Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Not Delivery, It's Me!

Apart from the hectic schedule, the expense of buying tools and ingredients and the hassles of dealing with the university's administration, I'm really enjoying the course I'm taking. Here's a look at some of the goodies we made last week.

Pizza - I chose to make mine Hawaiian. I can't wait to try a thin crust version at home.
We also made Italian bread (not pictured) which is made with the same dough as the pizza crust. After the bread baked we sliced it in half and slathered garlic butter in the middle then wrapped it in foil and let the flavour make love to the bread. Mmm mm good!

Chinese Almond Cookies - easy to make crispy cookies garnished with almonds with a hint of almond extract in the dough as well. A very yummy little treat. Perfect for making with kids actually. I'll keep that in mind for when I have some.

Spritz Cookie - a simple piped butter cookie garnished with dried cherries. We made 3 different shapes.

Banana Nut Bread - a simple, timeless, homey, classic. It was moist, delicious and oozing with flavour.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

War of the Cinnamon Buns

Last Friday in class we were scheduled to make cinnamon buns and I couldn't help but wonder whether the ones I'd make in class would beat the ones I made at home (see Move Over Cinnabon!). We were told to bring extra sugar, raisins and some store-bought fruit filling. It soon became apparent to us that we weren't just making cinnamon buns but many different shapes and variations with same basic dough. The sweet yeast dough was made, allowed to rise and divided in four pieces. Each piece was used to make a different type of pastry. We made the original cinnamon bun shape, a coffee cake ring shape, a twisted version which was wrapped into several different shapes and a braid with fruit filling in the middle. These were baked in the oven and brushed with a honey syrup then lightly drizzled with a glaze made from icing sugar, lemon flavor and water.

The honey syrup added that irresistible sheen to the pastry. It also added more sweetness to the pastry than in my version of the cinnamon bun. These cinnamon buns were what Jamaican's refer to as "Sugar Bun" while the ones I made previously were more like what you'd get at Cinnabon, but they were both delicious. All the variations were yummy. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Taking it to the next level

Its been about 7 months since I started baking and blogging and I've been having such a wonderful time that I decided to take my baking to another level. I've enrolled myself in a 1 year part-time course in pastry making and cake decorating. The classes started this week. We have practicals every Wednesday and Friday, so instead of my usual tales of weekend baking, I'll be blogging about all the things i'm learning in class with the occasional weekend project. I hope that's OK with you my valued readers.

Today we had our very first practical class and I'm loving it already. I happened to luck out and pick the most awesome, cool girls in the class to partner with. Today we made dinner rolls, our first yeast dough project. We made them in three shapes: round, knot and double knot. Our rolls came out soft and delicious. We couldn't stop "sampling" them when they were warm and fresh from the oven.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Cheesecake Brings All My Friends to the Yard

This week I decided to try my all time favorite dessert. Can anyone guess what that is? If you've been reading my blog at all you'd know that I love cream cheese, in fact I love all cheese so it should be no surprise to you that my favorite dessert is cheesecake. I've tasted many, many cheesecakes, so I consider myself an expert in sensory evaluation of them, but when it comes to baking them I'm a complete novice. This made me nervous. I mean who wants to screw up their favorite thing to eat, not me! Additionally, I've tasted a lot of disappointing cheesecakes. Ones that missed the mark by having the wrong texture, being too cakey, too sweet, not sweet enough and the list of faults goes on and on. I didn't want to be one of those. I wanted mine to be great!

After reading other bloggers' raving reviews about Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Tall and Creamy Cheesecake, I decided to use her recipe to bake my very first cheesecake.I prepared the crust by combining graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter to make the crust and fitting into into my buttered spring-form pan which was double wrapped in tin foil. I placed the tin in the freezer. I met upon a major setback when I preheated the oven and realized it wasn't heating up enough. Noooo! I felt pretty disappointed. But the next day I woke up with a new sense of determination, mixed up my batter, got in the car and drove over to my parents house and used their oven to bake it. I decided to make the lime version of Dorie's cheesecake because I like the brightness that a little citrus adds to desserts. So in addition to mixing together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, eggs, sour cream, heavy cream and salt, I also added lime juice and lime zest. The crust baked at 350 for 10 minutes, then after it cooled I poured the filling into it and baked the cheesecake in a water bath at 325 for an hour and a half. Then the cheesecake was left in the water bath with the oven door slightly opened for another hour, then I removed it and cooled it on a wire rack.

The hardest part about making cheesecake is the waiting. After baking for an hour and a half, sitting for another hour in the slightly cracked oven and then cooling on the wire rack, it then has to chilled for at least 4 hours! This felt like the longest wait of all time. At around 9pm that night I just had to go and take a small sliver to see how my masterpiece turned out. It was wonderful! the texture was perfect! Really creamy! The lime was such a wonderful addition and gave it a little zing. It was just the right amount of sweet. It was lovely. It was so lovely that I invited my friends to come over and eat it before I ate it all myself.

So not only did my cheesecake turn out great but it inspired a gathering of great friends laughing and talking in my kitchen for a few hours last night. The cheesecake got rave reviews, and I had amazing company. Not only did I accomplish making my first cheesecake but I brought friends together, which doubles the benefits!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tropical Treats

For the last few weeks I've been feeling a tropical vibe. It came through in my desserts. Coconut macaroons are something I ate a lot as a child. My mom loves them and used to take them home for us as an occasional treat. Incidentally I happened to be talking to her on the phone for the entire time I was making them, which wasn't that long since they're so easy to make. Too easy in fact, I'm tempted to just through some together for a sweet snack. A temptation I will resist in the name of vanity. When I made the Chewy Lime and Coconut Sugar Cookies, I discovered the beauty of a marriage between the flavours and decided that I'd make Coconut Lime Macaroons. The flavours were just as delicious in macaroon form and I ate one everyday until they were done.

Revisiting things that worked seemed to be the second theme of the last couple weeks. I had a visit from my aunt who happens to be a huge fan of my blog. Since she lives abroad, this was her first opportunity to taste my goods. I remembered her comments about the Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart with Gingersnap Crust  and decided to do a version with mango, one of her favorite fruits. The ginger and lime zest in the tart went very well with the mango. I have to say I prefer this version to the Nectarines, but perhaps I'm biased towards tropical fruits. I served the tart with Moscato which according to my internet research, would go well with the fresh fruit in the dessert. I rushed to make this on the same day it was served, it was a rather busy weekend. But if you make this recipe it really is best to make it the day before and add the fruit topping just before you serve it. That way the creamy filling has more time to set. The piece I had the day after was just perfect! This is by far one of my favorite recipes.