The Food Librarian is Tipsy!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's Sunday night and I'm trying to catch up on my posts from last week's baking.

My brother's family gave me a gift card to Michael's arts and craft for Christmas. I used it (along with those cool 40% off coupons) to get this Wilton cake decorating tip set. I have no idea what they all "do", but I might take a class later.

Thus, everything is about frosting.

I made Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting via Everyday Food. I didn't have any low-fat yogurt in the house so I used sour cream instead. Yes, nothing like increasing the fat content of your dessert!


I shredded the carrots using the small grates. The recipe is very easy!

These cupcakes don't rise very much so I should have filled them a bit more. The recipe makes 12 but I tossed some of the batter because I thought I had too much.

The frosting was yum and very simple. The addition of some orange zest gives the frosting a great look and taste. I used a star tip to create some stars and swirly frosting.


Next up, Baking Illustrated's Vanilla Cupcakes were topped with some a chocolate buttercream frosting via Everyday Food. I used the Wilton tip with a little hole (can't remember the number) to make this chocolate chip looking design.

Other stuff: This weekend, I went to the L.A. Derby Dolls season opener. Yes, roller derby is back. Sumi's friend Julie had her birthday party there (Julie has even gone to a few trainings...so we are waiting for her debut). Alexis Arquette sang the national anthem, and there were lots of bruises and ice packs on the skaters. Hot Dog on the Stick sold corn dogs and lemonade in the parking lot. You know you are at a true Los Angeles scene when you overhear someone say, "But I don't know if they're vegan" about the veggie burgers offered by another roach coach. (Poster design by: Jordan Crane)

I also volunteered at KCRW during the pledge drive so I didn't bake at all. Los Angeles listeners to the best public radio around: don't forget to pledge!!

Have a great week!
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Tartine (Meyer) Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Combine Meyer lemons, sugar, eggs, and flour and you have food of the gods. I continue on my crazy search for the perfect lemon bar recipe.

Today's candidate: Tartine's Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread (page 149)

The dough is pretty simple. Mix flour, powdered sugar, and room temperature butter until a dough forms. You can put in optional pine nuts...but I opted out since my co-worker can't have nuts. Press it into a 9 x 13 pan.

Tartine's cookbook says, "we bake the shortbread base until it turns golden brown, producing a deeper butter flavor and crispier crust." Oh, I did something wrong... The directions tell you to place pie weights on the dough. I've never done this before so I grabbed my brand-new pie weights and put them on top of the parchment paper that protected my unbaked dough. There weren't enough so I grabbed some pinto beans and added them. But I think (correction: I know) I used way, way too many beans... and the directions never said to remove the weights...so it didn't brown. Can it brown under weights (if I didn't use so many) or do I need to remove all the weights about half-way through baking? I finally removed the weights with about 5 minutes to go, and let it bake for an extra 10-15 minutes to get golden brown.

The topping was very easy. Lots and lots of lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons from my father's tree) and zest. It also had 6 whole eggs and one extra yolk. The result was crazy tart and sweet. I wasn't crazy about the crust, but then I didn't get the proper Tartine-like crust due to my pinto bean excesses. I might try them again before the end of Meyer lemon season...

Zoe Francois, author of a great new book, "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" made some absolutely beautiful Tartine lemon bars by adding meringue. I'll have to give that a shot next time!
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Baking Illustrated Cranberry Scones (sans orange)

At the crack of dawn yesterday, I decided to give scones a try. Never made before, but I now understand why they are called scones. It's because "butterfat-delivery-device" is too long.

I got the recipe from Baking Illustrated (page 58). The actual recipe is for Cream Scones with Currants but, seriously, who has currants in the house at 5 am? I might have some dried up lunch box raisins, but not fancy currants...I opted for the variation: Cranberry-Orange Scones with dried cranberries and orange zest. By the way, I just love the variations at the end of recipes - it is sorta like "choose your own adventure" cooking.

1. You use a food processor to mix. Very quick indeed. After, place in a bowl and mix in 1 cup of cream. 2. Then you knead for a few seconds. I tried really hard to not over-knead the dough. 3. Pop the dough into an ungreased 8-inch cake pan so it comes out round. This is helpful early in the morning. 4. Cut into 8 wedges and placed on a cookie sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with a little sugar.

It wasn't until the dough was in the oven that I realized I completely forgot the orange zest. Lately, I've been baking with an abbreviation zeal. From Boston Cream Pie to Boston Pie...and Cranberry Orange Scone to Cranberry Scone. I guess it is all about choosing your own baking adventure!

I don't usually buy scones so I don't have much to compare with...however, I strive to do more research eating in this department! They tasted like a sweet biscuit with dried cranberries. Is that right?

I brought in the scones with some Pam Jam. That I know was delicious!
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La Dijonaise & Farmer's Market

Monday, January 21, 2008

The libraries were closed to observe Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. I took advantage of the 3-day weekend by spending much of it napping and eating. Since the sleeping photos aren't that exciting, I thought I would share with you the eating part...

Pam Jam came down from the Bay Area and we went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Sunday. I picked up my usual kettle corn popcorn, Ha's apples and we both had some Thai sticky rice with banana wrapped in banana leaf. They are total works of art! We ate at the Corn Maiden tamale stand (ate the tamales too fast & forgot to photograph them!) The secret to Corn Maiden: Ask them to fully remove the husk and get extra sauce...serious yum.

Although we usually get a pupusa from the pupusa lady...this time we went for the Korean stand's yummy pancake with kim chee. Pam also got a fresh coconut!

Korean pancake with kim chee

On Monday, I met some co-workers and their family for lunch at La Dijonaise in Culver City (Helm's Bakery). Lunch was good (Note to HCG: Jambon sandwich, of course!) but dessert was wonderful. If only I could make desserts like this!!!

Almond tart with chocolate...oh my goodness good

Raspberry Mousse...very special indeed

Lemon Tart...tangy, smooth, and delicious

Opera Cake...first time trying this...and not my last!

Apricot tart...delicious cream and perfect pastry

The prices at La Dijonaise are very reasonable and everything on the menu is great. And...since it is right next door to Surfas, I just had to go visit!

P.S. Confession. I tried to make a few baked goods but they didn't turn out...and although I took a zillion photos of the disaster, I didn't feel like posting them until I try the recipes again...and can post a success! :)
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Boston Pie

Friday, January 18, 2008

I tried to make a Boston Cream Pie.

Oh geez. How many posts begin, "I tried to make..."? Let's try a positive spin.

I made a Boston Pie.

What's a Boston Pie? The new undefeated New England Patriot's favorite dessert? Something you eat on the famous (and totally fun) Duck Tour?

No, it's what you get when you set out to make a Boston Cream Pie and end up tossing out the "pastry cream." Don't know what went wrong as I watched the Martha Stewart Baking video of her making this dessert about 10 times before trying it myself. Martha got a pastry cream...I got a congealed mass of all-messed-up-stuff-that-ain't-pastry-cream. Hello, Mr. Trashcan!

The sponge cake was easy to make and super yummy. Because the cake is not completely frosted, you butter and sugar the pan, leaving a nice light sugar coating around the edges. The chocolate topping is a simple ganache.

The Boston Cream Pie is the official state dessert! It is called "pie" because bakers had more pie pans than cake pans in the 1800's. They baked the cake in the pie pans, filled it with custard and cut it like a pie.
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Batter + Pan = Madeleine

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I made the "Traditional Madeleines" from Dorie Greenspan's beautiful book: Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie has a great blog as well!

The Cross-Section

The madeleines were yummy, but they were quite "cakey" and not as dense as the madeleines you get from, say, Starbucks. Then the quandary. Do you really know what a homemade madeleine is supposed to taste like? Should you compare them to the ones you get at Starbucks that are sealed in plastic? All the recipes I've read said you must eat the homemade madeleine THAT DAY - they don't keep and, basically, you're crazy if you don't stuff them in your mouth over morning coffee and tea. So...what's in the Starbuck's madeleine that allows it to sit around for days?

The batter is very easy to make and quick to bake. You need to make the batter the night before and let it chill out in the refrig overnight. Then you bake them in the morning! I need to work on better buttering of the pan...a few edges stuck to the pan.

There are a bunch of other madeleine recipes I want to try (including the Earl Grey and Saffron ones)...and use my cool pan! These are perfect to bring to morning meetings.

1. The cool pan I bought at Surfas. 2. Filled up with all the batter. 3. Coming out of the oven.
I used all the batter because the yield was 12 madeleines...but I think they were a little over-filled. Next time, a little less...
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Tartine Lemon Meringue Cake

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tartine is the best bakery/cafe in the Mission District of San Francisco. The Lemon Meringue Cake is one of their most popular. Here is my attempt using the Tartine Cookbook (page 81)

I made a 9" cake as well as this Mini-Me 4" cake

Layers of lemon chiffon, lemon syrup, caramel and lemon cream...topped with meringue

Remember my friend Sumi flying down from San Francisco carrying her purse and a delicious Tartine Lemon Meringue Cake? I tried to make this absolutely beautiful and yummy cake this weekend!

Like the Caramel Cook, this is an all-day cake! His turned out much better than mine, but I'm calling this Lemon Meringue Cake, Draft #1.

There are four major components: Lemon Cream, Caramel, Lemon Chiffon Cake, and Meringue...and a quick and easy Lemon Syrup.

Luckily, UCLA Men's Basketball played Washington State (and beat the 4th ranked team!!) on Saturday and there were a zillion NFL playoff games this weekend that I watched while baking. :)

Caramel: Water, sugar, corn syrup boiled until light amber. Warmed heavy cream is added and then butter is whisked in. I burnt the first batch (of course!) but the second one came out okay!

Lemon Chiffon Cake: I whisked together the yolks, flour, sugar, water, lemon juice, zest and oil in one bowl. Then a bunch of egg whites are whipped up and added to the wet batter. But then I realized I had WAY too many eggs to fit in my bowl! Quick switch to the monster Tupperware green (circa 1970) bowl. (Damn, I love Tupperware!) I used a 9" springform from Surfas and two small 4 x 2 pans (also from Surfas). The recipe called for a 10" springform, but I didn't have one.

Completed lemon chiffon cake - right out of the oven...then it fell. I leveled off the top and tried to figure out how to cut 4 layers out of the now shorter cake. Next time, I think I'll make it only 3 layers. You need to wrap the pan in plastic wrap so anything lemon doesn't touch the aluminum pan - that creates a bad taste, per the Tartine cookbook.

Assembling the cake: Lemon chiffon cake, brush on lemon syrup, caramel layer, lemon cream...and repeat. The cake needs to chill out overnight. Here is my mini-me cake.

Then, you create the meringue frosting and frost the cake. Although the cookbook says to heat the whites and sugar over a double boiler til 120 degrees, I went to 160 because I'm crazy about egg safety and Martha Stewart goes that high. My meringue was tasty, but I think I overwhipped the frosting and didn't get those great swoops I wanted.

The Torching.
Dude, I so love this!
More things should involve torching.

The lovely propane torch was fired up this morning...and after you torch it (takes only a few milliseconds to get a nice brown color on the meringue) you get this cool looking cake!

Seriously, the best part?

The whole entire house smells like toasted marshmallows at 6:00 am.

This was only batch #1 of a zillion...with cake, meringue, lemon cream, and two batches of caramel...it was a crazy dish washing experience!
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Polls Closed: Mr. Trashcan Wins!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What is the difference between the rock and the cookie?
Absolutely nothing.

I'm awake because I'm afraid to sleep.

I'm afraid the nightmare of my baking night might come back in my real nightmares!

Oh, the horror.

I tried to make the 1-2-3-4 Cake (Martha Stewart) for the Lemon Meringue Cake...and when that crashed and burned, I tried to salvage the night with a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies (Alton Brown).

What the heck? The cake looks like Humpty Dumpty sat on my cake. Most cakes dome on the top...this one had other plans.

Then I leveled out the concave creation...and tasted the cake. Total disaster. Tasted like salty-baking soda. The recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda (and no, I did not switch the measurements). Hello, Mr. Trashcan!

Next, I tried to try a new chocolate chip recipe (Alton Brown's Chocolate Chip Cookies #10). I don't know what went wrong. The recipe calls for melted butter. Later, I read in Cooks Illustrated that using melted butter in cookies might lead to hard cookies...man, they aren't like the crazy pollsters for the New Hampshire primary election tonight, they were right!
Hard as rocks!

Yes, just one more disaster! While the cake was baking, I tried to make the lemon curd that would fill the cake...but I messed up by trying a new recipe, but using the technique of an old recipe. Basically, I used a double boiler and stirred the mixture, instead of whisking continuously. The curd tasted good, but never thickened up. Anyway, I thought this photo of my egg yolk flower was neat.

But I haven't given up! Tomorrow, I'll be picking up some cookbooks at the library and will keep plugging along! :)
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Alton Brown's Pound Cake


From page 210 of Alton Brown's Baking book (thanks Brian for the book!!)...comes this lovely Pound Cake made with buttermilk and only two sticks of butter. Thus, it is practically low-fat :)

This is a hardy pound cake. The crumb is not as delicate as the other pound cakes I've made. It's probably the low amount of butter and the use of all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. However, it holds up well in my cute pan.

I went back to the gym last night. First time since the start of the Writer's strike I think...and that has been on forever! Been pretty good about the New Years Resolutions so far (sans the gym and diet plan)! I have been flossing my teeth, taking vitamins, completing daily exercises for my back and hands before work, baking at least once a week, and I opened a new checking account at a bank closer to my house! Whoo hoo. Now if I can only make a real pie crust (something I fear!)...

The cool Bundt pan that makes cute little trees

Just out of the oven. I didn't use all the batter because I thought it would boil over. I'm glad I didn't fill it to the top!

With a light dusting of powdered sugar (As Chef D says: Not when hot!), the cake looks much like the beautiful snow that just fell in the mountains of California. Snowboarding, anyone?
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