Sunday, June 27, 2010

Foodbuzz 24x24: A baking class to "baking virgins"

I have 2 friends that were virgins. Baking virgins, that is! Cookies, cakes, pastries, all new stuff to them… Poor things, they had no idea!… I’m talking of not knowing what a pinch (of salt) means. I’m talking about not knowing what creaming butter is or the difference between mixing and whisking. Really, they needed help! They needed a big sweet help!

I offered to give them a basic baking class, because I believe that a person that can bake cookies is a happier person! Cristina took the pictures and Sandra was the hands-on girl. Check out our fun afternoon while these girls lost their baking virginity!

Fisrt things first. Let’s talking about the recipes. At this point they still didn’t believe they were going to be able to bake those things!

The ingredients for the sugar cookies. Basic ingredients, basic cookies, basic happiness!

Sandra got right into action making the sugar cookies! I’m drying her sweat with a towel, she was not used to that kind of effort!

Nothing like putting your hands in the dough! Work it girl, work it! You can do it!

Sandra had those cookie cutters since last Christmas waiting to be used, in case you were wondering why we were doing snow flakes cookies in the Summer. I guess she’ll bake lots of cookies this Christmas now that she learned!

Sugar Cookies

• 125 gr butter
• 125 gr sugar
• 250 gr flour
• 1 egg
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp vanilla

Mix the butter with the sugar, add the egg whisked with the vanilla. Mix the flour with the baking powder then add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Mix just until well incorporated. Take to the fridge for a couple of hours. Roll the dough, cut in the desired shapes and bake in a pre heated oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for about 8-10 minutes.

By special request of the girls we did “Areias”. These are very popular cookies here in Portugal and the name can be translated to “sand cookies”. They’re like a shortbread kind of cookie flavoured with lemon and covered with cinnamon sugar.

Why does everybody love raw dough? Yummy, it’s lemony!

Rolling little balls of dough. Come on, even a kid can do this!

Areias (“Sand” cookies)

• 100 gr sugar
• 200 gr butter
• 300 gr flour
• 1 lemon (zest)
• ¼ tsp salt
• Cinnamon sugar

Mix the softened butter (but not melted) with the sugar. Add the flour, lemon zest and salt. Mix with your hands or with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, just until it all comes together. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Roll little balls and bake them in a 180ºC (350ºF) preheated oven. They should take about 10 minutes to bake. When they’re out of the oven and when they’re still hot (but not so hot you’re gonna burn yourself) dip them in a bowl of cinnamon sugar and shake the excess with your hands.

We also baked some oatmeal cookies. These were like an “everything cookie”, we added lots of add-ins. Cinnamon, coconut, all kinds of seeds, they had it all… I wanted to show the girls the kind of things they could add to drop cookies.

What’s that? An ice-cream scoop? We’re gonna have ice cream now? Isn’t it cute that baking virgins don’t know you can scoop cookie dough?

While the oatmeal cookies were in the oven we had to take a break to wash the dishes. That was Cristina’s job because she looks stylish doing the dishes, scarf and all…

You can not have a basic baking class without a basic chocolate cake. Everybody need to know how to make chocolate cake. They should teach that at school!

I think Sandra was having a blast mixing the cake!

Instead of cake we made muffins (they take less time to bake)! I won’t show you the pictures of what happened to that bit of batter that was left in the bowl, but you can guess it…

1 Bowl Chocolate Muffins

• 3 eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup flour
• ½ cup butter
• ½ cup boiling water
• ½ cup chocolate powder*
• 1/4 tsp salt
• ½ tsp baking powder

* Chocolate powder is highly available in Portugal and used more than actual cocoa powder. It’s a mixture of cocoa powder, with sugar, vanilla and emulsifier. If you want to make it with cocoa powder, just use a bit less (1/3 cup) and you might wanna add a bit of vanilla too.

Beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix well. Add the powders (flour, salt, chocolate and baking powder) and mix to incorporate. Finally add the boiling water mixing softly until you have a nice uniform batter that will be less thick than most cake batters because of the water. Scoop the batter into muffin cases and bake in a 180ºC (350ºF) preheated oven until a toothpick comes out clean. We had some cinnamon sugar left from the “Areias” and sprinkled that on top before baking them, it adds a nice crunch.

Last but not least we made scones! These are British style scones and are my absolute favourites! In fact from all the things we baked, scones were the girl’s favourite thing! The recipe came from an old book, I can’t even credit it. I’ve been using this recipe for ages…

My favourite Scones

• 250 gr flour
• 1 tbsp baking powder
• 30 gr sugar
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1,5 dl yogurt
• 1-2 tbsp milk
• 60 gr butter

Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) with a whisk. Add the yogurt and softened butter. Mix with your hands (you should not over mix) until it’s all combined. If the dough is a bit dry add 1 or 2 tbsp of milk. If the the dough it to wet add a bit of flour. The dough should be dense but soft and not stick. Roll it high (2.5cm - 1 inch) and cut your scones with a round cookie cutter. Bake in a preheated oven (200ºC - 400ºF) until they’re just golden brown on top.

So here they are, all our baked goods and the two (very proud) not baking virgins anymore!

What a sweet afternoon! We sure had fun… and we sure ate a lot!

Meringue, mousse, ice cream. What's not to like?

Hey June! What happened to you? You're almost gone... But don't go without having this dessert!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

This is going to be short and sweet. Just like this dessert ;) This month I (almost) followed the recipe exactly. Almost... The main change was that I made an ice cream with the mascarpone cream. It's getting hot here, I needed an ice-cream (I always do anyway). The other thing is that I made it in layers. I like layering stuff, don't ask why. Oh, and I used Baileys. Just because.

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue

  • 3 large egg whites
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.) Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.) Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!) Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate-Baileys Mascarpone Mousse

  • 1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
  • grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg - didn't use it
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice) - used Baileys
Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.) Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (Ice cream)

  • 1 recipe crème anglaise
  • ½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional) - didn't use it
  • ½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream
Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.I've churned mine and transformed into an ice cream!

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

  • 1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
  • 1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Layers of crunchy, airy, creamy and chocolatey! Really, what's not to like???