SPOOKY BAKES, A FAREWELL

Halloween is such a nice theme for baking! Unfortunately, it is coming to an end, so I will share my last round up of all things spooky for 2020, the spookiest year ever. Cookies, cakes, eclairs, all frightfully delicious.

I will start with a very special recipe that reconnected me with a food blogger from my past, Helen Rennie. I used to read her food blog, called “Beyond Salmon” long before I considered starting my own site. The other day I was discussing eclairs with my tent-baker friend Carlos, and he told me his default recipe comes from a chef called Helen with a very popular youtube channel.  That Helen is the same Helen from Beyond Salmon! She quit blogging years ago and now concentrates on her tutorials on youtube and her cooking school in Boston. She is a wonderful person, and her videos on all things cooking from baking to sous-vide are a fantastic source of information. I followed her recipe for eclairs to make my mummies. Quite an odd statement, I admit. But aren’t they cute? I particularly love the wonky-eyed.

MUMMY ECLAIRS
(recipe and method from Helen Rennie)

for the pate a choux:
120g water
120g whole milk
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp sugar
113g butter at room temp, cut into 8 pieces
142g bread flour, sifted
230g eggs beaten with a fork

for diplomat cream:
(best made the day before)
100g eggs
32g cornstarch
242 g whole milk
242 g heavy cream
100g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, cut in pieces
whipped cream, amount to taste

for icing decoration:
250 g Icing Sugar
15-25 ml water
candy eyes

Make pate a choux: Mix water, milk, salt and butter in a saucepan with a heavy bottom. Heat until the butter melts completely and the mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, put it back into the heat, and set your timer for 5 minutes. Cook moving the dough constantly. At the end of 5 minutes you should see a film forming in the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough to a food processor, blitz for 10 seconds to allow steam to escape. With the process running, add the eggs in a stream, and process for 30 more seconds. The dough will be ready to use, but it’s best to place it in a piping bag and wait until it cools to around 80F, then it will be very easy to pipe in a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pipe lines with the size you like. Spray the surface with a little water and bake in a 375F oven, but reduce the temperature to 350F as soon as you place the sheet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, do not open the oven door during baking. Eclairs should be fully firm and golden brown. Cut small holes in the bottom to fill them later.

Make diplomat cream. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with cornstarch until fully combined. Place milk and heavy cream in a saucepan. Remove 1/4 cup of this mixture and add to the eggs (this helps the cornstarch dissolve).

Add vanilla, sugar and pinch of salt to the saucepan with the milk/cream mixture. Bring to a full boil, add a few tablespoons to the egg mixture to temper it, whisking it well. Place the saucepan back in the stove, then add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan. It should thicken very quickly. Make sure it is at full boil, then cook for 30 seconds longer. You need that to deactivate amylases present in the egg yolks, that would thin the sauce once it’s refrigerated.

Pass the cream through a sieve into a bowl, add the butter, and allow it to cool completely. To make diplomat cream, simply fold whipped cream, very cold, into the cold pastry cream and use it to fill the eclairs. You can vary the amount, I like around 25% whipped cream, but you can go 50:50 if you prefer. Fill the eclairs.

Make the icing decoration: sift the icing sugar into a bowl wide enough to allow you to dunk the eclairs. Add the water gradually until you have a thick consistency, you might not need all of the water, you don’t want it too thin. Dip the tops of the eclairs, place them in a rack and immediately add the eyes. Wait for 30 minutes or so before drizzling with the icing (place in a piping bag, no need for an icing tip, simply cut a small opening).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Helen’s video is very detailed, so if you’ve never baked eclairs (or choux pastry in general) and would like to give it a go, sit down with a cup of tea and you will soon be baking perfect examples of this classic French delicacy. You don’t need a star shaped piping tip, but I like the ridges they generate. I also followed her tutorial for pastry cream, which deals with two of the main issues when making it: grainy texture and thinning after refrigeration. When I had to prepare choux buns for the Great American Show, my worst fear was to see Paul or Sherry bite into one and have pastry cream dripping down the chin. But I was eliminated before that stressful situation ever materialized. Silver linings… (wink, wink).

SPOOKY SPICED SUGAR COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360g unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
150g granulated sugar
50g brown sugar
226g unsalted butter cup, cold & cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Mix the flour with salt, baking powder and all the spices and reserve. Cream the butter with both sugars in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid type mixer. Add the egg slowly and mix until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until a dough starts to form.

Remove from the mixer, pat into a disc and roll out to your desired thickness, depending on the type of cookie you intend to bake. Cut the cookies and freeze them for 10 minutes (or several hours) before baking.

Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, until edges start to brown. Cool on a rack before decorating.

Make Royal Icing in black and orange colors. My favorite recipe can be found at Tanya’s site with a click here.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

To make the stenciled cookie, I flooded the whole cookie with orange Royal Icing, and allowed it to fully set for a couple of hours. I don’t have one of those magnetic gadgets to hold the stencil firmly on top of the cookie, so I improvised. I placed a cookie cutter on top of the stencil, and that was enough to get a sharp design with the air-brush, using black dye. Allow the design to dry for a couple of hours and you’ll be ready to enjoy your spooky cookie!

All other designs were made with regular flooding and piping with small size tips.

Moving on…. CUPCAKES!

SPOOKY CARROT CUPCAKES
(adapted from several sources)

225g carrots, peeled and finely grated
2 eggs, room temperature
50g buttermilk
300g sugar
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla paste
200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

to decorate:
very small amount of buttercream (store-bought or home-made)
fondant
stencil of your choice + airbrushing (optional)

Heat oven to 325°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together carrots, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Stir flour mixture into carrot mixture until well combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then invert them out to cool completely.

Roll out fondant, decorate with the stencil of your choice, or generate a pattern with a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to make circles large enough to coat the top of each cake. Spread a very thin coating of buttercream on the top of each cupcake, then place the circle of fondant on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Two details matter in using marzipan on top of cupcakes. First, you must roll it thin, so that it won’t be a heavy layer on top. Second, you must cut it large enough to wrap all the way to the edges. I had never attempted to air-brush marzipan, and ran into some problems. It was hard to place the stencil firmly on top without it glueing on the surface and making a mess when lifting it. I probably should have allowed the marzipan to dry a little more before decorating it, but I was afraid it would then crack when I tried to top the cake with it. That led me to switch to plan B: I gathered the messed up marzipan discs, re-rolled them and used a patterned rolling pin to decorate. I like the way it turned out, the little bit of orange dye from the air-brushing ended up as a marbled effect. As you can see in the photo above, I managed to get one cupcake with the stencil in reasonable good shape.

SPIDER WEB BROWNIE CUPCAKE
(adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

120g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
120g unsalted butter
113g (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
250g granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

for the icing:
50g whole milk
zest from one orange
½ teaspoon orange extract (I use Olive Nation)
175g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
drop of orange food color (optional)

tempered dark chocolate to decorate

Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water; stir until smooth. You can also use a microwave at 50% power. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, then add the vanilla paste. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Make the icing: Bring milk and orange zest to a simmer in a saucepan. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let milk infuse for 10 minutes with the zest. Add orange extract, and pass the milk through a sieve into a bowl. Add the powdered sugar to get a thick enough consistency to cover each cupcake with a thin layer, and a drop of orange color if you so desire. Let it set completely for a couple of hours, then add a spider web made in tempered chocolate on top. Alternatively, you can use Royal Icing to draw a web, or simplify it and add just some sprinkles, orange and black.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These brownie cupcakes are extremely versatile, in fact I am planning a full post about them. They bake flat, which makes it easy to decorate with this type of simple icing that you can take in several directions. You can infuse flavors into the milk  such as tea, lavender, or other extracts. Tempering chocolate is a bit involved, so if you prefer to simplify, just add halloween sprinkles. It will be totally fine.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Alternative decoration

 

FRIENDLY GHOST PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE MARBLED CAKE
(adapted from Recipe Girl)

for the pumpkin batter:
85g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g granulated white sugar
1 large egg
80g canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

for the chocolate batter:
150g semisweet chocolate, chopped
170g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, at room temperature
250g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g all-purpose flour

to decorate:
fondant
1/4 cup powdered sugar
warm water, just enough to make a thick paste with the sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and coat with parchment paper.

Make the pumpkin batter: In a small bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Beat in the sugar until well incorporated. Beat in the egg, and then add the pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in the flour. Reserve.

Prepare the chocolate butter: In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan with 1-inch of simmering water and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Fold in the melted chocolate. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in just until combined.

Spread the chocolate batter evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a tablespoon, drop dollops of the pumpkin batter all over the top. Using chopsticks, wirl the pumpkin batter slightly into the chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares.

To decorate, roll out fondant very thinly. Cut ghost shapes with a cookie cutter, then draw eyes with a black food pen, or royal icing. Make a little paste with powdered sugar and water, then use it to glue the decoration on each piece of cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Fondant is not a crowd-pleaser, but I wanted something as white as possible, so marzipan was not the best option. I decided that fondant haters could always peel the decoration off and enjoy the cake without it. The cake is very delicious, moist and tender, quite simple to prepare.

That’s all for now, my friends… I really had a lot of fun with Halloween-baking this year, and it’s a bit sad to see it end. Let’s hope 2021 will bring a bit of normalcy to our lives, with in-person trick or treating, Halloween parties, and a certain virus as a scare of the past.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fall-Inspired Baking

TWO YEAR AGO: On a Halloween Roll

THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

NINE YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

TEN YEARS AGO: Panmarino

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

 

 

THE MYSTIFYING HURRICANE ROLL

Last month I was watching a video on youtube and on the side bar a little cake got my attention because it was so whimsical. I clicked on it and found out it was the so-called Hurricane Roll. I have no idea who “invented” it, but most are made by Oriental bakers with the patience of Buddha. Patience, I don’t have, but still decided I had to make one. To make a long story short, I confess that I made FIVE. Not because they were nice and easy, but because the first three attempts did not give me the desired hurricane effect. At most, I got a tropical storm.  I learned a lot during the process of trial and error, and will share with you the recipe and method that finally worked well for me.

RED HURRICANE ROLL WITH MORELLO CHERRY FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for a 10 inch square cake

for the meringue:
110 g sugar
6 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar

for the cake batter:
110 g milk
80 g butter, melted
85 g cake flour
15g dry milk powder
1/8 tsp vanilla paste
1/8 tsp salt
6 egg yolks
raspberry flavor from Amoretti (optional)
red gel food color
Morello cherry jam for filling (or any other filling you like)

Spray a 10-inch square pan with baking spray and cover it with parchment paper.

I use a handheld mixer to make the batter, so I start with the meringue.  Whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar until it gets foamy. Add the granulated sugar very slowly and whisk to soft peaks. Reserve.

No need to wash the beater, move on to make the egg yolk component. Whisk the milk with the melted butter and vanilla in a bowl. Sieve the dry ingredients on top, whisk gently until fully combined.  Add one egg yolk at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Remove 135g of this batter to another bowl, add 1 tsp raspberry flavor and red food dye to taste. To this  bowl, add 100g of the reserved meringue and fold gently. Place in a piping bag, no need for piping tip. Reserve.

Add what is left of the meringue to the white cake batter, and fold gently. Pour into the prepared pan – add gently the red batter on top  to cover it completely, you can use an offset spatula to help even the surface.

Now do the hurricane effect. I used the handle of a wooden spoon, making stripes all over the pan back and forth horizontally, with the handle all the way into the bottom of the batter. Move it slowly.  Then do the same thing in the other direction, perpendicular to the first. Bang the pan gently to release bubbles and even the surface.

Bake at 325F for 10 min, reduce temperature to 300F and bake for 25 minutes longer, but check the center of the cake so that it does not over-bake and gets dry.  Remove from oven, wait 2 minutes and invert the cake on a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Trim the edges that tend to get too dry and interfere with rolling. Roll while warm, let it cool. Unroll, spread jam (or any filling you like), and roll back again. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours before slicing.  If all went well, you should see a nice color effect due to the partial mixing of both colors.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipes I tried before failed to mix properly. Still made delicious cakes, but I was left with a simple roll cake like this one, made with lemon flavor and pitaya powder (clearly did not use enough, there was barely any hint of color in the second batter after baking).

Another attempt produced what I called a “Tropical Storm” effect, in which the hurricane was almost there but not fully…  In this case I went with a classic vanilla/cocoa combination, and the filling was Chocolate Russian buttercream.

If you are familiar with Swiss roll cakes, you might find the method I used a bit strange, as the egg yolks are added in the end, without any intense whipping to generate more volume. There is actually a reason for it. If you do a regular batter, it will be denser, and the two colors will not mix properly. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to be aggressive mixing the batters in that criss-cross pattern. Insert the handle all the way to the bottom (you can use a knife, chopsticks, a very small spatula also works), and work your way slowly as shown in the drawing above.


if you do that you will be rewarded with a nice effect that will become evident the moment you cut the edges. I’ve been playing quite a bit with this technique so expect a few more rolls coming on the blog soon. Apart from the hurricane effect, there is a lot you can do with two colors of cake batter.  I wish I had kids around, it’s the type of bake that they would love to play with.

Disclaimer: no, we did not eat five roll cakes. I often get asked how come we don’t weigh a ton with all the sweets around. Everything I bake is donated to Common Table on Fridays. Most things I try a little bite for quality control, but that is about it.
The last time I made a dessert for the two of us was…
Valentine’s Day!

Common Table of August 08th, 2020
(I bet you are you not surprised that I keep photo records of all my weekly bakes)

ONE YEAR AGO: Pop-Tarts with Strawberry Balsamic Jam

TWO YEARS AGO: Ptichye Moloko, a Russian Dessert

THREE YEARS AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

SIX YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

SEVEN YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

NINE YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

TEN YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

 

ODE TO HALVA

My last post featured tahini, which is pretty much peanut butter made from sesame seeds. To my personal taste, it is perfection. If you join tahini with sugar and perform some magic tricks cooking them together, you’ll get halva. Until recently I was a halva-virgin, which means my life had a void I was unaware of. When I first tried a little bite, I thought it was quite unusual, with a bit of an unpleasant texture. But then, as the taste slowly developed, I was hooked. Today I share two recipes using halva, Ottolenghi’s Brownies and Cheetah Macarons with Halva Buttercream. Very hard to pick my favorite.

Starting with the brownies, the original recipe is from Ottolenghi’s Sweets. I used a halva containing pistachios, and loved the way every once in a while you bite into a little green gem with a burst of additional nut flavor.  The recipe is available in plenty of websites, I share the one published by Joanne, from Eats Well with Others.

FOR THE RECIPE, CLICK HERE

Comments: This is such a beautiful batter both before and after baking, it will sure give you a smile as you go through the preparation.  Some people might object to brownies because they are too sweet, so this recipe will almost certainly please those in that team. The tahini and halva completely change that aspect.

Moving on, let’s talk macarons. I was dying to try painting shells, even though I have exactly zero artistic skills. I watched many youtube tutorials, gathered the right tools for the job, took a deep breath, and went for it. Maybe they would make a cheetah fume, but I can tell you I had so much fun that I might offend other animals in the future.

CHEETAH MACARONS WITH HALVA BUTTERCREAM
(from The Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Eats Well with Others)

For the shells:
200g  powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
yellow or gold food gel dye (I used gold from Sunny Side Up Bakery)
Sweet Sticks purple and gold edible paint

For the halva buttercream:
7 oz vanilla halvah, cubed
2 oz white chocolate, melted
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond flour mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip. Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. The macarons should release without sticking.

Make the halva buttercream: Place the halvah in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle in the melted white chocolate and again blend until smooth and incorporated.

Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment along with the sugar. Beat on medium until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in the vanilla and salt and mix again until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add in the halvah paste and mix until smooth. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the frosting. Use to fill macarons. Allow them to mature overnight in the fridge before consuming or freezing for storage.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you watch videos on how to paint the cheetah motif, some people do the outlining first and then paint the centers. It did not work well for me, the gold paint sipped into the outlining bit, so I prefer to add the centers first, let them dry and then go with the purple around it. Most bakers favor Sweet Sticks brand of edible paint because it is so user-friendly. You shake the bottle well, and it is ready to use. I got mine at Etsy.

The Halva Buttercream was straight from Joanne’s blog, she used it to fill shortbread cookies. I adjusted slightly the composition to accommodate the amount of halva I had. The recipe makes a lot, so you can conceivably make half and it will be enough to fill a full batch of macarons. Once again, the halva cuts through the excessive sweetness of buttercream, and goes well with the almond shells.

If you are interested in more uses for halva, I found these recipes that seem pretty tasty too.

Halva and Chocolate Babka 

Halva Sesame Ice Cream

Halva Chocolate Bark

Tahini Halva Truffles 

ONE YEAR AGO: Brazilian Pao de Queijo (re-blogged)

TWO YEARS AGO: Apricot Linzer Torte

THREE YEAR AGO: A Trio of Air-Fried Goodies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Focaccia with Grapes, Roquefort and Truffled Honey

FIVE YEARS AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip Over Cucumber Slices 

SIX YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:
 Shrimp Moqueca

4TH OF JULY INSPIRED BAKING

HAPPY 4th OF JULY!

Just a couple of days ago I celebrated 11 years of my naturalization! It always gives me a smile the fact that it fell so close to such an important holiday. Today I share four bakes that celebrate the occasion: macarons, sugar cookies, red velvet brownies, and baked donuts. The common denominator? Sprinkles. I bet you are not surprised.

4th OF JULY MACARONS WITH CHOCOLATE COCONUT FILLING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  powdered sugar
115 g almond flour
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
red, blue, purple and black food gel dye

for the chocolate-coconut ganache:  
180g cream of coconut
1/8 tsp salt
200g chocolate, cut in small pieces (II used 70% Lindt)

to decorate:
white non-pareils

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond/almond meal mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl.   Divide the batter in three parts, dye 1/3 red, dye 1/3 blue (using a mixture of blue, purple and black to get the tone of blue you like). Leave the final third white. Pour the three batters side by side over plastic wrap, enclose them wrapping the plastic around like a sausage. Drop the bag with the three colors inside a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip.  If you want to make a set of solid color, divide the batter to get a bigger amount of that color and place some of it in a separate piping bag.

Pipe rounds over Silpat or parchment paper in a half-sheet pan and then slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Add sprinkles, if like.  Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

Make the ganache. Bring the coconut puree and salt to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate in a bowl. Stir well with a whisk until combined. Cover the ganache with plastic wrap touching the surface and leave at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Do not place in the fridge. Whip with a handheld blender for a minute or so to get a slightly thicker consistency for piping.

Match shells and add the filling (I used a piping bag cut open, no piping tip). Decorations for the small macarons were made with Candy Melts (white) and star-shaped sprinkles. Place the macarons in the fridge overnight to mature before enjoying or freezing them for later.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For the tie-dye color effect, add the three batters to the same bag. The easiest way to do that is to open a large piece of plastic film on your countertop, lay the different colors in three large stripes, side by side. Roll the plastic wrap as a sausage and drop it inside a piping bag fitted with your favorite tip. That will make sure the colors get a random mixing as you pipe the shells. I reserved some blue batter to make smaller macarons, all blue. If you want the colors to be more separated, with clear margins (also a very cool effect), simply place them in three separate piping bags and drop them inside a larger one, after cutting their tips (easy to forget, don’t ask me how I know).

4th OF JULY CARDAMON-ORANGE COOKIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

360 g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
215 g sugar
¼ tsp salt
227 g cup butter, cold and cut in pieces
1 egg
3/4 tsp Fiori di Sicilia extract
zest of 1 large orange
1/2 tsp cardamom

for the Royal Icing:
80 g egg whites
420 g powdered sugar
blue gel food dye

MAKE THE COOKIE DOUGH. Heat oven to 350 F. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Add the orange zest to the sugar and rub it all with your hands to release the fragrant oils. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, Fiori di Sicilia and cardamom, mix well. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Dough can be rolled right away in between sheets of parchment paper. Roll to about 1/4″ thick, and cut into shapes. I used large stars, small stars, and rectangles. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, freeze for 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool to room temperature before icing.

MAKE THE ROYAL ICING: whisk the egg whites and powdered sugar using a KitchenAid type mixer until fully smooth. Adjust if needed with sugar or a little milk. Color half of it blue, keep the other half white. Make the small stars first, flooding them with white icing. Add the sprinkles before the icing sets. As they sit on a rack, flood the large stars with blue icing. Keep the very center empty, all you need is a little icing to glue the small star on top. Since it is going to be a bit heavy, if you flood the whole extension of the cookie, it will risk pressing is too much and running down the edges. Place the small star on top and allow them to dry overnight.

For the painted cookie effect, see this post.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This basic recipe for sugar cookies is the one I had planned to use in the Great American Baking Show. I’ve made it so many times now, that I don’t even need to look at the recipe anymore. It always works. My only advice for you is to use regular American butter, like the simple, humble Land-O-Lakes. That butter seems to be the best in terms of less spreading and less fat leaking during baking. And the cookies taste as good as those made with higher fancier brands. Come to think of it, if I had made it in the tent, who knows how they would turn out? I shiver to think.  😉

RED VELVET BROWNIE CAKE
(slightly modified from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes)

300g semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
200g  butter
200g sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste
150g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/2  tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 g red gel color (I used Americolor Super Red)

for icing:
300g powdered sugar
3 tbsp very hot water
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkles

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Grease a  12 x 9 in pan tin and line with parchment paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Reserve. Gently melt the chocolate and the butter together.  Let it cool slightly and add the sugar, eggs, vanilla and red gel dye. Mix well until smooth and shiny.  Add the flour mixture, stir until no dry bits remain.

Pour the mixture into the pan and level the top. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until risen and a crust has formed on the surface. The middle should feel just firm when pressed with your fingertips. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove it.

Make the icing: Mix the powdered sugar, water and lemon juice together in a bowl to make a smooth paste, adjust consistency as needed. Spread over the cold cake and top with sprinkles. Cut in pieces to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Pretty much everything I bake these days go for Common Table meals, and they need to be wrapped individually. I am always tweaking the recipes so that they bake as flat and uniformly as possible, and if they have some type of icing, it is not too soft. Crusting buttercream and powdered sugar-based icings are the best.  I tend to use less baking powder than the recipes call for, so feel free to up a little the amount (up to 2 + 1/2 tsp)  if you don’t mind a certain dome effect in the center of your cake. For this recipe a 13 x 9 will give a cake a bit too thin, if that’s the only size you have, perhaps a 10 inch square pan will work better.

4th OF JULY BAKED ORANGE DONUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100g granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
160 g cake flour, sifted
1 + ¼ tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tbsp butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Spray your donut pans with a very light coating of baking spray. I used one mini donut pan and one regular size.  Heat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl combine sugar and orange zest until the sugar is moistened and fragrant. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in sugar mixture.

Add buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla and stir until just combined. Add batter to a piping bag and fill each donut cup approximately one-half full.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched.
Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing. Finish the donuts with melted Candy Melts and add sprinkles before it sets.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I’ve made these donuts about a month ago using orange blossom water instead of vanilla paste, and to me they tasted a bit artificial. So this time I kept the orange theme exclusively in the zest. Maybe it depends on the brand of orange water you have. At any rate, they are very simple to prepare and have a nice texture. Fiori di Sicilia would probably be quite nice also, but I did not want to have two exact same flavors in the weekly bake. All these goodies were included in the same Common Table meal of July 3rd.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of 4th of July bakes, and that you are having a nice weekend. Please stay vigilant, observe social distance, and wear a mask when outside. It is not a political issue, it is a matter of your health and that of those around you.

A mask is a sign that you care.

For a recent review on staying safe during this pandemic, visit this post.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2019

TWO YEARS AGO: Brigadeiros for the 4th of July

THREE YEARS AGO: Kaleidoscopic Macarons

FOUR YEARS AGO: Zucchini Noodles with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

SIX YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry-Buttermilk Sherbet

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

NINE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

TEN YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

 

THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS 11!

Eleven years ago I hit “publish” on my very first post, got a huge thrill when I did it, and right after went through many bouts of anxiety as I waited and waited… how many people would read what I just wrote? Could I keep the blog going for 6 months? For a year? Well, eleven years have passed, I went from cake-o-phobe to tent-baker, met a ton of wonderful people through this site, and have absolutely no desire to stop writing. I never get tired of it, it is always exciting to share stuff I make. Like this Blog-Birthday cake. I wanted it to have tropical flavors. Passion fruit and coconut sounded good. And I also wanted it to be colorful and fun. Buttercream and sugar work to the rescue!

BEWITCHING PASSION FRUIT AND COCONUT CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the cake:
280 g  all-purpose flour
300 g granulated sugar
2 + 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup full-fat milk + squirt of lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tsp Amoretti passion fruit flavor
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup grapeseed oil

For the buttercream:
340 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
750 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted (you might not use the full amount)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
pinch of salt

for the coconut pastry cream:
(adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart)
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt

for drip icing:
2 tbsp white chocolate chips
100 g candy melts
43 g tbsp heavy cream (about 3 tablespoons)

for the sugar decorations:
(following Kim-Joy’s youtube tutorial)
glucose
food gel dye, any color you like

Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans. Melt the butter gently and reserve. Mix the milk with lemon juice and let it sit for a few minutes (congrats, you just made full-fat buttermilk). Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and passion fruit flavor. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour. Whisk the ingredients together to combine. Pour in the melted butter and oil. Stir everything together until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pans. If making the cakes in advance, you can freeze them or keep in the fridge, they are easier to work with if completely cold.

Make the coconut pastry cream (preferably the day before assembling the cake). Bring milk, cream of coconut, coconut, and vanilla to a simmer in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Cover and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Whisk with a hand-held blender until thick, about 5 minutes. Heat the coconut infused milk mixture until very hot. With mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour in milk mixture. Transfer to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling, and boil for a couple of minutes. Strain through a sieve. Let cool completely and store in fridge until assembling the cake (cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming).

Make the buttercream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running on low, slowly add all but 1 cup (125 g) of the confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix for 3 to 5 minutes, until the buttercream is white, fluffy, and smooth. Add the remaining cup of confectioners’ sugar as needed, a small amount at a time (I used about half of it), until it reaches good spreadable consistency.  Keep half of it white, divide the other half in four small bowls and use food dye to make four colors of your choice. Reserve.

Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board over a turntable. Spread half of the coconut pastry cream. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake with white buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Add splashes of the different colors of buttercream and work them with a bench or cake scraper as you rotate the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Made the drip icing. Chop the chocolate chips into small pieces. Add the chips and candy melts to microwave safe bowl and pour heavy cream on top. Microwave for 20 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until all the chocolate is melted. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, until it reaches 90 F. Pour over chilled cake, spreading towards the outside of the cake with the back of a spoon or small spatula so that it drips. Put back in the fridge to chill until ready to finish decorating. Transfer to a serving stand before adding the final sugar decorations on top.

Make the sugar decorations (can be made a couple of weeks in advance). Pour small amounts of glucose over a half-sheet lined with Silpat. Add drops of food gel dye, keep in mind a little goes a long way.  Bake at 300F for about 1 hour. Let it cool, break into pieces and use to decorate the cake.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Social isolation makes baking pretty tricky. I can still bake for homeless meals on Fridays but everything must be individually wrapped for take-out, so that limits a lot what I can make. No frostings, no mousse cakes, no mirror glazes… I wasn’t even sure I should bake a cake for the Bewitching anniversary because we eat at most one slice each, sometimes we just share a single slice and call it a day. Our departmental colleagues enjoy most of it. But at the present time, no sharing food is permitted in our building. Problem solved: our two graduate students agreed to do the sacrifice and help us with this pressing matter. It was my first time doing this type of watercolor design, so I kept the buttercream recipe simple. It is a fun technique and I intend to do it again in the future, perhaps with more pastel tones and using Swiss meringue buttercream. The real fun part was making the sugar decorations. Interestingly enough, the cake baking started with them. I subscribe to Kim-Joy’s youtube channel and on May 15th she uploaded that tutorial. I was so smitten by the whole idea, I made them later that same day.

I made two batches, the first one definitely using more dye than needed, the second batch using a lot less. With less dye, you get the subtle effect shown on the right picture of the composite above.  You can play with colors and amounts, it is amazing to see the changes the whole thing goes through during baking. At first you will think it’s all going to be ruined. Just trust Kim-Joy, let the oven do its thing, it will all settle into a nice outcome. Make sure to watch her video to get a better idea of the whole method.

The sculpture was a gift from my sister Nyrma, during a trip to Brazil many years ago. I thought it matched the sugar decorations quite well…   And no, it was not intentional at all  😉

The sugar decorations change quite a bit depending on the light, which I find fascinating. And they hold so well! I made them without any precise goal about how or when to use them, but then realized that the blog would turn 11 soon, and a cake was needed. I hoped they would last long enough for that, and they did, just sitting at room temperature, in a single layer. Exposed to the air, not in a box or anything.  Keep that in mind if you want to include sugar decorations on cupcakes or other concoctions. You can make them way in advance.

I loved the cake, the flavor from Amoretti does a good job when you cannot have fresh passion fruit pulp to use. It paired well with the coconut pastry cream. I actually added back to the pastry cream some of the shredded coconut sieved out, just to add a bit of extra texture, but you don’t have to do that, as most of the flavor will have infused the milk anyway. Your call.

So here I am, at the beginning of the 12th  year of my blogging life. It does feel like yesterday, but it also feels it all started a lifetime ago. I don’t have any special plans for the future. This site is just a reflex of my daily life. I am sure year number 12 will continue with a lot of baking, but also regular cooking.  I’ve been exploring a bit more vegetarian and vegan options, not with intentions of changing my eating habits, but for the challenge they represent, particularly in baking.  I found out last year that one of the graduate students in our department is allergic to eggs. That means she could never enjoy any of the bakes I shared with our colleagues in the “Mondays with Sweetness.”  It made me so sad. At some point I will be able to bake again for the department, and intend to get some bakes especially for her. Who knows when it will be? But I am practicing and getting my baking mojo ready for it…

 


To my readers, thank you for being here, your support is truly what makes it all so special for me, it’s the fuel that keeps my blogging engine going…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns 10, and a Giveaway…

TWO YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns 9!

THREE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

NINE YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

TEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!