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Wednesday
Mar312010

Out Like a Lamington: A Sweet Recipe from Joy of Baking

You know what they say about March: in like a Lion, out like a Lamington. At least, that's what I say. OK, technically I've never said that before today.

Nonetheless, I couldn't imagine a sweeter way to say "smell ya later" to March than with these traditional Australian treats, named after Lord Lamington (Governor of Queensland from 1896 - 1901) comprised of dense cake absolutely coated in rich fudge coating and feathered with sweet coconut on top of everything.

My suggestion? Make some today. No fooling, it's a sweet way to end one month and go into another--and nobody would call an April that began with a leftover Lamington breakfast "the cruelest month".

This recipe is lightly adapted from the one on Joy of Baking.

Lamingtons

For the cakes

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk (I used cream) 

For the chocolate Frosting:

  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk

For the coating: 

  • 2 cups shredded coconut

Procedure

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place oven rack to middle position. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan and set to the side.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set to the side.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy--2 or 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and milk in alternating increments, beginning and ending with flour.
  5. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Bake in your preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of cake and invert, lifting off pan. Once the cake is cool, cut it into 16 2-inch squares. Wrap the cake (as one unit is fine) in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or even overnight--this makes it much easier to coat with chocolate later on.
  7. Make the chocolate frosting. Place the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk in a double boiler. Heat on low, stirring the mixture until it becomes smooth and of pouring consistency.
  8. Assemble your Lamingtons. Make a production line; put the 16 squares of cakes on a wire rack that is placed over a baking sheet (to catch the dripping chocolate).  Have the coconut ready on a large plate and the chocolate frosting. Ladle the chocolate frosting over each square of cake, making sure you cover all sides. (It is best to do a few squares at a time.)  With a small offset spatula or knife transfer the chocolate covered cake to the plate of coconut and roll the cake in the coconut, covering all sides.  Gently transfer the lamington to a clean wire rack to set.  Repeat with the rest of the cake squares.  Once the Lamingtons have set, store in an airtight container for several days.

 

Note: Also, Joy of Baking has a helpful tip: When you ladle the frosting over the cake, some of the frosting will drip onto the pan. Pour this frosting back in your bowl and reuse (strain if necessary).  If the icing becomes too thick to pour, simply place the frosting back over the saucepan of simmering water and reheat until it is of pouring consistency. (You may have to do this a few times as the frosting has a tendency to thicken over time.  Add a little more milk to frosting if necessary to get pouring consistency.)

 

Wednesday
Mar312010

Sweet April: Cupcake Royale Debuts Lemon Mascarpone Cupcakes this month!

Is April the cruelest month?

Not at all if you are in Seattle, where you can escape the April showers at Cupcake Royale (which recently got some very high praise from foodie superheroes Jane and Michael Stern) and pick up a couple or seven of their new flavor: Lemon Mascarpone! Here's the 411 from their newsletter:

With deliciously creamy Italian mascarpone, this fluffy, velvety lemon cake has tangy lemon zest in the batter. We top it off with a light and creamy cloud of lemony Italian mascarpone buttercream, made with the finest, fresh, natural mascarpone from Mozzarella Fresca. This sunny spring treat is true lemon BLISS.

Totally sweet!

Available all month long at the four Cupcake Royale locations; for directions and contact info, visit www.cupcakeroyale.com. Of course, you can keep up to date with their goings-on at legalizefrostitution.blogspot.com.

Tuesday
Mar302010

Cookie Question: What's the Difference Between Macarons and Macaroons?

It's a true cookie mystery: what's the deal with macarons and macaroons? After all, their names are very similar, but the cookies are seemingly very different: one is a refined, Frenchie sweetburger, and the other a frumpy lump of coconut flakes.

But you know what? They are in fact related. While they may not be part of the same immediate family, they definitely come from the same family tree. Here's an excerpt from a CakeSpy post on macaroons which was originally posted in April 2008.

The Macaron: While there is evidence of meringue-type cookies going as far back as the 1500s, as I learned from Wikipedia, the macaron in its current form is generally accepted as taking shape in the late 1700s when two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth were seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution, and paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaron cookies. However, these original macarons were simply cookie rounds--it wasn't until the 1930s that fancy tea room Ladurée began serving the cookies in a new way, with a sweet ganache filling between two of the traditional rounds. Naturally, the sweet filling and flavor and texture contrast caught on, and the l'il Luxembourgers began to take the world by storm (read more about the Frenchie ones in this fantastic writeup by one of my favorite foodies, Robyn Lee).

The Macaroon: However, veering on a different path than Ladurée, as I learned from The Nibble, the cookie also gained popularity with the Italian Jewish population because it requires no flour or leavening (the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, like yeast, baking powder and baking soda—instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during Passover. Naturally, due to a high level of deliciousness, it gained popularity all over Europe as a year-round sweet, and regional variations popped up. The coconut macaroon seems to have gained popularity first in Glasgow, Scotland; it is most likely from here that it hopped over the pond and captured the hearts of Americans.

So, there you have it--the story of one humble cookie which has taken two very different paths--with countless other small variations on both styles. Of course, as with so many things, this knowledge is best applied with real-life experience, and so I suggest you eat one of each, macaroon and macaron, as soon as possible.

Tuesday
Mar302010

Sticky Business: Sandra Lee Pillsbury Sticky Buns Recipe

Some people may rankle at the idea of using pre-packaged cinnamon rolls, but not me. I have some fond memories of them from growing up, and choose to take the "just don't read the ingredients or nutritional info" point of view.

But if you do need a way to justify them, fancying them up a bit can't work.

So I have to admit I was intrigued when I heard of the recipes for Pillsbury that Sandra Lee had created starting with their sweet rolls (you know, the ones in the tube that pop open) and adding a few simple ingredients to make them unique--it kind of seemed like Pillsbury's answer to The Cake Mix Doctor. And when they sent me a coupon for some free Pillsbury products so I could test 'em out, I figured: why not?

So I tested out the Apple Walnut Sticky Buns recipe...only, because I had neither apples nor walnuts, mine substituted blueberries and almonds. It worked out fine in terms of quantities and very nicely in terms of flavor, too.

And you know what? Even that small bit of baking really did make the store-bought rolls better and a bit more grandiose than simply poppin' and baking. Not a bad option for a quick brunch side or impromptu sweet breakfast.
Adapted from Sandra Lee's Apple Walnut Sticky Buns from Pillsbury.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2-1 cup blueberries (or, per the original recipe, 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds (or, per the original recipe, walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 can (12.4 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Generously butter 8 regular muffin cups with softened butter.
  2. In bowl, mix blueberries and almonds (or apples/walnuts) and brown sugar; divide evenly among muffin cups. Separate cinnamon rolls; reserve icing.
  3. Place 1 cinnamon roll in each cup. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until tops are golden brown.
  4. Cool 5 minutes. Place cookie sheet upside down over muffin pan; turn over. Remove pan.
  5. Remove lid from icing; microwave on Medium (50%) 5 to 10 seconds or until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over warm buns. Serve warm.

Tuesday
Mar302010

Fail, Saved: Making Good of a Bad Recipe

Last week I bought this adorable Springtime Linzer Cookie Cutter Set from Cookies in Seattle, for my weekly Serious Eats post (which you can check out here).

However, before I found recipe success, I had to deal with recipe failure.

Being infinitely curious about back-of-the-box recipes, I decided to first try the recipe printed on the back of the kit.

Here's what they looked like before they went in the oven:

and here's what they looked like when they came out.

Noooo! Where could I have gone wrong? The original recipe suggested letting the dough rest for 2 hours; I let it rest overnight. Too long?

Regardless of appearance, the cookies still did taste good: almost like sugar cookie crackers.

And when sandwiched with a thick dollop of lemon curd in the middle, these crunchy cookie sandwiches would almost have you believe they'd been made this way on purpose.

Here's the recipe (which, by the way, I would not suggest if you want perfectly formed cutout cookies--rather, try this one instead). I am writing it as it appeared on the package, but with steps 4 and 5 the perfect cutouts might not work the way you'd like, if my experience was any indication:

Failed Linzer Cookies (AKA Sugar Cookie Crackers)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour

to fill:

  • 1 jar lemon curd (or whatever preserves you'd like, or frosting, etc)

 Procedure

  1. Mix butter, orange extract and sugar.
  2. Stir in one cup of flour at a time, mixing well.
  3. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours.
  4. Roll out 1/2 of dough on a cookie sheet to 1/4 inch thick and chill 30 more minutes. Cut with the Linzer cutter without an insert. Remove excess dough and bake at 350 for 12 minutes.
  5. Roll out the other half of the dough on a second cookie sheet, once again chilling for 30 minutes. Cut with the Linzer Cutter fitted with the insert or inserts of your choice. Remove excess dough and bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Cool completely.
  6. If your cookies came out Linzer-iffic, then good for you (jerk). If not, sandwich them with lemon curd or your choice of filling and enjoy.
Monday
Mar292010

Sweet Sandwich: Peeps Fluffernutter for Serious Eats

Oh, don't act surprised. It was really only a matter of time before Peeps, those pillowy pastel harbingers of spring, met the classic marshmallowy sandwich called Fluffernutter.

What may surprise and delight you, however, is that in my version, the peanut butter-and-Peeps mixture is sandwiched between two hefty slices of pound cake rather than white bread, to form a delectably decadent dessert sandwich.

The pound cake works beautifully on several levels—the sweetness works harmoniously with the Peeps, and the rich butteriness is perfect with the peanut butter. In fact, I'd like to humbly submit that it just may be the perfect lunchtime followup to a breakfast of Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict.

Monday
Mar292010

Hot (Cross) Buns at Essential Baking Company, Seattle

Want some hot buns?

Well, if you're in Seattle, you're in luck, because Essential Baking Co. has got hot buns--hot cross buns, that is--aplenty. Per an update from EBC:

Easter is this weekend and Hot Cross Buns are a traditional English Easter food historically enjoyed on Good Friday. The Essential Baking Company's  legendary, slightly sweet version features a rich, velvety crumb, currants and the trademark glaze topping. Hot Cross Buns are perfect warmed and served with breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea.

EBC's legendary Hot Cross Buns will be available at select grocery stores in the greater Seattle area and The Essential Bakery Cafés in Wallingford (1604 North 34th Street - 206-545-0444) and Madison (2719 East Madison -206-328-0078) now through June 15. 

For more information on how you can get your hot (cross!) buns for Easter, visit essentialbaking.com.

Sunday
Mar282010

King Corn: Cornmeal Blueberry Cookie Bars

So, when I first encountered a review copy of the book Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, I have to confess, I had my doubts. The concept--a book of recipes for baked goods (both sweet and savory) using whole grain flours sounded vaguely...virtuous.

But once assured that they still did include plenty of sugar and butter, I figured it was worth a try.

And after looking through the book (and lovingly, at some of the pictures), I decided to try the cornmeal blueberry cookies. Why? Well, for one thing, I like cookies, and I like corn muffins, and these kind of sounded somewhere in between. Plus, I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand.

Well, I veered a little from the original recipe: for one thing, I used frozen instead of dried blueberries, dehydrating them by baking them at 200 degrees farenheit for a few hours to dry them out; and second, instead of cookies I made my batch as bars, using an 8x8-inch pyrex baking sheet. Because I had dehydrated the berries and they weren't completely dried, I placed them on top of the batter rather than mixing it in; however, even with these changes, the yield was a very dense and pleasing bar, like cornbread meets sugar cookie, with a nice tart edge from the berries.

Here's the recipe.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookie Bars

Adapted from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours

Dry mix:

  • 2 cups corn flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used Secret Stash Sea Salt's Pistachio cherry)

Wet Mix:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried blueberries (I had frozen; I baked them for a couple of hours at 200 degrees to dehydrate them)

Finish:

1/2 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)

Procedure

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Rub your baking pan with butter.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just barely combined, about 20-30 seconds (it's very pretty to watch). Scrabe down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk (and if you're using dried, add the blueberries now). Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.
  5. Spoon your batter (it will be thick) into your prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to even out the top. Sprinkle the dehydrated blueberries and finishing sugar on top. (or, if you want to make cookies, pour the sugar into a bowl scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form into balls, and set on a plate; dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly; arrange the balls on baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them--balls that don't fit on the first baking sheet can be dipped in the sugar and chilled til ready to bake).
  6. Bake the bars for somewhere between 20-30 (possibly a few more) minutes depending on your pan size (more minutes for a taller pan, less for a shallower pan); (20-22 for cookies), rotating the sheet at about 10 minutes. The bars will puff up and crack at the top and are ready to come out when the sugar crustis golden brown and the cracks still faintly yellow.
  7. These bars / cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or the same day. But, if you must, they'll keep in an airtight container (at room temperature) for up to 3 days.
Friday
Mar262010

Cake Byte: Various Sweet Goings-On for CakeSpy

OK, sweeties, if you're not a fan of shameless self-promotion, maybe you should click over to another awesome site (like this one or this one or this one)--because this week's Baker's Dozen is dedicated to CakeSpy, and all of the exciting things going on. But if you're a lover and not a hater, here are just some of the reasons why it's awesome to be me right now:

A feature in Sunset Magazine! Yes, Sunset Magazine (pictured above)! I take no credit for this--it all goes to Rebekah Denn, who has always "gotten" the whole CakeSpy thing (maybe she can explain it to my grandma, bless her soul, who always asks what it is again I do for a living, and always reminds me that when she was young, she walked uphill five miles each way to school--sometimes in the snow--and that there were none of these cupcake shops, but rather bakeries that charged five cents for an entire crumb cake?)

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards! (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! 

The amazing honor of being nominated in not one but two categories for the Saveur Best of the Food Blogs awards (and in good company, with the likes of Herbivoracious!)! No, this is not a typo--this was exciting enough to put twice! Like, OMG!

An amazing feature on the Conde Nast Traveler Blog (one step closer to the New Yorker! Are you reading this, Françoise Mouly?);

A feature on NW Source about the new shop - that means it's official!

Features on the CHS and Central District News blogs about the new shop and Saveur Nomination, too -- double, triple official! (thanks, jseattle and seadevi!)

An interview on Alphabet Soup with the wonderful Jama Rattigan;

A feature as a Crafty Superstar on Cut Out + Keep;

A great time muraling and cake eating with the coolest girls in Minneapolis;

Delicious roundups of foods both sweet and savory enjoyed in Paris for Serious Eats;

Being part of a panel discussion on how to be a blog queen;

Numerous (!) features on the amazing Not Martha and Bakerella;

Enjoying a delicious tutorial on macaron-making by the inimitable Tartelette (I know, I owe you more info about this one!);

The honor of being part of a great Foodbuzz, Electrolux, Kelly Ripa, and Cake Boss event to raise money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer Research;

Doing artwork for (and being asked to be a cupcake-tasting judge at!) Seattle's first CupcakeCamp!

And yeah, this is very nerdy, but I got an "@" reply on Twitter  from Dorie Greenspan. Dorie Greenspan! My heart was a-twitter (pun intended) about that one for days, people. But then again, her book Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City's Best Pastry Shops was what I took to Paris as my guidebook, so it makes sense, doesn't it?

 ...oh, and you know what? I'm also taking over a gallery in Seattle. CakeSpy headquarters will soon be located at 415 E. Pine Street, Seattle--I have purchased Bluebottle Art Gallery! And there's an awesome "meet the new owner" party this Saturday, and an awesome opening with Berkley Illustration on April 8.

OK, it's true, that was way more than a Baker's Dozen! But what can I say--life is sweet. Thank you everyone for helping me making it all happen, and for making it so fun to tell people what my job is when they ask.

Thursday
Mar252010

Sweet Love: A Bakery Crush on Bubblecake Bake Shop, Roanoke VA

Photo c/o the Bubblecake Bake Shop Facebook PageUh oh. It's happened again--I've been hit by a sweet cupid's arrow, and the object of my affections? Bubblecake Bake Shop in Roanoke, Virginia.

CakeSpy reader Haley alerted me to this source of sweetness in the Mid-Atlantic, saying

I sadly didn't have my camera with me, so I didn't get any pictures of the cupcakes or the store, but were they both adorable! The place has a pink front door, a front lawn with the cutest furniture, and a covered patio on the backside of the store.

but the cutness doesn't end at the decor--oh no. Their wares are fresh and sweet--as Haley continues,

I couldn't rave more about the cupcakes though! They were all fresh, most were still on baking pans. My friend got me a twelve pack... they were all chocolately, moist, and delicious.

But the highlight?

BROWNIE CUPCAKES, exuse my caplocks, but I was complete suprised. I thought I was eating a normal chocolate cupcake, and what do you know.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that Bubblecakes prides itself on giving you a free cupcake for your birthday--their white/buttercake flavored with strawberry or blueberry icing with a happy birthyday M&M on top.

Oh, Bubblecake Bake Shop, you had me at hello.

Curious? Bubblecake Bake Shop has two Roanoke locations; find directions and more information on their website, bubblecake.com. They're also on Facebook and Twitter!

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