Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lesson 1

Last Monday I had the first lesson of the pastry chef course I have so long been waiting for. I loved every minute of it, even though we started at 4 p.m. and finished at 1a.m.! The first few hours were lecture and I took 9 pages of notes(!) - there's going to be a test at the end so I'd better pay attention! Then we spent the rest of the evening practicing what we had learned. We broke into groups of 4 and I must say it takes a bit of getting used to working in a kitchen with 3 other bakers. I am so used to my own way of doing things and so is everybody else! Good lesson in cooperation.

This week the topic was basic mixed cakes. These cakes are based on one of two kinds of fat- oil or butter. The difference will be in the final result. Butter will produce a tighter, more pound cake- type quality and oil will give you a lighter, airier, but less melt-in -your -mouth taste. When using butter, it must be at room temperature, not melted, just soft to the touch. Usually it is creamed with the sugar first- a process called "cremage", to produce an emulsion.

Cakes made with oil have a more liquid batter and do not need to be creamed, just mixed. There are lots of other things we learned about the qualities of leavening and the characteristics of baking powder and baking soda ( a real chemistry lesson!), when each is used and what reaction takes place, but let's leave that for another time ( or not). More important are the pics of what we made and a few of the recipes for anyone interested.

First, we have Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins- great combination!

Recipe for Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes about 10-12 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pans

220 grams flour
120 grams sugar
3 grams baking powder
3 grams baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs ( room temperature)
200 ml. milk
70 grams yogurt
100 grams melted butter
20 grams corn syrup
2 well-ripened bananas cut in cubes and lightly mashed ( still leave some chunks in there)
150 grams chocolate chips

Streusel Topping

50 grams flour
50 grams cold butter
50 grams brown sugar
dash of cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 180 C. ( 350 F)

2. Prepare the streusel topping- In a food processor, process all ingredients to a large crumb stage. Chill .

3. In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients for the muffins- flour, baking soda and powder,salt and chocolate chips.

4. Melt butter and corn syrup together in a small pot.

5. In a separate bowl combine eggs with sugar and mix until well combined. Add milk, yogurt and the butter-corn syrup mix.

6. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Mix only until combined.

7. Add the mashed bananas and lightly mix in.

8. Pour mixture into muffins tins. Bake 10 minutes, then remove and sprinkle streusel topping on top. Return to oven for another 8-10 minutes until a toothpick comes out with damp crumbs- not dry.

Genoise cake

Carrot Cake( lower ) and Marble Pound Cake

Lemoncella Pound Cake

Basic Pound Cake
English cake or kugelhof or ring pan ,greased and floured
preheat oven to 180 C( 350F)
200 grams butter at room temperature
200 grams sugar

200 grams eggs (3-4)

200 grams self-rising flour

200 grams buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

Marble cake- 150 grams bitter chocolate
Halva and Honey cake- 3 tablespoons tehina paste , same amount of honey and 30 grams chocolate chips
Lemoncella cake- 80 ml. lemon juice ( reduce the quantity of buttermilk accordingly), zest of 2 lemons + syrup for moistening the cake ( 100 ml. water, juice of one lemon , 60 grams sugar, 1-2 tablespoons lemoncella liqueur)

1. Cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix for an additional 3 minutes.
2. Add alternately the buttermilk and the flour- beginning and ending with the flour. Continue mixing just until the mix is all incorporated then a quick 5 sec pulse on high.
3. At this pint you can add any of the ingredients for the upgrades.
4. Pour into greased and floured pan ( either English cake, kugelhoff , ring) and bake at 180C ( 350F) for 40 minutes.
5. When the cake is ready, take out of oven and rest in pan for 10 minutes. Turn over and cool on a rack.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Procrastination is my middle name. I learned this word at a very young age and understood that no matter what I did, I always seemed to put things off until tomorrow, the last minute (when it came to homework or projects I had to do for school!) or just pushed them "sometime in the future". It's not a great quality to have ,but there are aspects of procrastination that work for me- I do my best work under pressure, I become highly motivated when the deadline approaches and that "ahhhhhh" of satisfaction is so sweet when I finally complete my task.
This all leads to the point of my posting new posts. Its not that I don't like to do it, or even that I have a deadline, cause I don't. Just that I need get that "umph" or sudden urge to do it NOW!

Anyhoo, I love learning new things, especially, of course when it comes to baking. I took an evening course this week on "Boutique Cookies". It was an entire evening ( 5-10p.m.) of learning and making beautiful, sort of fancy type cookies. I had a great time, got some delicious recipes and ideas- here are some pics of the evening's work.

Pistachio, Orange, Vanilla Cookies- so pretty !

Rolling the "Chocolate-Nougat Filled Cigars"

Ready for Presentation

"Diamond Cookies" - coffee version

The rolled out dough base for "Dried Fruit and Toffee Fingers"

Spreading the topping ( these are simply unbelievable!)

Piping the bases for "Passion Fruit Macarons"

It's all in the presentation!
The course is run by a local chef and pastry chef by the name of Oren Giron. He is a great teacher, nice person and has so much knowledge to pass on. He offers a professional pastry chef's course, which I have been dying to enroll in, but was a bit afraid to make the commitment ( 13 weeks, although it is only once a week but from 5-midnight and possibly beyond if needed). There goes that procrastination sneaking in again. For some reason , the conditions were right last Monday night so I went ahead and took the leap- I start this Monday and hope to pass on some of the things I learn as well as recipes and pics. Keep posted for coming episodes!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baby Cookies

A Baby Bouquet of Cookies

I love decorating cookies. I don't have any artistic talents like drawing, painting or sculpting. Decorating cookies is my version of being an artist. Most of my ideas are variations on pictures I've seen on the Internet( there is an amazing world of cookie decorating out there) and slowly but surely I am developing my own style.

I shown my wares at work and people are now making requests for gift bouquets for baby showers, birthdays etc. It's fun to do and a little extra money on the side to buy more supplies.
This time I was asked for a bouquet of cookies for a newborn baby girl. Ah, how I love pink!

Just out of the oven

my kitchen is a disaster area when I decorate!
I really should be more organized and neat- but what would be the fun in that?!

bottles, rattles and onesies

baby buggies and balloons

the bouquet

I made 10 cookies- 2 baby buggies, 2 balloons, 2 rattles, 2 bottles and 2 onesies. ( I love decorating those!)

I have tried umpteen roll out cookie recipes, and finally decided on the one that works best for me. This one is from the book Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer.

I have added the measures in weight as well since I bake by weight , instead of volume.
Rolled Sugar Cookies
Cookie Craft
3 cups all-purpose flour (420 g)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (200 g)
1 cup sugar (200 g)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla or 1 tsp. vanilla plus zest of 1 lemon ( I have also tried orange zest and other extracts for a variety of flavors)

1. Whisk the flour and salt in a bowl and put aside.
2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla ( or any extract you are using) and the zest , if you are using and mix until well blended.
3. On low speed, add the flour mixture until the two are blended, but do not overwork the dough.
4. Divide the dough into 2-3 sections . At this point I like to roll each piece out between two sheets of parchment paper and then chill. It saves a step and makes life easier.
5. Preheat oven to 350 F ( 180C).
6. Use cookie cutters to make the desired shapes and bake in middle rack 12-16 minutes or just until the edges start becoming a golden color.
7. Cool the cookies on a rack before icing or decorating.
I use both royal icing and fondant for my decorations- it just depends on my mood and what effect I want on the cookies. On these cookies I used a combination of both.

Until the next bouquet..........

Monday, March 9, 2009


Tomorrow is the Jewish holiday of Purim. "Pur" in Hebrew, means "lots" or "lottery". The holiday celebrates the bravery of Queen Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from the evil Haman (an advisor to the king) in Persia in the city of Shushan. He decided to do away with the Jews and drew "lots" to decide which day would be their doomsday. Queen Esther found out about his plan and basically ratted on him to the king(who up until that time didn't even know she was Jewish). Long, complicated story, but in short, she saved the day. The date that was originally chosen for the Jews to be destrpyed , now became a day of celebration. It is a joyful, fun holiday , especially for children, who dress in costumes and parade around the city . The story of Queen Esther is read in synagogues throughout the world. It is a tradition that every time the name of Haman is mentioned, children and adults alike, shake noisemakers in the air, yell and shout, so as to drown out his evil name.

What is left of the evil Haman today is actually something very sweet and yummy. In Yiddish they are called "hamentashen" and in Hebrew , "ozney Haman" ( which is sort of strange since the translation for that is Haman's ears(!)and the three cornered cookies resemble his hat!)

So today, I made ozney haman with my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I made the dough at home and brought it to school since the class wasn't long enough to make and chill the dough.
I brought in rolling pins and round cookie cutters and had stations around the room so that everyone would be occupied while the others were making their cookies. Fillings were varied and ranged from strawberry and raspberry jam, to halva or date filling. The kids had a great time and the dough was delicious. I got the recipe from Carine Goren, an Israeli pastry chef, and it really is a winner. Below is the recipe I printed out for my students to take home and try with their families. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did today in class! Happy Purim- Hag Purim Sameach!

Ozney Haman for Purim
( Carine Goren)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)

200 grams cold butter cut into cubes
2 cups (300 grams) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4- 1/3 cup of milk
Prepared poppy seed filling, chocolate spread, jam, date spread or any other filling you like.

How to make them:

1. In a food processor, mix all ingredients except milk until it becomes crumb-like.
2. Slowly add a bit of milk and mix until the dough forms a ball. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more milk but be careful not to add too much. You don’t want wet dough.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
4. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and cut circles with a glass or cookie cutter.
5. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle and pinch closed to form a triangle.
6. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 180 C. (350 F) for 12-15 minutes. The edges should be a golden color but the cookies should not turn brown.
7. Cool and ENJOY!

On My Own

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the pace of all the things in our lives. I thought I was keeping up , more or less, with the recipes for the weekly "Tuesdays With Dorie" group, but apparently, not keeping up enough. I love baking so much, but I don't want to be pressured into making things that don't appeal to me or make them on a specific day of the week. The idea is great to have a baking club, but if missing a week or two disqualifies me, I guess this particular club isn't for me. I am officially out of Tuesday's With Dorie, but unofficially, I am still baking along with them, when it suits me and when the recipe appeals to me. I commend those who initiated the group and are able to keep up with the pace. I am there in spirit and baking some of the recipes along with you all and will also report on my own findings.
Now that I am more familiar with this blogging thing, it is time I branch out more on my own. If nothing else, it is a place for me to record my thoughts , feelings and baking adventures.
More to come soon.......