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Plum and Almond Danish Braid

Ok, I am not going to talk about cookies today because today is Tuesdays with Dorie Day and we are making Danish Braids!

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I am pretty sure I have made this recipe before, though it has been so long that I don’t remember the details. Danish dough is not too hard to make, though. It’s definitely easier than croissant dough, even if you don’t follow the directions exactly, like I did.

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When I made the dough on Friday, I was also making apple pie, apple challah, and apple swirl buns. What can I say? I was multitasking a bit too much. So, while I was cutting up the butter for the pie crust dough, I went ahead and cut up the butter for the danish dough into the same size pieces, not realizing that I actually needed bigger pieces of butter for the danish. Still, I kinda caught my mistake in time before I hit the pulse button on my food processor too many times, so my butter pieces did not all get too small.

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Then, the dough sat in my fridge for the weekend. It’s nice that the dough is patient and will wait until you are ready. Yesterday, I pulled it out, did all the rolling and folding, chilling and filling.

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To save time and energy, I used a jar of mixed red plum jam that I made last year and some leftover almond filling from making croissants awhile back. To make that almond filling more like the recipe for almond danish filling, I just added the two tablespoons of butter and the egg white.

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I made the two danish braids with the same filling. Boring, I know, but my plan was to freeze one, so I was ok with it. In retrospect, I wish I had doubled this recipe and made four braids, especially after I saw what they looked like after they came out of the oven.

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Clearly, my icing could be more drizzly and less gloppy, but I wasn’t hearing any complaints about the appearance when I served it for an afternoon snack. In fact, I didn’t hear any conversation at all, which, for boys, means that one has succeeded.

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The husband and I thought that that filling was a bit too sweet. Next time, I will use less jam and maybe skip the icing. The pastry, however, was delicious: buttery and flaky, and light and soft.

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It’s perfect with coffee or tea and breakfast, snack, or dessert. Originally, I had planned to make an apple version since I still have a lot of apples, but we have had a lot of apple desserts lately. Whatever the flavor, these danish will be more than tasty. I don’t think I will be waiting too long to make this recipe again.

Want to make it yourself? You can find the recipe here. Happy baking!

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3 Cakes in 4 Days

We had a birthday in the family this past weekend.  When I was a kid, birthdays were not made much of and I think I was always a bit disappointed in that, so I try to make birthdays for my boys fun.  They get to choose a special activity for the day and I always bake a cake of their choosing.  This year, my younger son had a rare treat: two birthday parties!  We had a framily party on Friday and a pool party with his friends on Saturday.  This, of course, meant that I had to make two cakes!  Both cakes were recipes I had never made before.  This is what happens when you let the child look through the cookbooks and choose his own cakes.  I was not daunted, however.  I am no stranger to making cakes, so I was pretty confident that all would be well.  Unfortunately, this turned out to be not the case for one of them.

The first cake my beloved son chose was a fluffy looking cake from this book.  It consists of a chiffon cake layered with dulce de leche and topped with seven minute frosting.  I made the cake earlier on the week and should have known something was wrong with the recipe when I made it.  I am not too familiar with chiffon cakes, though, so I did not catch the problem right away, though I did think it was odd.  When I mixed the dry ingredients with the wet it was really stiff; more like biscuit dough than cake batter.  I forged on, however, and baked it up.  Unfortunately, it turned out terribly.  The dulche de leche was great and the seven minute frosting came out fluffy and beautiful looking, but the cake was dry and tough.  It was like trying to chew through a dry sponge.  It was sad for the birthday boy.  Not only did they not have his beloved mac & cheese at the restaurant he picked, but he couldn’t even finish his piece of cake because it was yucky.  We actually threw the remainder of the cake away.  I haven’t done that in ages.

Anyway, the next day’s cake was the opposite of the first cake.  This was a neaopolitan bundt cake.  It was a basic vanilla butter cake base which came together like a dream.  You put one third of the batter into the pan and divide the remainder into two portions.  Then, you add strawberry jam to one portion and chocolate syrup and cocoa powder to another portion.  See?

This cake turned out beautifully.  I wish I had a picture of the inside of the cake to show you, but when one is serving 15 kids, it is difficult to stop and take pictures.  When I was done serving, the cake was all gone.  In fact, the husband and I had to split the last piece.  It was chocolate in the middle with a layer of strawberry around that and the vanilla encased the whole thing.  Topped with a strawberry glaze and chocolate frosting, it was like eating a cake version of an ice cream sundae.  This recipe came from America’s Test Kitchen’s Summer Desserts magazine.  The birthday boy declared it to be much better than the other cake and he ate his whole piece, so I was happy.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would have the energy to make this week’s TWD recipe, Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake, after all the cake baking I had already done.  Plus, I was really hesitant after my chiffon cake disaster on Friday.  However, I had a couple of nectarines staring at me on the counter yesterday and I managed to find a pretty cheap ten inch springform pan to use.  I am sorry I have no photos of the process to show you.  It was a dim, rainy day and I was trying to get this cake together while playing a game of monopoly with the family at the same time.  I will say that this chiffon cake batter was totally different from the other one I made.  It was fluffy and not dry at all.  I had no problem folding in the egg whites.  The only problem I had was the pan was too small.  What is up with that?  I went out specially to buy a ten inch pan and it was still too small?  It had a little muffin top thing going on when I pulled it out after an hour and twenty minutes.

There was also a good bit of leakage from the pan.  Anyway, I just cut off the excess around the edges and it was fine.

I used two nectarines for the outer ring and one and a half pluots for the inner ring of fruit.  I could tell right away that this cake was moist, fluffy, and light.  I was a little worried that the center was still gooey, but is was not.

The boys loved it.  The husband thought it was too sweet, but then, he says that about a lot of things.  I loved the lemony chiffon cake and the almond streusel layer had a nice texture and flavor to go with the cake, though I would have eaten it and been happy without it.  This is probably my tenth upside down cake this summer and it was by far the most complicated.  I have to say that, even though I loved the chiffon cake, I am not sure I would use it for an upside down cake again.  The fruit sort of crushes the cake so that you lose a lot of the fluffy texture, though it is still super soft and moist.  The cake just doesn’t seem sturdy enough for the topping.

Still, I think it was worth the trouble.  It’s the sort of thing one might make for a special occasion.  I am especially glad I made this cake after the two previous cakes.  Finally, we have a yummy cake that we can keep all to ourselves!

To make this, you can visit this blog or this blog for the recipe.

A Rare Morning

This morning I got up early and I felt actually awake.  This is a rare event for me as I am not a morning person.  I am usually stumbling around the kitchen like a zombie trying not to pour the cereal on the floor or drop the jam jars.  I have always envied people who were chipper enough in the morning to actually make a hot breakfast for their family.  We always have cereal and, a little later, we might have toast.

Today, however was different.  I woke up, couldn’t go back to sleep and strangely, felt wide awake.  After I checked my email, I decided to make something-yay!  There were three plums left on the counter, so I cut those up, tossed them with some sugar and threw them into a dish.

A little batter was made using a couple of eggs, milk, and a little flour.  I popped it into the oven and 40 minutes later we had clafouti.

What’s that, you ask?  Well, it’s kind of a cross between a popover and a pudding.  It’s kinda eggy and soft like a bread pudding, only it doesn’t have any bread in it.  It doesn’t poof up like a popover, but it has the custardy consistency reminiscent of the soft insides of a popover.  It’s yummy warm with a little powdered sugar.  All the photos I took in the early morning were blurry–not enough light, I guess.  Here’s the best one from the afternoon.

It’s still not a clear picture.  Hmm, I wonder if the powdered sugar is doing something to the focus?  Anyway, it was a great way to start the day.  I wish I had more days like this, though I may regret it later.  The boys loved it and I have to say that I was really tempted to eat the whole thing myself, but then my oldest threatened to tell his father on me.  It’s nice that he watches out for other people.

The recipe is from Flour by Joanne Chang.  I halved it, but otherwise followed the recipe.  It was super easy and possibly very doable even if one is half asleep.  I hope to do this again soon, awake or asleep.

Cakes of the Week

Except for a handful of days since this post, I really have had cake everyday.  Some people wonder why I am not as big as a house.  It might be true that I am a little thicker around the middle since my cake-baking craze started this summer, but I try to eat in moderation.  One little piece of cake a day is not so bad if I stay away from all other junk food.  I’ve been trying a new breakfast regime that has been helping me a lot, but I will talk about that another day.

In the meantime, I have cake to show you.

One of my favorite cakes is Red Velvet Cake.  I know using food coloring is controversial, but I make an exception for this cake and for frostings.  Isn’t it a great looking cake?

You can find the recipe here.  I have been making this recipe for years and will probably continue to do so until I can no longer turn on a mixer.

To make the gluten free/egg free guests happy, I also made a vegan chocolate cake from this book.  I used the same frosting and fruit as the red velvet cake.

The cake was a little dry around the edges, but otherwise moist and good.  The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute King Arthur’s GF all-purpose flour for the regular flour.  I will be keeping this recipe around and playing with it for a bit to see if I can make it better.

After sending home leftover cake with various friends, we really only had a little bit of cake left, so I made another one.  This time, I made the Plum Streusel Cake with Toffee Glaze from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz.

This cake was a little heavy on the cardamom.  I’d probably cut that in half next time I make it.   Otherwise, it was really yummy.  Have I said how much I love baked plums?  They are really wonderful; tart and sweet and mellow.  The toffee glaze was good enough to eat out of the pot.  It would make a really great topping for ice cream, fruit, yogurt, whatever!

Well, I’m not done with cake yet this week.  Someone in the house is having a birthday next week, so I have to start working on that one.  Good thing I love cake!

Summer Bounty

Yesterday, I visited a local produce stand and came back with a whole boxful of produce and a smile on my face.  Summer weather has been here for awhile now, but it seems that the fruits and veggies of summer are just coming into their glory.  I look forward to this time  of year when fresh veggies and fruit abound.  Whenever I go to a farmer’s market or produce stand, I always like to try something new if I can.  Yesterday, it was these little sugar plums.

They are sweet and mild flavored and small.  Some of them were no bigger than a large cherry.  I decided to use some of them in a cake recipe that I have been wanting to try for awhile.

Sugar Plum Torte

I got the recipe out of the New York Times Cookbook, but you can find it here.  The cake is super easy to put together.  You don’t need a mixer, though I used one anyway.  It would probably help if you used plums that were easy to pit.  Mine were not, so some of them are a bit mangled, but you don’t really notice that once it is baked.  Also, I found it odd that you sprinkle a whole tablespoon of cinnamon on top of the cake before you bake it.  It looks strange going in the oven, especially since there’s barely enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.  But all it all looks good with a little snow shower of powdered sugar.

It’s delicious.  The cinnamon is not overpowering at all and baking the plums really helps to meld the flavors of the skin and flesh together.  It is really yummy with a cup of tea.

The recipe in the book calls for one whole cup of sugar instead of the three-quarters in the link above.  It also calls for those italian purple plums that come out closer to autumn, but I figure any fruit would be good.  In fact, I have some cherries I might try next.  Or maybe I should try it with peaches or nectarines.  Or those black plums…so many choices this time of year!