Sunday, December 21, 2014

Baked Sunday Mornings: Wintermint Cake & a Lesson in High Altitude Baking

We moved to Utah from the East Coast in July, and I was so excited to bake this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe of Wintermint Cake - I had a piece at the Baked Occasions book release party last October and was AMAZED!!

I followed cake portion of the recipe to a T.  And this is what happened.


I then realized that it wasn't until I lived at sea level that I was actually able to bake a decent cake.   As any baker knows, baking is a science and even the slightest deterrent can leave you with a pile of sugary garbage.  One of the factors that can seriously affect your baking is altitude.

Lower air pressure at high elevations causes air bubbles trapped in the batter to rise at a faster rate. When this happens, cakes rise very fast and high...then fall. As a result, you end up with a dense, dry cake. 

Don't know what your altitude is?  There's an app for that!  It's called "My Altitude." Here's mine in my kitchen:
 Anything over 3,000 ft. is considered "High Altitude".

So to all my friends in high places, make sure to take these things into consideration when baking:

*** I found my high altitude tips at King Arthur Flour and ***

OVEN TEMPERATURE:  When baking at high altitude, leavening and evaporation advance quicker than at sea level.  Therefore, you need to up the temperature by 15-25 degrees.  I set my oven at 340.

** NOTE!  Make sure you invest in an oven thermometer.  Mine is simple, cost about $6, and has a magnetic back.  I discovered that my oven is 25 degrees too low...NO BUENO!

Wintermint Cake

Kitchen scales are also great for baking, as using the metric system is much more accurate.  My scale is digital, I think I paid $15-20 at Costco.

BAKING TIME:  Because of the increased oven temperature, the time needed to bake the cake is lower.  Take off 5 minutes per 30 minutes of baking time.  I baked mine for 32 minutes.

SUGAR:  The increased evaporation also increases the concentration of sugar.  So you need less.  I decreased each white and brown sugars by 1 Tablespoon (-20 g).

FLOUR:  Additional flour helps strengthen the structure of what you're baking.  I added 2 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons to mine (+16 g).

LEAVENING AGENTS (baking powder and baking soda):  again, something to do with bubbles - hehe.  I decreased each by 1/4 tsp.

LIQUID:  Extra liquid helps to keep cakes from drying out at the higher temperature and evaporation rates.  I added 1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons of water to mine, taking it from 300 ml to 340 ml.

Now, onto the fun part - THE CAKE!!

Combine the cocoa, hot water, and sour cream in a 2 cup pyrex (like mine?).  The recipe recommends Valrhona cocoa, but I was so scared of messing up that I used a less fancy brand (Ghirardelli {still kind-of fancy, though, right?}) instead.

Grease your pans, cut out 8" parchment circles, grease the parchment, and dust pans with flour.  I know this part is super tedious, believe me.  If you have pre-cut parchment circles, use them!...I have yet to fail with this method - it's awesome and worth the extra time.  Do NOT NOT NOT use Pam.  Trust me!

Beat the room temperature butter and shortening for 5 minutes.  Should be "ribbon-like."

Wintermint Cake

Beat in the sugars until fluffy...another 5 minutes.   Scrape down.

Wintermint Cake

Beat in eggs one at a time, add the vanilla, then you're going to alternate adding the flour mixture and cocoa mixtures. Your batter should look like this...

Wintermint Cake

Distribute evenly among pans (I also weigh these to make sure they're all about the same).  Bake, rotate 1/2 way thru, toothpick test, take them out and let them cool in pans for 20 minutes.

No sinking!
See?  No sinking!!!

The next step was the chocolate peppermint ganache,


Peppermint chocolate Ganache

made with real peppermint extract and creme de menthe.


For the buttercream, I packed frozen vegetables underneath my mixing bowl as the recipe help cool it down more quickly.  I beat my icing for longer than the 7-9 minutes suggested...more like 20 minutes.

Ready to ombré!

I also enjoy a challenge and decided to go for the ombre look.  I used Americolor Gel in Soft Pink.  Although I think it turned out more day-glo pink ;)


Ombré!  Only I wish I hadn't used so much frosting in between layers...I was stretched really thin when adding the light pink at the top as you can see...Props to Mark at Neufangled Desserts for the snowflake sprinkles idea ;)


The peppermint buttercream icing was just the right amount of mint and sweet - it was light and fluffy and didn't overpower the cake.  The cake itself was moist, and the chocolate peppermint ganache gave it a nice little chocolatey boost.  My kids loved it, and the sky's the limit when it comes to decorating - check out all the other entries of this week's Baked Sunday Mornings Roundup!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Disco Cookies

A friend of ours turned 40!  So his wife threw him a Surprise Disco Party.

PicMonkey Collage


Disco Ball:  Zooom in on the DISCO DUST!!

Baked Sunday Mornings: S'More-Style Whiskey Chocolate Pudding

After taking a very LONG hiatus from Baked Sunday Mornings, I decided to jump on this week's FINAL recipe from the book, Baked Elements: S'More-Style Chocolate Whiskey* Pudding, because I love chocolate pudding (who doesn't?) - and I love S'Mores!

* Because the majority of my pudding-eaters are under 21, I left out the whiskey.  It still turned out great!

The pudding calls for whole milk and heavy cream.  I used Ghirardelli 60% bar for the bittersweet chocolate and Dorval cocoa powder.   The espresso powder gives a nice boost to the flavor of the chocolate.   The pudding is quite rich on its own; if you're looking for a chocolate fix, you've come to the right place!

The marshmallow topping took a little bit more time, but was easily done while the pudding was cooling.  I think you could get away with using 1/2 to 3/4 of the marshmallow topping and save the rest for Fluffernutter sandwiches :)

Unfortunately I had ZERO butane, so I couldn't torch the tops.  That would have looked awesome, especially since I piped on the topping with a large star tip.   But I don't think I whipped it enough, because all my tops settled.  I did have some leftover graham cracker crumbs, so I sprinkled them on top.

I was able to disperse my pudding among 8 dessert glasses as opposed to 6...and still nobody was able to finish theirs.  We'd eaten a pretty big dinner - so maybe had we waited a few hours, we could have eaten our whole dish.  Maybe.  Otherwise, it is definitely one to share!




I am very excited that Baked Sunday Mornings will be starting to blog about recipes from the book, Baked Occasions.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to be a "Badass Recipe Tester" for this book - and I believe it's one of their best yet!!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings: Lime Tarragon Cookies with White Chocolate Lime Topping

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe was for Lime Tarragon Cookies with White Chocolate Lime Topping from .  You can view the recipe HERE.

I've never really dabbled with herbs in my baking before, other than lavender.  And I've never ever used fresh tarragon in ANYTHING.  In fact, I had to visit four different grocery stores in my area before I found fresh tarragon.

Fresh tarragon leaves don't really have a smell, but once you cut into them there is quite a strong licorice/anise scent.  I was worried this would overpower the flavor in the cookies.  However, I made the dough according to the recipe and tasted it (I LOVE cookie dough), and there was just a hint of the tarragon taste, enough to compliment the lime flavor without overpowering it.  I finely minced the tarragon so that it was distributed pretty evenly throughout the dough.

The recipe said to roll the chilled dough into balls, and during baking they really kept their shape.  I thought they had almost a shortbread flavor, with a refreshing hint of lime and licorice.   The white chocolate on top was a great compliment of sweet to the savory.  The texture was firm and maybe a little on the crumbly side.  It was different than any cookie I'd ever tasted, but I thought it was delicious.   Even my pickiest 12-year-old liked them :)

I'm not sure if I'd make these again, unless I had another use for the tarragon or grew my own...I ended up using only about one-eighth of the plant and tossing the rest. 

Otherwise, thumbs up!


See what other bakers thought of this recipe HERE

Baked Sunday Mornings

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Malted Vanilla Milk Shakes

I was so relieved to see that this week's recipe for Baked Sunday Mornings didn't actually require any BAKING.  My oven fizzled out on July 4th mid ribs, and the repairman can't come til Tuesday.  Besides, with it being a balmy 92 today, I felt it a plus to keep the house as cool as possible!

This week's recipe is for Malted Vanilla Milk Shakes, from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients.  I have always loved malt, even as a kid I'd eat malted milk powder by the spoonful.   So any recipe using malt definitely peaks my interest, anytime.

PicMonkey Collage

The recipe suggests crushing Whoppers with a mortar and pestle - but I'm not that fancy so I just used the blunt end of my French rolling pin in a cereal bowl.

It also calls for one vanilla bean scraped of its seeds.  Luckily I had two on hand that I had purchased at Home Goods...$3.99 a bottle for TWO decent sized pods.  That's the cheapest I've found them anywhere.  Because I needed to make a third batch, I used 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste in place of the fresh beans.  I think the shakes with the freshly scraped vanilla beans were more flavorful than those with paste.  But, they were both REALLY GOOD.



As the recipe states "a good milk shake should be eaten with a spoon...", and I can't agree more.  However, some vanilla beans settled at the bottom of the glass so definitely use a straw as backup ;)

my four happy malt testers :D

THE RECIPE: Malted Vanilla Milk Shakes. 
View other bakers' experiences @ The Roundup

Baked Sunday Mornings

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings: Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies

Did someone say cream cheese and dark chocolate?

I'm in!

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe features Cream Cheese Chocolate Snacking Cookies from the cookbook, Baked Elements.

I had read mixed reviews beforehand so I was skeptical of the results.  But I have to say, I was quite pleased with them.


These cookies, when made exactly how the recipe directs (chill dough, teaspoon sized drops, turn cookie sheet halfway through baking), turn out a tad crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside...which is exactly the way I like my drop cookies.

The dark chocolate and cream cheese add a hint of bitterness, but the chocolate chips offset that - especially when accompanied by a cold glass of milk.

The recipe called for a dark unsweetened cocoa powder - the only thing I could find locally was Hershey's Special Dark 100% Cocoa powder.  I'm sure if you found a higher grade cocoa at a specialty shop or online, the results would be even tastier :)

I give these cookies two thumbs up!  And so did all four of my kids..."This tastes like a brownie," and "it's ok to double-dip in your own glass of milk..." ?  Thanks for another great recipe, Baked

Get the recipe HERE.

Baked Sunday Mornings

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mississippi Mud Pie and a field trip to BAKED

After reading about Baked NYC in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, I promptly bookmarked it in Yelp and added it to my bucket list of places to see while living back East.  I also started following {ok, stalking} them on Facebook and Instagram.

What really sealed the deal was my trip to Home Goods in December, where their cookbook "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" was on display next to a 4" tall gingerbread man cookie cutter.  It was at that point I decided a field trip was in order - and soon!  (I promptly bought the book! but not the life-sized gingerbread man).

Giant Gingerbread Man!

I loaded my Wingman and his Sock Monkey in the minivan, gassed up, and 1.5 hours and a gazillion toll booths later, safely arrived in Red Hook - a borough of Brooklyn.   My neighbor still makes fun of me for making a trip up to Brooklyn "just to visit a bakery."  Yeah, I'm just that crazy.

After circling for a parking spot, we made it via umbrella stroller to the ever so adorable orange front door of Baked.

It was small inside, but plenty of twenty and thirty somethings on laptops.  It had a cool, retro coffee shop feel...great 60s music, and these big wooden tables - reminded me of something you'd see at a swanky ski lodge.  I went to the counter and picked out a "Sweet and Salty" brownie, a chocolate malt brownie from the 50% off basket (I LOVE malt), and then approached the cash register at what I thought was the beginning of the line... 

{Remember in the Christmas Story when the kids go to see Santa, walk right up to the elves and they say, "Hey kid - this ain't the line...THAT's the end of the line"?  Yeah.  That was me.}

...To the back of the line we went.  No worries, because that was the best part of the shop.  The windows into the heart and soul of the bakery, leading up to the display of cupcakes, scones, whoopie pies, cakes, muffins, brownies, and marshmallows.  Wingman wanted a chocolate-chocolate cupcake, and I couldn't pass up a cinnamon roll.  they packed the cupcake in a "to go" container (aka upside down clear solo cup with lid), and brown-bagged the others.

We found a table at the back.  I checked Wingman's cupcake for poison - chocolate swiss meringue buttercream frosting!!!  My favorite.  With red and green sprinkles for the holidays.


Wingman took a bite, then in typical 4-year-old fashion dropped it head-first onto the table (in his defense...cupcakes do tend to be top-heavy) that point I decided it was time to get up and drop our crumbs elsewhere (like on the sidewalk for birds...or better yet, the floor of the minivan).

I brought the brownies home to sample with the other kiddos.  We all decided the Sweet & Salty was our favorite (not to mention ADDICTING - why oh WHY didn't I grab a handful??? and some marshmallows too?)  It was more fudgy than cakey, rich, but oh so delectable!!

Fast forward a few months and somehow I stumbled upon "Baked Sunday Mornings" - a blog dedicated to baking through each recipe in the Baked cookbook Trilogy.  I was so disappointed I didn't find this blog earlier...but never fear - there's still another cookbook and a half to bake through.  And maybe by the time we're through that one, they will have released another? Wishful thinking.

I'm hoping I can keep up with the baking schedule, or at least most of it.  So here is my first submission:


Mississippi Mud Pie (A) a.k.a. Coffee Ice Cream Tart

We had some friends over to share this with us - a perfect dessert for a hot summer day.  I followed the recipe pretty much to a tee, using an all natural coffee ice cream for the filling, Ghirardelli 70% cocoa bar, and Maker's Mark bourbon (only the best!)  Man, was it good!  Not to mention a huge hit!  You don't need a large slice because it's pretty rich and chocolatey, but the flavor combination and texture of the pecans, softened ice cream, and crunchy crust were great together.   The best part is there was ZERO baking involved - nice for those hot and stuffy days when you don't want to turn on the oven ;)

You can check out the recipe here:

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mississippi Mud Pie (A) aka Coffee Ice Cream Tart

or better yet, get the book:

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented

and BEST OF ALL - if you're within walking, biking, train, or driving distance of Red Hook, go pay a visit to Baked NYC.  You'll thank me later.