Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Berries for Baby!

Hi from California! What is Sarah doing in California? Well, the Baking Sisters have some very exciting news - Rebecca had a baby boy last week! He was a month early but the little dude just couldn't wait to see the world and all the sweet things it has to offer. Today, in what my brother-in-law refers to as "catered surgery," he had his bris, or circumcision, which inducts him into the covenant of the Jewish people. Not much fun for the little guy, or really for anyone who doesn't want to watch an old Jew take a scalpel to an eight-day-old's genitals. But you gotta do what you gotta do, and now he is healing nicely. Plus, he got a name! His English name is Leo Evan, and his Hebrew name is Leor Chaim. And he is super-cute! 

Since a bris is a Jewish event, of course there has to be a lot of eating. And since this is California, said eating should involve fruit (especially since Adam doesn't like chocolate)! And since this is the Baking Sisters, that fruit should be in pie form! Newly minted big brother Simon and I went through Rebecca's cookbooks and picked out some recipes with enticing-looking pictures, and we settled on a berry pie from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert. Yesterday Simon and his relatives went to the Culver City Farmers' Market, and we bought the most delicious berries imaginable. It seemed almost a waste to put them in a pie, but into a pie they would go. 

And they definitely paid off! The pie went so fast, and it was not even runny, which is often a peril with fruit pies. It was so simple to throw together, plus it not too sweet, which was good for a 9 a.m. event. You can put in whatever kind of fruit you fancy (I substituted one cup of raspberries for blackberries, though that was mostly because these were the best blackberries I've ever eaten and I wanted to eat them raw.) The fruit was bright and amazingly flavorful; I really think it made a big difference! 

Mixed Berry Pie
from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz (pg. 80)

Pie dough (recipe can be found here)

2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca flour or cornstarch 
1 tablespoon lemon juice or kirsch

1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon coarse crystal or granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll out one disk of dough into a 14-inch circle. Drape it into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim away the excess dough, leaving a slight overhang. 

In a large bowl, gently mix the berries with the 1/2 cup of sugar, tapioca flour or cornstarch, and lemon juice or kirsch. Transfer the berry mixture to the dough-lined plate and distribute in an even layer.

Roll out the second dough disk into a 14-inch circle. Moisten the exposed edges of the dough in the pie plate with water, then drape the second dough circle over the top. Working all the way around the pie, tuck the upper edges under the lower dough edges and crimp to seal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk or cream. Brush the top crust generously with the egg wash and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of sugar. Pierce the top crust with a paring knife in six places.

Bake until the top crust is browned and the filling juices are thick and bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, loosely drap a sheet of aluminum foil over the top during baking.

Let the pie cool for about 1 hour before serving.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chocolate Chip Orange Cake with Backyard Oranges

Living in Southern California, you get very in-tune with what fruit is in season.  You can walk into any one of the hundreds of farmer's markets and see the yummy fruits and veggies all lined up waiting for you.  However, good luck if you want something not in season, since you will be stuck with the grocery store.  After 2 years of fresh farmer's market quality, buying produce at the grocery store can feel like a real let down.

That's all a lead up to say that this is a delicious orange cake, which might have to wait for winter to be made again.  My son has a friend (probably lots of friends) with an orange tree in his backyard.  They came over a few times to play and brought a huge bag of oranges every time they came over.  I had to find something to do with them!

Luckily our ECC director had a birthday and asked for a chocolate orange cake. After the very scientific process of googling chocolate orange cake recipe, I came across this one from Smitten Kitchen.  I am not usually a fan of the chocolate/orange combination, but this cake was truly amazing.  It was super moist, even after a few days, and you could clearly taste both the chocolate and the orange without one overpowering the other.  I think using fresh oranges really helped, because they had amazing orange flavor.  A number of people said this was one of the best cakes they had ever had, so it is certainly a keeper.  If you find yourself wondering what to do with an abundance of oranges, you should try this.  Or, make this an excuse to go out and buy some delicious citrus next time winter rolls around.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

You're a Grand Old Donut

Hi there, happy Fourth! I hope everyone had a very nice time celebrating America's birthday. I, for one, had a lovely day filled with family, beach, 1776 (the movie, not the book), and of course yummy food. What kind of yummy food, Sarah? Glad you asked. Ever since I saw the buttermilk farmstead donuts in Baked Explorations, I've wanted to make them. Only problem is, donuts really need to be eaten the day they're made. Usually I can bring any class of baked goods to my office and they'll be gone within two hours. But I didn't feel like waking up super-early to make donuts to bring to the office. Sue me. So I needed a special occasion, one on which I knew I'd have a free morning and a captive audience forced to eat my donuts. And what better occasion than America's 236th birthday. What a dame.

The donuts were pretty easy to put together. The dough didn't cohere as well as I wanted it to but it didn't seem to negatively affect the end product. (Some of the donuts did come apart, but I think that was because they were too big.) My main piece of advice is to actually follow the recipe and fry the donuts for the full amount of time recommended. I took mine out when I thought they had achieved a nice brown color but then they were a little undercooked. Of course if you're in to things being undercooked (I am), it was all good. Throw together some vanilla glaze and slap some red and blue sprinkles on that sucker, and you've got yourself a delicious, patriotic treat. Happy birthday, dear America!

You can find the recipe here. (And for those readers concerned about my continuing saga with boiling oil - all of you, I'm sure - I will inform you that apart from one splatteriffic close call where the oil nearly came into contact with my shoeless foot, all was well. I think I'm getting more confident here.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Birthday America: Some July 4th Ideas

In case you were looking for some yummy treats for a 4th of July party tomorrow or any celebration that involves red, white and blue...

Red White and Blue Cupcakes

Red White and Blue Fruit Tart

A few red velvet things that could be made red white and blue with the addition of blueberries or blue sanding sugar...

Red Velvet Cupcakes (could also be done with blue cupcake wrappers to complete the look)

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

And the ever popular all American pie...
Blueberry pie

Blackberry pie

And finally strawberry shortcake, which you could turn into strawberry/blueberry shortcake

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mississippi Mud Pie (B)

As I have mentioned, I am the official office cake baker.  Whenever someone has a birthday, I find out what they want and I make the best version I can find.  I also make cakes when people leave and for other office occasions.  In the past couple of weeks we have had 1 graduation, 1 birthday, 2 people leaving and 1 person converting to Judaism.  That's a lot of cake.  I had said I was on cake maternity leave until after baby #2 arrives in a few weeks, but it seems I just can't help myself.

There is a woman who has been helping out in our office who converted to Judaism this week.  She said she likes things that are cake and chocolate and when I saw this coming up for Baked Sunday Mornings, I figured she would really enjoy this cake.

This is a serious cake -- oreo crust, flourless chocolate cake, chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  You have to really like chocolate.  Despite all those layers, this cake is lighter than I thought it would be.  The whipped cream is totally necessary to lighten things up and neither the cake layer nor the pudding layer are too sweet.

I did learn something very important with this cake.  Most of the time, especially when I make things with a graham cracker crust, I just crush the cookies in a bag with a rolling pin instead of getting the food processor dirty.  I did that with this cake, but it did not work well.  The crust was too chunky and hard to cut and it took up too much room in the pan, so there was not room for all the pudding.  Next time, the food processor is coming out.  It was still delicious though.  Don't be scared of all the steps -- you can actually do a lot of them at once.  While the crust is cooling, make the cake.  While the cake is baking, make the pudding.  Then put the cake and the pudding in the fridge to cool and all you have to do the next morning is assembly.  I highly recommend this cake for other chocoholics in your life.  Check out the Baked Sunday Mornings website for the recipe and to see what other bakers did.
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