Sunday, June 6, 2010
Yes, it was pretty much the size of my head. This bun, along with biscotti and a delicious sourdough baguette were our treats in hand in Freestone California's amazing Wild Flour Bread Bakery. Thanks for a nice Santa Rosan, we were directed to visit the bakery on our way to the Sonoma coastline. The setting of Wild Flour Bakery is idyllic, with its vineyard meets redwoods setting, charming garden, goats, and a pony -- it doesn't get much more appealing than this.
When you walk into Wild Flour, it seems you are instantly in a throng of people vying for tea, coffee, and/or delicious baked goods. After checking it out on Yelp, I'm certain this place is always busy. When we walked in, we could smell the "green goat" scone they were baking that day, featuring goat cheese, figs, and herbs. The inside of the bakery is almost like a big barn (maybe it was a barn once?), the ceilings and walls are adorned with paintings of birds, as if they're flying around the place. The most noticeable is a massive bird swarm above the bakery's famous wood burning oven. In the public area, there's a large communal picnic table, clean restroom and views of the huge open baking area, the front of which is filled with bustling staff and owners to take your order. The energy of the bakery is great, even though it's a very busy place.
As shown in the picture, I couldn't resist a cinnamon bun, especially after smelling it. The thing weighed nearly 3lbs (maybe more!). We went outside to a bench to eat our goods and sip tea, saving the delicious sourdough baguette for a snack later in the afternoon. After I consumed maybe a fifth of that yummy bun, we moseyed around the garden and appreciated the flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Here's a peak of what it's like!
Definitely one of the best "pit stops" ever. Makes me wonder, should one even refer to this place as a pit stop to somewhere else? I happen to think it's a destination in and of itself. The baked goods are expertly made, the service is awesome, and the setting is magical. Truly special. If you happen to be in the Sonoma wine country, be sure to put this place on your list to check out.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Since I hadn't made red velvet cake before, I decided to look for a tried and true recipe variety so as to not risk having to try to bake and then have to buy a replacement "I failed" cake anyway. I settled on this cake recipe, from Epicurious, minus the berries.
J convinced me that mini cakes would be an unexpected delight for our party attendees. He was certainly right. Check these little cakes out:
I must admit, I cannot take credit for their cuteness, as I did little more than bake the actual cake and spread the frosting. The design, cake cutting and chocolate and cocoa decor was all done by my better half.
So the how to?
Quite simply, I followed the instructions in the epicurious recipe, with the exception of two things. Upon researching red "velvetiquette" it was clear that cream cheese was the favored frosting variety but the recipes really varied in the amount of chocolate involved. We decided to enhance our particular red velvet chocolatey-ness by adding a ganache layer between the stacked cakes instead of more cream cheese frosting. Not to be too chocolatey in the actual cake itself (and thus less red), I reduced the amount of cocoa in the cake batter recipe by half.
I baked the batter in a 9X12 cake pan, then popped the cake into the freezer to cool it quickly. We chose about a 4" circle cutter as our method for creating the small cake layers. This was somewhat tricky, so I left it to J to handle! If you embark on this task, just be patient and be prepared to trim tops and edges with a sharp serrated knife so they're even. Remember also that frosting can hide any minor imperfections!
Once the cakes were evened out we stacked each, 2 layers per cake, with a thin layer of ganache between the small circles. The ganache was a fantastic surprise to our recipients, and I'm wishing now I had a picture of the inside of the cakes but...they were gone so fast that the photo journalistic thought slipped my mind!
We spread the cream cheese frosting on the tops, sides, and J blew a "dusting" of cocoa all over the cakes and shaved dark chocolate for the tops. Each half of the cakes served up a hearty portion -- definitely a crowd pleaser. If you ever take this route just keep in mind the extra time involved in cutting the cakes out and determining how to transport them! The mini cakes are definitely worth it for a lasting impression but not your everyday "I baked you a cake" choice!
Monday, May 10, 2010
I once read a tips and tricks section in Cooks Illustrated magazine that gave advice on how to deal with butter straight out of the fridge that is too cold and hard for creaming. One of the tips was to whack the stick of butter (put in a plastic bag for less mess) until it begins to bend a bit. In light of that advisement, I recently found myself amidst an urgent cookie making episode, so I thought I'd test something out.
What happens if I just add the stick of butter and let the paddle in the stand mixer beat the stick of butter? Voila! (Covers hand over mouth in shock at how quickly this worked) This was almost too easy to believe. Why hasn't anyone mentioned this find to me before? I am certain I'm not the first to use this method, but I thought I'd share it here at any rate. Maybe I'm even some idiot home bakestress who thinks this is a pretty cool discovery but all other bakemasters know about this already. Nevermind that, this discovery hit me as so revolutionary, I risk looking dumb for the sake of passing it along to perhaps one other forlorn baker waiting needlessly for that darn stick of butter to soften.
- Do not add sugar until the butter is softened for a few minutes. ( Learned this one the hard way, let's just say there was sugar spewing out of the mixer into my face, onto the counter... forget about your careful measuring)
- Run on a slow speed until the butter gets mixed into a few pieces. (large flying chunks of butter may just pop out of your mixer bowl! Refer to the above re: flying sugar)
- Beware cookie making now takes even less forethought, so you may wind up making them more. No more waiting for that stick of butter to soften up could lead to more hasty cookie baking decisions.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Recipe
8 oz Butter
3/4 C Granulated Sugar
3/4 C Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 C All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 C semi sweet chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven 350 degrees F.
Using mixer, cream butter and sugars together approximately 3 minutes on medium to high speed or until light and fluffy.
While butter and sugar are mixing, set aside a separate bowl and mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda)
Mix eggs and vanilla into creamed butter/sugar mixture until just combined
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, one-third at a time until mixed
Stir chocolate chips into dough
Scoop onto cookie sheet (use disher as shown here for best results):
Bake cookies at 375 for approximately 12-14 minutes (depending on how long frozen and how "done" you like your cookies!)
Friday, February 12, 2010
I'm not sure what pastry chef Kelly Garcia uses to make her buttercream but it's delicously light and fluffy with the right amount of sweetness. This is of course beyond the obvious cutification of her cupcake delights. For great cupcakes in the Phoenix area, seek out Butter & Me!
Monday, February 1, 2010
So upon setting out to try to make a cupcake taste just like a chocolate chip cookie, I sought one of my favorite cupcake bloggers, Chockylit, on her blog Cupcake Bakeshop. I was thrilled to see she was back from being on hiatus last year and revelled in all the cupcake finery she has produced. Searching and searching I could not find a chocolate chip cookie cupcake so I settled on a cake recipe that she made for Samoas cookie cupcakes. The cake recipe is called "Brown Sugar Butter Cupcake" so that sounded close enough for me.
OK, so I didn't know what or how to eat these. I decided to make some ganache for the top, at least just to add some gooey yumminess to them. On their own, the chocolate chip cookie cupcakes are somewhat uninteresting. Kind of like eating a cupcake without frosting, if you ask me...So, the next step involved making an icecream sundae out of the cupcake with ganache topper. Very yummy, especially when the cupcake was just barely warm still. A hit indeed! In our home, chocolate chip cookies (especially those baked in skillets) are often paired with vanilla icecream, so this step was not an unusual turn of events.
However, for practical cupcake purposes, this cupcake could not really be declared a success. I couldn't propose a new cupcake flavor that relies on icecream to make it yummy. In my experiment, I didn't want to bust out J's involved Italian Merengue Buttercream (nor do I really know HOW for that matter), so I discuss here a possible option for making this cupcake a servable reality. With the smooth ganache, the chocolate chip cupcake is definitely a dark chocolate lovers heaven, though it's not super-duper chocolatey like one of those double chocolate cupcake varieties. I propose the following actions: glide on a thin coating of dark chocolate ganache, refrigerate until set, then pipe (or pile on) some very lovely vanilla buttercream atop the shiney chocolate coating. This would have the effect of vanilla icecream, without the melty mess! There's something decadent about a double-frosted cupcake anyway, right?