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Ultimate Pie Dough

29 Jan

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A lot of people are afraid of making pie dough from scratch. It might seem intimidating, but the buttery flavor and flaky texture of homemade pie crust is totally worth it! Plus,  a foolproof pie crust recipe like this one takes away all of the guesswork. There are a few secret ingredients in this pie dough, pantry staples that you probably already have on hand, that make the dough hearty and easy to work with when rolling out, but still unbelievably tender and delicate when baked. You can use the exact same recipe for sweet and savory pies and tarts of all shapes and sizes. I even use this pie dough recipe as my quiche base. It’s so versatile that I don’t even feel the need to apologize for leaving the terrible clip of me singing in this video!

Consider this your personal pie baking 101.

This is my first video in the series “Fear No Dough.” I’ll be exploring various kinds of pastry and culinary doughs and offering easy, no-fail recipes to help you squash your fears. So tell me – what other kinds of dough give you nightmares?

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel and don’t forget to tap the notification bell so you never miss a new video! Plus check out more examples of how I’ve used my ultimate pie crust recipe in other ways on my Instagram feed. I’ll be posting pies all week!

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I Was Recognized in France + Easy Stamped Cookie Dough Recipe

14 Jan

Copy of UNICORNThis video doesn’t even begin to convey the surprise and excitement that I felt when someone in Lyon, France recognized me from the old YouTube videos I used to make for my old job! We live in a small world – let’s all be nice to each other because you never know who you’re going to meet!

Shout out to Marwen at Scrapcooking – you’re awesome!

Here’s the recipe for the cookie dough I make in the video. It’s a great recipe that holds its shape extremely since there is which is great for stamping, and it doesn’t need to be chilled in between mixthe dough and rolling it out, so it gets extra points as a time saver.

Easy Cut Out Cookie Recipe

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until very light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well to combine, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat until well combined.
Stir together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk in 3 additions, scraping the bowl well after each addition, stopping after the last of the flour has been incorporated.
On a heavily floured countertop, roll out the cookie dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Imprint and cut into desired shapes, and transfer to the parchment lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch in between cookies. Bake for 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. The cookies will not brown much, but they are done when the middle of the cookie looks matte instead of slightly greasy.

The Walloping Teaspoon Crew

Sean McShane: videographer, editor, and resident stand up comic

Music by Joakim Karud http://youtube.com/joakimkarud

Easy Christmas Yule Log Cake – Bûche de Noël

10 Dec

Photo Oct 08, 5 10 03 PMBûche de Noël is a traditional French holiday dessert. It translates to “Christmas log.” It’s formed by filling a moist sponge cake with icing and rolling it up, then cutting one end off and reattaching to form a stump. Yule log cakes are often decorated with cute meringue mushrooms, and I garnished mine with tree bark (shards of dark chocolate) and a faint dusting of snow (powdered sugar). This classic French cake will be the centerpiece of your holiday dessert table!

 

Bûche de Noël (French Yule Log) Recipe

1/4 cup Swan’s Down Cake Flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a 10 in. x 15 in. sheet pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the cake flour and cocoa powder. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup of sugar and salt. Using an electric mixer, whip it on high speed until foamy; add cream of tartar. Continue whisking until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, about 3-4 minutes.

In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Carefully fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and all of the sifted flour/cocoa mixture into the beaten yolks until just combined. Add the remaining beaten egg whites into the bowl and gently fold until they are totally incorporated. Spread the batter gently into the parchment lined pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 7-8 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a butter knife and turn out onto a clean kitchen towel. Remove the parchment paper from the back of the cake and roll the cake up from the short side and let cool completely, seam side down.

For Meringue Mushrooms:
2 egg whites at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the egg whites, granulated sugar and salt until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat until the meringue is very dense, stiff, and glossy. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe 1 inch long cones for the mushroom stems and quarter-size circles for the mushroom caps onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dip your finger in water and press down any harsh points, especially on the mushroom caps. Dust the caps lightly with cocoa powder and bake until the meringues are completely dry, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Cool completely. Attach the stems and caps with a dab of icing or melted chocolate.

For Filling and Icing:
4 whole eggs
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound unsalted butter at room temp
6 ounces dark chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, granulated sugar and salt. Set over a double boiler over simmering water and whisk frequently until the mixture reaches at least 140°F on a thermometer.

Whip the hot mixture at high speed with an electric mixer until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch. While beating on medium-low speed, add the butter, one chunk at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined.

To assemble the yule log, unroll the cooled cake cake and spread 2 cups of vanilla icing over, leaving about 1/2 inch on every side clean. Re-roll and chill while preparing the chocolate. Melt 6 ounces of dark chocolate. Pour about 2/3 of the chocolate onto a parchment lined pan and spread into a thin layer. Use a spoon or a spatula to make irregular marks vertically all over the chocolate. Refrigerate to set. Pour the rest of the melted chocolate, which should be cooler by now, into the remaining vanilla buttercream and stir or beat until completely incorporated.

Make a 2 inch cut at a 45 degree angle at one end of the cake for the stump. Place the long piece of the cake on your serving plate. Attach the 2 inch cut stump with chocolate icing to the top or side of the cake, with the cut side facing outwards. Ice the rest of the cake with chocolate buttercream.

Break the cold chocolate sheet into large shards and arrange around the outside of the cake. If the chocolate begins to melt while working with it, just pop it back into the refrigerator or freezer for a minute before continuing. Attach the meringue mushrooms to the top and around the sides of the yule log and dust with powdered sugar.

Makes about 12 servings.

Browned Butter and Smoked Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Cookies

13 Dec

I’ve been invited to a cookie exchange this weekend, and I’m fantastically excited because:

  1. It’s being held in a bar that doubles as an arcade. You’ll find me by the pinball machines,  cocktail in hand.
  2. There are hundreds of people invited, which means thousands of cookies. If the words “thousands of cookies” don’t get you excited, you might be reading the wrong blog.

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It takes me forever to decide what foods to bring to share at parties. As a professional baker and an overly-competitive person, I feel a weird, self-inflicted pressure to over-perform. Mediocre cookies will not be tolerated. My struggle is real.

This holiday cookie exchange is no different. I waffled for too long, sifting through tried-and-true recipes only to shun even the best ones. I racked my brain trying to invent brand new cookies with never-heard-before flavor combinations.

And then I realized that I was trying way too hard.

You’ve heard it a million times before, and it’s true: The best food is made from a few great ingredients and really simple techniques. Christmas cookies are no different. So why not take a classic cookie and up its “cool factor” with a couple of easy tweaks?

Helloooooooo, Browned Butter and Smoked Cinnamon Snickerdoodles. You are the current apple of my eye.

Who doesn’t love a snickerdoodle cookie with its crisped edges leading to  crackled, chewy centers, all encrusted in a fragrant coat of cinnamon and glimmering sugar? They are beloved and delicious just as they are. But browning the butter first gives a toasty complexity, and using smoked cinnamon enforces that.  The traditional vanilla is purposefully omitted to let the caramelized, nutty, and smokey notes shine on their own.  These changes are subtle but worthwhile, taking the humble snickerdoodles of your youth and classing them up a notch. Yup, these cookies are totally “exchangable.”

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Browned Butter and Smoked Cinnamon Snickerdoodle Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening*
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons smoked cinnamon**

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and place a smaller bowl inside, resting on the ice. In a small saucepan, cook butter over medium heat until it is very brown and smells like roasted nuts. Expect the butter to bubble and spatter audibly for a while as it cooks. When it quiets down, start watching the pot so that it doesn’t burn, but the butter should get quiet dark, like really good caramel. Pour the butter into the small bowl over the ice, stirring every few minutes to cool it to room temperature. Don’t let the butter get so cold that it hardens completely. It needs to be soft, but not liquid, to make the cookies.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

Measure out 3/4 cup of browned butter; reserve the rest for another use.***

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the browned butter and shortening until it is smooth and creamy. Add 1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until it is light in color and very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl very well after each egg to get everything well combined.

Add the dry flour mixture in 2 parts, beating on low speed and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl often. Beat just until a dough is formed.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar with the smoked cinnamon Roll cookie dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat completely on all sides. Place on parchment-lined cookies sheets 2 inches apart.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until until centers of cookies are set. Remove from the hot pan to the cooling grid immediately.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.
*Oh, you’re opposed to vegetable shortening, huh? Well, good for you. Feel free to substitute for all browned butter, but you need to know that your cookies will be much crunchier as a result. The shortening keep the cookies moist and soft, especially at days 2 and 3, if they last that long.

**Looking for smoked cinnamon, or any other delicious spices in the Chicago area? Check out Epic Spices at 1725 W. Chicago Ave. You’ll never meet a more friendly, knowledgable, or accomodating spice guy than Stephen, the shop owner.

***Awesome on pasta, fish, chicken, bread…Actually, I can’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t be better with a little bit of browned butter. Make it your new refrigerator staple.

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

29 Jun

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

Rainbow Cone, an iconic scoop shop on Chicago’s south side, has been serving up  tall cones since 1926. The Rainbow Cone booth is a staple at Taste of Chicago festival, giving their namesake ice cream treat fame well beyond the south side of the city.

There are 5 frozen flavors in a Rainbow Cone. Each one is scraped onto the next in a downward pulling motion with a utensil that most closely resembles a wide spackle knife. A finished cone showcases each sloping color of ice cream, proudly rising up to meet its name. So what comprises a rainbow cone? The combination of flavors is quite unique, and might surprise you:

Rainbow Cone

Photo courtesy of Original Rainbow Cone

It starts with a base of chocolate ice cream, followed by pretty pink strawberry, with signature Palmer House vanilla (vanilla with toasted walnuts and cherries) at the center, creamy green pistachio, and vibrant orange sherbet topping it all off. Does that sound weird to you? Does it seem gross? If you break it down a little bit, you’ll see that each flavor compliments another. Chocolate goes well with strawberry. It goes well with pistachio, and also with orange. Same thing with strawberry. It’s refreshing with orange, great will pistachio, and a natural with Palmer House vanilla. When you put them all together and take a big lick from bottom to top, getting a little taste of each flavor all at once, it works. It just works. I suspect that it goes back to each flavor being great with the other flavors in a one-on-one basis, but let’s not over think it. Maybe it just tastes great because it is so fun to eat an ice cream cone that looks like a rainbow. I took liberties and topped mine with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles (what else?).

Whipped Cream and Rainbow Sprinkles

And what the heck is Palmer House vanilla, anyway? Well, the Palmer House is a stately and well-preserved old hotel in Chicago, and Rainbow Cone pays homage by mixing toasty walnuts and maraschino cherries into vanilla ice cream.

If your ice cream consumption spikes dramatically during the summer months, while your inclination to turn on the oven plummets, then this no-bake ice cream cake should be at the top of your to-do list. It’s perfect for summer birthdays, pool parties, outdoor meals, and even random Wednesday nights when it is hotter than you-know-what.

Slice of Rainbow Ice Cream Cake

It is not coincidental that I’ve posted this entry on National Pride Day. Love, respect, and ice cream! I’m off to the parade!

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake 

This recipe is sized perfectly for an 8 inch round springform pan. If you use a larger pan, consider using a little more than 1 pint of each flavor, as the layers will be very thin. Also note that most inexpensive ice creams are largely air. Thawing them and then spreading them into the pans will cause the ice cream to lose a lot of volume, as the air is knocked out. Splurge for the good stuff for this ice cream cake – you won’t regret it!

12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint strawberry ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup (about 1/2 of a 10 oz. jar) maraschino cherries, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 pint pistachio ice cream
1 pint orange sherbet
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Rainbow Sprinkles

Secure the base and the sides of a springform pan by closing the hinge. Pour crushed cookies and melted butter into pan and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan using the flat bottom of a pint glass. Freeze for 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, place chocolate ice cream on the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed, and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Place strawberry ice cream in the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes

Thaw the vanilla cream until it is somewhat pliable and then mash in the walnuts and chopped cherries with a spoon. Spread into an even layer over the strawberry ice cream. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Repeat the thawing, spreading, and freezing process with the pistachio ice cream, and finally the orange sherbet. Freeze until completely solid, at least 3 hours, before cutting.

Just before serving, whip cream with confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Pipe onto top of cake and garnish with Rainbow Sprinkles and serve immediately. For clean slices, dip knife in hot water between each cut to warm blade, dry with towel, and cut ice cream cake.

DJ’s Summer Birthday Cake

11 Jun

DJCake1I am so competitive. Sometimes, it’s an admirable quality, pushing me to try a little harder or work a little longer . But a lot of times, it’s just plain dumb.

For instance, this past weekend I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his parents. We were on our way home from an early birthday celebration for DJ. He and I are having another small celebration to commemorate the actual day, so as we were riding along, I asked him what kind of a cake he would prefer. Because, you know, I make cakes. Professionally. And it’s his birthday, so of course I would be making him a cake. Makes sense, right? Are you with me?

OK.

Without enthusiasm or humor, he requested an ice cream cake.

AN ICE CREAM CAKE.

I won Cupcake Wars, for Christ’s sake. And he wants to squander that kind of talent on an ice cream cake? Ouch, man!

Now, I love ice cream as much as the next guy. Probably more, actually. I’ve often fantasized about opening an ice cream business. I even put together half of a business plan for an ice cream truck before I realized that here in the Chicago,  I’d have only four solid months of sunshine and sales and eight long months of frigid destitution. Not my best get-rich-quick scheme, but you get the idea. I love ice cream.

But I’m great at cake. And this is the first year that we’ll celebrate his birthday together. I want to make him a damn cake! A real cake! CAKE cake. With ice cream alongside, if he wants.

DJ proceeded to say that he prefers ice cream cakes to regular cakes because regular cakes are all the same to him. They’re usually not bad, but they never “wow” him. And that’s fair, except that I’ve seen him happily horse down several pieces of cake now, some made by me.

DJ is a humor writer. His indifference to cakes is akin to me thinking that that all fart jokes are the same, and not only the same, but mediocre, to boot. (Just kidding though, baby. Your fart jokes are classic.)

So my nutty, competitive mind kicks into the spin cycle, and all I can think is, “I’ll show you! I’ll make you the best g*ddamn cake you’ve ever tasted or will ever taste again! And then I will never make you a cake ever again for doubting me!

Birthdays are for birthday cakes, so DJ is getting a true birthday cake this year, with simple flavors that I think he’ll enjoy. It’s not overly sweet, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and almond extract. Fresh strawberries and whipped cream will glue it all together and keep it light and summery. It’s finished with a sprinkling of crushed almond tuile cookies for a bit of crunch. Maybe it won’t be the best cake he’s ever had, but even if it’s not, it will be a great memory of the first time we spent his birthday together.

This weekend, he gets his ice cream cake.  You better believe that it will be the best damn ice cream cake to ever come out of a freezer!

DJCake4

Summer Birthday Cake

Almond Chiffon · Whipped Cream · Strawberries · Almond Cookie Crunch

For the cake:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of two 6 inch round pans. Do not spray the pans.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, and continue whipping until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt, discarding any large pieces of almond flour that won’t make it through the sifter.

In small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, until the mixture is well combined and there are no pockets of whipped egg whites left. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the cookie crunch:
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl using a fork or a pastry blender, mix all of the ingredients together until the butter is in pea-sized chunks and the mixture is very crumbly. Spread into an even layer on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookie looks lacy and the edges are very brown. Cool completely. Crumble into small pieces.

For the stabilized whipped cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces + additional whole strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan, stir together the gelatin and water until the gelatin is evenly moistened. Let it sit until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to melt the mixture and dissolve the gelatin. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. Remove ¼ of the whipped cream and set aside. Fold the cut strawberries into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the cake, cut each layer horizontally into two. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the strawberry whipped cream. Run your spatula gently around the sides of the cake to clean up any whipped cream that crept out from inside the cake, and to very lightly coat the sides. the last cake with the plain whipped cream. Sprinkle the top generously with the almond cookie crunch and garnish with additional whole strawberries and a light sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

 

 

 

 

Perks of Working in a Test Kitchen – Part 1

14 Feb

Sometimes the homemade pates de fruits you make for your boyfriend turn out more like dark, amorphous sugar-coated blobs than the gem-toned, sparkling squares of gummy perfection they were meant to be. Shit. Valentine’s Day is ruined!

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Slouchy. Super slouchy.

It’s times like these (and lots of other times, really) that I am thankful for my job. In the Wilton Test Kitchen, there’s always extra cake batter or cookie dough. In just a few minutes, I can go from candy failure to cookie savior and still bring something sweet to my sweetie on Valentine’s Day.

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Never too old for sprinkles. Ever.

I love, love, love Wilton’s Roll Out Cookie recipe, and I’m not just saying that because I work there. It doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling, which is a huge time saver, but if they are rolled, cut, and chilled for just a few minutes, the cookies hold on to their shape really well. It’s flavored with vanilla and almond extracts and a healthy pinch of salt. The cookies are crisp at the edges, and as a crunchy cookie person, I can appreciate that.

Thank you Test Kitchen job, for saving Valentine’s Day!

I’ll be back for those pathetic pates de fruits soon.

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