Thursday, October 16, 2014

a fancy cake for a fancy lady

my mom is the best. she is loving, supportive, fun and kooky, fearless, and full of life. she's been kindly dubbed "diva" at work, and that's a credit to both her style and presence; respect is earned, and she has more than earned it.

being the world traveler that she is, this year my mom celebrated her birthday with a cruise to the caribbean, so a belated birthday celebration was needed once she got back to dry land ;)

kavin, abby, and i headed up to connecticut armed with malaysian food (enough for lunch, dinner, and leftovers) and a homemade birthday cake (enough to feed 12 plus)--apparently we like to go big with food.

i chose to make san francisco bakery tartine's passion fruit and lime bavarian chiffon cake. this was the perfect cake for my mom: light and not too sweet, tart and bright from the lime and passion fruit, and all layered with a hint of fancy. there were multiple components to this cake and took a couple days to make (had to set overnight before frosting), which led to a beautifully airy and elegant cake for an equally beautiful person <3

happy birthday, mom! i love you!
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:: passion fruit and lime bavarian chiffon cake ::
(recipe from tartine)
makes one 10-inch cake; 12 to 16 servings

chiffon cake
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
10 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

preheat the oven to 325F. line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper cut to fit exactly. do not grease the sides of the pan.

sift together the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. add 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the salt and whisk to combine. in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon zest. make a well in the flour, add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thoroughly and quickly for about 1 minute until very smooth.

place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl. using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until frothy. add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until the whites hold soft peaks. slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat on medium-high speed until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. using a rubber spatula, scoop about one-third of the whites onto the yolk mixture and fold in gently to lighten the batter. gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula if necessary. bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. let cool in the pan (the sides of the pan will help hold the structure of the cake as it cools) on a wire rack.

to unmold, run a small, thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake and then release and lift off the pan sides. invert the cake, peel off the parchment, and cool completely. the cake will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. 

when ready to assemble, split the cake into 4 layers. you will only need 3 layers for this recipe. reserve the extra layer for another use.

lime syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water 
grated zest of 2 limes 
1/3 cup lime juice

combine the sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. when the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and chill until cool, about 30 minutes. whisk the lime zest and juice into the syrup.

passion fruit bavarian cream
2/3 cup passion fruit pulp, frozen or fresh (about 12 fruits)* 
2 large egg yolks 
1/3 cup sugar 
pinch of salt 
1-1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin 
2 tablespoons water 
1-1/2 cups heavy cream, very cold

* i didn't quite have enough passion fruit so i supplemented with some freshly squeezed orange juice--worked just fine.

pass the passion fruit pulp through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small bowl and discard seeds.  

in a large bowl, prepare an ice bath of both ice and water. in a medium saucepan, bring about 2-inches of water to a simmer. combine the egg yolks, sugar, passion fruit, and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. whisk together and then place over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the yolks are hot to the touch (120F), about 7 minutes. this is the bombe.

meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over water in a small dish and let stand for a few minutes to soften. when the bombe is ready, add the gelatin and whisk well to dissolve. remove the bowl from the hot water and nest the  bowl in the ice bath just until slightly cool to the touch, whisking to cool the mixture evenly.

in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. scoop about one-third of the cream into the bombe. gently fold in the remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula.

line the sides of the springform pan with plastic wrap, allowing enough overhang to cover the top of the cake completely when it is assembled. leave the bottom of the pan unlined.

fit one cake layer into the bottom of the pan. using a pastry brush, moisten the later with one-third of the lime syrup. working quickly, pour half of the mixture onto the first layer of cake.

top with the second layer, being careful as the filling is very liquid. brush this layer with half of the remaining lime syrup and then immediately pour the remaining Bavarian cream over it.

carefully top with the last layer and moisten it with the remaining syrup. fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the top of the cake, covering completely, and refrigerate overnight.

when you are ready to finish the cake, release and lift off the pan sides and peel away the plastic wrap. using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate, if using, or leave it on the cake pan base.

1-1/2 cups heavy cream, very cold 
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 cup unsweetened large-flake dried coconut (*i left this off)

using a whisk or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and sugar until  until the cream holds medium peaks. using an offset spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream, and then sprinkle the top and sides with coconut.

return the cake to the refrigerator for about 2 hours before serving to allow the coconut flakes to absorb the moisture from the cream and soften.

serve the cake cold. it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

apple pie biscuits

what better way to kick off some fall baking than with joy the baker's baking bootcamp challenge. last time's bootcamp recipe was triple berry cinnamon swirl bread; this time is apple pie biscuits. i'm sensing a trend--seasonal fruit and cinnamon baked in bready goodness.

i started by cooking the apples with the butter, cinnamon, and sugar. after just a few minutes the apples smelled wonderfully sweet and warm (aack, am i starting to like warm fruit??).

while the apples cooled i made the biscuit dough with a couple modifications: first i made self-rising flour with all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt; second i mocked up a buttermilk substitution using whole milk and kefir. smooshing the butter into the flour was slightly messy but in the best most satisfying way, and the rest of the dough came together really easily. i dusted and rolled the ball of dough and prepared it to be filled with the cooled apples. flouring the rolling pin and surface was key, but i was still careful not to add too much flour so the dough wouldn't get tough. once i had rolled out a large rectangle, i poured the apples onto half of the dough, carefully folded over the other half, and sealed in the apples. the next step had me a little worried--cutting up the biscuits (and keeping the contents from spewing out). luckily, with a last light smoosh, the biscuits cut cleanly and only a couple tiny pieces of apple escaped. a quick egg wash, sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and salt, and into the oven.

the biscuits baked to a golden brown with a pretty sugar crust. i would have preferred a flakier, lighter biscuit, and i think my buttermilk substitution may have been the culprit. minor texture complaint aside (most likely fixable with proper buttermilk), the biscuits were a definite shout-out to apple pie and are totally high-fiving fall.

p.s. i submitted my picture on instagram @neeppeechy (#bakingbootcamp) so fingers crossed that i win!

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:: apple pie biscuits ::
(recipe from joy the baker)

for the apples:
1 fuji apple, peeled, cored and sliced very thin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

for the biscuits:
2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 to 3/4 cup cold buttermilk

for the topping:
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 425F. line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. to make the apples, place butter in a medium skilled over medium heat to melt. add the apples, cinnamon, and brown sugar. toss with a wooden spoon until all of the apples are coated and the sugar is melted over the apples, about 2 to 4 minutes. the mixture will be warm and glossy, but the apples won't be cooked through. remove from the heat and set aside.

3. to make the biscuit dough, place flour in a medium bowl and add cold butter cubes. use your fingers to quickly break the butter down into the flour. some of the butter bits will be the size of oats, some the size of small peas. stir in the granulated sugar.

4. create a well in the center of the butter and flour mixture and add 2/3 cup buttermilk. stir the mixture together until it is well moistened and holds together well. biscuit dough should be soft and moist. add the remaining buttermilk as needed. if you're using your own homemade self-rising flour or gluten-free self-rising flour, you'll want to add the full 3/4 cup of buttermilk.

5. use all-purpose flour to generously dust a clear work surface. spoon dough onto the floured surface and use your hands to gather it into a ball and gently pat it into a small rectangle. if you're using gluten-free self-rising flour, the dough will crack a bit as you shape it into a rectangle, and again as you fold it over the apples. that's ok; just keep patting it back together.

6. use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough into a rectangle 1/2-inch thick, about 7-inches x 10-inches. arrange cooled apples in a single layer over half of the rolled out biscuit dough. fold the bare side of the dough over the apples and gently press the edges to seal in the apples. use the palms of your hand to pat the dough into a 6 x 8-inch rectangle if the edges are looking a bit rounded.

7. use a sharp knife to slice the dough into 12 squares. use a spatula to place each biscuit onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2-inches apart.

8. in a small bowl, whisk together sugar for topping, cinnamon, and salt.

9. brush each biscuit top with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

10. bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the biscuits are risen and golden brown. remove from the oven and serve warm or cool completely before storing in an airtight container. biscuits are best enjoyed within two days of baking.