Bake Club: Confetti Cake

At my house, we are heading into birthday season. It kicks off with my mom’s birthday in March and ends with my dad’s in May. In between there are nephews, sisters, best friends and my two kids. We used to have parties in the before times. Now we bake layer cakes, give two layers to the birthday person and save one for us so we can eat it virtually together. My daughter requested a confetti layer cake but shares her birthday week with two of her best friends. She wants each of them to have a layer….with money baked in. Then she will deliver the cakes and together they will Zoom chat, eat cake and likely watch a movie or play a game together. This is what quarantine birthdays part II look like. Her first one was sad and lonely, now we have the hang of this together alone business. Maybe next year will be different?

I pulled out my Dessert Person cookbook by Claire Saffitz. She has really good cake cake recipes. Her Almond Poppy Seed is stellar. So I thought I would give her Confetti Cake a try.

In my head this is a pink cake, but when I read the recipe and look at my photos – its white. Weird.

The recipe calls for three 9″ round cake pans. I have two, but I also have a 9″ spring form pan. So I used that as well since this was not going to be a three layer cake. Grease – I used Pam – the pans then cut a 9″ round of parchment for the bottom of the pan and give that a once over with spray as well. Set these aside.

This cake uses the reverse creaming method. Nothing about this method is typical to cakes but it makes a superior moist cake with a tight crumb. I will forever make cakes this way from now on.

Mix all the dry ingredients (this includes the sugar – strange but true) in your stand mixer on low and mix to combine. Give the eggs a quick whisk with a fork to break them up then add it along with all the wet ingredients to the dry. Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.

Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.

It makes a big difference so set your timer. Then add one cup of sprinkles. I went to bulk barn. When you need a lot, buying in bulk makes sense.

The stars are my favourites.

Pour out the batter into the prepared pans. You can scoop, pour or weigh but try to get them even so they bake at the same rate.

Bake at 350F for about 40 – 45 minutes rotating at about 30 minutes unless you have a convection oven – then its fine and will bake evenly. Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Cake need the pan to help hold its structure. pop them out too quickly and you get cracks or broken sections. Then lay them on a wire rack to cool completely.

While they are cooling make your frosting. This uses a pound of room temp cream cheese – the good stuff not low fat or it won’t emulsify. This equates to two packages of cream cheese (room temp) and half a pound of butter – also room temp. Cream these two together for a minute. Then add one pound of icing sugar, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of vanilla. Cover your mixer with a clean tea towel and start mixing until everything is fluffy and combined. Chill this in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

I trimmed the layers so they would sit flat on the cake plate.

This is the chef’s snack.

Then place a dollop of frosting onto the layer, spread it around. It is at this point you add money. Wrap coins in wax paper or cling wrap – my grandma always used foil – and lay the coins around the first layer. Mix it up! Add twoonies and loonies or even wrap a fiver – but coins are super fun. Then add the next layer flat side up. Continue spreading the frosting across the top then the sides. Use a bench scraper to get everything super smooth.

I tossed more sprinkles on top but do whatever you like. My decorating skills are basic because it doesn’t interest me to go fancy – that is my sister’s job.

I did the same with the single layer but you could add it as a third layer if you wish.

This cake was delicious and reminded me of birthday cakes in the olden days before people started buying supermarket sheet cakes. I think that is why I thought I didn’t like cake. Store cakes don’t taste like anything good.

The single layer was plenty big. You could even wrap the layers and freeze. Frost them before you are going to eat them. I recommend watching her video first.

Here are the ingredients:

Confetti Cake:

Butter for the pans

5 1/2 cups cake flour (23.3 oz/ 660g)

2 1/2 cups sugar (16.4 oz / 466g)

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (0.63 oz / 18g)

1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.16 oz / 5g)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g),

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (12.7 oz / 360g)

1/3 cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (2.6 oz / 75g)

3 large eggs (5.3 oz / 150g),

6 large egg whites (7.4 oz / 210g),

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/2 cup store-bought rainbow sprinkles (3.3 oz / 93g), plus more for decorating

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Bake Club: Pistachio Pinwheel Cookies

I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.

There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.

I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.

This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.

I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.

Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.

No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.

I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.

I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.

I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.

These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.

Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.

  • 2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
  • 2 large egg yolks (1.1 oz / 32g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4.6 oz / 130g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1-1/8 cups almond flour (5.6 oz / 160g)
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar, for rolling

Stay healthly friends!

Bake Club: Grunt

I am not sure this counts as baking because it bubbles away on a stove top making a grunting sound but its made with a sweet biscuit dough so I think it counts. Traditionally it is called Blueberry Grunt and is a long time Canadian Maritime treat with unclear origins. Some say Arcadian and some say Newfoundland but the recipe can be found in all the maritime provinces. I was invited to a Newfie kitchen party in my 20’s and had it then. I have been making it since but as usual, I stray from tradition. I use whatever berries or rhubarb I have in my freezer. Last night it was smoothie leftovers of strawberries and blueberries.

Five cups of frozen berries into a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1/2 cup of water and one cup of sugar. To that I add the juice of half a lime and all the zest from the lime. Essentially this is jam. Bring it to a boil, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer while you make the sweet biscuit dough.

My mom bought me a Danish whisk for Christmas and I had never seen one before. I did some research and learned it was for heavy batters like bread, muffins and quick bread batters. It claims not to over work the dough and keeps raisins from hiding in pockets of dough. It binds everything together without streaks of flour and there are no wood spoons to clean off all that tough batter. I put it in my baking drawer next to my rolling pin. When I was pulling out my measuring cups and spoons, I decided to give this whisk a try.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have no words. This was the easiest batter I every put together and the texture was beautifully smooth and supple. It came together fast – I’d say twice as fast as if I used a spoon or stand mixer. It’s heavy and feels good in my hand. I highly recommend picking one up to add to your kitchen gadget collection.

I used the whisk to pull together 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of milk. Drop spoonful’s of dough over the simmering berries and let it bubble away for 15 minutes with the lid on and no peeking. You will hear grunts and sputters but that is normal. RESIST the urge to peek. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let it sit for a while because molten fruit juice will blister your mouth – just speaking from experience. Eat it warm. Adding a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary to the simmering berries is a way to elevate your game. Cinnamon can be a nice addition too. This basic recipe can benefit from different herbs and spices or is excellent on its own.

This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but do yourself a kindness and heat it up before you eat it. The best cold winter dessert ever.

Let me know what you think! And stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Bagel Nightmares

I love bagels. Claire Safitz posted a a how-to video on NYT Cooking. It was a recipe from her new cookbook Dessert Person. Only it wasn’. She is a liar. Well…. It wasn’t the same recipe and this caused me stress because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I watched the video then read the recipe. I decided to follow the recipe in the book because so far – the recipes were fantastic. I figured I had nothing to lose. Except I had some issues, complications and problems.

The first one was finding barley malt syrup. No luck. It might be because I am in western Canada, or it might be because its a pandemic, I could not find any. The recipe did say molasses would be a good substitute. I had that – no problem. I used 100% bread flour as directed. My yeast was now a year old – and in my freezer. I had doubts.

I made everything like she directed and the dough was stiff. I had to let it rest a few times along the way just so I could knead it. If I had used my mixer like directed in the book (the video advised not to use my mixer) I would be shopping for a new stand mixer. The dough was that stiff – and very dry. Her video showed a shaggy but definatly wetter dough – ‘Add more flour as needed’ ummmmm Okay – sure it is dry here on the prairies but for the love of all things delcisious – not that dry!

I set it out to rest and rise – nothing. Okay – so my yeast was dead. I kinda expected that. I made everything the way the book advised. left it overnight, did a float test – it did not float – even after the suggested warm up time of 15 minutes. No floating. I popped them into the boiling water and when they floated after 3 minutes – I pulled them out and set them on a rack.

I sprinkled sesame and flake salt on them and baked for 15 minutes as directed. a few got a bit dark but they baked up nice. Cutting them was a another story – hole LEE! These suckers were tough. They were super chewy but SO DAMN DELICOUS!

Okay – I will try again but with new fresh yeast.

I tested and proofed the yeast – so frothy!

Followed the book again – damn the dough is tough. I could barely knead it. It looked like dried up brains. I left it to rise and headed straight to google to do research. I watched her video again. She used baking soda in the boiling water – omits it from the book. Her dough was soft and pliable. WHY???? I did some more research and learned Canada has higher quality flour than America. Canada has a standard that requires it to be 13% protein. This results in higher hydration than their American counterpart. American flours vary from 8-13%. Their bread flour is 13% – the same as our all-purpose flour. WHAT THE HELL??? I then started watching Montreal style bagel recipes and found they used bread flour but had more water. The baking soda makes a softer crust – chewy but penetrable with human teeth and no need for a chain saw to slice it.

Summary: Use more water. Use baking soda. Use less bread flour because we don’t have enough left in the pantry.

This is what happened.

I mixed tablespoons of fancy molasses and 1 1/4 cups of 110F water. 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast and set aside until it foamed – about five minutes.

Meanwhile mix 2 cups of Canadian AP flour and 2 cups of Canadian Bread flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Whisk together and make a well in the centre. Whisk the yeast mixture and add to the flour. Pull it together with your hands – add more water as needed. I ended up using another 1/4 cup of water to get the dough to come together. It was soft and pliable like bread dough should be.

I did not add flour to the counter – I kneaded it until smooth. The one on top is the hydrated dough. the one on the bottom is Claire’s version (Canadian ingredients in an American recipe). I kept kneading until it was smoother.

I divided the dough into nine portions per batch. Rolled them into balls and let them rest while I did more research. No one – and I mean NO ONE including Fairmont’s famous Montreal Bagels let the dough sit overnight in the fridge. Claire says do it – I say don’t bother. So I got my pot ready. I filled the pot with about 4L of water – and brought it to a boil. I added molasses until it looked like strong tea. Montreal version use honey and a pinch of salt. I like the dark colour you get from the molasses.

I punched my finger through the centre of the dough ball. and stretched to get a 4″ring. I couldn’t do it with the 100% bread flour – it was too tough. (traditional Montreal Style – roll into a log and wrap around your hand. Pinch dough together.) I covered with a damp towel and put three into boiling water. These fellows floated! New yeast for the win.

After boiling for 2 minutes a side, I transferred to a rack with a towel underneath. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Placed them on a bed of cornmeal and repeated the process until one batch was ready for the oven. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes. Same as before but none of the bagels were too toasty this time. I think that had to do with the dampness of boiling correctly.

I repeated the process with the 50/50 flour bagels.

I let them cool and then did a side by side visual and taste test. Both were easy to cut – thanks baking soda. Both had a chewy texture expected from a bagel. Thanks bread flour. But my recipe was just that much easier to chew. PLUS it was a bit more tender and had a nicer crumb. the 50/50 is on the left. They puffed up more while boiling.

I had one of the 50/50 bagel for breakfast – lightly toasted with butter. Damn…. it was delicious. I froze half the bagels and will eat the other half for breakfast this week. I won’t be following Claire’s bagel recipe again – mine was really good. Next time I make bagels, I will find a Canadian Montreal Style recipe and compare that for fun.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Poppy Seed Almond Cake

I remember my grandma always having a bundt cake on hand to serve when we came for a visit. The visit was called ‘coffee’. I never drank coffee but I always had the cake. My grandma was a good baker. I mentioned before that I received a couple of cookbooks for Christmas. I spent so many weekends trying out Duchess, I had neglected Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She is the phenom who stared in the Bon Appetit series Gourmet Makes where she would try some food and recreate it, things like Doritos or Skittles. Nine times out of ten she nailed it or improved upon it (according to her test kitchen colleagues. Where she really excelled was with pastries and desserts. That is what her cookbook is all about.

I read this book from start to finish and I think she has weird ingredients. Spelt and miso in baked goods are not things I have on hand in my pantry. I need to plan ahead when I decide to make something of hers. What I do like is the companion videos that go with some of her recipes. She has her own series produced by her publishing house Penguin. I have watched every video she has released so far. Including the satire video by Novympia. Hilarious because Saffitz isn’t the most cheerful person and she complains a lot. The best part is her being surprised by the instructions in her cookbook. All very funny and on brand.

I chose Poppy Seed Almond Cake as my first foray into Dessert Person. I watch the video here before I read the recipe and began baking it. My first thought was “this recipe is backwards”. Normally you would cream the sugar, eggs, butter and flavourings together first. Then add milk and four in stages. This recipe you combine all the dry in the stand mixer then add all the wet all at once. It is a very easy and forgiving cake.

Flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt all wen in first. I weighed everything because American measurements are slightly different from Canadian measurements and I wanted this to be accurate. It’s been a hot minute before I have used poppy seeds and almond flavoring, so those were the new purchases for this bake.

Then I added the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts.

I didn’t even have to break up the eggs before I added it to the bowl. I was highly skeptical. Then I mixed it on medium high for 2 minutes (set the timer).

It was about the consistency of pancake batter. I poured it into a prepared bundt pan. I used Pam and then floured it. But I don’t think it needed to be floured. I have a non-stick pan and Pam does a great job. Flouring the pan left flour clumps on the finished cake. So proceed with caution.

It baked for a long time, 90 minutes. When I pulled it out, there was a crack on the top (normal) and a nice brown crust (also normal). My cake tester came out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. This is an important step. The steam in the cake needs to release to improve the structure of the cake. The pan will support it while this happens. Pop it out too soon and your cake will break or crack. After 15 minutes turn out on a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. This will catch the crumbs and the glaze drips.

The glaze was simple. Using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer I combined melted butter (weird), orange juice, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. I poked holes all over the cake so it would absorb the glaze. Then I used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. It took and absorbed about five coats. I used all the glaze and you can scoop up the stuff from the bottom of the pan that drips off. I didn’t I was sticky enough.

I let it completely cool because in the video Claire and her mom talk about the odd dense section of the cake and Claire and her mom surmised it was from not letting the cake cool enough before cutting. I had let it cool 2 hours before we cut into it and I still got that strange dense section. It doesn’t affect the taste but it gives an appearance of an under baked cake. My advice is to let the cake sit overnight.

My daughter wanted you to know her review: It was good.

*Edmonton Tourist’s Note: I have made three more since this day. I have been baking treats for my parents lately because mom isn’t up to it and treats are nice. They both said it was the best cake they ever had – and it was Dad’s mom who was the famous grandma in this story – so that is high praise. I did let the cake sit over night and two things happened. It tasted better and there wasn’t that weird ‘under baked’ section of the cake. I also tried it in two loaf pans. This was smart. I froze one and ate one. It baked a little better in the loaf pan and I didn’t get the flour residue. Today I am trying orange blossom instead of almond – because dad want more.

So there you have it. It is one of those old timey cakes that grandmas used to serve for ‘coffee’. It was good – very moist and tender. One of the easiest cakes I have ever made not from a box. I will put the ingredients below because she shares them on her video.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups or 465g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp or 17g poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp or 6g baking powder
  • 1 tsp or 3g kosher salt
  • 3 cups or 390g AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups or 360g of whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cup or 288g of neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp of almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup or 90g of powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 57g orange juice
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Bake Club: Rhubarb Galettes

Back in the summer I asked facebook if anyone had an excess of rhubarb they were willing to share with me. I have a tiny new plant that doesn’t produce much yet. I love rhubarb, it tastes like summer to me and is basically a weed here on the Canadian prairies. A good friend had a bunch and my sister-in-law(SIL) said I could take some of hers.

I took both. My SIL said ‘What are you going to do with all this rhubarb?’ Obviously eat it. I froze two large bags. Last week I was thumbing through my Duchess Bakeshop book (tired of hearing about this book yet? You can buy it here.) and found Rhubarb Galettes on page 165.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and if I did – I am sure it would have been spectacular. But mine was delicious all the same.

I have three bundles of pie dough in my freezer. Each bundle makes a double crust or 24 tarts. This is my grandmother’s recipe I gave here in the Butter Tart recipe. It is one of the most forgiving, flakey crusts I have ever made. Plus I had enough and then some of rhubarb in my freezer. What I liked about this recipe was the method. The pretty rounds used for the galettes. Most instructions have rough edges or torn pieces to make to look very rustic. I prefer pretty edges.

I made the topping and set it aside:

  • 1/4 old-fashion rolled oats
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp of butter (I used salted because that is what is in the pantry)

Then I made the filling and set it aside:

  • 3 cups of fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 3 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

I had thawed the pie dough in the fridge the night before then rolled it out on a lightly floured surface. I measured a small plate and bowl to find a 6″ diameter and used it as a template to cut the circles. I got three circles on the first roll, combined the scraps and cut two more then combined the scraps for the sixth round. They are craggy but… whatever, so much for pretty. I placed them on a silpat liner because there was going to be leakage.

I used a 1/3 cup measure to divide the filling between the galette rounds. Then I pleated up the sides of the dough before I added the topping.

What I should have done was add the topping then pleat up the sides. I then baked them at 375F. What I should have done, was chill them for about 30 minutes so they would hold their shape better. Then apply an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. The rhubarb is tart and it needs a tad more sweetness to the crust. But overall these were delicious.

They kept a room temperature in a pie safe for three days. The family enjoyed them. The crust was crisp on day one, soft and flakey day two. I think I liked day two best. None of these turned out pretty like the photo in the book – or in her shop. That is why I think chilling the crust is key because I had a breach when the pie crust laid down to rest.

One day I am going to give Duchess pie crust a try. She uses a combo of vegetable shortening and butter. That makes me curious.

I think about this galette and the different possibilities for filling, like apple or berries. Something that gives you the taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Pain Au Chocolat

My daughter visited France while in high school. She confessed she ate pain au chocolat every day for breakfast. When in France….

Now that I could make croissants, I thought I would try pain au chocolat. Laminated pastry dough with high quality chocolate imbedded between the flakey layers. I follow the same six page instructions I used for croissants using Duchess Bake Shop cookbook. These did not disappoint.

Once all the layers were folded and chilled, I rolled out the dough and cut rectangles as directed.

At the bottom of each rectangle I placed chocolate. This is not the time or place to cheap out on chocolate. Buy the best quality of your favourite chocolate. I think next time I will use Jacek because it is my favourite. I cannot stress enough – use your favourite!

I rolled them up tight and let them rest overnight in the fridge.

I followed the same steps as the croissants, the following morning I placed a pan of hot tap water on the bottom of my oven and placed these pillowy delights on the second rack to rise for about two hours.

I brushed them with an egg and cream wash and sprinkled sugar over the top – I recommend this if you like sweeter pastry. Then baked them off for about 20 minutes.

The result? My daughter ate them for breakfast, thoroughly approving.

These were just as hard as the croissants I baked but equally as delicious and look at those layers! I have such a wonderful feeling of success after baking these! The Duchess Bake Shop cookbook is available here.

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Cookies

The hubs gave me Duchess Bake Shop cookbook for Christmas! If any of you are locals, you know how delicious Duchess is…and busy.

Apparently they have 300 people make baking purchases the first hour of any given Saturday, sometimes more when close to a holiday. At one point Duchess was named on of the top 10 bakeries in North America. Giselle Courteau knows what she is doing. We will go to the Duchess for birthday treats, Saturday strolls and sometimes just because.

As my baking skill increased over 2020, so did my desire to be challenged. Her baked goods remind me of some of the best patisseries in France. I have been wanting to try laminations for a while, who better to learn from? I decided to start simple and give White Chocolate Cherry Pistachio cookies a try. Longest name ever. I have had them in her shop and can tell you first hand how delicious they are. I do know mine will taste slightly different.

Why you ask? I don’t import my butter from France. It is the best dairy in the world, but it is expensive to do so – so, Canadian butter it is. I also make my own vanilla – its good – but it isn’t high end. My white chocolate is just chippits and the dried cherries are from Sobeys. The pistachios are leftover but frozen from Bulk Barn. Don’t get me wrong, these are very good cookies, just not as good as the could be. They are, however, affordable.

These are a basic butter cookie batter, the kind chocolate chip cookies are made from. If you search the internet you can find this recipe everywhere. But they are all slightly different.

  • 240g of flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg – room temperature
  • 1/3 cup white chocolate
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 roughly chopped dried cherries

Room temperature is important, things blend better. She also requests whipping the butter for 2 minutes before adding the sugar and egg. Then whipping those until light and fluffy. That makes a difference. She didn’t suggest hydrating but I did. I let the mixture sit for ten minutes. I find this makes a more pliable batter.

I whipped the wet ingredients using the stand mixer. I weighed and sifted the dry ingredients. I used my new mini Kitchen Aid food processor to chop the nuts (I am so grateful for this tool. I despise chopping nuts by hand!)

I combined everything then I used my 2″ ice cream scoop and did everything as directed. Can I just say, ever since I got my new 1 1/2″ ice cream scoop – I want to toss the others. I bought an Oxo before Christmas and wowza is makes scooping a dream. The other ones I have don’t release very well and it is frustrating. I am putting new scoopers on my Christmas list for next year. This is the one I am talking about. Oxo 2″scoop. Maybe its because it is new? But looking closer at it, the release is different. Mine bind.

After scooping I rolled to smooth them, then flattened with the palm of my hand to about an inch thick. I was supposed to get 18 but I only got 14. That’s fine, the are delicious. I baked them at 325F on my convection setting. I like that setting, I can bake two trays at once. BUT I needed to keep the cookies in 5 minutes longer. It said 15 minutes at 350F. But all ovens are different. Use your eyes and nose to determine if your cookies are ready to come out of the oven.

I don’t think these will last long in the cookie jar. Next I think I will give pain au chocolat. I am slightly nervous but it’s good to be challenged!

What is your favourite treat from the Duchess? Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: English Muffins

English Muffins

There was a lot of discussion at our house about Christmas brunch. We typically have some sort of egg dish. My daughter and hubs prefer a Benedict style fare. My daughter rather have regular bacon and the hubs likes back bacon (Canadian bacon to the rest of the world and no, we call it back bacon not Canadian because that is weird). My hubs like an English muffin base – very traditional and my daughter thinks they are dry and tasteless. They are, she isn’t wrong.

Then one day I was watching Stump Sohla, a series on the Babish Cinematic Universe (BCU). This series is a convoluted way to show off Sohla El-Wally’s unflappable skills. Babish makes her spin a wheel and she has to do what it says. This episode was a one-handed boozy brunch. She make an entire brunch with one hand. It was pretty amazing, but what caught my eye was how simple English muffins were to make. Well….”They look so easy to make!” said the hubs. I gave him an evil side eye and went back to watching. They did look fairly straight forward. It never occurred to me to make English muffins from scratch.

There isn’t a list of ingredients when you watch the video. I rewound it a few times and I came up with the following:

  • 200g of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of melted butter
  • 200 g of flour (this wasn’t enough for all the milk – I added another cup)

I whipped the egg with a fork and added to 200 g of milk. Then all the dry ingredients went in. I used instant yeast rather than blooming regular yeast. I didn’t warm the milk – I would have if I was using regular yeast. (warm the milk to 115F add the sugar and egg, give a mix then sprinkle the yeast over top and wait for it to bloom – get bubbly.)

I used my stand mixer with the dough hook. When it mixed it was just like pancake batter. This was never going to be a bread dough. So I added an other cup (almost) of flour and added it in slow additions until the dough was climbing up the hook and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. This took about five minutes. I greased a bowl, placed the dough in it and covered with a lid (damp towel, plastic wrap – whatever you use) and placed in the fridge over night.

By morning it had doubled in size. Letting is ferment overnight builds the flavour. I divided the dough into four pieces and dived each of those into 2 – to give me eight portions of equal size. (None of mine were equal, just putting that out there. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a curious gal who wants to be a really good baker.)

I took each ball of dough and (do not add flour) placed it under my palm. I made a claw with my hand and moved my hand in a clockwise motion with the ball rolling around my claw as if in a cage. (Does this even make sense?) It tightens up the protein strands to give a tight crumb. It is science people.

I dusted two fry pans with cornmeal and placed each dough ball on the meal to prove. I sprinkled more corn meal over top. Now. I didn’t use enough on one pan because the English muffin stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle generously.

I let them sit for about 30 minutes until they puffed up.

Place on the stove over medium/medium low heat and “fry” until brown on the bottom. This took about four minutes. Do not add oil. Just the cornmeal should be in the pan. Flip them once the bottom is brown and let the other side brown up. The internal temperature should read 200F. Get an instant read thermometer. IT IS THE BEST THING I EVER DID! I bought this one – I didn’t spend much and it has upped my baking and cooking game.

Let these pillowy puffs of delight cool on a wire rack. Split them with a fork and sample one to check for poison ( my dad always used that line on me. I thought he was saving my life, but he was just eating the extras because food is too delicious to share).

If you are wanting to complete the Eggs Benedict recipe. Molly Baz did a video that changed my life and turned poached eggs into a regular delicious occurrence in my home. Ina Garten does a hollandaise sauce that is perfection – my pal Laurie shared this secret with me. Thanks Laurie! Many links will lead you to Food Network and endless loops of crest commercials without actually allowing you to watch the video. Skip it and just read the easy recipe. My tolerance for crappy programmers is at an all time high this morning. So don’t mind me, I am burring my nose in Duchess Bakeshop cook book where I am learning the fine art of lamination. Stay tuned!

Stay healthy friends!