No-churn Toasted Coconut Ice Cream

David Schmit Photography

I love coconut in any form and was craving toasted coconut ice cream. I think it was because I chose the salted caramel ice cream at the local ice cream shoppe recently instead of the coconut. I also wanted to avoid using coconut extract; even if it was pure. I went about toasting unsweetend coconut flakes and then infusing it in heavy cream. The coconut, however, absorbed half of the cream.

For the next test I doubled the amount of cream. After straining I ended up with the 2 cups of cream needed. But now I had two cups of soggy coconut that I didn’t want toss.  Instead, I put it in a sieve, rinsed it and spread it on a sheet pan to dry in a 200 degree F oven. It worked like a charm. I’ll sprinkle it on yogurt, berries, fold into cookie dough, or use it in any number of other recipes.

You can skip the entire coconut process and just make vanilla; in which  case only use 2 cups of cream.  Either way the results are delicious.

2 cups (5 ounces) unsweetened cococut flakes, toasted
4 cups cold heavy cream, preferably organic (use 2 cups if skipping the coconut infusion)
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, scraped
½ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375 degree F. Spread coconut flakes on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. While the coconut is toasting bring the cream to a simmer. As soon as the coconut is toasted pour it into the cream and remove from heat. Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to proceed; line a loaf pan with plastic wrap (not shown) and set aside. Strain, discarding the coconut or follow the head-notes for other options. The remaining cream should measure 2 cups.  If not, top it off to equal two cups.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat cream on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.

While the cream is whipping stir together condensed milk, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and olive oil in a large bowl. With a rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the remaining cream and pour into prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer at least 6 hours or better yet overnight.

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Homemade Bagels

David Schmit Photography

I’m among the ranks of bagel lovers that lament over the difficulty of finding one that is chewy on the outside yet has a soft, substantial crumb. Therefore, on a recent trip to a friend’s cabin I lugged Chef Peter Reinhart’s book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice with me to see if I could master them myself.

Between his book and my year’s assisting Solveig Tofte when she taught cooking classes, I felt I could tackle making them without too much difficulty. It’s easier than I thought and the twenty minutes of kneading by hand was a great upper body workout. (I didn’t have access to a heavy-duty stand mixer.) For the the second, third, and fourth batch I used a stand mixer with the dough cook and let it run for 8 minutes This was followed by another 5 minutes of kneading by hand.

Yes, the recipe is long but Reinhart’s introduction to making bagels is even longer. However, he gives you a thorough explanation of the entire process. It takes time, but most of that time is unattended.

After making the recipe 4 times there’s a few things I’ve learned. I don’t like adding honey to the dough nor to the water in which they are boiled as some recipes suggest. I didn’t notice any change to the taste and the sugar caramelized the appearance of them too much for my taste. Also, carefully lift the bagels from the pan on which they were proofing and gently add them  into the boiling water with stretching the them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with something flat, but which still tastes good.

Yield: 12 large, 16 medium or 24 miniature bagels

1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (see note below)
2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (Bret’s note: I didn’t add any of these ingredients.)

To Finish
1 tablespoon baking soda
Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting (Bret’s note:  I didn’t use either but instead lined the baking pans with a silpat brushed with a little olive oil for good measure.

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rehydrated dried minced garlic or onions, garlic powder (Bret’s note: as well as large salt crystals, any combination, or a bit of them all for an everything bagel.)

Day one:
To make the sponge, stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop.

To make the dough, in the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (Bret’s note: or more like 20 minutes) (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated.

The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 71 to 77 degrees F. (Bret’s note: I didn’t take the dough’s temperature.) If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

Immediately divide the dough into 4.50 ounce pieces for standard bagels, 3.25 ounce each for medium or 2.25 ounce for smaller ones. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly or with spray oil. (Bret’s note:  I brushed with olive oil.) Proceed with one of the following shaping methods:

Method 1: (Bret’s note:  I used this method.) Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter (half of this for a mini-bagel). (Bret’s note:  I eye-balled it.) The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

Method 2: Roll out the dough into an 8-inch long rope. (This may require rolling part of the way and resting if the pieces are too elastic and snap back, in which case, allow them to rest for 3 minutes and then extend them again to bring to full length. Wrap the dough around the palm and back of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger, overlapping the ends by several inches. Press the overlapping ends on the counter with the palm of your hand, rocking back and forth to seal.

Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans (Bret’s note: I got away with a 1-inch space between each one). Mist the bagels very lightly with the spray oil and slip each pan into a food-grade plastic bag, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. (Bret’s note: I skipped misting with oil and just loosely covered with plastic wrap.)

Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days).

If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda (and optionally, a few tablespoons of barley syrup). Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minute flip them over and boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side (Bret’s note: I used the 2 minute option).

Ready for the oven
David Schmit Photography

While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) (Bret’s note:  I skipped the cornmeal and used the same parchment paper.) If you want to top (see note below) the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer. (Bret’s note: I actually baked them quite a bit longer, often almost ten extra minutes. I judge by color, not internal temperature, in this case.)

Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: For cinnamon raisin bagels, increase the yeast in the final dough to 1 teaspoon, and add 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the final dough. Rinse 2 cups of loosely packed raisins with warm water to wash off surface sugar, acid, and natural wild yeast. Add the raisins during the final 2 minutes of mixing. Proceed as directed, but do not top the bagels with any garnishes. When they come out of the oven and are still hot, you can brush the tops with melted butter and dip them in cinnamon sugar to create a cinnamon-sugar crust, if desired.

David Schmit Photography

Serve with a smear of cream cheese, sprinkled with diced red onions, capers, and a couple of slices of lox.

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Chocolate Banana Bread

This time of year I pretend that I’ll eat bananas fast enough but it rarely happens. When they are past their “add to yogurt prime”, I end up freezing them for banana bread or banana crème brûlée.

Previous banana bread recipes I’ve made called for about a cup of mashed bananas. This time I had more than a cup so I did some research so see if using more could work. I came across a recipe from Cooks Illustrated where they freeze, thaw, drain, and reduce the banana liquid to a syrup. The syrup is then cooled and added back into the batter.

We’ve seen frozen bananas dipped in chocolate and coated in nuts. Why not turn that classic combination into a bread? Also, since I didn’t have enough unsweetened cocoa powder I used a combination of both natural unsweetened and dutch-processed. *If using only natural unsweetened double the amounts of the cocoa powder and baking soda.

If you’re not a fan of coconut or nuts free free to leave them out. However, for me it seemed like a no-brainer to add them both.

Make one 8 ½ x 4 ½-inch loaf

1 ¼ cups (5 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (¾ ounce) natural unsweetened cocoa powder*
¼ cup (¾ ounce) dutch processed cocoa power
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (8 tablespoons / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup (6 ounces) brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature (freeze white for another use)
4 – 5 brown bananas, frozen, thawed, drained, reserving liquid
1/2 cup full fat sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
½ cup (about 2 ounces) unsweetened coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray or line pan with parchment paper.

Partially thaw, then peel bananas in a sieve over a bowl to catch liquid. Add liquid to a small saucepan and reduce to ¼ cup. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powders, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and beat gently until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and cooled banana syrup and mix on low speed to combine. Do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Start checking after the bread has baked for 1 hour.

Let the loaf rest in the pan for about 10 minutes, run a blunt knife around the edges to loosen, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Note: The bread can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, wrap it securely in aluminum foil, freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Pâte de Fruit

David Schmit Photography

I was first introduced to these delightful gems many years ago in a Paris confiserie. Then a while back I tested a couple of recipes from my friend Zoë.

It’s been 10 years since I’ve made a batch and I thought it was high time to make them again since the rhubarb in my yard is prolific and now we are in the midst of strawberry season.

8 – 10 stalks red rhubarb, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
3 cups granulated sugar, divided
8 ounces fresh, washed, dried, and hulled strawberries, roughly chopped
Pinch kosher salt
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 pouches (3 oz each) certo liquid pectin

Butter the bottom and sides of an 7 x 7 or 8 x 8-inch pan (depending on how thin you want your final product). Set a piece of parchment paper in the pan allowing it to extend over the sides by a couple of inches. Set a second piece of parchment paper perpindicular to the first; again extending the sides a couple of inches. Butter the bottom and sides of the second piece of parchment with softened butter; set aside.

Place rhubarb in a medium saucepan along with water and ½ cup sugar; bring to a simmer. Cook until rhubarb is completely tender and easily mashed with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Using a blender, purée until smooth. Press puréed rhubarb through a chinois or fine meshed sieve and measure the pulp.

Add ½ cup of rhubarb purée (reserve the remaining) back into the blender along with the chopped strawberries; purée until smooth.  Press the puréed mixture through the chinois and measure out 1 1/3 cups. If rhubarb / strawberry purée does not equal 1 1/3 cups add enough reserved rhubarb to equal that amount.

Return the mixture to the saucepan, add 2 cups sugar and lemon juice; bring to a simmer. Insert a candy thermometer into the mixture.  When the temperature reaches 140 degrees F stir in butter and skim off any foam that may have accumulated.

Continue cooking until the temperature reaches 238 degrees F. Stir in the pectin and continue cooking for another minute; keeping the temperature from going beyond 238 degrees F.

Remove pan from the heat and using a heat-proof spatula scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Allow the pâte de fruit mixture to set at room temperature for several hours, until completely cool and firm.

Use a sharp knife to cut into small squares. If serving immediately, toss the individual pieces in remaining ½ cup granulated sugar. Otherwise, store at room temperature and toss in sugar when ready to serve. The candies un-sugared will last at room temperature for about a week.

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Rhubarb Custard Cake

Rhubarb is one of the first vegetables to poke its stalks out of the ground every spring. It’s quite tart and you never want to eat the leaves but as long as you keep harvesting, it will bring you joy all summer long. Two plants will also give you and your friends a steady supply.

Since I have boat-loads of it, after a quick google search (recipes using rhubarb) I landed on this one from Bon Appetit which of course I stream-lined a bit.

Also, next time I’ll increase the amount of time in the refrigerator. This will allow the batter to set more with the hope that less stalks will sink. Regardless, it’s delicous but you could gild the lily with a dollop of crème fraîche served on the side.

David Schmit Photography

4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled, plus more at room temperature for pan
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons dark rum
Zest of one lemon or orange, preferably organic
13 ounces fresh rhubarb stalks, halved lengthwise if thick

9″ – diameter spring-form pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generouly butter bottom and sides of pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl whisk eggs, egg yolk, and 1½ cups sugar until very pale and thick, about 1 minute.  Whisk in melted butter, crème fraîche (or sour cream), rum, and zest just until combined.

Add dry ingredients and fold in until batter is smooth; scrape into prepared pan. Chill for about 20 minutes or up to an hour to allow the batter to set.

Arrange rhubarb over batter however you like, trimming as needed. Don’t press fruit into batter—just gently place on top and let it rest on the surface. Sprinkle with more sugar and bake until cake is golden on top and browned around the sides, 45–55 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Slide a knife around sides of cake to loosen and unmold. Slide directly onto rack and let cool completely.

David Schmit Photography
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Ricotta Cheesecake with Toasted Almond Praline

I’ve been researching various techniques and making a lot of ricotta. Consequently, I have copious amounts of this delightful cheese. Big brother knows too, for what you are searching which is why this recipe from showed up in my In-Box.

Their ingredient list was scaled by volume as well as using the metric system. It didn’t translate quite the same when I converted it to ounces, at least not according to my scale, nor volume for that matter. What you have below is my version of the amounts used.

Also, since the top cracked while I was getting out of the pan (I was in a hurry and didn’t wait until it was completely cool), I had two options; add whipped cream or make a Swiss meringue to cover the top.  I chose the meringue path.

Don’t let the length of the recipe deter you.  The praline can be made up to a week ahead of time (or omitted) and the cake should be baked a day prior to serving anyway.

David Schmit Photography

1 cup + 3 tablespoons (5 1/4 oz / 150 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (2 oz / 55 g) superfine, granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 oz / 100 g) unsalted butter, chopped

2 cups (16 oz / 450 g) cream cheese, chopped and softened
Scant 2 cups (15 oz / 425 g) fresh ricotta, preferably homemade
1  1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz / 295 g) superfine granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 oz / 60 ml) lemon juice, usually 1 large lemon
Zest of 1 large lemon, preferabley organic
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
5 large eggs

Almond Praline:
3/4 cup (5  1/4 oz / 165 g) (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz / 40 g) flaked (blanched, sliced) almonds, toasted

Swiss Meringue:
3 whites from large eggs
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
Pinch of kosher salt

To Make the cake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 2 1/2 x 9-inch springform or non-stick cake pan and line the base with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a large food processor using the metal “S” blade add the flour, sugar, and butter and process for about 1 minute or until mixture forms rough clumps of dough.

Scatter the clumps and any crumbs of dough evenly around the bottom of the prepared pan and press the mixture with your fingertips. Evenly prick the dough a dozen or so times with a fork. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until golden and just cooked. Set aside.

Using the same food processor bowl and metal “S” blade (I didn’t find a need to wash either) add the cream cheese, ricotta, sugar, lemon juice, zest and vanilla and process until smooth. Place the cornstarch and water (if there is lemon juice left use that plus water to equal 1 tablespoon) in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Add the eggs and the cornstarch mixture to the filling and process to combine.

Pour the filling over the base, tapping gently to remove any air bubbles.

If using a springform pan wrap the bottom and sides with aluminum foil to prevent any water from leaking into it when hot water is added to the jellyroll pan. If using a cake pan just set it on the jellyroll pan and add about ¾-inch of hot water to the pan. Bake between 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until just set.

Start checking doneness after about an hour by slightly jiggling the pan.  When the middle just stops wiggling, it’s done. Turn off the oven and allow to cool with the oven closed oven for about an hour.

Refrigerate uncovered until chilled; then cover until well chilled or even overnight. If using a springform pan, slide a thin bladed knife or spatula against the inside of the pan and remove the ring.

If using a cake pan, heat the bottom of the pan to ever so slightly to melt the butter that has chilled on the bottom of the crust. Slide a thin bladed knife against the inside of the pan. Take the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan and place it on  top of the cake.  Holding it in place, tap the cake out. Then flip it back over onto a cake plate. Decorate with whipped cream or Swiss Meringue and almond praline.

To make the almond praline:

Place the toasted almonds in about a 6-inch or so square on a Silpat lined sheet pan. Aim for the almonds being in a single layer but touching each other. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan add the sugar and just enough water so that the sugar looks like wet sand. Set the pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan as needed so that the sugar caramelizes evenly. If any sugar crystals happen to jump up on the sides of the pan use a wet pastry brush to brush them back into the pan. What you don’t want to do is stir the sugar; only swirl.

When the sugar has carmelized to an amber color remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the carmelized sugar over the almonds coating as many as possible. Once completely cool, break into shards to be used as the garnish.

To make the Swiss Meringue:

Add about 2-inches of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil; turn down to a simmer. (Note: the bowl containing the egg whites will be set on top of this saucepan and the bowl cannot touch the water so plan accordingly.)

While the water is coming to a simmer, in the impeccably clean bowl of a stand mixer whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Add the cream of tartar and salt.

Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water and using a rubber spatula stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the whites reach a temperature between 150-160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bowl from the water-bath, place on the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment whip the whites until they are light, fluffy, glossy and have reached stiff peaks.

Dollop the meringue on top of the cheesecake and use a spatula to make swirls or spikes.  Use a blow-torch to toast the meringue or place under a pre-heated broiler moving the cake around to even brown the meringue.  Top with shards of praline and serve.

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Classic Angel Food Cake with Variations

Here’s the lowdown, all angel food cake recipes are basically the same; sift dry ingredients, beat egg whites, fold dry ingredients into wet, spoon batter into an ungreased tube pan, — bake. The devil is in the details. This is where practice comes in handy as the first three times I attempted to make this cake years ago they were epic fails. I could also blame in on a very humid summer.

Some people swear that only fresh egg whites will do. I however, have had great success using whites that I had previously frozen as I’ve been known to make a lot of lemon curd. Which by the way, would be delicous accompanying this cake.

Also, any object (i.e, whisk, bowl, spatula) that comes in contact with the egg whites should be impeccably clean with no trace of fat. Also, since cake flour contains less gluten the end result is a more tender cake.

I would have to agree with the late Flo Bracker that using a combination of granulated and powdered sugars are the way to go. Granulated sugar gives stability to the meringue while the powdered sugar sifted with the flour makes the folding of the dry ingredients into the wet much easier.

Finally, wait until the egg whites are foamy before adding the granulated sugar and then add it slowly. You don’t want to overwhelm the egg whites by adding the sugar too quickly. Then beat just until a medium peak is reached. Pay attention by whipping egg whites a hundred times noticing each time what constitutes soft, medium, and stiff peaks. After the dry ingredients are folded into the meringue the batter should be on the verge of spoon-able but still pour-able.

The recipe also lists many optional ingredients. I’m not recommending that you add all the optional ingredients to the same cake but instead add the lemon zest and fresh thyme or zest and poppyseeds; or zest and fresh lemon juice, or maybe the almond and vanilla extracts.

I’m also a big proponent of weighing ingredients due to its ease and accuracy instead of measuring by volume. For example, there is a big difference between 1 cup of cake flour, sifted and 1 cup of sifted cake flour. If the dry ingredients are weighed it doesn’t matter whether they are sifted before or after weighing as it’s the same weight. Make your baking life easier and get yourself a scale!

1 cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) sifted cake flour
1½ cups (4 oz / 110 g) sifted powdered sugar
½ teaspoon fine kosher salt
1  2/3 cups (15 oz / 425 g) egg whites, room temperature (12 – 13 whites)
1  1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) cream of tarter
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
1  1/2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optionel)
2 – 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
zest of one lemon, organic if possible (optionel)
2 teaspoons freshly minced fresh thyme (optional)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Have ready a 10” x 4” tube pan that is impeccably clean and dry.

Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a sieve over a bowl and sift together 3 or 4 times. Set aside.

In the bowl of a 4 or 6-quart stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, on medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar and continue beating. If adding the lemon juice drizzle it in now.

Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until soft peaks form; begin adding the granulated sugar a little bit at a time. Continue beating until the mixture forms a medium peak and begins to take on a shine. If including, add the extracts and whisk just to combine.

Transfer the meringue to a wide bowl. Sift the flour mixture over the egg whites about ¼ cup at a time and with a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture. (At this point you will know if the whites have been over-beaten as it will be difficult to fold the dry ingredients into them. Make a mental note for next time.) After folding in the second batch of sifted flour fold in any additional optional dry ingredients and then continue folding in the third and final bit of sifted flour. 

Gently push the batter into the ungreased tube pan. Cut through the batter a few times with a thin metal spatula or butter knife to remove any large air bubbles.

Bake the cake on the lowest rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched and the cracks feel dry. Invert the pan onto its feet or on to a wine bottle allowing it to cool completely.

Run a thin-blade knife around the edge of the pan and tube. Tip the cake over and run the knife between the cake and the bottom section.

Use a serrated knife to cut into slices and serve with berries, lemon curd, or whipped cream…or all of the accompaniments.


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Chocolate Ricotta Cake

A yogurt cake recipe from Susan Herrmann-Loomis popped up on one of my feeds recently. At quick glance I had all of the ingredients on hand except the yogurt. I did however have homemade ricotta from another recipe.

I got to wondering if I could substitute the yogurt for the ricotta with everything else being equal or almost equal. I gave it a go and I must say it was good but very dense. In other words, I wouldn’t turn down a piece. However, I thought I could improve on a good thing.

After some research I came up with the following: changed out a bit of the butter for canola oil (for added moisture), added more baking powder (for less density), and more chocolate (just because).

5 tablespoons (2.5 oz / 72 g) unsalted butter, plus enough to butter pan
2 tablespoons (1 oz/ 25 g) canola oil
3 ounces (3 oz / 85 g) bittersweet chocolate (at least 65%)
1 3/4 cups (8 oz / 235 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch fine sea salt
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 oz / 255 g) plain whole milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line with round of parchment paper. Set aside. Move a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Melt butter in a small pan over low heat. Remove from heat, add canola oil and set aside to cool. Place chocolate in another small bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and melt stirring often and being careful not to splash any water into the chocolate. Remove from heat to cool.

Set a seive over a medium bowl and sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment beat together the ricotta and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until each is incorporated before adding the next. Drizzle in the butter/oil mixture and continue beating until incorporated. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Dollop two-thirds (about 600 g) of the batter into the prepared cake pan. Fold the melted chocolate into the remaining one-third of the batter until it is thoroughly combined. Dollop the chocolate batter in between the dollops of plain batter. Run an off-set spatula or butter knife through the batter several times to swirl the two batters together and smooth top with an off-set spatula.

Bake cake in lower third of the oven until it is slightly mounded and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 35 – 40 minutes.

Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack. Serve when it is fully cool, or the following day. If you like, dust the top with powdered sugar and serve with a bit of  your favorite jam, marmalade, dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or enjoy it without any adornment with a cup of coffee or tea.

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