Sweet

How to Fix those #bakingfails.

These croissants came out very dense, but will be cut, frozen and used for a decadent bread pudding!

Baking requires a lot of invested time and it can be really easy to get frustrated when it doesn’t work out. Instead of taking failure as a reason to give up, stop and consider what went wrong. It could be the temperature of your ingredients, your technique could need refining, it could be something as simple as your mood.
This baking-fail was a result of impatience on my part, and while I wish I was able to enjoy some homemade croissants this morning, I’ll have to settle for some from the boulangerie on the corner.

Remember that when you begin to bake, your failures can sometimes outnumber your successes. Don’t be discouraged, and above all, if they still taste good, do not throw out your failures!

Food waste is a huge problem. In 2016, The Atlantic reported that not only does the U.S. lead the world in the most food wasted, Americans waste about 50% of food that is produced. While a huge portion of this waste is the result of supermarkets throwing out undesirable products, consumers also have a responsibility to make sure they use the food they buy. Throwing out baked goods that still have a good flavor is completely unnecessary. Just because you didn’t get the result you wanted, it doesn’t mean that it needs to end up in the trash, unless you’ve made the grave mistake of confusing salt for sugar.

Here are a few tips on how to give your own baking failures a new life:

  1. Freeze your failures: If you don’t have time to use up your baking-fails right away, prepare them for use later by freezing them. Since you do not plan on using the baked goods as is, you don’t have to worry about the freezer drying them out. Frozen baked goods usually keep for 1-2 months. When you’re ready to use them, just defrost overnight for use the next day.
  2. Cookie dough: If you are making a cookie dough for the first time, test a small portion to see how it turns out. Cookie dough that spreads out too much can be spread out in a pan and made into cookie bars, just bake at 350 degrees F until set. Alternatively, already baked cookies can be crumbled and mixed with melted butter to make a cookie crust for pies and cheesecakes.
  3. Cake/Quick-Breads: If a cake or quick-bread comes out too dense, or crumbly, fear not! Crumble the failure and toast it in the oven for about 5 min at 350 degrees F to use on top of ice cream, or as a way to decorate the sides of a cake (you can also do this with cake trimmings). Toasted cake crumbles can last for about a month if they are stored in an air-tight container. You can also take un-toasted crumbles and use them to make a bread pudding, or cake pops.
  4. Yeasted Breads: If your bread is savory, you can cut it into cubes and use it for a savory bread pudding. This is a perfect breakfast dish for large groups! If the bread is on the sweeter end of the spectrum, it is a perfect candidate for a dessert bread pudding.
  5. Pie: Did your pie filling ooze out, resulting in a soupy mess? Just serve it in a nice bowl with a scoop of ice cream, pie is delicious in any iteration. If you want to up the plating game a bit, you can always place individual servings in oven-safe ramekins and top with meringue.

Do you have any baking-fails that you were able to save? Comment below with your own tips!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Video Credit: Emily Chao Music Credit: Generationals

A great chocolate chip cookie has chocolate chunks, not chips. In fact, the original chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in the 1930s completely by accident when she put chunks of chocolate in a cookie batter and hoped that the chunks would melt into the batter as it baked, ultimately resulting in a chocolate cookie. Instead, the result was what she termed the Toll House Cookie, named after the Toll House Inn that she owned at the time. Today, the variations on this cookie are numerous, just look at the cookie aisle in the supermarket. However, it is my personal opinion that a proper chocolate chip cookie should be devoured within 10-15 minutes of coming out of the oven while the chocolate is still melty and the center is still slightly gooey and warm. The edges of the cookie should be crisp enough that they crunch when you bite into them and there has to be a touch of salt to round out the flavor As with most things food-related, this is all a matter of preference, but I suggest you test out this recipe for a transcendental cookie experience.

Cookies require care when making them. You have to pay close attention to the way you prepare your dough and ingredients. For starters, have your butter and eggs at room temperature, this will ensure that the dough stays at a constant temperature while you make it and that all the ingredients can blend together harmoniously. The second, and probably most important thing is to pay attention to how you cream your butter and sugar. I will refer you to this excellent article on Cookie Science by Stella Parks. If you watch the attached video, you can see how much lighter the butter and sugar is after the creaming process. I like to cream my butter and sugar on low until it no longer looks sandy and then bring it up to medium/medium-high speed until it begins to have a pearl-like sheen. If you have read at Parks’ article, you will see that she also advocates scraping the bowl throughout the dough making process. This is absolutely key to making a great cookie dough. There is nothing worse than realizing that there are pockets of flour or uncreamed butter and sugar at the bottom of the mixing bowl when you are done mixing it.

Another CRUCIAL step in making chocolate chip cookies, or any cookies really, is letting your dough rest for at least 30 minutes in the freezer, or overnight in the fridge if you have time. If you bake off the dough straight from the mixing bowl, the dough will be too warm and will melt into cookies that are sad and flat. Since I really only like my cookies warm, I let my dough rest, weigh it all out, and keep the portioned cookie-dough balls in the freezer so I can have warm cookies whenever I want. Ok, enough from me, go forth and bake!

 

Salted Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Note: I use sel guérande which a type of fleur de sel that has a bit of clay in it from the salt ponds it is harvested from. A large grain kosher salt, or sea salt would work well too but if you can get your hands on some sel guérande, buy it, it is absolutely beautiful as a finishing salt.

Ingredients:
8oz or 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ c white sugar
¾ c light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract, or ½ of a scraped vanilla bean
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp large grain sel guérande/fleur de sel (alternatively, 1 ½ tsp kosher or 1 tsp fine sea salt)
200g 72% dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

  1. Sift flour and baking soda together, mix in salt and set aside.
  2. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping bowl occasionally to ensure that the mixture is even.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time allowing each egg to incorporate fully and scraping the bowl in between each addition.
  4. Slowly add dry mix, scraping the bowl occasionally to ensure an even mixture.
  5. Add chocolate chunks and mix on low until incorporated.
  6. Refrigerate dough overnight, or for at least 30 minutes in the freezer.
  7. Portion dough into 1 ½” balls and place them 2” apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you love salt, sprinkle just a little on top of the cookies.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375°F or 190°
  9. Allow cookies to cool at least 10 minutes before eating and enjoy!

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Streusel, ft. Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze


Baking is a source of meditation for me. When I begin to feel overwhelmed, I drop everything, dive into a baking project and emerge, fully refreshed. The problem is that my husband and I can only eat so many pastries, so I have to find somewhere to send all the baked goods when I am done.

This recipe, like many that I come up with, was a result of feeling the need to use up ingredients I didn’t want to go to waste. I had received some cast-off bananas and had a surplus of chocolate donut glaze from trying to refine my donut recipe, so I decided to come up with something to bring to my fellow MA candidates who were facing a similar level of paper-writing induced stress rather than toss them out. We have some nut allergies in the group, so I wanted to find a way to bring the crunch of nuts to banana bread without killing my colleagues. Luckily, my experiment succeeded, and the result was a delightfully moist coffee cake with a nutty (though nut free) Mexican chocolate topping.

A few notes on the ingredients:

When I say butter, since I am in France, I am using European butter. I do not think this is necessary for the recipe. However, European butter has a much higher fat content than American butter, and I feel it is necessary to let you know that it might change the recipe a bit.

Also, the cinnamon I am using is Ceylon cinnamon because it is all I can find here. I do recommend using it for this recipe as the flavor works much better with chocolate than the cinnamon traditionally used in the States. I have found Ceylon cinnamon in whole sticks at Mexican markets in the States, but if you do use a “regular” cinnamon I would suggest reducing the amount by ¼ tsp.

Important Banana information: If your bananas don’t look like this: they do not belong in any type of banana bread/cake. The bananas must be over ripe and have developed enough sugar (the black spots indicate increased sugar levels) in order to work, otherwise they will dry out what you are making. If you need to ripen bananas quickly, you can place them in a brown paper bag near a heat source. Also, don’t puree the bananas, it may just be a matter of preference, but I feel that mashing the bananas gives the bread/cake a better texture

 

Mexican Chocolate Donut Glaze

1 can condensed milk
5 oz semi-sweet or 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground chipotle
1/8 tsp salt

Heat condensed milk over medium heat, stir constantly until boiling. Remove from heat, add chocolate and spices and mix until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth. Keep warm to glaze donuts or cakes with.

Banana Coffee Cake with Mexican Chocolate Toffee Streusel

Streusel

½ c butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 ¾ c flour
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
¼ tsp clove
¼ tsp chipotle
½ cup cold Mexican chocolate glaze, in tablespoon-sized portions reserve
½ c glaze to drizzle over the top of the cake

  1. Mix the flour, brown sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, food processor, or using a pastry cutter place all the ingredients together. Make sure to separate the Mexican chocolate into tablespoon-sized portions.
  3. Mix the ingredients until they resemble this picture:

Note: you may need to use your fingers to break up some of the butter, I would recommend using the pastry cutter method, it takes longer, but I was worried about over mixing the streusel when I used my stand mixer. Because the addition of the Mexican chocolate glaze, you run the risk of the mixture clumping up together very quickly. You need to be very careful when making this, but the toffee-like crunch it offers to the cake is worth the trouble!

Banana Coffee Cake

2 ¼ c flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt ½ cup (4 oz) butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
½ c maple syrup
2 eggs
1 c yogurt
1 tsp Mexican vanilla (traditional vanilla will work too)
3 ripe bananas

  1. Grease and line a 9”x13” pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
  3. In medium bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher, and then mix in the maple syrup, vanilla, and yogurt, set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, scrape bowl and then add the banana mixture.
  6. Scrape the bowl again, and make sure there are no large chunks of butter and sugar that have not been incorporated.
  7. Slowly add the dry mix and mix until incorporated. Be sure to mix briefly by hand to make sure the batter is even.
  8. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle 1/3 of the streusel over the top, pour the remaining half of the batter over the top, and then sprinkle the rest of the streusel over the top.
  9. Bake for 50- 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 c of glaze over the top of the cake.
  11. Allow to cool and enjoy!

This cake is very moist and if it is wrapped in individual pieces it maintains its freshness for 2 days after baking, provided you can resist eating it all!

Nectarine Hand Pies

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The produce in France is incredible. The outdoor markets are lined with stalls of vibrant fruits and vegetables that taste the way they actually should. My problem is that I speak French like a five year old.

In the states, I can browse the farmer’s market for hours. I’ll make a minimum of three passes, carefully assessing the stands, and when I’m finally ready, I know exactly how to ask for what I want. It’s all a little harder in French. Now, I browse these gorgeous markets, but instead of focusing on the bounty in front of me, I am anxiously trying to filter between the three languages in my brain.

Try to speak three languages, its like having a world war in your brain every time you try to access a word. The other day, the sentence ,”Je trabajé en una cocina y necessité hablar español, ahora estoy en un ecole y necessito hablar français,” actually came out of my mouth when I tried to speak Spanish to the guy at the half-way decent Mexican restaurant. It’s a struggle, be nicer to people who try and speak multiple languages.

You can imagine the amount of courage it took to finally ask the vendor for “Quatre nectarines jaunes,” and to specify that I wanted them,”pas trop mûrs, s’il vous plait.” To my delight, he understood what I wanted, and since he didn’t have four slightly unripe nectarines, and it was the end of the day, he gave me extras for free!

These nectarines were originally intended for snacking and to be put over my morning yogurt, but I was suddenly faced with a bag of ripe nectarines that I had to use before they became mush. So obviously, I bought some beautiful figs and decided to make some pie.

Recipe

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Ingredients:

Enough pâté brisée for a double crusted 9″ pie
5-6 slightly ripe, yellow nectarines, cut into 1″ pieces
5-6 mission figs (or your preferred type), cut into 8ths
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c instant tapioca (or 3 tbs cornstarch)
3tbs honey
2tbs balsamic vinegar
dash salt
dash cinnamon
egg yolk for egg wash
turbinado sugar for dusting
3 tbs butter, cut into small pieces

I will post a tutorial for pie crust soon, but this is a great recipe. Divide your dough into 8 disks before chilling.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cut nectarines and figs and place in a large bowl, set aside
  3. Mix sugar, instant tapioca (or cornstarch), salt and cinnamon together, set aside.
  4. Mix honey and balsamic vinegar, set aside
  5. Toss fruit with the sugar mixture, and then add the honey-balsamic mixture until evenly coated. Be careful, you don’t want to break up the figs. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Beat egg yolk with 1/2 c water to make egg wash, set aside.
  7. Roll pie crust disks out on a lightly floured surface to 6″ and place 1/4c of filling in the middle, leaving at least 1″ of pastry around the sides.
  8. Brush clean space with egg wash, and place a piece of butter on top of the filling.
  9. Carefully fold up the sides of the pastry around the fruit. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top.
  10. Carefully transfer pastries to the baking sheet, leaving 3″ between each pastry. Refrigerate for 20 minutes
  11. Place trays in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

You can leave these at room temp for 1-2 days, or in the refrigerator for one week. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Also, totally acceptable breakfast option, because fruit, and things.

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