Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ack! No TWD Again!

Okay, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had my work cut out for me.  My family is NOT a big fan of ginger and my baking partner (hubby) doesn't even like the smell.  Well, I knew I could overcome his objections but I wasn't counting on the wrinkle nose face from my other baking buddy, my 12 year old daughter. 

So, I buckled - the pressure was insurmountable and I had to pass on this weeks cake.

But I promise - unless there is some crazy, unforseen catastrophe I will be back next week with another TWD!!

I'm off to see how everyone else did this week.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Between The Cake Slice and making a marble pound cake from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, we're pretty caked out.  So, we decided to choose and the banana cake won out in the family vote. I'll be back with a new TWD next week!



My swirl pound cake - when I recover from the grueling session with my personal trainer, I'll post my other cake this week.

The Cake Slice - Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache



So, this was my first Cake Slice attempt and it sounded so good, I couldn't let myself forget like I have in the past couple of months. 

Even with the multiple step process, my baking partner (my hubby) and I put this together over the weekend. And we only made one mistake!!! WOW!

This mistake?  Well, we are trying to eat better and I decided to cut the cake down to smaller 6 inch rounds and we made all the correct recipe reductions for the cake.  But, something happened and when we went to make the ganache, and the praline filling, I followed the original recipe.  Again, not a problem EXCEPT I didn't buy enough white chocolate for the FULL recipe, and it didn't dawn on me until the very end when I couldn't taste the white chocolate that I realized I'd only cut the white chocolate in half but kept the pecans, heavy cream and vanilla at the full amount. 

Thankfully the overall construction and flavor were not hampered, we just didn't get the full ganache flavoring.

Overall, it was wonderful and a huge hit.  The banana flavor was not overpowering which was nice, and it all blended together nicely.

Visit Gigi and Katie for the recipe or you can purchase the book: Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes  (Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne). The The Cake Slice Bakers will show all the different takes on this cake!


Wow - in this picture, the cake looks like it is about to tip over, but it's not, I promise!! 

Monday, January 12, 2009

TWD Savory Muffins


Looking forward to a change of pace, this weeks recipe from EZRA POUND CAKE was corn and pepper muffins.  Many comments suggested that this would be a perfect partner to Chili.  Having never made either, I thought, why not? 

The muffins were a cinch to put together, but because hubby and the toddlers aren't fans of spicy foods, I left out the jalapeno (boo hoo...I LOVE hot food!) and was sorely missed.  There was just something missing (ahem - the jalapeno!!) and next I would DEFINITELY not leave it out. 

Sorry - had to include this to prove that I can cook and keep a relatively clean counter =)




They did go well with the Chili though, so thanks all for the great tip!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

TWD French Pear Tart


This is why I love being part of TWD - I bake things that I normally wouldn't try on my own.  I've always classified pies and tarts to be similar and my pie making ability leaves a lot to be desired. So, I've never attempted a tart, not to mention I didn't own a tart pan until last week when I discovered our local restaurant supply store. Instead of buying one large tart pan, I bought 4 mini pans.

Anyway - back to my tarts.

This week's recipe was courtesy of Dorie Greenspan herself!! So, it made my foray even more exciting knowing that the author of our book picked the recipe for the week.

TASTE TEST: Incredible!  Another household hit - not overly sweet and great flavors.  These are definitely worth making again.

I made a few variations -

  • I used 4 mini pans
  • I ran out of almonds and had to use walnuts, the only other nut on hand.  I really have to buy almonds at Costco - I run out ALL the time.
  • Because of the smaller pans, I didn't use all the almond cream or the dough.
  • My cooking time was decreased about 13 minutes - probably because of the smaller pans.
  • Oh, and I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out how the world we were supposed to lay out the pears, so I tried to make mine look like the spokes of a wheel - key word: 'tried' =)

Here is what my crusts looked like:

The crust was very simple  and straightforward.


Here are my tarts before baking:


And my final product:



Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cream Puffs



Danny and I stayed home and had a quiet New Year's Eve.  Not wanting to sit around doing nothing, we decided to bake.  Yep, my hubby likes to bake with me which, when he has time, is a  lot of fun. 

We decided to make one of his favorites, cream puffs - mainly because we didn't have to go to the store. 

Using my new cookbook from Christmas - Martha Stewart's cooking School, we got to work.

First we made the pastry cream:

Our vanilla bean:


The pastry cream before it gets covered and goes in the fridge:



While the cream sits in the fridge for 2 hours, we started on the dough:


So, after we make the dough, we are supposed to pipe the dough onto baking sheets.  We've never used piping bags before and we made a very rookie mistake - an overfilled pastry bag.  Oops:


This mistake made for a very difficult piping process, but hubby did pretty good!



Next, we use our fingers to put on an egg wash before we slide them into a 400 degree oven.DSC00503

After sitting in the oven for about 12 minutes, decrease the temperature to 350 for another 20 minutes until golden.




After the puffs cool and the pastry cream sits for two hours it's time to whip heavy cream and fold it into the pastry cream.  Fill another pastry bag and pipe the filling into the puffs.


We made a chocolate glaze and dipped the cream puffs...but our chocolate was a bit grainy for some reason.  I don't think we let the the sugar mixture come to a full boil, but we dipped half into chocolate and just dusted the other half with powdered sugar.


All in all, it was a long time consuming process.  Each individual step was pretty easy but stringing them all together our cream puffs took over two hours to cook.  They're not my favorite desert in general but these turned out good.  The pastry cream was excellent and can be used in so many different things. Danny loved them and said they were excellent.

Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cooking School

Cream Puffs -

  • 1 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4-5 large eggs
  • For puffs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • sunflower or other neutral tasting oil, for plastic wrap
  • 1/3 heavy cream
  • 1 recipe pastry cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats.

Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and immediately remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. When flour is combined, return to heat. Dry the mixture by stirring constantly over heat until it pulls away from the sides and a film forms on the bottom of the pan, about 4 minutes. Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed, about 2 minutes, until slightly cooled. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, on medium speed, letting each one incorporate completely before adding the next. Test the batter by touching it with a flexible spatula or your finger, then lifting; it should form a string. If a string does not form, lightly beat the last egg and add it, a teaspoon at a time, until the batter is smooth and shiny. If you have added all the egg and the batter still doesn't form a string, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it does.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain round 3/4-inch tip with the dough and pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds (3/4 inch high) onto baking sheets. Beat together egg and the water; use your finger to rub egg wash over entire surface, being careful not to let it drip onto the baking sheet (it will inhibit rising), and flatten tips.

Cover one sheet with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator. Bake the other sheet 15 minutes; reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 20 minutes more, or until puffs are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool coompletely. Return oven heat to 400 degrees and repeat process for remaining batch.

Whip heavy cream to medium peaks in a small bowl.  Stir pastry cream to soften. Add whipped cream to pastry cream in two batches, folding to combine after each. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and plain round tip. Insert tip into the underside of each cream puff, and fill. Cool completely before dusting with confectioners' sugar or dipping tops in glaze, as desired.

Pastry Cream -

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean,
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Bring milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking to disperse seeds.

Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in cornstarch, 1 tablespoon at a time. Ladle 1/2 cup hot-milk mixture into yolk mixture, whisking. Add remaining milk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture into pan, and heat over medium-high, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shap when lifted with a spoon, about 2 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla.

Remove from heat and pour mixture into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).