World” and does indeed have some lovely pastries at its bakery. We’re partial to the berries and cream varietals, particularly the Bavarian cream.

 

To bake this fall

Apple tart

  • Of course, after one bite I wondered how they made it. It’s apple season in Oregon, so I’m dying to try this out.
  • Recipe from Food Nouveau
  • Recipe from Martha Would Be Proud

Pumpkin rugelach with sage and walnuts

  • For the sake of trying something new with pumpkin, this should be a good experiment.
  • Recipe from Food52

Butterscotch pie with curry crust

  • I love the taste of curry in unexpected places, such an interesting flavor. Particularly in ketchup. We’ll see how it fits in pie crust.
  • Recipe from Bon Appetit

Skillet chocolate chip cookie

  • My cast-iron skillet has easily become my favorite kitchen item. Let’s put it to the test.
  • Recipe from Martha Stewart

 

That’s all for now. Hoping to have some tasty news on one of these fronts very soon!