I’ve been on a baking kick lately. It started on my birthday, when I decided to bake a birthday cake for myself on a whim. From there, my new newfound like of baking has really taken off, and I’ve been baking like a fiend.
For my birthday cake, I decided I wanted to do a traditional white cake with a chocolate butter cream frosting. After much research, I found a recipe for a Golden Vanilla Cake that struck my fancy on the King Arthur website. This recipe was different than most I had seen, and the process was more like making biscuits than a traditional sponge cake. The finished product turned out very biscuit like in fact, but not as heavy as a biscuit or scone, and had a fabulous crumbly texture. For the icing component, I went with no nonsense chocolate frosting, also from King Arthur that could have been better, but was still delicious.
A couple of weeks later, some folks from the ‘hood got together and threw a good ol’ fashion wine tasting. Everyone in attendance brought a bottle of wine or two as well as an appropriate snack. Once again, all the denizens of 35th Ave S out did themselves and delivered an amazing spread of food and booze.
For this event, I decided to try my hand at a little pâte à choux action, which is a traditional French pastry dough. More specifically, I bought some nice Gruyere from a local cheese monger, and made a pretty decent batch of gougère:
The recipe I used came from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry book, and is nothing more than a basic pâte à choux mixed with the grueyer and piped in to small mounds to form bite sized puffs. Despite the best efforts of my crappy oven to sabotage my baked goods, the gougeres kicked ass! While the cheese puffs didn’t get as golden brown as I had hoped, they were very well received by the neighbors and everybody loved them. I also made a batch of shortbread, some of which I dipped in Scharffen Berger chocolate. My shortbread cookies also kicked ass.
Somewhere around early October, I made a batch of buttermilk banana bread. I’ve used this recipe a lot, and along the way have tweaked the recipe a bit by adding some spices to the mix and substituting turbinado sugar for the white. Using turbinado sugar gives the banana bread a rich, molasses-y texture and taste that really compliments the tang of the buttermilk and flavor of the bananas.
Apple season is in full swing here in Washington, so an apple pie seemed like a no-brainer. I’d successfully made pie dough (AKA Pâte Brisée) once before using my KitchenAid, but I was still apprehensive as pie dough can be touchy and gets tough if you handle it too much. I read that you could use a bit of cider vinegar to help with the flakiness, and it did seem to make a difference in the final product. I found thousands of different apple pie filling recipes, and frankly, it was a bit overwhelming trying to decide which one to use. In the end, I went with the Joy of Baking version, which produced a very tart, almost apple butter like filling. It was delicious, and the crust turned out fab. Not bad for my first fruit AND double crust pie!
My most recent baking endeavor involved coming up with a dessert for our Halloween pot luck at work. I wanted to do something interesting, something a bit different than what folks usually bring to these types of work functions. Back in September, I picked up some funky pink salt, but hadn’t had a chance to use it. So, with the pink salt burning a hole in my cupboard, I decided to do a few batches of Kate Krader’s salted fudge brownies:
I’d made these rich, sticky brownies before, but only had kosher salt on hand and they were to die for as-is. With the addition of a complex salt, like the pink stuff, the brownies were out of this world. The chunky grains of minerally salt were especially satisfying to bite in to, and the sharp salt sting were a nice balance against the richness of the fudgey brownie. Special thanks to my crafty wife for the killa sign.