Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Garage Sales and Whoopie Pies

Where to start with this one... As you can see I've been on a month's hiatus and after this post you'll probably understand why. A basement of  leftover junk from my old apartment, a fully furnished and closet-stuffed new apartment, and a garage filled with my grandfather's belongings could only lead to one thing: a garage sale! The sale could basically be summed up with this statement:  I haven't used, looked at or wanted the items for months (maybe even years) and am now offended that someone is not willing to spend more than $1 on them. It was exhausting and after a full day's work and maybe $150 later I decided next time I accumulate an absurd amount of things I will do the ethical thing and donate them! So...where do the whoopie pies fall into all this? Ask yourself two questions:

1. Why wouldn't it be a good idea to bake from 12:00A.M to 2:00 A.M the night before a day of manual labor?
2. Why would someone want to buy a whoopie pie for $2 when they could get a dining room set for the same price? 

Yup! Why wasn't anyone around to ask me these questions when I began this baking adventure? Well I guess my husband was. Good thing he is already accustomed to the fact that I can usually only hear one voice (mine). Needless to say thank you Jim for driving to every convenient store in Essex County to find me marshmallow fluff at 11 o'clock at night.

Excited by my new purchase of Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell  (a must buy!) and even more excited by the idea of actually making money on my baked goods at the garage sale I decided to bake two varieties.

Classic Chocolate Whoopie  (recipe from Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell)
*makes 24 complete two-inch pies*
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening 
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cup milk

Classic Marshmallow Filling
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
1 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Make Whoopie
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper
3. Using a standing mixer, beat together butter, shortening, and brown sugar on a low speed until just combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth (about three minutes)
4. Add egg and vanilla and beat for another two minutes
5. Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until completely combined.
6. Using a spoon, drop about one tablespoon of batter onto one of the baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least two inches apart.  Bake one sheet at a time for about ten minutes each or until the pies spring back when pressed gently
7. Remove from the oven and let cake cool on the sheet for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely

To make the filling:
1. Beat together the marshmallow fluff and vegetable shortening, starting on low and increasing to medium speed until the mixture is smooth and fluffy (about three minutes)
2. On low, add sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated
3. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy (about three minutes more)

To assemble:
1. Pair each cake with a similarly sized and shaped cake
2. Using a frosting bag or a large ziploc bag, pipe a tablespoon amount of frosting onto one cake
3. Put the leftover cake on top of the frosted cake to complete your Whoopie session
* I made a gluten-free version during a camping trip for a gluten-free friend and they tasted equally delicious* Definitely a book worth buying

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pistachio Lemon Cake

Two attempts at the perfect vanilla frosting and 20 minutes worth of whisking lemon curd later, I was one third of the way to my Easter goal! 

As a little girl going out to eat with my family, I really enjoyed making unique food choices. Once the food would arrive at the table I would smell the delicious aroma of, no not my dish... my dad's! "Your eyes are bigger than your belly" he'd say as I'd reach across the table putting a fork to his dinner before even looking at my own. I'd end up taking a couple bites from my "unique" dish and then fill up on everyone else's. 

Ok..Ok.. I know, how does this story relate to my pistachio lemon cake? Well I've always loved small bites of a lot of different flavors so when deciding to choose a cake for my Easter bake-a-thon, it was hard to pick just one. Well, once I started the process of making all these different cakes with all these different flavors, I heard my dad's words floating around my kitchen. 

The whole process started off well as I was extra careful to gather all of the ingredients before beginning the baking process to prevent running to the closet in between beating and pouring.

Everything I've ever made from Smitten kitchen has been easy to follow and turns out super tasty.  Needless to say, it was hard not to dive into the wonderful smelling cakes each time I opened my fridge. As the cakes sat comfy cozy, I was getting a full upper body workout making the lemon curd (who says baking can't be good for a diet!)

The lemon curd took a lot of work but I was extremely happy with the end result. So yummy...the frosting on the other hand... I tried two different recipes: a classic vanilla buttercream (powder based) and a white sauce recipe (rue based). Either too sweet or too buttery I was left disappointed. Suggestions welcome :)

Running low on time I ended up using the white sauce recipe...

Pistachio Cake  (recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
¾ cup skinned pistachio nuts *I got about 1 ½ cup so I would have enough to decorate the outside of the cake*
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 eggs

Lemon Curd (recipe from David Lebovitz)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (preferably Meyer lemons)
1/3 cup sugar or ½ cup if using regular lemons
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Vanilla Frosting (posted on the pioneer woman’s tasty kitchen by MissyDew)
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar

Make the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F butter baking pans. *I used four 6in-round pans as I was making two mini cakes. There is enough batter to fill three 8inch-round pans and two 10in-round pans.* Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
  2. Spread out the pistachios on a baking pan and toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until lightly colored. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Let cool completely and then finely chop. Set aside ½ for the cake mixture. You can use the remaining for decorating.
  3. Put a ½ cup of the pistachios in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse just enough to grind finely.
  4. Pour sugar/nut mixture into a large bowl and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Blend with mixer on low for 30 second. Add butter, milk, vanilla, and with the mixer on low, beat until completely incorporated.
  5. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only long enough to blend after each addition. Divide batter among the prepared pans.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes in pan. Then transfer to wire racks. Carefully peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.

Make the curd
  1. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
  3. Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat whisking constantly until butter is melted.
  4. Increase the heat and cook over heat whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. Once the curd holds it shape immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.
Make the frosting
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add flour/sugar/vanilla mixture and beat until frosting resembles whipped cream (about 7 minutes).
Assemble the cake
  1. Place one cake layer on cardboard cake circle. Spread about ½ of the lemon curd evenly over the top.  Leave a small amount of room around the outside of the cake.
  2. Place the remaining cake layer on top.
  3. Using a smoothing spatula, spread frosting around the entire cake.
  4. Use the leftover pistachio around the outer part of the cake. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The First of Many

Well...I guess going on a diet the same week I decided to start a baking blog wasn't the best idea. But hey! If I can't eat it, I may as well write about it. I have been considering blogging for a while now and inspired by this month's Real Simple "The Only Cake Story You'll Ever Need" I came up with a plan!

The Plan: by Easter start a baking blog and bake three mini cakes for both families. Cake 1 { pistachio cake with a lemon curd filling and vanilla buttercream frosting} Cake 2 {banana cake with a chocolate pudding filling and peanut butter frosting} Cake 3 {yellow cake with a strawberry jam filling and sweet cheese frosting} 

I can imagine what your thinking! New to baking?  Is she for real?  But hey, being  on a staycation for my spring break has left me plenty of time to do research. Anyway it will give me a reason to wear my new Anthropologie apron. I guess I didn't mention that shopping was my original mode of therapy:-)

Stay tuned for my Easter adventure...