Olive Breadsticks, Revisited

I made a batch of these breadsticks a few months ago and yesterday I realized I was ready for a few more. These are great plain as snacks or with a nice marinara sauce for dipping or as a side with pasta. The slight tartness of the olives adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the bread. My problem is I eat too many.

These breadsticks are easy to make. The only tricky part is cutting, handling and shaping the slack dough. After rising, the dough is soft, sticky and wet. Use a LOT of flour Breadsticks2on your work table and generously dust the top of the dough before you gently form it into a rough rectangle about 16″ x 14″. Cut the rectangle in half (two 7″ smaller rectangles) then cut each of those into about 1″ strips, avoiding dissecting any olives. Use your bench knife and separate the first strip by flicking it onto the flour next to the dough rectangle. Pick it up with flour dusted fingers, place on the parchment-lined baking sheet and stretch it to about 10″ and try to straighten. I was not totally successful in straightening the breadsticks, but it doesn’t hurt the flavor.

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Wascally Easter Wabbit

It’s always fun when Easter and Passover coincide. This doesn’t happen as often as you might imagine, and this non-coincidelitization is not by accident. In 325 CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after first day of spring unless the full moon is on Sunday when Easter is delayed by 1 week. Passover commences on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts for either seven or eight days depending on the Jewish tradition being observed. The Jewish month is lunar based and varies substantially from the Gregorian calendar. I know, TMI. Anyway, this decreases the chances of Easter falling on the same day as Passover, but doesn’t eliminate it, as in this year. Following the Jewish Passover dietary restrictions for the 8 days of Pesach (which I don’t; The first two days are enough for me) while preparing desserts for Easter is… interesting.

Several years ago I purchased a Wilton Egg Mold to make an M&M cake for Robin’s birthday and a football for another party, and now an Easter egg cake. This mold creates perfect egg shaped cakes, but has some challenges. The mold measures 9″x6″x6″ which means you need to time the bake for a 6″ deep cake, but the ends are thinner so don’t over bake and burn the ends. I found doubling the baking time is about right, i.e. 60 minutes for a recipe for a standard 2″ deep pan calling for 30 min.

Another problem is sealing the two halves during the bake. The chocolate cake recipe I prefer adds a cup of boiling water just prior to pouring. This makes a very low viscosity batter which is easy to spill, hence you don’t want to move the mold after it is filled. Mold with stringTying the two mold halves together without sloshing batter is a challenge. I place the string across the oval stand prior to placing the empty mold on it. The mold should be filled to the top rim with batter. Thus far, doing this assured the top half is filled with cake. I Egg Mold with Clipsthen place the top half on and tie the string around both. This time I also added 5 paper binder clips positioned around the edge of theEgg Mold two molds. (I would use 7-10 clips, if I had them.) Do place the mold on a cookie sheet to catch spills and choose one that does not warp in the heat.

If there is little leakage, and the bake is properly timed, and you coated the molds with release spray you should end up with a beautiful Peanut M&M – Football – Easter Egg – shaped cake. A couple of other hints with this mold: remove the top half 5 minutes after removing the cake from the oven, Chocolate Cakethen remove the cake from the bottom mold 5 minutes later. You may have to shake the pan slightly for the cake to release. Cool on a rack.

For Grace’s 1st birthday I am making a cake for  about 100 people. I want this to be a smooth surface (i.e. fondant) but dislike store bought fondant. This weekend I made a Fondant Covered Chocolate cakebatch of marshmallow frosting to try it on the Easter egg cake. It was easy to make, roll and drape. While intensely sweet (read: marshmallow and confectioners sugar) it tasted much better than store bought, plus it cuts easily to make decorations. This fondant may be flavored, but will be very sweet no matter what flavor. This fondant is smooth and soft, IMG_0025easy to drape and form. The pink band around the cake is a band of colored fondant, wetted and wrapped around the cake.

I wanted the second cake to be a chocolate covered egg with lots of colored royal icing decoration. I envisioned a chocolate egg, like the hollow chocolate eggs you buy in the market for Easter. Alas, my tempered chocolate set to quickly and would not pour over the crumb coated cake. I had to spread it as quickly as possible, but was not quick enough. It was too thick and lumpy.  If anyone has suggestions to remedy this I would appreciate your input. The Finished Tempured Chocolate Yellow Cakepiping is all buttercream, both white and colored. I was going to make buttercream roses for the toppers, but by the time I finished the rest, my hand was cramping and decided simple dropped flowers (Wilton #193 tip) would suffice. I added the jelly beans for some additional color, they probably weren’t needed but we like jelly beans.

At the end of the meal there was 1/3rd of the white frosted cake left, a 1/4 of the chocolate and almost none of the outstanding carrot cake Fran made. Both 9″ tarts (one creme patisserie/fruit and one chocolate/orange) were left. Not a bad effort for 20 adults.

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Yellow Cake

  • 4 1/2 cups (570g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup (460g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 3/4 cups (700g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 cup (480ml) whole milk, at room temperature

Buttercream

  • 4 cups of powdered sugar (or 1 box)
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) of softened butter
  • 1/4 cup meringue powder to make a crusting frosting
  • 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons of milk
  • Violet food coloring (a little of this will make the frosting white, not yellow from the butter coloring. Just a little on the end of a tooth pick is enough)

Marshmallow Fondant

  • 500 g marshmallows
  • 1000 g confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp white vanilla
  • 2-3 Tbl water

Tempered Chocolate

  • Scharffen Berger Semi-Sweet Dark Chocolate (I like this brand but any would do)

METHOD

Chocolate Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray both halves of the egg mold.
  2. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour to fill the bottom mold to the brim.
  3. Bake for 60 minutes in the preheated oven. (Bake time make take some experimentation)  Cool for 5 minutes before removing the top half and another 5 minutes before rolling the cake on a rack to cool completely.

Yellow Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray both halves of the egg mold.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3 full minutes until creamed together. The mixture should be a light yellow color. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition until both are mixed in. On high speed, beat in the vanilla extract and sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternating with the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  4. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it out into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 60 minutes in the preheated oven. (Bake time make take some experimentation)  Cool for 5 minutes before removing the top half and another 5 minutes before rolling the cake on a rack to cool completely.

Buttercream

  1. Add powdered sugar and meringue powder to mixing bowl.
  2. Add softened sticks of butter
  3. Add vanilla. If you want white buttercream use clear imitation vanilla.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of milk.
  5. Beat on low until powdered sugar is incorporated. Then move mixer up to medium-high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When completely mixed the frosting may appear dry.
  6. Add more milk, a little bit at a time until frosting is the proper consistency.
  7. Again, for white frosting now add a little violet food coloring. I use the end of a toothpick and add just a little at a time. Mix thoroughly.

Marshmallow Fondant

  1. Grease (well with Crisco or equivalent) a heat proof microwavable bowl
  2. Place marshmallow in the bowl and sprinkle 2-3 Tbl water over the marshmallows
  3. Heat in a microwave in 30 second increments until the marshmallow is melted and smooth. Don’t overcook and burn.
  4. Grease (well) dough hook and stand mixer bowl and add melted marshmallow.
  5. Add confectioners sugar a cup at a time and stir on medium until incorporated.
  6. Add the vanilla during one of the sugar additions.
  7. Reserve about a cup of sugar to use during hand kneading
  8. Grease (well) your workspace and hands and turn the fondant out.
  9. Cover with sugar and begin kneading, adding more sugar as necessary until the fondant is smooth and not sticky.
  10. Use a greased rolling pin and roll the fondant out to required size. For this cake I rolled it out to about 18″ x 14″. It was easy to pick up and drape over the cake.

Tempered Chocolate

  1. Cut 1 lb of chocolate into small pieces (or pulse in a food processor)
  2. Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl over simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water.)
  3. Heat the chocolate while stirring until melted, continue heating to 120 deg
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat (dry the bottom of the bowl. Any water will cause the chocolate to seize.)
  5. When the chocolate cools to 82 deg, place back on the heat and heat to 90 deg.
  6. Pour the liquid chocolate over the cake. This will cool the chocolate and make it set into a thin crust. My problem was I let the chocolate cool too much before trying to pour. Next time I will leave the bowl on the hot water and remove both from the heat. Hopefully this will keep the chocolate thin enough to pour. If anyone has suggestions I would appreciate them.

Tart vs. Prostitute

I decided to make a new dessert for Passover this year. Of course, leavening agents, such as flour, yeast etc are prohibited from Passover foods, so the chocolate/orange tart I was considering was out… or was it?

My research into Passover prohibitions and tarts logically led me to a discussion of the difference between tarts and prostitutes. Using the Wiki dictionary (the source of all truths) I find the word prostitute, as a verb, is to use one’s talents in return for money, or fame, or perhaps a few nights lodging, whereas a tart, as a noun, is a small open pie, or piece of pastry. Dictionaries are like statistics: what do you want them to say?

This research actually stemmed from looking at the story of Solomon deciding which woman was the real mother by offering to split the child with his sword and giving half to each woman. The women were actually prostitutes, but their profession was either superfluous to the story, and Solomon’s decision, or not, depending on the interpretation. And, of course, as usual in midrash, there are many more opinions than “opinioners.”

I find it interesting that a judge can rule on a case 3000 years ago by purely considering the facts of the case and not the legal standing of the two women. Some say wisdom began flowing from his mouth when he threatened to cut the child in half. Today so many people with questionable legal standing are unable to appeal to the legal establishment for fear of reprisal due not to the injury they may have sustained but rather for the superfluous state of their resident status. And therefore, so often judgement is rendered without any wisdom present.Almond Flour Tart Shell

Anyway, I decided an almond flour tart shell with chocolate mousse and orange zest swirl is appropriate and fitting for our Passover this year. I made a shell to be confident it would have the taste and texture required, and it did. It doesn’t roll our like a standard AP flour
dough, but can be formed into the tart shell by hand and pastry weights should keep the shape well enough to form the final tart. Because there is less binding agent in almond flour, I doubled the amount of egg.  I will probably increase the almond flour content by 25-50% to make the dough easier to handle and hopefully a little more pastry-like. The chocolate and orange ingredients are allowed anyway, substituting almond flour for AP flour where appropriate.

Please pass over me when the gefilte fish is served!

INGREDIENTS

For the Tart Shell

  • 100 g cold butter cut into small cubes
  • 200 g almond flour (I may increase this by 50g, not sure yet)
  • 60 g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (100g)

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 75g butter
  • 115g dark chocolate (no more than 60% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 55g almond flour
  • 4 medium eggs

For the Orange Filling

  • 25g butter
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 1 orange, finely grated zest only
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 25g almond flour
  • 2 medium egg yolks

METHOD

Tart Shell

  1. Mix butter with sugar (I break up the chunks of butter by rubbing them into the sugar with my hands)
  2. Add salt then vanilla
  3. Add egg and mix well
  4. Stir in flour. Mix by hand until incorporated. I did this in 3 parts mixing well between each.
  5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 min until it firms up a bit.
  6. Butter (spray) tartlet pan
  7. Coat hands with flour and press the sticky dough into tart mold
  8. Prick holes in bottom and sides of formed dough
  9. Add pastry weights to the pan
  10. Bake in preheated oven 350o F (175o C) for 17 – 20 min
    1. Remove pastry weights with 5 min left in the bake
    2. Remove pastry shells from pans and let cool on wire rack

Chocolate Filling

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until melted and smooth.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and flour.
  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and leave to stand.

Orange Filling

  1. Melt the butter and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until melted and smooth.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest, sugar and flour.
  3. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time and pour the mixture into a bowl.

Assemble and Bake the Tart

  1. Place the tart shell on a baking tray.
  2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the shell.
  3. Drizzle or pipe the orange filling over the chocolate filling to create a swirl effect.
  4. Draw a tooth stick through the filling to create a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just set around the edges, but still slightly wobbly in the centre.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, until warm but not piping hot, then serve. It is actually very good cold also.

WTF! (What The Fig!)

For Purim this year I made and donated 4 dozen hamantaschen to our California temple for their bake sale. I really, Really, REALLY liked the fig variety and knew there must be another place to use that fig purée.  I was considering homemade Fig Newtons®, but those cookies are available in those so-convenient two serving packages I thought, why try to copy perfection? I mean, artists copy Renoirs to hone their artistic skills, but only as an exercise… for practice… right? How could I chance trying to improve my baking skills and thereby perhaps plagiarize perfection?

I thought a fig-filled/short-bread cookie might Fig Shortbread Cookie 3be a good combination. The slight snap of this buttery cookie and the sweet/tartness of the fig pureé should pair well.  

I was right, but the first batch had a minor problem.  I tried to roll the shortbread dough thinner than usual for cookies, but it still ended up too thick. I rolled them directly on the parchment paper covered cookie sheet thinking they would be too fragile to move after cutting. I chickened out and still left them about 2x too thick, much like leaving your birdie putt short. (NEVER leave your birdie putt short!) By making the cookie thick, the buttery flavor of the cookie overpowered the fig flavor, so I added additional fig filling for each cookie. (What a shame.) When biting the cookie, the filling squeezes out the sides of the cookie and has to be licked off. (What a shame.)

Shortbread Cookie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

METHOD

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter, powdered sugar and vanilla with spoon. Stir in flour. (If dough is crumbly, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened.)
  2. Roll dough ¼” (or less if you can) thick on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Cut into small shapes and remove the excess, combine and roll out again, and again.
  3. Bake 10 to 16 minutes (depending on thickness of the cookie) or until set and bottoms are light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. I like to slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheet with all the cookies still attached, let cool until cookies release from the paper and leave on the wire rack until cool.

Fig Filling

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ scant cups chopped, stemmed, dried black figs (about 9 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) pomegranate juice
  • ⅓ cup (66 grams) sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 star anise, or ¼ tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 cup water

METHOD

  1. In a saucepan, combine the figs, juice, sugar, zest, star anise (or fennel), and 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Simmer over low heat until the figs are softened and the liquid is syrupy and is reduced to about ½ cup.
  3. Let the figs cool in their syrup, then puree in a food processor until smooth. [If you dislike the taste of star anise, you should remove it before pureeing, but if you do, leave it in.