Sunday, April 24, 2011

BAKED Sunday Mornings: New York-Style Crumb Cake

I am quickly dashing off this post as Passover is quickly approaching.  By the time you read this, it will be Passover and that means no bread, pizza, cake, cookies, etc for 8 days.  As a matter of fact, you are not supposed to own these things or even really look at them/interact with them for the entire holiday.  As you can imagine, I could not make this cake on Passover.

However, I made this a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit at the two meetings I brought it to.  Everyone loved the large crumbs and the great ratio of crumbs to cake (it is about one to one).  Apparently this is what makes it a New York-Style crumb cake -- that and the lack of swirl.

I wish I had more time to tell you all the delicious features of this cake, but you should just make it and see for yourself.  When I was making the crumb, I was really unsure about what it would look and taste like, but everything turned out great.  Another hit from the guys at Baked!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Thesis Cake

This week has seen a lot of endings in my life. Last Sunday was my final show with Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan, a group I've been involved with since my freshman year, although my involvement was pretty minimal this semester. Ahead is my last Brown Spring Weekend (and also my first - long story). On Thursday, my relationship of over seven months ended. But probably the most significant ending came on Monday, when I handed in my thesis. It's 130 pages and I've been working on it for two years, and particularly since September it has been a daily presence in my life. Dropping it off at the History Department was as close as I'll come to feeling like I dropped my kid off at college for a good long time. Pride in what I've produced, relief at having so much of my time freed up, trepidation over what's going to happen now that it's out of my hands, emptiness that something in which I've invested so much and that's been such a constant part of my life is gone.

So what do you do for a milestone such as this? Make a cake, duh. My birthday was a few weeks ago and my parents got me a Jacques Torres cookbook called Dessert Circus. As befits the former pastry chef of Le Cirque, a lot of the desserts are devilishly complicated, but this seemed like an occasion for which a devilishly complicated cake might be warranted. I wanted a cake that would reflect the substance of my thesis, which was about the dissolution of the monasteries in England from 1536-40 (if you've never heard of this, don't worry, you're not alone.) I flipped through it and saw a lovely photo of a tower made from alternating layers of chocolate cake and chocolate cream, topped with a roof made from four chocolate triangles. It's called The Manhattan and it's meant to resemble a skyscraper. Then it hit me: make my own version of The Manhattan, only in the shape of a cathedral! Perhaps I would call it The Canterbury?

This cake was super-time consuming but not as hard as it looks. Because the cake recipe calls for almond paste and that stuff is expensive, I made my own using this recipe. If you have a food processor it's very simple and much, much cheaper- the only trick is to stop yourself from eating it, it's so tasty! The cake tastes extremely light because of the chiffon, and it has stayed pleasingly moist after three days (I made the cake on Wednesday). The cream is also delicious, but next time I think I would use semisweet instead of bittersweet chocolate because you can definitely taste the bitterness. I don't understand why the recipe called for so much raspberry syrup, I only used about a quarter of it, but maybe I was not sufficiently soaking my layers, since I didn't taste the raspberry much at the end. Making the roof was probably the most annoying part of the recipe, but I made an additional, even more annoying part: the church steeple. In order to create this I used Martha Stewart's recipe for caramel-dipped hazelnuts, but I couldn't find any whole hazelnuts at the grocery store so I used macadamia nuts instead. I have no idea if there's something about hazelnuts that makes them more inclined to stay on the skewer, but my macadamia nuts were NOT interested in staying on the chopstick, so I ended up sticking them in the caramel and taking them out by hand, which was quite a painful proposition. Anyway, they looked very cool but I would not recommend it if you don't have a burning need to put a steeple on your creation.

Even though it took forever, this was definitely the coolest, most ambitious thing I've ever baked, and despite everything it was so satisfying and rewarding. Just replace "baked" with "written," and you'll get how I feel about my thesis.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

BAKED Sunday Mornings Rewind: Devil's Food Cake with Angel Icing

This week's recipe for BAKED Sunday Mornings was Carrot Coconut Scones.  Regular readers of this blog know that I am really not a fan of coconut, and I'm not much for carrots either.  So, I really had no intention of making these scones.  Sorry!  I hope everyone else enjoyed them.

However, after the Devil's Food Cake with Angel Icing got such good reviews a few weeks back, I decided to make it as a rewind.  We had some company for Shabbat dinner a few weeks back, new friends from my son's nursery school class, and since we were having dairy, I decided this would be a great cake to try.  I forgot to put parchment paper in the bottom of pan, so this cake stuck like crazy, but even though it came out of the pan in pieces, it still tasted delicious, and (as you can see above) it still looked ok.

The frosting was really good too.  It was super sweet on its own, but together with the cake, which wasn't that sweet, it was a great combination.  This was the first time that a frosting that required pouring hot sugar syrup into egg whites actually worked for me, and I'm so glad it did.  It was a great combination of sweet, fluffy white icing with a dense, chocolate cake.  It got rave reviews and I highly recommend it, either for a special occasion or just because you need a cake.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blond(i)es Have More Fun

The adventures of the non-dairy desserts continue! As many of you might have read before, I am not a huge chocolate person, which always makes parve desserts a little complicated since so many of them are based around intense dark chocolate. However, in the dead of winter (I made these a while ago, and winter also seems not interested in ending this year in New York), most fruit desserts are out because there were no high-quality berries around. What's a girl to do?

Answer: blondies! The delicious chocolate-but-not-too-chocolate compromise. Usually I make blondies from my chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I thought I would try something new this time. I did some research (ie googling) and found the recipe for these. They looked a little intense because of the amount of brown sugar, but I substituted half of it for white sugar instead and that helped the sweetness issue. I also liked this recipe because it used oil instead of margarine, which I try to avoid at all costs.

The verdict: they were a big hit. They were very chewy, which people liked, and very sweet, but not in an overwhelming way. A good compromise indeed. You can find the recipe here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter, Continued

Apparently Rebecca and I are thinking in similar ways these days, as I too love chocolate and peanut butter. They cut each other nicely, and you end up with a nice combination of salty and sweet.

One of the benefits of being a vegetarian is that I rarely have to worry about keeping things parve. Bring on the butter! However, I was recently asked to bring dessert to a meat meal, so I had to get creative. I turned to my dear friend and study partner for ideas, and she suggested rice krispie treats.

I ended up making them two ways. One was the classic rice krispies and marshmallow fluff. However, Gila also suggested I make these chocolate peanut butter ones-- success! They were delicious, and super easy to make. Just make sure you like your chocolate to peanut butter ratio, let them set, and then eat. (If you can, I especially recommend eating them with milk. Yum!)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispie treats:

1 bag chocolate chips
1- 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
6-8 cups rice krispies

In a double boiler, melt and blend the chocolate and the peanut butter. Once they are blended and smooth, remove from heat and mix in the rice krispies. Transfer into a 9 x13 dish and allow to set in the fridge (about 2 hours.) Cut and enjoy!
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