Sally’s Baking Addiction: February, 2018 Challenge: Cake Pops!

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I now have to include the year in the title of my baking challenge posts because I have completed one full cycle of Sally’s monthly tasks! I am kinda proud of that fact. Sally launched her Baking Challenge in February of 2017, and I have managed to complete all 12, so far! It has been tricky to stay on track over the last 12 months as we have travelled, bought a new home and have had some really busy months. But I have persevered, and managed to not gain 10 extra pounds 🙂

This month’s challenge was not too tough as Sally set cake pops as the perfect Valentine’s Day treat for us to create. My plan was to omit the stick and go with cake pop truffles. I felt this would be easier, and slightly more professional, for my hubby and his coworkers to pop into their mouths, as opposed to sitting in a client meeting eating cake on a popsicle stick!

Sally’s chocolate cake and chocolate icing were scrumptious, and so simple!

The first step was to bake the cake, which I did a day ahead. This was cooled and crumbled into a bowl of Sally’s chocolate icing.

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The mixture was rolled into balls and refrigerated overnight.

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At this point you can insert the stick, but I skipped that! I made rather small truffles and had a yield of 65 balls to be dipped into melted chocolate.

I happen to have milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and red chocolate melting discs at my home. Yes, I have too much chocolate on hand at all times!

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I also have way too many candy decorations! So, my daughter came over to make and decorate truffles with me, and make some candy apples for her boyfriend for Valentine’s Day.

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We made quite the mess, but so worth it!

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We had a blast dipping and decorating these little guys.

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They were also delicious! I was impressed that they were not dry inside-as I have purchased cake pops from bakeries before that required a full glass of water in order to choke them down.

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Another great Sally creation! If you can’t tell, I am a fan of her recipes!

They are all simple, delicious and accessible for any level of baking skills you may possess!

I hope to keep baking with her through 2018!

 

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King Cake for Mardi Gras!

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This is my first King Cake. I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that a King Cake was complicated and took days to make. One of my good friends from culinary school, Jen, makes one every year and has a condo in Phoenix. This is my first February in Tucson, so we decided to get together and make King Cakes at her place.

The recipe is straight forward and the dough comes together quite easily. Here is the problem. Phoenix is 2 hours from Tucson, so we decided I would mix my dough, at my house, and then drive to Phoenix while the dough was rising. Jen would make her dough and then we could stagger the baking times in her oven. Makes sense, right? The dough should take an hour to rise before I needed to move to the filling stage. But the drive is 2 hours, remember?

So, I started at 8am and had the windows down until I hit the freeway. At that point I put the air conditioner on and trained the vents to directly hit the dough container. That worked well for about an hour, and my feet were frozen! At that point I turned off the air and let the dough finish doubling for the last 45 minutes of the drive.

It looked pretty good when I got there.

It had doubled and was ready to be rolled out into a 14in X 18in rectangle. The filling, which is cinnamon, butter and sugar was spread out leaving an inch border.

This is basically just a big cinnamon roll! I rolled it up, length wise into a cylinder, and sealed the edges to make the wreath.

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This is left to rise for another 30 minutes

Then into the oven and 25 minutes later, I had my first King Cake.

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Looks good from this side!

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But over here, it looks like I forgot to put it seam side down on the baking sheet!

 

A simple icing of powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and melted butter was whisked up. The important part is getting the colored sugars applied before the icing sets. So, I had to work with a little urgency.

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How cute is Jen’s spatula! She loves those little baking implements!

I tried to apply the three, traditional colors in equal amounts.

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I said I tried to have equal amounts, not that I succeeded in doing so!

While we waited for the icing to set, Jen gave me a taste of the Nutella Babka she made using Sally’s Baking Addiction Recipe.

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Seriously, is this artwork or a quick bread! It was delicious and beautiful!

Now, the time of the big reveal!

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I love the swirl!

 

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And the taste! Of course I had to have mine with a cup of coffee 🙂

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Macarons copy

I was pretty happy with the result and the recipe was really simple. Not sure if it is a traditional King Cake, but I do recommend this recipe for a quick way to partake in the Mardi Gras season.

If you would like to see more creations from my friend, you can find Jen on Instagram.

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Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

I did some experimenting in the kitchen the other day. I wanted to make candy turtles but wasn’t sure which type of caramel or chocolate combination would be best. The hubby and I are in agreement with the caramel choice but not on the chocolate options.

You know what, they are all good! But now which beauty shot is best? I leave that to you good people, I know you will pick the best one! 🙂

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Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Sally’s Baking Addiction November Challenge, Decorative Pie Crust

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This month Sally challenged us to make pretty pies. This is not my forte! This is only the second pie I have ever made, and for it to be pretty? Well, I did give it my best shot.

Sally’s challenge was to bake any pie we chose and she provided many beautiful designs to inspire us to be creative with the lattice topper.

My first pie was also a Sally challenge, from back in July, and we really liked the cherry pie recipe from her website, but cherries are no longer in season. So I chose her cranberry almond apple pie to bake for our family Thanksgiving dinner.

The first order of business was to make the crust and allow it, at least two hours, to firm up in the refrigerator. Sally’s pie crust recipe is easy to follow and does produce tender, flaky layers.

After a couple hours I rolled out the bottom dough and placed it into a 9 inch baking dish.

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The almond portion of the pie is from almond paste. Sally recommends Odense and it is rolled out and fitted into the bottom of the pie.

This went back into the refrigerator while I mixed up the filling.

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Now came the tricky part for me-how to decorate the top of the pie? I decided that I wanted to make a braided edge so I cut strips 1/4 inch thick and made three stranded braids. Not that easy it turns out, when there are small bits of butter running throughout the dough! But I eventually got it done and laid them over the circumference of the dish.

With the extra dough, I cut wider strips, and used cookie cutters to stamp out turkey and heart shapes.

The pie went into the oven until it was golden brown and the filling was bubbling.

 

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This was probably my least successful challenge to date. It was tasty, although I feel it should have baked longer, and we did enjoy it. However, I need more practice with pie dough!

What a great reason to keep practicing 🙂 Can’t wait to see what Sally has in store for us in December!

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Black & White & Color Photo Challenge

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and, like most bakers, I have been in the kitchen for the last couple days. I finished this apple, almond and cranberry pie late tonight. Here it is right before going into the oven. Which looks more appetizing?

 

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The black and white version of the pie

or

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The color version

I wish you all the best of holidays and a very Happy Thanksgiving!!

Grab your camera or phone and join Linda from Everyone Else has the best titles and Take the “Black and White and Color” photo challenge!

Is store bought puff pastry really good enough?

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How many times have you heard a chef on TV say that store bought puff pastry is just as good as making it yourself? Probably many times! I know I have and I have never seen a recipe that says “first make puff pastry”. No one makes puff pastry aside from a few bakeries out there. Most businesses determined, long ago, that it is not cost effective to pay someone to spend the entire day making just laminated dough. They tend to have it shipped frozen and roll out the thawed dough to make their pastries.

Hey, I get it! I made full puff pastry in culinary school and it was a serious chore! But have you heard of “rough puff” dough? If you are a fan of The Great British Baking Show, then there is a good chance that you are aware of this baking shortcut.

I got to thinking, is store bought really just as good? I decided to make two identical tarts, one with store bought puff pastry and one with rough puff and compare the end products.

Puff pastry is all about building layers and keeping everything cold. I am currently in my kitchen in Tucson and the temperature the day I made this was 86°F, so not ideal conditions! But I went for it anyway, and here is what I found out.

Let’s start with the rough puff which is only four ingredients: flour, salt, butter and milk (or water). Since one huge advantage store bought dough has over making your own is time, I needed to record how long the rough puff takes to prepare.

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I gathered my hardware

I set my phone timer and hit start.

 

I combined 1 cup of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, whisked it together. Next was the addition of 5 oz. of COLD. European butter. Why specifically European? It is comes from grass fed cows and gives the pastry a quality our domestic butter just can’t match. But if you don’t have access to that, just make sure your butter is cold!!

 

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Look how yellow that butter is! 

The butter is cut into the flour and salt mixture until small bits of butter are visible.

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Lastly add the 1/4 cup COLD milk or water and combine until a shaggy dough forms.

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This is where the folding come into play. Pat the dough, on a well floured board, into a rectangle, about 8 X 10 and then fold into thirds. This is your first fold.

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Rotate 90 degrees, and repeat by rolling into the 8 X 10 rectangle and fold the dough into thirds and onto itself again. That is fold number two. The goal is to do this a total of 6 folds.

IMG_3921After my third fold is where the temperature in my kitchen caught up to me! The butter was getting soft, so after the third fold I had to put the dough into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to cool down. I finished the next three folds (for a total of 6) as quickly as I could and then the dough needs to be refrigerated for an hour before proceeding.

 

So, how long did it take to get to this point? When I got the pastry into the fridge for the 1 hour rest I hit stop on my clock.

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Since I had to stop and chill the dough and then let it sit for more than the recommended hour to firm up, my time was longer than it should have been. If I had done this in my Seattle kitchen, I think it would have only been about 30 minutes.

 

By comparison, if I was using store bought I would have saved this 50 minutes.

It was now time to make the tarts. First I pulled out the chilled rough puff pastry, rolled it into a 10 X14 rectangle, pricked the pastry with a fork. I returned this to the fridge while I prepared the store bought dough.

 

The store bought puff pastry was thawed, in the fridge overnight so all that was needed was to unfold it, roll it into a 10 x 14 rectangle and dock the dough. Since the store bought was already in a 9 X 9 inch sheet, the rolling out process was also faster.

So far they look fairly equal, except for their color.

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The dough on the left is the store bought and the right is the rough puff

There is a big difference in color thanks to the rich butter. There was also extra dough from the rough puff but nothing left over from the thinner store bought sheet. I used the extra dough to decorate the rough puff so I wouldn’t get them confused in the oven!

With Thanksgiving around the corner I decided to make pear, apple and cranberry tarts. Once the filling was in place they both went into the 400°F oven for 30 minutes.

They both looked great!

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Rough puff tart

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Store bought tart

Visually, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a difference! Choosing the lowest points of each crust to measure the depth of the crust showed that they were practically the same. A slight edge could go to the rough puff.

 

Slicing it open and looking at the layers did show a difference.

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store bought, end on view=dense, no air pockets

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Store bought bottom edge=small air pockets with a few layers

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rough puff, end on view=large air pockets, very flaky

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rough puff, bottom edge=air pockets all along the bottom edge

Now it was time for the taste test! My hubby was the judge, he was given a slice of each but it was a blind test. He did not like the buttery flavor of the rough puff! He said it was too buttery for his taste. It was also the flakiest of the two tarts, but the store bought was tasty too!

 

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The verdict? I felt that the rough puff was worth the extra time and effort. I would like to take one more crack at it with a cooler kitchen! I did like the flakiness and the extra butter flavor did not bother me!! Although if you are tight for time, then the store bought is just as good as making your own.

Rough Puff Pastry

A quick puff pastry recipe that is buttery and flaky and easy to make.

Credit: E2 Bakes Brooklyn

Ingredients

-1 cup flour

-1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt

-5 OZ. good quality European Butter, cold

-1/4 cup milk or water, cold

 

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Pour in cold water or milk and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms
  2. Flour a smooth surface and a rolling pin. Turn dough out onto surface, and use your hands to pat it into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough into an 8×10″ rectangle. Fold dough in thirds, and give it one quarter turn. Roll into an 8×10″ rectangle again, fold, and turn. Repeat rolling, folding, and turning until it has been done six times total. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours. 

Apple, Pear and Cranberry tart

  • Servings: 1 10 X 14 tart
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

A simple and elegant fruit tart. Perfect for a buffet table and can be served at room temperature.

Credit: invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-2/3 cup dried cranberries

-1/4 cup Calvados or Brandy

-1-2 apple, peeled cored and sliced thin

-1-2 pears, peeled cored and sliced thin

-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

-2 Tablespoons butter

-1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup

-egg wash as needed

 

Directions

  1. Place dried cranberries into a shallow bowl and add the Calvados, or Brandy or Water to rehydrate. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes.
  2. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and pears. Arrange in a pattern over the pastry dough. Add the cranberries and sprinkle with the sugar.
  3. Dot the tart with the butter and brush the crust with the egg wash. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.
  4. Brush the warm tart with the maple syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Sally’s Baking Addiction, October Challenge, Pumpkin Roll Cake

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This month Sally challenged us to make a pumpkin roll cake. We had a roll cake challenge back in May. At that time I talked about how my roll cakes always crack and I have to cover it up with icing or flowers or some type of decoration.

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This time I thought I would really challenge myself and put a pattern in my pumpkin sponge cake. I saw this, for the first time, on The Great British Baking Show. Since this was a pumpkin sponge I wanted a pumpkin patch pattern but couldn’t find anything I liked or could put on the cake, so I made my own template using stickers from a craft store. Sally recommends a 10 inch x 15 inch jelly roll pan, so I made my template that size. I cut a paper to the same size and measured to find the exact center. I knew I would be rolling the cake from the short side so made my pattern such that it would repeat in that direction. I also knew that the edges would most likely be trimmed away so I left a good sized border along both sides. I used a pencil to draw in, roughly, where the vines would connect the pumpkins.

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I then layer a parchment paper over the template, securing it with tape, so I would be able to pipe the batter onto the parchment.

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Now I needed to mix up a cake batter that would be denser than the pumpkin sponge so that the pattern would not mix into the cake batter and disappear. I used this mixture:

50g butter, room temperature

50g powdered sugar (or icing sugar)

50g egg whites

50g flour, all purpose

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Using a hand mixer, combine the sugar and butter until smooth, then add the egg whites and finally the flour and stir to make a strong paste. You want this pretty thick, you need to be able to pipe it but still want it to hold a firm shape. I needed two colors, orange and leaf green.

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I used gel food colors and a number 1 piping tip to make the pumpkins

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Another portion was colored green, and using a number 3 tip, I piped the vines.

 

This went into the freezer for, at least 30 minutes, while I prepared the Pumpkin sponge cake as per Sally’s recipe. Once the mixture was ready I had to remove the template from the pan and replace the frozen pattern. Then I spread the pumpkin batter, carefully, over the design.

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Sally’s recipe stated that the baking time would be ~17 minutes, but mine was done in 10 minutes. It is important to not over bake the cake or it will crack when it is rolled (I should know, this is my big problem with roll cakes!). I had to flip my cake twice when it was done. The first time I turned the cake out onto a sheet pan covered with powdered sugar and removed the parchment paper-carefully, so the design would stay intact.

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The prepared pan

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The cake after I removed the paper. It worked!

To my surprise the patten was intact! From here I followed Sally’s instructions and flipped the cake onto a tea towel that had been generously sprinkled with more powdered sugar. Now the pattern side was down and I could roll the cake up, while it was still warm, to allow it to cool in the final shape. I was so busy doing all this while the cake was still warm that I did not get a picture of it this time. Here is what the process looked like from May, when I did the last roll cake.

 

The rolled cake needs to chill for about 2 hours in the refrigerator before adding the filling.

The cream cheese icing was also from Sally’s recipe. I did make one small change and added 30g of finely chopped crystallized ginger for some extra flavor and texture.

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The cake is unrolled, the filling spread out leaving a 1/2 inch border, then tightly rolled back up

This was the first time that my cake did not crack! And, the pattern is pretty good. There is some powdered sugar still on the cake, but that does disappear after a little time has passed.

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The cake and filling are delicious! Sally has another winner recipe on her hands!

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I had fun working this out and challenging myself a little bit. It is a great cake for Halloween and I am really looking forward to what Sally comes up with next month!

 

 

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