baking beast

a suspicious creature has been lurking around the streets, leaving behind delights that dreams are made of. what's to become of this baking beast?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

cake and a cheesecake/custard fusion

this cake is from maida heatter's cakes. i wanted to make something with mace or cardamom because i bought these two spices a long time ago but i haven't used them that much and i'm afraid of their losing their flavor. so! i looked through maida heatter's books for a good recipe to use and i chose this one as i had currants i also wanted to use and it included lemon and orange rind so i would have a chance to try out my new orange and lemon oils from king arthur! :) i soaked 1/4 cup less of currants than she calls for in rum instead of her called for water. and instead of caraway seeds on top (i don't have any), i used pearl sugar, also from king arthur.

this cake was simple to make, and the flavor is great! i really enjoyed the oils. i probably needed to use a bit more mace though, i think it's already losing its flavor! the currants were a delight. i thought my brother, who hates raisins, would not enjoy the currants either because they are the same idea of a dried fruit. but apparently he (and everyone else) really enjoyed this cake. i refrigerated this overnight as called for in the recipe, but i think after that you need to take it out again because it tastes better at room temp. enjoy this cake!

i made this cheesecake flan from i used a full 8oz cream cheese instead of 7oz called for because i wanted to use the entire block and not have 1oz left. this might have been a mistake since the texture was a bit more cheesecakey than i would've hoped for. but either way, it was very delicious. it was my first time making individual flans. it was fun, though! (and the recipe is extremely easy. just throw everything into the blender! that is a custard i can love to make.) popping out those cute little flans and seeing the caramel run down the sides is a treat. plus, if it's individual, you can keep the rest in the refrigerator and still have a lovely presentation each time you serve it.

Mrs. O'Shaughnessy's Cake
From "Maida Heatter's Cakes"
1 8 1/2 inch loaf cake

"This is an Irish loaf cake with a generous amount of currants that don't sink. It bakes with a richly browned crust, a nicely rounded top, and a mild lemon-orange flavor. It is delicious, easy to make, keeps well, and is lovely to wrap as a gift."

5 ounces (1 cup) currants (I used 3/4 cup which I thought was a good amount)
Boiling water (I used dark rum)
1 3/4 cups (7.75 oz) sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mace (a bit more if your mace is starting to lose pungency)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup minus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Finely grated rind of 2 lemons (I used 1/2 tsp lemon oil)
Finely grated rind of 1 orange (I used 1/4 tsp orange oil)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (I used pearl sugar)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.
2. Cover the currants with the boiling liquid and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and turn out onto a paper towel to absorb excess liquid. Let stand.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and mace. In a large bowl, beat the butter until it is soft. Cream with the sugar. Add the vanilla (and oils if you are using them). Then add the eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed after each addition.
4. On low speed add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Gradually add milk and beat until smooth. Then add the ramining dry ingredients and beat only until smooth.
5. Remove from the mixer and stir in the grated rinds and currants. Spread in the pan, then, with a rubber spatula or the bottom of a spoon, form a slight trench (about 1/2 inch deep) down the length of the loaf. That will keep it from rising too high in the middle.
6. Sprinkle the caraway seeds all over the top. Bake about 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean and dry. Let the cake stand in the pan for about 10 min, then remove it from the pan and cool on the rack.
7. If you can wait, wrap this and refrigerate it overnight or freeze it for about an hour before serving.

Cheesecake Flan

·3/4 cup sugar
·1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
·3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese (7 ounces)
·3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
·1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated milk
·1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
·3 large eggs
·1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
·Boiling water
·Whipped cream and fresh berries, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 275°. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the
sugar and lemon juice and cook over moderately low heat until an amber
caramel forms, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately pour the hot caramel into
six 1-cup ramekins, swirling them to coat the bottoms.
2. In a blender, combine the cream cheese with the condensed and
evaporated milks, half-and-half, eggs and vanilla and blend on medium
speed until smooth. Refrigerate the custard for 10 minutes, skim off
the foam and pour the custard into the prepared ramekins.
3. Set the ramekins in a small roasting pan; add enough boiling water
to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake the flans for about
1 1/2 hours or until they are set and a toothpick inserted in the
centers come out almost clean. Remove the ramekins from the water bath
and let cool, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight
before serving.
4. To unmold each flan, set the bottom of the ramekin in a pan of hot
water for about 1 minute. Run a thin blade around the edge of the flan
and cover with a plate. Invert the plate and shake once or twice; the
flan should release easily. Serve with whipped cream and berries.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

baking as a saving grace

through the stress and chaos in life, baking seems to save you time and time again. whether it be the soothing feeling that overcomes when the only thing on your mind is your devotion to creating a moist chocolatey muffin to greet you in the morning, the actual delight when biting into a ganache and buttercream layered espresso fudge cake, or being able to create a slice of chocolate and cream silk with a special someone.. baking comes through for me every time. and let's not forget the happiness that reflects off the faces of those who receive a share of the sugared joy made with care. even if sometimes it feels like friends love your desserts more than you. i have been quite busy lately..leading to enormous amounts of stress. but finally a sense of relief has come over and i can start to enjoy myself and life to its fullest again. and as fantastic as baking is, you can really enjoy it so much more when you don't have to do work or worry about it when it is in the oven and you are waiting to take it out. this saturday i'm leaving for philadelphia for a national speech and debate tournament.. but i will be sure to enjoy myself and the city, and of course the company of my friends whom i treasure. and there is not a better way to depart than making raspberry bars to take with us on the flight. so this is a tribute to baking that carries us through the toughest times and accompanies us through the happiest.

here is my new favorite pie to make, but an old favorite to eat.. with even more chocolate than the original by using an Oreo cookie crust instead of the usual pastry crust (although the classic is always good). nothing is more satisfying than serving yourself, a loved one, or anyone who would appreciate a taste of chocolate heaven, a slice of this pie after waiting for it to set in the refrigerator. i used pasteurized eggs, but the raw egg isue isn't that large.. and most certainly not large enough to stop you from making it. this pie is worth the risks... :)

French Silk Pie (Not pictured, sadly didn't get a chance)
Adapted from

~4 tbsp butter (2 oz), melted
A little less than two rows of Oreos, or any chocolate wafer cookies (About 30?)

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
1 cup butter, softened (do not use margarine)
1 cup superfine or castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 pasteurized eggs or 1 cup fat-free cholesterol-free egg product

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few tsp powdered sugar

Chocolate curls, if desired

1. Mash up Oreo cookies until mostly crumbs, although leave a few larger chunks. Mix together with melted butter and press into pie pan. Refrigerate until the filling is ready.
2. In medium saucepan, melt chocolate over low heat; cool. In small bowl with electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cooled chocolate and vanilla until well blended.
3. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating on high speed 2 minutes after each addition; beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Pour into cooled crust. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Whip cream with vanilla and a bit of sugar and layer on the pie. Decorate with chocolate curls. Slice. Eat. Enjoy. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 8 delicious servings