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Archive for June, 2008

The Foodie Blogroll

For those of you who don’t know (and I don’t know how you couldn’t) the Foodie Blogroll is a site hosted by Jenn from The Leftover Queen.  The Blogroll is (to my knowledge) one of the largest collections of links to foodie blogsites available in one place.

As of today, the Blogroll has now been updated with my new site address.  If you haven’t been there before, check it out by clicking here now: The Foodie Blogroll

A special thanks to Jenn who takes the time to help all of us little bloggers out there get some of the attention we desperately need 😉

Erik ≈ Baking in Oregon

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The following post is a reprint of a post I made on my old site last year – it was my most popular post, so I’m reprinting it here for your enjoyment.

One of the fun parts about baking for me is exploring my family roots through food. Like many Americans, I have a bit of a ‘Heinz 57’ heritage – a little bit of everything. I’ve done some family history research and have found some interesting things – I have relatives that came over on the Mayflower (fully documented, I am a member of the Mayflower Society), which came over from England. I have family that emigrated from Denmark and Germany. My two strongest ties, however are to Ireland (I still carry that family name) and Sweden (I still have family with whom I am in contact there). Since my grandmother and aunts were born in Sweden, I grew up exposed to many of the wonderful foods of that country – in fact, I plan to use them in several blog posts to come (although I can guarantee that Herring Pudding will never grace this blog site – yech!!). That being said, I have no expressions of the Irish side of the family – most of my ancestors died very young and lived under very tough and poor conditions once they came to the US, so they didn’t take much time to record information to pass down the line. So, my list of Irish family recipes is fairly short – zero. I’m very interested in knowing more about what my family may have been eating some 100 years ago when they emigrated – as well as what the Irish people in general like to eat.

I’ve found a number of recipes online that claim Irish heritage or at least popularity, but it can be difficult sometimes to sort out the truth from the other stuff out there in cyberspace. Maybe some of my visitors can recommend some good sites for Irish recipes and history?

In the meantime, as I take a short vacation on the Oregon Coast, I begin looking ahead to the change in seasons to my favorite time of year – Fall. I love the weather, cool, foggy, crisp, clean. When I sense those changes coming, I can’t help but begin thinking of fall cooking – comfort foods – and for me, my favorite Fall ingredient has to be apples. Of course, we can get apples here year-round, but fall is the time when the best of the harvest come in and everyone’s thoughts start to turn to baking with apples.

So, looking at my pile of fresh Granny Smiths, and considering how I might explore some of that Irish heritage, I came across a recipe on Joyofbaking.com for an Apple Scone Cake. Now, if the description of this recipe as posted on Joy of Baking is correct, the Apple Scone Cake is one of the most popular desserts made by home bakers in Ireland (can anyone confirm that??). It certainly sounded like an interesting recipe to try – and, for all I could tell, seemed as if it could be a real ‘Irish’ dessert. Why not give it a try? The concept is interesting – it’s not really a ‘cake’ as I would think of it – it’s really more of a cross between a cake and a pie. Imagine apple pie, but instead of the traditionally flaky pie crust, a more ‘cakey’ scone crust instead. Since I’m not yet experienced in the fine art of pie crust, but have successfully made scones, this seemed like a great gateway recipe to my first ever ‘pie’

Overall the results were very good. Having made this, I would probably make the following changes the next time around: a bit more sugar/cinnamon in the apples – I used more apples than the recipe called for, but didn’t add more sugar to account for that change. Second, I would bake it just a bit longer – I like my apples a bit softer, but this was still pretty good. Third, I might add just a few small pats of butter (not margarine) in with the apples. Lastly, I might add just a touch more sugar to the scone base. With all of that being said, you can click here for a copy of the original recipe with no modifications so you can start at the same point as me. This is a hearty and tasty dessert – perfect for a cool fall (or warm summer) evening – I will definitely be making this again.  Click here for a copy of the recipe I’ve posted on my site.

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I haven’t.  In fact, I’d never even heard of a ‘Berger’ Cookie prior to reading about them on the Baker’s Banter blogsite from King Arthur Flour.  I asked a few folks I know if they had ever heard of them and the response was the same almost every time, “A burger cookie?, You mean one that looks like a hamburger?”  Their responses ranged from interest to those few who believed this mysterious cookie contained some form of ground beef.  Thankfully, there is no ground beef in these “Bergers”, and they would be, I believe, somewhat tastier than any meat cookie may be.

Actually, Berger Cookies are a local favorite, found in the Baltimore, Maryland area.  Favorite? That may actually be an understatement.  From what I can gather doing some simple research, people are nuts about these cookies, perhaps even obsessed.  The cookies are named after the brothers who founded what would become the bakery that still operates today, over 150 years after they first came to the United States.  From what I gather, these cookies are very popular in the Baltimore area, and those who leave the area find themselves in the position of having these cookies shipped to them, as they can only be found in a few locations outside of Baltimore. 

On the King Arthur blog, they were recounting their attempt to mimic this interesting cookie, which had been profiled in the May issue of Saveur Magazine.  Reading through the blog, I saw that they looked rather tasty – a soft, puffy cookie coated with a thick layer of fudgy frosting on top, or, rather, the bottom.  Yes, the bottom.  Rather than frost the top of the cookie as would be tradition, the frosting mirrors the dome shape of the cookie, inch for inch, building up from the flat bottom of the cookie into a beautiful chocolaty mound.  The folks at King Arthur actually revisited this recipe after a number of local Baltimoreans contacted them to correct the error of their ways.  The second versions, based on their photos, were nearly identical to the original Bergers.

Since I am a fan of puffy and/or chewy cookies, and a big fan of chocolate, I had to give these a try.  I was going to order some originals over the internet to have something to compare these to, but I didn’t have time as we were leaving town for vacation.  My version would have to suffice for now.

The cookies are not too difficult to make, following King Arthur’s directions.  They are a bit messy, however as the best way to frost to the edge of the cookie appears to be hand dipping each cookie into the frosting, followed by a dollop of additional frosting on top of that to create the mound shape.

The result?  They were quite good (I’ve posted a copy of the recipe on my site here).  My testers were pleased and eagerly consumed them.  The cookie itself is a good basic cookie which I’ll plan on using for other applications in the future.  The big deal is all that fudgy frosting.  I used 1/2 Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips and 1/2 Ghirardelli Semi Sweet Chocolate chips as that is what I had on hand.  They were dark and sweet.  I’m curious about the flavor of the originals and whether or not these were close in flavor – I’ll have to wait to get some original Bergers to sample before I know the answer to that.  In the meantime, I think I need to consider a trip to Baltimore…

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I love coffee cake.  I don’t have a particular favorite, but if I have the choice and there is a crumb topped coffee cake, that will be my choice.  I’ve always wondered how hard it might be to bake a good crumbcake style coffee cake.  Recently, I caught an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they covered their New York Style Crumb Cake.  It looked too good to pass up, I had to try it.

I went online and got a copy of the recipe available on their site (though they are a paid subscription site, they make recipes from their current television season available for free).  The recipe looked easy enough, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I didn’t have any cake flour, so I checked some of my cookbooks and found that I could substitute 7/8 cup of all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch for each cup of cake flour.  I followed their directions carefully and everything looked good going into the oven.

I pulled the cake about 5 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time as the crumb topping was lightly browned and the cake appeared to be done.  It looked and smelled wonderful.  When I went to cut a piece though, I found that the crumb topping had become quite hard and crunchy.  Now, as far as I know, this isn’t the way it should be.  All of the crumb cakes I’ve had before had a nice soft crumb topping that almost melts in your mouth.  Not here, though.  I wasn’t sure what went wrong.  I’ve posted requests for help on the ATK website, but haven’t received any suggestions for this problem yet.  One other reader noted the same problem.

What do you think?  I’m open to any suggestions out there as to what I may have done to cause the topping to become so hard and crunchy.  The next time I try this recipe, I’ll probably try covering the cake with foil for a portion of the cooking time to see if that helps with the topping problem.

As for the cake, it was dense and tasted very good (along with the topping).  I’m looking forward to trying this again – after all, what’s morning coffee without something tasty to go along with it.

You can click here for a copy of the recipe as seen on America’s Test Kitchen.

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Chocolate Disaster Cake

 

Okay, I don’t like to admit my mistakes, especially when they’re foolish ones.  But sometimes our mistakes are too good to keep to ourselves.  We were on vacation 2 weeks ago and I did a good amount of baking at that time (yes, baking was a planned part of my vacation, I don’t get that kind of time at home).  I wanted to start the week with a simple dessert, but something that would be appreciated by a chocoholic.

Enter the Flourless Chocolate Cake.  I’ve made these before.  Several years ago, I made this in mini bundt pans for a ladies tea my wife was hosting.  I served them with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a small raspberry sitting in the little indentation on the top of the mini cake.  They were a huge hit.  Very chocolatey, dense and somewhat creamy.  Well, I had come across a similar recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website via their Baker’s Banter blog (you can read their entry on this recipe here).   Theirs was similar, but also added a very tasty chocolate ganache as a topping – whoa, that sounded really good!

I didn’t have any cake pans available at the vacation rental house, but I did have some loaf pans, so I thought I’d give it a try and just extend the baking time.  So, I lined the loaf pan like the recipe said, leaving some extra parchment hanging over the edges to help lift the cake out at the end.  I started baking the suggested time for a cake pan, and, of course, it wasn’t done.  I started adding time in 5 minute increments.  I checked a second time and a third, still not done.  That’s where everything went south.  Something else missing in this vacation rental home was a second oven mitt.  I usually like to use both hands when putting things in or taking them out of the oven, just so I keep the batter level and avoid spashes, etc.  This time, with only one oven mitt, and therefore, only one hand on the pan, I lost it.  I had sprayed the pan with nonstick baking spray and had gotten some on the lip of the pan.  Let me tell you, that stuff is slick – literally.  My thumb slipped and the pan fell out of my hand – upside down, onto the open oven door.  Quickly, I lifted the pan off the door in the hopes that maybe I could save it – no luck.  The parchment did a fantastic job and released the entire cake from the pan, cleanly. 

The interior of the cake wasn’t done yet, so the gooey batter spread out amidst the baked portions.  Everything began to bake onto the ungreased, unprotected oven door.  I stood there, amazed, wondering what to do.  My wife heard the comotion and quickly assisted by scooping up everything that wasn’t baked onto the door back into the pan.  That was that.  Some serious cleaning ensued (baking soda and water worked very well to remove that nasty mess from the door) and I was left with a pan of partialy baked cake.  My wife encouraged me to make the best of a bad situation, and that’s when the muse struck – Chocolate Disaster Cake would be born.

I had already prepared the ganache and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I scooped out some generous spoonfuls of the batter – some baked, some not and topped it with the ganache.  You know what?  It not only tasted fantastic (kind of like a molten lava cake), but actually didn’t look too bad – you can see for yourself.

The moral of the story?  1.  Always use 2 hands and 2. Make the best of even your worst disasters.  I haven’t yet tried to reproduce this in the loaf pan to see if that would have worked, but considering the outcome here, I may have a hard time letting the next one bake all the way before I start hacking into it.  Ahh, sweet defeat.

You can find the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake by King Arthur Flour here.

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Pie in the Sky

Apple Pie Bite

If you don’t already know, I have suffered from 3 big baking fears: Cheesecake, Bread and Pie Crust.  In a recent post, which you can read on my old blog site here, I noted that I had conquered fear #2 – bread (specifically, yeast bread).  I successfully baked a loaf of cinnamon bread from scratch, and without the help of a stand mixer or bread machine.

Well, we were away on vacation last week in Central Oregon.  The weather was not cooperating as we appear to be in some kind of extended winter here in Oregon.  So, I did what any good baker would do under the circumstances, I baked.  My goal was to bake at least 1 item every day to share with everyone on vacation.  The cinnamon bread was one of the first.  I was so pleased with the results, that I knew I had to try another one soon, while to muse was upon me.  So, with a not quite complete kitchen at my disposal, I set out to complete the trifecta of baking fears – pie crust.

Now, I grew up eating one of the finest desserts I have ever had, even to this day.  That is my grandmother’s apple pie.  It wasn’t fancy, but it was wonderful.  Of all the foods from my childhood, her apple pie carries more memories, more longing than anything else.  Unfortunately she died at a relatively young age, so the chance to eat that pie again was gone with her.  You see, no one else in the family could duplicate the recipe.  They told me it wasn’t so much about the recipe itself (apparently clipped from a newspaper many years before), but it was about her technique.  My grandfather and my mother, both attempted to recreate her pie, but just couldn’t do it.  They mentioned the crust was the big part of the mystery.  I was told how she would keep a bowl of ice water near her workspace to keep her hands as cold as possible while she worked with the dough.  She didn’t have a food processor or a stand mixer to help her with the process.  Everything she did, she did by hand. 

Years have passed and while I’ve had some good apple pies in the 25 years since she passed away, none have compared with the taste and texture of hers.  Flaky and tender, tart and lightly sweet, with apples cooked all the way through, though not mushy.  She had it right – every time – she was consistent. 

Not knowing for certain what recipe she really used, I did my research to learn about the best pie crusts.  What I learned was that a combination of fats: butter and shortening, appeared to give the best results for texture and taste of the crust.  And, as my grandmother obviously knew, I learned that keeping that fat solidified up to the point of baking was an absolute necessity for the final outcome.  As for the filling, I knew it was simple, no fancy ingredients or flavors, just the basics.  I also knew her favorite cooking apple was Granny Smith.  Granny Smiths are available most of the year, hold up well during baking and are just the right amount of tart to offset the sugar in the pie.

I finally settled on a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma ‘Essentials of Baking’ Cookbook.  I love this book.  The photography is some of the best I’ve seen in a cookbook.  Their instructions and step by step details are wonderful and easy to follow.  Page 177 contains a recipe for Double-Crust Apple Pie.  The ingredients seemed similar to the recipes I suspect are close to my grandmother’s recipe – simple, though the Brown Sugar, I suspect was not something she used – oh well, I need to have my own version anyway.  On page 160, they have a recipe for Flaky Pie Crust, which includes instructions for preparation by hand, food processor or stand mixer (way to go Williams-Sonoma, nice touch).  I set out to tackle my pie.

I followed everything very carefully, being certain to keep my butter and shortening as cold as possible.  I prepared the recipe with a food processor, which I happened to have on hand.  It came together rather well.  I thought at first I had too many apples and they wouldn’t cook through.  Not so, they were perfectly done.  The crust was beautiful.  Tender, flaky, tasty.  My testers loved it.  They wanted more.  As for me, I can say this was the closest pie in flavor and texture to my grandmother’s I have tasted.  It was tart, not too sweet, apples cooked perfectly.  It took me back to her kitchen all those years ago where she and I would spend a quiet morning looking through the paper (the funnies for me, entertainment for her) while we sipped coffee and ate a piece of pie from the night before.  I miss those times, but I think it helped to shape me a bit into the person I am today.  I love quiet mornings over a cup of coffee and a pastry.  Talking, reading, just enjoying the quite time of the day.  Now I can a slice of that wonderful memory back again.  She is missed, but once in a while, that wonderful little pie will brighten that memory again.

 You can find the recipe on my page here: Double-Crust Apple Pie and Flaky Pie Pastry

  

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Welcome to the new site for ‘Baking in Oregon’.  My old site can be found at: Baking in Oregon, where you can read some of my earlier blog posts.  If you’ve visted my site before, welcome back!  If you’re new here, welcome! 

My site is dedicated to my love of cooking, particularly baking.  I’m an intermediate level cook with some skills under my belt, but I’m most interested in expanding those skills in the baking world.  I love cooking for other people and the thing I most love to share (and that seem to be most enjoyed by others) are fresh baked goods.  Whether they be desserts (my personal favorite), a side dish or a main course, I just love putting together flour, sugar, yeast, and whatever else may be out there to come up with a dish that makes people say ‘wow’.  If I hear that, I know I’ve done my job.

So, take a look around.  If you like what you see, I’d love to hear from you.  Comments, suggestions, recipes, feel free to chime in.  See something you don’t like, well, I’d like to hear about that too, just, please be kind.

Thank you again for visiting.  Enjoy!

Erik – Baking in Oregon

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