Baked Sunday Mornings: Going Rogue

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We were supposed to make Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling this time, but I am too deep in my yearly pumpkin obsession to do chocolate and buttercream right now. For me, pumpkin is pretty fleeting–October and November, then on to other things for Christmas baking–but I can do chocolate anytime.

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I didn’t intend to go rogue necessarily, but a few weeks ago my boys were flipping through Baked Elements and pointed at the Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls recipe. ‘Mama. Make these.’ And I have been thinking of them ever since.

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These cinnamon rolls were so easy to make, but they look so beautiful they would be perfect for any fall brunch. The only 10″ pan I own is a springform and that was perfect. Once they were out of the oven I just took the sides off the pan and slid the rolls, still on the 10″ round onto the cake stand to frost. If I was going to travel with them I would have just put the round into the cake taker and been on my way.

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I did make the frosting ahead of time but that ended up not making a difference. I used an offset spatula and smeared/dripped the frosting evenly onto the rolls. As lovely as the picture is in the cookbook, I require more than just a delicate drizzle of frosting on my cinnamon rolls: they need to be drenched.

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The pumpkin made the finished rolls soft and puffy and they were spicy and yummy from the cinnamon and nutmeg. (I didn’t have ground cardamom) I would definitely make these again, and I probably will before pumpkin season closes out for the year.

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Go over and check out my friend’s devil dogs!

Next up: Good Morning Sunshine Bars! Yay, I’ve been wanting to make these!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mile-High Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

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I did NOT want to make this cake. I knew it was going to be delicious, but I just wasn’t in the mood for a layer cake, especially a SIX LAYER cake. I didn’t have an occasion to make it for and I hate having to toss yummy cake that was just too much for us to eat. I had bought the chocolate and heavy cream so I knew I’d end up making the cake, even though I would procrastinate like crazy first.

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I made the layers on Thursday, planning to finish it on Friday in time to share at my PTO night of gossip meeting. That didn’t happen.

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I asked my husband to cut the three layers in half for me, I was terrified of making a giant crumbly mess. He did a great job.

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I procrastinated the buttercream for hours–I put the kids to bed, I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom….I listened to my favorite podcast…and finally I worked up the nerve to give it a shot. I always did fine with the Baked buttercream, but one batch failed recently when our A/C was acting wonky. I guess the heat just messed it up. But even after several successful cooked buttercreams, it just took that one bad egg to shake my confidence. When it turned out beautiful and fluffy…it was the best feeling in the world. Doing a happy dance in my kitchen at one am–well, I’m glad I was alone. 🙂

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The next step was assembling the layers. It took me a second to realize how to get the layers together without breaking the cakes. I used a flexible cutting board, slid them on and placed them one by one on the yummy buttercream. The layers made me laugh, the looked like Shel Silverstein-style flapjacks…tall and kind of leaning to the side. I didn’t mind.

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Finishing cakes is just not my strong point. I just don’t have enough focus to make them perfect. Once I feel good about the baking process I just want to get to the eating part. I might make it a goal to work on decorating, but right this second I don’t have a lot of interest.

I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the time of day I am baking and what the finished product looks like. When I am doing middle of the night baking (I’m a night owl and sometimes it takes forever to get the youngest boy settled down) my cakes end up looking a bit more…whimsical.

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Why did I choose to use my wavy-frosting comb thing? I don’t know. It was 2am and for some reason I remember thinking ‘it looks kind of like a tree trunk!’ I went to bed with a clean kitchen and a giant cake chilling in the fridge. I giggled a bit when I uncovered it this morning, but loved seeing how great the layers looked and how pretty it looked on the plate. If it had have been a birthday cake I would have covered it with sparkly, pretty candles and sang my loudest to distract from the fact that my cake was a bit imperfect wobbly. Of course my cake testers loved it and proclaimed it the BEST CAKE IN THE WORLD! (they kind of say that about everything I bake ;))

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Go over and see how my fellow bakers fared…did they cut the three cakes into six layers? Did their buttercream turn out? I’m going over to find out now!

Next up: Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake…yummy!! (and just one layer!!)

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mississippi Mud Pie (A), aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart

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I have never made (or eaten?!) a Mississippi Mud Pie before and was a little unsure how to approach it. I wasn’t 100% sure what a chocolate wafer cookie was, and the cookie aisle at my local grocery store is not usually one I usually spend a lot of time on. I briefly considered my store bought options then began to think about my homemade ones.

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I realized this could be the perfect time to combine the recipes and techniques of some of my favorite pastry chefs. I was a bit baffled by the crumb section of the Milk Bar cookbook initially but after making a few of the recipes I realized how great it is. You can eat the chunky crumbs alone by the handful, sprinkle them on ice cream, mix them into bars or cookies, use them to plate desserts or make a pie crust with them.

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I’ve been flipping through the Bouchon cookbook again and saw their take on Oreos and that is what I decided to make my crust with.

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It was really quick to mix up the dough in the food processor. I scooped it out when it was still a bit clumpy/crumbly and sprinkled it on a cookie sheet and baked at 350 for about 20 minutes, until the crumbles felt dry and firm but not rock-hard.

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Once I had my crumbs the crust was all set, one batch of TKO dough was too much, but I plan on using the leftovers for something else later. If I had planned on making just the crust I could have halved it and had plenty.

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I loved how deep and dark the dough was–it was barely sweet and rich and a bit salty. I personally love the addition of a good amount of salt in sweet desserts, especially since I knew this one would end up being really sweet with all the other layers.

But if someone didn’t like that then this cookie would definitely be too salty for them. I let the crust chill overnight and made the fudge the next day.

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While the fudge layer chilled I made the coffee ice cream. I was getting anxious to try the pie already so I was tempted to just go buy a pint of coffee ice cream.

But I’ve never made coffee ice cream before and Matt’s recipe looked straightforward and I had all the ingredients so I made up the custard and chilled it for an hour in the fridge then an hour in the freezer instead of four hours in the fridge.

Four hours is a long time to wait when you are trying to get to the eating part of a tasty pie!

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The recipe made the perfect amount for the pie. I was a little bummed to not have any leftover (to sprinkle cookies on?) 😉 but it was pretty satisfying to see all the ice cream hanging out in the pie, ready for the pecans and the final layer of boozy fudge.

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I didn’t toast the pecans first, I just used them straight out of the bag. I had the oven pre-heating then figured I’d just jump to the topping instead and tossed the chopped pecans on top of the ice cream and smooshed them in slightly with the back of a wooden spoon.

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I was really excited about the pie and couldn’t wait to taste it. After all the layers I had made over several days I wasn’t too concerned with how my final product looked. When I cut it the first time the ice cream was a bit soft, but I kind of like it better that way.

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Of course the next day when I had a piece it was firm and easier to cut. (the top picture was from day 2)

I will definitely make this again! It would be the perfect thing to make for a summer birthday for a grownup friend. I did give my boys a bite, but even though they have a summer birthday they always request cake instead of pie.

Go by and see how all my fellow bakers’ pies look!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Malted Madeleines

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When my last baby was first born my husband got a job as the executive chef for a French restaurant. I helped him choose desserts for the initial menu even though, to be perfectly honest French baking intimidates me. (stop staring at me, Bouchon Bakery coobook!)

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I always intended to buy a madeleine pan and give them a shot– I love their soft, spongey texture and delicate seashell scallops–but until this week I never got around to picking one up.

I found a mini madeleine pan at the Home Goods store near my house. I love malt and was really excited about this recipe.

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I started baking these while my boys had friends over for a play date. I figured I would make them a batch of regular basic chocolate chunk cookies while they played. The madeleine batter needs to rest for an hour so that time seemed like the perfect opportunity to whip up some kid-friendly treats.

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I completely discounted the fact that I normally use my weekly baking time as sort of a tasty meditation and having a houseful of kids underfoot in a thunderstorm is maybe not the most relaxing of environments.

But regardless, I was able to shove cookies into the hands of all the littles so I could check on my madeleine batter and get them in the oven. Since I had never made them before I definitely overfilled the pan on the first batch.

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They looked more like chocolate pillows than delicate seaside collectibles so I scaled wayyy back on the batter for the second batch. But the texture was right so I was still excited about them, and guess who doesn’t care about the shape of a cookie? Kids. They didn’t even glance at them before shoving them in their mouths.

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I got the batter amount right the second time and they came out of the oven looking cute and delicate.

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They looked even better when I dusted them with cocoa and malt powder. Despite the chaos going on at my house while I baked this week, I was really happy with the way these turned out.

And now that I have a pan I can try out some classic madeleines. My boys will be decidedly less excited about those since they are on a weird lemon-hating kick right now, but that’s ok. I’m happy to eat them up test them out.

After baking these I did some internet roaming and noticed that there is quite a bit of strong opinion about what constitutes the perfect madeleine.

The ‘hump’ is quite important and it seems you achieve this by first chilling the batter and/or the pans. I had remembered reading about chilling the pans in the Bouchon cookbook but I had no idea it was such a big deal. Interesting.

Side note: Had my middle boy been a girl his name would have been Madeleine. 🙂

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Go see how all my fellow bakers’ yummy tiny cakes turned out!

Next up: Mississippi Mud Pie aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart!!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

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I was thrilled to make my first recipe as part of Baked Sunday Mornings. Of course last weekend I made a Lemon Drop Cake and yesterday I made the Sweet & Salty cake but this my first time following the official baking schedule.

I was relieved that it was a quick and simple recipe so I could still have lots of time to celebrate my man’s birthday. I bought raw hazelnuts from Whole Foods last week when I was shopping for good chocolate for the cake. It was hard to gauge in cups at the bulk bin so I accidentally bought $15 worth of nuts, twice as much as I needed. Now I know why Nutella is so expensive: those suckers are not cheap. But the good news is they are immensely tasty so having extra on hand is not a bad thing.

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I roasted all of the nuts at once and spent the next day or so removing the skins at my leisure. I first rubbed them with a damp towel, as the recipe suggested. With the skins that remained I either slipped them off or rubbed handfuls between my hands to gently remove them. I don’t think you need to have totally naked hazelnuts, but the papery skins need to go so they don’t mess with the texture of the spread.

I am always amazed and delighted whenever whole nuts liquefy and turn to butter. However, my small 4 cup food processor was not so excited. 😦

My husband wanted to buy the big daddy when we were first looking at them but for some reason I vetoed it. Big mistake. I wasn’t too worried about it burning out but if I was I would have taken the hazelnuts out once they liquefied and mixed in the other ingredients by hand.

I didn’t do that and the motor did get a good workout. I smelled a bit of burning machinery towards the end. I won’t be sad if I’m forced to buy a bigger food processor! 😉

I didn’t use hazelnut oil, the nuts were expensive enough so I didn’t want to buy any more special ingredients. I used grapeseed oil which was fine but next time I would definitely use hazelnut oil so it could impart more warm nuttiness to the finished product.

The spread was perfect and yummy and will be happily spread on apples–done already 😉 and over toast and crackers and maybe biscuits or scones. We are definitely fans of Nutella here and homemade is even better!

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See you next week!! Next up: alfajores! Don’t forget to head over and see what everyone else did this week!

The Sugar Cube by: Kir Jensen

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The other new cook book I purchased recently is one written by a woman in Portland who runs a food cart. I found the book at the library and had to have it. It was definitely right up my alley.

There are a million things I want to make from the book, but the first one I attempted over the weekend was the Black & White Sesame Brittle. I couldn’t find black sesame seeds so I used twice the amount of white and it was fine. I think it would look more striking with both, I’ll try to find them for next time.

I decided to make it as part of the belated-birthday gift I was taking to my boys’ Nana. There was a sesame candy I have had at her house before so I thought she might like it.

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The brittle came out great but it could have gone a tiny bit longer in the pan. It was not quite the deep golden brown it should have been, but I was nervous about overcooking. It’s also not a great idea to make brittle on a humid day, which I did but a little dusting of confectioners’ sugar insured that it wouldn’t get sticky.

I tucked most of it into a round gift tin and kept the tiny bit left over in a ziploc–it’s gone already. It was a big hit in my house and Nana said she enjoyed it too. I can’t wait to try more recipes!

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Have you ever made brittle before? Were you shocked at how fun and easy it is?

Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

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We were invited to my boys’ Nana’s house for Easter this year. Her birthday always falls close to Easter and every year I’ve ever spent it with her I’ve made her a cake to celebrate. She’s in luck now because I’ve been improving my baking steadily over the years and I do make a pretty badass nice cake if I do say so myself.

I just bought a new cook book and this recipe in particular jumped out at me. It was described as ‘sunshine on a plate’ um…yes please!!

I have to say, I’m usually not a huge fan of lemony desserts but Nana is not a huge fan of overly rich desserts so I wanted to make something I thought she’d like. I had no idea I’d end up loving it as much as I did.

I found a bunch of beautiful ripe, organic Meyer lemons that I was super excited to use for this cake. The smell of them always takes me right back to when I lived in Berkeley, some of the best times of my life. I was so worried I’d eff the cake up, I wanted so much for it to be perfect.

The night before Easter Sunday I baked the three cake layers. The batter was easy and fragrant and baked up perfectly. The cake seemed springy and moist but also a bit delicate. I was so excited to wake up and make the curd and the lemon-scented vanilla buttercream frosting.

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The cake came together perfectly, and right in time for us to leave. It was a pretty humid day, rain was in the forecast. I would have preferred to refrigerate the cake for a few hours to set a bit but there was no time and there is something amazing about room-temp buttercream melting on your tongue.

After a lovely frittata and an antipasti platter it was onto the cake. It slid against the cake-taker on the drive over which stressed me out to no end but after a few mimosas I wasn’t so concerned. When we went inside to grab it the top two layers were trying to escape: they had slid away from the base layer. No worries, we just scooted them over with a spatula and the cake still looked great.

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When I took my first bite I swear I heard angels sing. There is something so miraculous when all components of an untested recipe come together well. If I had have not been a guest I would have definitely did some sort of happy dance. It was amazing. Delicate/tender crumb, sweet/tart curd, perfect, delicate lemony-vanilla frosting. Holy cow.

The (belated) birthday girl enjoyed it too. I thought she was going to take the whole thing inside with a fork for some alone time but she managed to restrain herself. 😉 We left half of the leftover cake there and ate the last of our half this morning with coffee.

I was right: a few hours in the fridge made it all come together beautifully. This recipe is a keeper!!