Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Strawberry Tall Cake

I am not afraid.  To bake.  Anything.  A tall cake.  A short cake.  A babka.  A brioche.  A cobbler.  A danish.  A pie - fruit, cream, meringue.  You name it - I will bake it.  And the results are always spectacular.  Sometimes they're spectacularly magnificent.  Sometimes they are a spectacular fail.  But with every measured spoonful, with every sifted ingredient, there is the hope that this will be "the one".  The one that will go down in family history as being the best/tastiest/most yummiest thing that was ever made.  Every occasion will warrant one being made.  Quarrels will erupt over the last slice/bite/crumb.  Husbands will pester their wives to make it, then lament that it is just not the same.  Children will grow up remembering how it tasted, and try to replicate it, but will fall just a little short.  That elusive taste will forever linger in their mouths.  

Dear friends, I will now confess, that this strawberry tall cake was a spectacular eh.  It will not go down in family history.  It will be devoured/enjoyed/gobbled down, but it will not be reminisced about.  But, as I have already noted, I am not afraid to bake anything.  And that includes another strawberry/sponge/whipped cream concoction.  I will bake it again and again and again, until that I success in making my grandmother's "bishkopt" (sponge cake in Ukrainian, if you really wanted to know).  That is the taste that still lingers in my mouth, the one that escapes replication.

Until that cake is made, I will continue to be fearless in the kitchen.  And in the meantime, you can enjoy this one!

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living


  • For The Cake

    • 2 1/4 cups cake flour 
    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup safflower oil
    • 7 large egg yolks plus 9 large egg whites
    • 3/4 cup whole milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • For The Berries And Cream

    • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered (about 5 cups)
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • Pinch of salt
    • 2 cups cold heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Whisk together oil, egg yolks, and milk in a large bowl. Whisk flour mixture into egg-yolk mixture.
  2. Beat egg whites with a mixer on high speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and vanilla seeds or extract, and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes. Whisk one-third of the egg-white mixture into batter. Gently but thoroughly fold in remaining egg-white mixture with a rubber spatula.
  3. Transfer batter to tube pan. Bake until top of cake springs back when touched, 52 to 55 minutes. Let cool upside down 1 hour.
  4. Combine strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and salt, and let sit, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Just before assembling, beat cream and confectioners' sugar until medium peaks form.
  5. Cut cake horizontally into 3 layers with a serrated knife. Transfer bottom layer to a cake plate or platter. Spread with half the berries, and drizzle with juices. Spread half the whipped cream over berries, then top with middle cake layer. Spread with remaining berries and whipped cream. Top with remaining cake layer. Refrigerate cake 1 hour. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Confetti Cookies!!!

Science was never my thing.  I cringed in chemistry.  I was perplexed in physics.  I have taken my last science quiz and never looked back.  Then one day, while contemplating some recipe alchemy, I realized that my uber-favorite thing to do - bake - was indeed considered a type of science.  Bazinga!  So, back to the burner I went - although the Kitchenaid one this time, not the Bunsen!  Since the kitchen is now my own personal laboratory, and the apron my lab coat, I find that many new recipes that I try can indeed be classified as experiments.  Some come out brilliantly.  Others fail miserably.  The trick with baking is following the recipe to the letter (or the measurement, as it may be).  There is no dash of this, or splash of that.  Baking does not have the flamboyance of cooking.  It is measured.  There is a sequence that must be followed. 

And when it all works - Yowsa!!!  Such was the case with confetti cookies!  Milk crumbs!  Rainbow sprinkles!  Glucose!  (Well, I used regular corn syrup but glucose sounds so much more scientific-y!!!)  And all the !!!!!!!!!!!! Perfect, happy cookie!!!!

Confetti Cookies!!!

The recipe suggests that you chill the dough balls for at least an hour, up to overnight.  Don't mess with this step otherwise the cookies will just puddle together.  It's a good exercise in patience!

Check the baking times.  I now set me timer to the half-point mark, and check ever few minutes after that.  Ovens can be temperamental - so check often!

They stack up so well (well, until a certain little baby knocks it over and giggles at the cookie destruction!)

Confetti CookiesRecipe adapted from: Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 1/2 cups flour   
2/3 cup milk powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
1/2 recipe Birthday Cake Crumb 

Birthday Cake Crumb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Birthday Cake Crumb: 

1. Heat the oven to 300°F.

2. Combine the sugars, flour, baking powder, salt, and sprinkles in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.

3. Add the oil and vanilla and mix until small clusters form.

4. Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch; they will dry and harden as they cool.

5. Let the crumbs cool completely.

Confetti Cookies:
6. Combine the butter, sugar, and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
7. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, milk powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and rainbow sprinkles. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. 
8. Still on low speed, add the birthday cake crumbs and mix in for 30 seconds—just until they are incorporated. 

9. Using a 2 3/4-ounce ice cream scoop, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly. 

10. Heat the oven to 350°F.
11. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Battle Meringue Pie - Part Deux

Lemon Meringue Pie

Well, dear Readers, we are now looking at the challenger in this battle of citruses - lemon meringue pie.  This is a classic combination: heaps of torched meringue sitting on a jiggly lemon curd filling.  Unlike our previous competitor, the blackberry lime curd meringue pie, there is no fruit buffer.  No artistic swirling of meringue, or artful tucking of berries.  No syrups used in the meringue, or gelatine in the curd.  This is straight-up pie.  The kind you see in movies in the diner pie display cases.  The kind mom used to make with the supermarket lemon pudding packages.  The kind where the lemon puckers your entire mouth and thousands of tiny bubbles in the meringue melt on your tongue.  Where the previous pie was polished and tasteful, this pie is bad(bleep).

The Crust
I'm not going to lie to you.  The crust is exactly the same as the one used for the blackberry lime curd meringue pie.  It's a single crust and blind baked.  But just so that you believe me, here's a picture of of the unbaked crust being docked.  (For the recipe, just check out the previous post.  One day, I will have a "how-to" on pie crust making.  What can I say.  I make pies.  Alot.)

The curd
The curd is made pretty much the same way at the lime curd.  Only difference (besides using lemons and not limes), is that there is no gelatine or whipped cream folded into the curd.  It may not be as light as the BLMP (blackberry lime meringue pie - I just can't keep writing it anymore!) but it has an undiluted tart lemony taste and it sets to a perfect jiggle.

(My apologies for the quality of the photo.  It was late.  My camera doesn't like taking pictures after dark.  It rebels by making all the photos look like they have a sepia-quality to them.  But sadly not in a good way...)

The meringue
Straight up meringue.  And lots of it.

The competitors
Both meringues browning in the oven.  The LMP (lemon meringue pie) browns much better than the BLMP.

The finished pie...

So, which was the winner?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  The judges were divided.  Half felt that the BLMP (blackberry lime meringue pie) was the best they'd ever tasted.  The other half thought that you just can't make the classic any better.

Me?  I'll take the lemon meringue pie any day.

Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart


  • Pate Brisee (Pie Dough) (see previous post for pie dough recipe and instructions)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon rind
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and line a 9-inch pie tin. Crimp the edges. Chill until firm. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and cream to make a glaze. Dock the dough with a fork, brush the top edges with the glaze, and line with parchment paper. Weight the shell with pie weights or dried beans, and bake until the edges begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights; continue baking until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes more. Let cool.
  2. To make filling, combine cornstarch, cake flour, salt, and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add 2 cups cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from heat. Temper egg yolks by beating a small amount of hot mixture into the yolks before adding them to pan. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from heat, and whisk in the lemon juice and rind. Add the butter one piece at a time. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and let cool.
  5. Pour the filling into the cooled shell and refrigerate, covered with aluminum foil, until firm, about 1 hour.
  6. To make the meringue, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heat-proof bowl. Set over a pan of simmering water; beat until warm and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl from heat; whip into stiff peaks.
  7. Spread the meringue over pie so that it touches crust all around. Broil in oven until brown, about 2 minutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Battle Meringue Pie

Blackberry lime meringue pie vs. Lemon meringue pie

A culinary competition of sorts took place in my kitchen last weekend.  I had already decided to bake this luscious blackberry and lime meringue pie.  (Ok, my sister pleaded with me to make it for her for her birthday.  Birthday pie instead of birthday cake.  Who knew?).  But since the pie only needed a single crust – and everybody knows that all pie dough recipes make for two crusts – the Monarch quickly suggested that I bake a second pie at the same time.  Two birds, one pie.  OK, two pies.  But you know what I mean.

Two pies.  They'd obviously have to be two single crust ones.  One lime meringue.  And the other... lemon meringue.  Not really a stretch but still.  I had my two recipes.  One taken straight from the cover of the newest Bon Appetit magazine.  The other, a mile high lemon meringue pie from Martha Stewart.    But both used slightly different techniques.  Different curds.  Different meringues.  Hmmm, went my mind.  (Yes, apparently my mind goes hmmm.)  This could be interesting.   This could be blog-worthy!

OK, I said to the Monarch.  Two pies it is!

An so, on a blustery and bleary Sunday afternoon, battle meringue pie took place.

First, the pie crust

I will spare you much detail about the making of a pie crust.  All I will say is that:
a) a food processor beats a pastry cutter at making a pie dough
b) forgetting to dock your crust will make it bubble up when baked
c) the navy beans that I needed to make heuvos rancheros were used as pie weights (and the Monarch couldn't find any more at the supermarket!)

Then the lime curd

Here is where the lime curd u-turned from the lemon curd:

(this is the gelatin dissolving in water)
some cream was whipped
and added to the lime curd

which was now light and fluffy - almost like a mousse

Let's not forget the blackberry compote

oops - why is the picture of the wine bottle upside-down???
And finally... the Italian meringue

If you were making the mile high meringue, you'd whip the egg whites until stiff peaks formed, and then stop.  But the Italians, well they had another technique in mind....

First, you dust off the candy thermometer and make a syrup....

then you slowly pour it into the whipped egg whites (look: an action shot!)
And you end up with this satiny, ooey gooey, marshmellow-ooey meringue!
And if you still have any energy left, you assemble the pie!


If you're wondering about the lemon meringue pie, that's coming up in the next blog!

Lime and Blackberry Italian Meringue Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit


Pie Dough (this is my go-to pie dough recipe - also from Bon Appetit but from days long ago)

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 10 tablespoons (about) ice water
Directions for making and blind baking this pie crust can be found here:

Lime Curd

  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream

Blackberry Compote

  • 1 cup fruity red wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups blackberries


  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup blackberries (about 1/2 pint)

How to

Lime Curd

  • Stir lime juice, eggs, egg yolks, and sugar together in another medium bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk until mixture has thickened, the whisk leaves a path when lifted from curd, and an instant-read thermometer registers 175°, about 15 minutes. Add butter to curd, one Tbsp. at a time, whisking to blend between additions.  
    Set a strainer over a medium bowl. Strain curd into prepared bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. 
  • Sprinkle gelatin over 2 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; let stand until gelatin is soft, about 10 minutes. Using an electric mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add gelatin mixture; continue beating cream until just before firm peaks form. Fold whipped cream into lime curd. Cover; chill.

Blackberry Compote

  • Bring red wine, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Add 3 cups berries; fold gently to coat.
  • Spread compote in an even layer over baked crust. Spoon lime curd over berries, smooth top, and chill for 1 hour.


  • Preheat oven to 450°. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat whites in mixer until soft peaks form. Set aside. Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until thermometer registers 238°.  Remove pan from heat.
  • Meanwhile, beat whites in mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in salt.
  • Slowly pour hot sugar syrup down side of bowl into whites and beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes. Spoon meringue over lime curd, leaving a 1" plain border, and sculpt decoratively. Tuck 1 cup berries in and around meringue.
  • Bake pie until meringue is toasted in spots, 3-5 minutes (or use a kitchen torch to brown). Chill for 30 minutes before serving.