Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jason's Graduation Cake

After a few starts and stops my nephew received his BS in Computer Science.  Way to go, Jason....

His cake was pretty simple in comparison to other cakes I've attempted.  The only thing that gave me trouble with the cap on top of the cake.  I just couldn't get it to look right.  I used a muffin to make the cap and it just wasn't the right shape.  I guess I should have used some rice crispy treats.



So congrats, Jason.  You DID IT!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

OEOO Stop #1 - Argentinian Alfajores

I was getting a little tired of baking the same stuff over and over again, so I decided to add a little international flare to my baking repertoire.  I'm calling my series "One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure", and ultimately I would like to bake a famous dessert from each of the countries on Earth.

According to the US Department of State (as of April 16, 2016), there are 205 recognized countries on Earth.  Alphabetically, Afghanistan is the first on the list and Zimbabwe is last; with 203 other places sandwiched in between.  That is a lot of territory to cover, so lets start baking.  I'm not going in an particular order and I just want to bounce around the list as an interesting recipe catches my eye.

First to be baked on my One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure is the:

Argentinian Alfajores 


Now what is an Alfajores?  Well, after baking it I can tell you it is something like a very tender, shortbread or sugar cookie that is slathered with dulce de leche and stacked to make a sandwich.  The cookie part of the alfajores is soft and it little bit crumbly.  It is tender and delicate, and simply melts in your mouth.  The recipe I used also included lime zest so the cookie had a mild, citrus-y tang.   And the dulce de leche filling --- Wow.  Dulce de leche is similar in taste to soft caramel and it is pure heaven.  Finally to complete the melody of flavors, the alfajores are rolled in sweetened coconut. 






And the secret to the tender texture of the cookie, and what makes it different from shortbread or sugar or sandies, is a huge amount of cornstarch in the dough. Yep cornstarch.  Now I've used cornstarch by the tablespoon before, but this recipe uses it by the cupful!  The copious amount of cornstarch actually gives the cookie an odd kind of dry taste.  It is not unpleasant, just different.  And if the cookies are allowed to sit overnight, the cookie will start to draw moisture and flavors from the dulce de leche into the cookie itself.

So the cookie dough starts with sugar and soft butter that is cream till it is almost white in color (5-10 minutes), and then egg yolks, vanilla, and lime zest is added.





Next the mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder is added all at once.  It will take 5-10 minutes for the ingredients to fully combine, so don't get discouraged and think that something is messed up.  In the end the dough will look a little crumbly, but it will stick together when you roll it out. 





Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  I split the dough into thirds and rolled it between two pieces of parchment paper.  If you use the parchment paper you don't need to flour the surface to keep the dough from sticking.  If you look closely at the picture below you will see the little flecks of lime zest.



Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.  Watch them closely and don't allow them to brown.   The cookies don't spread much, so you can place them close together on the cookie sheet.  Once they are cool, filling with the dulce de leche.  You can make your own dulce de leche by simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath for a few hours, but at Wally-World the can of Nestle la Lechera was just 50 cents more than a can of condensed milk so I just took the easy route.

I used a star tip to pipe the filling onto the cookies.  As you can see I was pretty skimpy with the dulce de leche.  Next time I will use LOTS more filling.  The filling really makes the cookie.




And as a final step, the cookie is rolled in coconut. 




I also rolled some in nuts and also dipped some in melted chocolate and then sprinkled with nuts and coconut.  You can make these things as fancy or as plain as you want.

So what do you think of these Argentinian Alfajores??  Pretty sweet, huh?  I think this baking adventure is going to be a lot of fun -- and a little fattening...

Happy Baking,

Carol



Argentinian Alfajores

(adapted from Cooking with Books)

Ingredients


250 grams All-purpose Flour ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
250 grams Cornstarch ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
225 grams Unsalted Butter, softened ( 2 sticks)
150 grams granulated sugar (approximately 2/3 cup)
3 Large Egg Yolks
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
13 oz can Dulce de leche
1/2 cup Coconut, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Cream the softened butter and  sugar until very pale in color (approximately 5 minutes).
  4. Add egg yolks, vanilla and line zest, to the butter/sugar and mix until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix until completely incorporated (5-10 minutes).
  6. Divide the dough into thirds, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick, and then cut out using a circle cookie cutter.
  7. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The cookies don't spread very much so you can put them close together.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Don't let them brown.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before filling.
  10. Pipe the dulce de leche on the top of a cookie, and make sure you pipe close to the edge.  Place a second cookie on top of the piped dulce de leche and gently press the two cookies together.  You want the dulce de leche to squeeze slightly from between the cookies so the coconut can stick.
  11. Roll the cookie in shredded coconut allowing the coconut to stick to the exposed dulce de leche.
  12. Store in an airtight container.





Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seven Flavor Scones - Going wild with extracts

Have you ever wondered what a cake would tasted like if you added every extract in your pantry to the mix?  Would it be good? Bad? Or would it smell like heaven on earth?

I first tried this melding of flavors in the famous Five/Seven Flavor Pound Cake, and it was fabulous.  Rather than fighting against each other, the extracts combined into a fragrant symphony. I even converted my favorite pound cake recipes into a five flavor masterpiece.

Then I got the bright idea of making a Seven Flavor Scone, and you know, it turn out pretty tasty.


This particular scone recipe is the light, fluffy variety, almost cake-like in its texture, and I used seven different extracts in the dough.  The original Five Flavor recipe called for rum extract, but my rum extract had expired so I used two types of vanilla.  I also reduced the amount of coconut and pineapple extract jut because the coconut can overpower the other flavors and I didn't want my scones to taste too tropical.


Just out of the oven they are puffy and tender and nicely brown.  And when you lift the scone to your mouth you get a whiff of different aromas that both confuse and intrigue.  Does it smell like almond or vanilla or something citrus-y?  It reminds me of a bouquet of flowers.  Each flower has its own scent and together the various aromas smell heavenly.



So if you have lots of different extracts in your pantry - give this light fluffy Seven Flavor Scone a try. 

Happy Baking,

Carol



Seven Flavor Scones

(adapted from Dorrie Greenspan's Cream Scones)

Ingredients


2/3 cup heavy cream, cold
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon extract and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon butter flavor
1/4 teaspoon  coconut extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pineapple extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon rum extract (optional)

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used White Lily)
2-6 tablespoons granulated sugar (use 2-6 tablespoons depending on how sweet you like your scones - I like them sweet so I use 6)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces and chilled

2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling on top of the unbaked scones (optional)

Directions

  1. Center rack in oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and place in freezer to chill.
  3. Using a fork stir the egg into the cream and then add all the desired extracts and the lemon juice.  The lemon juice will activate the backing soda and give the scones more lift and airiness.  Place the cream mixture in the refrigerator to keep it chilled.
  4. Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Drop in the chilled butter and use your fingers to break up and coat the pieces with flour. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture is pebbly. 
  6. Reserve 1  tablespoon of the cream mixture.  This will be brushed onto the top of the scones before baking.
  7. Pour the remaining cream mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together.  Use a spatula to turn the dough 8 or 10 times.  It will be wet and sticky.
  8. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.  Divide the dough in half.
  9. Working with half of the dough at a time gently flatten the ball and fold the flatten disk in half.  Turn the dough disk 1/4 turn.  Flatten the dough again and then fold in half.  Turn the dough and flatten and fold again.  You want to fold the dough a total of three times.  This folding action will help the dough rise.   Perform the same folding method with the second half of the dough.
  10. After the final fold, pat the dough into a rough 5 inch circle.  Cut into six wedges.
  11. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough with the reserved cream mixture, and then sprinkle with the coarse sanding sugar.  Note: at this point the dough can be frozen and baked at a later time.
  12. Transfer the dough to a baking stone or pan, and gently separate the wedges.  
  13. Bake the scones for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden and firm.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.  If baking from a frozen state, add 2 minutes to the baking time.





Monday, March 28, 2016

Chocolate Biscuit Cake - Third time's the charm

I ran across a recipe for Chocolate Biscuit Cake and I had to pause...

Chocolate covered biscuits? An image of chocolate dipped Pillsbury Grand Biscuits popped into my head. I thought about it for a second and finally shook my head. I couldn’t imagine steaming, flaky, buttermilk pillows coated with chocolate.

Then I had a DUH moment. The recipe was talking about British “biscuits” and not American “biscuits”. (A British biscuit is more like a church American cookie.) I mentally replaced biscuits with cookies and started to drool. I love chocolate, I love cookies, so the thought of the two combined into a cake was like something out of a dream.


I ducked into my pantry and finding all the ingredients on hand I decided to whip one up… and 24 hours later I had something resembling a sad, lumpy, lopsided Chocolate Biscuit Cake.

First off, the actors in this tragedy…



The original recipe called for biscuit cookies such as Burton’s or McVitie’s. I’ve never heard of those brands so I used some packets of Lorna Doone cookies that were left over from Halloween. I also didn’t want to experiment on a full size cake so I cut the recipe in half.

So first step was to line a mini load pan with plastic wrap, and then prepare the chocolate ganache for the cake.

Pour a thin layer of ganache into the pan.


And then top the melted chocolate with a layer of cookies. I wanted a high ratio of cookies to chocolate so I broke up the Lorna Doones and fitted the pieces into every available space.


Next pour a layer of chocolate on top of the cookies, and then more cookies. Continuing layering until you run out of chocolate or space in the pan. Loosely fold the ends of the plastic wrap over the cake and refrigerate for 4 hours.


Once the cake is set, remove it from the pan, unwrap and remove the plastic wrap, and place it top side down on a wire rack.


Next melt the chocolate for the cake’s outer coating. The original recipe called for a dark chocolate ganache coating, but I decided to try white chocolate instead. I though the color contrast would give the cake a little more visual pop.


And, sadly, this is where I ran into trouble. My ganache just wasn’t soft enough so I ended up spreading it on the cake like frosting.  Not pretty.  Refrigerate the unwrapped cake for at least 12 hours. 

When the chocolate is set, cut into 1/4” slices and serve…


Or try to serve.   When I tried to serve the cake problem #2 emerged.  Sadly as the cake started to thaw, I found that the bottom stuck to the plate. Very messy, and the brown slick left on the plate wasn’t very appealing. Taste-wise this Chocolate Biscuit Cake was pretty good but not great. The Lorna Doone cookies weren’t as rich and tasty as I had hoped, and the chocolate kind-of overpowered the cookies. So I decided to try the cake again and this time I decided to use some of my favorite tea cookies: Walker’s Pure Butter Shortbread.


So same process: layer of chocolate followed by layer of cookies.

But when I got to the final layer I realized I didn’t have room for another layer of the ultra-thick Walker cookies so for the final layer I used some left-over Lorna Doones.  And to solve the sticky cake bottom situation I crumbled up some Lorna Doones and gently pressed them into the liquid chocolate.


After allow the cake to chill for four hours, the final step was the white chocolate ganache. This time I decided to try Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers, but again I messed up because the Ghirardelli white chocolate just wasn’t thin enough to flow smoothly. (I really need to stop trying shortcuts and make a truly flow-able chocolate ganache.)


So my second attempt at the Chocolate Biscuit Cake solved one problem, but introduced two new problems. The cookie crumb base I added to the cake worked out great; it kept the cake from sticking to the platter and made it easy to serve. But using the Walker cookies didn’t work out so well. The cookies were much too thick to cut with a fork, so my taste testers had to hold the cake in their fingers and bite out big chunks with their teeth. – Not very genteel-looking as you can imagine.

The Ghirardelli wafers were also a bust. After refrigeration the coating was too thick and brittle so it shattered into pieces as I cut the cake. It was messy. Very messy.

So for my third attempt I went back to the Lorna Doone cookies, I used the cookie crumble base, and I (finally) used a pourable white chocolate ganache.   But I still wasn't satisfied with the look of the white ganache because this time I made it too thin.


So after the white chocolate ganache chilled for a few hours, I melted more of the Ghirardelli wafers and used a knife to spread it on like frosting.

In the end I learned to appreciate the chunky, rustic look of the cake, and because this time the Ghirardelli layer wasn't super thick t seemed to slice without breaking and shattering.



So the third time was kind-of, sort-of a success.  And everyone who tasted it loved it!  It turned out to be a great Easter dessert.





Happy Baking,

Carol





Chocolate Biscuit Cookie Cake


(adapted from Tea Time Magazine’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake)

Ingredients


4-5 oz Lorna Doone cookies (or other English-style tea biscuit cookies)

6 oz milk chocolate morsels

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



White Chocolate Ganache

4 oz white chocolate morsels

3-1/2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

and/or

Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers


Directions


Line a mini loaf pan with plastic wrap and set aside. I used a 5-1/2 x 3-1/4 inch pan.

Place milk chocolate morsels in a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Place 1/3 cup cream and 1/2 tablespoon butter in a bowl and microwave until hot but not boiling. Pour over milk chocolate morsels. Let sit for 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, and then stir until the morsels are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour just enough melted chocolate mixture to coat the bottom of the pan. Layer whole cookies on top of the chocolate. Use broken pieces of cookie to fill in any large gaps. Pour another layer of melted chocolate. Continue layering until the pan is full. End with a layer of chocolate.

Crumble about 4 cookies, and scatter the crumbs on top of the last layer of chocolate.

Cover the crumb layer with the tails of the plastic wrap and gently press the crumbs into the melted chocolate.

Refrigerate in pan until the chocolate is hard, approximately 4 hours.

Remove cake from pan, uncover the cookie crumb base, and place crumb side down on a wire rack. Place rack on a baking sheet covered in some parchment paper. Completely remove the plastic wrap from the cake.

Place white chocolate morsels in a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Place cream and butter in a bowl and microwave until hot but not boiling. Pour over white chocolate morsels. Let sit for 1 minute, and then stir until the morsels are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the White Chocolate Ganache over the top of the cake allowing the ganache to drip down the side. Use an offset spatula to smooth the ganache over the cake.

Refrigerate, uncovered for at least 12 hours before serving.

If also using the Ghirardelli White Melting Wafers allow the white chocolate ganache to chill for 4 hours before adding the melted wafers.

To serve use a sharp, un-serrated knife and cut into 1/4 inch slices. When cutting press down with the knife rather than sawing.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sky Scraper Scone - The Power of the Fold

By George, I think I've got it !!



For the last few weeks I've been searching for my perfect scone recipe.  In my mind the perfect scone is light and fluffy with just a touch of sweetness.  And it has to be high.  A mile high at least.  I've tried countless recipes with varying degrees of success, but today I think I found "THE ONE".

How about it?  Does it look right?  Measuring in at 2-1/4" high these babies are sky scrapers.  And do you know the secret?  Well the secret is in the folds -- but more on that later.





The recipe I used (with a few modifications) is from the BBC's Good Food site.  The recipe is called Classic Scones and was submitted by Jane Hornby.  Here is a link to the original article and recipe.

The recipe has some interesting twists, and was a great learning experience.

My modified recipe (along with some tips and tricks) is at the bottom of this page, and here is the step-by-step process...

First combine the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt.  I always weigh my flour because it's more accurate.  Depending on how sifted the flour is, the 350 g that the recipe calls for can be anywhere from 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups.  This will make a big difference in the consistency of the finished dough.  So weigh the flour and then sift.  And sift the flour a few times.  The sifting adds air into the flour and will make your scones lighter and fluffier.  You can buy all kinds of fancy flour sifters but I just use a regular food strainer.

After the flour is ready, the recipe says to rub in the butter.  I have hot little hands that will melt butter in seconds, so I've been experimenting with alternative methods.  I've tried grating frozen butter into the flour, and while this works great, it is messy and a lot of butter lost on the grater.  I tried using a food processor, but again too much mess.  So now I just cut the frozen butter into teeny tiny pieces.  It doesn't take long to cube it up, and the process is kinda of zen-like and soothing. After I cut up the frozen butter I put it back into the freezer until I need to mix it with the flour.


After I dump the butter cubes into the flour I use a pastry knife/blender to combine the two together.  And because the butter is cut into such tiny pieces it doesn't take long to blend and consequently doesn't have time to soften.


One of the interesting twists about the BBC/Jane Hornby recipe is that it calls for warm milk and a touch of vanilla extract.  Another twist is that it uses lemon juice which essentially turns the whole milk into buttermilk.  The milk is warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then the vanilla and lemon juice is added.  And don't worry if your milk looks lumpy after adding the lemon juice.  It is supposed to do that.  Note: I was only making a half batch when I took the picture below, so that is why the volume of milk doesn't match the recipe, and yes, a half batch does work just fine.  And how do you like my nifty milliliter measuring cup?  Because I was testing so many British recipes that use metric units, I broke down a bought a measuring cup that had small milliliters divisions on it.  It also has tablespoons, teaspoons and cups measuring lines which is very handy. 


After the butter is cut into the flour, you form a well in the center and pour the milk mixture into the hole.



 Using a fork, flick the flour up and into the milk.  Turn the bowl as you flick more flour into the milk.


In a few seconds everything is combined.  It is a little sticky, but not wet.



The dough gets dumped onto a floured surface, and then patted into a ball.




Flip the ball over... and here is the secret to the Sky High rise of the scones.  --- Fold the dough over 3 times.   And by fold I mean gently flatten the dough and fold it into thirds.  Flip the dough over, flatten, and then fold.  Do this three times.  Honestly this is the secret to sky high scones. 






After the final fold pat the dough to 1" in height, and then cut out the scones using a 2 1/2"  round cutter.  When you cut out the scones push the cutter straight down and don't twist.  Twisting the cutter will stop the scones from rising to their full potential.  Also don't try to scrimp and overlap the cut edge of one scone with the cut edge of another scone.  If you cut a section of the dough twice, the double crimping will prevent that portion of the scone from rising as much as the rest of the scone.

So do you believe that simply folding of the dough will dramatically increase the height of the scones?  Well I didn't believe it either so I decided to do a test....  After I made the dough I cut it in half.  One half I didn't fold.  I simply patted it flat and cut out my scones.  With the other half of the dough I folded three times before I cut out the scones.  Below are the unbaked scones.  The four on the left are the folded dough and the four on the right are the unfolded.  As you can see they are all about 1" thick unbaked.  The lumpy, things in the front are just the scraps of dough wadded into a pile that kind of, sort-of look like a pile of dog poo.  Sorry.





And here they are just out of the oven.  Look at the difference!!!  Same dough, same pan, same oven temperature.  There was about a 4 minute difference between when the unfolded and folded dough was cut out, but I don't think just 4 minutes would make that much of a difference.  Would it???




So, scones made from the folded dough ...


And unfolded ...





So if you want sky-high scones remember to fold...



Oh, here is another recently learned tip for getting sky-high scones.  You need to use a general purpose flour that is a little "hard".  After testing a few different flours I settled on Gold Medal Self Rising flour.  The slightly higher protein content in the hard flour allows more gluten to form which in turn allows the scone to rise higher.  But don't go overboard and use bread flour (which is very high in protein) because this will make the scones too tough.  Conversely, "soft", cake-like flours like White Lily or Martha White will give you a tender scone, but the lack of protein will cause the scones to spread OUT rather than up.  So soft flours will give you flat, wide scones, hard flours will give you tall, slender scones.

So here is my new favorite scone recipes.  I call it...   Sky-High Scones.



Happy Baking,

Carol 



Sky-High Scones  (make 8-10 depending on the size)
(Adapted from Jane Hornby's Classic Scones with Jam & Clotted Cream)

Ingredients

350g  (~2 1/2+ cups) Gold Medal self-rising flour, plus more for dusting (see tips 1,2,& 3)

1 tsp baking powder  (yes, add more baking powder to the self-rising flour)

1/4 tsp salt  (yes, add more salt to the self-rising flour)

1/4 tsp baking soda (yes, add more baking soda to the self-rising flour)

6 TBLS / 85g frozen, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

4 TBLS white granulated sugar (optional – if you want savory scones skip the sugar)

185ml (3/4-7/8 cup) whole milk, plus more if needed

2 tsp lemon juice (see tip 4)

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional – if you want savory scones skip the vanilla)

1 egg, beaten for glazing (optional) 

Coarse sparkling sugar to garnish (optional)


Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Do not get the milk hot, you just want it warm.

Add the vanilla and lemon juice to the milk.  (see tip 4)  Set milk mixture aside.

Whisk the self-rising flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together, and then sift the flour mixture twice (see tip 5).  I always weigh my flour because it is more accurate.  Depending on how sifted the flour is, 350 g can be anywhere from 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups.

Whisk the sugar into the flour mixture.

Add the butter and using your fingers or a pastry knife/blender work the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs.

Make a well in the flour and pour the milk mixture into the hole.  Using a fork flick the flour towards the center and on top of the milk.  Turn the bowl as you continue to combine the flour and liquid.  Work lightly and quickly and don’t over mix the dough.  Over mixing will create tough scones.  The dough needs to be a little wet and sticky.  If it looks too dry add a little more milk (6).

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat and place in the oven to warm.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and tip the dough out.  Lightly flour your hands, and gently pat the dough down.  Fold the fold into thirds.  Flip the dough over and rotate 1/4 turn.  Pat the dough flat again and fold into thirds.  Flip over, rotate and fold a third time. (7)

After the final folding, pat the dough to 1 inch thickness.

Remove the warmed baking sheet from the oven (13).

Using a 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 inch smooth-edge circle cutter, plunge the cutter into the dough and then pull it straight out.  Do not twist the cutter, push it straight in and pull straight out. (8,9)  You can reform the scraps of dough and cut more scones or you can just bake the dough scraps as is.

Turn the cut scone dough upside down (10), and place on the warmed baking sheet.

Using your thumb push a small dimple or depression into the top of the scone (11).

Brush the top of the scone with milk or egg wash, being careful not to let any milk drip down the side (12).

If you want the sides of the scones to be soft, crowd the dough circles together.  If you want the sides to be crispy, keep the dough circles 2 inches apart. (14)

Bake for 15 minutes until golden on the top.



Tips & Tricks for Sky-High Scones

(1) – I’ve tried this recipe with several flours (White Lily, Marth White, Gold Medal) and it seems to work best with Self-Rising Gold Medal flour.  Gold Medal has a little higher percentage of protein which allows the scone to rise higher but still has a tender crumb.

(2) – Self-Rising vs All purpose.  Self-rising gives more consistent rise because the raising agents are more thoroughly mixed with the flour. Self-rising gives better results.

(3) –If you don’t have self-rising you can use All Purpose and just add the appropriate amounts of baking powder and salt.  To make 1 cup of self-rising flour add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp table salt to 1 cup of AP flour.

(4) – The lemon juice sours the milk slightly and turns the whole milk into buttermilk.  The slightly acidic mix also gives a boost to the raising agents in the baking powder and baking soda.

(5) – Sifting the multiple times will aerate the flour and give a lighter, fluffier scone.

(6) – Scone dough needs to be a little sticky.  Wet is good.  If you are having trouble cutting out the scones, dip the cutter into flour, shake off the excess, and then cut out the scone.

(7) – Fold the scone dough to give the baked scone more height.  The folds will trap air and moisture inside the dough which will expand when heated in the oven.

(8) – Smooth-edge cutters cut cleaner which in turn allows the scones to rise higher.  When cutting the scones push down and pull up the cutter without twisting the cutter.  The cleaner the cut, the more the scones will rise.

(9) – When cutting out the scone dough, always leave a buffer of dough between each cut.  Overlapping cut edges will create points where the dough is crimped twice.  The points of double crimped won’t rise as much and this will create lopsided scones.

(10) – Because the bottom of the cut scone dough is smoother than the top, turning the cut scone upside down before baking will encourage the scones to rise evenly.

(11) – Pushing a dimple into the center top of the cut scone dough will encourage the scone to rise evenly.

(12) – Brushing the tops of the scones with butter or an egg wash will turn the tops of the scone a golden brown color.  But be careful not to let the milk drip down the side of the scone.  The drips of milk will cause the scone to rise unevenly.

(13) – Placing the dough on a warm tray will kick-start the dough rising process.

(14) – Crowding the cut scones together will encourage the touching edges to rise higher, but note that the sides that are not touch a neighbor will not rise as much.




PS:  You can also freeze the unbaked scones.  The frozen dough bakes up almost as high as the fresh.  Here is one I baked for Valentine Day morning.  Delicious.






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Never Ending Fondant Comparison - Cake Craft Fondant

I was browsing Amazon one day, and I stumbled across a fondant I had never heard of before. It doesn’t have a fancy or memorable name. It is simply called: Cake Craft Rolled Icing Fondant. Not very catchy is it? But me being me I had to buy some and add it to my every-grown Fondant Comparison.

FYI: here is a link to the original 7 fondant comparison, and a link to the recent Via Roma Bakery fondant comparison.



In my original fondant comparison I used 8 different criteria to judge and rank the fondants. I tried to stay true to that format, but I also added a few new judging categories.


Taste ---- If you like the taste of fondant raise your hand….. Hello….. Anybody….. Hellllllooooooo…. Okay, so no one really ENJOYS the taste of fondant. It is tough and chewy, and most people peel it off like onion skin and leave it in a discarded heap on the side of the plate. But against all odds, this Cake Craft Fondant tastes almost pleasing. It has a mild, sugary, vanilla flavor that is actually a little addictive. The fondant isn’t gummy or chewy, and in fact it seems to just melt in your mouth. It tastes better when it is soft and malleable, but it is still edible when it is dry. Years ago when I did my big 7 fondant comparison I found that Pettinice and Choco-Pan tasted the best, but I will have to give Cake Craft Fondant high marks for taste.


Texture ---- Like another recent fondant find – Via Roma Bakery – the Cake Craft fondant feels cool, smooth, soft, and just a tad moist. Straight out of the bag it is oh-so supple and malleable. You can start rolling immediately; absolutely no kneading or microwaving is needed to get this fondant into a workable state.


Tinting ---- The Cake Craft fondant takes color very well. It was very easy to blend the color gel into the fondant, and there were no streaks or marbling. In the picture below I used Americolor to tint the fondant a dark forest green color.





Rolling ---- Rolling this fondant is soooo easy. Not as easy as the Via Roma Bakery fondant, but close to it. It doesn’t have the stretchy, elastic feel of the Via Roma, but it was very easy to roll. But I did have a slight problem with the Cake Craft fondant sticking to my battered Wilton rolling mat.



After several unsuccessful attempts at rolling out the Cake Craft on Wilton mat, I switched to “The Mat” by SweetWise and the sticking problem disappeared. Nothing sticks to “The Mat”.


Coverage ---- In all my fondant comparisons I use 5 oz of fondant and roll to 1/8” thickness to see how much the fondant will spread. The Cake Craft rolled to an impressive 11-1/2” to 12”.






Draping/Smoothing ---- Because the Cake Craft fondant is so soft it did create a lot of folds and drapes as I positioned it over my dummy cake, but it was easy enough to smooth out all the drapes. I also noticed more ripping in the fondant sheet as I worked it, so again 1/8” might be a little too thin for this fondant.






Cutting/Trimming ---- The fondant cuts very cleanly. No ragged edges.





Drying Time ---- The Cake Craft had a very slow drying time. Of course the thinner you roll it the quicker it dries, but I had a 1” size ball of fondant sitting uncovered for 3 hours and after all that time I will still able to knead it a few time and roll it out flat. After about 6 hours of sitting uncovered I was still able to knead it and roll it flat, but small bits of hard fondant started to pit the fondant. The slow drying time of the fondant gives you plenty of time to correct imperfections, or even re-roll the fondant multiple times if you make a mistake.






Final Look ---- In the end after all the draping, smoothing, trimming, and handling the final appearance of the Cake Craft fondant was pretty damn good. None of the metal pan’s nooks and crannies could be seen through the fondant. Like the Via Roma and Elite, the elastic, springy consistency of the Cake Craft fondant allows it to “float” above the imperfections in the cake and not sink into them. Nice.




So this Cake Craft fondant is solid contender in the crowded world of fondant brands. I’m now torn as to which fondant I should use. I really, really like the Via Roma because it is so easy to work with, it can be rolled to an almost microscopic thickness, and the finished product look great. BUT the Cake Craft is also easy to work with and it tastes a little better. I’m torn… I might have to make two identical cakes and see which one looks and tastes better – the Via Roma or the Cake Craft Fondant. Stay tuned…




Happy Decorating,

Carol