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What are you baking these days? Part VIII [old]

(Note: There's a newer "What are you baking these days?" thread started. If you have a question or comment about something below, please go ahead and post it. But if you want to add a new thing you're baking to the list, please find the newest thread from this list: http://www.chow.com/search?query=&amp... -- The Chowhound Team )

Have been thinking about baking even more than ever because of this delightful back and forth. It occurred to me that having this forum and wanting to write about discoveries, the process of baking, its emotional effect, and so on has made me much more of a "mindful" baker. I really am "in" it when I'm doing it to a much greater extent than ever before. I find I pay much closer attention to details -measuring being one of them - and to the techniques I'm using (or discovering along the way) knowing that I will be at least attempting to describe them - and to desGreat! It's cool and rainy here today - am brainstorming what to make...and wondering what you are all up to.cribe the finished products I'm coming up with. In the past, I would often bake while being distracted (by work issues, what was going on around me, moods, time pressures, etc) and lose a good deal of the enjoyment. This is not as much the case any more. Baking as meditation...this from one of the least New Age-y people on the planet...what's next? OK, off the soapbox, Nellie...

Great! It's cool and rainy here today - am brainstorming what to make...and wondering what you are all up to. Here we go with lucky part 8!

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  1. The slight change in weather here is making me think longingly of fall, and a family discussion last week prompted us to have a pie taste off yesterday. Sweet potato pie vs. pumpkin pie, canned vs. fresh pumpkin, and prebaked crust vs. just pouring the batter in. I kept the spices the same in all the pies (I'm not sure how I ended up making all of them, but there you go). It was actually a lot of fun. I'd never cooked with fresh pumpkin before. The end result? The children all preferred the sweet potato pie, and the adults all liked the fresh pumpkin with the blind baked crust. Which all means that I just doomed myself to making sweet potato AND fresh pumpkin, blind baked pies for every single Thanksgiving henceforth. :)
    Today I will go back to admitting what season it really is and make a chocolate zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting from the monster zucchini that has been eying me from the counter for a week now.

    4 Replies
    1. re: auburnselkie

      Chocolate zucchini cake sounds great (and like a way to sneak veggies into my kids). Would you be willing to share your recipe?

      1. re: greeneggsnham

        Oh yes, of course - I was planning to type it up tonight so I will get it to you either tonight or tomorrow morning. It really turned out well!

        1. re: auburnselkie

          Oh great, thanks! Glad to hear it went well. With chocolate annd cream cheese frosting, must be delicious!

          1. re: greeneggsnham

            I am SO sorry...I have been without internet for two weeks so could not get back to you. Here is the recipe:

            Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake

            1/2 cup granulated sugar
            1 cup brown sugar
            1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
            1/2 cup oil
            3 eggs
            2 teaspoons baking soda
            1 teaspoon baking powder
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            2 cups flour
            3/4 cup cocoa powder
            1 cup buttermilk
            3 cups grated zucchini
            1/2 cup chocolate chips

            Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9” x 13” pan. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Cream together butter, oil, and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add in vanilla. Add in flour and buttermilk; mix until combined. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips (batter will be thick). Spread cake batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until toothpick poked into center comes out clean. Let cool thoroughly before frosting. Once frosted, store it in the refrigerator, but if possible let it come to room temperature before serving.

            Cream Cheese Frosting

            2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
            1/2 cup butter
            1 teaspoon vanilla
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1 teaspoon lemon juice
            2-1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar

            Cream together cream cheese and butter. Mix in vanilla and salt. Add in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, mixing at low speed, until the frosting is of the right consistency (thick enough to spread).

    2. Well, I have never been much of a baker, but I love reading this thread and do find it inspiring (as I do most of the HC threads). In fact, I've found myself doing a good bit more baking lately even though it is hot as Hades outside--and worse in my kitchen. So far, my baking has been confined to pretty simple stuff--hardly worthy of mention in this company--but I am enjoying it more than I ever have.
      Yesterday, I made yet another batch of salted dk. choc. chip-pistachio cookies, at the request of my niece. Turns out she wanted to take a bunch of them to her father when he comes for her today. Noticing my sister's tight smile (the post-divorce relationship has been perhaps rockier and more hostile than the marriage), I pointed out that she has raised a sweet daughter who is likely (sub-consciously) trying to present a peace offering from "this side," as it were, trying to build some kind of bridge. I believe sharing food is usually an act of love, and if anything I bake contributes in any small way to healing wounds, I will bake away.
      Therapy session is adjourned :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: nomadchowwoman

        That's a really sweet post, Nomad - Bake away! I haven't baked anything in awhile except for potatoes, so this thread is indeed inspiring!

        1. re: JerryMe

          Well, my newfound interest in baking is starting to show up--along w/all the cream and duck fat I've been cooking with--on my, um, hips.

      2. Oh, my - I just had a similar conversation with my husband about how my baking has become both more mindful and more of a pleasure. We live at about 5000' , and it took time to figure out how to bake good bread (I bake all of our bread now) - part of that is coming to understand and appreciate the chemistry of baking. As for meditation....my equally non New Age self finds the process of setting out the many ingredients for Russian black bread (or molé, for that matter) relaxing and meditative. Thanks for this thread and for it's periodic renewal - it's fun and inspiring and just a pleasure! Oh, and I have pita bread dough rising - my husband made hummus, then tabboule from the garden, so I made some fresh falafel and of course there has to be pita....

        1 Reply
        1. re: janeh

          Oh, my, yes! Baking bread at altitude took quite a bit of work to figure out! We're at 8250' and cakes were easy, but bread just put up such a fight! Our biggest thing was trying to get the crust right so we wouldn't need a giant laser to cut through. It takes practice but it sounds like you've got it figured out. Just thought I'd say hello since I'm way up high too.

          Jennifer

        2. I made apple cake -- twice, since we have a sudden infestation of ants and they got at the first one. And yesterday I also made a large pan of brownies, which got inhaled by my son's friends and my Egyptian house guests, and today, yet another batch of chocolate chip cookies as requested by the house guests. I have to say that I could make CCC blindfolded at this point, and I'm getting sick of 'em, but you can't argue with success.

          1. I finally got back in the kitchen and made Amanda Hesser’s almond cake using the food processor method. It turned out beautifully, and didn’t slump in the center. I made this once before using a recipe from an unknown (to me) blog, in which the instructions said to remove the cake from the pan before cooling! This time I followed the Amateur Gourmet’s instructions and I’m so pleased.

             
            17 Replies
            1. re: mnosyne

              This looks gorgeous and I'd love to make it but husband's tolerance for almond is semi-limited (with chocolate, maybe, but he's a walnut man) and I don't want a cake of my favorite nut flavor all to myself. (Don't like my workmates enough to share and have no close neighbors...)

              1. re: mnosyne

                That looks scrumptious! My go-to almond cake recipe is this one from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                but now I'll have to keep an eye out for Amanda Hesser's.

                1. re: mnosyne

                  Here are the links to the recipe. The first is made in a stand mixer; the second is the food processor method, which is really terrific.

                  http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2004/11...
                  http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2008/11...

                  1. re: mnosyne

                    oooh, so jealous. We only have marzipan here in the UK so I am building up to the day I can be bothered to make almond paste before I make the cake. Enjoy!

                    1. re: kookiegoddess

                      With all the snooping around I have done in books and on web sites I have never been able to determine the difference between almond paste and marzipan, so would appreciate it if you told me the difference.

                      1. re: souschef

                        My understanding has always been that marzipan has a higher percentage of sugar, which makes it more malleable for molding and rolling (and I have seen recipes for marzipan that involve mixing almond paste with more sugar). I think you could certainly use marzipan for a cake like this, perhaps decreasing the amount of sugar in the batter slightly to compensate.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          I just remembered that I do have a source for almond paste locally, so I should buy some and compare it with marzipan, which is widely available, from a few different countries.

                          1. re: souschef

                            Please do let us know if you do a comparison! And I will have to give the recipe a go with marzipan so other UK cooks will know if it works or not.

                            1. re: kookiegoddess

                              I had intended to just taste some almond paste vs marzipan, not actually make the cake. I did look at the recipe, and I'm sure it's a nice cake - you can never go wrong with sour cream. Why don't you just make it with marzipan, and if you find it too sweet cut back on the sugar - is should work equally well with almond paste and marzipan.

                              I get my almond paste from a cake supply house. In addition to making cakes they carry stuff like cake boards, fondant, etc. You should see if you can find the same in your area.

                          2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            Here is an interesting read on almond paste vs marzipan. I agree that the French version of marzipan is lighter, with a finer texture. I definitely prefer it to the German version.

                            1. re: souschef

                              Did you mean to include a link, souschef? And I think it must be this one: http://www.ochef.com/1087.htm

                              The sugar content question may speak to some of the difference with regard to German marzipan (in addition to manufacturing method), as it, according to that piece, must have twice the weight in almonds as sugar, while most specs I've seen for marzipan show it having more sugar than almonds.

                              Here are some numbers from an American brand, both about theoretical ratios of almonds and sugar, and what it uses in its paste and marzipan: http://lovenbake.com/service/faq.html

                              And this, from baking911.com:

                              Q. What is the difference between almond paste and marzipan?
                              A. Almond paste is made of ground, blanched almonds, sugar, glucose and some almond extract. Marzipan uses almond paste as its base with the addition of powdered sugar, egg white (or other binder) and additional liquid to make it pliable enough to shape into fruit or other shapes. This allows for easier rolling out and modeling. Almond paste’s higher almond content gives it a stronger flavor. Both can be used as an ingredient in baked goods.

                              The answers are obviously clear as mud, but my own experience tells me that marzipan is sweeter and has a finer texture than almond paste, which is why almond paste is really suitable as an ingredient, but doesn't suit the uses of marzipan as a finished candy or embellishment.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Yup, that was the one. Thought I had included it. Thanks.

                      2. re: mnosyne

                        I just found out the how to's of making almond paste as I hadn't done it before.
                        this cake looks delicious. Did you use almond paste?
                        here's the link for those of us like me who have no clue how to make any nut meat paste.
                        http://www.google.com/#hl=en&&amp...

                        1. re: iL Divo

                          Just keep in mind that almond paste that you make will not be as smooth as the stuff that is made commercially.

                          1. re: souschef

                            How quickly does Almond and Nut paste go rancid?

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I have no idea as they never stay around long enough to go rancid; any leftovers from baking quickly take a tummy tour.

                              They must have a lot of preservatives in them as they are found on shelves, unrefrigerated.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                For the most part, almond and other nut pastes are made from nuts and plenty of sugar. For the mos part, I have seen them sold in shelf-stable packaging (cans or plastic, as in the Odense brand readily available in the US). Once open and well wrapped in plastic, they will last a long time (and stay soft) if refrigerated. The commercial packaging and the sugar prolong their life, but I do believe that, once open, they are best kept in the fridge or freezer.