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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Start a Sourdough Starter

Happy Tuesday! It's been awhile since we last spoke, and I've been busy bread baking as of late. So with the crazy weather this winter it seems appropriate to stay inside and bake bread. Lots and lots of bread. If you're looking to make your own sourdough bread, it all starts with a starter. Usually this bowl of stinky goodness takes 4 days to prepare and then into the fridge it goes. Bi-weekly feeding keeps it alive so you can continue to bake over the weeks. Here are a few starter recipes to get your process going. Look closely; it really isn't hard!

Sourdough Starter
NYT, Oliver Strand


  • 16 ounces flour
  • 3 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 10 ounces filtered or spring water
  1. Make seed culture: Combine 1 ounce of the flour and 2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice in a large glass or small nonreactive bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature, stirring with a wet spoon twice a day. Bubbles should appear after 24 to 36 hours. After 48 hours, add 1 ounce flour and remaining pineapple juice, stirring to incorporate. Re-cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature, stirring with a wet spoon twice a day. When it is foamy, in 1 to 4 days, combine 2 ounces flour and 1 ounce filtered or spring water in a medium nonreactive bowl. Add seed culture, stirring to incorporate, and re-cover with plastic wrap. Stir twice a day to aerate.
  2. When mixture has doubled in bulk, in 1 to 2 days, convert it into a starter: Combine 12 ounces flour and 9 ounces filtered or spring water in bowl. Add 4 ounces of seed culture mixture (discard the rest, or use to make a second starter) and mix until fully incorporated. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. It should have the consistency of bread dough. Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and let rest at room temperature until it doubles in size, about 4 to 8 hours. Knead lightly, then store in container with tight-fitting lid (container must be large enough to let starter triple in bulk). Store in refrigerator.
Tip: Every 5 to 10 days the starter will need to be fed with more flour and water. Follow the directions in step 2 above, substituting starter for seed culture.

Sourdough Starter
King Arthur Flour

To Begin Starter:
  • 1 cup whole rye (pumpernickel) or whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cool non-chlorinated water
To Feed Starter:
  • a scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm), or lukewarm water (if your house is cool)
  1. Day 1: Combine the pumpernickel or whole wheat flour with the cool water in a non-reactive container. Glass, crockery, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic all work fine for this.
  2. Stir everything together thoroughly; make sure there's no dry flour anywhere. Cover the container loosely and let the mixture sit at warm room temperature (about 70°F) for 24 hours. See "tips," below, for advice about growing starters in a cold house.
  3. Day 2: You may see no activity at all in the first 24 hours, or you may see a bit of growth or bubbling. Either way, discard half the starter (4 ounces, about 1/2 cup), and add to the remainder a scant 1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup cool water (if your house is warm); or lukewarm water (if it's cold).
  4. Mix well, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
  5. Day 3: By the third day, you'll likely see some activity — bubbling; a fresh, fruity aroma, and some evidence of expansion. It's now time to begin two feedings daily, as evenly spaced as your schedule allows. For each feeding, weigh out 4 ounces starter; this will be a generous 1/2 cup, once it's thoroughly stirred down. Discard any remaining starter.
  6. Add a scant 1 cup (4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, and 1/2 cup water to the 4 ounces starter. Mix the starter, flour, and water, cover, and let the mixture rest at room temperature for approximately 12 hours before repeating.
  7. Day 4: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat step #6.
  8. Day 5: Weigh out 4 ounces starter, and discard any remaining starter. Repeat step #6. By the end of day #5, the starter should have at least doubled in volume. You'll see lots of bubbles; there may be some little "rivulets" on the surface, full of finer bubbles. Also, the starter should have a tangy aroma — pleasingly acidic, but not overpowering. If your starter hasn't risen much and isn't showing lots of bubbles, repeat discarding and feeding every 12 hours on day 6, and day 7, if necessary — as long as it takes to create a vigorous (risen, bubbly) starter. Note: see "tips," below.
  9. Once the starter is ready, give it one last feeding. Discard all but 4 ounces (a generous 1/2 cup). Feed as usual. Let the starter rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours; it should be active, with bubbles breaking the surface. Hate discarding so much starter? See "tips," below.
  10. Remove however much starter you need for your recipe (no more than 8 ounces, about 1 cup); and transfer the remaining 4 ounces of starter to its permanent home: a crock, jar, or whatever you'd like to store it in long-term. Feed this reserved starter with 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup water, and let it rest at room temperature for several hours, to get going, before refrigerating it.
  11. Store this starter in the refrigerator, and feed it regularly; we recommend feeding it with a scant 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water once a week.
Happy baking!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Holiday Cookies for 2016

Happy Wednesday! I've been busy in the kitchen this holiday season; it's clear cookie time has begun. Whether you love it (like me) or dread it (oy, the mess!), I've got a few basic recipes that are always classic hits in your own cookie boxes.
Festive holiday basket, filled with
salted oatmeal, classic gingerbread cookies,
gingerbread cake (FAVE), and chocolate sables

Basic Sugar Cookies
Alison Roman

  • 3 ½ cups/508 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups/341 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups/250 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Frosting, glaze or royal icing
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl, and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, and beat until everything is well combined, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. Add dry ingredients all at once, and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
  4. Scrape dough out of bowl and divide it in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap, patting into a 1-inch-thick disk. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 5 days.
  5. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out dough, one disk at a time, on lightly floured parchment paper or work surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Create shapes, using a lightly floured cookie cutter. (Alternatively, using a knife, cut the dough into squares, rectangles or diamonds.) If at any point the dough becomes too soft to cut and cleanly remove from parchment paper, slide it onto a cookie sheet and chill for a few minutes in the freezer or refrigerator. Gather any dough scraps and combine them into a disk. Roll and repeat the cookie-cutting process, chilling as necessary.
  6. Place shapes onto parchment-lined baking sheets 1 inch apart and bake until cookie edges are lightly browned with sandy, pale centers, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Cool the cookies on a rack, if you have one. Otherwise, let them cool on the pan. Decorate with a glaze, royal icing, frosting or whatever you'd like. Don’t forget the sprinkles.
Bake Ahead: Cookie dough can be made 5 days ahead and refrigerated. Cookies can be baked 2 days ahead, wrapped tightly and stored at room temperature.

Raspberry-Hazelnut Macaroons
Luisa Weiss

  • 1 1/2 cups whole hazelnuts
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast until the skins split and the nuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and 
rub together to release the skins. Let 
the hazelnuts cool completely. 

  3. In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until finely chopped. In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium speed until foamy, 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted, 
5 to 7 minutes. Fold in the hazelnuts. 

  4. Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop 
or a soup spoon, scoop 1 1/2-inch rounds 
of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned; rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Remove the cookies from the oven and, while they’re still hot, carefully make an indentation in the center of each with 
the back of a teaspoon. 

  5. In a small saucepan, boil the raspberry jam for 30 seconds, until slightly thickened. Carefully spoon about 1 teaspoon of the hot jam into the center 
of each cookie. Let the jam set and the cookies cool completely before serving. 

Bake Ahead: The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight ?container between wax paper for up to 4 days.

Melty Chocolate-Truffle Cookies
Joy Wilson

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (about 3 oz) chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375° with racks in center and upper third. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using). Rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in chocolate.
  3. Whisk together egg and vanilla. Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture; stir with a fork until mixture is slightly moistened. Form dough into a ball; wrap in plastic; refrigerate 30 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into tablespoon-size balls. Roll each in powdered sugar to coat; place on sheets 2" apart. Bake until just set but still slightly undercooked, about 10 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Serve warm.

Happy baking!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Desserts Ahead!

Happy Friday all! My FAVORITE holiday is coming up in just 7 short days and on top of our family meal, I've got 6 other pies to make! I'm a busy bee here at the bakery! Let's talk about a few unusual ideas for your Thanksgiving table - get your pad and pen ready and start shopping tomorrow!

Sweet Potato Hummingbird Cake
Margaux Laskey

  • 8 large bananas
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 ½ cups/563 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 cups/400 grams sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 cups/473 milliliters neutral vegetable oil
  • 28 ounces/794 grams canned pineapple chunks, drained and chopped (3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/160 grams dried black currants
  • 2 cups/300 grams green peanuts (or use roasted, unsalted peanuts)
  • 2 pounds/907 grams sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 medium)
  • 2 (8-ounce/227 gram) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 sticks/452 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 ¾ cups/454 grams confectioners’ sugar (one 1-pound box)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups/300 grams roasted, salted peanuts (such as cocktail peanuts), roughly chopped, for garnish
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees (or 400 degrees convection). Arrange bananas (in their peels) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until they are soft and black, about 25 minutes. Let bananas cool to room temperature. Remove and discard peels, and transfer banana flesh and any juices that collected on the pan to a food processor. Process until smooth. Measure 2 cups of the purée and set aside (reserve any extra purée for another use).
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees (325 degrees convection). Spray three 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment. In an extra-large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and banana purée until well combined. Fold in pineapple, vanilla, currants and peanuts.
  4. Grate sweet potatoes on the large holes of a box grater or with the grater attachment of a food processor. Fold grated potatoes into the wet mixture.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Divide batter equally among the three pans and bake until firm and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in the pans on wire racks, then turn out onto the racks, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.
  6. Meanwhile, make the icing: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add butter and mix on low speed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer running on low speed, add sugar by the 1/2 cup until it’s fully incorporated. Add salt and vanilla and mix to combine.
  7. To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to trim the top of each layer to make sure it’s flat.
  8. Place a cake layer on a platter or cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread 1 1/2 cups icing over the first layer. Top with a second layer and repeat with 1 1/2 cups icing. Top with the third layer and use remaining icing to frost the top and sides of the cake. Press roasted peanuts on the sides of the cake for garnish. The cake, once assembled, can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but it’s best the day it’s made. Serve at room temperature.

Gingerbread with Quark Cheesecake
Nancy Olson


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 ounces quark or Greek-style whole-milk yogurt (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange brandy
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Candied kumquats in syrup, sliced, for garnish

  1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Add the quark and beat just until blended. Add the egg and egg yolks, one at a time, beating well between additions. Beat in the Cointreau. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  2. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the cheesecake is slightly jiggly in the center and set around the edge. Remove it from the water bath and run a knife around the edge of the cake to allow it to settle in the pan as it cools. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 6-inch cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, ground spices and salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar with the egg and egg yolk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the milk. Stir in the molasses, fresh ginger and vanilla. In 3 alternating additions, beat the dry and wet ingredients into the egg mixture.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until springy. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack. Turn it right side up and let cool completely.
  5. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice the rounded top off of the gingerbread cake to make it level. Invert the cake (cut side down) onto the cheesecake. Place a plate over the cake pan. Holding both the plate and pan, invert the entire cake onto the plate. Remove the ring, then carefully lift off the pan bottom. Garnish with the candied kumquat slices and serve chilled.
Notes: The finished cake can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Bouchon's Apple Pie
Bouchon Bakery

  • 5 tbsp. confectioners' sugar
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1⁄4 tsp. dark rum
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tbsp. almond flour
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 3⁄4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened apple cider
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 large semisweet apples, such as Fuji, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each
Topping and Baking:
  • 1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄3 cup almond flour
  • 5 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Bouchon's Pâte Sucrée
  • 1⁄2 cup Bouchon's Apple Butter, or substitute store-bought
  • Confectioners' sugar and ground cinnamon, for dusting
  1. Make the almond cream: Using the stand mixer with a clean bowl and paddle, cream confectioners' sugar and 2 tbsp. butter until fluffy, 1–2 minutes. Add extracts, rum, and egg; mix until combined. With the motor running, slowly add flours until cream is smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; chill until ready to use.
  2. Make the caramelized apples: Heat granulated sugar in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium-high; cook, without stirring, until sugar is melted and light amber in color, 8–10 minutes. Carefully stir in cider and ½ cup water (mixture will bubble up); pour caramel into a bowl and set aside. Wipe skillet clean and melt 3 tbsp. butter over high heat. Cook apples until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add reserved caramel; cook until apples are just softened, 10–12 minutes. Let apples cool, then drain; discard caramel.
  3. Make the topping: Pulse flours, sugar, butter, and salt in a food processor until mixture resembles fine sand; set aside.
  4. Assemble and bake the pie: Heat oven to 325°. On a lightly floured surface, roll Bouchon's Pâte Sucrée into a 15" circle, about ⅙" thick. Fit into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges. Using a fork, prick the dough all over. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans; bake until golden, 25–30 minutes. Remove paper and weights and let cool.
  5. Spread reserved almond cream over dough; arrange caramelized apples over top. Spoon Bouchon's Apple Butter over apples. Sprinkle the reserved topping over entire surface of pie; bake until topping is golden, about 45 minutes. Let pie cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar and cinnamon before serving.
Happy baking!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Healthier Holiday

Happy Monday all! Last week I decided to test my one year old's palette. He loves to eat my blueberry muffins and zucchini bread so I wanted to up my game with something a little more festive (one of my mom's favorite ways to describe a holiday food). Scouring my Ellie Krieger books I happened upon a sweet bread that would work well for me, as it included pumpkin (because, of course), cranberries, and whole wheat flour. Well the baby enjoys the cake, it's not exactly his favorite. Maybe it's the bad mom in me, but it's funny to watch him eat a cranberry and spit it out. At any rate, I really like it.

Pumpkin Bread with Cranberries
Ellie Krieger

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup fresh whole cranberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, honey, oil, eggs, and egg white until well combined. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing just enough to combine evenly. Gently stir in the cranberries.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Happy baking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Night Celebration - or Commiseration

Happy Election Tuesday everyone! I hope you've all gone out and voted (or plan to vote) in this extremely significant election! Whether or not your candidate wins is irrelevant when it comes to can eat either way. So today we have 3 election-y fun desserts to honor this very important historic event.

Oreo Cheesecake Brownie Bars
Elise Strachan

Brownie Batter:
  • 13 tablespoons (185 g or 6½ ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
  • 7 ounces (200 g) good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups (270 g or 9½ ounces) granulated sugar or superfine sugar
  • 2/3 cup (90 g or 3.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 g or 1½ ounces) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Nonstick cooking spray
Cheesecake Batter:
  • 16 ounces (2 bricks) cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 48 Oreo cookies, broken into chunks
  • 1 package mini Oreo cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 320°F.
  2. Make the brownie batter: In a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and bring to a gentle boil. Turn the heat OFF and then add the dark chocolate, stirring intermittently until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer until they have almost doubled in size and are super light and fluffy, at least 7 minutes.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and gently fold the two together using big round figure-8 movements. Stop mixing as soon as you no longer see white streaks through the chocolate batter.
  5. In another bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Sift the cocoa flour mix directly over the top of the chocolate mixture so it falls evenly. Fold together, again using big round figure-8 movements.
  6. Spray a 9-inch x 13-inch pan with the cooking spray and line the base with parchment paper. Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and par-bake for 15 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, make the cheesecake batter: In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.
  8. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition.
  9. Stir in the cream, vanilla and 1½ cups of the crushed Oreo cookies.
  10. Remove the partially cooked brownie from the oven. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the par-cooked brownie and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the tray from the oven and gently spread the remaining brownie batter over the cheesecake layer. Cover the brownie with chunks of crushed Oreo, adding some whole and halved mini Oreos throughout before returning to the oven for a further 20 minutes. The top should start to look a little flaky and the middle should spring back lightly when touched.
  12. Cool completely in the pan (or preferably, chill overnight) before cutting into bars.

Flag Cake
Ina Garten

  • 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the icing:
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
To assemble:
  • 2 half-pints blueberries
  • 3 half-pints raspberries
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.
  4. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
  5. For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.
  6. Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.
  7. I serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.

Election Cake
Melissa Gaman

  • Two .25-ounce envelopes dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm, but not hot, water (about 105 degrees F)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup mixed dried fruit, such as golden raisins, cranberries and pittedprunes, chopped if large
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup American whiskey, bourbonor rye
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a medium bowl. Stir a few times and let stand to allow the yeast to dissolve and begin bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Sift 1 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl and stir until mostly smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes. The mixture will expand, loosen in texture and will have large bubbles on the surface. 
  2. While that sits, generously butter a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside. Place the dried fruit, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and all of the whiskey in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Heat in the microwave until hot and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt. 
  3. Beat the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup brown and the granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined (the mixture may look slightly curdled at this stage), and then add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat in the yeast mixture and then reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually beat in the flour mixture. Add the plumped dried fruit with any remaining liquid and beat on medium speed until the fruit is well blended. The dough should be soft and elastic at this point. 
  4. Transfer the dough to the prepared Bundt pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the dough fills the pan about three-quarters of the way, about 2 hours. When is the cake is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
  5. Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and turn onto the wire rack to cool completely. 
  6. Before serving, stir the confectioners' sugar with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually add as much as needed of the second tablespoon of milk to make a thick glaze that will just gently run. Spoon over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to slowly run down the outside and inside of the cake. 
Cook's Note: This cake is great made a day or two in advance. Just hold off on the glaze until you are ready to serve.

Happy election baking!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pumpkins Abound

Happy Thursday!'s pumpkin season. Like it or hate it, the facts are the facts. They are EVERYWHERE. It would go against my professional pastry principles NOT to mention this and celebrate it in some way. Personally, I love all things pumpkin (although I draw the line at pumpkin spice lattes...I don't drink my pumpkin calories on a lack of pumpkin). Recently I made a pumpkin spice babka, just because. (My husband is still confused as to why there are babkas in our freezer, but I just love an excuse to bake. I got an email with a recipe and I had to try. His office was pleased with the results I think.) At any's the recipe. It's easier than you think!

Pumpkin Spice Babka
Tasting Table

  • For the Dough:
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed to 115°
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup, plus 1 teaspoon, granulated sugar, divided
  • 5¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 1 stick unsalted butter cubed and softened, plus more for greasing
For the Filling:
  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast and 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar. Let it sit until it begins to foam, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cinnamon, and set aside.
  2. To the foamy yeast mixture, add the remaining granulated sugar, the brown sugar and 3 eggs, and whisk to combine. Slowly stir in the flour until a dough forms, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, knead in the softened butter, a little at a time, until a smooth dough forms. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a medium bowl, stir the filling ingredients together until incorporated.
  4. Assemble the babkas: Preheat the oven to 350° and grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 ball of dough out into a 14-inch square, about ⅛-inch thick.
  5. Spread half of the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin at the top of the square. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the dough up tightly. Leaving ½-inch of dough connected, cut the roll lengthwise in two. Twist the strands together and pinch at the end to seal. Carefully place the babka in one of the prepared pans.
  6. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling. Cover both babkas loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until the dough expands to fill the pan, 45 minutes more.
  7. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and liberally brush onto each babka. Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden and cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes.
  8. Let cool slightly, then remove each bread from the pan and let cool before slicing and serving.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fondant Painting!

Happy Monday everyone! It's been back-to-back birthday cakes this month...I guess it's birthday season! For today's tip, I want to talk about a different technique for decorating fondant. I know everyone's big on creating characters out of rice krispy treats and making tiered birthday cakes for the "wow factor," but I prefer spending my time on making a cake that's delicious and pretty. When it comes to big parties, you don't actually need a big cake. Very few people actually want to be tied down to a big honking slice while mingling.

That being said, last weekend my baby celebrated his FIRST birthday and I had to do something special! After researching some tips, I decided to try painting dye onto fondant to create his favorite book characters (drawing cartoons happens to be my specialty). To do this, mix your favorite dye colors (I always prefer gels) and a splash of vodka (for hold), use a clean paint brush, and paint your design onto the fondant. I rolled my fondant on a mat, made sure it wouldn't break when I picked it up (run an offset spatula underneath so it doesn't stick), and painted a design. You need to continually wet your brush with the dye and work slowly for a well-drawn line. I free-handed a cut around the outside, and let it dry overnight. Remember if you leave fondant out uncovered it hardens a bit, thus becoming more breakable. If your paint isn't runny, the other option is to put it directly on the fondant after painting, so you can place it where you want it/bend it before letting it dry.

Happy baking!