Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pecan-Cinnamon Buns

I thought these turned out great. Dough was light and moist, pecan quantity was sufficient, filling not too sweet. However, the cream cheese icing was cloyingly sweet; I'll cut down on the sugar next time.

The dough can be made the night before to spread out the work.


- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1 packet dry yeast
- 1.5 cups lukewarm milk
- 1/2 melted butter (melt the butter into the milk)
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- ~5-6 cups flour, as needed


- 2.5 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups pecans, chopped
- 8 Tbsp all spice
- 3/4 cup melted butter

Cream-Cheese Icing

- 8 oz. room temperature cream cheese
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup room temperature butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Combine milk and butter together; microwave for 30-45 seconds. Proof yeast in lukewarm water.
  2. Pour into stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add sugar, eggs, salt. Add 1 cup of flour. Mix.
  3. Add additional cups of flour one cup at a time.
  4. Switch to the dough hook, knead until dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl. Dough consistency will be very sticky.
  5. Add dough to lightly oiled bowl; let refrigerate overnight for a slow rise.
  6. Remove dough in the morning, let warm up slightly, knead, then flatten to form a large rectangular jelly roll shape.
  7. Mix filling ingredients, add to dough center.
  8. Roll up the dough, use sharp serrated knife to cut out rounds.
  9. Let all rounds sit in baking pan for about 45 minutes, until the volume has increased.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  11. Make cream cheese icing- slather on top.

Best when eaten fresh.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Maple-Cranberry Grilled Pork Chops

Just a few thoughts; my thinner cuts of pork loin chops came out better than the center cut thick pork chops. It's probably because I estimated the cooking time more precisely on the thinner cuts.

First, made a dry rub of salt, pepper, all-spice, curry, and cayenne pepper.

Then, made a marinade of freshly squeezed lime juice + orange juice, cranberry jelly, pomegranate juice, salt/pepper, maple syrup, honey, Grand Marnier. After cooking both side of the pork for about 3-4 minutes on medium-high (or above 160 degrees F on the meat thermometer), turn heat to low, and brush both sides of pork with marinade. Grill a few minutes longer. I maintain the internal grill temperature (check the mounted thermometer if you have one) around the 240-260 degrees F range.

Shiny new American Outdoor Grills installed at my apartment.

Pork chops sitting on the grill.

Checking the internal meat temperature.


This is one application of the pork- beautiful sandwiches. Fresh ciabatta bread, apple smoked cheddar, sun dried tomatoes, purple onions, live lettuce, blackberry honey mustard.

Lemon Curd Fondant Cake Part II

Cake wasn't entirely flat, so a few ripples in the fondant. Next time, I'm just going to bake a sheet of cake, and cut cake rounds out, and make mini-fondant cakes. That way I can have more uniform cake pieces with no fondant ripples.

Here it is boxed up. I was too tired to add any coloring or fondant flowers or icing. Oh well, the inside of the cake is yellow.

The cake itself was delicious, moist, and yummy. Not a particularly big fan of fondant's taste however; other than for presentation, I'd prefer a buttecream topping.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lemon Curd Fondant Cake Part I

I'm working off my previous genoise to make a more ambitious 3-layer cake covered with rolled fondant and fondant flowers. I'm going to retain the lemon curd and swiss meringue lemon buttercream (omit zest in buttercream however).

Instead of using a genoise base, I'm going with an easier All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake, adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum's "Cake Bible".

Yellow Butter Cake

- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla

- 3 cups flour
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt

- 12 Tbsp softened unsalted butter

  1. Mix 6 large egg yolks, 2 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk together. Reserve the remaining 3/4 cup milk for later.
  2. Add sugar to mixing bowl. Sift flour and baking powder, add to sugar, mix together. Add a dash of salt. Turn mixer to low to mix dry ingredients together.
  3. Add soft butter, and mix until incorporated. Then add in remainder of the milk.
  4. Add yolk mixture in thirds, intermittently carefully scraping the mixing bowl.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.
By first adding the softened butter to the flour, the butter coats the flour, and prevents the gluten from being developed when the liquid ingredients are added. This results in a smooth, light, cake.

Turned out great, ended up baking about 40 minutes.

Edges are trimmed, ready for the simple syrup, lemon butter cream, and lemon curd.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Corn Soup

The usual soup base- celery, russet potatoes, leeks, couple cloves of garlic, 1 yellow onion, vegetable stock with a bit of corn (cut from the cob). Puree, served with a mint chiffonade. Originally was going to make a mint oil, but my "oil" had a pesto-like consistency, so I ditched it and went with a chiffonade instead.

The soup may be eaten warm or cold, but I think it's best at room temperature, just slightly chilled. Enhances the sweetness of the corn.

Used these great plastic square cups.

Lemon Curd Genoise Part IV

The last step of Part III was to apply the crumb coat, refrigerate for an hour or more, then apply the final thick layer of buttercream. Refrigerate overnight to let the buttercream harden, and for the flavors to meld together.

I plated my cake with more lemon curd, it was delish!

I was inspired to make this cake after trying a version from Whole Foods, which I thought was terrible. Their buttercream was completely unflavored, and tasted too much like butter. I think mine is far superior; the genoise is perfectly moist, and the buttercream has a touch of lemon juice and zest to it. Perfect! However, my cake decorating was rather sloppy, and I'll be improving that in my next iteration.

Tada, perfect for a sunny spring day.

Reader slu wanted to see pictures of the entire cake, so here they are, of the partially eaten cake.

Overhead 3/4 shot. Note, the yellow flecks in the buttercream are lemon zest.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lemon Curd Genoise Part III

The cake assembly part.

First, remove your buttercream from the refrigerator, reconstitute by letting warm to room temperature, then beating with stand mixer to regain the fluffy consistency.

Next, brush the cake faces that will be facing each other with your previously made simple syrup. This will keep the cake layers moist, while adding some sweetness to the genoise.

Then, add a thin layer of buttercream on each cake face.

Next, add a generous dollop of lemon curd in the middle, and spread around. Hmm, looks like a sunny side up egg.

Next, invert the cake layers to stack them.

Then, apply a buttercream crumb coat (like a paint primer), which will enable forming of the final thick coat of buttercream thereon. Refrigerate for an hour or more. Here is the cake with the initial layer of crumb coat before refrigeration.

Lemon Curd Genoise Part II

I chose a Swiss Meringue Buttercream (a bit "healthier" than a French Buttercream) to top my cake with. Also made a vanilla simple syrup for cake glazing.

Followed Joe Pastry's instructions here:

Vanilla Simple Syrup

- 2 parts water to 1 part sugar (by weight)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Bring water and sugar to a low boil, until sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Upon cooling, add in vanilla extract, or other flavorings (e.g. liqueurs).
  3. Set aside for later use in glazing cake.

Swiss Meringue Lemon Buttercream

- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 sticks butter (they recommend 4 sticks, but 1 less stick might be slightly healthier)
- zest from 3 lemons
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

  1. Heat egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar in double boiler to about 160 degrees F, to kill off any potential Salmonella. The sugar will prevent the egg whites from denaturing and cooking.
  2. Transfer to stand mixer (with whisk attachment), beat on high to form stiff peaks.
  3. Remove whisk attachment, add paddle attachment.
  4. Add in butter, one slice at a time, beat on medium high.
  5. After buttercream is finished, add in flavorings. I added lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  6. Set aside for cake assembling.
  7. Buttercream can be stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated; to use, let it come to room temperature, then re-beat using paddle attachment on stand mixer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lemon Curd Genoise Part I

Trying my hand at making and assembling a layer cake. For the base, I decided to go with a genoise, which is the perfect embodiment of spring. It's light, delicate, with a touch of sweetness. A French sponge cake with added fat/butter/oil (as opposed to an American angel food cake).

Most recipes call for clarified butter (heat butter to form a beurre noisette, then use a coffee filter or cheesecloth to get clarified butter), but I elected an easier alternative, almond/hazelnut oil. The effect is the same, providing the cake with moisture and a distinct flavor.

It took me three tries to make a successful genoise; the first trial was completely experimental, where I gleaned several important observations. The second trial was semi-successful, but I wasn't very happy with the recipe- too spongy. The third trial was made with Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe from her "Cake Bible", and this recipe was the most succesful. I should warn you that if you have a cholesterol problem, you should not attempt her recipe.


- 12 yolks separated
- ~1/2 cup almond/hazelnut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 175 g sugar (~190 g sugar to 1 cup)
- 100 g flour (~120 g flour to 1 cup)
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt

**I made a few adjustments: used slightly less flour, and substituted wheat starch for cornstarch. Used about 0.5-0.66 cups flour and 3 Tbsp cornstarch.

  1. Whisk the yolks and sugar together.
  2. Whisk over simmering water bath for up to 3 minutes; temperature should not exceed 120 degrees F. You don't want the egg mixture to curdle, but heat just long enough until the mixture turns a pale yellow and ever-so-slightly thickens. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, and transfer immediately to stand mixer.
  4. Beat on HIGH for about 5 minutes (with the paddle attachment), or until the mixture doubles-triples in volume. Add in vanilla extract, beat for 30 seconds more on high. Then switch to medium high and beat another minute. The egg foam at this stage should come off the paddle in thick ribbons.
  5. Add several spoonfuls of the now egg foam to the almond/hazelnut oil (in a separate container), and gently fold in until well mixed.
  6. Add the mixture of flour+salt+starch (which you mixed beforehand), but sift the flour mixture (in thirds) into the egg foam. The sifting allows the flour mixture to be more easily combined.
  7. Working quickly without breaking the foam, fold the flour mixture into the egg foam, until there are no more flour streaks.
  8. Add the clarified butter/oil/batter mixture to the egg foam/flour mixture. Carefully fold in.
  9. Transfer to greased baking pan of your choice.
  10. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Do NOT open the oven, or the cake may collapse.
  11. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove, and cool on wire rack.

In my first two trials, I utilized a recipe which called for 6 whole eggs, 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar. I found these quantities caused several errors. The cake was much too sweet, there was too much flour, and with 6 entire eggs, the volume was too large to effectively fold the flour in.

The biggest advantage to Rose's recipe is that it only uses yolks. The yolks add more substance to the cake (without sacrificing the airy spongy texture of a genoise), and are forgiving enough to let you completely fold the flour in without deflating the egg foam.

Fresh from the oven.

The next step is to assemble the cake.