If I knew that you were coming I’d bake a cake

Today while shopping for food we felt like having something sweet. After analysing the options in the stores we went to, it was decided we would bake a chocolate cake. While my girlfriend prepared lunch, I went crazy on Pinterest looking for recipes when she remembered a recipe she used to make when she was a kid and that is written down on a notebook in our kitchen.

A yellowed page with a handwritten recipe for chocolate cake in red ink. The text of the recipe is in Portuguese.
The handwritten recipe for chocolate cake

The recipe was invented by an aunt of hers and followed step by step, as it was my first time baking a cake. The original measures were divided by three, as we didn’t want to end up with a lot of cake to eat. I have also added a little less sugar than indicated, as it’s a matter of taste. I would try replacing it with maple one day, though. Since the amounts of ingredients were cut, instead of using a cake pan, I chose a muffin tray, which was possible to fill out and have some leftovers to be licked from the spoon/mixer attachment.

There is a dish with two small cakes on it. In the background, we can see a mug in the same pattern as the dish, as well as a small ceramic milk jug
Two small cakes ready to be eaten with some coffee

Aunt’s chocolate cake

Ingredients
Reminder: this is the full recipe. For 6 small cakes (not sure I should call them muffins or cupcakes), I used one third of the ingredients.
3 eggs
3 cups of flour
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of cocoa powder
100 grams of butter
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 cup of coffee
1 cup of milk

Directions
1. Whip the egg whites until they’re firm. Save it for later.
2. In the mixer bowl, put the sugar, cocoa powder, coffee, butter and yolks. Mix well and let it rest for a bit.
3. Add the flour and milk, and mix again. Once all is integrated, let it rest.
4. Add the whipped egg whites and baking powder. Mix it well.
5. Put the dough in a cake pan or muffin trays and bake at 305 Fahrenheit (about 175 Celsius) until the middle is cooked (use a knife or the pointy object of your choice to check as the time will vary according to the size – for one muffin tray, it took about 30 minutes to be ready).
6. Serve, post a picture to Facebook and link to this page. “Eat it” – Weird Al Yankovic.

Advertisements
If I knew that you were coming I’d bake a cake

You get up, you get down and you try it again

Little by little, I am completing the 100 bread recipes on Pains du Monde à Faire Soi-Même, which I bought at a really good price about six months ago. So far 93% of the recipes I tried worked fine -so much so that I keep repeating them (Split Tin, small milk loaves and Anadama are my favourite so far).

But about a month ago I tried something more challenging: a rustic country bread, which involves preparing my own sourdough. I started one day and fed the leaven (homemade yeast) frequently as recommended in the recipe. It didn’t seem active at all, but I kept going, after all, I was expecting it to behave differently than bread made with dry yeast. The result was a total failure. Of all the loaves I baked so far, this was the only one we didn’t finish eating. It was as dense as lead, somewhat raw in the middle and very sour.

Shortly after this failed attempt, I received an offer from Amazon to get the Kindle edition of Tartine Bread for a dollar or so. I prefer my cook books in that vintage media called paper, but I decided to give it a go to have a reference. Upon reading it and seeing how detailed the instructions for a homemade leaven were, I took advantage of the holidays to try making my leaven again.

From the beginning, I could see the difference between recipes. After the first feeding, the starter was already bubbly. When it came time to work the dough it looked very much like the pictures on the book (or as much as I could make out from the 5-inch screen); and this morning, I baked it.

A recently baked bread resting on a cutting board
The final bread, before the world fell apart

It still looked a bit like the pictures from the book, except that I did not bake it using a Dutch oven, but rather a pizza stone (I know the instructions mention the Dutch oven, but I want to make sure I get the leaven right before investing in new gadgets). I put it to rest then snapped the picture above.

Right after that, I went to turn it around and knock on it to check for the hollow sound to make sure it was ready, but one of my fingers went right through the crust into a huge air bubble. I started looking for more big bubbles and found three more. I knew this was not good, even though the bread had risen.

When I cut it open, again the dough seemed very dense and raw in some parts. Moreover, the flour did not seem to be fully integrated to the dough, so besides huge air bubbles, I had flour bubbles.

I did not want to waste all this work, so I tried the bread, but it was awful. The previous one was bad, but we ate good part of it. Looking back I appreciate the effort we made to eat it; although this time, I accepted defeat and threw it out. Luckily, there is a new artisan baker just around the corner from my house and yesterday I had bought a delicious Khorasan bread. New Year’s breakfast was saved!

To wrap up, I still have the leaven and I’ll keep feeding it daily and see how it goes. I guess it will take a lot more practice before I nail a bread made with it.

You get up, you get down and you try it again

From my news feed today – first edition

Two interesting reads that father Christmas delivered through my RSS feed this morning. Delay in posting is caused by two day-long open tabs.

Brion Shreffler visits The Raquet Club for Serious Eats to discover the secrets of Philadelphia’s best panettone. As huge fan of the good kind and eager to try baking my own one day, this is definitely saved for future reference. I should also try removing the top and adding vanilla gelatto before closing again.

Flowing Data brought Handle the Heat’s ultimate chocolate chip cookies. All thanks to the guide to chocolate chip cookies and tested recipes with small changes to ingredients. From the looks, more flour would be my choice of cookies for next baking session.

Two rows of cookies showing the visual variations when some ingredients change
Handle the Heat’s guide to the ultimate chocolate chip cookies.
From my news feed today – first edition

Pizzaturday

This week brought a small Anadama (photos pending to write about it) and some muffins for snack, but the moment I was looking for came on Saturday, when I was to try a nice recipe for pizza dough. One that actually uses, hmmm, measures, as my other attempts were based on a YouTube video in Italian. Not that it went wrong. My previous pizzas were really good, but a random amount of water would require a random amount of flour and give me a random amount of dough/pies -usually two, but at times, we had to make the sacrifice of eating pizza for a few days.

After receiving friends over for coffee and corn cake (not my doing), I headed to the kitchen and started working that dough. Bonus points for my friend who brought a huge bottle of olive oil from his family in Greece. Perfect timing, as this ingredient required replacement.

For topping, I used tomato sauce (half-homemade), bocconcini cheese and portobello mushrooms. And since I still suck at opening the dough, I left my girlfriend in charge of that. Apart from a few holes in the dough, she nailed a thin pie with a somewhat thick border.

Raw pizza dough sitting on a floured counter with a towel in the back
Ready to be opened

Ingredients

400 grams of flour

300 ml of water

3 tablespoons of olive oil

7 grams of active dry yeast

10 grams of salt

Directions

Mix the water with the yeast and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Add the olive oil and mix integrate all.

Add the salt and flour and mix it until all ingredients are combined. Let it rest covered with a towel for 20 minutes.
Knead the dough again until it is elastic. Let it rest covered with a towel for 45 minutes to 1 hour (it should double the size).

Shortly before the time has passed

Pre-heat the oven at 260° Celsius (500° Fahrenheit) with the baking stone inside.

Put the dough on a floured surface and press it gently to expel some air. Cut the dough in two and roll them (as picture above). You can let it rest again for a few minutes.

Put the dough for the pie you want to bake first on a floured surface and press it, then opening it with a rolling pin (I cannot open it decently it by hand, so don’t expect me to give you tips on that). If you have a pizza peel, do this part on it.

Cover the pizza with the topping of your choice and transfer it to the baking stone. If using the pizza peel, just transfer it to the oven; if not, it takes some skill to transfer it to the stone, but it is possible.
Bake it for about 10-12 minutes. Post a photo on Facebook and make your friends jealous.

Baked pizza with cheese and mushrooms topping sitting on a baking stone and a wooden cutting board
The pizza ready to make Facebook friends jealous
Pizzaturday

Secret baking

Earlier this month, the company where I work had an office-wide Secret Santa. Since it was not mandatory, none of us in my department decided to participate (we’re the cool kids), but rather, we decided to make our own small-scale gift exchange, with one simple condition: it would either have to be homemade or cost about $30.
It was a no-brainer what I was going to make. We are all into eating and most are better than average cooks, so I decided to make savoury muffins. I had never made muffins before, but decided on cheese and tomato. A simple search took me to this recipe. Extra points were added for chives, which was already in my mind.
Last Wednesday I hit the oven for the first test batch using cherry tomatoes and mild raw milk cheddar. All that to make sure my colleague would get high quality baked goods and I am proud to say that I was happy with the results. They were a bit small, but I fixed that on the actual batch I made on Thursday by adding more raw dough to each spot of the baking tray. For secrecy reasons I did not post anything about it here before the exchange and for absent-mindedness, no pictures were taken of these two batches.
I still don’t know his take on the muffins, but human guinea pigs approved of the test batch. 50% of tested cats were satisfied with the results.
On Friday afternoon it occurred to me that savoury muffins could be a great solution for an issue I have: mid morning and mid afternoon snacks. Even though I do it sometimes, I don’t like buying ready stuff as I am not sure on all the ingredients – not because of allergies or alimentary fads, but simply because there are a few ingredients I don’t think add much to flavour. Curiously, these are the ones present in a lot of food ready to buy. That meant that Saturday was a day to try a new recipe.
Instead of bacon, tomatoes and chives, I went for sausage and black kale, whilst cutting down on the cheese.

Three muffins arranged diagonally on top of a cutting board.
Muffins ready to be eaten for dinner on Saturday

The recipe is pretty similar to the one on Baking Mad, but here is my adaptation.

Ingredients
70 g of sausage (not spicy)
100 g of grated cheese (I use cheddar)
50 g of black kale finely chopped
275 g of white flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
200 ml of milk
75 g of butter

Directions
1. Cook the sausage and finely chop it. Wait for it to cool down before moving on.
2. Pre-heat the oven at 190 Celsius (374 Fahrenheit). Mix in flour and baking powder and then add the sausage, cheese, kale, sugar and salt. If using a mixer, turn it on and let it do the job while you do step 3.
3. On a pan, melt the butter, add in milk and the eggs and mix all of them.
4. Add the liquid mix to the solid and integrate all into a dough.
5. Put the dough in a muffin baking tray and bake it for 30-35 minutes.
6. Eat, rinse and repeat.

Two muffins sitting on a plate, the one on the front if cut in half so we can see the inside.
These are just the starters
Secret baking

I ran out of bread

The title is a half-truth.
I make two to three types/loaves of bread per weekend so they will last for the whole week (or most of it). This weekend, though, I was worried about completed my first loaf using 100% homemade sourdough starter -there will be a post on it -which means that Monday 8:something, after I arrived from work and had dinner, there was just a piece of Pain de Campagne and I decided to make more bread.
Going through the book I use the most for bread recipes, Pains du Monde a faire Soi-même, I decided on Scottish Morning Rolls, which are simple, do not require a long time fermenting and I had done before.
The recipe requires only 400 grams of white flour, 150 ml of water, 150 ml of milk, 20 grams of fresh yeast (or 7 grams of the dry) and 10 grams of salt. Leave flour and salt on a bowl, mix the water, milk and yeast, and add the liquid to flour. Integrate them well, leave it to grow for 1 hour.

The raw ready to be baked
The raw dough ready to be baked

Once it grows, cut it into 10 parts, roll each of them and open with a rolling pin. Put the 10 small loaves on one (or two) baking trays, cover and leave them for 30 extra minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200 Celsius (that’s 395 Fahrenheit). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes and your small and delicious bread is ready.
This is a great bread for breakfast (as the name suggests), but also with a slice of your favourite type of cold cut with a little bit of cheese. However, nothing beats getting the bread freshly out of the oven, open in two with just some butter on it.
Bread and butter time!
Bread and butter time!

I ran out of bread

Recovering a cake

I have mentioned on my previous (and first) post about my first baking adventures, including “cuca de banana”, a typical cake from the south of Brazil. The recipe I used is long lost, as I probably gave away the book that contained it before moving to Canada.
Luckily there is wonderful/terrible thing called the Internet, so I placed a search and ended up with an excessive number of recipes for the cake (changing bananas to apples, as it is cold and I was lazy to go out). Going through the ingredients in the top results and automatically discarding any that mentioned margarine, I locked on this one (link in Portuguese, but I’ll post it in English below).

Picture of the printed recipe attached to a box with herbs over a flower pot with lavender
My recipe holder -at least during winter when the rosemary, parsley and lavender are in the kitchen.

No lemons were harmed in the making of this recipe -laziness to go out striking again. The recipe itself if very straightforward. Just add everything in the mixer following the right order, let the dough rise, cover with apples (or any fruit) and bake. As it is usual for me, I used less sugar than what the recipe asked for, so this cake could go well with either a nice cup of coffee or probably pork -if the caramel is removed. Speaking of caramel, that was my first attempt at it and as punishment, I’ll have to spend three hours a day this week reading the Larousse des Desserts by candlelight, whilst kneeling on corn. I guess I’ll have to try that again sometime.
And this is the final result. The topping is a bit bitter due to the caramel, but overall, I’d call it a success.

Picture of the cake on a plate and two small plates and mugs around it
The cake, whole and ready to be eaten with some coffee

Recipe

Ingredients

5 grams of dry yeast
3/4 cups of water
10 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg
5 tablespoon of butter
2 cups of flour
5 grams of salt
Lemon zest
1 honeycrisp apple
Caramel*

Method

1. On the mixer’s bowl add the yeast to water. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and add the sugar. Leave it alone for 10 minutes.
2. Add the egg, butter, and lemon zest. Mix everything and start adding the flour with the salt little by little, until the dough is homogeneous, but not too firm.
3. Spread the dough in a greased and floured baking cake pan.
4. Let it grow for 30 to 50 minutes, go learn how to make proper caramel.
5. When the time is up, add the apples to the top, thinly sliced with any other ingredients of your choosing (nuts, caramel, raisins…)
6. Set the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (305 degrees Fahrenheit) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
7. Enjoy!

*To prevent ruining caramel for you, I am not giving my recipe.

Recovering a cake