Baking trends for 2013

The current issue of Bon Appetit January 2013 is focused on The Top 25 Food Trends of the New Year but there is an article “How to Cook Right Now”. The leading trend relating to baking and desserts continues to be salted sweets. This specific article includes a description of what salts should be used when baking. According to the article, kosher salt dissolves quickly in cookie doughs, pastry dough and caramels. Flaky sea salt such as Maldon, is best for finishing touches. Coarse sea salt is crunchy and described as being more assertive. The other bit of useful information in this issue was in the Prep School section which highlights “A New School Caramel”. Alison Roman, Assistant Food Editor of the magazine, suggests “there’s an easier way: adding cream of tartar to the sugar. Its acidity prevents crystals from forming for a smooth, anxiety-free caramel, every time.” I have not tried this procedure yet but the idea of not having to continually brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush is appealing. I wanted to include a link to the article but I was unable to find a link to the complete text. I guess you will have to buy your own issue or check it out at the local library. The recipe with the caramel is on Epicurious – Almond Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce. When I make it, I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.

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Starting the new year with a classic. Chocolate chip cookies.

Happy New Year! I started the day by strolling the baking aisle of an unfamiliar grocery store, AJ’s Fine Foods. I knew I was in the right place when I found a section of neon colored maraschino cherries. As much as I love to eat healthy clean food, I still love maraschino cherries. There were so many other great baking items plus some unusual things – condensed mincemeat. What is that?

I did buy chocolate chips that my oldest daughter used for chocolate chip cookies from Baked, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Loved how the cookies were thicker than most versions.

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A pound of baking advice. Lemon Poundcake

Today’s post started out to be focused on pointers to ensure a delicious, melt in your mouth, pound cake experience.  Not.  The recipe I tried today was from John Barricelli’s SONO Cookbook.  Unfortunately I made a rookie mistake.  Distracted by all the things I was going to tell my readers about how to make a pound cake, I missed a critical step – letting the eggs come to room temperature.  For many recipes you can get away with this but a pound cake’s tender crumb depends on all the steps being done perfectly.  I took my time creaming the butter and sugar to ensure it was light.  The color of the mixture becomes quite light, almost whitish, when it has been mixing for 5-6 minutes.  Then you mix in the eggs, one at a time.  That is when I realized my mistake.  Although I have not tasted the cake yet – tastes better the next day – I was worried it was going to overflow, but in the end I got the golden crack along the top which signals a successful pound cake.  This recipe called for the cake to be brushed with melted apricot jam and then a glaze.  This ensures the cake is moist.  A pound cake has very little liquid so these extra steps help ensure the cake is not dry.  I also added lemon extract to the glaze in addition to lemon juice.  I find that adds an extra zing to the sweetness of the glaze.  Tomorrow morning I will try a slice with a cup of tea and let you know how it turns out.  And don’t forget the morale of the story, always prepare “mise en place” so you do not overlook an ingredient or like I did, its proper preparation in advance of beginning the baking method.  Lesson learned, I hope.

Fresh Cherry Slab Pie. Enough for breakfast the next morning. Heaven.

This was a wonderful end to a beautiful Mediterranean themed dinner cooked by a friend.  Despite a very warm kitchen I was able to patch together the pastry.  Even my granite counters could not keep the chilled dough cool enough to make it manageable.  I patched the top together, gave it an egg wash and sprinkled berry sugar on the top.  The result was a lovely golden top.  The pie was very warm when I sliced it and it was perfection.  A pizza cutter was the secret tool.  It was just as good for breakfast.  MMMM…

Citrusy bites of heaven with a robust glaze.

Glazed cookies always seem to be too much work. I am just as happy with a warm chocolate chip cookie, although truth be told, its the dough I am usually after.  The other day I spotted this new recipe in the back of the May 2012 Everyday Food magazine.  The cookies are called Glazed Citrus Doodles.  My first thought was that my citrus loving daughters would be in sugar coma heaven if I surprised them with these morsels.  Sure enough…

The recipe was very easy to work with.  My only comment was that I prefer when the ingredients indicate that an item is to be divided.  This recipe called for orange zest and orange juice.  The total amount required for the recipe was indicated however the method indicates a portion is for the dough and another portion is for the glaze.  To avoid confusion the recipe writer should indicate the ingredient is divided or separate the ingredients out (for example list the items for the dough and then the ingredients for the glaze).  Always take the time to read through the method.  I know I have said this many times before but it is important for novice bakers as well as experienced bakers.  In fact, I believe it is experienced bakers who might miss this because so often they already understand the method, they are just looking at the measurement of the ingredients.  Guilty, I am.  These are a wonderful summer cookie.  Bake them and share with your favorite friend.Image

Cherry Breakfast Focaccia

This morning I was inspired by the delicious cherries available in the markets right now.  They are my favorite fruit so it does not take much to motivate me to bake with cherries. The base was a sweet bread dough that might faithful bread machine made while I went for a run.  When I came home I rolled the dough out quite thin on one of my large baking sheets.  The best tool I have for this is a small rolling pin, that I bought in China, used for making dumplings by hand.  It has no handles and rolls perfectly between the rims of the baking sheets.  I pitted the cherries, tossed them in brown sugar and sprinkled them on the dough.  I made a simple crumb topping with brown sugar, flour and walnuts mixed with cold butter.  That covered the top and it went straight into the oven.  The result is a delicious breakfast bread.  Not too sweet.  I found that it was best with some butter spread along the edges when I was eating it.  Perhaps next time I might drizzle a glaze on it.  In my opinion it needed more fruit and I think instead of walnuts I might try almonds or pecans next time.  The nuts should be chopped fairly fine.  I want to try this with nectarines or peaches, too.  Overall it was something new and offered a nice change from muffins.  It was easy to eat so you could eat it in the car

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