Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Cream Cheese Butter Cake

Nothing to see here, really. Cream cheese butter cake is more for eating than looking at. I went simple, frosting it in the pan (but with luscious lemon cream, my favorite), and serving it with forks. This dense, rich, pound-cake style sheet cake got no complaints. Even after sitting in the refrigerator for a few days, it was chosen over the blueberry pie sitting next to it by everyone at the table. That's the power of cake.

Alpha Bakers -- Flaky Cream Cheese Scones

Just saw this post lurking in my drafts and thought I should put it out there. I assume the scones, like all scones, were great.

Alpha Bakers -- Mango Bango Cheesecake

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't get putting biscuit under cheesecake. I just wasn't raised that way. If I don't get a crumb crust, I want no crust. For Rose's Mango Bango Cheesecake, developed for Madhur Jaffrey, she recommends a ladyfinger crust. Now, before everyone jumps on me, I know the ladyfinger or cake bases soak up liquid, which is commendable, but then you just have soggy cake. This will never be resolved, and I'm ok with it, and you cake lovers have Juniors on your side, so be cool. 
There was a lot of discussion in the Alpha Bakers group about the procuring and treatment of proper mango pulp. Rose recommends a canned version that I thought would be easy to locate in my neighborhood, which has a large Bangladeshi and Pakistani population. Had I walked a block or two farther in my search, this hunch would probably have been confirmed, but when I discovered that the first grocery I tried was lame, and the second closed, I went to the supermarket and settled on La Fe, a common frozen brand. The La Fe mango pulp was not terribly flavorful, but it did the job. I'll keep an eye open for the good stuff.
Standing firm on my crust policies, I bought gingersnaps, and made two six inch cakes, one with gingersnap crust and one with none for a friend with celiac.  

Both cakes were good, but due to a cake pileup all but a slice or two are still hanging out in my freezer. I doubt the texture will be as good when they're thawed, but I have starving teenagers at work who will eat anything, so I'm not too worried.

Alpha Bakers -- Savory Cream Puffs

I'm a big fan of things that puff. Popovers, clafoutis, dutch babies...
If it's eggy and has lots of steam in the middle, I'm in. Choux pastry, made in a pot, is fun to make and fun to eat. It's the same pastry that makes eclairs, and when you make those little puffs with savory fillings, the whole thing has an amusing whiff of mid-century cocktail party.

My puffs turned out perfectly--dried and hollow, and ready for filling. So I ate a bunch out of hand, with nothing in them. 

Later, the boy came over and we turned them into appetizer crackers. Below is his creation, with olive and mozzarella, sprinkled with paprika. Reading the posts from other group members, who filled them with anything from pastry cream to shrimp mash to the prescribed chicken liver faux gras, I realized that many people who will eat all kinds of meat mush and cream have a grudge against olives. To be honest, I'm not the biggest olive fan myself, but I'm glad to be able to share this picture to creep out the other olive haters. I ate the remainder plain for an early breakfast, drinking tea, thinking about soup nuts.  More power to all you savory adventurers, I've always had a soft spot for the bland and plain, especially when my throat's acting up as it is. So there you have it. Pate a choux! Gesundheit!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Blueberry Sour Cream Crumb Coffeecake

Keep your towering buttercream fortresses. I'll take a crumb cake loaded with fruit and buttery streusel any day. This is coffeecake in the best style, perfect for all-day eating. A soft sour cream butter cake, threaded through with a sugary nutty streusel, then topped with blueberries and crumbs. This is all that's needed to gain entry to the clubbiest Kaffeeklastch.

My colleagues...well let's just say they agreed. I was glad I'd had a square for breakfast, because by the time my coffee break arrived, it was no more. I followed the recipe fairly faithfully, only substituting almonds for walnuts in the streusel.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Alpha Bakers - Molasses Cookies

I spend last weekend in Orlando, alternately tearing up about the power of literature and the injustice of the world, and laughing at the various Harry Potter wands my fellow librarians couldn't help buying. That's the American Library Association Annual conference in a nutshell. That and some tequila shots with un-named but quite famous children's author-illustrators. 

Conferences are a strange, sometimes inspiring, sometimes soul-killing zone, so I'll leave it at that except to say that of the hotels I saw, the pool at the Hyatt Regency by the Orlando conference center leaves the rest of them in the shade, and it's probably worth shelling out a bit extra to stay there. 

Last year's ALA Annual was full of beauty and celebration (San Francisco! Tartine Bakery! Gay Marriage!). This year was a more somber and sorrowful assessment of everything we've achieved and everything we've lost along the way. We are all still working, as writers and publishers and librarians, to be stronger, more dangerous, and more courageous for those we serve and those we tell stories to.

Now, the story of these molasses cookies is that I made them back in 2014, but saved the photos in a blogger draft, knowing this day would come. If anyone were to scroll through the six year history of this blog, they would see that molasses/ginger cookies are one of my most frequently made and obsessed-over baked goods. Rose's version has chewy and cracked down pat, and I'll be making them again soon when NYC isn't a sweaty swamp. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Cherry Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Cherry Sweetie Pie. I have tried to make this pie, which is supposed to be comprised of sweet cherries and plums, twice now, and I can't seem to do it by the book. First of all, while cherries are in season, plums just aren't, and rhubarb and strawberries are everywhere. Second, while sweet cherries are one of life's greatest joys, they are just not the world's greatest pie ingredient. Pie is the achievement for which sour cherries were born. I prefer a pie of canned sour cherries to a sweet cherry pie, especially when I start thinking about how I could have just eaten all of those lovely cherries out of hand.
In the end, I ate a few too many of the cherries to make my pie an all-cherry pie, and I didn't even try with the plums, but my cherry rhubarb strawberry hybrid was a big hit, and Rose's cream cheese crust, which I sometimes find too bland, was flaky and lovely and got raves.
I served the pie after April Bloomfield's swiss chard cannelloni from her book A Girl and Her Greens, a dinner party recipe I'd been eyeing for a while, and which paid off in subtle, delicate deliciousness.
It was a good dinner party.