vanilla chiffon: a tuesdays with dorie post

for this week’s challenge, the tuesdays with dorie bakers made the vanilla chiffon roll.  chiffon cakes can be a little fussy.  as with any sponge type cake, proper whipping of the egg whites is crucial.

when i am making a cake, i like to get all of the ingredients measured out so that they are ready to go as i need them.

the egg yolks are whisked with the water, oil and vanilla.  the recipe calls for 2 tablespoon of vanilla.  while i wholeheartedly suggest that you not skimp on the vanilla extract most recipes call for, go ahead this time, cut it in half!  one tablespoon is more than enough!!!

whipping the whites with the sugar until they are still a little soft and shiny is key.  under whip them and they will not have the ability to lift the cake.  over whip them and the cake will collapse.  it is always best to err on the side of under whipping-the air bubbles will still expand and will not burst during the baking which is what happens when the whites are over whipped.

the batter is light and airy but appears to be on the thick side when properly folded together.  

spread it evenly in the pan so that the height is consistent through out the cake.

my cake was attempting to escape the pan-the batter is just a little more than needed.  next time, i might try using a 12″ x 18″ cake pan rather than a half sheet pan.  and like all of the other bakers mentioned, the baking time is definitely wrong.  it needed at least 20 minutes in the oven rather than the 10-12 minutes the recipe calls for.

the mousse filling is a little unusual.  it calls for heating the egg yolks and then whipping them with a cooked sugar syrup.  it is whipped to a fairly stiff ribbon.  the walnuts for the filling are ground in a food processor and the oil is added to form a smooth paste.  then the melted chocolate is added to make a base for the mousse.  typical of a mousse, the eggs and chocolate get folded together, carefully, and the filling is allowed to sit in the fridge to set.

the filling is spread over the cake and it is rolled up.  a few observations and opinions;  there is too much cake and too much filling to make rolling it up easy.  if i were to do this again, i would definitely cut the two recipes back by a third-or as close to a third as i could get it.  the mousse recipe calls for walnut oil which is something i did not have and did not want to buy.  i added a little sesame oil to give it a nutty flavor.  if you chose to do this, add 2 teaspoons to a tablespoon-a little goes a long way and i added too much!

when cutting the cake, i saved the two end pieces since i was bringing the finished cake to a pot luck dinner.  candied walnuts were not an option since i only had chopped walnuts to work with but i did have some homemade caramel sauce for the plate.

the filling actually held well once cut; despite the lack of gelatin, it never collapsed or oozed out.

pink champagne was the perfect choice to accompany our slices of cake.  not…the truth, i shot these photos in the middle of the afternoon and i didn’t have any pink champagne.  a bit of homemade komobucha with a little of berry juice mixed in was my stand in; it is naturally fizzy!

for those of you wanting to bake one, here is the link to the recipe.  to see how the other bakers did, check out the tuesdays with dorie page

maple pecan cake with a cinnamon ribbon

sometimes, things go according to plan.  sometimes, they do not.  this cake landed somewhere in the middle of maybe.  what i wanted and what i got were close, but… either way, it was a really nice cake with a few surprises.

first surprise was peeking into the oven at the half way mark and realizing that the crumb topping had sunk below the surface of the cake.  that was a little worrisome.  crumb topping needs to be on top to get that typical crunchy texture of a good struesel.  when it sinks down into the cake, it can be gummy and oily.  this recipe yielded a moist ribbon which was not at all gummy.  the second surprise was that a small amount of the crumb topping actually remained around the edges on the top of the cake giving it a nice crunch.

the biggest surprise was in flavor.  to flavor this cake, i chose a grade b maple syrup because they are supposed to have more flavor than a grade a.  honestly, i didn’t get a clear maple flavor at all, and i do not think anybody else did.  perhaps the use of maple sugar would be better or a little pure maple flavoring or some combination of the three but that question will have to be answered on another day.  in the mean time, if you are wanting a piece of cake to have with your afternoon cup, this is an easy cake to make and despite the results, a tasty way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

maple pecan cake 
serves about 8
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grade b maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
crumb topping/ribbon recipe follows
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour a small bundt pan, approximately 8 cup capacity.   toast the pecans by spreading them in a thin layer in a baking dish until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes.  set the nuts aside to cool.  place the flour, cinnamon and baking soda into a mesh strainer or a sifter and sift together onto a piece of paper.  cream the butter with the brown sugar, vanilla and salt until it is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  add the syrup slowly while the machine mixes.  scrape the bowl well.  add the egg and mix in.  add the flour in batches and alternate it with the buttermilk, folding gently until combined.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top of the batter and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes.  allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
crumb topping
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
place all of the ingredients into a bowl and rub together with your finger tips to make a crumbly struesel topping.  

apple-walnut bundt cake

whenever i go out to the demonstration and research garden (demo garden, as we call it) to work with my fellow master gardeners, i always bring something freshly baked.  most of the time, it is a bundt cake.  every now and then, it is a loaf cake, a batch of muffins or scones or some sort of homemade bread.  this cake is a quick and easy recipe to follow that makes a tasty cake.  it can be made with apples or pears and either way will be equally decadent.

in my collection of bundt pans are a few that came to me from my aunt; they belonged to my late uncle who was a serious bundt cake fan.  this cathedral pan is one of my favorites for large recipes-it is at least 12 cups and makes a huge cake.  beware of a pan that size; the bigger they are, the longer the cake will bake if the pan is full of batter!

apple-walnut bundt cake
serves 12-16
3/4 cup walnut pieces
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup canola oil
2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the cake pan and set aside.  place the walnuts on a baking pan and toast in the oven until slightly fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  allow the nuts to cool.
in a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar and canola oil until smooth.  add the walnuts and apples and stir to combine.  place the flour, spices and baking soda into a sifter and sift over the batter.  fold the flour into the batter and mix until incorporated.  scrape the batter into the pan and bake until a tester inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
allow the cake to cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan.  carefully turn the cake out onto a rack and allow it to cool completely.  to serve, cut with a serrated knife.  
and as always my friends, if you bake it, show it off and send me a photo!

it’s a pie, it’s a cheesecake, no wait! it’s both, pie #51 of 52

so it was the week before thanksgiving and all through the house…wait, wrong story…well, it was the week before thanksgiving and i got completely derailed from my plan of posting this before the holiday.  it ultimately ended up being done in time for thanksgiving but sadly, not in time for anyone to see and attempt it.  hopefully, you will forgive me and then run out and buy the ingredients to try and bake one for the next big holiday celebration.

remember last year’s big thing-cherpumple cakes?  when i saw them posted all over the internet, i wanted to try one.  then i saw the recipe-frozen pies and cake mix…major disappointment! no time to play with that many scratch recipes this week.  instead i decided to bake my own version based on things my family enjoys.  there was one holiday season that after baking about a bejillion pies in the cafe, i refused to make any for our annual thanksgiving trash can turkey extravaganza.  needless to say, even though they enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake i baked, they missed having a pie on the table.  this year i decided to combine two pies with a cheesecake and see what would happen.

word of warning, this is not a quick dessert.  to do it right, right meaning so that it doesn’t fall apart, it will take you more than a day to complete, possibly 2 to 3 evenings if you have limited time to work on it.  another important note, i never use springform pans or a water bath to bake cheesecakes!!!  this recipe uses heavy gauge cake pans and if you follow the directions, the cake will work just fine.  you may even want to consider baking your cheesecakes in a cake pan all the time; it is so much easier to use than a springform pan and a water bath!

first step was to make half of a pecan pie in a 6″ cake pan.  it was so cute!  after baking it, i chilled it completely so that i could take it out of the pan without destroying it.  by gently warming the bottom over very low heat on the stove, i was able to turn the cold pecan pie out in one piece.  since the crust stood a little taller than the filling and got a little dark, i carefully cut it off using a serrated knife.

the cheesecake filling was quickly assembled in the food processor.  the cookie crust was pressed into a 10″ cake pan.  i set the pecan pie in the center of the crust and carefully ladled in the cheesecake filling.  it was baked and then completely chilled overnight before i set out to make the turtle pie topping.

the cheesecake is removed from the pan using the same method as the pecan pie.  cover a flat platter with plastic wrap and lightly spray it with pan spray.  gently warm the bottom of the cake pan, place the prepared platter upside-down over the cheesecake and invert it.  the cheesecake should slowly slide out of the pan.  then you can place your serving plate onto the bottom of the cake and invert it again.  sounds tricky but it works!

the turtle pie topping is made from a single can of sweetened condensed milk that has been baked to caramelize it.  on the left, straight out of the can and on the right, after two hours of baking. 

neatly spread the hot caramel over the cheesecake portion of the cake.  spread it out evenly.  then back into the fridge to chill it so the chocolate topping can go on.  the chocolate topping is made very quickly in the microwave and is easily applied to the pie with a piping bag.

pecan pie in a pumpkin cheesecake
1 (10″) cheesecake serving about 14
pecan pie
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon liquid-i used buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup pecan pieces
preheat the oven to 300.  cut the cold butter into small cubes.  place the flour, powdered sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the dry ingredients and pulse together until it resembles a coarse meal.  add the egg yolk and the liquid and pulse until it forms a soft dough.  using your fingers, carefully press the dough into a greased 6″ cake pan.  line the crust with paper and fill with weights and bake until it is no longer glossy on the bottom and it barely shows any color, about 30 minutes.  
while the shell partially bakes, make the filling by mixing the brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a bowl.  whisk in the butter and mix until smooth.  add the eggs, one at a time and mix each one in completely.  finally, whisk in the corn syrup.  when the crust is ready, remove from the oven, turn the oven temperature up to 350 and carefully remove the weights and the paper from the pan.  place the pecans in the crust and pour in the custard filling.  return the pan to the oven and bake it until it is set all the way across, about 40 minutes.  allow the pie to cool and then chill it until it is completely cold and unmold the pie as described above.
pumpkin cheesecake
2 cups cookie crumbs
4 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
preheat the oven to 300.  make the crust by combining the cookie crumbs, sugar and butter.  carefully press the mixture into a greased 10″ cake pan.  to mix the filling, place the cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar, flour and spice into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine and be sure to scrape the bowl at least once.  with the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time.  scrape the bowl again and add the sour cream.  pulse it, scrape it and pulse it again.  
to assemble, place the cold pecan pie in the center of the cheesecake pan.  carefully spoon the filling around it without getting any on top of the pecan pie.  bake the cake for 45 minutes then carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan and prevent cracking.  turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven with the door just slightly open for 15 minutes.  remove from the oven, the cheesecake should be slightly puffed and feel almost firm to the touch.  let it cool and then chill it overnight before proceeding with the turtle pie topping.
turtle pie topping
1 (14) ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup half and half
heat the oven to 350.  pour the sweetened condensed milk into a small covered casserole dish.  place the dish in a pan of water so that the water comes up to the same height as the milk.  carefully place in the oven and bake.  every 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and whisk the milk completely to ensure even caramelization.  this will take about 2 hours and during that last 30 minutes, you may have to do this a little more often to prevent scorching.  using the photos above as a guide, top the cheesecake portion (after you have taken the cake out of the pan!!!) with the caramel.  chill completely before topping it with the chocolate mixture.

break up the chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl.  add the half and half and using 15 second intervals, heat on the lowest setting until the chocolate melts.  stir it until smooth.  place in a piping bag with a small (#4 to #6) straight tip and make the lattice top by using a quick back and forth motion.  turn the cake a 1/4 turn and repeat the action to get a chocolate lattice design.  allow the cake to chill for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.

and now that my food coma is lifting, bake one and send me a photo-i will post it here!

that’s just nuts! chewy nut tart-#20 of 52

bake one original pie each week for 52 weeks.  sounds easy.  actually, it’s more work than you might think.  even for me, a person who bakes pies, lots of pies, almost every day of the week.  after the pop tarts, it was tough to come up with an idea.  i wanted something fruity and fitting for spring.  but to be honest, around here, there isn’t much fresh fruit to choose from in spring.  it is either shipped in from far away and very expensive or it’s frozen and we won’t even mention the stuff in the cans…so there i was, wandering the aisles of my local supermarket searching for inspiration at an affordable price.  and then i spied the little packets of nuts-recipe helpers or something like that.  each packet has about a half cup of  nuts in it.  i thought about it for a moment, i had some hazelnuts at home and if i added pecans, walnuts and almonds, i could make a mixed nut tart.

i tossed them together and toasted them in the oven

a cooked syrup of honey, brown sugar and butter makes a gooey tart.  the comb in front of the jar is from our hive-i can’t wait to get some of the honey from our bees.  until then, it’s honey from the store.

after cooking the syrup, it gets tossed with the nuts and poured into a prebaked tart shell.  then after a bit in the oven, it gets bubbly and later it gets chewy and gooey!

the finished tart, make sure it is completely cooled or it will not cut nicely!
chewy nut tart
1 (9″) tart that serves about 8
1 prebaked (9″) tart shell-use a rich, short dough rather than a flaky pastry crust
2 cups nuts-any combination of nuts you like, i used equal parts of walnuts, almonds pecans and hazelnuts
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar-light or dark
1/3 cup honey-any light variety
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or coconut milk if you have some open)
1 teaspoon vanilla 
preheat the oven to 350.  completely bake the tart shell making sure that it is just beginning to turn a light golden brown.  if the dough is sweetened, take care not to allow it to color too much or it will gain a burned flavor during the second bake.  do not remove the crust from the pan at this point or it could collapse.  mix the nuts and place them on an oven proof pan.  toast the nuts until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  allow them to cool while you make the syrup.  in a sauce pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and the honey.  stir it occasionally to prevent hot spots and scorching.  bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to boil for 5 minutes.  stir in the cream and the vanilla and bring it back to the boil for a minute.  remove from the heat and combine with the nuts.  scrape the filling into the tart shell and bake it until it is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.  cool completely, remove the tart from the pan and cut into wedges with a sharp knife.
and as always, bake one and send me a photo-i will post it here!  come on, i dare ya!  double dare ya!!!