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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Got Cheesecakes?

Once again we had an amazing time in pastry class this week.  The Sweet Treat of the day was Cheesecakes!  Now I’ve had my fair share of cheesecakes over the years. Some were good, some not so good… But I’ve never had any that tasted as creamy and smooth as the ones we made in class!

We made 2 different kinds… a plain more like a NY style and a Ricotta… And check it out - we MADE the ricotta! So simple. So delicious.  We also made the graham crackers for the crust.  It’s these little things, like making your own ricotta, graham crackers, or marshmallows that we’re learning in class that I find the most fascinating.  Of course you need some kind of yummy goodness to drizzle over the cheesecakes.  The choice was ours to make whatever we wanted to top them off with.  We partnered up and made a delicious batch of Caramel Chocolate Ganache with some sea salt added.

The graham cracker crust was super easy to make.  We just rolled them out and baked without cutting into shapes since we were going to grind them up in the food processor.  I did keep a little piece to try and it was delicious.  I didn’t add very much melted butter to mine in the food processor when grinding up and I think that was good. The crumbs felt like light wet sand for lack of a better term.  For each pan I did try to put some of the graham cracker crumbs up the sides a little bit.

Plain Style Cheesecake
check out that crust!

Making the ricotta was SO EASY!  Now I want to make my own ricotta every day.  In class one of the fellow bakers bought a loaf of bread during one of our breaks from a bakery down the way. We smeared ricotta on bread drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. It was so yummy.  I brought home the little bit left over from our batch and used it to eat with some pita chips as an appetizer while watching the Oscars.

homemade ricotta

The key things that Hadley (our master baker instructor for this class) said for making cheesecakes is that you want to make sure that your ingredients are room temperature and to beat the cream cheese mixture on low to avoid aerating the batter too much.  So we basically put the cream cheese into the stand mixer, set it on low and waited…. And waited… And… you get the idea.  The end result was a creamy, delicious, can’t wait to make this again cheesecake.  We also let the cheesecakes cool in the oven once they were done baking. She opened the oven doors and let them cool.  They were then put in the freezer for more cooling.  She also said to keep them in the freezer overnight to help them really set up. 

So the lesson learned was that homemade cheesecake is da bomb. And to make a day or so ahead of when you want to serve it.

Cheesecakes with caramel/chocolate ganache

I brought in the extra to my office the next day – they were both well received. But I think the ricotta cheesecake got the most ‘yum’ noises.  Also a friend from work said the crust was perfect!  Which is something because he is French and is my biggest critic (which I totally appreciate).  For the first time he actually had no criticism other than “Maybe a dash of whip cream would be nice.” 

Till we bake again!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweet Treats for Everyone!

This past week was filled with sweet treats and fun!

Some good friends of ours were married Friday the 13th! I got to be part of a wonderful bachelorette cocktail party for the bride to be & brought brownies.  I used the brownie recipe from class.  They were a hit at the party! :)

Chocolate Overload Brownies!

For our Pastry Class homework this week, we were to make a pie crust.  I made Apple Pie and it was perfect since Saturday was Valentine's Day.

Happy Valentine's Day Apple Pie


Can you say flaky crust?

This Week in Pastry Class we made some Fruit Based Desserts. They were all delicious but I think my heart belongs to the cobbler!

apple tart tatin before...

apple tart tatin after ....

zucchini bread (we added strawberry jam) 
to the mix


So I have to admit - Babe didn't really like the apple tart tatin BUT I thought it was delicious.  Though he did like the Zucchini bread more than I did.  It was good, but was missing something.

Of course both of these pale in comparison to the days winner which was a Strawberry Blueberry Cobbler with Biscuit topping.  This was Ah-MAZE-ING!  

Strawberry Blueberry Cobbler
with Biscuit Topping

And last but not least we actually got President's day off (this is something because we rarely get holidays). So I promised I would recreate the eclairs from last week.

I think my dough was better today.  It was definitely a little thicker than last week's and easier to pipe. So i think the shapes of my eclairs were much better.

Pate a Choux in the beginning...

Pate a Choux 

I made Chocolate Earl Grey tea infused pastry cream that I think is my best batch yet.
 One tea bag of chocolate earl grey tea 
while the milk begins to simmer

Stirring the cream till it thickens

Once the dough has been baked and cooled. Which sort of worked. The bottom rack was a little burnt on the right side but that's the oven is hotter on that side.

Eclairs are cooling

The chocolate ganache recipe came from my new Tartine cook book from the Eclair recipe for the book.



Put all 3 of these together and it is bliss if I do say so myself!

filling the eclair with pastry cream

Eclairs 

Eclairs close up

Presenting: 
chocolate earl grey tea infused pastry cream eclair 
with chocolate ganache

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Desserts & The Super Bowl

I was out of my element in today's class.  But I loved every minute and I think everything turned out pretty good.  A lot of what today's class was about is technique and timing. Eggs are finicky!  

We partnered up & away we went!  What you can do in 4 hours!


Chocolate pudding from scratch - 
not as complicated as I had imagined at all!  It was pretty quick to whip up.



Creme Brûlée was a little complicated. 
Timing is what you really need for this one. 



Pastry Cream is all about technique and timing.  I definitely need to work on this one.  Which will be later this week as our homework is to make a batch to bring in. Can't wait to try it again.


Butterscotch Pot de Creme. This was by far my favorite of the day. I will definitely be trying this one again soon.


And we made Blondies for fun.  One group added the toasted pecans.  Our group chopped up chocolate.  They were so good!  





All of these are perfect to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday!!




Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pastry Class FTW!

Happy 2015!

I can't believe it's already almost February!

So 2014 ended with me signing up for a Pro Pastry series at the Gourmandise School.  I've been watching the schedule for a long while and finally they listed the class series to be on the weekends. Yay!!!  

We had our 3rd class today and I am loving every minute of it.  We're 3 weeks in and it's my favorite 4 hours of the week.  The first weeks have been all about getting comfortable in the kitchen and baking some more of the usual baked goods. Cookies, bars, muffins, etc.  I've made a lot of these before and I learned so much.  Small adjustments in technique for mixing, whisking etc. They're all adding up each week.  And it's also good to know that I'm doing things the way I'm supposed to be and is a confidence boost.

The biggest lesson has been how to bake using a scale. I've been reading a lot about weight vs. volume measuring with baking.  I even asked for a scale for Christmas. But it was still in the box at the start of class because it seemed so complicated. But now that I know it's not complicated at all.  BTW you should get a scale.  Once you get the hang of it, it is SO MUCH easier and faster than using measuring cups.

The class is 4 hours long and it is amazing how much you can get done in 4 hours!  Weeks 2 & 3 have given enough recipes to make for our own bake sales.

Here's some pics of what we made for Muffins & Quick Breads


Blueberry Muffins

Whole Wheat Raisin Scones
(these weren't even on the agenda - 
we had extra time so we got into groups & picked out a scone recipe)

The loot 
Cheddar Thyme biscuits, Carrot quick bread, 
lemon poppy cake, blueberry muffins

We even have homework! This is by far the best homework I've ever had. :)
We were sent 3 different scone recipes and had to choose one to make and bring in. I chose the blueberry scone recipe.  While they don't look very pretty, they tasted pretty good & had a lot of flaky layers.  Though my blueberries were frozen, they didn't want to stay in the dough and blueberries were everywhere!

Blueberry Scones

This past week we focused on Cookies, Lemon Bars, & Brownies. It was heaven.

We partnered up to make the toffee which would later go into the cookies.

From scratch toffee (no candy thermometer needed)


Brownies are hit or miss for me. Now I know I've been way over-mixing my batters. This recipe was easy (technique learned - double boiler) to melt the chocolate/butter/sugar

Chocolate Brownies

We then moved onto making the dough for the Lemon Bar crust.  The trick is to press the dough up just a bit on the edge of your pan so that when you pour in the lemon mixture it doesn't get under your crust.

Lemon Bar just out of the oven

Cooled and ready for the meringue

Lemon Meringue Bar
toasting the meringue was a lot of fun!

Next it was time to make the cookies - chop the chocolate disks & toffee up!  These cookies spread quite a bit and were so chewy with the crispy edge.  

Toffee & Chocolate Chunk cookies

And the best part of Week 3?

We got our chefs coats!!

There are 7 weeks left of the class and the next few lessons will be learning things I've never made so now the fun really starts!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Let's Bake: Coconut Cupcakes!

Why hello there!  Once again it's been months and months between posts.  That's about to change though.  I'm making the move for baking to be more in the spotlight. :)

I've decided to bake my way through the Martha Stewart Cupcake Book.  I've tried a number of them already but I usually just make my favorites.  So I'm designating my future Sundays to baking.  (mostly because that way I can bring them in to the office for some free taste-testing subjects)
I love baking and my favorite pastime is listening to old records while I bake.  I usually listen to my old REM records but Sunday it was the 27th anniversary of New Order's Substance being released.  So that was the soundtrack... I can't believe I've been singing along to these songs for 27 years! But let's not dwell on being old! haha :)

the obligatory Instagram photo
So the first flavor for my new endeavor was the Coconut Cupcakes.  I can't believe I've never tried this one before considering my love of coconut.  While I stuck to the cupcake recipe I did do different frosting.   

And we're off!

my new Le Creuset mixing bowl -
it was a bit of a splurge but it is my birthday month 
:)

So, I have to admit that I made this recipe twice.  The first time, I had taken out 2 sticks of butter to let get to room temperature and once it was ready I threw both sticks into the bowl and never looked back.

Until of course, these babies weren't cooking properly!  At first I thought it was our stupid convection oven.  (Side Note: I hate this oven!  but I'll save that rant for another time! lol)  They were taking for ever to cook and they weren't rising either.  Finally they were done and they just looked wrong as they were cooling.  I took a bite and they were so buttery.  That's when I remembered that I never measured the butter again. ARG!  I was bringing these into work and this batch just wasn't going to cut it. (I have a reputation to uphold after all!)

So around 11pm Sunday night I started over.  And oh was it so worth it!

the 2nd batch baking up just like they should


I even tried my hand at toasting coconut for the first time.  



toasted coconut for garnish 


cooling coconut cupcakes


So by the time the 2nd batch was done and cooled it was after 1am.  I debated about just making the frosting and being done with it.  But I really do think that they taste better when you make the frosting closer to when you're going to serve them.  So I covered them up and set the alarm for 5.30am.

And boy did that alarm come early!  Funny though how it's so easy to get up that early when it's something you want to do.  So I sleepily got the butter out of the fridge so it could warm up and sat down on the sofa... Luckily my BFF is on East Coast time and so I got to text back and forth with her to start my day.  And she sent me the cutest video of her and her two youngest asking for cupcakes!  It was the perfect way to wake up:)

For the frosting I just made a simple Butter Cream and substituted Almond extract for vanilla.  Next time I try these, I'm going to try adding some coconut extract instead.  The almond was good but just a tad overpowering I think.

And Voila!


Coconut Cupcake with Almond Butter Cream
with Toasted Coconut for garnish


I packed 'em up and headed into work... I got thumbs up all around and our Stage Manager took the last one so he could bring it home to his wife :)  I love it when everyone enjoys the homemade baked sunshine! Such a good feeling :)

I've got 174 more cupcakes to go!  In the words of Barney Stinson - Challenge accepted!

Till we bake again!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Penuche Frosting

This weekend's baking project were Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes…  We ended up having to shoot on Saturday so I thought it would be fun to bake some cupcakes for the crew.

So Friday Night became bake night.  I love baking while listening to music, so babe played DJ and I baked up a batch of Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.  And this was a great opportunity to use my new Fall cupcake wrappers from Crate and Barrel.

Autumn is my favorite time of year and really the only time of the year that even after all these years I miss living in Minnesota.  October was always my favorite month when I was growing up there.  And November it's chilly and you start getting the first snow…. I loved it.

autumn cupcake wrappers from crate and barrel - 
I love the leaf motif and the little acorns!!

The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book.  I just reread my post about my first attempt at this recipe in 2010.  I had added 1 cup too much flour by accident.  This time I counted right! :)  They are still a very dense cupcake.  The recipe calls for sifted flour and then to sift all the dry ingredients together.  I don't think I sifted it enough maybe?

The batter right after mixing in the pumpkin puree - 
it's a thicker batter than the usual thinner cake batters

Right before they go into the oven - 
always tapping the bottom of the pan just like Grandma Twink taught me :)
 
I think I'm finally getting used to our convection oven.  It's been tough trying to figure out how this convection oven works.  Personally, I'm not impressed.  I always thought that these type of ovens were supposed to be good at baking things evenly but I don't think it does.  Or at least our oven - the right side seems to be hotter and if you have 2 pans in at once they really cook unevenly.  But I've narrowed it down to adjust the temperature… I usually subtract 25 degrees from the Recipe recommendation but still bake using the shortest time given.  Of course always checking a minute or two before the time is ending.

cooling for 10 minutes in the pan - 
the loft smelled so pumpkin delicious when these were baking

I usually make the frosting the next morning if I'm bringing in cupcakes to the mocap shoots.  But Friday night I had decided to just make the frosting so I wouldn't have to wake up at 6am!  But as usual I messed up the first attempt.

Frosting is the hardest part for me.  And Friday night I didn't measure out the right amount of milk to add.  So, I had to wake up at 6am Saturday morning after all.  The good part about that was the color of the sky… This picture doesn't really do it justice but the light bouncing off the Santa Monica Mountains from our terrace was super cool.

sunrise view at the loft

For the frosting I made the family recipe for Penuche Frosting.  So, when I started to make the frosting Saturday morning I realized I didn't have enough brown sugar so I crossed my fingers that it would still work.  And it did.  The coloring was much lighter than it should've been but still tasted good.  

grandma fran's penuche frosting - 
it should be about 3 shades darker and more creamier 


Everyone loved the surprise of having cupcakes for having to work on a Saturday.  I also received thank you's from Our stage Manager and our Creative Director.  Which was very nice.   Plus, it is always a good feeling when people see that you've brought in cupcakes and they dive right in :)  That's what makes getting up at 6am worth it!  I brought in 2 dozen cupcakes and they were gone before we broke for lunch.  That's the best feeling ever!

pumpkin spice cupcakes with penuche frosting - 
November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!