The baking

Four times the cake

There were five birthdays, all around the same time.

A cake was in order.

Two limitations.

One: I only have two cake pans and didn’t want to make three batches of cake to make five layers.

Two: A five layer cake – with five standard-ish layers of half a batch of cake batter each – would have been too tall fit in my cake carrier.

A four-layer cake it was.

Here’s what the final product looked like, covered in chocolate icing:

4-layer cake 4

Icing recipe and icing tips here and here.

Instead of just the usual chocolate cake – which seems to go over well with most people – I decided to alternate layers of chocolate cake with layers of vanilla cake.

The vanilla layers also had a pop of colour as a fun surprise.

For vanilla cake, follow all of the pan prep, pre-heating, and order-of-ingredients instructions on the cake post linked here and above. And, for ingredients:

-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

-1 cup sugar

-1/2 cup oil, I used canola oil

-1 1/2 cups water – you can use another liquid, like coffee, but be careful about

-1 teaspoon salt

-2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

-3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

I used purple food pigment gel to dye the vanilla layers purple.

A note about water: Gradually add additional water or another liquid to the batter before baking if it is too thick. I find that the ideal cake consistency is somewhat like that of a thick syrup. Think chocolate. Or maple. For this cake, I started with 1 1/2 cups water and added a little additional water, about 1/4 – 1/2 of a cup – after the ingredients had been mixed and blended.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and blend with a mixer, hand or electric, for about two minutes. Remember to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl.

Pour into greased and floured cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes – or until a toothpick stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remember that, once baked, cake needs to fully cool before being removed from cake pans. If, like I do, you have a limited number of cake pans, you need to let each batch of cake you bake cool fully before removing it from the pans and baking a new batch.

Here’s the fully-cooled and ready-to-ice cake, sitting on my cake carrier base to make sure it wasn’t too tall to fit:

4-layer cake 2

And a close-up of the texture of both the vanilla and chocolate layers:

4-layer cake 1

These pieces came from the trimmings I made on the top of some of the layers to flatten them and make them fit more closely together.

And another close-up of the final product:

4-layer cake 3

This cake did get a bit of additional icing decoration – but that happened on-location, not in my kitchen – and a picture didn’t happen.

The cake was thoroughly nom’d.

Cheers.

 

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Matcha

I still think about these cookies with matcha and vanilla.

Because, well, look at them:

matcha cookies

The cookies were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and full of flavour.

The matcha and the vanilla flavours worked together harmoniously.

And the matcha gave the cookies a green-ish colour that I thought was cool.

Matcha?

Matcha is finely-ground green tea. It’s sold in loose powder form. Further explanation here.

I bought the matcha I used at a bulk food store. I pretty much bought it on a cookie experiment whim.

To the basic cookie formula, I added about a tablespoon of vanilla sugar, a tablespoon of liquid vanilla extract, and two tablespoons or so of matcha powder.

I wanted strong flavour. You can adjust to your taste.

I baked some of the matcha and vanilla cookie dough in a silicone heart-shape muffin pan.

To make cookies in the muffin pan, I pressed about half an inch of dough into each [muffin receptacle?] part of the pan. And I checked on the cookies a few times while they were baking.

I baked some of the dough in a glass baking pan to make cookie bars.

A note about cookie bars is to remember to slice the cookie bars – I usually use a butter knife – shortly after removing them from the oven, while they’re still warm and not completely set.

So, matcha worked in these cookies. Experiment successful.

That said, I’m curious to try the matcha along with a stronger flavour such as chocolate. Maybe in a cake. Or in the icing on a chocolate cake. Interesting.

SOON?

Bon appetit.

 

 

Rose water

Check out these cookies:

rosewater cookies 2

These cookies were beautiful. And pecan-ey. And delicious. And not too far off from my usual basic cookie formula.

The difference with these cookies: ROSE WATER.

Yes. Rose water.

Like this:

rosewater cookies 1

Rose water was the not-so-secret ingredient in these vanilla-pecan-rose water cookies.

I added about a teaspoon and a half of rose water to the cookie dough at the liquid ingredients stage.

The dough had a vanilla flavour base. I used about a tablespoon each of vanilla sugar and a liquid vanilla extract.

I used about a cup of chopped pecans.

I slightly under-baked these cookies so that they had a crisp outside and a softer inside.

The exact baking time to achieve your own definition of under-baked, or baked, depends on your oven. And you. Watch or check on the cookies.

If you’re not familiar with rose water, a certain internet encyclopedia-ish site has more here.

It could be argued that rose water may be an acquired taste. Or, perhaps an unusual flavour in most of North America that many people may not have heard of or tried.

I like rose water.

Other people who actually tried these cookies liked the rose water flavour.

Other people who I merely TOLD about having made rose water cookies seemed massively unimpressed and nope’d out of the idea of even trying the cookies.

Meh. Free shrugs.

Actually, the acquired taste mention reminds me somewhat of the lavender cookies I made.

Rose water can be found at many grocery stores and speciality shops. Or online. I bought mine at a neighbourhood discount grocery store.

I intend to further experiment with rose water as a baking ingredient.

I think it could work particularly well as an ingredient in cake icing or a tart filling.

Anyway.

Rose water cookies: it happened.

Lemons make lemon bars and lemon plants

I decided one day that I wanted to make lemon bars.

Meyer lemon bars, specifically.

I had been reading some random content online about Meyer lemons. According to what I read, Meyer lemons supposedly were THE lemon to use for wonderful lemon flavour. I decided to make lemon bars. And to use Meyer lemons

Meyer lemons were relatively easy to acquire. But I did have to look a little farther afield than the nearest of nearby grocery or produce stores.

Before getting to the recipe and how-to, this is what a slice of the finished lemon bars looked like:

lemon bars 4

I used this recipe, with a few modifications.

To get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust/bottom:

-1/2 cup margarine. I used Earth Balance

-1/2 cup sugar

-2 teaspoons lemon zest/rind. The recipe called for one teaspoon lemon zest. But I used two. Because. You can grate your lemon zest with a lemon zester tool. Or with the fine grind part of a cheese grater. I used the fine grind part of my grater.

-1 cup flour. I used all-purpose unbleached flour.

Mix the margarine, sugar, and lemon zest together until smooth. The recipe I used suggested using a stand mixer with paddle attachment. I used my old-school egg beater. Add the flour and mix until blended. Press the mixture into a parchment-lined square pan – 8×8 or so – and bake for about 20 minutes until golden. The basic idea is to make a cookie to pour the lemon filling on top of.  Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool.

For the filling/top, the recipe I used suggested using a food processor. I used an immersion blender and a large glass measuring cup with a spout. A blender would work too.

To make the filling, you’ll need:

-1 12-ounce/~340g package extra-firm tofu. You’re likely going to have to do a bit of tofu math and tofu estimation for this recipe. A lot of tofu that I see in stores comes in 350-ish-gram packages. Or larger. Or smaller. I happened to have slightly-larger-than 350g package of firm tofu, so I did a bit of dividing and cutting. And eyeballing.

-approximately 1/2 cup of fresh Meyer lemon juice. The source recipe estimated about 5-6 lemons to get to half a cup of fresh juice. I got half a cup from about 3 lemons with a small lemon squeezer.

-1 teaspoon lemon zest. Again, I used two. Because. Adjust to your taste.

-1 cup sugar

-1/4 cup icing sugar

-2 tablespoons cornstarch

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract. I used a little bit more, probably half a teaspoon or so.

Blend together all liquid ingredients until smooth and creamy. Remember to pause to scrape the sides of whatever equipment you’re using to blend.

Add the flour, icing sugar, and cornstarch and blend again until combined.

Pour the filling mixture into the pan with the cooled crust and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the filling is set.

Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature for about half an hour or so.

Here’s the tray cooling:

lemon bars 1

Transfer to the tray to the fridge to cool completely.  I left the tray in the fridge overnight. The bars might take less time to completely cool. I would suggest not attempting to cut or eat the bars before they’re completely cooled. Because mess.

When it’s eat-those-lemon-bars-o’clock, slice and serve.

The recipe I used suggested sprinkling the bars with icing sugar or decorating with candied lemon before serving. I didn’t do that.

And [another] lemon bar close-up:

lemon bars 3

The lemon bars were FANTASTIC.

They were much-enjoyed by others as well.

I even made a second batch.

The second batch was also fantastic.

My verdict on Meyer lemons as some kind of super lemon: meh.

The Meyer lemons were fine. Perfectly adequate and full of the lemon flavour one would expect from lemons. The flavour was especially good in the lemon bars because, well, LEMON BARS.

Of course, it’s possible that the Meyer lemons I picked up were some rare bag of meh Meyer lemons. Or, lemons are lemons in many cases. Though that’s just my opinion. A lemon expert I am not.

A note on lemon juice. You could use any fresh-squeezed lemon juice in this recipe. It doesn’t have to be Meyer lemons. You could also use bottled lemon juice.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m wondering whether orange or lime bars could be a thing. Hmm.

As a bonus experiment, I decided to try to germinate the seeds from the Meyer lemons I used for the lemon bars. I used the moist paper towel and locking plastic bag procedure widely look-up-able on the internets. I now have some very small Meyer lemon plants growing in pots. I don’t expect actual lemons anytime soon. Or ever. But the plants are cool anyway.

Bon appetit.

 

Marshmallows, chocolate, cookies

This is a round-up sorts.

A round-up of cookies.

The very first post on The Baking was a post about cookies.

Cookies are fun to make. And it’s easy to experiment with ingredients.

Generally, cookie success can likely be yours if you consider the chemistry of the cookie ingredients that you’re using and if you keep an eye on the cookies while they’re in the oven.

The basic cookie formula I use can be found here.

Now, on to some cookies.

These cookies are chocolate chip-pecan cookies, with MARSHMALLOW baked inside:

marshmallow-cookies-1

That’s right, MARSHMALLOW. Here’s an ever-so-slightly closer look:

marshmallow-cookies-2

I was somewhat inspired, of course, by my own previous experiments with cookies inside cookies.

The marshmallow-containing fantastic-ness pictured above was, frankly, a random idea I came up with ahead of a party. I went and bought the marshmallows specifically for this project.

The reviews were positive.

The prep was easy: basic cookie formula, plus chocolate chips, plus pecans, rolled and shaped around individual marshmallows.

Having made marshmallow cookies a few times since, I would advise lining your baking tray with foil, baking paper, or silicone baking mat. The marshmallows can – and do – bubble out of the cookies. And sugar is sticky.

Next up, cookies with chocolate chips and cocoa nibs:

more-chocolate-chip-cookies-1

The cocoa nibs were a curiosity purchase at a bulk store. I’d never baked with cocoa nibs before. I wanted to try them out.

Again, basic cookie formula plus other ingredients.

I tried something new. And it worked. The cocoa nibs were a nice, crunchy, contrast to the chocolate chips.

I made the cookies thin and crispy on the outside – because that’s the way I like them.

A slightly closer look at the cocoa nib and chocolate chip cookies:

more-chocolate-chip-cookies-2

The next several photos are from a cookie baking session I had ahead of a holiday.

Three different batches of cookie dough – all, of course, based on my basic cookie formula – were involved.

First up, vanilla-chocolate chip cookies with sea salt:

so-many-christmas-cookies-2

For these cookies, I made a vanilla and chocolate chip dough and rolled balls of dough in a plate of sea salt before baking.

I liked the cookies. Fellow salted cookie fans liked the cookies. Cookie win.

Underneath the salted chocolate chip cookies, on my fabulous triple-decker cooling rack, is a batch of chocolate chip and pretzel cookies:

so-many-christmas-cookies-1

Basic cookie formula, plus chocolate chips, plus pretzels.

I’m a fan of sweet and salt and crunch together. I liked these cookies. So did others.

A small step back for a wider shot of cookie admiration:

so-many-christmas-cookies-4

And, in somewhat of a giveaway of when these cookies happened, chocolate chip cookies with pretzels and crushed candy cane:

so-many-christmas-cookies-3

The pretzel-candy-chocolate chip cookies are slightly darker than the cookies cooling beside them thanks to about a teaspoon of dark cocoa powder that I added to the dough.

I bought the candy canes whole and crushed them in a bag.  But I have seen pre-crushed candy cane in stores. Candy canes could be replaced with many other candies if you want to experiment. Though I would suggest thinking about the texture and consistency of the candy that you want to use. A lot of candies would probably melt and make a mess at oven temperatures.

Here are all three types of cookies together, cooling:

so-many-christmas-cookies-5

Cookie experiments: good times.

 

 

Cheesecake reappears

Cheesecake reappears.

And a new The Baking post.

Many cheesecakes – using variations on this recipe from this post – have been happening.

I like the recipe quite a lot as I find it easy to experiment with.

Flavours can be played with and switched up, as long as the ratio of liquids to solids is maintained.

I’ve tried replacing some of the soy milk with lime juice.

And I’ve tried replacing cocoa and some of the soy milk with pureed strawberries.

Both attempts resulted in delicious cheesecake. So delicious that pictures didn’t happen.

Cue the sad trombone.

Anyway.

I’ve also tried graham crust instead of Oreo crust.

I’ m thinking that a cookie crust – in the form of cookie dough pre-baked in a springform pan – might be the next experiment.

A versatile recipe, with simple ingredients, that’s easy to modify is a good recipe to have around.

And now for something not-at-all completely different: pictures of some of the cheesecakes.

The cake in the picture below had to be one of the best-looking cheesecakes that I baked:

beautiful-cheesecake

This was a vanilla cheesecake with Oreo crumb crust.

When I took the side piece off of the springform pan after this cake had cooled and chilled, I somewhat couldn’t even.

The cake was quite the aesthetically-pleasing cake.

The batter met up with the crust in just the right way.

And the cake was delicious.

The cake appearing below was a pumpkin cheesecake in the form of a pie:

pumpkin-cheesecake-1

Here’s a close-up of the cut cake-pie.

pumpkin-cheesecake-2

I replaced some of the soy milk and some of the oil with plain canned pumpkin. And added a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

The crust was an Oreo crust. And I baked the pie-cake in a glass pie dish.

The main thing was to adjust the cooking time as the pie was thinner and had less volume than the cheesecake I usually bake in my springform pan. I checked on the pie a few times and took it out of the oven once it looked set.

And there it is: cheesecake.

Again.

And a new The Baking post.

Bon appetit.

Corn bread

Behold the corn bread:

cornbread-3

This corn bread is another adaptation of a recipe in my old batter splatter cookbook.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and prepare for corn bread, my way.

In a large bowl, mix together:

-1 1/2 cups of cornmeal – you can use yellow, white, or blue cornmeal

-1/2 cup flour

-1 1/2 cups water along with one teaspoon of vinegar

-one tablespoon corn starch

-1 teaspoon sugar

-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 teaspoon baking soda

-two teaspoons baking powder

Mix all ingredients together – for about a minute or so – until the batter is smooth and any lumps have been broken up.

Transfer batter to a greased pan to bake. I used a cast iron loaf pan. You could use a metal or glass loaf pan – or a round or square cake or brownie pan.

This is freshly-mixed corn bread batter ready to go into the oven:

cornbread-1

Bake for 25-30 minutes or so. The corn bread should be ready when the top is golden brown and crispy-looking.

Some fully-baked corn bread action:

cornbread-2

Somewhat of a disclosure that I’m not really so much into loaves of corn bread – but nearly everyone else seems to like corn bread.

So I make corn bread.

 

 

Chocolate, chocolate, ganache, pretzels

Behold, a cake occurrence:

pretzel-cake-5

This is a double-layer chocolate cake, topped with chocolate icing, salted pretzels, and ganache.

Photos of this cake have lurked in my files for a somewhat longer-than-average while.

The cake was delicious. It looked cool. And it was well-received.

A pretzel-related observation and suggestion:

The pretzels ended up being a little less crisp than they should have been. If using pretzels as a decoration in conjunction with wet ingredients such as icing, I would suggest adding them at the last possible moment.

And now for something completely different a few gratuitous photos of the cake.

Fresh from the oven:

pretzel-cake-1

And another angle of the finished cake:

pretzel-cake-3

 

 

[Soft] focus on olive bread?

This is a random loaf of olive bread from somewhat recently[ish] ago:

coo kies 6

I suppose that the shot is somewhat glamour shot-ey, if glamour shots existed for bread.

The bread is turned on its side. The light and focus are a little soft. And you can imagine, if you so please, the bread holding its collar and gazing into the camera.

Anyway, the recipe for this olive loaf is pretty much this other recipe that I wrote about.

But I only used black olives.

And – this is probably the most important part – the bread machine use was limited to using the dough cycle to prepare the dough.

The bread was actually baked in a cast iron loaf pan in the oven.

I believe that the bread was in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or so at around 350 degrees – though, well, this was somewhat of a while ago.

The loaf came out of the oven when it was slightly brown on top and looking ready for glamour shot greatness.

And it tasted pretty good too.

Hoot, hoot: it’s a pie

It’s a pie, decorated to look like an owl:

owl pie 2

More specifically, this is a pumpkin pie decorated to look like an owl.

This isn’t, of course, an attempt to create a pumpkin spice and owl hybrid: it’s merely a pumpkin pie decorated to look like an owl.

The filling of this pie started out as an actual pie pumpkin: no canned pumpkin involved in this particular pie.

I washed, seeded, and chopped the pie pumpkin. Then I steamed it and pureed it with an immersion blender.

For the pie, I, basically, used this recipe – minus the pecans.

I played around with the spices – more cloves – a bit. And I used vanilla sugar in place of about half of the total sugar. Vanilla sugar – which used to be somewhat difficult to find – has seemed as of late to be available at a certain large bulk food chain. I’m a fan.

I made a batch of pie pastry dough using this recipe.

This is what the pie looked like when it first came out of the oven:

owl pie 1

The decoration – which I chose to do in the form of an owl – is extra pastry dough that I baked separately on a cookie sheet. I cut a few of the pieces – such as the eyes – with cookie cutters. I cut the rest of the pieces freehand with a paring knife.

Pumpkin pie filling always seems to remain somewhat moist on top, so the pastry pieces I made for decoration pretty much just stuck to the pie without any additional effort, pressure, or ingredients.

Hoot, hoot.

And, of course, I set aside the pumpkin seeds for roasting – with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and ground white pepper.