Monday, August 27, 2012

Anna Olson's marble pound cake

marble loaf cake

Confession: I'm mildly completely obsessed with any and all stories of women who successfully make career changes, especially from something completely non-food-related to pastry. I'm all over any story, book, movie, or newspaper article, whether real or fiction, that depicts a woman quitting her day-job to pursue her dream. I can't help it. Those stories are my little glimmer of hope. Do you blame me? I know it's not a very healthy obsession in that, often times, even without trying, the stories make it seem a lot easier to jump into a new (baking) career. Whatever, I don't care. They give me hope and they inspire me.

As I struggle to make my place in the baking world, I latch on to all the success stories I find. They remind me that I can do it too, and I can follow my dreams, as long as I keep baking. Of course, most days, I seriously don't want to practice piping for obvious, frustrating reasons, but I keep baking.

marble pound cake

This marble pound cake recipe comes from Anna Olson's new book, Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy. Anna Olson is one of my heroes for obvious reasons: she left behind a career in banking to pursue her culinary dreams. I've watched her in awe and amazement since the beginning of her television career. I am always amazed at how easy she makes everything look, especially on her new show Bake with Anna Olson. I hope to one day be as skilled as she is, but in the meantime, I'll study and learn from her books and tv shows.

marble cake

This marble loaf is very easy to make (in fact, I whipped it up by hand with a wooden spoon). It's also so moist and shockingly full of flavor: the chocolate swirl is super chocolate-y, while the vanilla part screams vanilla. This recipe yields a marble loaf that many other recipe claim to make, but few actually do. Make this recipe. Trust me. It's that good.

Marble pound cake

marble loaf cake    Makes one 9x5-inch loaf
  • 260 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 173 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 160 mL (2/3 cup) full fat sour cream
  • 113 grams (4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped and then melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Brush a 9x5-inch loaf pan with melted butter and flour it, tapping out the excess. Set aside for later.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until it is light. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  4. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the sour cream.
  5. Scoop out half the vanilla batter into a medium bowl. Mix the melted chocolate into it.
  6. Dollop the vanilla and chocolate batters into the prepared pan and swirl them a little with a knife or spoon.
  7. Bake the loaf for about 70 minutes, or until a cake tester poked through the center comes out clean.
  8. Let the loaf cool for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hearty apple blackberry breakfast muffins

apple blackberry breakfast muffins

Remember when I wrote that I was getting all organized? Well, it's true, I have worked hard to make sense of my space, and it's still ongoing. Sadly, when I went to make these muffins, I couldn't find my box of muffin papers. I guess I was a little "too organized" and lost track of the new spots I created for my stuff. I searched everywhere for the muffin papers. I searched angrily for like an hour, and ransacked the kitchen, which brings me to my next point: my aversion to putting things away.

apples and frozen blackberries

The act of putting things (clothing, dishes, etc) away after I've cleaned and done with them is a difficult one for me. Oh, I hate that part so much! I am very good at doing the laundry, washing my dishes, but when it comes time to putting things back where they belong, I can't stand it. It's pathetic. All this to say, that when I ransacked the kitchen... well...

apple blackberry breakfast muffins

I think I'm adding "must love putting away dishes and laundry" to my list of what I'm looking for in the idea man. I'm only somewhat joking. Only somewhat.

apple blackberry breakfast muffins

These muffins (adapted from Olive magazine/BBC Good Food) are hearty and very low in sugar. I dare say they are even healthy! They are perfect for breakfast, made with oats, yogurt, grated apple, and blackberries. I think these muffins are the opposite of those cupcakes disguised as muffins to make them seem healthier. That is what I love most about these.

Apple and blackberry breakfast muffins

apple blackberry breakfast muffins    Makes 10 muffins
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 50 grams oats, plus more for sprinkling on top of the muffins
  • 4 tbsp (50 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 2 golden delicious apples
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150 mL yogurt (I used 2% fat)
  • 6 tbsp canola oil
  • 30 frozen blackberries
  • Coarse sugar for sprinkling on top  of the muffins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking, powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oats, and brown sugar.
  3. Grate the apples into another bowl and mix the grated apple immediately with the eggs, yogurt, and oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined.
  5. Fill halfway 10 paper-lined muffin cups with the batter, then place 3 frozen berries in each, and top with remaining batter.
  6. Spinkle with coarse sugar (or a little brown sugar if you don't have coarse sugar) and a few oats.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blackerry cornmeal cake

cornmeal cake

F and I were muffin- and loaf-cake-making machines at school. We were baking up loads of them most mornings. They were a huge hit with the staff and we certainly enjoyed making them. The opportunity to bake with a friend aside, who doesn't love baking muffins and experimenting with all different flavors, fruits, and spices?

Of course, there were a few bumps along the way...

Like the time the berries disappeared:

-F: I'll toss the berries in a little flour.
-Me: It seems to me you don't have to do that if the berries are frozen.
-F: Really? Well that's easier!
-Me: Yeah, I'm pretty sure last time I made a bundt cake with frozen berries, I just folded in the frozen berries without coating them in flour first.
-F: Okay then.

One hour later...
-F: Ummm, I think the berries sank to the bottom!
-Me: No?! Really?!
-F: I can't see them anymore. I think they're all at the bottom!
-Me: Uh oh!

Turns out I was remembering wrong. The berries sank to the bottom, and so we had four large berry-bottomed loaf cakes. Oops!


A couple days after the "disappearing berry incident", F and I whipped together a batch of cornmeal muffins, and that day, we had been handed the remnants of a pot of raspberry jam to use up. We were feeling adventurous that day, so we slipped it into the muffins as we filled the muffin trays:

-F: How should we do this?
-Me: Let's layer it in and alternate the cornmeal batter with the jam.
-F: This is going to be so good!
-Me: I know! I can't wait to try these!

One hour later....

-F: Didn't we swirl a spoonful of raspberry jam on the top of each muffin? I can't see the jam.
-Me: Really?
-F: I think it sank to the bottom!
-Me: Oh no! Not again? Let's not tell anyone...

Once again, our add-in disappeared and most of it sank to the bottom.

blackberry cornmeal cake

Turns out you can't just layer jam into any muffin recipe. Who knew! See, they don't teach you that sort of thing in pastry school.

For this cake, I scattered the berries over the cake batter just before baking because I wanted them to sink in just a little, but not too much. This worked! Personally, I really enjoy the gritty texture of a cornmeal cake/muffin that is rich in cornmeal (I used equal parts flour and cornmeal), but if you like a finer texture, reduce the amount of cornmeal and replace it with a little extra flour.

Blackberry cornmeal cake

cornmeal cake    Makes one 10-inch cake
  • 125 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 125 grams (3/4 cup) cornmeal (fairly fine grind but not flour—mine's labelled as "yellow cornmeal #250")
  • 6 g (1 tsp) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50 grams (3.5 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 180 mL (3/4 cups) milk
  • 200 grams (~1 1/4 cups) fresh blackberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a tart pan (with removable bottom). Place the tart pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside for later
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, alternateing with the milk.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, scatter the berries over top, and bake it for 45–50 minutes or until the middle is set and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a rack before serving

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Toasted almond drink

toasted almond drink

The last few weeks, I've been searching for work in a small bakery shop of some sort. I had no idea just how frustrating this part could be. Most bakery owners/pastry chefs who look at my cv basically laugh at me and tell me to get a job in my field. Some just look confused. To say the least, I don't quite have a cv that matches what the average employer is expecting.

kahlua drink

On the bright side, a pastry chef that works at a small cake shop in Montreal took my cv and actually saw some "potential" (or at least something that is worth more than a few chuckles and grimaces). I went in a couple days later, super excited, to show that I could assemble a cake (like trimming cake layers, filling and assembling, crumb coating, frosting). Unfortunately, I found myself a little unprepared. Turns out that I also had to decorate the cake I assembled, with piped frosting (I'm far from skilled with a pastry bag, especially when it comes to piped borders!) and fondant flowers (I'd never worked with fondant in my life!)... Needless to say that after a few hours, I think I proved how much of a "home baker" I am, and not that I am ready for a paying position in a cake shop. I kind of wanted to grab my poor little attempt at a decorated layer cake and run with it, but I didn't...

Instead of running away, I returned to the bakery the next morning at 6:30AM to help make cupcakes for the day and show that I can at least put together a cupcake batter from a recipe and frost them too. Once again, I found myself not quite at the level expected. I was much slower than every one else working in the kitchen, and my batter was apparently a little runnier than it should have been (I can measure ingredients, I swear!). Then later, when it came time to decorating, let's just say that I had to remove and re-pipe the frosting THREE times before getting it "sort of" right. OUCH. At that point, I felt like crawling under the bench with my ugly cupcakes and just eating them to hide the evidence.

I can honestly say that I am really proud of myself for trying to find work, an internship, or anything that will help me develop skills and gain experience. I have to admit though that this is super hard on me: it's rough on my ego, it hurts my brain, and it's a daily struggle. I think the worst part of this point in my life is that I suck lack skills. It's all very frustrating.

These last weeks have made me realize that I am facing at least a few months of not being good at what I do so that one day I will be great at it. I suppose that is exactly how starting over should be. But when was the last time you experienced the feelings that come from the difficult first weeks of a completely new career? My heart wants this so badly but the process is definitely bruising because my skills just aren't there yet. I feel stupid on an almost hourly basis, but I have to get through it to get where I want to.

toasted almond drink

For now, I remind myself that I am lucky to have found a pastry chef who is willing to give me a chance and some of her time to teach me a few tricks. It won't always be pretty, but it will get better, right? Cheers to that!

This drink combines two of my favorite liqueurs: Kahlua and amaretto. It's made slightly creamy and thicker by using evaporated milk instead of regular milk, but it works perfectly well with either, honestly. I mix the ingredients in a small shaker and then serve it on ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon. Use cinnamon sticks in place of swizzle sticks.

Toasted almond drink

    Makes 1 drink
  • 2 fluid oz (2 shots) evaporated milk
  • 1 fluid oz (1 shot) amaretto
  • 1 fluid oz (1 shot) Kahlua
  • A dash of ground cinnamon
  • One cinnamon stick
  • A few ice cubes

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the milk, amaretto, and Kahlua.
  2. Shake to mix well the ingredients.
  3. Serve over ice, with a dash of ground cinnamon, and a cinnamon stick.