Sunday, June 29, 2008

Peach Cobbler pie

Yellow sweet peaches with cinnamon crumble topping in a pastry crust.

Admittedly, this pie is due to an episode of Pushing Daisies, in which a customer says something like: "What is that amazing smell I'm smelling?" To which Chuck (who is holding a pie) responds, "Is what you're smelling Georgia peach cobbler?" "That's exactly it." "Then I'm the guilty Georgia peach. :)"

Anyway! Ever since seeing that, I've been wanting to make a peach cobbler pie.

So I started off with the crust. Pulsing together the flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor:


After slowly dripping in a couple of tablespoons of ice water and pulsing the mix some more, the dough particles start to roll together into a ball:


Then, you turn all of that out onto a floured surface. Press it all together into a flat disk and refrigerate for about an hour.


In the meantime, clean and peel and slice some peaches. Rather than pink Georgia peaches, I used yellow sweet peaches. As I cut and sliced them, I dropped them into a bowl of acidulated water (water and lemon juice) to keep them from turning brown. Apparently, the lemon juice also helps to keep the peaches intact as they bake (rather than disintegrating onto peach pulp).

Then, I drained the peach slices and mixed them together with some brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and honey.


I also mixed in some flour, a little bit of cornstarch, and salt, and tossed the whole mix together with my hands.

By this time, the pie crust was ready to go, so I rolled out the cold disk and pressed it into my pie pan. I put a thin layer of plain bread crumbs on the bottom to keep the crust from getting soggy.


How the pie looks after pouring in the filling:


I made a quick crumble topping using flour, butter, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Then, I covered the peaches with the crumble mix:


Brush the edges of the pie with egg wash, and then you're ready to bake! How the pie looks, after coming out of the oven:


It was a delicious pie! I love yellow peaches, and after baking, they are all nice and soft (but still substantially intact). This pie actually reminded me of apple pie, but with peaches. I think it's a keeper.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Strawberry Fields cupcakes

Strawberry cake with strawberry vanilla swirled buttercream and confetti sprinkles.

I attempted to make a strawberry cake that was actually... strawberry cake. Too often I find that strawberry cakes are white cakes with strawberries or strawberry jam stuck in between. I basically adapted a yellow cake recipe to get what I wanted.

At the point where you normally add buttermilk, I doctored the buttermilk by whisking in some strawberry jam and a few drops of red food color:


Okay, yes, I am aware that it looks like I'm mixing Pepto Bismol into my cake batter. But bear with me, for after all the mixing is done, the batter will look something like this:


I recently got a new mini-muffin pan, so I wanted to try it out. All the cake batter, spooned out and ready to go:


After baking:


I made a basic vanilla buttercream frosting and divided it in half. In one half, I put in a bit of red food color and strawberry jam. The swirl effect didn't come out as nice as I would've liked -- I think it's because I tend to squeeze my piping bag unevenly, so one half gets pushed through before the other half. Whoops?

I nearly ran out of frosting! I had to pipe small amounts onto the mini-cupcakes, but I think that makes them look cuter. Sort of like petit fours, no?


The strawberry cupcake, ready for its close-up:

Buttermilk Biscuits

I made biscuits over the weekend for a family dinner. Biscuits are super easy to make, so I expect you all to give it a try when you want to eat biscuits -- instead of using the canned stuff.

You don't even need to sift your flour. Just give it a quick whisk (along with salt and baking powder) in the bowl:


You can cut in the butter by cutting it with a pastry cutter or two knives. Or you can do what I do and save yourself a lot of time -- use a box shredder to shred the cold butter into nice small pieces.


Once you rub in the butter pieces and stir in the buttermilk, you'll have a loose, sticky mass of dough. It'll look something like this:


After a brief knead or two, turn the whole thing out onto a floured board and roll out the dough into a thick, even layer. (About half inch thick? These biscuits don't rise that much, so roll it to the thickness you want them to be.)


Cutting out the biscuits with a circle cutter:


Everyone lined up on the pan:


And waiting to be eaten! These didn't brown as nice as I would've liked, because I had to stick them on the bottom rack of the oven since my mom had other food cooking on the upper rack.


Tasty, though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spiced Pear Friendship bread

So I wasn't planning on making this recipe, but this past weekend, my cousin gave me a starter for Amish Friendship Bread. I've never tasted it before, much less made it. And you know me -- I'm a sucker for trying new things.

Amish Friendship Bread is like a baker's version of a chain letter. You will receive a starter (made out of flour, milk, and sugar) which has leavening properties and will be the base for the batter. (Sort of like a sourdough starter, but sweeter.) You take care of the starter for ten days -- at which point you will have enough starter to share with three friends, and a portion for yourself to make into a loaf of friendship bread.

I hesitate to call this "Amish" because this recipe is not Amish, and I hate inaccurate misnomers like that. I mean, the recipe calls for instant pudding mix for goodness' sake.

Anyway!

This is what my cousin gave me, along with a battered copy of a recipe:


Because of the natural bacteria that gathers in the starter as it ferments, this starter is supposed to be your leavener. Back in the days before instant yeast, this is how you made bread rise (or you could've borrowed yeast from a brewery, but that's another story).

If all is going well, the starter should be a milky color (not pink) and it should bubble if you leave it alone. This is how the starter looks, after leaving it alone for a day. Notice the bag is all poofy? I didn't blow air into it -- that's all due to the starter. You will occasionally need to release the air out of the bag as the starter ferments.


At the end of the dictated ten days, I put my batter together. The other thing? This "bread" seems to be more like a quickbread (like banana bread).

Here you can see the starter, getting things... started:


I modified this recipe a lot. I cut the oil and the sugar in half, and I didn't even bother with the instant vanilla pudding mix. I added in half a cup of applesauce to make up for the reduced oil. I also added in about... a third of a cup of vanilla yogurt to replace the missing pudding mix. For extra moisture, I wanted to toss in an apple because I thought it'd pair nicely with the cinnamon flavor this bread has going. But I didn't have any apples! A diced pear would have to do instead.


The recipe said that the batter is supposed to be split between two loaf pans. But judging from the amount of batter I had, I was skeptical. It seemed like enough for only one loaf. I followed the directions anyway, and I split the batter between a loaf pan and some star-shaped baking cups that Sakisha had given me.


While baking, the bread rose okay, but -- after seeing some pictures of Amish Friendship bread online, I was expecting it to deflate as it cooled. So.... I turned it upside down. What kind of nutcase lets her bread cool upside down? Well, it reduces the bread's chances of falling, right? Plus, just as I guessed, the bread didn't bake that tall anyway, so the loaf pan kept the bread from being smushed by the baking rack. Just don't loosen the bread before you do this:


The star cups were adorable, though.


Ta-da! Spiced pear friendship bread.


To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of this -- if only because you put so much work into prepping the starter, without any noticeable difference. It tastes fine, but it's about the same quality as any banana bread. And despite using a starter, the recipe still called for baking soda, which I believe is the reason for most of the leavening in this bread. I think you could pull the same thing off with a decent quickbread recipe, which doesn't need a starter at all.

Guess this baking chain letter is like any normal chain letter -- a lot of talk, without much to back it up.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The cutest cupcake in the universe

I ran across this video while perusing some baking blogs, and I HAD to share it with everyone. It combines two of my greatest loves: cupcakes and Diet Coke.



OMG TOO CUTE.

The video was made by Bakerella, as a tribute to the cupcake comics over at Cakespy.

Four 'n Twenty pie

Blackberries and raspberries with white chocolate and almonds in a double pastry crust.

Okay, so this pie is a little something of my own invention. I wanted to make an interesting blackberry pie, so I came up with what I like to call Four 'n Twenty pie, which combines a lot of my favorite flavors together.

First, I rolled out some pie dough that I had prepared earlier. (I think making pie dough is kind of a pain, because I need to pull out my food processor and then clean it up, so I usually make a lot at once, and then roll out the disks and freeze them for later. Ta-da! Your own frozen pie dough, ready to go.) I let two disks warm up a little, then I rolled both out flat. I lined a pie plate with one of them, and let the other one sit, and put them both back in the fridge for the time being.

Then, I mashed some of the blackberries into a juicy pulp, like so:


Then, I heated the mashed blackberries in a saucepan over medium heat until the mix bubbled and reduced. I set the sauce aside to cool, and heated some white chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler:


While the white chocolate melted and the blackberry sauce cooled, I got the rest of the pie ready. I took the two parts of the crust out of the fridge. I lined the bottom crust with a thin layer of almond crumbs (I had pulverized some almonds in a food processor the day before). This keeps the bottom crust from getting soggy, in addition to adding a nice crunch and nutty taste.


Then, I tossed my remaining blackberries and raspberries together, along with some flour and sugar. I hesitate to give the precise measurements, because it depends on the sweetness of the fruit you're using. Taste the mix, and if you think it tastes good, you've got it. (Add more sugar or lemon juice to adjust as needed.) Some folks dot their fruit with butter at this point, but I don't recommend it, because butter dulls the taste of most fruit (with apples being the exception).


I also tossed in my blackberry sauce (now cooled), and mixed the whole thing together by tossing it gently with my hands.

In the pie plate:


The white chocolate had melted by this point (you know, the great thing about a double boiler is that you basically get the water to a simmer, and you can safely ignore the thing until you're ready for it, because the chocolate won't burn). So I drizzled a good amount of it over all the fruit.


Then, I very very carefully laid the second pie crust on top of the pie plate. I pressed down on the rim and pinched the edges together to seal it. I also cut slits in the top crust to let the air escape.


I wanted to cut out a cute little bird in the middle of the crust (it'd be a blackbird, get it?), but I didn't want to chance it. At this point, I was just glad I successfully maneuvered the top crust on.

Into the oven for about one hour. I had to put foil on the edges to keep them from browning too quickly. Which worked out just fine. As the pie cools:


Whoo-hoo! Isn't it pretty? I love pie.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blue Sky cupcakes

Lemon syrup cake with blueberry buttercream, topped with fondant star.

With Father's Day coming up, I wanted to make a blue-ish cupcake. Yes, a strange desire, I know. But work with me here.

I am also a big fan of the flavor combination of lemon and blueberry, so I thought it'd be great to bring them together in a cupcake.

For the cake part, I added lemon zest to the batter.


And, while the cupcakes baked, I made a simple syrup using lemon juice and granulated sugar. While the cupcakes were still hot, I drizzled the lemon syrup on top to let it absorb into the cakes.


I made a blueberry buttercream using blueberry preserves. Problem being, blueberries are actually... purple. I ended up with a nice lavender color, which I doctored with a few drops of blue food coloring to make the color stand out more.


I colored a ball of white fondant with yellow food color. Then, I made fondant "suns" (I guess they're really stars, but again, work with me here) using a fondant cutter.


The cupcakes, all assembled:


And here's the glamor shot. I've been trying to improve my food photography skills. Does it show? :)


And indeed, it was a tasty cupcake. You can never go wrong with this flavor combination.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My kingdom for a... box

I wish Wilton's cupcake boxes came in a size larger than just 6 cupcakes. They're sort of inconvenient when you have to carry a lot of cupcakes to a party, you know?

Actually, I imagine that you can make your own cupcake box by buying an appropriate size box from the arts and crafts store, and fashioning a cupcake holder insert out of cardboard. Hmmm.

Hey, for those into food photography, take a look at this and this. I found it somewhat informative! (It's stuff I kinda already knew, but it didn't hurt to see it spelled out.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Zongzi

Is anyone familiar with the Chinese sticky rice that's wrapped in bamboo leaves?

(Photo from Wikipedia.)

They're called zongzi in Mandarin (but to us Cantonese folks they've always been dong). Anyway, they're yummy and wonderful. They're normally stuffed with some sort of savory filling. Although there are sweet ones that you can eat by dipping them in sugar.

I have fond memories of making zongzi with my grandmother when I was little -- she would wrap up the rice and fillings in the bamboo leaves, and I'd help her tie up the zongzi with string. My dad made some this past weekend, which is what made me think of them.

Actually, I'm willing to bet a lot of Chinese folks made zongzi this past weekend, because the making of them is part of the tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu in Mandarin and Tuoan Ng in Cantonese), which fell on June 8th this year.

The savory ones aren't vegetarian-friendly, really, but I can envision a great savory one stuffed with salted egg, peanuts, mung beans, and chestnuts. Which, yes, doesn't sound that tasty, but trust me. Mmmm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

To Bake - June

It's summertime! Gotta love it. And my goals for this month are... Drum roll please...

- Naan (which I tried to make last month, but never got to)

- Four 'n Twenty pie

- Blue Sky cupcakes

- Strawberry Fields cupcakes

- Biscuits

- Peach Cobbler pie