Monday, February 8, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Pizza Rustica



"But it's not a pizza!"

Wise words from a friend, as she watched me roll out a rich tart dough with thyme. In fact, she was so concerned that she flipped back through the book to check the picture.

"Nope, definitely not a pizza. That's a quiche."

While its pizza status might be debate-able (this delicacy is also known as a 'ham pie,' I'm told), the tart's appeal isn't up for debate, as long as you are craving a solid rich hit of cheese, sausage, and flaky crust. 

What this pie (pizza) is, is sturdy. Baked in a 9"x2" cake tin, a firm crust surrounds a rich filling of sopressata layered with mozzarella and a ricotta/egg custard. I had slightly less mozzarella than needed so I slipped in a little gruyere and goat boucheron. Whenever I have a party I stash a bunch of leftover cheese bits in the freezer for just this sort of occasion, and I'm working very hard on bringing the freezer back down to a manageable capacity right now, so that worked out well.

I served the pie in conjunction with some buckwheat waffles (yeast-raised, Marion Cunningham-style) and blackberry jam, so it never had a chance with me, but the others who ate it were big fans, and it was so easy to make, transport, and cut, that I will definitely be making versions of it again. Hearty and sturdy.







Monday, February 1, 2016

Alpha Bakers - Irish Cream Scones

Cream scones are a miracle of simplicity. No butter to cut, no eggs, just a quick batter, a quick rest, and a quick bake. Naturally I managed to leave out the sugar and folded it in at the last second, but theoretically simple stuff.
 
The glaze is a mix of sugar, butter, corn syrup, and similar things, stirred into a fruit puree. Instead of making the raspberry puree in the recipe, I used a bit of a Thanskgiving leftover sitting in my fridge, a bag of chunky bits from Libby's cranberry ginger jelly experiment. It was not as smooth as the raspberry puree would have been but the flavor and texture were spot on.
 
Having recently started spending some time with a person who despises breakfast pastry, I've been slightly defiant every time I turn some out, but I made some yeasted waffles last week as well as these scones and can assure the team that I still like breakfast pastry as much as any reasonable person with a soul should. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Alpha Bakers - Lemon Almond Cheesecake

One of my favorite Rose cakes, the lemon almond bundt, reimagined in cheesecake form. A multi-step affair, but in the end, a simple one.

First, though, let's discuss something that concerns me. Why do so many cheesecakes have cake on the bottom? To me, the only truly acceptable cheesecake base is a crumb layer, graham cracker or, in a pinch, Oreo. Cake as the base of a cheesecake just seems like overkill, a waste of two good things in a combination that heightens neither. UPDATE: via the great RLB herself in the comments--"The reason for the cake layer is to absorb any of the leaking syrup as I don't like to add thickener to the filling though when I make cheesecakes without a base I sometimes either add a bit of cornstarch or replace each whole egg with 2 yolks."
 
Despite my doubts, I went ahead and made a nice spongy almond-filled base layer for this cake, and promptly forgot to put it in to the pan before the tangy lemony cream-cheesy sour cream filling (spiked with toasted almonds). It was an accident, truly. The cake bases, which could have been saved for future projects (ha), made very nice snacking over the next few days.
 
The only adornment this little devil got was a wash of lemon curd over the top--a quick curd that tasted like 'butter jelly,' according to Catherine, the model above. She was very happy with the cheesecake and with the strange peculiarity of my house, in which 'spare cake' is a thing. She particularly appreciated the almonds in the batter.
 
I took the rest of the cake to work, where one colleague deemed it 'lemoncious' and another told me that it should be in a bakery, but shut up quickly when I pointed out that then he'd have to pay for it.
 
Not my favorite cheesecake ever, but it's not like any cheesecake is a BAD cheesecake. Especially not when it doesn't have some stupid cake layer on the bottom.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Alpha Bakers -- Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking through a book means you make it all, even the things you might have skipped because they looked odd, or overlooked because they seemed ordinary. Among the many compelling varieties of chocolate chip cookies I might have made, Rose's weren't necessarily topping my list, but I happily made them (rested overnight, with almonds) and my co-workers happily ate them. There's a nice thing about making a recipe from childhood but precisely weighing everything out. These were pretty great, actually.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Alpha Bakers - Renee Fleming Chiffon

The Renee Fleming chiffon. Just a very good sponge. Made it one day, served it for tea the next. Squishy and pleasing. 

We discovered that a chiffon cake has one unanticipated advantage when you invite toddlers to tea. Very few crumbs.

Alpha Bakers -- Lemon Cranberry Tart




The winds of winter. So long anticipated, so long delayed. George R. R. Martin may not be on schedule (since when does genius follow a schedule?), and neither may I, but winter has come nonetheless, and up in the frozen northland of Western MA, I made a tart.  
It was a very tart tart. It was a tart who prepared. I had no scale, and something was amiss with the proportions for the cookie tart crust, so it wasn't the prettiest tart of them all, but hell, people. It was a fancy lemon curd tart that had patterns on it. Can I not satisfy you folks?
My mother's strainer was broken, so I strained the lemon curd through a coffee filter, which led to some stiff whisking and some loss of curd, not to mention some interesting shapes and patterns.


The final tart, of which I only got a blurry shot, wasn't the tidiest, but it was interesting. Mom's verdict: "Tres tasty. Melts in your mouth. Very festive." Dad claimed I'd outdone myself. They don't get too many sweets... 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- Peppermint Sprinkle Cake




I can't pretend that I was really into this one. White cake, white frosting, unnecessary peppermint...Not really my style, but I made it and lived to tell the tale, and also made a fabulous and epic cake that was my style. Here's a note or two about both! The cake above is an egg white butter cake, flavored with peppermint oil. I think I overbaked it slightly, but I didn't even taste it, because...I don't like peppermint flavored things, unless they're breath mints.
I made a half recipe of the cake, which filled two six inch pans very well, and then intended to make a half recipe of the frosting, using a halal bar of aerated white chocolate I'd been given by a very nice library patron. Turned out the bar, because it was filled with air, was very light indeed and I was only able to make .26 times the frosting recipe (a white chocolate custard buttercream), so the filling was a bit sparse, though I did add some jam. Instead of the recommended candy canes, I decorated the cake in Christmas cookie sprinkles that were lying around, and it looked right sweet. I took it in to work, took it downstairs, and never heard another word about it, although I assume it got eaten. Everything does here.
I was happy that the cake base was an all egg white one, as I have a lot of leftover egg whites on hand from making the cake pictured below, a Christmas day princesstarta. Princesstarta, which is essentially a trifle in cake form, covered with a marzipan lid, is one of my favorite cakes both to make and to eat, and it was a triumph. In past years I've used different combos of recipes to make this cake, which is very forgiving, but this time I went straight Mary Berry and the results were excellent.