Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't hate me fellow bakers :(

Dearest Daring Bakers----

I'm an awful new member, I know! This will be the second (and final!) challenge I've missed but I promise it's not due to laziness or dislike of the challenges. Things just keep coming up with work, friends or family. And I have been baking! I'll post a few pictures here. Most of these are old - I'm also horrible at keeping up with blogging (hence the 2am post). But I always snap shots with the intention of them going up sometime! Well, without further ado (and any more of my lame excuses)...


My Proudest Tart Shell..that burned me.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned here, but I'm new to the world of baking in the grand scheme of things. I've always had a love for cooking having grown up in my Grandma's kitchen. With the help and inspiration of my best friend Claire (The Flying Quiche - check it out!), I've matured as a baker. So, at the beginning of the Summer I decided to work on my tarts. My first few tart shells were a bit shoddy but this one that I made in April was my proudest to date.

My issue was my dough was always too sticky and I had to do a lot of maintenance after putting into the pan. But this one fell into place relatively nicely - I actually rolled the dough between two silicone baking mats as you can see here - and voila! Didn't stick whatsoever.

Unfortunately, in my excitement I put it into the oven without a baking sheet underneath, and I stupidly lifted the pan from the bottom after it was beautifully golden-brown. I now have a nice dark brown scar that's about three inches long on my left arm.

People ask me all the time where I got it. I know I should be prideful of my baking, but this scar is just embarrassing. Claire calls it my gay branding, haha.

Guiness Cake

I think I have to say something about not claiming rights to the name Guiness? I'm such a noob - don't judge me! Hahah.

Anyway, this is a pretty popular cake in the UK from what I'm told. This recipe was based off of Nigella Lawson's Guiness Cake in her Feast cook book. I spiced up the recipe a bit with a few additions - a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or two of espresso powder, and I used another cream cheese frosting recipe that I prefer. This one came out much better than ones I made in the past, the flavor was a lot more complex rather than flat. I made this cake for my friend Anna's birthday - she has a thing for Guiness.

As a side note - if anyone finds themselves in Dublin, do take a time out to go to the Guiness Factory. Even if you don't have a taste for beer, the view from the roof is worth it. Here's Claire, me and Anna (different one than the cake recipient) at the Gravity Bar on the factory's roof.

I'm working on my cupcakes

I told myself that if and when I get serious about opening a bakery, I need to have some fly cupcakes. Here are the first (of many I hope!) cupcakes. I had one of these at Georgetown Cupcake, a new-ish bakery here in DC, so I tried to recreate. It's a Lemon Cupcake with a Berry Frosting.

If my taste buds remember correctly, my berry frosting wasn't as flavorful as the bakery's, but for a first-time test recipe, I was pretty satisfied. I'll post the full recipe once I'm satisfied, but basically I sugared the berries to draw the juices out, then reduced that over heat. Then, I purred the berries, strained the seeds out and then sweetened it with the reduced syrup. Then, creamed some butter, used what felt like half a Costco-sized bag of confectioner's sugar, then flavored it with the berry sauce and some vanilla. Next time, I think I'll just make a berry coulis - the method I used didn't make an intense enough flavor.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Sorbet
I'm so sad not to have pictures of this. Another thing I'm sad about is that I didn't write down this recipe.

A friend of mine loves Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie so I decided to switch things up a bit and make it into a sorbet. So, I'm in the kitchen and my roommate comes it, asking what I'm doing. I tell her I'm testing this recipe as I'm tossing sugar by hand into my bowl of strawberries. "Don't you want to measure that and write it down?" she asks. "No," I tell her, "It'll stifle my creativity." At the time it sounded like a completely legit answer. In hindsight, that was quite dumb.

Roughly, I sliced some rhubarb stalks and put that to a simmer with sugar and some water. Then, hulled and quartered strawberries.

So fellow bakers - you know how certain flavors enhance others? Like chocolate and coffee, right? To me, and based off other recipes I've seen, strawberries do well with orange while simultaneously drawing out its natural sugars. Maybe it's just me though. If anyone has any hidden flavor enhancers, please comment! I'd love to know more.

Anyway, I tossed the strawberries in some orange juice and as a spur-of-the-moment decision, threw in some triple sec into the simmering rhubarb (see, if I was writing this down, I wouldn't have done that! Haha). So I cooked that a bit more to get the alcohol out and then took it off the heat and allowed it to cool a bit. Then, using my new love, the immersion blender, I blended the strawberries into the rhubarb and refrigerated it over night. And the next day - we have sorbet! I'm told it was pretty good :) Wish I had some proof (either in the form of a recipe or pictures, in that order).

Big "JJ's" Carrot Cake
You may recognize this three-layer cake as Big Bill's Carrot Cake from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours" cook book. I altered it however and named it for, well, me, haha. Two of my changes were intentional but the other was absolutely accidental.

So I again used a cream cheese frosting recipe that I prefer - the one I use has sour cream in it - makes it much lighter than most other recipes I've tried. The second change was pineapple. Every carrot cake I've made before this had pineapple in it. I'm not sure if it's because my recipe was my mom's and we're Filipino so we love pineapple. I went shopping for the recipe before even reading it and I did a pretty good job of what I needed if I do say so myself, but I had all this pineapple so decided to deviate a bit.

So the accident? See the ring in the middle? Well, I didn't grease the pan as well as I had thought, nor did I line them (I know, I'm awful) so the bottom got stuck to the pan. Deciding to make lemonade out of my lemon of a third layer, I cut a circle in the middle of the cake to mask the former hole and fill it with pineapple to make it obvious that the cake had it. Then, I garnished that with some shredded carrots and walnuts.


There you have it! A few posts that I've been meaning to put up for the last few months. There are a lot of other things I've been making, but those I'll put up later :) For now, I hope this satisfies you and again, so sorry about missing those challenges. Check back in a month and I promise to have something that will impress.