Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pancake Deprivation/Pancake Exaltation

I'm a pancake person. I'm also a waffle, dutch baby, clafoutis, popover, and French toast person. If you've vacationed with me, you know that there will usually be pancakes for breakfast. Or scones. Or...something.

Until recently. Recently my main breakfast companion has been a person who has no interest in breakfast options of this kind. In fact, he doesn't even want to be near them--says they 'smell bad.' He even (don't tell New England) hates maple syrup. The phrase 'tree cum' has been used. All told, I'm cooking a lot fewer pancakes at home. The problem is, I rarely eat these things at restaurants because I make them very well and don't always like other people's versions, so I order omelets or sausage gravy or shakshuka or some savory restaurant brunch and go pancake starved.

Luckily, in my home we have staggered schedules, and there is the occasional morning when I find myself with an empty kitchen and 45 minutes before I have to leave, and this morning I made some pancakes. I made them quickly, and without much care, and of course they were some of the best pancakes I've ever made in years of looking for the perfect pancake. Leslie Knope asks 'Why would anyone ever eat anything besides breakfast food?' I would add, 'Why would anyone ever try any breakfast food recipe that wasn't written by Marion Cunningham?' Ms. Cunningham, author of The Breakfast Book and so much more, is nearly always right. In the matter of pancakes, she says:

from The Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham

1 Cup Buttermilk
1 egg
1 Tblsp unsalted butter, melted
3/4 Cup AP flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda

I melted the butter in a quart measuring cup, whisked it with the buttermilk and egg, threw all the dry ingredients on top (I subbed 1/4 cup of cornmeal, as per her suggestion), mixed once more, and fried them in a preheated pan with some bacon grease. I used much maple syrup. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Alpha Bakers - Luxury Chocolate Buttercrunch Toffee

The name says it all. What we have here is some pretty good toffee covered (on both sides!) with chocolate and dipped (on both sides!) in nuts. Madness. Delicious.

The only change I made to the recipe was running out of corn syrup, so I substituted about 2/3 molasses, which worked out because I didn't have the specified brown sugar anyway, so a little molasses was needed. It had no effect on the texture and little on the taste. This was universally loved, although I found it a little sweet and would use a darker chocolate next time. According to my co-worker, the teen shelvers just stood around saying 'mmmmmm,' and one told me that 'chocolate is [her] best friend and [her] boyfriend.' My boyfriend, who as you know generally avoids sweets, but has a weakness for salty toffee and Heath bars, got the two pieces above, and was happy, saying that it 'sticks in your teeth like something very not good for you, in a good way.' I ran out of almonds so covered the bars in half almonds, half walnuts.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- White Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Cherry Buttercream

 I'm still perfecting my cupcake spin. That quick twist of the wrist, properly executed, will make your cupcake frosting look both rustic and adorable, a la Magnolia Bakery or their offshoots (my favorite without a doubt is Sugar Sweet Sunshine on the Lower East Side). To be sure, piping is the more secure way to make sure your cupcakes look pretty, but sometimes I want to be rustically brilliant (and sometimes I'm concerned that cherry chunks will get caught in the piping tip).

Those of you who know me will be surprised to hear how small the volume of my recent stress baking has been, post-election. I've been diverting more of my time into panicking, laundry, phone calls to elected officials, and more panicking, with a side of writing things on the chalkboard at work. I did make a batch of brownies, but cleverly left out the flour (they were weirdly delicious).

I decided, though, with only three recipes left in the Baking Bible bake through, that it was time to get back to some precision baking, so I made these white chocolate cupcakes with mousseline buttercream. The cupcakes are soft, egg white stabilized cake with four ounces of white chocolate melted in, and the frosting is a simple mousseline buttercream (sugar syrup, meringue, butter) with raspberry flavoring and a touch of fancy cherry jam. The spin, well, it's not perfect, but it looks rustic, right?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Monkey Dunkey Bread

Hiya. I got distracted by some new cookbooks but I'm back in brioche and rolling out the balls. Pretty excited about Louisa Weiss' Classic German Baking book, though, I'll tell you. I made a potato cake right on top of a rye bread crust.  Why? Who knows. Those starchy Germans, right? 

In Roseland, though, it was Monkey Bread week, and Monkey Bread is all about brioche dough. Side note: I am unable to make brioche without hearing Julia Child yodeling about BRI-oche in my head. Since I just read Alex Prud'homme's new French Chef book and showed Jeremy a bunch of French Chef episodes (one of which he found so inspiring that he immediately made Coq au Vin), this seems appropriate. For this over the top Monkey Bread, I was supposed to make brioche, roll little balls of it around pieces of chocolate, drench it in caramel, bake, and cover with more caramel. I skipped the chocolate and the final caramel drench, because I genuinely prefer a simpler sweet bread. Not everyone agrees, however. I took this in to an office meeting and mentioned what it had been intended to look like, and saw colleagues' eyes glaze over with desire. So next time, I'll make it like that. In the meantime, it's pretty easy to make spectacular BRI-oche as long as you have a stand mixer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Giant Jam Cookie

In the case of the Giant Jam Cookie, I'm tempted once again to quote Leslie Knope. 
One could [make] that. But should one?

 On the other hand, there's no compelling reason not to make a giant jam filled butter cookie. It's easy to do, you can play with acorn shaped cookie cutters, and jam is delicious. 

I made this cookie a few weeks ago, and since then my brain has been melted and re-formed by some of the best that New York theater can offer -- see here for more, I haven't fully processed yet and may never be through. 

Despite my best intentions, I wound up eating the entire thing. First I took it to work, but forgot to offer it to anyone. Then, I took it up to MA, but my parents weren't eating sugar. What can a girl do?

Make cookies. Be alive. Forgive. Refuse to forgive (thank you, Taylor). Lie down. Get up. New Year. L'Shanah Tovah. May it be sweet. And bitter. And tough. And new.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Coconut Crisps

Catching up on Alpha Baking with some very simple, very delicious coconut butter cookies. Essentially a sable/sugar cookie with some flaked coconut thrown in, these would also make great sandwich cookies. 'Excellent!' said my taster, taking one bite, and then accused me of trying to buy my co-workers' love. Whatever it takes.
The dough can be refrigerated for a few days--I baked mine after 24 hours.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake

 Hot stuff. Serious hot mousse stuff here. When my friend J said 'surprise me' regarding her choice of birthday cake, I am pretty darn sure that this Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake was not what she was expecting. 

I mean, who would think 'Gee, I bet she'll surprise me with a thin layer of sponge wrapped loaf-like around soft spongy chocolate mousse.' Honestly, no one. But why not? Sponge cake is great stuff, and chocolate mousse is amazing, and loafing it all up makes it super fancy! I ran out of cream while making the mousse so I subbed a small amount of coconut milk (the tetra-pak kind, not the just milked-from-the-coconut kind), which didn't seem to have a strong effect. I also didn't exactly make the recommended template to size the sponge casing, but just held the cake against the loaf pan and approximated.

It was a great birthday dessert, even though it hadn't entirely set up when I served it, and it was even better for breakfast two days later.