September 27, 2010

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of "What the Fruitcake?!" Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

It definitely was a challenge for me as I don't usually decorate with Royal Icing. I don't have a very steady hand so I prefer things that don't require too much detail in the decorating. But then, the Daring Bakers challenges are all about trying out things one wouldn't normally do.

A part of the challenge was to decorate the cookies to the theme of September, whatever that meant to us. Since I am invited to four weddings this autumn - three of them in September alone - I decided to do red, white and pink hearts. Also, I figured it would be a relatively easy shape to pipe the icing on.

After my disaster with the Not-So-Red Velvet Cake I was a bit hesitant to work with food colouring again. But all white cookies would have been a bit boring, so I tried a different brand and discovered that luckily enough I've discovered the real stuff this time.

The recipe for the challenge and extensive instructions on icing techniques can be found here

September 22, 2010

Butterscotch Cookies

After a longer period of non-baking and a lot of hen night organisations and wedding preparations I couldn't wait to hit the kitchen again. Also, after almost a year of helping organizing this big event I felt a bit lost in the aftermath. And what better comfort could there be than cookies fresh from the oven. So I decided to try this recipe from Not So Humble Pie.

Butterscotch Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

adapted from Not So Humble Pie
175g flour
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
250g brown sugar
170g margarine, room temperature
1 teaspoon molasses
30g butter, room temperature
1 egg
seeds from one vanilla pod
225g white chocolate chips (or white chocolate, roughly chopped)

Preheat the oven to 175°C.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl cream the butter, margarine, molasses and sugar together for 3-4min either using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer. The mixture will be light in colour and fluffy.

Add the egg and the vanilla seeds and continue beating until well mixed. Add the flour in several parts, mixing each portion until well combined.

In the end, mix in the chocolate chips.

Prepare a baking sheet with baking parchment and - using two teaspoons - place little heaps of dough on the parchment, leaving lots of space in between each ball (about 5cm).

Bake for 12-15min. Take out and eat immediately (or let them cool and share with your friends at work).

September 15, 2010

Brown Butter Pound Cake

The August Daring Bakers Challenge was brown butter pound cake and ice cream. Either as a Baked Alaska or as a Petit Four.

A combination of different factors caused me to skip this months challenge. But I was still curious about the brown butter and the pound cake. When browning the butter, the milk protein precipitate from the melted butter, get caramelized and develop a nutty flavour. That's why it's also called nut butter. I thought I'd never had nut butter before, so I decided to just make the cake and leave away the rest of the challenge.


Browning the butter actually solved a childhood mystery. I remember eating vegetables (especially cauliflower) with butter drizzled over it. But the butter also contained little brown bits that I could never identify. If pressed for a guess I'd probably have gone with roasted breadcrumbs, but while browning the butter for this cake I realised that it was simply nut butter all along.

The recipe for the brown butter cake can be found here. It sounded easy enough - the only difficult part being browning the butter, but since the recipe started with "preheat the oven" I assumed it would not take very long. Wrong. It took about 30-40min. Of course I used a very low heat because I didn't want to burn the butter - maybe a second time I'd be braver and use a higher heat, but at least I got a good look at all the different stages of the browning butter.

Also, my freezer seems to be less cold than the average freezer, because instead of the indicated 15-30min it took the butter almost 1h to congeal again. Since I decided to bake the cake in a loaf pan instead of a baking tray of course the baking time doubled. Normally that wouldn't have been a problem but I had to catch a train to meet my friends and I ended up taking the cake out of the oven, putting it in a bag and leaving my flat 5min later. The whole tram and train smelled of cake. I thought it was lovely, but then i knew that I would get to taste the cake later on...
I served it with some store bought ice cream at my friends' place and the next day I had a slice with frozen cake filling that was left over when I made these cakes.

Can you see the little brown dots? That's the caramelized milk proteins from the nut butter.
This is a great cake. It tastes warm and nutty and of vanilla. It doesn't even need the ice cream - it's great just in itself. I'll definitely make that one again.

September 13, 2010

Wedding Cake

Well, no, it wasn't a really real wedding cake, but my neighbours got married and I decided to make them something sweet for when they came home again. I've wanted to try a red velvet cake for some time and a wedding seemed like the right opportunity.

So much for the plan. I'd never used food colouring before so didn't know what to expect and didn't worry when the dough was more of an orange-beige colour. I imagined the colourchange might happen during the baking. Well, that was not the case - the cake remained a light brown with a slight touch of orange.

In what universe is this a red velvet cake?
The taste was fine albeit a bit on the sweet side, so I continued with the filling and decorating. I used a recipe that I've found on Ms. Humble's Blog. Instead of baking it in a tray, I made three variations: 1. small springform pan (diameter 18cm), 2. small loaf pan (lenght 16cm), 3. even smaller cake ring (diameter 8cm).  The bigger round cake was to be the wedding cake, the loaf would be a birthday cake for a friend from work and the small round cake was my guinea pig-cake for the filling and the icing.

My little guinea pig cake
After cutting the cake in half, I covered the bottom half with a layer of the white chocolate cream cheese frosting, put the second half on top and did a crumb coat of the whole cake. Then I covered it with white fondant (store bought). I topped the wedding cake with little red hearts and the birthday cake with candy roses.

Wedding cake
Handling the fondant was easier than I thought. I even rolled it out much thinner than recommended because I wanted to make sure that I had enough for all three cakes and it didn't tear.

Birthday Cake