Baking · Uncategorized

Happy 4th of July!

This year the Fourth of July has been particularly pleasant because it felt like one long, glorious weekend.  Even though I literally just got back from a week long vacation, I dove back into work head first with little time to rest.  Because of that, I took the opportunity to fully enjoy the long, holiday weekend and focus on the type of things that make me really really happy.  I floated around the pool, I went for a long, leisurely hike, I entertained for the fireworks with watermelon cosmos and some yummy snacks, and I baked.  Oh man, did I bake.

watermelon cosmo snacks

I started the weekend off right by making an American bakery classic: Angel Food Cake.  This cake is lighter than air, fluffy and delicious.  I used Mary Berry’s recipe, even though she’s a British bird, but just like that first independence day, I broke off from the english recipe and did things in my own style.  I frosted the cake with a classic, homemade whipped cream, and a berry curd.  As you know, I’m an absolute sucker for curds, and I’ve been messing around with different kinds lately.  Here is my recipe for the perfect berry curd.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation:

  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat, cook down the strawberries and blueberries in water, and a pinch of sugar, about 10-12 minutes.  Let berries come to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • When the berries have reached a nice consistency, whisk in the remaining ingredients quickly.  Since the berries are already warm, you want to whisk aggressively so as not to scramble your egg yolks.  
  • Remove from heat and strain the curd, removing any large chunks of fruit from the curd.
  • Cool at room temperature, and drizzle on cake.
  • Top the cake with additional berries for decor, and enjoy!

The angel food cake calls for 10 egg whites, so when you are separating the eggs, simply set two of the yolks aside for the curd.  

angel food cakeI hope you all had a very happy and relaxing Fourth of July!  Cheers and Ciao!

Uncategorized

Baking to Perfection

When I was younger I was a ballet dancer with a pretty strict, but pretty damn good youth ballet company.  Our director was a bit of a tyrant, she’d scream and yell, she was hard on us, and she wanted us to be hard on ourselves too.  I remember falling in class once and she stopped the music and said “Are you mad at yourself?”  I said yes, and she said “You should be.  You should be furious with yourself.  You messed up, don’t do it again.”  This was no Montessori ballet training, we weren’t all winners, some of us sucked, and when we sucked, we were pissed.  I carried this trait with me to adulthood.  If I made a mistake on a test, if I couldn’t hold a pose in yoga, if I the burnt toast, I was MAD at myself.

I used to think this was a good attribute; it held me accountable for my behavior, it allowed me to hold my actions up to a certain standard.  I made dinner one night, I thought it was only decent, but my husband loved it.  I began to go through the laundry list of things I’d do differently: add more salt here, cook 30 seconds less, add this spice, remove this vegetable, on and on I went.  My husband finally said “Just enjoy the food, it’s delicious, and it’s ok that it isn’t perfect.”  It made me realize that I have set unrealistic expectations for myself.  Not everything has to be picked apart, analyzed, criticized; some things are allowed to be just okay.

This idea is still something I have to work towards.  Earlier this year I had a bit of a meltdown at the restaurant where I work.  I was making red velvet cake to serve on our pre fixe Valentine’s Day menu, the pressure was on for it to be perfect.  It came out of the oven, it cooled, it was iced, it was cut and served…it was dry.  Like, bone dry.  So what did I do?  Sat on the floor and cried.  I ruined everyone’s Valentine’s days.  Instead of ending their meal on a sweet and sexy note, they were going home to write on Yelp that their meal sucked, right?  What I should have done instead of having a meltdown was start over again and do it better the next time, but I got in my own way.  This is a habit of mine.

Recently I came across a show on Netflix called the Great British Baking Show (or GBBS as we’ve come to call it in our household.)  As you can put together from the name, it’s a bunch of british people baking.  But it’s so much more than that, the contestants are all home bakers, not professionals, competing for the title of ‘Star Baker.”  It’s a delightful show and safe to say that I’m obsessed (you should watch it, it’s awesome)  But the reason I mention it now is because there have been more than a few times contestants have had similar meltdowns where they cry, or throw their bakes in the “bin.”  But the bakers who come out on top keep their cool, their creations aren’t perfect, they have flaws, they are a little dry, or a little messy, or whatever, but they keep their heads on, they present their bakes with pride, and they know they will do better next time without beating themselves up every week.
In life, but particularly in my cooking and baking (which consumes a majority of my life,) I have to learn to take it in stride, to accept my mistakes and do better next time.  I will have to practice a bit of patience with myself, strive for perfection, but know that it’s okay to screw up once in a while.  I tell myself that now, but as I gear up to bake my next boozy baking concoction, there will most certainly be tears…but here’s to trying harder next time.  Cheers and ciao!

cocktails · drinks · Uncategorized

Boozy Baking – Dark & Stormy

The saying goes: April Showers Bring May Flowers…well, May is going to be blooming because it is definitely showering around here.  When the weather is like this, I think there is only one drink that feels appropriate:  A Dark and Stormy.

The Dark and Stormy is a simple cocktail made up of only three ingredients, but it packs a big punch!  The drink consists of lime juice, ginger beer, and dark rum.  You float each layer on top of the next, ending with the rum to create a stormy atmosphere in a glass.  The lime is tart, the ginger beer is spicy and the rum serves up sweet molasses notes for the perfect spring cocktail. dark and stormy

Dark and Stormy: 

In a highball glass (that’s the long skinny one) add the lime juice, add ice, then begin to layer ginger beer and finally, the rum.  Garnish with a lime twist or wedge.  Cheers!

In my constant quest to combine the two things I love the most: booze and baked goods, the Dark and Stormy seemed like the perfect marriage.  Ginger has a natural place in the dessert world, and rum has the right balance of sweetness to glaze a cake perfectly.  I went back to my favorite bundt cake for this month’s Boozy Baking installment.  I made a ginger and lime bundt cake with a rum glaze.  I candied lime on the top for a delicious and bright bit of decoration.  Here’s the recipe below!

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pan)
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • ⅓ cup minced candied ginger (it’s really important that the ginger is minced very well, otherwise it will sink to the bottom of the cake)
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda DS Ingredients
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (fat is your friend, in this case)

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ⅓ cup Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cake Preparations:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour bundt pan
  • In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until white and fluffy
  • Whisk together flour, lime zest, ginger, salt and baking soda
  • To creamed butter mixture, add eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition
  • Alternately add flour mixture in 3, and greek yogurt in 2.  Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Spoon mixture into prepared pan, create a level surface
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before turning out cake onto cooling rack.  Once cake has cooled completely, pour over glaze.  

Glaze Preparations:

  • Melt butter in small sauce pan
  • Add rum, lime juice and sugar
  • Stirring constantly bring glaze to a simmer to thicken slightly

DS bundt

Candied lime is optional, and sort of a pain in the ass to do, but it definitely makes for a pretty topping.  Here’s instructions on how to do it, because nobody does it better than Martha.  Cheers and Ciao!

 

Uncategorized

Boozy Baking – Old Fashioned Scones

I am not a big whiskey gal.  Believe me, I would feel a lot cooler if I was.  In college I was super basic and drank vodka tonics all night long (Or double vods tons as my more obnoxious self would call them.)  Then when both my taste buds and my taste level grew up, I moved on to gin.  When I drink liquor, I drink gin.  I personally like a good old martini, but I have one and I’m done for the night.  When going out with friends, it’s best not to get sloshed after one cocktail.  I’m learning, and trying to turn on to the flavors of whiskey so I have something to sip on.

Here in Dayton we are lucky enough to have one of the top bourbon bars in the country, and when you visit The Century Bar it’s your Daytonian duty to drink one of the hundreds of different bourbons they offer.  This is how I got turned onto Old Fashioneds.   The Old Fashioned is the perfect cocktail for a whiskey newbie because it still has a touch of sweetness to override the whiskey burn.  Plus, you look almost as cool as Don Draper when you drink it…almost.

Now, picture me inching my spectacles up the bridge of my nose when I tell you that over the course of cocktail history, Old Fashioneds have evolved with different preparations and garnishes.  While today’s version is not technically the original cocktail preparation, the recipe I’m about to give you has become the norm and widely enjoyed:

Old Fashioned:

  • 2 oz. whiskey (I like rye whiskeys, but the choice is up to you!)
  • ¼ oz. simple syrup
  • 2-3 dashes angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
  • 2 Luxardo Cherries

 

In rocks glass, muddle together orange slice, cherries, simple syrup and bitters.  Pour whiskey on top, add ice and enjoy like the ladies and gentleman that you are.  It’s that simple.

Now, because drinking in the morning is not acceptable in our society, but breakfast pastries are, I decided to see if I could combine the two.  So, without further adieu, this month’s boozy baking:  Old Fashioned Scones.

img_6797

I start with orange and cherry scones, which are slightly sweet, bright and citrusy.  The glaze on the scones is where it gets boozy, plenty of whiskey, a few dashes of bitters and more orange juice.  The glaze offers up the nice whiskey bite, with some sweetness from the orange.  The bitters are optional (in the baking, not the drink), but I think it provides the glaze with a nice round flavor.  Recipe below!  Happy Baking and even Happier Boozing!

Old Fashioned Scones:

(Makes 12 scones)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • Zest from 1 orange (about 1 Tbsp, but feel free to add more for a brighter flavor)
  • 1 stick butter, cold, diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream (plus extra for brushing)
  • 1 cup dried cherries

For Glaze:

  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • ¼ cup whiskey
  • 8-10 dashes angostura bitters (optional)

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  
  • In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest.
  • Add butter pieces and cut butter into the mixture until you have small coarse crumbs.  (I’ve found that a pair of kitchen scissors is the easiest way to go, otherwise two knives will work.)
  • Toss in dried cherries and stir to coat.
  • Whisk together the eggs and heavy cream.  Pour into dry mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Flour a dry surface, turn out dough and form into a round disk, about ¾” thick.  Cut into 12 equally sized wedges.  Brush with more heavy whipping cream.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden.
  • While scones are baking, over medium heat, melt butter.  
  • Add confectioners sugar, whiskey, bitters and orange juice.
  • Whisk until combined.  Let it come to a simmer, but not a boil.
  • With another large baking sheet, put cooling racks on top.  Cool scones slightly, then pour glaze on top.  Once glaze has stopped dripping off a bit, gather the glaze that has collected on the baking sheet, and continue process until scones are glazed to your liking.