Happy Pi Day!

This year’s occurrence of the geeky new tradition, Pi Day, coincided with a rare snow day in the Northeastern U.S. and I had an unlikely opportunity to throw myself into a little baking to celebrate.

Cherry Pi’s – As individual, hand pies with a pate brisee crust, which I admit I completely underappreciated before now.

cherrypi

 

Fancy Meat Pi – This one uses my favorite, old fancy game pie mold. As with other times, I used a challah dough instead of the traditional, boiled water crust due to the spouse’s preference. This one has a chicken stew inside. I think any future instances will include a gravy on the side (per my preference, at least) – or at least more of a robust moat than the puddle that appears in this picture.

meatpi

 

 

 

 

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Constructive Failures

This weekend presented me with a low-pressure opportunity to try some creative things that were new to me.

Some were spectacular, visual failures, and others turned out relatively acceptable.

I did learn a lot of things along the way, though, so it was still time well spent.

  • meringuebunnies1

    Relatively Acceptable (It’s always fun when your baking project is staring at you…)

    If I want to pipe softer edges and points, I should probably try a French meringue instead of a Swiss meringue next time, though sometimes that can be mitigated post-piping by a clean, damp finger (which was how the bunny tails wound up rounded instead of spiky).

  • I totally want to do more ganache.
  • Ganache or chocolate frosting. The flavor difference is too negligible/nuanced to be worth the time to make two different things.
  • Raspberry jam (hot) coating a chocolate cake before ganache/frosting?  Yes, please!
  • Always have a back-up plan. – OK, I already knew this, but this weekend totally reinforced that for me.
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PB Pavlova

pavncoffee

I hear it’s sacrilege, but that hasn’t stopped my oven before…

Coming from a fluffernutter culture, meringue and peanut butter make an intriguing combination I’ve been having fun experimenting with.

In this case, I went for a pavlova with a bit of a secret – a thin layer of peanut butter giving just enough flavor.

It seems pavlova’s are specifically made from French meringue, so I didn’t change anything there. I achieved the thin bits of peanut butter by spreading a thin layer between two silicone baking liners and putting it in the freezer. Then, I just spread the meringue in two layers, placing the frozen PB (quickly) in between.

pbpav
I’d definitely eat this over the plate – or over the sink, if it doesn’t make it that far!

I was happy with how the pavs didn’t burst and spill molten peanut butter everywhere. There was a notable air pocket above each bit of peanut butter, but I imagine that was from the water in it steaming off in the oven. That made me extra glad I only use a very thin (less than 1mm) sheet.

 

I’m going to go ahead and experiment with more meringue fillings!

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Chocolate Swiss Meringue Roses

rosebanner

Pssst – you can pipe Italian and Swiss meringue pretty much like piping butter cream… Pass it on

I keep falling in love with meringues in new ways.

I wanted to do something easy for a recent event, but be able to dress it up. Since I’m all about the meringues lately, that part of the decision was pretty easy for me.

Having seen how well Italian and Swiss meringues pipe, it was only a small logic jump to apply classic butter cream piping techniques to make my meringue cookies more special.

Why have kisses, when you can spend 10x the time and have roses, eh?

meringuerosebsket

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Desperation + Inspiration

F@&% it. I’ll just make brownies.

It was getting late in the evening, the night before I’d committed to “bake something” (well, yeah…) for a little brunch with friends the next day. I can’t well recall what had kept me busy all day, but it was something, legitimate, that sapped my energy and left me reaching for an easy fallback after tucking the little ones into bed.

Once committed, I found myself starting to rise to the occasion when I made the pivotal realization that, just because I’d chosen brownies, that didn’t mean I was locked into the traditional, plain rectangle. Soon after that came the admission that brownies seem dressier with frosting, but that I would, personally, have a lot more fun whipping up an Italian meringue than making a buttercream.

A solid plan started to take shape.

CBP_sketch.png

CBP_pansSome guesswork landed me the three, graduated pans that seemed to best fit the (luckily forgiving) recipe.

I wanted to capture a toasted coconut marshmallow flavor and texture, so I popped each layer for few minutes under the broiler as I assembled it – though I  goofed by not accounting well enough for the ever increasing height. (A torch got me back on track.)

CBP_ingredients

 

A bit of a sugar bomb, but at least a pretty one…

CBP

 

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Nerf Cake

I got to have some fun making a cake themed around a Nerf birthday party.

I struggled on a creative direction, but decided to go more traditional.

NerfCake.png

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Mouna

MounaTopIn my renewed adventures with yeast, I got to try out something that’s been intriguing me from a cook book I’ve had for a few years.

Mouna

It was described as an Algerian bread for Shabbat, though some quick, additional web searching indicated it’s often an Easter bread as well. If you’re looking for something just a little different from the norm for either occasion (though still eggy and sweet like the old stand-bys) this might just be the thing for you.

Since it has a bit of orange zest in it, it reminded me of a light panettone. The recipe indicates filling it with jam is “optional”… Snerf.

MounaOpen

While the shape isn’t terribly difficult to make (a flattened orb, where kitchen shears make quick work of the cuts around the perimeter), it manages to really stand out on the buffet.

Without realizing it then, it was the first time in recent memory that I’d made a bread by hand from the beginning (without any early assistance from my bread machine, or even a mixer) and it still came out great.

The hole I’d created when I added the jam opened back up during baking (I swear it was totally closed when I put it in), but even like that it managed to look pretty nifty.

MounaSide

 

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