Baking Chez Moi: Vanilla Brown Butter Weekend Cake

Well. This was an easy one. It required no special equipment, and I had all the required ingredients at home. Only butter (browned), eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla, rum and salt. Pretty easy, right? It was.

First thing was to brown the butter. Have you browned butter yet? You should. It makes everything better, and only takes a few minutes to produce. But the flavor? More interesting, nuttier, and basically WAAAAAAY better.IMG_3645

Then whisk the eggs and sugar together. Then the vanilla, rum and heavy cream.

I used some not-quite-finished homemade vanilla extract. I’m using rum, so I measured out two tablespoons of that, and fished out a bean and scraped out the seeds. The batter ended up flecked with little black dots of the vanilla. We all know that equals extra deliciousness!


I mixed in the flour and folded in the brown butter. And poured it into the pan. And voila! Cake!


The top portion of the cake came off with the aluminum foil that I used to keep it from browning very much. That’s the bit I got to taste. I’m delivering it tomorrow for the teacher luncheon hosted by third grade. I think I’ll quarter up some strawberries and macerate them overnight with some sugar to serve along side of it. And hopefully I’ll hear good reviews from the teachers.

If the way it smells while baking is any indication, this is a delicious cake!

Want to see what other bakers from Baking Chez Moi are making? Here’s the link to see how their Vanilla Weekend Cakes came out

tap, tap. is this thing on? and pumpkin bread

ok, I know I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. My last post was December, 2013. Having three children in school really threw me for a loop. The driving. The homework. The crying. Its not that I stopped cooking–I just stopped taking pictures of it and telling you about it.

I know that my absence has been noted. Even WordPress has changed things around.  I’ll have to get used to the new editor and remember how to put pictures into this post.

And so I bring you pumpkin bread.  We love the stuff. My son, Adam, eats two pumpkin muffins for breakfast EVERY morning. Yes, every morning. And I am more than happy to supply him with that breakfast. I like this recipe because it calls for oil and not butter. I like that because if I decide to make pumpkin bread RIGHT NOW, I can, and not have to wait for the butter to soften.

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The muffins (or loaves) freeze beautifully, so don’t worry that you can’t use several dozen muffins before they go bad. Stick ’em in the freezer and defrost as you need them. I take a few out at night and in the morning they look like they just came out of the oven.

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I hate it when I get batter on my muffin pans, and I also hate when the muffins aren’t all the same size. I finally figured out if I use two scoops of batter in each muffin cup. I use the same scooper that I use for scooping cookie batter. This is the scoop I use. It’s purple. They come in tons of sizes, and I found it in my local resturant supply store. The scooper is a life saver. Also that resturant supply store is a life saver–but that is a topic for a whole other post…

Pumpkin Bread
makes about 3 dozen muffins or 3 loaves

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
3 cups flour (I use a mix of AP and White Whole Wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup water or milk (or a combination)

Mix sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs and pumpkin together
In separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices
Add the dry ingredients into the wet in three additions, alternating with the milk.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes for muffins, or about 50 for loaves.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rustic Potato Bread

So, I made this bread a few days late. The post was ‘due’ on the last day of passover. So, I made it yesterday.

For such a beautiful loaf of bread, it was incredibly simple to bake. I wish I had read the instructions completely before getting started, because then I would have known that the dough starts out crumbly….like a pie crust….and then miracously comes together like a bread dough. I added a few tablespoons of water while it was still crumbly, and then ended up having to add extra flour while I was kneading it. No big deal. I don’t think it affected the flavor one bit. I halved the recipe and did the whole thing by hand. My mixer is much too big to bother with for only one loaf of bread. I didn’t mind, kneading it was my arm workout for the day–I couldn’t get to the gym since I was home with a sick child.

After two short rises, I ended up with this beautiful loaf of bread.
It was delicious plain, and with butter.
I’ll definitely be making this again. it was easy, delicious and impressive looking!

Check out the other loaves of potato bread that were produced this week at our Leave Your Link post. The recipe can be found at Dawn’s blog, Simply Sweet. While you’re there, make sure to look at the picture of the “high heeled shoe cupcakes” that she made. They’re stunning. She has the recipe for the bread, or you can find it on page 138 of Baking with Julia.

Passover Baking….a delicious cake!

We were invited to our neighbors home for an Easter Dinner, which fell at the end of Passover this year. We said we’d be there, and I told Isabelle that I’d bring something for dessert. I knew that it had to be delicious, and I didn’t want to go with my old standby–flourless chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is fine, but I’m a little tired of it.

The week before passover I saw that Smitten Kitchen had put up a recipe for a Hazelnut-Chocolate Torte. I knew that was what I’d bake. I’ve never had a recipe from Deb turn out badly, and this one was no different. Though I admit that I questioned her when it was time to melt the chocolate and coffee together. I was afraid it would seize and be gross and disgusting. I was wrong, and it turned out beautifully. I should have known….just trust the Smitten Kitchen.


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At a first glance, it might look like a complicated recipe. There’s whipping egg whites and folding in the chopped nuts. But it is not complicated. Or time consuming. Do you believe me? Would I lie to you? Would Deb, of Smitten Kitchen?

I think not
Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte

I think this served at least 12 people, with very small slices

Oil or butter for greasing parchment rounds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 12 ounces or 340 grams), toasted, then skinned as much as possible*
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract**

Chocolate filling
6 ounces (170 grams or the equivalent of 1 cup chips) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)

Whipped frosting and filling
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Frangelico or another hazelnut liqueur or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract**

A semi- or bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving (optional)

Make macaroons: Position oven racks in the top and lower thirds of oven and heat oven to 325°F. Outline four 8-inch circles on individual pieces of parchment paper. Turn each sheet of parchment over so your ink or pencil lines don’t seep into the macaroon, place each piece of parchment paper on large baking sheets, and very lightly coat each piece of parchment with oil or butter. (I sprayed mine with a cooking oil and wiped all but a sheer coating away with a paper towel.)

Place hazelnuts, 1 cup sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large, dry bowl with clean beaters (or a whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract, then slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 1/3 increments (i.e. a little at a time so it doesn’t overtake the fluffy egg whites). Spread 1/4 of macaroon batter evenly within each circle, filling completely.

Bake macaroon layers until golden and dry to the touch — this takes 20 to 23 minutes in my oven. Cool macaroons on their sheets on a cooling rack. You can speed this along by placing them for five minutes each in your freezer.

Make chocolate filling: While meringues cool, heat half of chocolate, water, and coffee (if using) in a small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until smooth. Off the heat, stir in second half of chocolate chunks until melted, which should also cool the mixture to lukewarm. Spread chocolate evenly over tops of meringue rounds; it will be just a thin slick on each. Cool until chocolate is set, a process that could take a few hours at room temperature or, again, could be hastened along by resting each disc in your freezer for five minutes, or until firm.

Make whipped frosting and filling:: Beat cream with sugar and liqueur or vanilla in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it holds stiff peaks.

Assemble torte: Gently peel the parchment off the back of each macaroon round. Arrange your first disc on your cake serving plate. If you like to follow proper cake-decorating protocol, you will insert some small strips of waxed paper under the edge to protect the cake plate while you decorate. If you don’t, hey, I too embrace cake imperfections. Spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over it. Repeat with second and third macaroon rounds, then top with final round. Frost top and side of torte with whipped cream. I did this in two parts, a thin “crumb” coat (after which I put the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes to “set” it, although whipped cream doesn’t really set) a thicker final one, with the remaining cream, which led to a neater final result.

If desired, use a vegetable peeler to scrape away curls from a chocolate bar for decoration. Remove waxed paper strips if you used them, and serve immediately or up to a day or two layer. Store in fridge.

Do ahead: Whipped cream confections are generally best on the first day, but we found ours to hold up just fine in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Macaroons alone, or macaroons with chocolate coating, can be baked in advance. Simply keep them separated with waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Humidity is the enemy of macaroons, so if you live in a humid environment, you’ll want to store them as little time as possible lest they become sticky.

**** in the end, we did not use whipped cream to frost this cake. My husband is lactose intolerant, and he wanted me to use something that he could eat too. I used this recipe for a 7 minute marshmallow frosting. It has corn syrup in it, so its not strictly kosher for passover. But it was worth it.

Baking with Julia: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Can you believe, I’ve never made gingerbread before?

Not the little men, or cake. Never. I guess there’s a first time for everything–even the easy stuff
I halved the recipe because I was pretty sure that my crew of tasters might not be that thrilled with it. I ended up with a loaf and three tiny cakes baked in silicone cupcake cups. I should have done the whole batch that way–they turned out absolutely adorably.
I mixed up the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder, instant espresso, black pepper, and ginger. It felt like I was putting the kitchen sink in that bowl. Then the wet ingredients: butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, molasses and fresh ginger. Dry got folded into wet and into the oven it went.

My sous-chef, Adam was very excited to help me out with the mixing and pouring.
Adam mixing the dry ingredients
Adam pouring in the molasses. He was absolutely fascinated.
Adam painting cake release into the pan. Cake release is pretty awesome, and very easy to make yourself. Here’s a link to the recipe I used to make it.

Did you know that a little oil in the measuring cup helps molasses (or honey or anything else that’s very sticky) come right out of the measuring cup?
The pepper and ginger combined to make it a very spicy cake. It was dense and pretty good…though I have nothing to compare it to. The loaf went to school for the teachers, and I heard a few compliments.
Here’s one of the tiny cakes. I had to bring it outside to get a decent picture. Dark brown cake just doesn’t photograph that well in the dying light…
In case you want the recipe, you can find it at Karen’s blog, or in the book. As always, take a look at the Leave Your Link (LYL) post on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

Tuesdays With Dorie: Best Ever Brownies

This weeks assignment was to make brownies. The recipe can be found on page 331 of Baking With Julia

When I make brownies I like them to be easy, and maybe only use one bowl. I never bake from a mix, but when it comes to brownies, I like them easy. And dense. And incredibly chocolately. These were not easy, nor dense.

This recipe used no less than 3 bowls plus a fine-mesh strainer that I use for sifting. One bowl for the flour, one bowl to melt the chocolate in, and one bowl to mix up the eggs and sugar.

I melted the chocolate and butter in a bowl set atop a pot with some water in it.
It melted and then I added some sugar and took it off the heat
Then I whisked together the eggs and sugar and whisked half of that into the chocolate
Then I whisked the remaining eggs and sugar until they doubled in volume and folded them into the chocolate
And then I folded in the flour. I licked the bowl
And finally they went into the oven
And I brought them to my bunco group on Monday night. Nobody complained, but everybody knew that I’ve done better

I probably won’t be making these again any time soon. But, check out our host for the week, a Beautiful Mess, it looks like she got the beautiful, fudgy brownies I was looking for, she’s got the recipe posted on her site. Also, take a look at our leave your link page to see how other people did it.


A Newer, Better Pumpkin Bread Recipe?

And possibly healthier, too. Unbelievable, since I really felt like the Joy of Cooking pumpkin bread recipe wasn’t going to get any better. I already had a recipe that my kids like to eat, so why would I muck around with it. But you know what? They never even noticed. This one is easier because it doesn’t require me to defrost butter, so I can bake it at a moment’s notice.

We were at the playground with the kids several weeks ago and a friend mentioned that she had the ‘starbuks pumpkin bread recipe.’ I was intrigued, Starbuks makes darn good pumpkin bread. Later that day she read me the recipe over the phone. I was pretty excited because it could be made dairy free. I made it once as she had given it to me and then began to tweak. I replaced half the oil with applesauce and I used the spice measurements from the Joy of Cooking recipe. The orginal spices were not nearly aggressive enough. I like my pumpkin bread to wake me up with its spiciness. Once I did that I was happy.

Amd would you believe I don’t have a picture of the finished product? Its true. Life got in the way and the bread ended up in the freezer and we’ve been eating it, but I haven’t gotten around to photographing it. But trust me, This is good pumpkin bread.

Go. Grab the pumpkin from your pantry. Gather the spices and start baking.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Bread
Makes two loaves

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
4 eggs
1 16 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

3 cups flour (I mix all purpose and white whole wheat)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup water or milk

  • Preheat oven to 350, grease and flour (or use cake release) your pans
  • Mix the sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, and pumpkin together in a large bowl
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together
  • Add dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the water or milk (flour, water, flour, water, flour)
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.