Category Archives: Baking

Swedish Princess Cake

You remember my post a little while back about how I am avoiding baking lots of small cakes. I also mentioned that I am trying to become a 50’s housewife in the  sense that I aspire to have a regular supply of baked goods on my kitchen counter (and to wear adorable aprons while baking said items). I seem to be on track in my enjoyment and  baking regular-sized cakes, especially ones that come as a challenge. When my friend, Aubree, asked me if I would create a Swedish Princess Cake for her 25th birthday, I happily agreed.

What I was NOT aware of was how much of a process creating said cake is. I began by Googling ‘Swedish Princess Cake’ and discovered the following things about Swedish Princess Cakes:

  • They are traditionally green
  • The construction of said cake is made up of 6 components
  • If you do it well, it is beautiful and dome-shaped
  • If you do not do it well, it looks fairly unappetizing

As someone who appreciates a good culinary challenge, and also as someone who aspires to greatness in her kitchen, I was determined to make the most beautiful princess cake the city of Bozeman had ever seen. As the birthday approached, I set to work on my time line, which went something like this:

Day 1 (Friday):

  • Procure ingredients (of which included 2 cans of marzipan, a bottle of kirsch, sugar, butter, a vanilla bean, cream, strawberry jam, and eggs)
  • Make kirsch sugar syrup (kirsch, sugar, water) and refrigerate

Day 2 (Saturday):

  • Make vanilla pastry cream (eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, gelatin, cornstarch) and refrigerate
  • Color marzipan green, wrap and set aside
  • Make Swiss butter cream frosting (egg whites, sugar, butter, vanilla)

Day 3 (Sunday):

  • Make genoise cake-yellow sponge cake- (eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla)
  • Whip cream for filling

Construction of cake, part 1 (still Sunday):

Once the genoise cake had cooled, I found an 8-inch bowl, which I lined with plastic wrap and began the upside-down construction of the cake. the first step was to cut the genoise into wedges to fill the dome part of the cake. With each cake layer, the kirsch sugar syrup would be brushed on each side to keep things moist. Once cake layer 1 was down, whipped cream filled the dome, then another layer of kirsch-brushed cake, followed by vanilla pastry cream, followed by more cake, followed by whipped cream and a generous layer of strawberry jam with one more layer of cake. The bowl of cake was then wrapped and refrigerated overnight to set.

Day 4 (Monday- Party Day!)/Construction of the cake, part 2:

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole process. If anything were to go wrong at this point, Aubree would not only have an ugly cake for her birthday, but one very grumpy party guest. So. I turned the cake over onto the cake pedestal- it did not fall or slump. The pastry cream was oozing out a little, but I went to work right away sealing all layers and cracks in with the swiss-buttercream frosting- which just happens to serve as a pretty fantastic mortar for sealing up cakes. Once the buttercream was smoothly shellacked onto the cake, it went back in the fridge to continue to set-up.

Four hours later, I was rolling out the light green marzipan for the finishing touches. Traditionally, Swedish Princess Cakes are adorned with green marzipan and a single marzipan rose on top. This being a spring birthday, and for a person who has an affinity for peas, I created a pea-like decor with small tendrils surrounding the base of the cake and some embellishment on the top.

And, voila!

I give all credit to the creation of this cake to Baking Obsession. I would not have even attempted this cake without the thorough directions, methodology and detailed diagram that was essential in the construction of such a cake.

I did not get a photo of the cake’s cross-section. But you can get an idea of what it might have looked like above. Just imagine as much deliciousness as you could possibly fit into a cake, and you’re almost there.

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Filed under Baking, Cake

… So I baked a cake

Remember when I made cupcakes?

That was a little while ago, I started baking cupcakes in a quasi-commercial capacity almost a year ago, and I did so for about 4 months. Then, when all was said and done, I was completely burned out on baking tiny cakes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made cupcakes since the farmers’ market ended late last summer- 3.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like cake anymore. It just means I don’t like making small ones.

What I fancy these days is the everyday cake. Remember when your mom made cake that was always available under a glass dome and when you came home from school you would pour yourself a big glass of milk that your dad had gotten from the cow that morning? Well, I don’t. But I’m trying to create that false sense of nostalgia that we all have when we see certain advertisements… or maybe that’s just because I took an advertising class in college that contributed heavily to an existential crisis.

If anyone wants to send me a nice milk-glass cake pedestal and glass cake dome, I would be ever-grateful. And I’ll send you a cake.

This cake is a delicious any-time, every-day cake. It can serve as a breakfast-y coffee cake since it has both fruit and nuts, but also is accompanied very well by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I might also put a plug in for The Essential New York Times Cook Book, if you’re like me and you like the NYT and compulsively check their food section every day (well, at least until they started charging to look at their paper online), you’ll love this book. It’s got great recipes, but also gives a wonderful history of food in the USA.

Teddie’s Apple Cake- Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cook Book

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c vegetable, canola or other light oil
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 c peeled, cored, and chopped apples
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 c raisins
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan (I found that a deeper spring-form pan works great) and set aside.

Whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda

Beat oil an sugar together in a mixer with paddle attachment for about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until the mixture is creamy.

Stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.

Add apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until just combined.

Transfer the batter to the cake dish and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cook in pan.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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And then I ate five in a row

This post has been a long time coming- let’s say 5 years. It all started when I spent a semester abroad in Ecuador. My host mother was a wonderful woman, Ines, who was also a fabulous cook, but not without eccentricities. For example, when I moved into my room, I found one wall that was plastered with gift bags- some were solid colors, others had decorative prints, some had Disney characters (I don’t think I ever asked, but I’m sure it was simply part of the decor). I should get to the point otherwise we will all be wallowing in a sea of my Ecuadorian nostalgia.

As I mentioned, she was one hell of a cook: tamales; ham, cheese and peanut butter sandwiches; tasty rice dishes; jugo de tomate de arbol (tree tomato juice); mote pillo (hominy with eggs); and an 8 pound birthday cake were among her specialties. The most delicious and baffling of her culinary concoctions was pan de yuca. For those who haven’t yet read the latest issue of Saveur Magazine (and also for your general edification), there is a great article about the cassava plant. Cassava is a starchy staple in many countries around the equator that also goes by names such as manioc, or yuca (say YOU-ca). Obviously, I knew that this pan (bread) was made up of yuca, but I didn’t ever pay enough attention to the baking process to replicate it (I always offered to help, and was always shooed back to the kitchen table to drink my endless cup of Nescafe instant coffee).  After 4 months of Ecuadorian immersion, I returned to the states not expecting to ever taste pan de yuca again.

So, a couple of years went by and I stumbled upon this blog. It’s author, Laylita, grew up in Ecuador and writes about many of the foods I experienced during my stay- including- pan de yuca! So I made a mental note, bookmarked the blog and went about my day-to-day for another couple of years, periodically checking back to make sure it was still there (it was).

Okay, I feel like this story is starting to drag on a bit… but stay with me.

As mentioned before, there is an article in this month’s Saveur Magazine about the wonders of Cassava- complete with a Brazilian variation of my beloved pan. In this article I learned that tapioca starch is really just cassava starch. Revelation of revelations- I had a bag of tapioca starch in my freezer left over from baking gluten-free cupcakes last summer!

I followed the recipe on Laylita’s blog instead of Saveur- only because I wanted to get the recipe as close to my memory of it as possible, I thought that a woman who grew up in Ecuador would hit closer to that target than a recipe from the other side of the continent.

The truth of these little treats is that they taste best right out of the oven (okay, give them 5 minutes to cool a tad). Since they’re made with cassava/yuca/tapioca, they’re also gluten free but tend to harden up once cooled. Give ’em a quick nuke in the microwave and they’ll be almost as good the next day.

Did I mention they’re cheesy too?

See, it didn’t take THAT long to cover 5 years worth of time to track down one tasty recipe!

Pan de Yuca (adapted from laylita.com)

Preheat oven to 500

2 1/2 cups yuca flour (tapioca starch)

4 cups grated motzarella cheese

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 stick of butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

2 large eggs

milk

Preparation:

Combine flour, cheese, baking powder and salt in a mixer and mix until incorporated

Add butter and eggs and mix until butter is entirely incorporated. I’d add a bit of milk to get the dough to bind together- but not much- 1/4 cup MAX.

Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a ball. You can make the dough ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to a day.

Make small round balls out of the dough (about as much as you can squeeze in a fist) and place on a cookie sheet with parchment.

Bake for about 7 minutes. They will look very anemic- this is when you pop them under the broiler to give them a bit of color- just until golden.

Serve immediately.

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Filed under Baking, Comfort Food, Ecuador

A tasty cracker.

Remember how I went to Michigan last month? Well, since I got back from vacation, I have been attempting to be more resourceful than usual with making meals. I pulled out some prunes from my refrigerator (what? You don’t keep dried prunes in your refrigerator?) and stewed them last night to accompany my delicious oatmeal breakfast. While I was stewing prunes, I also raided my freezer for odds and ends to make a vegetable stock which I plan on using for risotto tomorrow night. You see, I’m not only feeding myself, but my dear father, who has decided to make a pit-stop in Bozeman on the tail end of an 11,000 mile motorcycle tour that included Texas and Maine (from Oregon).

We were feeling a mite bit peckish this afternoon. We had managed breakfast (oatmeal) and a light lunch (that consisted entirely of Costco samples), and were not quite ready for dinner yet. I suggested some tuna salad, but had failed to pick up any bread-like substance besides hamburger buns from the Co-op earlier in the day. So I decided to make some crackers.

I remember a recipe from Mark Bittman over a year ago, and had been meaning to try out this simple recipe for homemade crackers- if you think about it it’s almost the easiest thing you could think of to bake. Upon further investigation of the recipe, I also discovered that I had all of the ingredients to make crackers- no surprises, really, except for cream and parmesan cheese.

The crackers took less than 15 minutes to prep and about 10 minutes to bake. They were a perfectly simple vessel for tuna salad, and a little over an hour after the inception of an idea to make crackers, there was no evidence that they were ever there- except for a lingering something-savory-has-recently-been-baked smell. They also have a nice rustic look, which would be an added bonus if you were looking for something easy (and cheap) to impress your dinner guests with. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

Parmesan Cream Crackers- From The Minimalist Blog

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
  • Coarse salt, pepper, sesame or poppy seeds, minced garlic or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour- I used my SilPat, which worked like a dream. Pulse flour, salt, cheese and butter in a food processor until flour and butter are combined. Add cream and let run until mixture holds together but is not sticky.

2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner. Transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet. Score lightly with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with salt.

3. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.

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Grown-up Spaghetti.

Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than spending an afternoon in the kitchen. Scratch that- Nothing has quite the positive impact on my disposition than finding fresh rhubarb at the grocery store (thanks Pacific NW!) and spending an afternoon in the kitchen with Garth Brooks and a beer.


I baked the rhubarb pie that I love so dearly- and remembered to take a photo this time!

After I was done preparing dessert, I thought it would be a good idea to tackle dinner, and settled on a decidedly adult spaghetti dish. I don’t do much spaghetti these days- I suppose I’m a little burnt out on the marinara sauce. However, I used to eat my noodles exclusively with shredded cheddar cheese and butter with my pasta sauce on the side. I wasn’t much of a picky eater as a kid, but that was definitely my preference- cheesy, butter noodles. I suppose that I’m trying to say that I’ve eaten enough bland spaghetti in my life that I always think there are more interesting things I could be eating.

Saveur magazine did a bit on Roman food this month and I happened to come across a spaghetti recipe that spoke to me- Spaghetti alla carbonara. This dish involves pancetta, a whole lot of crushed black pepper, and raw eggs. I’m a huge fan of raw eggs- their whites in cocktails, their yolks in salad dressing, and now in pasta sauce! There’s a certain silky texture that raw eggs bring to the party that is able to trump any competitor. I strongly encourage the use of fresh farm eggs if you have access to them.


Spaghetti alla Carbonara- From Saveur Magazine

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 ¾ cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
salt
1 lb spaghetti

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (6-8 minutes). Add pepper (either crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground with pepper mil on its coarsest setting) and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Transfer pancetta mixture into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in 1 ½ cups parmesan and egg and yolks. Stir to combine and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente (8-10 minutes for sea level, more like 10-12 for folks at 5,000 feet). Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta. Turn off heat on element and return pot to the stovetop. Add drained pasta and toss with pancetta mixture. Add pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce. Season with salt (if needed) and pepper. Serve with remaining Parmesan.

I’m usually a one-dish dinner kind of gal, but for such a deceptively anemic looking main dish, I highly recommend pairing with a zippy arugula salad with toasted walnuts, sliced pear and chevre cheese.

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Bread, and an apron to bake it with.


I’m afraid that my title doesn’t make sense- that you can’t actually bake bread with an apron. I’m afraid that my small reading population will take me too literally. I finally got around to making an apron for myself that is the same pattern as the one I made for Audrey many months ago. I spend enough time in the kitchen, I thought it was about time that I should protect my clothing from spills, splatters, hand wipes and the like.

I splurged on the fabric (with the pattern in mind) in Portland way back when we went to Oregon for Thanksgiving. Fabric is great like that- it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

In the past several months I have been honing my bread baking skills. Sourdough to be exact. We don’t yet have any pets, so I have resorted to calling my fermentation projects my pets. I have a kombucha baby (or mother, depending on who you talk to) and also a sourdough sponge. Neither have names and I am currently taking suggestions.

The sourdough is not 150 years old, nor did it come from the Yukon. Nic and I made it from ‘scratch’ by harvesting wild yeast from the air (which I just find exceedingly cool). It gets fed at least once a week, and I have adapted a time-consuming bread baking process into one that fits into my lifestyle. I’ve done it enough times now I don’t even need a recipe (a good thing seeing as how the bread baking book was left in Ohio). This bread is on the sour end of sourdough, which is just how I like it, keeps for several days and has a really great crumb.


the crusty crust was created by adopting the no knead bread technique of baking your bread in an already-hot dutch oven, thereby steaming the bread which in turns creates a lovely crust. And with just 4 ingredients I just think it’s the most beautiful thing ever. It’s almost too good to eat… almost.

Sourdough bread (my apologies if you do not have a sourdough sponge. I recommend that you procure one as soon as possible).

1 c sourdough sponge
2 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/3-1/2 c warm water

In a mixer with a dough hook, mix all ingredients together and continue to mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes, add more water or flour as needed to obtain a firm and elastic dough.

Turn dough out into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for at least 4 hours (I sometimes let it rise overnight). Punch dough down and shape into desired loaf style (round). Let dough rise for at least 1 hour, ideally 2 on floured surface.

Within the last 1/2 hour of the 2nd rise, preheat the oven to 450 and place a dutch oven or other oven-save lidded casserole dish into the oven.

When dutch oven is preheated, place bread with a deep ‘X’ to accommodate rise in the hot dish. Cover and return to oven. When 20 minutes has passed, remove lid and continue baking for at least 10 minutes, or until bread is golden brown.

Let cool for 1 hour before devouring.

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Filed under Baking, sewing

Ohio for the Holidays

Ohio was quite lovely. I had never visited this state and aside from finding out that where we were staying was referred to locally as ‘Cancer Valley’ found both the surrounding and the contents quite agreeable. The part of Ohio where we stayed is in the southern-ish eastern corner of the state where the hills roll and so do the buggies of the Amish.

Aside from a day trip here and there and visiting with Nic’s family, there was much ado about eating and drinking and being merry. We picked up the latest issue of Saveur at one of the several airports that we visited on our way to our destination and we were inspired by the section describing the Sweedish holiday treats.


And so Nic made Lussekatter (Saffron buns).


We also made Pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) as well as some Polkagriskola (peppermint caramels). All of these items were nibbled upon throughout the week, except for the Lussekatter which dissapeared within a couple of days.

I fancied a cardamom-pistachio cookie as well- taken from The Wednesday Chef, which falls into the realm of the ‘icebox cookie’. They were good looking and tasty. ‘Nough said.


To the host of Christmas dinner, I offered my pie-baking services and succeeded in a lovely and delicious apple pie. I am almost to the point where I do not need a recipe for pie… which I think is a pretty great accomplishment. I was also fortunate to be baking at a lower elevation than Bozeman, which might have increased my baking comfort level.


The vacation was also highlighted by a new (to me) hot beverage by the name of Tom & Jerry. I was so enamored with the drink that I supplied the residents of the house with a constant supply of batter.

Tom & Jerry’s

2 eggs, separated
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Rum
Brandy
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
Milk
Nutmeg

In a large bowl, wisk egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix yolks, 2 tsp rum, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Cover bowl and chill.
To serve, heat milk over medium-low heat. Put 1 heaping tbs batter into a mug and stir in 1-2 tbs each of brandy and rum. Fill mug with 6 tbs milk. Stir until frothy and garnish with nutmeg.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Baking, boozy beverage, Holidays, pie