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What are you baking these days? August 2014 Edition, Part 2

The baking thread is chug, chugging along, despite the fact that many bakers (myself included) tend to be less inclined to bake during the summer months. I am about to start baking a ton of cookies and brownies to send to college with my son, who leaves a week from today -- the 22nd of August. Between his roommate and his teammates, I figure that I will have a lot of baking to do in the next several months. I will be experiencing the shipping of baked goods for the first time ever.

Fresh fruit desserts? Berry pies? Peach crisps and crumbles? How is summer's bounty (and heat) influencing your baking this month?

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  1. I'm looking forward to doing some baking in the latter part of the month (how can we be half-way through August already??). I was away at music festivals/ a family wedding in my hometown, so there was no baking beyond muffins and scones for breakfast.
    I've got my book club and a work potluck coming up.. the peaches here are beautiful, so I was considering a peach bundt cake? And I ran across a blueberry cream cheese type bar early in the summer, printed out the recipe.. and now can't find it (!!).

    1 Reply
    1. re: rstuart

      Despite all of my rhapsodizing about fruit.. I made brewers blondies from the first Baked cookbook! I wanted to make it to "use up" some malt balls I had: of course, the Ovaltine that I had to buy to make the blondies cost more than the chocolate hadd.. I am sure that you will all understand this "baker's logic".
      Very yummy..

    2. OMG yesterday I baked Christina Tosi's lemon pistachio pie and it was The Best Pie. Ever. I served it to some people and it made everyone happy. "Wow", "OMG" "outstanding" were comments, and one woman broke out in joyful laughter. It's that good.

      Pistachio crunch crust, thin layer of white chocolate, lemon curd (thickened with gelatin) and on top of that meringue mixed with some curd.

      Anyone else bake from Momofuko Milk Bar cookbook? I don't like her famous cereal milk ice cream, but Tosi is a brilliant, playfully creative pastry chef.

      14 Replies
      1. re: NYchowcook

        I have a few of their recipes bookmarked but have yet to get to them. I agree they are extremely creative and exciting.

        Glad your pie turned out so well!

        1. re: NYchowcook

          I baked her chocolate chip cake a couple of times. Widely loved and wildly appreciated. It's a lot of work, and I baked it over a couple of days. The good part is that you have to freeze it, so it can easily be made ahead.

          1. re: roxlet

            That cake looks insane roxlet. I fell in love at first glance here: http://www.hummingbirdhigh.com/2013/0... and instantly decided it was going to get baked this weekend.

            But as I read through ingredients and method, I have a few questions.

            First, I cannot fathom passionfruit curd with a chocolate chip/buttermilk/coffee flavor profile?? How did this taste to you, and would it be worth making it without it? I'm really not a fan of fruit and chocolate with the exception of strawberries, raspberries, and banana. HATE anything citrusy with chocolate, though I know most don't feel that way.

            Second, how was the coffee frosting? It calls for only 1/4 cup powdered sugar per stick of butter which seems like it would just be like eating mildly sweetened butter on top of your cake.

            I know I'm now completely changing the recipe, but would a coffee buttercream in more traditional proportions work on this thing, or no?

            1. re: nothingswrong

              It was fabulous, but since I couldn't find passion fruit puree, I made a strawberry puree and used that. The coffee frosting was extremely challenging, and the second time I made the cake, I think I doubled the amount. There wasn't enough, and what was there was very stiff. I think I wound up only using it on the top the first time I made the cake. Man, was it good though! Trouble is, you need all kinds of special equipment like a half sheet pan, 6" cake ring, and acetate sheets. I got them all, so am good to go on her other cakes. Maybe in the fall I'll try the pistachio one.

              1. re: roxlet

                Thanks for answering... Definitely sounds interesting. I see nothing but good reviews so the flavors must meld even if I can't picture it. I see people have a lot of trouble with the cakes/pans and the frosting, so I will keep that in mind.

                I don't see why you couldn't just bake the individual layers in round pans instead of the sheet pan?? I have 6" pans I bought recently with the idea of being able to make tiny cakes for just me and the bf.

                1. re: nothingswrong

                  No reason you couldn't bake them in 6" pans, but you do need the ring and the acetate sheets (2 for each cake) to properly build the cake. Also, the way Tosi does the cakes, she seems to like to have the edges of the layers exposed, as they are when you punch them out of the sheet pan. When you use the 6" cake ring, you kind of push the cake out from the bottom after it has set in the freezer. I think you need it whether or not you bake 6" layers in separate pans.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I am a rebel and I will be constructing my own chocolate chip/coffee buttercream cake then.

                    No but maybe one day I will purchase all of that special equipment, but not today. I do loathe when people totally change up a recipe and try to pass it off as the original. I can totally respect bakers spending oodles of time and special tools to create exactly what they were going for, even if it seems silly. Kind of like a lot of the ATK recipes, or Thomas Keller's. I know from experience though that even skipping out on minor details can be the difference between an okay cake and a spectacular one.

                    Thanks for all the info though rox!

                2. re: roxlet

                  I found passion fruit purée in the supermarket freezer --Goya brand. Don't know how it is though because despite numerous thawings and tossing and re-purchasing, I've yet to make the curd I've intended.

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    I used the Goya brand when I made Tartine's Passion Fruit & Lime Bavarian, and it worked just fine. It was more tart than I imagined it would be, but I've never tasted fresh passion fruit. I was about to drive out of my way to purchase the much more expensive Boiron brand puree, but then I found Goya's in my local Latin grocery.

            2. re: NYchowcook

              I would love this recipe if you're willing to paraphrase it here for us - lemon meringue is one of my favorites!

                1. re: roxlet

                  Thanks roxlet - I saw this recipe when I googled for a link but this is a cake, not a pie, and the meringue and white chocolate are not part of it (there's a pistachio frosting). Still looks good, though...

                2. re: biondanonima

                  Sorry for the delay -- I've been in the kitchen ... Baking!
                  I found the recipe on google books. It may take more than one search to locate the various recipes -- pistachio crunch, curd (if you're using hers -- don't forget gelatin!) and meringue mixed in with reserved curd.

                  http://books.google.com/books?id=WSke...

                  It's cumbersome to find. I have since checked the book out of the library again.

                  I used a lemon curd recipe I got from the CIA with egg yolks and I used gelatin sheets (for the first time!)

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    Tosi's pie -- showing lemon curd and then top (too goopy!) layer of meringue mixed with curd

                     
                     
              1. My daughter was home last week before heading back off to college and we made Flour's Cornmeal Lime Cookies. She was so impressed she took the recipe with her so she could make them for her BF. We also made the delicious Plum Torte from Marian Burros.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lesliej

                  I adore those cookies! They are fabulous.

                2. I have a loaf of sourdough with many seeds (4 different kinds of seeds is many in my book) that I'm going to use for tomato sandwiches.

                  1. Maybe it's the NYer in me but no matter how many times I try I can't make biscuits

                     
                    38 Replies
                      1. re: nothingswrong

                        Nope. Lol. Out of desperation I thought I would try lard. They taste piggy

                        1. re: Siegal

                          Ha! Last night the bf asked me if I would make him tamales today. I have nothing better to spend hours and hours on, so I said okay. I start looking at recipes and jotting down what I'll need. He says "Give me a list and I'll run to the store in the morning."

                          I hand him a list which features prominently: LARD. He immediately changed his mind about the tamales. I told him probably every tamale he's ever had contained lard and he refuses to believe it's true.

                          Anyway as to the biscuits, I just tried a recipe that called for shortening but used all butter (because that's what I was after) and they tasted absolutely delicious. Texture and rise were not so great, but they were tasty, which is most important in my book. Hope your subsequent attempts turn out better.

                          1. re: nothingswrong

                            Yea... Even though it's healthier then shortening and now some studies say better than butter it still has a reputation

                            1. re: Siegal

                              Right, it's the reputation. I grew up with a nanny from Mexico who took care of me 24/7 (parents were absent). She basically raised me speaking Spanish, wearing handmade Mexican clothing, etc. Part of that was eating all of my meals and snacks with her and her friends. I adored every single thing she fed me and my previously picky self could eat authentic Mexican all day long.

                              It wasn't until I got older and started helping her in the kitchen that I saw the lard and asked what it was. I was horrified and went vegetarian. Needless to say, most of the Mexican eating stopped too.

                              The bf has traveled a ton around the US, as he used to be a race car driver. So he has tried so many foods I've never even seen. But the lard thing really threw him for a loop with the tamales.

                              1. re: nothingswrong

                                Sounds like my husband. He learned to cook from his tía that lived with his family growing up. Most of the Mexican dishes he cooks are ones he learned from her. Although he learned Spanish and a couple other languages because his parents would speak them so he couldn't listen in lol. That backfired.

                                1. re: rasputina

                                  Ha, smart husband of yours! I can't say I remember much Spanish. Enough to understand, but not to speak myself.

                                  My sister is one of those language people; she started studying them in college and now at 23 speaks 4 (or 5?) fluently. It's a cool thing to be good at... she is always accidentally eavesdropping on people.

                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                    Ha. There were two very handsome French guys picking blueberries near me several weeks ago. I finally told them to slow down and enunciate better because my high school French was only picking up every 20th word.

                                    They realized I was joking and laughed, thank goodness.

                                    One advantage of getting (slightly) older, you can pseudo-flirt with handsome young men.

                            2. re: nothingswrong

                              I have a tamale cookbook (Tamales 101 http://www.amazon.com/Tamales-101-Beg...

                              )

                              and it calls for butter; I've only made them a few times since it's a lot of work making the sauces, etc. etc. and so far haven't been able to talk my daughter in to helping (she has no trouble with the eating part).

                              Anyway, make them with butter. (I've made some with roasted poblano chili diced, goat cheese and artichoke hearts with tomatillo salsa.) Easy to freeze them.

                              1. re: walker

                                Awesome, thanks. I will look into it. All of the recipes I saw online called for lard, but what started his craving was seeing some tamales made on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on TV. The guy was making fusion Central American and didn't use any lard, so I know it's possible. The bf will love butter of course so I will give it a try soon.

                                1. re: nothingswrong

                                  In the book she tells you what kind of masa to buy; there are 4 kinds. You don't buy the "preparada" if you're going to use butter because that one already has the lard mixed in. There's another way of making them with the bag of ground corn but I've gotten the fresh ground corn one from a really good Mexican market in San Francisco, La Palma. Do you have access to such a place?

                                  In the book she explains how to mix up with the butter .. in your electric mixer. Later you drop a bit of it in a glass of water in order to tell if you've mixed it enough time.

                                  A good homemade tamale is a work of art.

                                  1. re: walker

                                    Interesting! Yes, I do have access to good Mexican markets. I live in L.A. and there's a Mexican grocery 2 blocks down from me.

                                    I agree a good tamale is a work of art. I recall my nanny from Juarez saying if you weren't going to get GOOD tamales, don't bother eating them. I'd like to say I'm intimidated, but I feel like having access to good authentic ingredients and all the time in the world right now will churn out something decent. I doubt they'll be like the ones we had when I was a kid, but I'm sure the bf will love them.

                                2. re: walker

                                  Yup, I've made many tamales with butter. It works just fine. It's particularly good with fresh corn in the masa and a filling of roasted poblano strips and Monterey Jack cheese.

                                3. re: nothingswrong

                                  I always use butter in biscuits. I would use lard sometimes if I had a great source for good, non-hydrogenated lard. They're both good. Shortening biscuits, not so much.

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    Thanks for the tips about the tamales. I'm getting excited to make them! I had no idea butter could be used so successfully. Poblano + cheese sounds great.

                                    And I agree about butter biscuits. I've had lard but prefer the butter flavor. Shortening, no thanks.

                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                      A Mexican lady told me that the keys to great tamales are to use plenty of fat and to really whip the dough up good and light.

                                      I use masa harina because I've never managed to buy fresh masa that wasn't soured :-(

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        I have used masa harina for empanadas and other corn dishes. I've actually never looked for fresh masa but I am positive I could find it here no problem.

                                        I am jotting all these tips down for the tamales. Maybe this week I can try making them. Thanks sandy!

                                  2. re: nothingswrong

                                    Oh, he's funny. I've never made tamales but I use lard in my pie crust and biscuits.

                                    1. re: rasputina

                                      I'm sure if I used lard without telling my boyfriend, he would adore the final product. He is one of the least picky eaters I've ever encountered and will pop things in his mouth without asking what it is. But recently discovered I put *gasp* zucchini in my zucchini muffins and he won't touch them anymore. He thought they were carrot muffins. Obviously doesn't inspect his food closely before eating, or he would have noticed all the little green shavings.

                                      According to him, green veggies have no place in baked goods. He had somehow never even heard of zucchini bread before now...??

                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                        Weird how our ideas effect what we eat.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          It is. Zucchini in quick breads seems so normal and harmless to me, but I am guilty of it myself... Whenever I see those black bean brownies or mayonnaise/tomato soup cakes, I seriously gag.

                              2. re: Siegal

                                NYer here married to a southerner -- I think biscuits rise better when they are punched out of the dough. The cutter cannot be twisted -- just straight down with it, and the sides will rise.

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  Did that. Are they supposed to rise? Or do u just cut out 2 inch high biscuits ? Maybe I'm expecting them to rise and that's wrong?

                                  1. re: Siegal

                                    I'm no biscuit expert but I believe you should roll (or even just pat) them fairly thick, and the rest of the rising will happen in the oven. But I've never heard of or seen a biscuit rolled to, say, 1/2" magically puff up to 2" in the oven.

                                    As when I make scones, I pat the dough gently up to 1" thick and then punch out rounds and bake immediately.

                                    I'd be interested to hear how roxlet does them.

                                    1. re: nothingswrong

                                      nothingswrong is right. You need to handle the dough as little as possible, and cut them out at about 1" thick. From the look of your photo, I suspect that the dough might have been a bit wet, since it looks as if the sides spread, which they definitely should not do.

                                    2. re: Siegal

                                      Possibilities are:

                                      Dough too wet.
                                      Baking powder dead.
                                      Dough overhandled.

                                      1. re: Siegal

                                        Yes, they're supposed to rise. Straight down cutting helps but so does using lard. Personally I don't like the texture or flavor of all butter biscuits and IME they don't rise as high, probably due to the water content in the butter. Also the fat being very cold assists with flakiness. I've gotten the best rise when I put the flour and fat mixture in the freezer before mixing in the liquid.

                                    3. re: Siegal

                                      My brother makes amazing biscuits, light fluffy and big. Mine=lumps of dough, awful What is the secret to good biscuit making?

                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                        I think some people just have "the touch."

                                        But other than that, I think they're the same rules as with pie crusts and scones:

                                        -Cut in butter/fat quickly and keep it cold
                                        -Don't handle dough too much (stir just until flour's moistened)
                                        -Pat into shape instead of rolling
                                        -Use as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to the counter when rolling (which is why half the time I just do drop biscuits/scones)
                                        -As roxlet said, cut straight down with the biscuit cutters to get a clean edge/cut
                                        -Make sure everything's still cold before sticking it in the oven
                                        -Make sure baking powder is good
                                        -Don't overbake

                                        Anything I'm missing?

                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                          I have made these Bakewell Cream biscuits several times (using the baking powder version), and they are excellent. Plus, they have the advantage of being able to be made ahead of time, frozen, and then baked to order. It's really a useful recipe since we rarely will consume an entire batch of biscuits, and freezing cooked biscuits is never as good.

                                            1. re: nothingswrong

                                              Ooops, sorry! Yes, that is it. It's a great recipe!

                                        2. re: Siegal

                                          Here is a wonderful blog post on biscuits from PJ Hamel, the King Arthur flour blogger. She compares a recipe for super simple biscuits (two ingredients -- self rising flour and heavy cream) to more traditional biscuits. It's pretty much a draw:

                                          http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2...

                                          1. re: roxlet

                                            Wow - this is an interesting (and timely) post for me because I recently tried making Marion Cunningham's cream biscuits. They are pretty much the same as the super simple but she uses regular flour & baking powder vs. the self-rising. I thought I would have more biscuit success by not having to deal with butter, but I wasn't impressed by how they turned out. Reading through these comments, however, has pretty much convinced me that my problem is not having a light enough touch when mixing and forming.

                                            1. re: lesliej

                                              I find her posts very interesting, as are the comments from bakers, who seem to be a fairly knowledgable bunch.

                                              1. re: lesliej

                                                I use a very similar all-cream recipe for scones. I use a fork to mix the cream into the flour mixture, then knead two or three turns to bring the dough together, very, very gently, being sure not to compact the dough, and then gently pat it out, again being sure not to compact it. They come out very light. It should be noted that, used for biscuits, this style won't please everyone because while they're light and tender, they're not flaky.

                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                  Thanks for these tips, Caitlin - I really need focus on my technique next time. I think since I always wait till the last minute to make biscuits (to make sure they're hot out of the oven) I wind up feeling rushed and lose some concentration.