Search Results

Monday, December 21, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Cranberry Christmas Bread

This bread rocks.

That is how hubby and I feel when we took our first bites. We couldn't even wait for the 2 hour cooling period as instructed by the recipe. We waited an hour, then he got hungry and I grew impatient. Together, we ate 1/3 of the bread.

With bread, I make full recipes. If it's vegan, which this is, I know it will be eaten in no time. I made a few modifications though. I omitted the oil and I used less cranberries. Hubby prefers raisins than cranberries - he finds cranberries sour so I used 80 grams. I was planning on using sugar since I don't want to buy barley malt syrup only to use a bit of it and then accidentally forgot to add sugar. Oh well, can't really tell from the way it turned out whether sugar would have made a difference.

This bread is easy to put together. I was a bit apprehensive about it because usually breads that has nuts, ground nuts, and some berries filling turned out too dense to my liking. But I was surprised to see how fluffy and big it is. And I love the use of hot water to plump up the cranberries and using the cranberry-soaked water (even though the water looked disturbing in its pink form).

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Alpha Bakers: The Renee Fleming Golden Chiffon Cake

I need to work out.

Not because I am eating dessert every week now (that part is obvious). But because it took me what feels like forever to fold the super stiff (very stiff clumps) of egg whites for this cake. My upper arm/biceps was not very happy after that exercise.

I made this cake last year right after the book is released and the Alpha Bakers started. It was one of those ambitious weekend, which was Thanksgiving weekend, where I made this cake and the Kouign Amann for the Alpha Bakers' submission - or also known as "what the heck was I thinking making 2 recipes not from the Quick and Easy Week" weekend. Between this cake and the Kouign Amann, I felt like I lived in the kitchen for 2 days! Yeah I know I'm cheating since we were supposed to bake together but I.just.can' - this cake looked so good in the book and it wants me to bake it.

In the end, all efforts was worth it. The Kouign Amann got rave reviews, with 2 friends saying they want to place an order in the future. Another friend emailed me a week after the party to say "Jenn, the cake was delicious. Next time, make two!" And this cake was a big hit too, even though it looked kinda funny with the cooling rack making those circle impressions on top of the cake.

Since I baked this last year and had only partially written this post at that time (slacker me), I already forgot what happened so forgive this very short post.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Hazelnut Praline Cookies

Hazelnut is my least favorite nuts, compared to walnuts, almonds, pecans, or cashews. So  when I saw this on the rotation schedule, my reaction should have been: "I'm gonna skip that." But I feel like baking this weekend and I really need to make up for lost time of being absent all summer, so here I am participating (do I get brownie points for this? :)).

This is a really interesting recipe. It's really easy to put together and the bonus is you learn a cool trick from Rose on how to easily peel hazelnuts. When I saw in the recipe that the first step is to peel the hazelnuts, I thought it's only because you don't want the bits of skin in the cookie dough. But then I realized that by peeling the hazelnuts, it allows you to roast them at a good temperature without burning them. I've made roasted mixed nuts before and the hazelnuts burn faster - I have thrown away a batch because I roast them at the same 350 degree temperature as walnuts and they burn and made my kitchen smell horrible. Now I know what to do - peel the skin!

I am also glad I made this recipe as these cookies are sooo good! They don't taste very strong like hazelnuts and more like yummy butter crunchy sweet stuff. I already ate a bunch and I'm gonna have to give the rest away to my friend so I don't eat all of them today.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Sugar Rose Brioche

As I am trying to fit baking back into my weekend life, it occurred to me that I might be out of practice. Rose's recipes, as much as I love them and I love the author herself (she is a sweetheart), does require multiple steps. Knowing that Sugar Rose Brioche, from the name itself, is brioche, which does require extra steps and probably a course of 2 days, I read the recipe ahead of time to make sure that I would not miss anything.

I was so busy concentrating on the steps and the days (i.e. I have to start on Saturday for Sunday baking) that I completely and totally missed one of the first sentences on page 476 that clearly stated to double the recipe.


So again folks, I made 1/2 recipe, albeit unintentionally this time. It seems that 1/2 recipe is maybe my fate? I am okay with that :).

It was Sunday morning when I realized I had made 1/2 recipe, right before I start the Sugar Rose Brioche instructions on page 476. Oh well, damage is done. I went back to the storage room where I kept all my cake pans and took the 8 1/2 inch round spring form that I have.

It was quite fortunate that I have a smaller spring form pan, otherwise there might be more cussing in this blog post.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Banana Split Chiffon Cake

I seem to be on a losing strike lately. When I saw this recipe I thought ah, banana, chiffon, bundt cake = yum. I love bananas and have ripe bananas and this cake seems easy and I have all the ingredients on hand.

Since I made 1/2 a recipe, I used 1 ripe banana and substituted canola oil instead of walnut oil. The rest of the ingredients I stayed with the recipe.

As expected, the cake came together quick and easy, so much so that I wondered why this didn't make it to the Q&E list? Perhaps because it requires separating the egg yolks and whites, whipping the whites to stiff peaks, and folding the batter together? All in all it took me 55 minutes to put this together (I timed it). The batter was beautiful, it almost filled my 1/2 bundt pan and then it baked for an hour. The cake rose an inch over the top of the pan, as Rose said it should.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Pepparkakors

This is a very short post and my extremely feeble attempt to participate. Highlight the word feeble because I only have one photo. I made this earlier this year while testing high altitude cookie baking for Rose's Craftsy class. I had to make during the week to be able to bake everything in the short period of time so I did not take step by step photos.

Since it was so long ago and I've only written the post today I don't remember much about it, only that the dough was easy to put together but very sticky. It requires putting the dough into the tube of paper towel and freezing it so it can hold into shape and easier to cut into later without making a mess. I am usually not a person who keeps paper towel tube around (who does!?). But having baked the ice cream cookie from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, where the dough was shaped using the tube, I have been saving the paper towel tubes. I think I have about 5 of them in a cabinet in my kitchen LOL.

Unfortunately I do not like this cookie at all because it uses a lot of molasses. As you can see from the picture it is quite brown and the brown color is because of molasses. So the cookie baking experience is really to help Rose and to participate in this bake a long because I only ate 1/2 a cookie. I tried to give it away to a few friends but none of them liked it. They are also not a big fan of molasses. So I'm sad to report that most of the cookies got thrown away.

On the positive note, I think there are no more recipe from the book that uses a lot of molasses so phew... :)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Molasses Crumb Cakelets

If there is one recipe I am least excited about in this book, this is it. The picture looks really cute and I love the crumb topping as decoration. But a cake that is mostly made of molasses? Eww.

I made 1/2 recipe of this. I was tempted to make 1/4 but 1/2 recipe portion seem small and I want to give the recipe a chance to surprise me.

I have an old bottle of molasses from when we baked through Rose's Heavenly Cakes. They still smell like molasses and still slow like molasses. After a brief consultation with my good friend, Google, I found that molasses doesn't really go bad. Unless of course if you see dangerous things like mold or if it crystallized. Mine has no sign of either so I used it.

This cake is really easy to put together. It was super quick. The longest time spent on this cakelet was weighing each muffin pans with 17 grams of batter. This took longer than putting the batter together.

Taste-wise, it turned out worse than I expected. I don't like it. At all. It tasted like straight up molasses, which is not really surprising considering that is the name of the cake and the main ingredient. I had a very small bite from one of the cakelets and quickly swallowed it and drank something afterwards.

I am sad to say that I threw out the rest. I thought of sending it to the office with hubby but the I can't bear the thought of serving something that I can't even eat to others.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Alpha Bakers: BlueRhu Pie

Rose is slowly converting me to be a lover of all pies now. Before we started this bake-a-long, the only pie I make is her apple pies from The Pie & Pastry Bible. Now I see all kinds of pies in my future repertoire, including this one.

This is a fantastic pie. I can't taste the rhubarb in it, only blueberries so it is a bit strange why we use rhubarb. I wonder why Rose add rhubarb in this pie. Is it maybe to cut the sweetness down? I can imagine if it's all 100% blueberries it will be too sweet and perhaps I'd have to cut the sugar if I don't use rhubarb. It doesn't really matter I think because it tasted really good. When I make it next time I will use rhubarb again if it's the season. I also love that I can use frozen blueberries, since I happen to have a stash of them in my freezer for some reason.

This is kinda a short post with a lot of photos and not a lot of words. But I don't have much to say about this pie. It's awesome. Enjoy the step by step photos :).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Lemon Jammies

I made this on Valentine's Day, which feels like a long time ago and it really has. 10 weeks ago!

Yes I baked ahead and I made full recipe! But in this case it is okay because it's author-sanctioned bake-ahead. Earlier this year Rose asked me if I can help test 7 cookie recipes for high altitude adjustment. So I did. And this is one of the cookies I tested. The only high altitude adjustment for this recipe is add 10 grams of egg whites.

These cookies came together easily and quickly and I enjoyed rolling them out. I used a Linzer cookie cutter set that I got a long time ago from Home Goods. They are Easter themed and really cute. Instead of just reusing the cut-outs butterfly, baby duck, and baby chickens, I used a little dab of water to attach them to the corner of the cookie. It made for a cuter effect.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bread Bible: Pita Bread

My hubby is vegan. He has been vegan for several years now and he's doing a version where he's not eating any added oil. So no olive oil. When I baked things from The Baking Bible, he has allowed himself to taste a bit. A taste. That is one bit of 1/2 recipe or 1/4 recipe that I have been making. So since we are making pita bread this week and I want him to eat more than one small bite, I omitted the olive oil in the recipe and added more water instead.

I have to confess I am not motivated at all in this baking club. Even though this recipe is easy to put together. And I have made this before too! Back in 2011! (blogged here).

The dough came together really quick. But 2 days later I feel too tired to proceed to the next time. It's not helping that work has been busy. Crazy work getting in the way.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Cran-Raspberry Upside Down Cake

The easiest recipe so far from The Baking Bible. This cake took me less than 2 hours to make (1 hour 55 minutes to be exact). And that includes baking time.

This cake brings me back to Rose's Heavenly Cake days. It is a typical Rose's white butter cake with sour cream. It is also my favorite type of white butter cake because of the addition of sour cream. The sour cream makes the cake more moist. One of the issue I found with baking butter cakes here in Mile High city is it tends to make the cake drier and dry out faster. Since I like to keep any baked goods over several days and eat them a bit at a time, dry cakes = unhappy me.

There is not much to report about this cake. It came together very quickly and easily. I was a bit shocked to see the amount of sugar in the recipe - the sugar for the batter is the same weight as the flour. I was half expected to have a sweet cake that might be too sweet for my taste. However, this cake came out only slightly sweet and the tartness of the cranberries and the lemon juice in the caramel is what I taste. I almost want to say that it needs a bit more sugar but it was quite nice to have a slice of this yesterday with my ice tea.

I didn't adjust baking soda or baking powder since the recipe used so little of it already. A bit challenging to reduce 20% of 1/8 teaspoon :). I added 1 teaspoon of egg whites for liquid adjustment. I used a baking stone and pre heated the oven as instruction. The cake baked for 30 minutes and the cake tester came out clean but the batter hasn't browned at all. So I put it back into the oven for another 5 minutes, which turned out to be a mistake as the sides pulled away from the pan already - and still not brown. It is tasty though and pretty looking with all the cranberries.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Luxury Oatmeal Cookies

May I present:

my leaning tower of cookies.

These cookies are very sturdy. Yes they are. Why do I say that? Sturdy is not really a word you would associate with cookies. And it's not a very good word. I would think that if someone refers to cookies as sturdy maybe it means they are hard like rock and therefore unedible.

These cookies are amazing. They are chewy and yummy and I would totally make them again and again.

They are sturdy because while I was trying to take photos of my leaning tower of cookies, they fell 8 times. 8 times! The bottom 2 cookies stayed put, the other 6 fell over and over again.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Sour Cherry Pie

I am making 1/4 recipe of Cherries and Raspberries Pie instead of Sour Cherry Pie, made from frozen fruits. There are no fresh cherries this time of year. I know there is a variation in the book to use canned sour cherries but I dislike canned stuff and prefer to avoid using it, if possible. Somehow frozen feels better. There are fresh raspberries from California but it has the california price, ha! I have frozen raspberries in the freezer so I thought I add it to the pie to give it a more sour taste.

I wish we are making this pie in the summer instead of now. We have a cherry tree in our backyard that produced sour cherries. But it is only the middle of March now and the cherry tree is still hibernating, so we have to settle with frozen sweet cherries from the grocery store.

I love making these. Kinda funny to say that since I'm not a pie fan. Perhaps, like Marie have said, Rose will make a convert out of me. But I do have a strong bias towards any pretty dessert. Sometimes I feel I don't care much if I like the taste as long as it looks pretty for the pictures. I know this puts me in an odd category but I really don't care.

Doesn't the below picture makes you want to eat it!? :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Caramel Buns, round 2

This is a redo of the caramel buns. I made another 1/2 recipe of the brioche and the caramel. The purpose is to try to redo the caramel. This time I paid attention and not suffering from ADD or KDD (knitting deficit disorder) or distracted with other things while the caramel is cooking. I had the heavy cream in the microwave ready to go. Even punched in 20 seconds on the microwave keypad thingy for the the cream, all I gotta do is press start. I have the butter soft, kitchen thermometer, pyrex cup sprayed with cooking spray, all next to me. Once the sugar mixture started turning a bit brown I stood watch, then heat up the cream, measure the temperature on the sugar mixture, it's 340'F - I took it off the heat (not just turn off the heat but actually moved the pot to the side - thought I'd clarify, having read earlier Michelle hilarious rendition of conversation with her husband). I poured the heavy cream onto the pot, it is bubbling super furiously (sorry no photo, tried to concentrate to much), put it back on the heat and mix until all is blended. Then poured into the pyrex cup and it's still liquid, no toffee in sight. The butter must be too soft because as soon as I add it to the caramel, it melts quick and won't blend (arrghh!) I then nuked the whole thing, probably too long because it then bubbled. When I add the vanilla it went nuts (first time seeing vanilla boiling....). And then onto cooling, well they still look liquid. I was still dancing hurrah, and then 15 seconds after adding them to onto all the buns, they are TOFFEE!!!!!!!!! what the hell?!?

I think next time (yes there's next time) I should just make the toffee caramel. At least I'm getting practice for Christmas cookie baking!

I am going to serve this with warning, please nuke it and eat at own risk. I am not gonna be held responsible for any damage to dentures.

Alpha Bakers is a group of bakers who are baking through The Baking Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum's latest cookbook. Come check out the rest of the group at Rose's Alpha Bakers.

Click here for a full listing of all the recipes we are baking.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Caramel Buns

These are fantastic. They are better than anything I have ever had or have ever made. They are not too sweet, even with the caramel on top. The fillings taste wonderful - the rum-soaked raisins really adds to the taste.

I keep thinking we are making cinnamon rolls or cinnamon buns because of the photo on page 473. I've made cinnamon rolls several times and that photo reminds me of it (sans the mason jar in the middle). But no, we're making caramel buns, which is basically sticky buns, or a fancy cinnamon rolls is how I think of it. We first make a brioche a day ahead. Anything that uses brioche is fancy, especially Rose's brioche. It's airy and soft and has a very nice taste. I've made the version in Bread Bible several times in a loaf pan.

I never like sticky buns. They are also super sweet and hurts my teeth. But I love these so much. So now I can say: I only like RLB's sticky buns.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bread Bible: Rosemary Foccacia

Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into...

In addition to baking through The Baking Bible, the Alpha Bakers decided to bake through The Bread Bible as well, with a once a month frequency. It took me about 5 minutes to decide to join. In that 5 minutes a lot of thoughts went through my head. Pros: I really want to improve my bread baking skills. I want to bake through The Bread Bible after Rose's Heavenly Cakes but lack motivation. This is my chance. Cons: I have already a lot of things going on. Can I really take on one more? My knitting is a tad neglected nowadays- which makes me sad sometimes. Now adding baking through the Bread Bible into the equation. Pros: I really want to do this and can't say no (this is not a legitimate reason, but it is according to that baking-loving-evil-voice in my head). Cons: Who's gonna eat it?

I am here now, which means the baking-loving-evil-voice won. As to who's gonna eat it, we'll eat some and give away some.

Glori said we are going to follow Marie's adventure and her schedule as a template. Reading through Marie's experience on making Rosemary Foccacia has me worried. Marie's first attempt at this bread didn't turn out. But then I take comfort in the fact that Marie is a super awesome baker now and has nailed recipes from various other books including Tartine Bread. Tartine Bread! I borrowed it once from the library, leafed through it and returned it promptly. It was too intimidating to even attempt.

I am not a big fan of foccacia. It always seem super oily in restaurants that I always feel like I'm eating oil. I have nothing against oil, especially olive oil, except I always thought if I'm gonna eat oil I might as well skip the bread. Why add carbs to it when I have to burn walk it off later. So my plan is to make 1/2 recipe and then take it to my local yarn store to share.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Hamantaschen

This week we're making a cookie that I've never heard of nor tried before. Hamantaschen hamantaschen hamantaschen. Okay now say it 15 times really really fast :).

I was looking forward to this recipe. Not only this cookie has a story behind it, which I find very interesting, the main ingredient: poppy seeds, is banned in several countries.

According to Wikipedia, Hamantash, is a filled-pocket cookie in a triangular shape. The shape is formed by folding the 3 sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling in the middle. Poppy seed is the oldest and most traditional filling, though you can substitute other "fruit" filling such as prunes, nut, date, apricot, raspberry, or fruit preserves. The name, Hamantash, is known as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim. These pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people, and resemble the three cornered hat of Haman. I am glad that Rose is exposing us to cookies like this one, cookies with a story behind it.

Onto the next interesting topic, did you know that poppy seeds is banned in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. I'm sure Faithy is substituting and probably is using her 3 year old lekvar from Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake-a-long. According to the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore, poppy seeds is banned because of its narcotics (morphine) content. In Saudi Arabia it is banned for various religious and drug reasons. In airports India, they advised folks not to carry poppy seeds to other countries as it can lead to false positives drug test result.

This leads me to wonder how much poppy seeds one has to consume to show a positive result in drug test. I am glad I am not doing drug test for a new job or a health assessment at the doctor's office any time soon. I would not want to have this on my record: "patient tested positive for morphine due to baking cookies containing poppy seeds for a baking club."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Lemon Posset Shortcakes

How can a recipe that spans 5 pages and has 4 components be considered quick & easy? I was so confused. Especially this recipe calls for making beurre noisette, which I love. But it does make a lot of dishes. I have half a sink full of dishes by the time I finished the shortcake. I took a look at the Q&E list on page 545 of the book and it listed Lemon Posset Alma (page 116), a variation of lemon posset without the shortcakes as the quick & easy. Okay, now that makes sense. So the shortcake is a close cousin, once removed, of the Q&E Alma :).

We were supposed to get a snow storm this weekend. That is what the weather lady said. 4-8 inches on Saturday, additional 3-6 inches on Sunday. That's a lot of inches for the Denver area. They keep talking about it on the radio. I have a habit of doing groceries on Friday night lately. I am baking on Saturday after all, and there's always things to buy. Usually grocery stores is a bit sparse on Friday night, which is kinda nice. Not this time. It was worse than as Thanksgiving week. Parking lots are full. Shelves were half empty. I guess they were not prepared for the storm that is folks buying food to stock up for 2 days! (It is only 2 days people....)  But what they did have that I have not seen this year is Meyer lemon! How perfect is that. Like they knew we're making the baby lemon posset and the recipe calls for lemon. I was so excited to see Meyer lemon that I ended up buying 7 of them, and only used 1. I think they should last until next weekend so I'll have to think of something else to make. Maybe lemon curd?

In all the madness of gawking at the empty shelves, I forgot to buy eggs and heavy cream. I only have 2 at home, enough for 1/2 a recipe. Really. For once I want to make the whole thing and I have to make 1/2. Not happy. I am really lazy to go to the grocery store on Saturday just to get eggs. I was planning to hibernate: bake, knit, eat, sleep. So I proceed with 1/2 recipe and defrosted leftover heavy cream.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

Cake design inspired by Hector Wong and Rose's latest out bakes post.

This is one of the recipes in the book that has no photos. I didn't know how to decorate the cake or what to aim for. I know I want to make 1/2 recipe of the cake *grin* and thought to decorate it by piping the ganache around the base. When I went to get my 6 inch round cake pan from storage, I saw this 6 inch heart shaped pan instead. I had completely forgotten I have this!!! I think I bought it somewhere along baking through Rose's Heavenly Cakes from a cake supply store in town. It's Wilton brand by the way and it's available on Amazon as well. When the cake cake out of the oven and the top was flat and the cake tall (1 5/8 inches), I remembered Rose's out bakes post last week and the Hector-inspired heart design, so I am proudly copying Hector's beautiful rendition.

This cake turned out a whole lot better than I had hoped for, especially since I didn't have the correct flour. I was so excited to see a King Flour brand of cake flour that I completely didn't realize it said "unbleached". That's not the same as bleached. I only realized this yesterday morning when I did mis-en-place for this cake. Well, I am way too lazy to make a trip to the store to get the correct cake flour, so I adjusted the flour by using 90% of the KA unbleached cake flour and 10% non-gmo cornstarch (Rapunzel brand). For those expecting a math lesson (I'm looking at you Monica :)), half recipe is 78 grams total flour - 70 grams of KA flour and 8 grams of cornstarch. For the leavening, it only uses baking powder. I had to check the recipe twice on the baking powder amount - I thought I read wrong. This cake uses a lot of baking powder. It makes my math difficult. 1/2 recipe would be 1 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/8 tsp. 1 tablespoon is equal 3 teaspoon (according to google), so I used 1 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon. Confused yet? We're not done. For the eggs, I have been buying Farmer's Hen House Organic Jumbo Eggs. Jumbo! It's not large or extra large anymore. Each egg is about 60 grams. I used the additional 10 grams for the liquid adjustment. Okay now we're done with the math lessons, hehe.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Kouign Amann, revisited

For the catch up week, I made Kouign Amann.

I ordered some metal rings from Food Service Warehouse and wanted to try it out. These are actually listed as hash brown rings, which I find kind of funny that I bought them to bake Kouign Amann, but they are almost the right size - 4 inch x 1 inch (instead of 4 inch x 3/4 inch that Rose specified). I also like that they are cheaper than the usual pastry ring. I figured that if they can be used for hash browns means that they would withstand heat and would work in the oven at 400 degrees, but just to make sure I baked one of them by itself in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes - before using them for Kouign Amann. It stayed intact after 10 minutes so that's good.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

Aye, we are making full recipe this week, matey!

We are making this bread to celebrate Tu B'Shevat. As our fearless leader, Marie Wolf said, "we are nothing if not ecumenical in this group, and so it is not surprising that we mark Jewish Arbor Day." It's a day that is today's time is used to mark ecological awareness, trees are planted in celebration, and marked by eating things that grows on trees.

We got 6 inches of snow last night, so no tree planting this weekend. But we are going to eat this bread.

I love baking bread. It is right up there on my list of favorite things to make alongside cakes and pastries. Bread making is magical. You combine flour, salt, yeast, and water together. Mix it, knead it. Gluten formed. Place in a warm place and somehow it rise and double in size. And then you bake it and after it comes out of the oven it sings!!!

I bake Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread once a month for my husband. It's the same recipe every time and I have been making it for 3-4 years now. My version is slightly tweaked from the original recipe of 400 grams of bread flour. I use 320 grams of bread flour and 80 grams of whole wheat flour. I have all the steps down to a T and never gets bored making it. And every time it came out of the oven it made me so happy. The shape is always different, the cracks in different place. But I can always expect it to fill my kitchen with a wonderful smell and it sings every time.

This bread is pretty easy to make. It does require making biga 3 days before making the dough. But it doesn't take long to do. I made a couple of mistakes on this bread. I added the apricots to the dough with raisins and walnuts. And I rolled the dough the wrong side on the shaping part so my bread was higher and shorter.

I didn't do any altitude adjustment for this bread. Everything is feeling/behaving as described by the recipe. The dough was sticky/tacky. There's no leavening used for bread and I made no adjustment to the yeast or water.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Gingersnaps

This week we're back to small portions folks!

For these cookies, I made 1/3 recipe this time. How, you might wonder, would I adjust the 1 egg and 1 egg white by 1/3. I first calculated the 1/3 amount of egg and egg white needed in grams. Then I separated the egg yolk from the egg whites. Then I weighed them separately. The egg yolk weight 16 grams so it's normal size, so I split it into 1/3 (5 grams). I add the amount of egg whites needed for 1/3 of egg weighted. Are you still with me? And lastly I added then 1/3 additional egg whites.

It dawned on me recently (thanks Rose), that I should probably mention any high altitude adjustment that I make on recipes. I think all of the Alpha Bakers are at sea level so this is probably not very interesting. But perhaps it can be useful for others reading this blog if they happen to be at high altitude. Denver is at 5,000 feet above sea level so adjustments needs to be made for cooking and baking.

I usually adjust two things: leavening agents and liquid. Decreasing leaving agents is because at high altitude baked goods rise more quickly. The second adjustment is increasing liquids. I always thought that increasing liquids is because it's so dry here but that is not the only reason. At higher altitude, evaporation happens faster so add that to the dryness baked good taste less good. Some folks adjust the dry ingredients: increasing flour, reducing sugar, etc. I feel that increasing flour is counter-intuitive to adding liquids to prevent dryness so I never really bother with that. As for sugar, Rose's recipes is not too sweet so that's not needed, in my opinion.  It is not as complicated as it might have sounded. Trust me on this - I almost failed high school chemistry.

For this gingersnaps I adjusted the baking powder and baking soda by about 20%. I didn't measure very accurately since it's impossible to split 1 teaspoon baking soda into 1/3 and then reduce 20%. Let's just say I measure 1/3 of it and then take a bit off.

I waited until everything is being mixed in the mixer, the batter almost come together with the stated amount of eggs. There's still a few stray crumbs left and the batter feels a tad dry to the touch, so that's when I added 1 tablespoon of egg whites to it and mix it by hand. I avoid using the mixer at this step since it is harder to mix a dough that's already come together with additional liquid - at least that's how I think of it in my head haha.

1/3 recipe yield 10 cookies, all exactly 27 grams.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Golden Orange Panettone with Chocolate Sauce

I love panettone. Before I knew how to bake, a long time ago when my oven was used for pots and pans storage, I used to get panettone at Whole Foods. They always have a huge tower of it around the holidays. I thought it was the best thing. It hails from Italy so it must be the best, si? (little that I know that years later I would learn that it is the best when it hails from Rose Levy Beranbaum). Back in 2011 Hanaa and I wanted to do a virtual bake a long and we made a recipe from (Hanaa, do you remember? :). For comparison, I also made Rose's Panettone recipe from the Bread Bible. The allrecipes version was not good but Rose's was awesome.

The panettone recipe in the Baking Bible is different than the one in the Bread Bible. Both recipes uses golden raisins, but the Bread Bible version used chestnuts vs. this version using candied orange peel. The Baking Bible version uses golden syrup and has an extra step of making a biga 3 days beforehand and also has more steps in the dough preparation. It was too long ago for me to remember which one is better, but I can't imagine anything better than the Baking Bible's version. My husband said it best, "it is perfect." Funnily, he asked why I made the full recipe. I told him it is because I know it is going to be really good so I have to.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homemade Candied Orange Peel

For the Panettone next week, I decided make my own candied orange peel. I've been curious about it but so far have been too lazy to make it. I figured now is as good a time as any.

There are a lot of recipes out there and most of them have similar instructions. The only big variance is the sugar amount. I finally settled on a recipe from BrightEyedBaker. I'm not familiar with this website but I like that she has the least amount of sugar compared to some others. Even with the smaller sugar amount, I still reduced it by 1/4 cup. I also like that her recipe comes with really good step by step photo instructions.

This turned out pretty easy and now I wondered why it took me this long to try. I'm already planning on making this again and use chocolate next time. Doesn't chocolate-dipped orange peel sound good?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Black and Blueberry Pie

For Christmas, my husband surprised me with several things from Anthropologie home/kitchen section. One of them was the rolling pin in the above photo. When I opened the nicely wrapped rolling pin on Christmas morning, I hold the handle on each hand and made the motion in the air as if I'm rolling a dough. He looked at me and said in a serious tone "I didn't intend for you to use it for baking. I thought you can use it for pictures." Well, he is right, the pin is made from ceramic so I suppose pressing on it is probably not a good idea, :).

I am not very excited about pie but I love Rose's cream cheese pie crust. I think it's the best pie crust. I have made other pie crust (Rose's flaky pie crust and also recipes from other authors). The cream cheese pie crust wins every time. So even though I am not a huge pie fan, I am looking forward to this because of the pie crust. Also, I get to use my new 4 inch ruffled pie pan and take photos of the new for-photography-only rolling pin.

I made 1/4 recipe of this pie. This time I remembered to measure in volume my 9 inch pie pan vs. the 4 inch pie pan. By volume the 4 inch pie pan is 1/4 the 9 inch. So all set to divide everything by 4.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Chocolate Cuddle Cake

I am a little ashamed of posting this cake after seeing how tall other's cakes are and comparing it to how tall the cake in the book is. My cake only measured 1 1/2 inches tall. Sniff. The loss of height is because of my own fault. If you keep reading you'll find out why...

I was really looking forward to this cake. Plus it coincides with my birthday. I planned to bake the day before my birthday, though I didn't sleep well and didn't feel like baking. I started anyway. I should know better. Since I was not in the right mood, of course I messed up. It was bad. I had to make the caramel three times to get it right. My fault because I forgot to order a new instant thermometer so had to make do with the dying thermometer - don't really trust a dying thermometer, it seems to be working okay around 200 degrees but can't go past 250 degrees. So I am doing this by eye-balling, which is a bad sign. My first caramel, I was afraid of the caramel (still remember the caramel burn I got from a couple of years ago) so I didn't wait until the caramel was dark enough. And then I forgot to separate the cream to add to the cocoa powder. So I mix the cocoa powder into the caramel directly while it was still warm.