Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Octonauts, to the rescue!

 
 
Two weekends ago, my "little" Jacob turned four years old. I know it's one of those things that everyone says, but it's true - time really flies! It feels like it was only yesterday we welcomed him into our lives. But then again, these four years have been filled with so many amazing memories and brought us countless funny stories, that it feels like he's been with us forever.
 
The birthday boy had told me that he wanted an Octonauts themed cake, since it's his favorite cartoon. For all of you out there who are not regular viewers of Disney Junior, Octonauts is an underwater rescue team that helps all living creatures in the ocean, while teaching kids facts about the different species. Our whole family loves it!
 
For this two tiered cake, I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe with a strawberry filling and crème anglais, topped with buttercream frosting, and covered with fondant. Flavors that both kids and adults can appreciate.
 
Since I'm still learning cake making as I go, and this was my first attempt at making a two tier cake, I thought I'd make this blog post about things I've learned so far. 
 
So, here's a few tips and tricks that I find helpful:
 


 
Make a schedule, since making a cake will take longer than you think. I've learned that time management is an important part of baking cakes. Cake bottoms can be made in advance, which is a great way to save time before an event. Make sure you freeze the layers tightly wrapped in saran wrap, the same day as you bake them. I usually fill and frost the cake while frozen (the night before being eaten), for a number of reasons: 1) It's easier to divide the layers if you're using a single cake pan, 2) it's easier to get a smooth finish on your buttercream when the cake is hard and doesn't crumble, and 3) the flavors from the fillings will have been absorbed more into the cake and deepened, as the cake slowly thaws in the refrigerator over night.
 

 
 
A cake turntable is an investment. It doesn't have to be a fancy one, even a spinning cheese tray will do, but this will make the world of a difference when filling, frosting, and covering your cake.
 

Choose fillings that are stable when making more than one tier. Most buttercreams and cream cheese frostings will do the trick and can be really tasty. Try chocolate, salted caramel, nutella, or strawberry to mix it up. I would make sure to use a recipe that isn't too sweet, since you want the cake to taste more than just sugar. (I know, who are we kidding, it's mostly sugar.) Mousses, custards and curds holds up well too, but try out a recipe that works for you, since I find that some of them can have too much gelatin in them.
 
Always pipe a protectant wall of buttercream along the edges of every layer to make sure the filling doesn't seep out the sides. 
 

 
 
Use some kind of support for the bottom cake. Every cake needs to stand on a cake circle or cardboard cutout that is the same size as the cake. This is to make moving the cake easier, plus you're keeping your cake platters looking nice. Cakes tend to be heavier than you think, and to give as much support as possible on the lower tier, and relieve it from the weight of the cake on top, I use either straws or wooden skewers. For an 8 inch bottom cake and a 6 inch top cake, I inserted three straws in the middle of the bottom cake, all the same height as the cake. There are special support dowel rods you can pick up at Michael's or AC Moore, but honestly, regular straws will do fine.
 
 


Use plastic gloves when coloring the fondant, especially if you need to use more than one color. Or you can just rock whatever color your hands end up being.


When working with fondant, a silicone mat will make your job so much easier. Of course a regular baking mat or a clean work surface will do too, but making sure that the rolled out fondant doesn't stick will involve some confectioners sugar or corn starch. A silicone mat will make it easier to transfer the fondant to the cake, and it's mess free.

Oh, and out of personal experience, just don't use your silicone mat when cutting out shapes with a knife, because you'll cut right through. D'oh!




If you're making fondant figurines, allow the figures to dry completely before you decorate the cake. It will take anything from two days up to a week depending on how much you're using. You will want to store them in a dark and dry place, preferably in a cardboard box. If you need the figures to be standing, mount them on a piece of styrofoam using some tooth picks.

I have heard that if you don't have that much time, you can put the figures in your oven with just the oven light on for a few hours. The tiny amount of heat from the lamp will help speed up the process. Just don't forget they're in there!




Lastly, make a pot of coffee. These figures took me a few hours to make, so put on some tunes and get comfortable!


 
 
 
 
I'm having so much fun trying new recipes and techniques as I go. It's a learning process, so thanks everyone for your support and encouragement!
 
 
 
My happy birthday boy!
 
 


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rose Cake with Strawberry and Crème Anglaise



Growing up, I was spoiled by my dad's wonderful cream cake. Every time we had a reason to celebrate - no matter if it was graduations, birthdays, or just the supermarket having a sale on strawberries - he'd make it. Even today, there's nothing like my dad's strawberry cake to me, with the sponge cake and layers of vanilla custard, some kind of preserves, and fresh strawberries. It tastes like Swedish summer.

I remember when I was still living at home with my parents, my dad would often be up at night baking. (Sounds familiar?) I was usually studying, when all of the sudden I'd hear him call "Evalena!" from the kitchen. He would always save me the very last of the batter for me to scrape clean with a spoon. It was the best break from studying anyone could ever have.

Even now, when I go back to visit during the summers, he still lets me lick the spoon. Some things will never change.




I came across two new recipes recently that reminded me of my dad's cake. The first one is referred to as "ice cream filling". Basically, it's a vanilla custard, also known as a crème anglaise, mixed with whipped cream. It tastes just like soft vanilla ice cream! It's not hard to make, but you have to be careful when heating the custard, since it will curdle if it gets too hot.

This was my first time making crème anglaise, and I had to keep myself from eating it all with a spoon. It's THAT good. This custard is wonderful to serve with poached fruit, puddings, or your favorite crumb pie.




The other filling I made is whipped cream and cream cheese mixed with confectioners sugar and fresh strawberries. It has a mousse-like consistency, but the fresh strawberries gives it a nice texture. I recently saw another recipe like this one that also uses freshly grated lime peel, and I think that can be a lovely addition.




I often get questions on how I make the roses out of buttercream. If you can frost a cupcake, you can also make roses, I promise! Usually when frosting a cupcake, you will start from the outside and work your way in towards the middle. Making roses work the other way around. Start from the middle and work your way around the center, and voilá, you've got yourself a rose! 
  



And since today is my dad's 77th birthday, Grattis på födelsedagen, min Pappa! I hope you eat some delicious strawberry cake for me!




Crème Anglaise

500 g milk (3%)
1 vanilla pod
135 g sugar
7 egg yolks
40 g corn starch
50 g butter, softened


 Directions:
  1. Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and put both seeds and the pod in a sauce pan with the milk. Bring to a boil.
  2.  Whip the egg yolks with sugar and corn starch. Pour in the hot milk, while whisking.
  3. Pour the mixture back into the pot and carefully heat the liquid, while whisking. As soon as the vanilla cream has started to thicken, take the pot off the heat and pour the crème into a cold bowl.
  4. Add the butter, stir until fully melted, and let it cool in a refrigerator. Stir occasionally to prevent a skin to form.
 To make the vanilla cake filling, mix one cup of the crème anglaise with 1 cup of whipped cream.



Heavenly Strawberry filling
from the cooking magazine Hembakat

400 gram heavy whipping cream
175 g cream cheese
120 g confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
400 g strawberries, cut into small pieces


Instructions
  1. Whip the heavy whipping cream. Set aside.
  2. Whip the cream cheese with confectioners sugar and vanilla sugar.
  3. Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream. Add the strawberries.


 For the vanilla cake recipe, see this post, and for the buttercream recipe see this post.



Vaniljkräm

5 dl  mjölk, 3%
1 st  vaniljstång
1,5 dl  strösocker
7 st  ekologiska äggulor
0,75 dl  maizena
50 g  mjukt smör


Gör så här:
  1. Dela din vaniljstång på längden med en vass kniv och skrapa ur fröna. Lägg både skal och frön i en kastrull tillsammans med mjölken. Koka upp.                    
  2. Vispa strösocker, äggulor och maizena luftigt med elvisp. Slå över den heta mjölken under vispning.                    
  3. Häll tillbaka blandningen i kastrullen och värm upp försiktigt under vispning. Så fort vaniljkrämen börjar tjockna, häll snabbt över i en kall skål.
  4. Tillsätt smöret, låt smälta och kyl vaniljkrämen i isbad eller kyl. Rör då och då i såsen så att det inte bildas skinn.


Himmelsk Jordgubbsfyllning
från tidningen Hembakat

400 gram grädde
175 g philadelphiaost
2 dl florsocker
1 tsp vaniljsocker
400 g jordgubbar

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Daring Bakers: Lamingtons




I joined the Daring Bakers about six years ago, when I first moved to the US. It's such a great idea - home cooks, at all different levels, commit to complete one baking challenge once a month. The idea is that you step out from your own kitchen and in to someone else's, trying someone's grandmother's recipe from the other side of the world, learning how to make things from scratch, and widen your horizons when it comes to flavor and execution. I haven't been active in years, but thought it would be fun to get back into it. So, here it is, the Daring Bakers May Challenge: Lamingtons.



 
Honestly, I had never heard about Lamingtons before this challenge. I've now learned that it's a national Australian dessert, a light corn flour based vanilla sponge cake, that is dipped in a chocolate syrup and then rolled in shredded coconut. It's very simple, but oh so delicious.
 
There are a few variations on this traditional dessert - some people like to have a little strawberry jam or lemon curd in between two layers, others use whipped cream. Since the cornbread, chocolate and shredded coconut are all so sweet, I used some of my home made salted caramel sauce to balance the sweetness. And because, who doesn't think that vanilla, chocolate, caramel and coconut are a match made in heaven? 
 

 
 
I know I many times use the word "easy" when explaining the baking process. Many of you have said that the recipes look complicated, so just to make sure you believe me, I'll show you how easy it is to make these yummy treats. And messy. Be prepared to get your hands dirty!
 
This is an old family recipe from Marcellina in Cucina, and is sure to make your tummy happy.
 

Lamington Sponge Cake
from Marcellina in Cucina
Servings: 24
 
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) castor (superfine) sugar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
1 ½ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted (optional)
2¾ cups (660 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) unsweetened desiccated coconut, to assemble


Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Prepare a 4 ½ cm (1¾ inch) deep, 23cm x 33cm (9”x 13”) baking pan by lining with non-stick paper. I sprayed a little cooking spray between the pan and the parchment paper, to make sure it stayed in place.
  3. In a stand mixer bowl place eggs, sugar and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high for 15 minutes.

4. While the eggs and sugar are beating, sift the corn flour and baking powder at least 3 times.


5. After 15 minutes add vanilla and beat on high for another 5 minutes. The mixture should have at least tripled in size, be light in color and very foamy.


6. Sift flour mixture over the egg mixture. If you are using butter, thoroughly fold it in now but lightly.

 
7. Spread mixture into your prepared pan and smooth out evenly.
 

8. Bake in preheated moderate oven for 22-25 minutes. The sponge will rise quite a lot but then settle back down. Don’t be tempted to open the oven to peak. When baked the sponge will have shrunk very slightly from the sides and should feel springy when pressed gently.

9. Turn the sponge out immediately onto a wire rack to cool and reverse sponge so as not to mark the top. Allow to cool. It is best to keep the cake for a day before making the Lamingtons as the cake will be easier to handle.

     
For the salted caramel recipe, please go to this blog post.


Chocolate icing

3 ¼ cups (780 ml) (400 gm) (14 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (40 gm) (1-1/3 oz) cocoa powder
1 tablespoon (15 gm) (15 gm) (½ oz) butter, melted
½ to ¾ cup (120 ml to 180 ml) milk


Instructions:

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.


Stir in the butter and ½ cup milk. Set the bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until icing is smooth adding more milk to thin the icing if needed. I find I need more than ½ cup but not quite ¾ cup of milk.




To assemble the Lamingtons:

Cut the sponge cake into 24 rectangular pieces – 6 across and 4 down. You can trim the crusts to make the square more even. Plus, you just have to make sure it tastes good, right?


Keep the icing over the hot water to keep it melted. Place the shredded coconut in a shallow bowl.


Add the filling and arrange the squares on top of one another.


Dip each piece into the chocolate icing. I used a fork to lift the sponge cake bites.


Allow excess to drip off then toss gently into the coconut. Stand cakes on a wire rack to set, about one hour.


Enjoy!



 


Friday, May 22, 2015

Chocolate Tart with Cardamom and Baileys Cream Truffle



For all you chocolate lovers out there, finally, here is a blog post involving chocolate! I made this decadent chocolate tart for the first time for a potluck we had at our friends' house this past weekend, and it was a hit.

Personally, it's pretty much a no-brainer for me when it comes to chocolate. One of my favorite things to bake is the Swedish style molten chocolate cake, known as kladdkaka. It's so easy to make, doesn't take that much time, and will satisfy your chocolate cravings for sure. This fudgy chocolate tart is a type of kladdkaka, but has a few more elements that makes it a little more fancy and complex in flavor. Still, it's very easy to make.




The first thing that sets it apart from other chocolate tarts, is the use of cardamom in the recipe. The cardamom gives it an interesting depth, and a nice surprise when taking your first bite. Some friends made comparisons to the taste of Earl Grey, and I can see that. Even though I would describe it to have more of an adult flavor, the kids scraped their plates clean and asked for seconds. That must be a good sign, right?

What really makes this a five star in my book, is the truffle. You just can't go wrong here. Irish cream whiskey that is heated up with heavy whipping cream, then stirred together with milk chocolate and butter, makes an amazing truffle top layer on this cake.




When decorating this tart, you can go any direction you want. Melt chocolate (white or dark) and swirl it on top of the cake, make chocolate shavings, or your own chocolate designs you can arrange in an upright position. If you have extra time on your hands, it's fun making your own chocolate covered truffles to decorate with, otherwise you can buy your favorite chocolate candy and put them in a pattern you like. I used chocolate sprinkles, a handful of chocolate covered coffee beans and a few malt balls, which I bought by the pound from the Fresh Market. To make the standing triangles, I melted some dark chocolate, spread it out on a parchment paper and sliced some straight lines, dividing it into triangles. When set, you just remove it from the paper and use to decorate. Lastly, I dusted the malt balls and chocolate triangles with some edible gold dust I had bought at a specialty baking store a while back.




If you want to avoid getting this chocolaty goodness stuck to the pan and not being able to transfer it onto a beautiful plate (d'oh!), you can use parchment paper at the bottom, and wait until the cake has cooled and is firm enough to remove from the paper. I missed this step, and if I had tried to move it from the pan, it would have collapsed.



  
A plus with this cake is that you don't need any electrical equipment to make it. All the ingredients are stirred together or whisked with a hand whisk, which is perfect when your making it at night and don't want to wake up your little ones. Or you know, those times when your hubby's watching Game of Thrones and gives you dirty looks for making too much noise in the kitchen. This chocolate tart is a win-win situation for everyone.




Chocolate Tart with Cardamom and Baileys Cream Truffle
from Mitt Kök

100 g butter
100 g dark chocolate
4 tbsp. cacao
200 g sugar
1 msk vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cardamom
75 g flour
2 eggs

Truffle:

100 g heavy whipping cream
100 g Baileys Original Irish Cream
180 g milk chocolate
60 g butter

 
Instructions:
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Chop the chocolate, and mix it into the butter until fully melted.
  2. Using a whisk, add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa, salt, cardamom and flour to the melted chocolate. 
  3. whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Pour the batter into a buttered spring form pan. Bake in the oven at 320 F, for about 20-25 minutes. Let the tart cool.
  5. Truffle: Chop the milk chocolate and put it in a bowl with the butter.
  6. In a sauce pan, bring the heavy whipping cream to a boil. Add the Baileys and heat up the cream to about 175 F. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and butter. Mix until a smooth truffle.
  7. Pour on top of the cooled tart and let set in a cool place.



Baileys fina kladdkaka
från Mitt Kök

100 g smör
100 g mörk choklad
4 msk kakao
2 dl socker
1 msk vaniljsocker
1 krm salt
2 tsk kardemumma
1 1/4 vetemjöl
2 ägg
 
Tryffel:

1 dl vispgrädde
1 dl (100 g) Baileys Original Irish Cream
180 g mjölkchoklad
60 g smör


 Gör så här:
  1. Smält smöret i en kastrull. Hacka chokladen, lägg ner den i smöret och rör tills all choklad smält.
  2. Vispa ner socker, vanilj, kakao, salt, kardemumma och vetemjöl.
  3. Vispa till sist ner äggen, ett åt gången, tills smeten blir en jämn massa.
  4. Fördela smeten i en form med löstagbar botten. Baka i ugn, 160 grader, cirka 20-25 minuter. Låt kakan svalna.
  5. Tryffel: Hacka mjölkchokladen och lägg den i en skål med smöret.
  6. Koka upp vispgrädden. Häll i Baileys och värm upp grädden till cirka 80 grader. Häll den varma grädden över chokladen och smöret. Mixa ihop till en slät tryffel.
  7. Häll och bred ut tryffeln över den kalla kakan och ställ svalt att stelna.
  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vanilla Cake with Caramelized Pear and Salted Caramel Buttercream

 
 
This past Sunday was Mother's Day, and of course every mom needs something sweet to help celebrate. Normally you'd probably buy a cake or a dessert, but since baking is one of my favorite things to do, I decided to treat my family to a yummy cake. And since I have a little boy who turns four in about a month, this was a perfect opportunity to practice working with fondant before making his special birthday cake.
 
I bought a cake book by Sweetapolita a couple of weeks back, and I have been day dreaming about her recipe for caramelized pear ever since. I had never baked with pear, but the sound of pears and caramel in a cake just sounded divine to me. 
 
This white cake is layered with a home made salted caramel sauce, that is folded into a vanilla butter cream, and topped with caramelized pear. In every layer. Yeah. This cake is something else. The pears bring a lovely texture to an otherwise smooth cake, and because of the salted caramel, it doesn't get overly sweet. It's a perfect marriage.
 
 
 

Now, color blocking might seem hard, but really, all you need is time and patience. Mostly patience. First you have to decide what colors you want the cake to have. You can use more colors than I did, but I wouldn't recommend using less than five, since you want to make sure you're not repeating the color pattern too much.
 
The next step is rolling out the fondant relatively thin, and using a ruler and a pizza slicer, cut long strands both horizontally and vertically. I used the ruler's width for the squares, because that way I didn't have to measure, and it also made making the triangles easier. For the triangles, I simply put the ruler diagonally over many squares and cut them in half. Easy peasy.
 
Now to the fun part. Cover the whole cake with white fondant. Using a small paintbrush, put a little water on the place you want the first square to go on the cake. The water will act like glue between the fondant and keep the squares in place. Then just add on squares and triangles as you go. Be creative!
 
I started at the very top of the cake, just to make sure I got a fine line and that there wouldn't be any gap. If the squares wouldn't have lined up perfectly at the bottom of the cake, I had planned on making a fondant ribbon to cover the gap. The cake I used as an inspiration actually uses ribbon. (One thing I would do differently though, would be to pay more attention to the crumb coating to make sure the top of the cake is completely flat with sharp edges, since it will give the cake a more dramatic look.)
 

 
 
You will have both salted caramel sauce and caramelized pear over after making this cake, but trust me, it's a good thing. The pears will work wonderfully on top of pancakes, French toast or even oatmeal. And the caramel sauce is perfect to use on top of ice cream or a warm apple pie. Or you can just eat it by the spoon full. It's that good.
 
 
 
Vanilla Cake
from Wilton
 
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
4 egg whites
 
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare five small 6 inch pans with vegetable pan spray.
In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with milk; beat until just combined. Divide evenly into prepared pans.
Bake 17-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on cooling grid; remove and cool completely before icing.
 
 
 
Salted Caramel Sauce
 
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt


Instructions:
 
  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
  4. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.
  6. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
  8. Cover the caramel tightly and store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe.
 
 
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
3 - 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

 
 
For the vanilla buttercream recipe instructions, see this post.
 
 
 
Caramelized Pear Filling
from the Sweetapolita Bake book, page 100
 
6 firm D'Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
 
 
Instructions:
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice.
  2. In a medium skillet set over medium-low heat, melt the butter until bubbly. Add the pears and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears begin to break down and soften, 3-4 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and salt. Add the mixture to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture had caramelized, the liquid has thickened, and the pears are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. transfer to a jar. (The pears will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.) 
 
 
 
Tårtbottnar
från Wilton
 
5,3 dl mjöl
2 tsk bakpulver
1/2 tsk salt
113g smör, rumstemp
3 dl socker
1 tsk vaniljextrakt
1,8 dl mjölk
4 äggvitor

 
 
Salt Karamellsås
från Sally's Baking Addiction
 
200g socker
90g saltat smör, delat i 6 bitar
120ml grädde
1 tsk salt
 
 
Karamelliserade päron
Ur boken Sweetapolita Bake book
 
6 D'Anjou eller Bosc päron, skalade, urkärnade och finhackade
4 tsk färsk citronsaft
2 msk osaltat smör
2 msk farinsocker
1 krm kardemumma
1 krm kanel
Nypa salt
 
 
Vaniljsmörkräm Frosting
från add a pinch
 
220 g smör, rumstemp
7-9 dl florsocker, siktat
2 tsk vaniljextrakt
nypa salt
2-3 msk grädde


Friday, May 01, 2015

Mazarintårta (Swedish Mazarin Torte)

 

I got a little homesick yesterday. Back home in Sweden, family and friends were posting pictures of everyone celebrating Valborg (also known as Walpurgis). Valborg is such a great holiday - whole neighborhoods and towns gather around huge bonfires at night to set off some fireworks and sing traditional Swedish songs to celebrate that spring has finally arrived. Growing up, it was always that night I got to break out my new white Adidas sneakers, because even though it was still freezing outside, it was officially spring.

So, to get into the spirit of Valborg, without setting anything on fire, I baked a Swedish Mazarin torte.




Mazariner are normally small, oval pastries made out of pastry dough with an almond paste center, and topped with a powdered sugar frosting. They have always been a part of my childhood, but this was the first time I've had it in the form of a torte.

This cake is very easy to make, but has an amazing almond flavor and complexity that sets it apart from your average pound cake. It's very moist, but still feels very light. My hubby even says it's  better than the ones he had in Sweden!

Traditionally you would use a few bitter almonds together with the sweet almonds in the batter, but they are really hard to find here in the States. It might have something to do with them being very poisonous when digested in large amounts. The almond extract that we use in baking is actually made from bitter almonds, which is why it works excellent as a substitute (and oh, it's not poisonous!). It has such a wonderful aroma, and I even love to put a little in my pancake batter or in my oatmeal in the morning.

This recipe also calls for vanilla sugar, which is very common in Swedish baking. It resembles confectioners sugar, but has been mixed with vanilla beans. You can find it at World Market and in other specialty stores that sell European products. If you have trouble finding it, you can make your own by putting 2 cups of white sugar in an airtight container. Take one vanilla bean, slice it open and mix the specks with the sugar and then bury the pod in the sugar. Cover, and let stand for a week before you use it.

To top this cake off, I used some edible flowers that I bought at Whole Foods in the herbs section. It's a beautiful way to take any dessert up a notch.




We tried our best to save half of the cake, but we just couldn't resist. Something tells me this will be a Raymer household staple.
 
 
 
 
Mazarin Torte
from the Swedish Baking Magazine Hembakat
 
7 oz butter 
>1 - 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
30 almonds (grind, or mix in a blender until grinded)
2 tsp almond extract
> 1 - 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
< 2/3 cup milk, cold

 
Frosting: (I doubled this)
> 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

2 tsp water
 
 Ps. Since this is a Swedish recipe with metric measurements, it was hard to get the exact amounts. I have used the symbols > and < to show when to use heaping cups and when to spare some.


Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add the ground almonds and the vanilla sugar.
  4. Mix the flour and baking powder and add to the batter. Stir in the milk and almond extract.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9 inch spring form pan.
  6. Bake for 50-60 min.
  7. Let the torte cool. Mix confectioners sugar and water. Pour over the cake and let it set before cutting it. Enjoy!
 
 
 
Mazarintårta
från tidningen Hembakat
 
200 g smör
3 dl strösocker
2 ägg
2 msk vaniljsocker
25 st sötmandlar
6 st bittermandlar
3 dl vetemjöl
1 tsk bakpulver
1 1/2 dl mjölk, kall


Glasyr:
2 dl florsocker
2 tsk vatten



Gör så här:
  1. Sätt ugnen på 180 grader. Rör smör och socker vitt och pösigt.
  2. Tillsätt äggen, ett i sänder, och rör om.
  3. Rör ner de malda mandlarna och vaniljsockret. Tillsätt mjölet blandat med bakpulvret och till sist den kalla mjölken.
  4. Häll smeten i en smord och bröad form med löstagbar kant, ca 24 cm i diameter.
  5. Grädda kakan mitt i ugnen i ca 60 min. ¨
  6. Låt kakan kallna. Blanda florsocker och vatten till glasyren. Glasera kakan och låt den stelna innan du skär i den.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Apple Rose Mini Tarts

 



 
I love finding beautiful recipes that are both easy to make, and use ingredients you most likely already have at home. These little beauties are one of those recipes that you can easily throw together after dinner one week night to have with that late night coffee (it's not just me right?). Or if you have guests coming over, simply plate the roses with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side, drizzle with caramel, and you have yourself a fancy dessert.
 
 
 
 
Did I mention they are delicious?
 
 


 
 
My soon-to-be 4 year old loved these, and I'm sure you will too! Be sure to check out this tutorial to see how easy they are to make. Happy baking!
 
 

 
Apple Rose Mini Tarts
from Cooking With May Lynn 

1 red apple
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
Cinnamon
Powdered sugar for dusting


Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (175C).
  2. Slice an apple in half and remove the core.
  3. Make thin slices and put them in a pot. Add sugar, honey and water and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Move the apples to a bowl and let them cool.
  5. Take the butter and add 3 tablespoons of the apple water and the flour. Mix well and form into a ball. Divide dough in half, and roll it into a rectangle on your counter.
  6. Slice strips horizontally, about 1 inch wide.
  7. Put 5-6 slices of apple, overlapping, on top of the strips. Sprinkle some cinnamon and roll them up so it looks like roses.
  8. Put the roses in cupcake molds and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. Dust some powdered sugar on top and voilá!



Små Äppelrosor
 
2,25 dl mjöl
Ett rött äpple
2 msk socker
1 msk flytande honung
3 msk vatten
60 gram smör
Kanel

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

White Chocolate Lavender French Macarons

 


Ever since I had my first macaron at Bottega Louie in downtown LA last year - a perfect, powder blue Earl Grey macaron with gold dust on top - I knew I was in love. It was sweet and had a crunchy outside, while soft on the inside, and simply delicious. Macarons are the perfect treat for an afternoon fika, when you just want something little, but sweet, to go with your hot cup of coffee.

This past Saturday, I decided to try making macarons for the first time. I had read countless recipes and directions for making French macarons, so I was well aware of the fact that it would be a challenge. I found one recipe that offers two important things: a) the recipe uses weight rather than volume to make it more precise, and b) it has a useful trouble shooting video and lists the common errors when baking macarons. Still, it took me three batches and staying up till two in the morning, to succeed. Here's what I learned.




- It's all about how you stir the batter. I knew I had to be careful when folding the batter, but what I also learned was that it's easy to over-mix. The first batch of rose water macarons with a buttercream filling, were over-mixed and turned out flat. With the second batch I was overly cautious and mixed the batter until the dry ingredients had just been incorporated. These guys turned out under-mixed, chubby and lumpy. The correct way is to carefully fold the batter along the sides, until it's slowly running off the spoon like a ribbon. These white chocolate lavender macarons turned out perfect. You know what they say - third time's the charm!

- Drawing circles using a compass on a non-stick parchment paper will help make the macarons the same size. Make sure to leave some space between them so that they don't bake into each other.

- It's important to tap the baking sheet hard on the counter to get rid off all of the air bubbles in the batter. This will also help the macarons not to crack.

- Make lots of them, because they'll be gone in no time.


 
 
The wonderful thing about macarons is that you can make any filling you like, the basic recipe is always the same. I made a rose water buttercream and a white chocolate lavender ganache. Even though the rose water macarons didn't have the right consistency, I still loved the delicate rose flavor. Another great thing is that they freeze well, so you can always make them in advance if you're having a party. 
 
Bon appétit!






French Macarons
from HowToCookThat

4 large egg whites (or 5 small) 140g (4.94 ounces)
1/3 cup or 70g (2.47 ounces) caster sugar [*US cups 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp.]
1 1/2 cups or 230g (8.11 ounces) pure icing sugar [US cups 1 1/2 cups plus 4 tsp.] 

1 cup or 120g (4.23 ounces) almond meal [US cups 1 cup plus 3 teaspoons]
2g (0.07 ounces) salt (tiny pinch)
gel food coloring (optional)




Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F (150 grader)
  2. Place egg whites and cater sugar in a bowl and mix with electric mixer until stiff enough to turn the bowl upside down without it falling out, continue to whip for 1-2 more minutes. How long this takes will depend on you mixer. Add gel or powdered food coloring and continue to mix for a further 20 seconds.
  3. Sift the almond meal and icing sugar and salt twice, discarding any almond lumps that are too big to pass through the sieve.
  4. Fold into the egg white mixture. It should take roughly 30-50 folds using a rubber spatula. The mixture should be smooth and a very viscous, not runny. Over-mix and your macarons will be flat and have no foot, under mix and they will not be smooth on top.
  5. Pipe onto trays lined with baking paper, rap trays on the bench firmly (this prevents cracking) and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check if one comes off the tray fairly cleanly, if not bake for a little longer (make sure you are using NON-stick baking paper or they will stick).



Rose water buttercream
altered recipe from addapinch

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 - 2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp rose water
pinch salt
1-2 tbsp heavy cream


Instructions:
  1. Place softened butter into the bowl of a stand mixer that has been fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on a medium setting and cream the butter until it is smooth and has lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add confectioner's sugar, ½ a cup at a time. After each cup has been incorporated, turn the mixer onto the highest speed setting and for about 10 seconds to lighten the frosting.
  3. Add rose water and a pinch of salt and combine until well-incorporated.
  4. Add heavy cream until the frosting has reached the preferred consistency. For a firmer frosting, add more confectioner's sugar.



Lavender White Chocolate Ganache
altered recipe from butter sweet symphony

1/2 cup white chocolate
1/3 cup cream
2 teaspoons dried edible lavender



Instructions:
  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the cream gently with the dried lavender.
  3. Pour the lavender-infused through a strainer over the chopped chocolate. Mix until it forms a smooth consistency.
  4. Pour the mixture into a piping bag and let chill until the ganache is at the correct consistency to be piped.


French Macarons

4-5 stora äggvitor 140g
70g fint socker
230g florsocker

120g mandelmjöl
2g salt (en nypa)
Hushållsfärg i gelform




Rosenvattensmörkräm

55 g smör, rumstemp
2,5 - 3,5 dl florsocker
1 tsk rosenvatten
nypa salt
1-2 msk grädde



Lavendel- och vit chokladganache

1,2 dl vit choklad
0,8 dl grädde
2 tsk torkad lavendel