Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla Bean Scones

My aunt Ginna gave me an in-person tutorial on making those delicious scones properly when she was here for my graduation, and I used that lesson to make them for my mom's birthday. As you may recall, my mom's thing is strawberry shortcake, just like my thing is angel food cake, and my dad's thing is german chocolate anything.
Ginna gave me some very important tips for making these bad boys:
-Everything has to be as cold as possible. Using butter right out of the freezer is fine.
-Do not take out the cold ingredients until you are about to put them in the dough.
-Measure the pastry flour AFTER you've sifted it, because it always puffs up and will throw off the measurement.
-Do NOT knead the dough. The less the dough is handled, the better it will turn out.
-When you're ready to plop the dough onto the parchment-lined baking pan, use a measuring cup and dip it in hot water in between scoops.
Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla Bean Scones
Scones courtesy of my Aunt Ginna :)
Organic, unbleached pastry flour- 3 1/2 c
Baking powder- 3 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Superfine sugar- 1 tbsp, plus more to sprinkle on top of the scones before you bake them
Unsalted butter- 1 c (2 sticks), cut into quarters right out of the freezer
Eggs- 4, cold
Heavy cream- 2/3 c, cold
Sour cream- 2/3 c, cold
Vanilla bean paste- 1 tbsp
1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into the the bowl of a huge food processor. Add butter chunks and process for no longer than 1 minute. It should feel like coarse meal.
2. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, heavy cream and sour cream. Stir in vanilla bean paste. Add mixture to food processor and mix. You're not looking for a soft ball, really. The dough is more batter-y than dough-y. DO NOT OVERMIX! Stop once the ingredients have come together.
3. Scoop out dough (I used 1/4 and 1/3 measuring cups) and plop onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for ~20 minutes, until they are golden.

Mix 2-3 lbs of strawberries (washed, hulled and cut in halves and quarters) with some sugar (up to you, depending on how sweet you want them). Let them sit for an hour or two to draw out the juices.
Beat leftover heavy whipping cream and 1 tbsp powdered sugar with a whisk until stiff peaks form.
Spoon the strawberries (generously) onto the cooled scones, then dollop some whipped cream on top.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Christmas in July

I'm all moved in and settled in my new apartment! Good thing, too- my job starts one week from today!
I haven't baked in my apartment yet- shocking, I know. But I made this Christmas in July cake for my mom a couple weeks ago. Her company sells Christmas cards to non-profit organizations, and July 1st is the start of their sales year.
The cake wasn't done until 3:30 AM, so I gave up on any hopes of a decent shot
I went with my favorite chocolate cake recipe and my go-to vanilla buttercream. The cake itself isn't difficult, but I broke a few of my cardinal baking rules, which made everything infinitely harder.
Rules Broken:
1. NEVER double a batter recipe, especially if you don't know for sure that you have a container big enough to handle everything.
Broken rule outcome: Stress. And having to divide the batter just to stir it. And lots of mess.
2. NEVER start a cake late at night.
Broken rule outcome: Kelly up til 4 AM because her impaired judgment messed up the cake and her OCD wouldn't let her leave it less than perfect.
3. KNOW what you'll be storing the cake in before you start.
Broken rule outcome: I decorated the bottom edges of the cake, forgetting the dome lid was gonna need somewhere to sit.
4. USE Baker's Joy. I hardly ever use parchment paper for cakes, because they usually fail.
Broken rule outcome: The parchment paper failed. Fortunately, I had a third layer of cake available.

After realizing my mistake about the bottom border (it being around 2 AM), I panicked. I tried to wipe the border away, but it looked horrible, so I smoothed it out, which looked worse.
I resolved to make a third batch of buttercream. My parents were asleep at this point, so I went into the laundry room, sat on the floor, and mixed it up. Then, I scraped away all the bottom part (white and red) and started again.

The end result was very pretty, in my opinion. I only wish I'd listened to my own rules!
Dark Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
The Cake
Courtesy of Sweetapolita
Yield: One 2-layer 9-inch cake.
All-purpose flour- 1 1/2 c
Sugar- 1 1/3 c
Dark cocoa powder- 1/2 c
Baking soda- 1 1/4 tsp
Baking powder- 1 1/4 tsp
Salt- 1 tsp
Buttermilk- 5 oz (140 mL, ~2/3 c)
Hot, strong coffee- 4.5 oz (130 mL)
Canola oil- 75 ml (~5 tbsp)
2 eggs, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract
1. Sift all dry ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer (paddle attachment).
2. Add buttermilk, coffee, canola oil, eggs and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.
3. Pour batter into two 9 inch round cake pans that have been liberally sprayed with Baker's Joy. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then rotate pans. Bake until the tester comes out with just a few crumbs, ~30 minutes total. Be careful not to overbake!
4. Cool on racks for 20 minutes, then gently turn them out of the pans onto the racks to cool completely.
Vanilla Buttercream
Yield: 1 batch (you may need to double it for the cake, depending on your decorating style)
Unsalted butter- 1 c (2 sticks), softened
Powdered sugar- 3-4 c
Pure vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)- 1 tbsp
Milk- 1 tbsp
Pinch of salt
1. Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, ~3 minutes.
2. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating until well incorporated.
3. Add vanilla extract, milk and salt, and beat to combine.
4. Switch to whisk attachment and beat for ~2 minutes to fluff it up.

Enjoy! And always follow your own rules! :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brownie Bites

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last posted. Today, the move out of my Harrisonburg apartment finally finished! I'm settling into my new apartment- so far, so good!
I made these brownie bites a while ago, for my friend Rekik's graduation party. They're my favorite brownie recipe, cut into itty bitty pieces, with vanilla bean buttercream on top. Um, hi.

I'm hoping that once I'm all settled and things are semi-normal, I'll be able to post more regularly, get into a groove again.
This buttercream frosting is truly the best frosting in the world. I've eaten soooo much frosting in my life, and this is the most consistently delicious, perfect recipe I've ever had the pleasure of consuming.
Brownie Bites
Yield: ~2 dozen, depending on how small you cut them
Unsalted butter- 10 tbsp (1 stick + 2 tbsp)
Sugar- 1 1/4 c
Unsweetened cocoa powder- 3/4 c + 2 tbsp (Dutch process or Natural is fine)
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Large eggs- 2, cold
Flour- 1/2 c
1. Combine buttersugarcocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. 
3. Remove bowl from the skillet, and let cool for ~5 minutes until warm but not hot. Note: It will look kinda gritty at this point, don't panic!
4. Stir in vanilla with a spoon or spatula. Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. At this point it should look well-blended, shiny and thick. 
5. Stir in flour until completely blended, then stir vigorously ~40 strokes. Stir in nuts if using.
6. Prep an 8x8" square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil so it overhangs on two opposite sides. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake at 325 degrees F for ~20 minutes. The tester should come out moist but not drenched.
7. Let brownies cool slightly, then stick in the fridge for ~15 minutes. 
Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Unsalted butter- 1 c (2 sticks)
Powdered sugar- 3 c
Vanilla bean paste- 1 tbsp (or the scrapings of one vanilla bean)
Milk- 1 tbsp
Pinch of salt
1. Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (paddle attached) until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. 
2. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time (use the splash guard that came with the mixer, you'll thank me later). 
3. Add vanilla bean paste, milk and salt. Beat until very well blended. 
4. Switch to the whisk attachment, and beat for 1-2 minutes. 

Take the brownies out of the fridge and remove them from the pan. Spread buttercream, then stick them back in the fridge for 10 minutes. Remove, then cut them into small pieces. 

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