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

 

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

This review is long overdue. I first contacted Nancy Birtwhistle to ask permission to blog on a recipe from her first cookbook, Sizzle and Drizzle, in December last year.  But a lot happened to all of us. Life turned upside down, and it will quite likely never go back to what it used to be. To that normal I suppose we all took for granted. Better late than never, I am sharing today a recipe that feels very special to me. Nancy made it in a certain tent during the Great British Bake Off and I remember falling in love with it the first time I watched that episode. How could I not? It joined chocolate and passion fruit. And she decorated it in a simple yet very elegant way. Instead of making a single, larger tart, I made two individual portions. In isolation times, we have no one to share this type of dessert with, so a smaller portion was the ticket.

CHOCOLATE CRUSTED PASSION FRUIT TART
(from Nancy Birtwhistle’s Sizzle and Drizzle)

1 tart pan, 9 inch (23 cm) in diamater, preferably fluted edges, loose bottom

for the crust:
125g flour
20g cocoa powder
90g salted butter, cold, cut in small dice
30g powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice mixture (optional)
2 Tablespoons egg yolks, beaten

for the filling:
(use half if making two individual size tarts)
6 eggs
200g granulated sugar
100g softened butter cut into dice
200mL passion fruit juice
5 gelatin leaves (I used Platinum)

for the decoration:
1 egg white
100g powdered sugar, sifted

Heat oven to 400F.

Make the tart crust. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and spice in the food process and blitz to mix. Add the cold butter and process until everything is combined, this will take just a few pulses. With the motor running, pour the egg yolks and process until it starts to come together. Stop and gather everything over a plastic wrap. Press into a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the pastry very thin (I like to do it over wax paper and with a plastic wrap on top), then use it to cover your tart pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover the bottom with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, beans or rice. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for 5 minutes more. Trim the edges with a serrated knife, and allow to cool completely.

Make the filling. Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water. Mix the sugar and passion fruit juice in a sauce pan, heating it gently until it fully dissolved. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks vigorously, then add the warm juice slowly, whisking non-stop. Put the mixture back in the sauce pan and heat to 185 F (85 Celsius). Be careful and keep whisking, remove from heat if needed for a few seconds to make sure no curdling of egg yolks happen.

Remove from heat, add the drained gelatin sheets, pass it through a sieve. Add the butter, whisk very well to emulsify. Allow the curd to cool slightly then pour into the pastry case all the way to the top. It is better to do this already in the fridge so you don’t have to move the tart around.

When the tart is set, decorate with the Royal icing mixture that you make by whisking the sugar and egg white together for about 4 minutes in a KitchenAid type mixture.  Adjust the consistency to make it right for piping. Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used the full amount of dough but made smaller tarts, I find it easier to work with larger amounts and not get into pie dough anxiety as I’m rolling it out and trying to make sure it covers the whole surface of the pan. I halved the amount of filling, so if you are considering making just two small tarts, pay attention to that. Of course, the passion fruit curd is delicious and having some extra hanging around in the fridge is not a bad idea.


Nancy gives two important tips: roll the pastry thin, as thin as you can do it. And transfer the empty blind-baked shells to the fridge to fill them. That ensures you can fill them to the top and not spill over the side as you try to carry them to the fridge. Small details matter. As I was piping the swirls, I transported my mind back to the tent, and imagined Nancy grabbing the piping bag with the Royal icing, taking a deep breath and knowing she had to do as perfect a job as possible, with the cameras on her, and the shiny surface of the passion fruit curd ready and waiting. She did such a beautiful job! No wonder she went on to win the whole thing!

This was absolutely delicious, and I urge you to make it if you have access to passion fruit (you will need 8 to 9 fruits to make the full amount of filling). I have still quite a bit of frozen passion fruit pulp, and it worked well for this purpose.

And now a small overview of Nancy’s book, Sizzle and Drizzle.

If I had to define the book with a simple statement, I would summarize it as “superb baking instruction and tips with Nancy’s personality shinning through the whole book.”  One of the things that was evident from her performance in the show, is that she has  a ton of self-confidence and knowledge. She tested her recipes and was not afraid to stand up to Paul. Just one small example, she defended her method to speed up proofing of an enriched dough using the microwave. To Paul, of all people, the Bread King… And I loved when she was proved right (sorry for the lousy pun).  In the book, she mentioned that her first show-stopping challenge in the Great British Bake Off was making 36 mini-cakes. Everybody had butter over their counters (remember, the recipes are all submitted in advance and they set up the ingredients). Nancy was THE ONLY ONE with margarine. She felt a little “wobble in her confidence” but then said to herself – my cake tastes good. I have nothing to worry about. Guess what? She was Star Baker that week. We should all keep her experience in mind when that inner voice starts nagging us with self-doubt.

Her cookbook was entirely conceived, written, photographed, and published by her. And it has a very nice feature (she calls it “Let me show you”): you get access to videos in which she demonstrates parts of her recipes, by using your smartphone to decode a little bar printed on the pages. Very VERY cool. Here is an overview chapter by chapter with a few examples from each. Every chapter starts with her top tips for success.

BISCUITS AND SCONES. I pretty much would like to bake every single item of this chapter. Her approach is to use less sugar than most recipes would call for, and also keep the dough a bit on the dry side, rolling always in between plastic sheets.  My favorites would be Lemon Shortbread, Spiced Christmas Shortbreads, Brandy Snaps, Rose and Chocolate Macarons (how can I resist those?), Rye and Fennel Thins, Cherry Bakewell Scones,  and Cheese Scones. Every single recipe has the “Let me show you” link available so you can watch her making it. Just amazing!

BREADS. “It is better to over bake than under bake bread.”  Music to my ears. I see so many pictures that people share online of breads that clearly needed another 10 to 15 minutes in a hot oven to really shine. From this chapter, I want to bake her Crusty Topped Bloomer (remember Tiger Rolls? this is similar), her Hot Cross Buns, Stromboli, and Yorkshire Teacakes (adorable).

CAKES. “An over baked sponge will have a dark crust on its sides, bottom, and maybe even the top. The perfect sponge should be the same color all over.”  Yes, yes, and YES! Might be my favorite chapter.  Chocolate Fudge Cake (with tips on what to do if your fudge separates), the classic Lemon Drizzle Cake, Pistachio and Raspberry Ripple Swiss Roll, Simnel Cake (on my list to do!), Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes, Gluten-Free Coffee and Walnut Cake (she swears you cannot tell it’s gluten-free), Vegan Lemon Cake. But let me tell you that I baked one of her cakes and will include it here as a teaser. A Coconut and Lime Traybake.  Absolutely delicious!

PASTRY. I lied. This is my favorite chapter. Nancy learned pastry from her Grandma, a huge influence in her life. Her initial description on how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry is worth the whole book, in my opinion. The featured recipe was from this chapter. My other favorites: School Dinners Meat Pie (gorgeous), Courgette Quiche (stunning presentation), Single Serve Whole Apple and Blackberry Pies, Rich Chocolate Tart, Luxury Mince Pies (plenty of tips on how to pull perfect ones, plus her great video tutorial),  Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Eclairs, Sausage Rolls

PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS.  This chapter stretched my horizons a bit, as I am not too familiar with some of the UK classics. I am very intrigued by Steamed Treacle Sponge (it does look great), Nancy’s Christmas Pudding, Eve’s Pudding, and obviously at some point I need to make the Queen of Puddings, as it was a technical I missed because a gingerbread sculpture collapsed and I was shown the exit door of a beloved tent (insert discreet tears). Half Sugar Almond Meringues are also calling my name, as well as Summer Lemon and Elderflower Cheesecake, and a stunning Raspberry and White Chocolate Bundt Cake.

HOME TIME. In this closing chapter, she goes over her way of life, growing a lot of the things she eats, preserving things, coming up with clever systems for cleaning that avoid strong chemicals or store-bought products. Everything with the videos ready and waiting for you.

I hope you enjoyed this little review. Her cookbook was clearly a labor of love form page 1 to page 416. Nancy is an author who wants you to succeed in the kitchen, she wants to make sure you can bake every single one of those recipes without issues. I will never forget her last showstopper challenge in the tent, in which she made a Moulin Rouge sculpture with sugar work. To conceive that was amazing, but to pull it all IN THE TENT, with the “male judge” hovering nearby,  just blows my mind.  So I am thrilled that a person with so much talent decided to share it in a cookbook, and we can all profit from it.

Thank you, Nancy, for giving me permission to share the Passion Fruit Tart recipe, and for your support….

ONE YEAR AGO: Lemony Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Almonds

TWO YEAR AGO: Savory Oatmeal with Bacon and Cheddar

THREE YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways (most popular post on my blog!)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

SIX YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

NINE YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

TEN YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: APRIL PROJECT

Here we are, once again, baking together under the same theme, this month designed by Tanya. Doughnuts. Any kind. Baked, fried, yeast-raised, filled, glazed, or as she put it “any doughnut is a good doughnut.”  She is one smart cookie, that Tanya. I went tropical (surprised?).  Mine were flavored with coconut and lime, and they got a mango-glaze. The recipe was based on one from a former contestant of the Great American Baking Show, the lovely Cheryl. One of the positive aspects of passing by a certain tent is that I got to know (virtually at least) several of the former contestants and found out they are  incredibly nice people!

COCONUT AND LIME DOUGHNUTS WITH MANGO GLAZE
(slightly modified from Cheryl’s blog)

for doughnuts:
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (126 grams) granulated sugar
zest of 1 lime
2 large eggs at room-temperature
1 cup coconut milk at room-temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) coconut oil, melted

for glaze:
1 + 1/2 cup (172 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon coconut milk
1 tablespoon mango Artisan flavor (Amoretti)
sprinkles to decorate

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the sugar with the lime zest, rubbing it well. Let it sit for 5 minutes as you gather the other ingredients. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Melt the coconut oil and set aside.

In a large bowl mix the sugar-lime, milk and the egg and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the melted coconut oil (which should be cooled but still liquid) to the liquid ingredients in a steady stream and whisk constantly.  Add the dry ingredients and use a spatula to fold the ingredients until you cannot see any bits of flour.

The easiest way to fill the pan is to add the batter into a piping bag, no need to add a piping tip, just cut the end. Add the batter to 12 doughnut wellsand bake for 10-12 minutes. The doughnuts are done when the you press them with your finger, and they spring back. Turn the doughnuts out on a wire rack to cool completely.

While the doughnuts are cooling combine the powdered sugar, coconut milk, mango extract and if needed adjust the consistency with lime juice or water.
Dip the doughnuts into the glaze and swirl to coat the tops and halfway down the sides. Place on a rack or parchment paper. Decorate with sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These turned out delicious! The flavor of the coconut was perfect, delicate and subtle, and I had to add some lime zest because I find that combination a classic.  I made them to donate for the Common Table meal, and as usual, I like to think about the things that some people are not too fond of.  I know that shredded coconut is a bit iffy for some, that’s why I did not do the toasted coconut topping (but please see Cheryl’s original post if you want to do it her way). I love Amoretti flavors, and had this mango bottle in my pantry begging to be used. It tastes delicious, and the glaze complemented the doughnuts the way I expected.

If you want to bake along with us, tag us in Instagram with #homebakerscollective. To see what all my baking-buddies did this month, visit our group blog,  The Home Bakers Collective (post might be published later today or tomorrow morning, so keep that in mind)

Before I leave you, here is a picture of my contribution to the Common Table meal a couple of weeks ago.


Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe from Doubletree Hilton, recently made public),  Almond Tea Cakes with Boysenberry Jam, Springerle Cookies (coming soon to a food blog near you), and the doughnuts from this month’s group project.

Tanya, thank you for the challenge, I had fun planning and making them, and now I look forward to our next adventure…
Cheryl, thank you for a great recipe!

ONE YEAR AGO: Asian-Style Eggplant Meatballs

ONE YEAR AGO: Uzbek Flatbread

TWO YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite – Black Sesame Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Orange Mini-Cakes

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, May 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: P90X3, a Review of Tony Horton’s Latest Fitness Program 

SIX YEARS AGO: Pasta and Mussels in Saffron Broth

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Triple Chocolate Brownies

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Shanghai Soup Dumplings

NINE YEARS AGO: Bite-sized Chocolate Pleasure

THE HOME BAKERS COLLECTIVE: MARCH PROJECT

If you don’t know what the Home Bakers Collective is all about, please read my post about it with a click here. This month’s challenge was… surprise surprise…. conceived by yours truly! In case you did not notice, we are following the painful path of elimination through the Great American Baking Show that aired in December. Seems like ages ago, as we face  difficult, truly stressful times. At some point I did not know if we could even meet this challenge. Things degenerated too quickly, nobody could find flour and many other baking ingredients were scarce (and still are), but my baking  buddies stood up to the task and here we are. The brief is: bake a pie to say goodbye to winter, dedicated or inspired by someone you miss. Mine is a Blueberry Pie, and I dedicate it to my stepson Alex. More about it on comments after the recipe.

Note added after publication: our next challenge, designed by Tanya, will be…. DONUTS!  Any shape, any kind… If you’d like to join, bake some and we’ll soon figure out a way to share them all…

BLUEBERRY-BERGAMOT PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

for pie crust:
200 g cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
85 g ice-cold water
350 g all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
egg wash (1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water)

for the filling:
3 pints fresh blueberries.
Finely grated zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice.
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cornstarch.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1 drop food-grade bergamot essential oil (optional)

Make the pie crust. Mix the water, egg and vinegar in a bowl, reserve in the fridge. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few seconds to mix, but just a few seconds, you do not want to heat up the ingredients.

Add the very cold butter in pieces and pulse briefly to form clumps of butter the size of peas. Turn the processor on and add the cold water/egg mixture through the opening of the lid. Process until the dough starts to come together, then stop immediately.  Grab the dough and press it as a disk over plastic wrap.  Reserve in the fridge for one hour.

Divide the dough in two parts, one slightly bigger than the other (to form the bottom crust). Roll the bigger portion as a round with about 3mm in thickness. Drape it over the pan and reserve in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Roll the second portion in the same thickness to cover the top. Using small cookie cutters make a design on the top if desired, and cut decorations from the same piece of dough. Place them in the freezer.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Make the filling. In a medium bowl, gently toss together blueberries, orange zest and juice, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, and bergamot oil.  Pour the  mixture over the bottom crust, dot with butter and cover with the frozen disk. Brush the surface with egg wash.

Bake until the filling begins to bubble out of the vents and the top crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 to 2 hours to let the filling set before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I had a lot of fun making this pie, even if compared to the fancy designs made by serious pie artists, mine was pretty amateurish. I dedicated this pie to my stepson Alex. There are two food items that I will always associate with him, because he loves them so much. Blueberries and crab. No, not together, he is a man of fine taste… 😉  When he lived with us as a young teenager and blueberries were in season, we always kept many little containers in the fridge, so that he could have his blueberry fix with every meal. Steamed crab legs were another favorite of his, our dinners would take a long time, as the three of us went through an impressive number of crab legs. Unfortunately, we don’t see him as often as we would like. He is a physician in New York, a resident in Interventional Radiology working right in the center of the coronavirus pandemic. We wish we lived closer and that he could have enjoyed this pie, sitting right at our table with his adorable partner Courtnie…

Please make sure to stop by The Bakers Collective to see what my fellow tent-bakers did for this challenge. Not everyone could join, for obvious reasons. Life has been stressful for the whole human population. It is a strange way to feel connected to the whole world, and I hope that this nightmare will have a happy ending soon. Be well, be safe, be healthy and STAY HOME.

ONE YEAR AGO: Another Twisted Sister of the Shepherd’s Pie

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Two Deliciously Simple Salads

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SIX YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

NINE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

TEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

 

BROWNIES, THREE WAYS

I share with you three takes on a very simple bake, the deliciously humble brownie. What makes a brownie a  brownie? Tough to define precisely because lots of different recipes will take you to that territory. In general, it is a simple cake with just a few ingredients: butter, flour, chocolate, sugar and eggs. But a leavening agent might finds its way there also, in case the baker prefers a more cake-like version. Marriages have been damaged due to brownie divergencies. I advise you to date people who share your passion for fudgy or cakey. Back to what matters. My three versions are right here for you.

BROWNIE, TRADITIONAL

I like it to be dense, creamy, not cakey. I like a brownie with substance, but that melts in the mouth and brings with each bite a moment of introspection because words seem like such a waste.

This recipe, straight from the blog of Helen, my tent-baker friend, checks all the boxes.For the recipe, visit Bakers Anonymous with a click here.

BROWNIE, DRESSED UP

BROWNIE PIE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the pastry shell:
(makes more than you need, save the rest in the freezer)
310g  all purpose flour
30g powdered sugar
pinch of salt
170g butter (chilled and cut in small cubes)
3 egg yolks mixed with very cold water to make a volume of 6 tablespoons

for the chocolate brownie filling:
100 g coarsely chopped 70% chocolate
10 g  Dutch-process cocoa powder
120 g unsalted butter
180 g whole eggs
130 g granulated sugar
50 g all-purpose flour, sifted
powdered sugar for decoration (optional)

Heat the oven to 375F.

Put the flour, sugar and salt in food processor then add the butter and process until the butter is in small pieces. With the motor running add the mixture of egg yolks and cold water. Stop the mixer before the pastry forms a ball, remove it from the processor and gently bring it all together with your hands over plastic wrap. Shape into a flat disc and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. I like to do it in between two plastic sheets (I cut the four sides of a  large ziplock bag leaving just the bottom part attached, open it and roll the pastry inside it). Roll the dough as a circle large enough to cover the pan and leave a little extra around the sides. Place it in an 8-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Line the surface with plastic wrap and fill with beans. Wrap the plastic over the beans so that it does not touch the metal sides of the pan.  Blind bake for 15 minutes with the beans on, then carefully remove them and place the shell back in the oven for 20 more minutes. Remove and allow it to cool slightly.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 350 F.

Make the brownie filling. Gently melt the chocolate, cocoa powder and butter together in the microwave. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and sugar by hand. Fold in the dark chocolate mixture, followed by the sifted flour. Continue gently folding using a spatula until well combined. Place the finished mixture into the blind-baked tart shell and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is set in the center.

Allow it to cool and decorate with powdered sugar using a stencil, if you like. Refrigerate until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This was decadent. We offered pieces to some bricklayers working in a little project in our home and they were very VERY happy.  This recipe has just enough flour to hold it together, so it is almost like enjoying a piece of ready to  melt chocolate on top of a sweet tart shell. Bliss. 

Am I the only one who sees a cute alien?

Now finally, my third version for you…

BROWNIE BITES, FOR FUN

BROWNIE BITES
(adapted from The Cookery Wife)

95 g all-purpose flour
200 g granulated sugar
75 g cocoa powder (I used natural)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, (1 stick, 113 g), room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla paste
2 Tablespoons full-fat milk (optional)

Heat oven to 350F.

Spray your mini-cake pan with baking spray containing flour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt. Stir to combine. Next, add eggs, vanilla, butter. Mix on low for 30 seconds, add the milk and mix on medium-high for 2 full minutes. Batter will be very thick. Place it in a piping bag (no need for piping tip). Cut an opening and fill the mini-cakes between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

Using the tip of your finger coated with a bit of butter, press the batter to smooth it out. Bake for 15 minutes until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.

A toothpick can help loosen the sides, but be gentle.  Cool completely over a rack before decorating with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

First of all, don’t let the lack of a mini-cute-Bundt pan stop you from making these bites. A mini-muffin alternative will work just as well. But, you know I cannot resist a baking gadget. I was a bit afraid of them sticking to the pan, but most came out just with a gentle flip of the pan (see photo, bottom left). Just a few stayed in, but were also released with a gentle tap, no harm done. I think filling them just a little over half capacity is the ticket. If some of them dome a bit, you can gently shave the bump with a small serrated knife, so they will sit leveled.

They have great flavor and the texture is not dense, even though the batter started so thick. You can decorate them with powdered sugar, a drizzle of caramel, melted chocolate. I happened to have some leftover white chocolate ganache from a macaron adventure, so I added a touch of that to most of them. They are perfect to bring to parties or share with co-workers. I will bake them regularly, my next project will involve a lemon cake. The idea is to avoid cake batters that are too light, you need more substance to get them to unmold nicely and keep the overall design.

ONE YEAR AGO: Berry Rebellion Tarts  (one of my favorite blog posts)

TWO YEAR AGO: Emilie Raffa’s High Hydration Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard

FOUR YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

NINE YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

TEN YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo