Okay, I’ve been really costume-obsessed lately (that’s what happens when Costume College is looming!) but it’s time to get back to baking, my other love!
I enjoy all kinds of baking, but I do not have the best track record when it comes to homemade puff pastry. Far too often, it seems, I do something wrong and instead of puffing up my pastry with steam, the butter all runs out during baking and fries the bottom of the pastry, leaving me with a flat, oily cracker. So annoying! Is it any wonder that I usually turn to storebought puff pastry?
Still, it’s time that I conquer this– but I’ll do it in baby steps. Instead of doing traditional puff pastry, where you make a butter block and enfold it in dough before several rounds of turning, folding, and rolling, I’m going to try “rough puff.” There’s no butter block– instead, the butter is grated, making it easier to enfold in dough and roll out flat without worrying as much about the butter being pliable.
This recipe, unlike many others, doesn’t call for any resting time between turns. It’s very convenient to get it all done in one go, but I think a little resting would’ve made my dough easier to roll out for the last turn or so– it was a bit tough near the end, and I had to really put my weight into the rolling pin. But after the finished dough had time to rest, it rolled out beautifully, and the layers were fantastic!
After a recent trip to Montreal I wanted to bake something as a thank-you for our catsitter– after spending time surrounded by images of maple leaves, a maple cake seemed like the perfect gift!
I wanted to be mindful of potential nut allergies, so I looked for a recipe without pecans or walnuts, both of which were very common pairings with maple syrup. I ended up with a recipe from King Arthur Flour that was billed as a pound cake, but which was ultimately too light and delicate to really count as a pound cake in my opinion. That being said, the texture of the cake was perfect for a layer cake, and I will absolutely be trying to figure out how to replicate it (without the use of maple syrup) for future adventures! Can I just note that the batter smelled amazing while baking? I’d be tempted to make this just to make my house smell good… and the finished cake was buttery and maple-y, very reminiscent of pancakes with syrup (in a good way). I sprinkled a touch of kosher salt on top, just to emphasize the sweet-salty combination.
I wanted to make a pretty bundt cake, but also wanted to make another cake to eat at home since I can never give something away without taste-testing first! I doubled the recipe to make an 8-cup bundt as well as a loaf cake. (quantities below are for a single recipe) Sadly, the bundt cake refused to release cleanly from the pan and it literally fell apart on me, so it was in no condition for gifting– we’ve been eating it out of the pan with a spoon, and it’s delicious that way too! Luckily I’d lined my loaf pan with a parchment sling, so the loaf was much easier to lift out in one piece!
Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.
I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.
Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.
The other day I was at Roche Brothers in the cheese section, when I spied a jar of jam.
I was immediately intrigued, as my love of the raspberry-rose (and often lychee) combination is well-known. I experienced momentary confusion as to whether it was quince and apple jam (due to the brand name) or raspberry-rose jam, but determined that it was the latter and decided to try it.
It’s really excellent– the raspberry is nice and bright, and the rose comes through just enough to avoid being overly floral. But what to do with it? It seemed a waste to spread it on toast, and I worried that the delicate flavor would be lost if I used it in a layer cake. But then I saw these lovely linzer cookies from Brina’s Bites and knew exactly what to do with it.
I decided the other night to make a quick batch of treats to share with some coworkers– the only criteria were that they had to be relatively fast to make (no chilling of dough or softening of butter) couldn’t require any ingredients I didn’t already have on hand, and had to be transportable (nothing too crumbly or decorated). I did a quick review of my pantry and fridge, and saw that I had a bunch of leftover shiro miso and a small can of macadamia nuts that my parents had brought me from a Hawaiian trip. Those sounded like they’d go well together, right? I figured a bar cookie or brownie would satisfy the “transportable” requirement, so I started with that.
A few Google searches later and I’d found a recipe for miso blondies from FixFeastFlair, which just so happened to call for macadamia nuts for crunch. It also called for butterscotch chips, but I figured that the white chocolate in my pantry would substitute nicely. I know that I’ve made miso blondies before, but those were deliberately cakier and less sweet so they’d go well with my dessert poutine. These were different.
I love storebought puff pastry. It’s so easy to use, makes everything look impressive, and best of all I don’t have to deal with endless hours of rolling, chilling, and stressing over whether the butter is going to leak out in a mass exodus, leaving behind bone-dry pastry and the smell of burning fat in my oven. (which is what’s happened the last few times I tried to make it from scratch)
Anyway, it’s obviously a great thing to have in one’s freezer for occasions where a quick and fancy dessert is required, but it works just as well for less elaborate applications when all one wants is something to nibble on with tea. This is one of those times. I had an extra lemon in my fridge (leftover from my latest batch of lemon curd) and some fresh rosemary that was starting to wilt, and while looking for recipe ideas I saw one for lemon-rosemary palmiers. Well, those sounded great, as well as being incredibly easy (ingredients: puff pastry, lemon, rosemary, sugar), so I got started!
I admit to loving the idea of portable desserts in mason jars– it’s hopelessly hipster-ish, but they’re just so darned cute! Even better if they have distinct layers so they have extra flair from the outside. So when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a new “extra-luxe” recipe for butterscotch pudding the same week I had plans to bring dessert over to a friend’s house, it was as if the fates had spoken and decreed that I must make this pudding.
I assembled my mason jars and got to work– I ended up doubling the pudding recipe, which supposedly made six “petite” servings, and ended up with eight more generous servings, though the caramel sauce that accompanied it was enough for all eight without being doubled. The finished puddings were quite tasty– the sweet-saltiness of the caramel was a nice accent to the relatively mild butterscotch pudding (I used the recommended smaller amount of sugar you’ll see in Deb’s notes), and the texture was perfect.