Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Top 100 Baking (and a few cooking) List

I do not bake nearly as much as I would like to. If I had it my way, every time my imagination is peaked by a dessert on the food network or I think “Can I make that into a cookie” I would head into the kitchen and whip it out. But, unfortunately, that is not life (though I am sure my waistline and my friend’s waistline thanks me). Though some procrastination comes down to ingredients and time, much more is due to the shear fact that I hate, I mean absolutely abhor, washing dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I will wash dishes, but I usually have to get over the hump of convincing myself that baking is worth the clean up. And sometimes, with the possibility of failure of a recipe, it just doesn’t seem like a risk I want to take.
But I have now decided that the above logic and reasoning just sounds plain lazy! I mean come on, did George Washington Carver stop making inventions out of peanut butter because he was tired of planting peanuts? No. Did the inventors of the chocolate bar stop just because it was difficult to make chocolate bars before the factories of the industrial revolution existed? Nope. So, I will no longer make excuses by not taking on new baking challenges just for fear of failure and no reward from dirty dishes!

Now I have to ensure that I practice this new attitude. To accomplish this task, I decided to do a “Top 100+” list of desserts, treats, and anything baked (and maybe even cooked) that I have always wanted to make, but have never tried or have never found a recipe that I like. As far as the parameters I am setting for myself, I am not sure. I do not want to not give an exact time period, but let’s face it, working by deadline ensures the tasks gets completed.

I think 100 items in one year is too much and here is why (and these are not excuses, I have really thought hard about this): 1) That would be nearly 2 recipes a week. I could commit to that number due to my work schedule. 2) I would have no out-let to get rid of that many desserts a week. You can only give away so many things to so few people before they and I both are saying enough! 3) Outside of the “Top 100” list I still have other baking to do and I could not pass up making just because chocolate chip cookies.

So, I am thinking 100 items in 2 years would be more doable. But I have concerns- namely that is still one recipe a week. So, my goal is to stick to this goal, but it does seem like an inordinate amount of time. I mean Julie Powell cooked every recipe (564) from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. I cannot bake 100 new and exciting items in 1 year? Also, some items do go together and should be prepared in tandem.

My plan is to complete this list in 1-2 years :-). Without further adieu, I present to you “My Top 100” list, which I affectionately call “100 Reasons to Get Dishpan Hands.” Last note- My list is not quite at 100 yet, so I will add more as I discover more recipes.

Cakes, Cupcakes, and Mini-cakes
Moist Yellow Cake
Red Velvet Cake (New Recipe)
Carrot Cake (New Recipe)
Rum Cake
Petit Fours
Confetti Cake
Crumb Cake
German Chocolate Cake
Jelly Roll
Multi-Tired and Decorated Cake
Boston Cream Pie
Marble Cake
Yule Log
A Birthday cake for Mommy
Cake by mail
Almond Cake
Fruit Flavored Cake

Icing, Frostings, Cake Coverings, and Fillings
Whipped Cream Frosting
Pour Fondant
Marshmallow Fondant (That actually makes it onto a cake)
Italian Style Buttercream
French Style Buttercream
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (New Recipe)
Chocolate Butter Cream
Chocolate Icing made with Melted Chocolate
Coconut Pecan Frosting (Icing for German Chocolate Cake)
7 minute Frosting
Fluffy Boiled Frosting
Fresh Strawberry Frosting
Fruit Puree Filling
Lemon Curd Filling

Pies, Pastries, and All Things Flaky or Fluffy
Peach Hand/Fry Pies
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Doughnuts (Baked)
Doughnuts (Fried)
Sticky Buns
Croquembouche-Cream Puffs
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Double Crusted Pie
Latticed Top Pie
Pecan Pie
Cream Pie
Funnel Cake

Cookies, Bars, and Brownies
White Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookie (New Recipe)
Traditional French Macrons
Lemon Bars
Graham Crackers
Short Bread
Waffle Cookies
Whoopie Pie
Checker Board Cookies
Stained-Glass Cookies
Tres Leches Cake
Coconut Cake (from “Good Eats”)

Yeast Breads, Quick Breads, and Muffins
Orange and Cranberry Muffins
Rosemary Bread
Hot Cross Buns
Potato Bread
Pumpernickel Bread
Monkey Bread
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Blueberry Muffins
Streusel Topped Muffin
Lemon Poppy Muffins
Bran Muffins

Desserts That Are Creamy and Ate With a Spoon
Banana Pudding (from scratch)
Chocolate Soufflé
Crème Brule
Bread Pudding
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
Chocolate Lava Cake
Fried Ice Cream

Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Browned Butter and Sage Sauce
Vegetarian Pot Pie
Spring Rolls
Veggie Corn Dogs

All Other Wonderful Things
Caramel Popcorn
Gingerbread House
Fruit Leather

Friday, August 27, 2010

I HEART Browned Butter: Daring Bakers’ August 2010 Challenge

I think the title says it all. When I first started baking it was before vegan baked goods were readily available. I started baking as a way to enjoy sweets when I was vegan. Though I am no longer vegan (still have vegan beliefs, though not in practice… Long story... Let’s just say I am morally opposed to myself; I love cheese and butter, obviously :-), my baked goods were so well received that I continued to bake without the “holy couple” of baking--butter and eggs. I loved my vegan margarine, but that brand is not available on the East Coast and other brands have not proven to be the same, so I switched over to real butter. Oh My Goodness, the first time I had a chocolate chip cookie made with butter I fell in love!

Then to make this long story even longer, on one of our previous baking challenges we made a caramel browned butter frosting in November 2008. That is when I discovered that butter could taste even better once browned. So, this month’s challenge is my homage to all things browned, caramelized, and good.

I made for your viewing pleasure and my tasting pleasure-- Browned Butter Cake with Pecan Praline Browned Butter Buttercream Petit Fours.

Required blog check lines: The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

The main components of this month’s challenge are browned butter pound cake, ice cream, and meringue (if the baked alaska was chosen). I have always loved petit fours and thought this a good time as any to make them, but then opted to use a heart shaped muffin pan instead, just because I HEART browned butter so much! (Since “petit four” in French means “small oven,” my heart shaped desserts qualify.) Plus, I just do not like meringue, as in the white foamy stuff on top of a pie Lemon Meringue pie, but in a Swiss Meringue buttercream it is okay. Lastly, I choose a buttercream instead of ice cream because I am not a big ice cream eater. I still have the whole swiss roll ice cream cake (minus 2 tasting slices) in the freezer from last month’s challenge.

Thoughts & Reflections
1. I LOVED the browned butter pound cake. I will definitely be using that recipe again in the future. It was good all by it self, no icing necessary.

2. When making the buttercream it is super important that the browned butter has completely cooled and re-congealed. I did not let mine sit long enough and the buttercream was not as firm as I wanted. Therefore, I spread the filing layers very thin.

3. I found the chocolate completely over powering. I did not taste the delicate nutty flavor of the butter or the caramel pecan hints in the frosting. All I could taste was strong semi-sweet chocolate.

4. As always, I burned the first batch of caramel (for the pecan pralines). Yup, that would be every time that I have ever made caramel I burn the first batch.
9.5 Tbs - Butter, Browned
1 C - Sifted, Cake Flour
1/2 tps - Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1/4 C - Brown Sugar
1/6 C - Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1/2 tps – vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and put a rack in the center. Spray muffin pan with flour and shortening mixture.

2. Place the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scope the batter into the muffin cups. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before removing the cakes to the cooling rack to cool completely.

1 recipe Swiss Buttercream (Recipe Below)
1/3 cup praline paste (Make your favorite praline and then grind to a paste in a food processor)
1 ½ – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)
1. Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream.

2. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.

3. Blend in rum.
2 Large Egg Whites
1/4 + 1/8 C - sugar
1 1/2 stick Butter, Browned, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbs - Caramel Syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage).

2. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time.

3. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.

4. Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until it is a thick, cool meringue, about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

5. Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become too soft.*

6. On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.
Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.
3oz - Chocolate
3/8 C - Heavy Cream
1/2 Tbs - Light Corn Syrup
3/8 tps - Vanilla
1. Stir heavy cream and light corn syrup together in a small sauce pan until it comes to a boil.
2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
3. Let sit for 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate.
4. Stir in vanilla and let cool slightly. The consistency should be good for dipping/pouring over cake.
1. Slice each browned butter pound cake muffin into thirds horizontally.

2. Between the layers pipe or spread the pecan praline browned butter buttercream frosting.
3. Genteelly press the cake layer and butter cream together. Clean up any frosting that may have slipped out the slide.
4. Refrigerate the cake to allow the buttercream to firm up.
5. Now is the time to prepare the ganache glaze. Dip the petit four in the chocolate ganache or drizzle the ganache over the petit four.

6. Allow the chocolate to firm up at room temperature or place back in the fridge for a short amount of time.

Lastly, enjoy the yummy taste of your creation!