Archive for baking

Recipe Roundup: Something New for This Good Friday

It's Easter. It's time to bake. Or buy and eat other's baked goods. Like, these sticky buns from Birch and Barley Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac.*

*Photo by Olga Berman, of Mango and Tomato.

Hey MD readers. So, I’m trying something different this week. Rather than having the recipes and blog news roundup in the same post, I’m breaking them up into different posts. I mean, the roundups were getting kind of long and I think two posts will be a little more digestible. But do you love this idea? Hate it? Let me know.

So, these are all the recipes I want to try from this week’s Internet perusings. But in case you’re not in the mood to bake, never fear. Tiffany MacIssac, the fab Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley, is selling her sticky buns with cream cheese frosting for pick up this weekend. Yes. Yes. That means you can have them at your Easter brunch. It’s $20 for a half dozen, and they come with coffee sauce and extra frosting (just the way I like it). Call 202-567-2576 48 hours in advance to order.

  • Um, can I just say that I wish I would have thought of this? Check out these adorable Easter egg pot de cremes from A Measured Memory.
  • Beet cake – AKA red velvet cake – a recipe from Bourbon Steak’s pastry chef Santanna Salas, via Counter Intelligence (she’s back!).
  • Raspberry clafoutis (one of those desserts I’ve meant to make for years, yet never have) from The Bitten Word. Now if only we could get some raspberries at the farmer’s market.

So, that’s my roundup. What’s on your list of things to cook or bake this weekend?

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Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

The whole wheat flour makes these better than regular biscuits.

I don’t often make biscuits. They’re something that are really best right out of the oven, and it’s rare that I want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting. Actually, that’s not true – I often want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting, but it’s rare that I would allow myself to do so. Instead, I like to save them for brunch or dinner parties or other large gatherings. And the good thing is, once you’ve made them, they’re something you can easily whip up in 20 minutes.

Ever since reading Good To the Grain, By Kim Boyce, I’ve been inspired to bake more with whole-grain flours, and I’ve been enjoying the hearty flavor they bring to baked goods. So the last time I was baking biscuits I thought – why not try them with some whole wheat flour and see what happens?

Well, I may have created a new go-to biscuit recipe. Since I still haven’t managed to pick up white whole wheat flour, I went with the recommendation from The Bread Bible, and used part all-purpose and part whole wheat flour. I decided that I wanted bring out the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour, so I added some honey to the dough. Finally, I used buttermilk as the liquid, which brought a nice tangy note to biscuits. They were crisp and buttery, and I found the light sweetness from the honey, the tang from the buttermilk, and the hearty note from the whole wheat flour completely addictive.

But did I eat all these biscuits in one sitting? I’ll never tell.

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits 2

Maybe I need to make these again. Like, right now.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

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Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

Passover Tart 2

Chocolate, almond, orange - perfect for Passover.

If you’re really looking to rile up your Jewish friends, ask them about their most detested Passover desserts. We got into just such a discussion at my book club this weekend, and our Jewish members were quick to trot out a litany of complaints. Cakes made with matzoh meal are coarse, sponge cake is dry, cookies taste weird without flour – the kvetching went on and on.

Now, as some one who really likes to show off at the holidays, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Jewish bakers. It’s really difficult to bake something delicious – or even halfway tasty – without two of the most basic ingredients in baking – flour and leavening. Matzoh meal just doesn’t have the same properties as cake flour and, no matter how finely it’s ground, it never will.

Still, with a little bit of planning, some high quality chocolate, and a love of almond flour, you can make a Passover dessert that’s both impressive and delicious. This tart is an adaptation of a recipe for a chocolate torte, which I found in Joan Nathan’s excellent Jewish Cooking in America. The recipe originally calls to bake the torte in a buttered springform pan, but I baked it in a tart shell made from ground almonds and flavored with sugar and orange zest. I also added orange juice and zest to the dense filling, which compliments the intense flavor of the chocolate. Finally, to help dress it up for the holiday in appropriate style, I topped it with a chocolate glaze and pieces of homemade almond praline. FYI: while the tart contains no leavening, it does use butter, so it can’t be eaten with a meal where meat is served.

Yes, the glaze and praline aren’t exactly necessary – but they add a note of grandeur to an otherwise fairly simple dessert. And, for those who like to impress, the extra half an hour of work is well worth it.

Passover Tart 4

No one could possibly kvetch about this tart.

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

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My Style: Banana Whoopie Pies With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Whoopie Pie 1

I think these pies are my style.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about style. One of the questions I always ask the pastry chefs I interview is “what’s your approach to pastry,” which is another way of asking “what’s your style?” Well, these banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese frosting? They’re my style.

Whoopie pies aren’t fancy – unlike cupcakes, they can’t be topped with fondant hearts or elaborate swirls of frosting. They’re unassuming, simple – even a little homely. And yet you can’t deny the power of a great whoopie pie. This one, with two sweet, fragrant banana cake rounds that sandwich a sweet, tart filling, speaks to the great satisfaction one can take in simple things. The flavor of the bananas really sings through the cake, and is tempered by the fresh bite of the homemade lemon curd in the filling.

I was even more pleased with this recipe, because I actually adapted it from a recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes for a banana cake. Rather than using someone else’s recipe, I wanted to see if i could make my own modifications and have it actually work. And I’m happy to say that it did. Slightly decreasing the oil and upping the flour amount to mimic that of another whoopie pie recipe meant that the batter held together well enough when scooped out on the baking sheet, and baked into light and fluffy rounds.

Simple, unassuming, great tasting – I think that’s my pastry style. So what’s your pastry style? Do you go for the fancy French pastries? The down-home desserts from the south? Or do you prefer your baked goods to be cute and whimsical?

Banana Whoopie Pies 2

These were a hit at my book club's two year anniversary party. Two years ladies!

Recipe: Banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese filling

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Kitchen Basics: What Is White Whole Wheat Flour? And How Can I Substitute it?

busy day cake

The Busy Day Cake, which first brought White Whole Wheat Flour to my attention.

I recently was asking people about their kitchen and baking quandaries on Facebook (yes, there’s actually a ModernDomestic fan page now, where I can ask people these types of questions. You, too, can be a fan!) and Amelia had an excellent question – what exactly is this white whole wheat flour that she’s been hearing about?

I have to admit that I haven’t actually used white whole wheat flour myself, although it first came to my attention when I made the Busy Day Cake (an Orangette recipe that originally called for white whole wheat flour). But after doing some research, white whole wheat flour looks like the solution for those who like the nutrition of whole wheat flour, but dislike its bitter flavor and heavier texture.

So what exactly is so special about this white whole wheat flour? First, a quick biology lesson. A grain of wheat is made up of three parts:

1.) The wheat bran (the hard, outer coating);
2.) The endosperm (the soft, starchy stuff inside); and
3.) The germ (the part at the bottom of the wheat grain, which has a high oil content and a sweet and nutty flavor).

Regular whole wheat flour, which contains the wheat bran, endosperm, and germ, is made from “red” wheat varieties. Red wheat gets its color from a pigment in the bran. This pigment also contains phenolic acid, which has a bitter flavor – it’s what gives whole wheat baked goods that slightly bitter taste.

White whole wheat flour is made from varieties of softer “white” wheat. Because the white wheat germ doesn’t contain that red pigment, it doesn’t have that bitter taste – making its flavor closer to that of white all-purpose flour. So you can get the nutritional punch of whole wheat flour, with the sweeter flavor of white flour.

Whew. That was a lot of science writing.

As for substitutions, white whole wheat flour can be used in place of all purpose flour or whole wheat flour in any recipe – at least, according to the King Arthur Web site. If you want to be conservative in your experimentation, I’d suggest using substituting half the flour called for in a recipe with white whole wheat flour, and seeing how you like the difference. After all, baking is a highly personal experience, and you should experiment to see what you like the best – both for taste and health reasons.

Sources (and for more reading):
The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, By Kim Boyce
King Arthur Flour: White Whole Wheat Flour

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Alex’s Chocolate Chunk Banana “Brownies”

Banana Brownies 2

Yes, I realize they look like muffins - but they're actually intended to be brownies.

My brother has always had a thing for bananas. I don’t know what it was about them. I mean, I liked them as a kid, but Alex loved them. One of his favorite snacks to make was a “banana milk shake,” a term that I think my mother came up with to re-brand banana smoothies as something much more indulgent. He was a fan of the banana ice cream they served down the street at Prince Puckler’s, still my favorite ice cream shop in the country. And now that he’s a post-college grad trying to make it as a playwright in Chicago, one of his more bizarre frugal dinners it to make banana omelets. Yes. Bananas. In an omelet.

Okay, so I’m not sold on the banana omelets, although Alex will defend them to the death. But I started thinking about bananas when I was wondering what to get Alex for his birthday. Usually, I’m a pretty boring present giver – I go for the amazon gift certificate, or, once in a while, a book. But I decided to do something different this year – I decided to make him his very own banana baked good recipe.

Now, you’ll notice that the title of this post is for banana “brownies” and yet the photo clearly looks like muffins. But consider this discrepancy merely a deficiency of my kitchen – I actually don’t own a square baking pan, and it just didn’t seem right to bake them in a round pan. Plus, for shipping purposes, the individually packaged muffins are pretty sweet. But, rest assured, while you can bake these in muffin tins, they are intended to be baked in a 9×9 inch square cake pan.

I adapted this recipe from my own banana bread recipe, as well as a butterscotch brownie recipe from The Joy Of Cooking – one of the few sources I could find that had recipes for “brownies” that didn’t actually contain chocolate. Since Alex is such a banana fiend, these are heavy on the fruit – they’re best made with really old bananas that are beginning to blacken on the outside. They’re chewy and moist, sweet with the banana flavor, and punctuated with chunks of chocolate. I used bittersweet chocolate but I’ll actually use milk chocolate when I make these again – the sweetness of the milk chocolate would be a more harmonious compliment to the banana flavor.

So, happy birthday Alex. And yes, I realize that I’m writing this a week after your actual birthday. But, um, can having your very own handmade recipe make up for that?

Banana Brownies 1

Oh, and I also ate two.

Recipe: Alex’s Chocolate Chunk Banana

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Saint Patrick’s Day Guinness Cupcakes

Guinness Cupcakes 3

Guinness Cupcakes - perfect for St. Patrick's Day. Or any day.

I’ll admit, I’ve never done that much for St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, my mother would festoon the dining room with green clover garlands and chocolate “gold” pieces around the holiday each year when I was little, given our Irish heritage. And I’ve gone out to a couple of Irish bars on the holiday. And there was that one memorable Saint Patrick’s Day during college at Earl’s on the Ave (the old one) with a bunch of blue drinks and my friend Sara. But let’s not talk about that.

It may be a holiday that has garnered little of my attention, but I think that Saint Patrick’s Day is due for a second look. Not because it celebrates a certain Irish Saint, but because it’s an opportunity to bake with beer.

Everyone should bake with beer. I’m just going to put that out there. Baking with beer is awesome. It adds a smoky, almost savory note to baked goods that’s a lovely compliment to sugar. It’s an excellent addition to bread recipes – just replace the water or liquid called for with an equal amount of beer. And dark beers like stouts or porters go exceptionally well with chocolate.

These Guinness cupcakes with Guinness glaze take advantage of the dark beer/chocolate pairing. The smoky flavor of the Guinness helps balance the sweetness of the cake, and brings out the cocoa in the cake. It also contrasts with the sugar in the glaze, which keeps the cake soft and sweet. The only problem I had with the cake is that it turned out exceptionally moist – maybe even a little gummy in the center. I guess a quest for a perfect cake is never really done. But baking with beer? That’s a quest that I’m happily convinced will never be done – there’s just too many things to experiment with.

Guiness Cupcakes 2

Love that you can see the bubbles from the beer in the frosting.

Recipe: St. Patrick’s Day Guinness Cupcakes

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