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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Announcement: Blog Takes a Break

Announcement: Blog Takes a Break

There's a lot going on these days... but not a lot of it has to do with pastry. 

The "baby" turned one last week and is now a full-on toddler. Long gone are the days when nap time could be used to test a new recipe. It seems as though every waking moment is dedicated to diverting curious exploration.

And in the wake of the recent U.S. election and lots of resulting uncertainty, it personally feels like the right time to refocus energies. There is going to be a lot of work necessary to keep this country on track. I plan to dedicate those fleeting free moments to do whatever I can do to help - even if that means the sweet treats take back seats.

It's been a blast. Hopefully there will be a new post from time to time as the opportunity arises. And maybe one day, the blog will be back in full force. 

Until then, thanks everyone! Let's keep fighting (and baking!)

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Technique: Cupcake Bouquets

Cupcake Bouquets - Rose and Hydrangea

Technique: Cupcake Bouquets

Pretty enough to eat... so why the hell not!

Pastry is food... delicious food... indulgent food. To those of us with a sweet tooth, it's food perfected. But pastry can also be food at the intersection of art... although there's been considerable debate on that claim. 

Can food really be art? True art? When a chef becomes overly fussy with his plating, has the meal suddenly become worthy of a frame and a gallery space?

Probably not, at least for the savory side. A seared Hudson Valley Duck may look remarkable, but it exists to be eaten. But with pastry, the argument for food as art is stronger. Showpieces - edible towers of Dough, Chocolate or Sugar - are more a matter of visual appeal than they are gastro-satisfaction. While pastry showpieces could be eaten, they often exist purely for display.

A common entry into the world of showpieces are "lookalikes" - pastries designed and constructed to look nothing like their edible components. Increasingly popular are Cupcake Bouquets (thank you, Pinterest) - floral creations assembled in the kitchen rather than grown in the garden.

The Internet is loaded with step-by-step guides for making Cupcake Bouquets, and I see no need to add to that clutter. After all, the process is easy to summarize: attach decorated Cupcakes to a styrofoam ball placed in a vase or pot.

That concept is simple enough for anyone to understand. What I offer are a number of tips and techniques that the basic guides do not mention - details that will hopefully result in a bit of a wow factor and not earn you a spot on some Buzzfeed list of Home Baking Failures.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Recipe: Apple Pie with Lattice Crust

Sliced Apple Pie with Lattice Crust

Recipe: Apple Pie with Lattice Crust

Apple Pie... it's as American as... Apple Pie!

Thanksgiving is coming soon. Well, it's actually a month away. But if Christmas decorations are currently being hung throughout New York City, I feel more than justified in leapfrogging Halloween with a Turkey Day recipe. Such sins of chronology pale in comparison.

This recipe is less about the Apple Pie filling than it is about the technique for making a decorative Lattice Crust. That said, the filling ain't to shabby!

A Lattice Crust is a lot easier to execute than it may appear. Like many things in pastry, it simply requires good preparation and focus. Mise en place! Mise en place! Mise en place! And read the full recipe before you start... and then read it again... and then read it again. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Recipe: Candy Corn Cream Horns

Stack of Honey Cream Filled Candy Corn Cream Horns

Recipe: Candy Corn Cream Horns

Would a "Cream Horn" by any other name taste as sweetly?

"Trubochki" in Russian. "Torpil" in Turkish. I feel as though the English-speaking world failed in this name game. "Cream Horn" is far from appetite-inducing. But there's nothing not to like about these simple but extremely satisfying pastries.

Cone-shaped spirals of Pastry Dough filled with sweetened Whipped Cream, Cream Horns were The Great British Bake Off's penultimate signature challenge featured in Episode 8: Pâtisserie.

Like Tarts, Cream Horns are a "blank canvas" pastry. It's a basic theme that is perfect for infinite variations. While a sweetened Whipped Cream filling may be traditional (and undeniably delicious in its simplicity), you need not stop there. Even this Halloween spin, which involves a Honey sweetened Whipped Cream and Candy Corn, is rather basic. Fruit, Nuts, Chocolate, Custard, Cheese... if you can put it in your mouth, you can use it here!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe

Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe - Overhead 

Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Charlotte Russe

Charlotte Russe - 225 years old and still beautiful... and delicious!

Could there be a greater thrill than having a dessert named in your honor? I'm still waiting for someone to create the "Mark". It would likely be a jar of Peanut Butter served with a straw. But perhaps such a gesture is banal to a princess, as may have been the case in 1800 for Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George IV, the employer of French chef Marie-Antoine Carême who created this dessert.

There have been many incarnations of the Charlotte Russe over two centuries. The original version used stale Bread - a classic case of repurposing leftover foods for desserts. Modern versions use delicate Ladyfingers, 

Today a Charlotte Russe is a Cake made from delicate Ladyfingers. The Ladyfingers are often piped individually and then filled with a Bavarian Cream and held together with a ribbon. The dessert was also the showstopper challenge for Episode 7 of The Great British Bake Off.

Here is my version, in seasonally appropriate Pumpkin Spice form.

The filling, a Bavarian Cream (or Bavarois), is a smooth Custard made from a base of either Fruit Purée or a flavored Crème Anglaise. What makes a Bavarian Cream unique is that the base is thickened with Gelatin and then folded with Whipped Cream. Gelatin is a defining characteristic of many desserts from this era. In fact, pastry lore suggests that the Charlotte Russe was an invention of necessity - a desperate attempt to save a dessert when the Gelatin failed to set in a Bavarian Cream.

True or not, when executed correctly, the Bavarian Cream should be sufficiently stable on its own. The Ladyfingers Cake is just an added bonus! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Recipe: Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart

Unbaked Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart Overhead

Recipe: Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart

Trouble brewing in the kitchen?

Who would have thought that the world of sweet desserts would become international news? And yet The Great British Bake Off has captured headlines with an announcement that the show will move from BBC One to Channel 4. Translated for American readers, that's the equivalent of a show moving from PBS to Fox. The implications should be distressing.

And while airing rights have always disadvantaged American audiences who must wait a full year for a new season to cross the Atlantic, the fate of any future viewing is now in limbo. Who knows how or when those of us residing state-side will see Season 7, which is now airing in the UK to record-breaking audiences.

So what more can we do but watch, wait and bake? And bake we shall - this week, a Seasonal Fruit Frangipane Tart, inspired by Episode 6: Pastry. It's home turf for any classically trained pastry chef.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies

Three Varieties of Eggless Sugar Cookies

Recipe: Eggless Sugar Cookies

An Eggless return! After several weeks off, the Blog is back.

It has been a busy few weeks since those Hazelnut Crème Brûlées. A brief hiatus for some vacation time was unexpectedly extended. The cause? A potential trademark issue around the name "Outside of the Breadbox".

Long story short...  

There is a gluten-free bakery in Colorado by the name of "Outside the Breadbox". Although the company now has a federally-registered trademark on the name, they have graciously allowed the Blog to continue. All of you know I've never dabbled in gluten-free recipes. But for those who are interested in a range of gluten-free products, check out their website. They ship! huge thanks to "Outside the Breadbox" and its owners!

As for the return, this is the long-promised and long-overdue Eggless Sugar Cookies recipe. It is also the fifth in a series of The Great British Bake Off inspired posts, following the "Alternative Ingredients" episode. And given an infant son's recently diagnosed Egg allergy, it is also a little self-serving. This kid will have Cookies!

There are a lot of potential Egg Substitutes out there. I decided to try six of them in one of my basic Cookie recipes. Those Cookies were then submitted to some hungry taste testers. The results were surprising, even to me, and I knew which Cookies were which!