Category Archives: Tuesdays with Dorie

Cake: Good, Bad, and Chocolate

A few weeks ago, I was afraid that I had lost my cake mojo. I have been baking cakes, but they have not all turned out to be good. Since posting my last cake recipe, I have probably baked a half dozen different cakes. Some were good, others were not. Let me start at the beginning.

Really, my downward slide began with the chiffon roll for twd way back in January. To be honest, no one really liked that one. Next, I made a sourdough chocolate cake. It seemed like a good idea to use some of my sourdough starter to try this. It was a moist cake, but not terribly chocolatey. And, something about the sourdough made the cake seem more like bread. It was odd, but it did look good. The bonus with this one is that I learned that coconut oil is really yummy in frosting, but I will have to revisit that another time.

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Next on the cake roll was a nutty pear cake. This one turned out well, but was one of those recipes that required a crazy number of bowls and different components mixed together. For something that turned out to be a simple looking coffee cake, it was too much trouble.

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Then, I got an idea for a cake into my head. In my head, the cake was moist, gingery and orangey. Most of the time, when I think of something I want, I go looking for a recipe that might fit or be adapted to fit what I want. So I consulted my library of cookbooks and found a recipe for a whole wheat marmalade cake in Nigel Slater’s book, Ripe. It was a yummy cake. But it was dry and dense and more like fruitcake, not the moist fluffy cake I had in mind.

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I thought I had found the right recipe for what I wanted when I found an English ginger cake recipe in Rose Levy Berenbaum’s book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes. It used Lyle’s golden syrup. Actually, it used almost an entire jar of the stuff, and even though I followed the recipe and baked the cake in the right size pan, it did this.

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At this point, I started to seriously doubt my cake baking abilities. I had not had this many disappointing cakes in such a short period of time in the whole of my baking life. I thought I would take a little break from fruity things and revisit the chocolate cake thing. But, this, too proved disastrous. I have no pictures of this cake disaster, but I will tell you that a cake with no vanilla and an oil/sugar/egg mixture that never emulsifies does not turn out well. I had tried a new recipe from a new bakery cookbook. It was another one of those overly complicated recipes. Too many bowls and too many techniques for just a little cake. After this, I made one more cake recipe from the same book that turned out ok, but the streusel topping was a disaster. I have no pictures of these last two cakes because I had sort of lost hope in cakes and I am not disclosing the name of the cookbook here because I think it may have been just me.

I took a little break from cakes (a week, or maybe two?) and when I felt the need to bake a cake last weekend, I made sure to pick one that was simple and with few ingredients. It was a recipe that originally called for rhubarb, but as much as everyone is wishing for spring here, it has not yet arrived, so I subbed in raspberries from South America instead.

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This was a simple pound cakey sort of recipe that I found in Rustic Fruit Desserts and it was perfect. Packed with zingy lemon flavor and polka dotted with raspberries, it was a spring-like cake that cheered us up.

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We ate it up so quickly that it was almost gone before I thought to take a picture of this cake win. I had almost given up on taking pictures of cakes as they all seemed to be turning out badly. But, this one was a winner.

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Now, after all that cake history, you can understand why I was a little wary of this week’s twd recipe for Mocha Brownie Cake. But, after my lemon raspberry success, I was willing to give it a try. The batter was pretty easy to mix up, except for the folding in of the sour cream at the end. It was super thick and I wasn’t sure it was going to fold in thoroughly. In fact, after I split the cake, I saw that there were little pockets of sour cream that had not been mixed into the batter. I hoped that would not affect the texture or taste of the cake and I am happy to say it did not.

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I did follow my cake instincts this time and lined the cake pan with parchment. I am glad for this as the cake looked wonderful after it was turned out of the pan.

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In an attempt to make the cake a little less rich for us, I decided to halve the ganache recipe and just cut the cake into two layers instead of three. Partly, I was worried that it would be difficult to cut one layer into three, but after having done one cut, the cake seems sturdy enough that I would probably try two next time and use the full recipe of ganache.

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It came together easily. I frosted the entire cake all at once and dispensed with the springform pan and cooling times. The cake seemed cool enough after I cut it into layers and I was worried that the ganache would get too thick to spread if I did not use it all at once. After assembly, I put the cake in the fridge overnight.

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Today, I took it out to come to room temperature a couple of hours before dinner. I like my ganache frostings at room temperature because they melt in your mouth a bit more easily.

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The final cake is beautiful, easy to cut, and beyond delicious. It’s intensely chocolatey without being overwhelming. The cake is really soft, but not mushy. The ganache melts in your mouth and some of us wished that there was more, but I liked it fine with just that thin layer. It alleviates a little bit of the guilt associated with eating a cake like this so that you can feel good about having an extra big slice. In short, I think this is the best chocolate cake I have had in recent memory and I hope it means that my streak of bad luck with cake is over. This recipe alone is worth the price of this cookbook. If you don’t have it, I urge you to go buy it now.

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Orange Cranberry Scones

It’s been awhile since I have made scones. I don’t know why I don’t make them more often. They are easy, fairly quick, very tasty, and the freeze and reheat well. What’s not to like?

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In fact, for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Buttermilk Scones, I decided to double the recipe because I knew we would like them. Plus, I had a couple of organic oranges sitting around. To help make the cutting in of the butter easier, I enlisted the help of my trusty food processor.

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Then, I added a generous amount of dried cranberries because they go so well with citrus and are really tasty in a scone.

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I made twelve regular sized triangular scones and twenty-four small square shaped ones. I sprinkled them with coarse, raw sugar instead of the regular sugar that was called for in the recipe. I love how the cranberries look like jewels.

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We loved them. There were some wonderful layers and eaten just warm, they were soft and fluffy on the inside with a little crunch from the sugar on the outside. They make a great companion to tea or coffee breakfast or snack time. I’m thinking of making some more, but subbing the orange zest for lemon and using blueberries instead. Or chocolate.

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Really, I think you could add anything to these and they would still be good. They are perhaps not the best scones I have ever made, but it is one of those recipes that is simple, reliable, and just plain good. You can’t really go wrong here.

Orange Cranberry Scone
adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups (15 ounces) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk, plus more if needed
Grated zest from one orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For topping:
3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Tablespoons coarse or raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest in a food processor bowl. Pulse a few times to mix the dry ingredients together. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the pieces are no larger than a pea, about 8-10 times. Pour into a large bowl.

Stir the cranberries into the flour. Then, add the buttermilk and toss with a spatula or fork until most of the flour is moistened. If it seems really dry and won’t hold together when you squeeze a bit of it with your fingers, then add extra buttermilk, a tablespoons at a time, until the dough starts to come together. There will still be some crumby bits in the bowl, though.

Dump out the dough onto your counter or pastry board and knead gently until the dough is more or less one shaggy mass. If you bowl is big enough, you can also do this inside the bowl and it will be less messy. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a 1/2 inch thick 7 inch diameter circle. Using a sharp knife, cut each dough circle into six wedges and transfer to your baking sheet with at least one inch of space between them.

If you want to make smaller scones, pat the entire amount of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle, roughly 8 inches by 12 inches. Then, cut into twenty-four two inch squares.

Brush each scone with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until slightly browned around the edges, about 13-15 minutes for large scones, 10-12 for small scones. Serve warm.

These will keep for a few days in a sealed bag, but should be toasted in the oven for a few minutes before eating to crisp them up. They can also be frozen, already baked for several months. Thaw and toast lightly before serving.

Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake

Normally, I do not make cheesecakes, mostly because I cannot eat them, being lactose intolerant. However, I was a little curious about this one and I needed something to take to share with some friends, so I thought I would give this week’s TwD recipe a try.

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Cheesecakes don’t have a ton of ingredients and the method to making them is not too difficult, but there are some things that can go wrong. As cheesecake recipes go, this one is pretty easy and straightforward.

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I was thrown off at first because there is no crust that is baked with it. I used a 9 inch springform pan and lined it parchment, even though the recipe did not say to do so. I think that it made it easier to get out of the pan.

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There is a crust that gets sort of added at the end after you take it out of the pan. Personally, I don’t think this was necessary. The cake would have been fine without it.

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The water bath helps to prevent cracks in the final product, which I often get, but happily, my cake was crackless this time.

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The hardest part is making sure your cheese mixture is not lumpy. I was not 100% successful in this endeavor, but only I noticed the little white spots, so that’s not too bad.

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The final cake was really smooth and tangy and creamy. I took the cake to a meeting and I think everyone liked it because I only came home with one piece left.

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I served it with some hazelnut caramel sauce that I had leftover from making chocolate caramel cups last week. It was a good compliment to the cake. I have to say that the cake was not as chocolatey as I was expecting. Even though it was good, it did not seem extraordinary, so I am not sure I will ever make it again, but I am glad I made it. It’s always good to keep your skills up, you know?

Vanilla Chiffon Jam Roll

This week’s Tuesday’s with Dorie recipe kind of snuck up on me. After those giant loaves of bread from last time, I think I thought I was done baking for the month! I have to admit to sort of dreading this recipe. For some reason, I have never been able to master chiffon cakes. They seem so promising and then turn out to be not as good as expected. Well, this recipe was no different.

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The sponge came together really easily.

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Even folding the egg whites into the batter went well.

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Then, it looked wonderfully fluffy when it came out of the oven after 18 minutes.

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However, once it cooled, all that lovely fluffiness just disappeared. Poof! Gone!

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Sigh. I had never really intended to make the filling recipe as it has too much cream in it for me to eat. Only half of us in this house really eat whipped cream, so I decided to go the super easy route and make it a jam roll.

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Strawberry rhubarb jam gave us a little bit of spring in our dessert.

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In the end, I was disappointed. The cake was nice and moist with lots of vanilla flavor, but I can’t help but think that it was supposed to be different. Plus, I really think that I am just not a big fan of chiffon cakes. They taste strange to me. I like angel food, genoise, and butter cakes, but have yet to meet a chiffon cake that I like. It’s a bit odd since I generally love cake, but oh well. I am glad that I did not go through the extra trouble of making the chocolate walnut mousse, though maybe that would have been so yummy that it would have made up for the disappointment in the cake. I will probably never know.

Country Bread, A Sourdough Version

I love a piece of good, hearty bread. Actually, I really love any kind of bread. And rice. And pasta. Ok, I just really love carbs! Today’s Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is for Country Bread. It’s supposed to be a non-sourdough version of another recipe in the book. The day I decided to make this was also a day that I needed to feed my sourdough starters, so I decided to alter the recipe a bit to include them. I know, I know. That’s kind of missing the point of the recipe, but I hate to throw away anything if I don’t have to, so here I am. Not only did I include sourdough in my bread, I also doubled the recipe because I am crazy like that. Um. I may not have done that had I realized ahead of time that each loaf was going to be over three pounds!

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The upside is that I now have a lot of bread and it is really good bread. One loaf I made plain, and the other loaf got some chocolate chips, toasted hazelnuts, and dried cherries mixed in.

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Of course, the one we decided to eat first was the one with chocolate. It was fabulous. The sourdough gave it a nice tang, but since it was all made and baked in the same day, it was not overwhelming.

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Before the final rise, the dough just about filled the nine inch bannetones that I have.

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After an hour, they were really well risen! They reminded me of that I Love Lucy episode when she makes so much bread that it started coming out of the oven when she tries to bake it. I wondered if it was over-proofed, but they turned out ok.

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They smelled heavenly while baking and when we took them out to cool, they crackled as they cooled, a sure sign of well-baked bread. Since these loaves weren’t finished until after dinner, we did not try any until the next morning.

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The texture of the bread was not as stretchy as a dough made with just white flour, but it had a pleasant wheatiness and kept well for several days. Which was good, because, for once, I made a loaf of bread that we couldn’t finish eating in a day! In fact, I took the plain loaf to a luncheon with 20 people and ended up bringing home a third of the loaf!