Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ricotta Almond Cake with Pink Pearl Apples

I am not sure when I fell in love with the rain. It could be the rainy afternoon in Le Marais which rendered walking the cobblestone streets of the third arrondisement with a few books in hand un petit peu difficile. The rain forced, well not exactly 'forced,' but allowed me to discover coffee-perfumed shelter inside a cafe that made the perfect cafe allongé. I read as the rain fell. The rain's hum was like a metronome, calm but constant. That is possibly when I fell in love with the rain. I also fell in love with the rain when rain equated to an afternoon making this cake. It is a simple single layer cake with the most delicate crumb. Jewel-toned slices of pink pearl apples adorn the cake in a nonsystematic yet uniform way. It also is not just about the cake but rather celebrating that the cake is something greater than the sum of its simple parts of flour, butter, and sugar. It is the gratification of creation. A sweet and buttery creation.

You do not have to use pink pearl apples for this recipe. You can choose any apple, but make sure it is not the kind that will get too mealy or mushy when baked. There's quite a long story behind these pink-fleshed apples. Before now, the closest I have ever gotten to pink pearls was through looking at photos of them on social media that other bloggers have posted. Pink pearl apples are hard to find, especially in Vancouver. After doing some research, I found out that the closest place to get these apples was from a farm on an island that was a ferry ride away from Vancouver. This island, Salt Spring Island, holds a yearly apple festival for one day only where local growers/farmers showcase all the apple varieties that the island has to offer. There was one farm on the island (apparently just one?) that had a few trees of pink pearl apples. When I arrived at the farm I bought all the pink pearls that the farm had. I have never been so happy to hold a $30 bag of apples. I do not know why it has taken me this long to share this cake with you but here it is. A few of you had asked me where I got my pink pearl apples so I hope you find this helpful. You can also look forward to a pink pearl frangipane tart in the very near future — I promise.

Ricotta Almond Cake with Pink Pearl Apples
Yields one 9-inch cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ricotta
30mL milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

4 medium sized apples, halved, sliced thinly
1/4 cup apple or apricot jelly, to glaze

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and mix until well-combined. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together. 

In large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and milk.

Add half the dry ingredients and half of the ingredients in them measuring cup to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix together lightly. Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix until just combined. 

Arrange apple slices on top of the batter.

Bake cake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the apples are browning too quickly, place a sheet of foil on top while the cake continues to bake.

Once cake is ready, take the cake out of the oven. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes before glazing with a pastry brush. 

Serve warm.

Happy baking!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Galette des Rois (+ A Brief History)

Happy 2018! How was your New Year's? Did you go out? Did you have lots of fun? Did you get your cheeky New Year's kiss? I want to know everything. I took a small break from baking the last two weeks to fully enjoy the holidays. Do not get me wrong — I still made and decorated sugar with friends but when you bake for fun it is slightly different than baking for the blog. Having to make everything look extra perfect and having to document the step-by-step makes the baking experience just a tad different. I enjoy both though! I know a lot of you are on some #whole30 plan or some sort of cleanse, but sneaking a little slice of this galette is worth it. I promise.

The first time I ever had a slice of galette des roi (when I first had it, I did not know that it was such a special festive galette) was three years ago. I was wandering the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong in early January and stumbled upon a French lifestyle store. Right when I entered the store, the owner offered me a slice of galette des rois. I was slightly confused but also very intrigued by this glossy and buttery offer. He then started explaining to me how this specific galette is made in celebration of Epiphany which takes place on January 6th of every year. 

There are two kinds of Galette des Rois, or Kings Cake, in France — one is layers of puff pastry filled with almond cream, and the second is a yeasted cake decorated with sticky colourful fruit (gâteau des rois), with the latter being more popular in the south of France. The extra fun thing about these galettes is that it is tradition to bake a fève (bean) into the galette and whoever gets the bean gets to be the roi (king) for the day and wear a paper crown that bakeries often give with the galettes. Alternatively, a porcelain toy of French historical or religious figures will take the place of the bean and be baked inside the galette. Adults often try to cut around the pieces to make sure the child at the table gets the trinket.

Even if you do not celebrate Epiphany, this galette is a great treat to make for a special occasion (or any occasion). If you were to ask me what a galette des rois tastes like, my response would be something along the lines of: buttery puff pastry stuffed with the filling of a double baked almond croissant. Eloquent, I know. Though traditionally made it almonds, you can use different types of nuts for the crème. A pistachio crème would be so good too.

Galette des Rois
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini
Yields one 8-inch galette

400 grams all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup jam of your choice (optional)

Crème d'amande
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup + 3 tablespoon almond flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange flower water

Beat the butter on low until creamy. 

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, corn starch, and salt. Make sure there are no large clumps of almond flour. 

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and mix until smooth. 

Add orange flower water. Add the eggs (one at a time), mixing well between each addition.

Fill a piping bag with a large round piping tip with the almond filling.

Egg Wash
1 egg 
2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Set aside.

Sugar Glaze
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water

In a small bowl, combine sugar and boiling water. Mix until sugar has melted.

Divide the puff pastry in two equal pieces, and roll each one out to form a rough circle a little larger than 8 inches in diameter. Use a sharp knife and an upturned plate (or a cake ring) of the right dimension to cut two neat 8-inch circles.

Place one of the circles on a piece of parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, brush the outer rim of the dough lightly with the egg wash by a width of about an inch. Make sure not to wet the actual edge of the dough, or it will prevent it from rising properly. 

If you are adding a layer of jam to the galette, you want to do so before piping on the almond filling. Use a spatula to evenly distribute a layer of jam inside the egg wash ring.

Pipe the crème d'amande onto the bottom piece of pastry inside the egg wash ring. Alternatively, you can use a spatula to evenly distribute the filling. 

Place a fève (a dried bean or trinket of your choice) in the crème d'amande. Press it down gently to bury it.

Transfer the second piece of dough precisely on top of the first, smooth it out gently over the crème d'amande to remove any air pockets. Press it down all around the sides to seal.

Using the back of the tip of your knife, draw a decorative pattern on top of the galette. 

Also using the back of the knife, push the dough inward where each score meets the edge to create a scalloped edge.

Brush the top of the galette lightly with the egg wash, while making sure it doesn't drip over the edges.

Transfer to a baking sheet and chill in refrigerator for an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Take the galette out of the refrigerator and bake for 28 - 30 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

In the final minutes of baking, lightly brush a thin layer of sugar glaze with a pastry brush. Return galette to the oven for a minute until sugar glaze becomes shiny.

Place galette on serving rack to cool, pop on a paper crown, and serve at room temperature.

Happy baking!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Funfetti Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

I hope you know that you are deserving of all the good things in life. You deserve the quiet confidence that makes you believe that anything is possible. You deserve the tranquility of morning sunrises that remind you of beauty in a world that can seem bleak at times. You deserve someone that will wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness to it. You also deserve to be that person for yourself. You deserve someone who when you try to find words to describe makes you realize that words simplify feelings, and that forever just is not enough. You deserve a love that even time will lie down and be still for. You deserve moments of pure unadulterated happiness that makes you short of breath. You deserve to experience creativity that cannot be tamed and should not be tamed. You deserve everything good and so much more and I hope 2018 is the year for you.  

It is the last cake of the year! It is a simple cake but rainbow sprinkles make any cake a worthy celebration cake. Last year was a year of pies but I think this year it was cake that took precedence. I am definitely not complaining. I have made many new favourite cakes this year and this funfetti cake from My Name is Yeh is without a doubt a top contender. I purchased my copy of Molly on the Range when it came out and subsequently saw many bloggers make Molly's signature cake. I do not know why it took me this long to finally make this rainbow speckled cake. I wish I made it sooner because it is so good. It has that vanilla flavour (from the clear imitation vanilla) that is synonymous with childhood white cake nostalgia. It is everything. I paired it with my favourite simple whipped cream cheese frosting because childhood me (and present day me) loved everything with a cream cheese frosting. I went for the completely naked cake look by taking off the sides of the cake to really showcase the rainbow speckled crumb inside. This cake is perfect for any celebration and it is going to by my New Year's cake this year —maybe it will be yours too!

Funfetti Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields three layer 6-inch cake

Funfetti Cake
from My Name Is Yeh/Food 52
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large egg whites
2 tablespoons clear imitation vanilla 
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups cake flour 
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup plus sprinkles (*jimmies sprinkles will bleed the least!)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Preapre three 6-inch cake pans.

With an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Mix in the vanilla and oil. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

With your mixer running on low, add this to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk. 

Once you have a smooth batter, fold in the sprinkles. Do not overmix!

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness at around 25 minutes. 

Let the cakes cool for a few minutes in the pans and then flip them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before layering.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup whipping cream
275g cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add in icing sugar and beat for 2 - 3 minutes until smooth. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream.

To achieve the entirely naked look (like in pictures above), I used a cake ring that was slightly smaller than the diameter of the cake to cut out the cake layers. I used a 5 inch cake ring and cut through the centre of each cake layer. This technique will removed the golden/brown cake on the outside to reveal the rainbow speckled cake layers.

Once I put the first layer of the cake down, I take a tall piece of acetate and wrap it around the circumference of the cake and secure it with tape. I place the 5-inch cake ring around the acetate to make sure it is extra secure.

A generous scoop of frosting goes on top of the cake layer before sliding in the second layer of cake into the acetate tube. Alternate between cake and frosting until you reach the top, ending with a layer of frosting.

Wrap the cake securely and chill the cake in the freezer for a minimum of 8 - 10 hours, until the cake has set.

At least 3 hours before serving, remove the cake from the freezer and using your fingers and thumbs, pop the cake out of the cake ring. Gently peel off the acetate and transfer cake to platter or stand. It is important to peel the acetate off when the cake is still frozen to ensure clean sides.

Let it defrost in the fridge or counter for a minimum of 3 hours.

Happy baking + happy new year!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Cookie Boxes 101 + A Guide to Christmas Cookies in Vancouver

The cookie box makes a return to the blog again this year! You loved the cookie box from last year (it was the most popular blog post of 2017!) that it only seemed right for me to create some sort of cookie box again this year. Originally I was not sure if I was going to make a cookie box this year, especially a box of a similar size to the one from last year. I had so much holiday baking to do that I did not think I would be able to bake 8 - 10 different types of cookies and provide thorough recipes and instructions for each one. I was in a cookie-induced dilemma when the lovely TEAMCHOMP (hi!!) suggested that we create (in his words exactly) "the most epic cookie box with our favourite holiday cookies in Vancouver." So that is exactly what we did. We picked a day and drove all around town to pick up our favourite festive cookies in Vancouver. We also included a few cookies that are not necessarily festive, but we thought were a nice addition to our box.

There were two questions that kept coming into my email and Instagram inbox during the months of November and December —"where did you get the box for your cookie box?" and "how did you make your cookie box?" It seems like many of you want to make your own cookie box this year (yay!) so I am here today to answer both those questions for you.

"Where did you get the box for your cookie box?"
My 'cookie box' is not an actual box designed for housing many different types of cookies. The box itself is a very large shirt box. I bought this large shirt box from a local craft store. I then bought thick card stock, which I then trimmed down, to turn into cookie box dividers. The amount of card stock needed will depend on how many compartments you want your cookie box to have. 

Do not worry about how the compartments of your box will look before you have your cookies. Once you start arranging your cookies in the box without the dividers, you will start to get a sense of how large your dividers have to be and how many you will need. Once the cookies are in the box, your dividers should not have any problems standing up on its own, but if if you want some extra support, a little hot glue or tape will do just the trick.

"How did you make your cookie box?"
My answer to this question might be slightly underwhelming but I do not have one answer that will fully answer that question. What I can provide to you though are tips and tricks to make and arrange the perfect cookie box!

1. When choosing festive treats for your box, be sure to choose treats that have a shelf life of more than just a day. It is likely that you or whoever you are gifting this cookie box to will not be able to consume all the cookies in one sitting. Shortbread cookies and sugar cookies are great cookies because they stay fresh longer, especially when stored airtight. Soft ginger molasses cookies are also a great choice because the molasses in them tend to help them stay moist for several days.

2. Choose a variety of cookies. It is nice to have variety of cookies in terms of flavour and shape. If you want to save time and make a full box of shortbread cookies, do not be afraid to have different add-ins in to make different variations of shortbread. You can create one classic shortbread dough, divide up the dough into portions and add different types of nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate into each portion of dough. Using different cookie cutters will also add variety to your box. I also love turning my favourite shortbread cookies into linzer cookies with the addition of jam and a light dusting of icing sugar.

3. If you are decorating sugar cookies for your box, make sure the icing on your cookies are completely dry before you start arranging and stacking your cookies. Patience, always!

4. Since we are on the topic of stacking cookies, be sure to stack the heaviest cookies at the bottom and the lighter, more delicate cookies at the top. 

5. Do not limit yourself to just cookies. Your festive box can be a cookie box or it can be a treat box. Last year I had homemade marshmallows for one compartment of the box and this year I added peppermint chocolate covered pretzels and a jar of mini candy canes to the mix.

Both years I created a large cookie box, but that does not mean smaller boxes are not as pretty and festive! I have created many smaller boxes too. Smaller boxes are much easier to find in the craft store and many smaller boxes actually come with little dividers. If you want some inspiration to a simpler version of a cookie box, you can check the speculoos and hot cocoa box I created last year as well. It makes a very cute breakfast cookies in bed kind of situation. 

The cookies that I chose to be part of the box this year were the ones both TEAMCHOMP and I really enjoy. All the cookies come from local bakeries here in Vancouver, BC and if you are from Vancouver (hello!!) we hope this serves as a helpful guide to where you can find festive cookies in the city. You can read more about our cookie guide over at TEAMCHOMP.

*We used cookies from: Beaucoup Bakery, Butter Baked Goods, Cadeaux Bakery, Fife Bakery, Half Baked Cookie Company, Tacofino, Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie
Not Pictured (but equally loved): Elysian Coffee, Nemesis

Happy holidays from Amy and Rich of TEAMCHOMP!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Chai Black Tea Cake with Raspberry

As you may know, I am not a huge fall baker — I do not really like pumpkin (sorry!), fall spices are not my favourite, and making apple pie still makes me nervous. I feel like everyone's mom or grandma's apple pie will always be the best apple pie and my feeble attempt of making a pie that will impress you will pale in comparison. Christmas baking is a whole different story. I love the idea of making a bûche de noel (note: idea of, not actual execution), only feeling a little bit bad for indulging in a rich cheesecake soon after I make it, and the first 30 minutes of sugar cookie decorating before I hate it for the remaining seven hours of royal icing induced labour. Festive holiday cookie decorating is my favourite thing to do during the winter holidays even though you may hear me complaining how I do not have enough fine piping tips and that my royal icing is taking forever to set. 

There are so many types holiday treats that I often get torn on what to make for the season. I contemplating making the cookie box again this year because so many of you loved it last year. It was a lot more feasible last year because I had a better functioning kitchen then and I had a lot more help with the cookie making. The thought of making eight to ten different types of cookies by myself within a short period of time (to make sure the cookies stay fresh after the photos for snacking!) and making all the cookies after work in the evening seemed like an extremely daunting task. I also wanted to make blueberry oatmeal cookies, decorated shortbread houses in a jar, a crêpe cake, and this cake for you, so the cookie box got left on the back burner. Don't worry though, I still have a variation of a cookie box coming your way. I promise it'll be worth waiting for! 

Back to this cake. This cake is three layers of a subtly spiced chai cake with a thin layer of raspberry jam in between the cake layers. Also in between each cake layer is whipped cream cheese frosting which makes it all even more dreamy. The warm spices make it holiday-ready and it lends itself to being even more festive depending on how you decorate the cake. I opted for some roses, carnations, and dried pink peppercorn bunches. My florist also gave me some bronze-coloured seeded eucalyptus for an extra dose of holiday cheer.

Chai Black Tea Cake with Raspberry
Yields three layer 6-inch cake

Chai Black Tea Cake
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cups  brown sugar 
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tteaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare three cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, spices, and salt until well combined. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup/bowl, combine vanilla, Pure Leaf Unsweetened Black Tea and whole milk. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. 

Alternate adding flour mixture and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.

Bake for 30 - 35 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack. Allow to cool before frosting.

Raspberry Jam
1/2 cup your favourite raspberry jam

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup heavy whipping cream
250 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms stiff peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.

In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream. 

Keep whipped cream cheese frosting chilled until ready to use.

Thank you Pure Leaf for supporting Constellation Inspiration! 
Happy baking!