Strawberries & cream cake

Strawberries & cream cake

IMG_8837

Strawberries excite me from a design standpoint. With their red flesh and green stems, they perfectly obey complementary colour theory. They are also triangular, making them more fascinating and photogenic than most fruit. I’m giddy each year when the sun comes out and strawberries are in season. It’s only March, so I’m being overeager. This cake just feels like Summer though, and it’s simple to make. It also has no food colouring since you can use freeze-dried strawberry power to naturally make this as shockingly pink as possible.

Makes one 6″ cake

Ingredients

Vanilla cake

  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 egg whites (from large eggs)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped

Strawberry buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberry powder (or freeze-dried strawberries put through a food processor)

Method

For the cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 6″ cake pans. Lightly whisk egg whites, whole egg, scraped vanilla bean and one third of the milk in a small bowl. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter in pieces and blend on low speed for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the milk and continue mixing on low until incorporated (do not overmix). Increase speed, scrape down bowl of stand mixer and beat on medium for 1 1/2 minutes.

Add the egg and milk mixture slowly in three batches, beating for 15 seconds between each addition. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.

For the icing

Beat the butter in a stand mixer on medium, until light yellow and fluffy. Slowly beat in the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Beat in the cream, vanilla, and strawberry powder until smooth and consistent in colour. Add the chopped strawberries and beat for a few seconds more. Frost cake!

Mini spiced apple caramel cupcakes

Mini spiced apple caramel cupcakes

FullSizeRender (9)

These cupcakes are reminiscent of Fall, but you could use the caramel buttercream for cakes all year round. For this recipe, I intended to make a Swiss meringue buttercream, but dropped a couple eggs on the floor at 6 a.m. and there were no nearby stores open. I had to act quickly to make up a new recipe in time to bring them to school with my daughter for her birthday. I improvised by making American buttercream, which doesn’t require egg whites. Lesson learned: Always buy more eggs than you need for a recipe. If you are like me, you will overthink the simplicity of cracking them and wind up with a small spillage.

Makes approximately 48 mini cupcakes

Ingredients

Spiced apple cupcakes
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup milk
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into very small cubes

Homemade caramel
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream

American caramel buttercream
1 1/2 cups salted butter, room temperature
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 batch homemade caramel (see above)

Method

For the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Start by creaming together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir into the butter mixture, alternating with additions of milk. Make three additions of dry ingredients and two of the milk. Chop the apple into very small cubes and add to the batter. Spoon into paper-lined mini muffin cups (12 mini cups), making sure to fill only 3/4 to the brim. Bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For the caramel
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring until the sugar mixture is dark amber. Immediately remove from heat and set pan over top of a small ice bath to reduce temperature. Stir in the cream to loosen the caramel.

For the buttercream
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in icing sugar, cream and vanilla. Using a spatula, incorporate 3/4 of the homemade caramel mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat the buttercream until fluffy and homogeneous.

Once the cupcakes are thoroughly cooled, you can pipe the buttercream and drizzle the remaining 1/4 of the homemade caramel on top as garnish.

The elated birthday girl and her cake (made with the caramel buttercream!)

Orange creamsicle cake with lemon curd

Orange creamsicle cake with lemon curd

image2

A couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon ombré wildflowers on Bowen Island and was inspired to make a vibrant cake that reminded me of Summer. If you imagine how an orange creamsicle in cake form would taste, this would be it.

You’ll need two 6″ cake pans for this recipe and a candy thermometer for the buttercream. If you’d like to break apart the tasks, make the lemon curd and cake the night before and set them in the refrigerator. The next morning, take on the challenge of the buttercream and assembling the cake.

This cake is worthy of dating for several weeks. The only thing stopping me from marrying it is that it doesn’t contain chocolate. A woman has to set parameters.

Makes one three-layer 6″ cake.

Ingredients

Cake
2/3 cup whole milk
3 egg whites
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Citrus meringue buttercream (Italian meringue style)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cold water
4 large egg whites
2 cups unsalted butter, chilled
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Orange and yellow gel food colours

Lemon curd (optional but recommended!)
You could use any recipe for lemon curd, really. I used Ina Garten’s here because her method is failproof.

Method

Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 6″ round cake pans with parchment and grease the sides. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, blend in the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and mix until just incorporated. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for a couple minutes.

In the meantime, combine the egg whites and whole egg, plus remaining milk and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the batter in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat for 15-30 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter equally into two cake pans. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cakes.

Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then scrape the sides with a knife or small offset spatula. Invert them onto a rack, and wrap in plastic and refrigerate once cooled.

Citrus buttercream
In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water on medium until the mixture measures 258 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium until frothy, about 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Beat on high for around 10-12 minutes until the steam has dissipated and the bottom of the mixer bowl is room temperature. Reducing the speed to low, add the butter piece-by-piece. You are creating an emulsion, so all the ingredients should be fully incorporated. Beat for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, orange extract, salt and orange juice. Beat until all the ingredients are combined. Refrigerate the mixture for 10 minutes then return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on medium for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened. If the buttercream is curdled, keep mixing it until thick and silky. The last stage is to add the food colouring.

Assembly
Remove the top domes off each cake. Slice the cakes in half so there are four layers. Place the bottom layer on a cake board and pipe a border of buttercream around the circumference. Fill the center with lemon curd. Top with another cake round and repeat the process three times, always ensuring the cake is level.

Add a thin layer of buttercream to the outside and top of the cake. Then apply a thicker layer around the whole cake, making sure to use all the buttercream.

Mini cherry pies

Mini cherry pies

IMG_1637

I’ve always adored miniature versions of things, especially desserts. When a friend introduced me to Tiny Kitchen a few months ago, my data plan needed to be upgraded because I couldn’t stop watching the videos on the bus. Pies are the perfect subject matter to miniaturize — you can make so many designs with lattice, and more if you invest in 1/2″ shape cutters. Swoon. These pies are only 5″ each, the perfect size for a single generous serving (or two small servings for wanton school children). You’ll also have room left on your plate for ice cream!

This recipe is adapted from the Food Network. I didn’t modify the pastry, but I changed the quantities for the filling because I prefer a less respectable ratio of carbs to fruit.

Ingredients
Makes six 5″ pies

Pastry 
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, plus 1 beaten egg for brushing
8 tablespoons ice water
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Cherry filling
4 1/4 cups fresh bing cherries, pitted
1/2 cup granulated sugar (Note: start with 1/3 cup sugar and gradually add more to taste if necessary)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract

Method

For the crust

Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate one stick of the butter and the shortening, until the dough resembles pea-sized pieces. Cut in remaining butter. Add the egg yolk and ice water, using a wooden spoon to incorporate. Using your hands, knead dough until it is smooth and uniform. Roll into a 2″ x 12″ cylinder and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

For the filling

Toss cherries in granulated sugar, cornstarch, and lime zest in a large bowl Add almond extract and lime juice. Set aside to let the sugar dissolve.

Assembly

Remove half the dough from the refrigerator. Cut into 6 equally weighted pieces. Roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface until it forms a diameter slightly larger than the 5″ pie plate. Gently place each round into the pie plate, letting the excess dough spill over the edge. Trim excess with pastry scissors (or a sharp knife) and use extra dough to reinforce the bottom of pie. Divide the filling among the pie shells. Note: These pies will not be too full (I appreciate a good ratio of pastry to berries!)

Remove the remaining dough from the fridge and repeat the process above to form 6 rounds of dough. Use this dough to form the tops of the pies. You can either create a lattice pattern or simply drape  on top of pie to form a double crust. Brush pies in egg wash and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Let stand in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the pies for 55-60 minutes or until bubbly, reducing oven temperature to 375 degrees F after the first five minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with dark chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

FullSizeRender (7)

There’s always one person in a crowd who can’t eat eggs, milk, or butter. They show up when you least expect them to, after you’ve made 400 custard tarts. Or there’s someone on a cleanse, usually your aunt. To be safe, you can now just make these vegan cupcakes for any event. They’re delightful, and you don’t even need to tell anyone they’re vegan. But please whisper it in your aunt’s ear because she’ll be smitten.

Ingredients
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar

Vegan chocolate ganache

  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 6 ounces high quality semi-sweet vegan chocolate or regular dark chocolate (check the label to see if it contains milk ingredients).

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper cups and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Stir in the coffee, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Using a spatula, mix until smooth. Chill batter in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Spoon into muffin cups, filling only 2/3 way to the brim (they will rise a lot).

Bake on the middle rack for approximately 20-22 minutes, until a fork comes out clean.

For the ganache

Break up chocolate into small pieces. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and temper with coconut milk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool for 15-20 minutes, then beat on medium for about 5 minutes using a stand mixer. Ganache should be fluffy and hard enough to pipe. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with an open or closed star tip. Note: Make sure cupcakes are fully cooled before you add the icing.

Raspberry shortbread ice cream

Raspberry shortbread ice cream

fullsizerender-6

Raspberry ice cream isn’t as popular as strawberry ice cream, but he’s more charming if you really think about it.

It’s March and it’s snowing, and my first impulse was to make an ice cream reminiscent of Summer. This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s book “The Perfect Scoop.” If you need a good ice cream bible, this is it.

I replaced the lemon juice with vodka (because it adds texture) and added shortbread cookies (because hey, cookies!)


Ingredients

1 ½ cups half and half
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 ½ cups raspberry puree (you will need 6 cups fresh or frozen thawed raspberries)
2 teaspoons vodka
Shortbread cookies, crumbled

Method

1. Puree the raspberries in a food processor. Work mixture through a sieve to remove all the seeds. Hint: you can’t make friends with seedy ice cream.
2. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a sieve on top. Set aside.
3. Warm the half and half and sugar in a medium saucepan until just before a boil.
4. Whisk together egg yolks and temper with warm cream and sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Quickly transfer mixture back into saucepan.
5. Continue to stir over medium heat with a spatula until mixture resembles custard and coats the back of a spoon. Hint: You want to use enough heat that a custard forms in good time, but if you use too much heat, the eggs will overcook.
6. Pour custard through sieve into cream. Add raspberry puree and vodka. Set on top of an ice bath.

Once the custard is cool, transfer it to the fridge for 3-4 hours. At this point, you can churn the ice cream. For best results, leave the ice cream in the freezer overnight before serving. Top with crumbled shortbread cookies.

img_4184
My special assistant

Orange chocolate pistachio croissants

Orange chocolate pistachio croissants

fullsizerender

This week in pastry class, we learned to work with laminated dough — the base for croissants, danishes, and pains au chocolat. If you like instant gratification, none of this is for you. But there is something inherently satisfying about making croissants from scratch. At least this is the lie I told myself after grueling over a ball of butter for eight hours, only to realize I could walk across the street and buy a croissant at Starbucks for $2.10.

To make these, I used Izy Hossack’s amazing croissant dough recipe and made a few modifications, mainly changing the way the butter layer is made, reducing the number of folds from 4 to 3, and adding steam to the oven.

Ingredients

Détrempe (dough layer) 

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (make sure not to use active instant dry yeast, which is for bread machines.)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Beurrage (butter layer)

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp. European-style butter at room temperature

Filling and toppings

  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • ½ cup crushed salted pistachios
  • Good quality orange-flavoured dark chocolate, chopped
  • Apricot jam for glaze
  • Icing sugar, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine yeast, boiling water, sugar and milk into a large bowl and let sit until frothy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add flour and salt to the above mixture. Make sure to stir salt well into flour first so it’s evenly distributed.
  3. Using your hands, work dough into a sticky ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead softly until all flour is incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into a rectangle about 1.5″ thick , cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  5. Start shaping the beurrage (butter block) into a 8″x5″ rectangle. To do this, I cut a sheet of parchment to 16″x10″ and folded it down the center line. Place butter on one side of the fold line, fold the other side over, and use a rolling pin to press butter to the edges of parchment. It’s OK to use your hands. Calories from butter are not absorbed through skin! Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and unwrap.
  6. Roll out on a floured surface into a 16″x10″ rectangle.
  7. Place beurrage in the centre of the rectangle (remove the parchment!).
  8. Fold one third of the dough over it, locking in the butter at the seams by pinching the edges of the dough. Fold the other third of the dough down over the top layer to make a letter fold. This is called “one turn.” See Izy’s GIFs if you need a demo.
  9. Turn the dough 90 degrees and complete steps 6&8 once again (roll out dough and complete letter fold). This will be the second turn. To roll the dough, be careful not to displace butter. Tip: Do to this, use the rolling pin to press down on the dough at regular intervals to make indentations. Then press down at regular intervals again, but this time, on the high peaks to flatten them down. If butter leaks out one of the sides, fold this side in next time you do a “turn.”
  10. Once you have completed two letter folds, wrap the dough and place it back in the fridge for one hour.
  11. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll to 16″x10″ and complete one more turn (steps 6&8). Place dough back into fridge for one more hour.
  12. Remove dough from fridge cut into quarters. Each quarter will make six croissants. Depending how many croissants you’d like, decide how many quarters of dough to use and how many to freeze. Tip: You can freeze the dough for up to a month. Place in the fridge overnight to dethaw it before shaping.
  13. Roll out each quarter in to a 16″x6″ rectangle. Cut this rectangle into thirds using a sharp knife. Cut diagonally down each third to make 6 (isosceles!) triangles.

Shaping dough

  1. One triangle at a time, gently stretch the two corners at the base of the triangle. Place small amount of chopped dark chocolate in the center of the base, slightly up from the margin of the base.
  2. Roll the base up toward the point.
  3. Place shaped dough on parchment lined baking sheet.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours).

Baking

  1. To create steam in your oven, place a large pan filled halfway with water on the bottom rack of your oven.
  2. Preheat over to 450 degrees. The water in the pan will heat quickly, so remove it after a few minutes.
  3. Remove pastry from fridge and lightly brush each croissant with beaten egg (egg wash). Do not add too much egg or the croissants won’t rise well.
  4. Lower the oven heat to 400 and bake croissants for 10 minutes. Lower temperature again to 350 and bake for another 10-12 minutes until brown.
  5. Remove croissants from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Apricot glaze and decoration 

  1. While the croissants are baking, heat about ½ cup apricot jam in a pan, combining with a bit of water to loosen. Once the jam is almost boiling,  reduce heat, creating a simmer.
  2. Let glaze cool and run through a sieve. You should have a thin, bright and glossy glaze remaining.
  3. Once croissants are cooled, brush with a thin layer of glaze. Top with crushed pistachios and sift icing sugar over half of each croissant.

If you legit made it through this entire process, you have now earned every croissant. Enjoy!