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Thursday
May152014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Seriously. Cannoli doughnuts! Image and recipe via Pillsbury.

Delicious any time of day: pizzelles!

Choco-mallow: I want it in my mouth.

Do you know the different types of sprinkles?

What makes a great theme cake? A horse of course! Here's a fantastic roundup.

Stuffed with fun: Funfetti Ooey Gooey Bars.

Quit pretending you're working: take this "what kind of unicorn are you?" quiz!

I'm very interested in the "Test Bakery" model Panera has unveiled.

Neapolitan rice krispies cake!

Ebinger's blackout cake: a brief history and warnings for baking.

Peppermint Nanaimo bars are great even in warm weather.

Sweet video: check out this video from the Bake For Good event sponsored by King Arthur Flour!

Book of the week: Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions. A fascinating look at how Native American traditions and foods have affected the way that we eat in the USA. Includes a fantastic dessert chapter which says that "of all the cross-cultural preparations that we now enjoy, desserts have benefitted the most from diversity."

Wednesday
May142014

The Secret to Perfect Pie Crust? It's in Your Hands (Plus a Giveaway)

Pie crust technique

Note: this post includes a giveaway at the bottom! Lucky you.

You're always taught the same basic rules with pie crust. Cut small pieces of cold butter into a mixture of flour and salt; blend until the pieces are like peas. Add cold water, a little at a time, until the dough will come together in a clump. Gather, flatten into a disc, chill, and proceed. 

But recently, I learned a method that basically rocked my everloving, pie-eating world. Because it involves using your fingers to attain the perfect consistency.

This was very exciting to me because I actually kind of despise most kitchen tools. Especially the pastry cutter, because it is such a pain to wash. In general, the more functions I can get out of one tool, the more I like it. Wooden spoons and wire whisks? Awesome. Garlic press? Not so much. 

But enough about me--back to the pie. You're probably wondering some things. Let me try to answer:

Where the method came from

I learned this method at the Bake For Good event in Los Angeles, part of the Bake For Good Tour, where baker Robyn told us it was a method she'd learned from famed foodie Marion Cunningham.

By the way, if you want to know more about the event, check out this video.

Cherry cream walnut pie

How it works

Basically, the method includes working in larger than usual hunks of butter, and instead of mashing them with a pastry cutter, you squeeze the butter pieces with your fingers to flatten them.

    Cherry cream walnut pie

Why you should immediately adopt this practice

Those pieces of flat butter will make for the coveted "VB" (visible butter) in your rolled crust, and the taste is flaky and fantastic on your resulting pie.

Pie crust technique

I have co-opted and adapted it for my own use at home with a sort of mashup between traditional and by hand methods. Best of both worlds, and still, minimal stuff to clean.

And here, I will share it with you. Aren't you lucky?

Making Pie Crust with Your Hands

adapted from King Arthur Flour, who adapted it from Marion Cunningham

enough for a double crust pie

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup very cold water

Procedure

  1. Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Set to the side.
  2. Size your butter. One stick cut into small pieces, the other cut into fairly large pieces (double the size you'd usually cut for a pie crust.
  3. Cherry cream walnut pie
  4. Work in the stick of smaller butter with a plastic dough scraper (my new favorite tool and very easy to clean). It's not going to have the same impact that double the butter would in terms of working in, but go for the regular pea sized consistency.
  5. Now, add the bigger hunks of butter. Gently coat them with flour in the mixture, so they won't stick to you when you squeeze them. 
  6. Cherry cream walnut pie
  7. Now, one by one, squeeze all of those pieces of butter until they're flat like pancakes. Cherry cream walnut pie You don't have to be too precious about it. Grab, squeeze, then move on to the next one.
  8. Got 'em all? OK. Give the mixture another stir with your pastry scraper. Now, start adding the water. Switch back to your dough scraper.
  9. Keep on adding it bit by bit until the dough forms a shaggy consistency, still floury but you can clump it together.
  10. Pie crust method
  11. Gather, form into a ball, and place on top of a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic on top of it, not too snugly, and then flatten it into a disc with your hand. Doing it this way, I learned, helps the dough spread out into the plastic and is just less messy.
  12. Pie crust method

Proceed with your recipe as usual. 

GIVEAWAY!

Hooray! King Arthur Flour has offered to reward one lucky reader with one of their mega cool dough scrapers, a cookbook, AND some of their highly patented and extremely delicious boiled apple cider (perfect for flavoring apple pie and using as a slightly fancy pancake syrup). Want to win? All you have to do is leave a comment (don't panic if it doesn't pop up right away; comment moderation is enabled) answering the following question:

What's your favorite type of pie to eat, and how do you like it served?

Apple pie with cheese for breakfast? French silk pie à la mode for dessert? It's all game here. I'll choose a winner by EOD Pacific time one week from today!

Wednesday
May142014

Sweet Memories: A Video Roundup of Bake For Good via King Arthur Flour

I was there...but you can feel like you were, too, with this fantastic video!

Check out my ongoing Bake For Good coverage on this blog post and on this pie crust post featuring not only a recipe but a giveaway!

Sunday
May112014

Homemade Vanilla Kreme Style Donuts

Homemade vanilla kreme donuts

There are some pleasures in life that can only be described as guilty. You know they aren't great, in a technical sense, and yet, they are still so good. Among them, in my life: Beautician and the Beast, vanilla tootsie rolls, birthday cake from the grocery store bakery, Gossip Girl, and Vanilla Kreme Donuts from Dunkin' Donuts.

These super-sweet treats are a beautiful thing: rich in butter "kreme" filling, weighing about as much as a brick, and garnished with pretty rainbow sprinkles which sometimes changed colors during holiday seasons. They were my favorite as a child, and they are my favorite today. This is a sweet love which is perhaps not so guilty: it has been immortalized in love letter form, and I will proudly declare my love to anyone who asks.

And yet (proof that I am a complex person) I very much enjoy and appreciate a homespun treat, made with ingredients that I can pronounce. So I was particularly proud to have created a homemade version of the vanilla kreme donut. 

It's inspired by the Dunkin' creation, but made with "eat local" sensibilities: I made my own confectioners' sugar, used local butter and eggs; I used good quality flour and sugar and fried the doughnuts myself. 

Homemade vanilla kreme donuts

The resulting rounds of dough were truly a treat: a lightly crisp exterior and ethereally light interior, which I anchored right back to earth by piping a healthy amount of rich vanilla buttercream inside each donut. Finished by dusting the works with confectioners' sugar, piping a "puff" of buttercream outside of the hole and garnishing it with rainbow sprinkles, these donuts certainly fulfill the nostalgia part of the equation, with a more nuanced, "adult" flavor which will satisfy childhood Dunkin' Donuts lovers who have grown up into foodies. 

Donut stop buying the real thing (I know I won't) but please, do enjoy this tip of the hat to a favorite "fast-food" treat in homemade form.

Homemade vanilla kreme donuts

Homemade vanilla kreme donuts

makes about 18 (printable version here!)

  • 2 cups (about 8 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (about 1.58 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • enough vegetable oil to fill a pan at least 3 inches deep
  • confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  • 3 cups vanilla buttercream
  • rainbow sprinkles

Procedure

  1. Place the flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside.
  2. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts
  3. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, and butter until the butter has melted, or the mixture reaches about 105°F. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs.
  4. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Homemade vanilla kreme donutsIncrease the speed to medium-high, and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, five to seven minutes. It will still be somewhat sticky. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
  5. Near the end of the rising period, prepare your work area. Dust a work surface with flour, and place the dough on top. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a 2- or 3-inch round cutter (or even a floured drinking glass rim, or the top of a wide mouth mason jar top, as I did), cut out as many circles as you can and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out circles until you've used all the dough. Cover the rounds with plastic wrap and again let them rise, this time for about 30 minutes.
  6. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts
  7. Place paper towels under a wire rack. Have it near your frying surface. This is where you'll put the doughnuts to cool off.
  8. It's time to get frying. Heat your oil in a large deep skillet or deep pan until it has reached 350°F. 7. Transfer the rounds a couple at a time (you don't want them crowded) and fry until browned—about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip, and remember the second side takes less time to fry. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the wire rack. Continue frying until you've finished them all.
  9. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts
  10. By the time you're done frying, the first of the fried doughnuts should be cool enough to handle. Using a chopstick, make a hole and slightly "shimmy" it without enlarging the hole too much, to make more space in the doughnut for the filling.
  11. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts
  12. Load up a piping bag with your buttercream, and pipe as much as will possibly fit in each doughnut. Homemade vanilla kreme donuts (You can also spoon it in if you prefer, slicing the doughnut in half and putting a layer of frosting inside, then sandwiching it. Pipe the sides to make it look pretty.) Dust with confectioners' sugar. Finish a pretty puff of buttercream with a star tip outside of the hole in which you piped, and garnish with rainbow sprinkles.

What's your favorite commercial donut?

Saturday
May102014

Sweet Roundup: Fun Cakes

Looking for a fun cake idea? Check out this sweet roundup I did a while back for Craftsy. It will make you smile!

Friday
May092014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

Good idea: make a fudge cake.You know, I would totally eat a waffogato.

Important skill: how to make doughnuts using biscuits from a tube.

Devil's food cake: an exploration.

Remember when I had the experience of doing an early morning bake at a commercial bakery?

Well, the friend I did that with has a pie company in Providence now! Check 'em out.

Ice cream filled glazed doughnuts.

Win something: there's a giveaway every friday on the CakeSpy facebook page!

Do you know the different types of kitchen whisks?

I'm rather curious about these pomegranate jellies.

Making your own chocolate morsels. I want to do this with flavored candy melts!

Glow in the dark buttercream. Fun and amazing!

How to make a chocolate bubble bath. There you go, someone made a tutorial. Thanks, internet.

I was just given a banneton, which led to the question "what is a banneton?". here's how I plan on using it.

Book of the week: An oldie but goodie, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. Released in the early days of the CakeSpy blog, this has become a trusted volume in my kitchen, with fantastically amazing and delicious recipes for brownies, cookies, and many more American classics which are front and center at Matt and Renato's Brooklyn location of BAKED (also a stop on my first book tour!). If you don't already have this book, buy it. If you do have it, buy it for someone you love.

Tuesday
May062014

Mother's Day Flower Pot Cupcakes Tutorial

Hey, I know you probably already bought your mom the best Mother's Day present ever. But just in case you've slacked...

here's a fantastic and exclusive tutorial just for CakeSpy readers, by Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School!

You may remember how they previously shared a tutorial on making a magical unicorn cupcake. Well, this one is just as sweet! 

For easy reference, here's a review of what you'll need to make these sweet cakes:

Tools

  • 6 silicon flowerpot cases
  • Medium calyx cutter
  • Medium daisy cutter
  • Sieve
  • PME cone tool
  • Small rolling pin
  • Piping bag
  • Sponge former
  • Tweezers
  • Large lily cutter

Ingredients

  • Basic Victoria sponge (or vanilla cake) recipe to fill 6 muffin/ plant pots
  • 400g/ 14oz Ganache
  • 50g/ 1.7oz white flower /gum paste
  • 50g/ 1.7oz green flower/gum paste
  • 12x 20g white wires
  • Green florist tape
  • 6 pose pics
  • PME pearl spray

Enjoy, and happy Mother's Day in advance!

Tuesday
May062014

Sweet Work in Progress: Things Unicorns Love

Just a little something I'm working on, sweeties. Stay tuned for more of this fun project!

Monday
May052014

Sponsored Post: Amex Offers Makes Life Sweet

CakeSpy Note: This is a sponsored post via American Express and BlogHer. While yes, it helps me pay my rent (which helps me write posts for you to enjoy), Amex Offers is a program I considered relevant because I have made use of it with the card I use to buy ingredients and sweets, and have enjoyed the rewards myself. Plus, there's a chance to win a $100 Amex gift card! Scroll the post to learn more.

Nougat from Sugar & Spice, Taiwan

Sometimes credit card companies seem less like lenders and more like Evil Empires.

Make that necessary evils. After all, credit cards are the thing that enables you to buy not only ingredients and delicious pastries, but also enables you to live a cool lifestyle and buy the stuff that makes life totally sweet. This includes anything from nougat in Taiwan when you have no local currency to a rare type of Tahitian vanilla for baking the perfect cake. American Express has proven again and again that credit card companies need not be evil. In fact it is quite the opposite. I can tell you this because I’ve enjoyed their services and cards in my life as not only a business owner but as a person who enjoys awesome things. Amex, along with Amex Offers, is there to help.

I can tell you that when some dude or dudette poaches your credit card to buy plane tickets to Russia or spends an incongruous amount online shopping for booty shorts, Amex notices. They will call you, work with you, and help you figure it out. They’ve saved my hide before, and I’ll bet they’d save yours, too.

On a more day-to-day level, they understand that you get what you give, and so in return for their customers’ loyalty, they give good stuff. I like the idea that after months and months of buying ingredients to make cakes, cookies, and pies to feature on this site with my Amex card, using it exclusively to pay for my travel and rental cars as I travel for the latest sweet discoveries, I am going to be noticed and rewarded.

Not only does the Amex rewards program listen, but it rewards with things that you’d actually want and use in your everyday life. I can tailor the rewards to the things I love, like cute jackets at Brooklyn Industries, puppy chow and cute outfits for my pug, Porkchop (business expense, right? investing in ambience?) from Petco, or coffeebean.com.

So instead of the points going toward things I don’t want, care about, or need (I’m talking about you, monogrammed tote bag or branded digital camera circa 2006), I’m making an investment in myself--in more ways than one.

I realize that it is a millennial thing to say, but the fact that they are also all over social media making their program known is helpful to me. I can keep up with current offers and see what’s going on with my friends. I adore Amex for helping make my life more awesome while I do and spend money on the things I need to run my business and my life. I’m delighted to share this program with you, sweeties!

Here's the nitty gritty:

OFFERS ARE RELEVANT & CURATED: Amex Offers are curated for me by American Express based on where I’ve shopped in the past and my current location. It’s great that no matter where I am, Amex gives me highly relevant and interesting offers from brands I love that are actually useful and that I will use immediately to save money.

HOW IT WORKS: American Express makes it super easy to get savings every time I shop. I can either use my American Express online account ID to log in at www.amexoffers.com and get offers right in my account dashboard – all I have to do is click on ‘Save’ to add the offer to my Card. Or, I can easily and securely connect my Amex Card to social networks like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and TripAdvisor to add offers to my Card right in those places. Then, I just have to spend with my Card like I normally would and the merchant and I see the savings add up as statements on my bill.

EASY & SEAMLESS: With Amex Offers, I love not having to clip coupons or remember codes – it’s so easy.

TONS OF OFFERS AVAILABLE: It’s crazy – right now Amex has more than $15 Million in savings available for Card Members… go get your piece of the pie!

That's enough about me. It's time to talk about you, and to reward what YOU do with the possibility of winning a $100.00 AmericanExpress® GiftCard. Yes, you heard me! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post answering the following question: What is your favorite part about Amex Offers?

 

Sweepstakes Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#AmexOffers” and “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 5/5-5/31

Be sure to visit the Amex Offers brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

 

Friday
May022014

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links!

I love this cake stand series. No, that pony is not a unicorn, but close. PS: the seller, Culinary Surfer, was so pleased with my share that they gave me (and my readers, you!) a discount code: CS1 for 10 percent off. 

Chocolate cookies made with...mustard??

Woot! Thank you to Parade Magazine for featuring my brilliant ideas for leftover Easter candy.

My favorite facebook page, possibly ever.

Not literally sweet, but definitely totally sweet: my tips for making perfect quiche.

Croissant french toast with strawberry syrup. Outta sight!

I think I'd like to try this chocolate tres leches cake recipe.

How to make gummi candies at home.

Adorable "keep off the grass" cake. Striking and whimsical--I like it!

Cotton candy cupcakes: still a fave.

Yoga cookie cutters: so cute!

Banana chocolate chip crumb cake

Still (as always) perfect and delicious: chocolate chip cookies from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

Book of the week: A Cake Lover's Recipe Notebook. A fun new spin on the expected cake book, this is part guide book, part recipe book, and notebook. It's separated into tabbed sections ("posh cakes", "little cakes", etc) and is wire bound with sections for notes, and this also makes the pages lie flat, which I love. Plus, the photos are beautifully styled, so it's fun to look at even while you're not baking. 

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