Remember when I redid my post on Spinach Quiche a couple weeks ago? Well, I’m at it again. But I promise this is the last re-do for awhile. Brand spanking new content is on the way.
By the way, sorry I’ve been MIA this week. I’ve been working on a couple freelance design projects. Not only have I neglected the blog, but I’ve neglected dinner. We’ve been ordering pizza or scrambling eggs every night. Don’t judge. This week will probably be no better. I’ll be spending the week at the HOW Design Conference.
Enough about work. Let’s talk about Baked French Toast. It’s a classy breakfast casserole in my book, if you can even call it a casserole. It’s wonderfully versatile. The best part about baked french toast—you prepare it the night before and bake it in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a morning person. The less work I have to do in the AM, the better. How do all you mom’s do it? I can barely get myself out of the door in the morning. Needless to say, baked french toast makes my mornings easier. And on the weekends, it lets me sleep in longer. Baked French Toast, I love you.
This recipe has a simple nutty orange flavor. I am a little obsessed with orange right now. I think it may be the new lemon. May I suggest that you serve it with 100% pure maple syrup? I made the switch a couple years ago. Once you go pure, you’ll never go back. And yes, that is a Coke bottle I’m serving the syrup in. It’s time invest in a syrup dispenser.
If I tell you a secret, will you promise to keep reading?
I don’t really like cinnamon rolls.
I can hear the gasps and the cars outside screeching to a halt. I know it’s a sin not to like these. But if I eat anything too sweet first thing in the morning, my blood sugar is off the rest of the day. And then I’m grumpy. With a headache. Please forgive me? Luckily, my husband and his co-workers love cinnamon rolls. They devoured these little muffins.
I use the term muffin loosely literally. Graduate school husband had to transport these guys to work—problem #1. And, with no plates or forks around at work, they needed to be edible by hand—problem #2. So I came up with the parchment paper muffin idea. I’m sure it’s been done before, but it’s new to me. Not to mention, they’re kinda cute served individually.
Please forgive me, but I hope you enjoy these more than I did. Dang blood sugar.
SWEET DOUGH 3/4 c. whole milk, warmed to 110° 1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) rapid rise yeast* 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled 3 large eggs 4 c. AP unbleached flour 1/4 c. sugar 1 1/4 tsp. salt
1. Add a pinch of sugar to the warmed milk. Add yeast and allow to proof for 5 minutes until foamy. 2. Whisk together melted butter and eggs. 3. Combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt together in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the yeast mixture and the egg mixture, and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes. 4. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If after 5 minutes more flour is needed, add the remaining a little bit at a time until the dough clears the side of the bowl but sticks to the bottom (The more flour you add, the tougher the dough. Try to add as little as possible). 5. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place dough in a bowl and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (For the procrastinator method, click here.)
*If using instant yeast, there’s no need to activate the yeast with warmed milk. Use chilled milk instead.
SWEET CINNAMON MIXTURE 3/4 c. packed brown sugar 2 tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. cloves Pinch of salt 2 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1. After dough has doubled in size, mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl. 2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to a 16″ x 12″ rectangle (about the size of a Silpat). 3. Leaving a 3/4″ border along the top edge, brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sweet cinnamon mixture, and press to adhere it to the dough. 4. Loosen the dough from the counter using a bench scraper, and roll the dough into a tight log. Pinch the seam closed and roll log seam side down. 5. Slice the cylinder into 12 evenly sized rolls using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls cut side down in a 13″ x 9″ baking pan. OR, cut 12 squares of parchment paper and press into muffin tin. 6. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (If making ahead of time, forgo the second rise and place the rolls in the fridge. Allow for second rise in the morning before baking.) 7. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°. Bake 25-30 if baking normal style or 15-20 minutes if baking muffin style.
GLAZE 1 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar 3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened 3 tbsp. of heavy cream, half and half, or milk 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Allow rolls to cool for at least 5 minutes. (I made my rolls the night before, warmed them up for about 5 minutes in a 350° oven the morning of, and then iced them.) 2. Using an electric mixer, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, softened cream cheese, cream, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. To thicken, add more powdered sugar. To thin add more cream. 3. Drizzle with the glaze and serve.
I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem—but from time to time, my bread flops. It fails to rise. And it’s the worst feeling ever. I’m embarrassed to say that I used to boil water before pouring it over yeast. Needless to say I killed the yeast. Big time.
Luckily, I’ve learned a thing or two since. So to ease your bread making, yeast rising fears, I made a video. Just humor me. This is my first video making attempt. Definitely a faux and not a pro when it comes to this.
How to proof yeast 1. According to your recipe, add warm liquid (s) to bowl. It should between 110°-115°. Use a thermometer to be sure. When you get more comfortable, you can ditch the thermometer. I hold my hand just above the water to detect warmth. You want it to be warm but not hot. I’m not a mom yet, but I imagine the baby bottle squirt on wrist technique will work for this as well. 2. Add a pinch of sugar to the liquid whether the recipe calls for it or not. Sugar feeds the yeast and helps it to grow. If the recipe calls for sugar, only add a pinch during this step. 3. Pour yeast into bowl. Give it a little stir and watch it proof or foam. Bubbles will begin to appear on the surface. This takes 5-10 minutes. 4. Use yeast mixture according to recipe.
Why proof? Proofing allows you to make sure the yeast is active before you add it to the rest of the ingredients. If it fails to proof, start over. Most likely you’ve only wasted water and a pinch of sugar.
Give it a try with the Brioche Burger Buns recipe. I wish you great success in your bread rising adventures!
Three years ago today, we said I do. Three years! I guess we’re not newlyweds anymore. And I’m not so sad about that. I love that I know my husband 3 years better than I did when we got married. I love that I love my husband 3 years more than I did when we got married. The path hasn’t always been straight or easy, but it has been rewarding. So thankful to share this journey with Kevin, my sweet graduate school husband. To many decades more!
Speaking of sweet, I made a cake. A mini anniversary cake. I think I’ve started a new tradition in our marriage.
Isn’t it cute? Anything tiny is somehow cute. At it’s widest, it’s 3.5 inches—perfect for 2 people. It tastes like a wedding cake too. You know the wedding cake taste—fruity, decadent, and rich. So I took a risk and crafted a new recipe with hints of orange and almond (based off this one). Luckily the risk paid off—it’s my new favorite cake. Happy Anniversary to us!
Anniversary Cake Almond + orange cake, inspired by Cake Love makes one 9-inch pan
DRY 1/2 c.+ 2 tbsp. unbleached AP flour 2 tbsp. potato starch (I use Bob’s Red Mill) 3 tbsp. finely ground almonds 3/4 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt
LIQUID 1/2 c. half and half 1/2 tsp. almond extract 1/2 tsp. orange zest 1 tbsp. orange juice, freshly squeezed
CREAMING 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp 3/4 c. + 2 tbsp. extra-fine granulated sugar (I food process my regular sugar) 2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Set rack in the middle of the oven. 2. Set out ingredients and equipment. Sift flour. Finely pulse almonds to a flour like consistency. Measure dry ingredients into separate mixing bowl. Add flour and almonds and whisk together. Measure liquid ingredients into a separate bowl and set aside. Place butter and sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and set aside. 3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on the lowest speed for 3-5 minutes. (This will feel odd, but keep it on low.) 4. With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. 5. Add the dry ingredient mixture alternately with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through the step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds. 6. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl all the way down. Don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom. Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batter’s structure. 7. Prepare the 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Do not spray the sides of the pan. (This helps to keep your cake from doming in the middle as it bakes. The cake is able to crawl up the side as it bakes and maintain an even shape.) 8. Place batter in pan. Bake for 28 minutes. 9. Once the top of the cake doesn’t jiggle in the center, test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake. The center should be an even blonde color and the edges should be just beginning to pull away from the pan. When the skewer shows a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. 10. Cool cake for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. Use a small off-set spatula to loosen the cake from the rim of the pan. Carefully invert and remove parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before assembling.
Italian Meringue Buttercream with a hint of orange recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; makes 2-2 1/2 cups * a candy thermometer is necessary for this recipe
1. Set out ingredients and equipment. Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (for the 1/2 egg white, crack into separate bowl and only add half of the white). Measure 1/2 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine. Measure the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar into a separate bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside. 2. To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermomometer in the sauce pan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with lid to capture the evaporating water—this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming. 3. With the mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff, you have a meringue. 4. Keep the mixture running and pour the 2 tablespoons of sugar into the meringue. 5. Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245° if it’s not there already. When it has reached 245°, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue, with the mixer running. (It helps to hold the pan just above the height of the mixer. Pour confidently trying to hit the meringue and not the side of the bowl.) 6. After 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the speed of the mixture to medium for 3-4 minutes or until meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated. Add orange oil. Mix one final time.
Assemble the Cake 1. Using biscuit cutters, cut two 3.5″ circles and two 2.5″ circles. 2. Assemble the tiers separately. Fill bottom layer of each tier with buttercream. Apply a crumb coat to each tier. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 3. Ice bottom tier and top tier separately. To achieve the rustic look, pull a butter knife around the circumference of the cake. Start from bottom and work up. 4. Using a flexible spatula, carefully place the top tier of cake on to bottom tier. Clean up any knicks in the move. The italian meringue buttercream repairs easily. 5. Store cake in refrigerator, covered. Serve at room temperature. *For in-depth cake assembly instructions, click here.
Today marked the start of the farmer’s market season in Oak Park. I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks. I even popped out of bet a little earlier—with excitement. And the weather was just perfect for a walk. My graduate school husband got a couple homemade donuts—while I got some asparagus, rhubarb, and black raspberry jam. Perfect Saturday morning.
We love asparagus minus it’s after effects, if you know what I mean. It is super easy to cook. Very versatile. With a quick 10 minute cook time. You’re gonna love this recipe, if you can even call it that.
Bunch of fresh asparagus spears (support your local farmers!) Drizzle of olive oil Sprinkle of sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 425°. 2. Wash and dry asparagus. Break off hard woody ends. 3. Place on baking sheet covered with foil for easy clean up. 4. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. 5. Bake for 10 minutes. Enjoy.
TIPS • This recipe is so basic, it’s easy to dress up. Try adding lemon or orange zest, lemon juice, orange slices, garlic slices, balsamic vinegar, or parmesan cheese. • If you overcook your asparagus, they will no longer be spear-like, but limp and soggy and a little less nutritious.
PS—Do you notice anything different around here? The ole blog was in need of an update. I’m trying to do it myself with the little web knowledge that I have—scary! If only it was as easy as cooking asparagus.
Finally, it’s that season again. I think. We had a horribly long winter in Chicago. And spring has been anything but spring. Depending on the day, it’s felt more like winter, summer, and fall. We were supposed to go camping this weekend, but the cold rainy weather kept us away. Saturday night, when I should have been roasting marshmallows, I tried to will the weather warmer by making burgers on the indoor grill. According to the 5-day forecast, it’s working! Read more
We celebrated my husband’s birthday last weekend. We’re now closer to 30 than 20. Kind of weird. In normal fashion, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted. Without hesitation, he said Lemon Raspberry Cake.
I was so excited he knew what he wanted, I made the cake without hesitation hoping he wouldn’t change his mind. As I was putting the final touches on the cake, I realized something. The cake was pink. Pale pink. I had just made my husband a pale pink birthday cake. I never considered that raspberry icing would produce a pink cake. Happy birthday little girl husband!
Luckily, he ate it in all it’s pale pink glory. I guess I could have done raspberry on the inside and lemon on the outside. The scarecrow said it best—If I only had a brain.
Speaking of lemon, this graced the inside of the cake.
Between all four layers.
Mini Lemon Raspberry Cake Yellow Butter Cake + Lemon Curd + Raspberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
Yellow Butter Cake I halved the Yellow Butter Cake recipe from a couple posts back. Bake in a square pan. Follow recipe as directed. Check cake at 20 minutes. Allow to cool. Cut cake into fourths to achieve mini square cake as pictured.
Lemon Curd recipe from Cake Love by Warren Brown; yields 2 cups
1 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice 2 1/4 c. sugar 2 tsp. cornstarch 4 large eggs 4 egg yolks 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
1. Squeeze lemon juice making sure to strain out seeds. Measure sugar and cornstarch into a heavy bottomed saucepan. (I use my Le Creuset for this.) Crack eggs and yolks into a separate bowl and set aside. 2. Whisk lemon juice into sugar mixture, followed by the eggs and yolks. 3. Whisk in cold butter one tablespoon at a time. 4. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring to simmer, whisking continuously. 5. When you begin to see lava bubbles—large, slowly forming bubbles that burp steam—reduce the heat to the lowest setting and whisk briskly for 1 minute to pasteurize the lemon curd. (Lava bubbles usually appear 10 minutes in.) 6. Pour directly into bowl, and cover with plastic wrap pressed to surface to keep a skin from forming. 7. Immediately refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using. Note: I halved the recipe for the mini cake.
Raspberry Italian Meringue Buttercream I halved the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe from a couple posts back and added raspberries. Make recipe as directed. If you are making a full recipe, you’ll need 1/2 c. raspberries. If you are making a half recipe, you’ll need 1/4 c. raspberries. Puree raspberries in food processor. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the puree into a bowl to remove seeds. Add puree to buttercream and whip until combined.
Ice the Cake For a quick tutorial, click here. Serve cake at room temperature.
Can I let you in on a little secret? I wanted to show you a slice of the cake, but I wasn’t serving the cake until later that evening. So, I cut the cake. Took some pics. And put the cake back together. The Italian Meringue Buttercream is very forgiving like that.
I had planned on doing an easter post today. But my idea flopped. Many tireless hours went into, and it flopped. Yes, I do want some cheese with this wine. I wasn’t going to tell you what I was making incase I decided to give it another try. But, I’m not. I’m no good at these things. And by “things” I mean cake balls. I’ve tried a couple times, and they’re just not my forte. I have these conflicting thoughts of “Don’t give up!” and “Just stick with what you’re good at.” Well, I’ve decided to stick with what I’m good at, leaving the cake balls to Bakerella. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for a good challenge. And, I don’t mind if I fail from time to time. But I’ve learned I’m much better at baking than I am at decorating (case in point—cake ball fail). I’m much better at perfecting the classics (scones, cakes, cookies, macarons) than coming up with something new. I’m much better at sticking to my purist ways, than bending the rules and using the not so pure stuff. My take-away from all of this is—stick with what you’re good at, and get really good at it.
Shawoof (wiping sweat off brow). That was cathartic.
Now on to the good stuff. Red Velvet Cake! Remember the Sailboat Cupcakes from the last post? I told you I’d be back with the recipe. As promised, here it is. But first, I have to do another plug for my favorite baker—Warren Brown from Cake Love. His recipes make the best cakes ever (no lie). He is a purist as well. He believes in baking cakes from scratch. None of that artificial stuff. However, he does make a Red Velvet Cake because of it’overwhelming request at his bakery. It’s the only thing he uses food coloring in. You can leave the food coloring out and call it Brown Velvet. Or you can use the India Tree products (this is what I use), which are made from vegetables pigments.
DRY INGREDIENTS 2 1/4 c. Cake Flour (I used unbleached AP Flour) 2 tbsp. Cocoa Powder 1 tsp. Salt 1 tsp. Baking soda
WET INGREDIENTS 1 c. Buttermilk 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract 1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
CREAMING INGREDIENTS 2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp) 1 1/2 c. Superfine Sugar (You can pop regular sugar in a food processor to achieve this) 2 large eggs 1 oz. Red Food Dye (Opt out and make it Brown Velvet)
1. Preheat oven to 335° and place the rack in the middle position. Line 2 cupcake pans. (Read the last post for a cupcake liner tip.) 2. Measure the dry ingredients and wet ingredients into 2 separate bowls. Whisk each to combine. 3. Measure the the butter and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on low speed for about 5 minutes. 4. Add eggs one at a time into the well creamed butter. Beat in the dye. 5. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time. (This should only take a minute.) Scrape sides. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute. 6. Pour the batter into the liners and bake the cupcakes for 20 to 24 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. 7. Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes before inverting them on to a flat surface. Allow them to come to room temperature before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting recipe by yours truly
2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp) 16 oz. Cream Cheese (room temp) 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract Dash of Sea Salt 3-4 c. Powdered Sugar
1. Cream together butter and cream cheese. 2. Add vanilla extract and salt. Mix. 3. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix well between each addition. After 3 cups, taste to see if additional powdered sugar is necessary. 4. Ice your cupcakes. Looking for tips? Check out the last post.