Milk Bar Bake the Book Class


Milk Bar offers weekend classes at their Williamsburg, Brooklyn shop and I had the opportunity to go last year.  I have made some of their cakes at home, but it was a real treat to make them at Milk Bar.  Actually, it is more like assemble, because they pre-bake the cake and the crumbles and pre-made the frosting.  It was still fun, because the instructors were great, very helpful, friendly, and full of Milk Bar trivia.  After assembling the cake, we also made cake truffles.  Finally, after the class our instructor took a few super-fans on a tour of the Milk Bar bakery.  So fun!  Classes are $95 as of 2016, and you get a cake and truffles to take home.

Link to Milk Bar class schedule here.

Link to Milk Bar cookbook here.

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Recipes from Craftsman and Wolves: Apple Gruyere Scone, Cocoa Carrot Cake with Cocoa Crumble


Several recipes from my favorite bakery, Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco, have been published on-line.  These include a previous iteration of the cocoa carrot muffins, in cake form, and a sweet-savory apple gruyere scone.  Both are delicious and definitely worth doing.  I am hoping for the pear-yuzu croissant, the Rebel Within, and Valrhona chocolate chip cookie recipes to someday be published.  Note to Chef William Werner: cookbook, please!

Cocoa carrot cake recipe here

Apple gruyere scone recipe here

Other William Werner recipes on-line:

– Thai scones and Chocolate coffee eclair on the Starchefs site here.

– several recipes on Food and Wine, including chocolate peanut butter shortbread sandwich cookies recipe  here.

– update December 2014: C&W made it to the cover of the annual Bon Appetit Christmas issue with five recipes for Christmas sweets!  Link here.  And, the Valrhona Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe was finally published in 7×7 magazine here!

Recipe Review: Chocolate Krantz Cake


There is an interesting section of sweets in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem: A Cookbook.  Chocolate krantz cake is like a chocolate babka, with a sweet leavened dough layered with chocolate and nuts.  The dough must rise overnight, then is rolled out and layered with chocolate and pecans, rolled up, split, and twisted back together to create all the layers.  It then proofs for 90 minutes before baking.  The recipe recommends baking for 30 minutes at 375.  At that point, the crust is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center came out dry, but the bottom layers were a little underdone.  It might take 10-20 minutes longer than suggested to bake through, depending on your oven.  After baking, a simple syrup is brushed onto the cake.  The cake was rich, sweet, and chocolately, and got good reviews, but is a little bit involved to make.

Cost: about $10

Time: about 16 hours (2 hours active)

Level of Difficulty: moderate

Taste: excellent (four of five stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.  Link to Jerusalem: A Cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Thomas Keller Bouchon Pain au Chocolat, Pain aux Raisins


Pain au chocolat

Pain au chocolat

Pain aux raisins

Pain aux raisins

Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook has an amazing, meticulous recipe for croissant dough, which can be used for classic French pastries: traditional croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and pain aux raisins.  This is a weekend project, and I literally mean the whole weekend.  I complained about the meticulousness of some recipes in this book in a previous post, but I actually really appreciated the level of precision in the recipe for the croissant dough.  Everything worked out exactly as described, and it would have been frustrating to put in all that work and have something not turn out correctly.  Case in point: rolling out the croissant dough to 19 x 9 inches, so that one could trim the edges for a 17.5 x 8 rectangle that could then be divided into ten equal rectangles for the chocolate croissants.  Also, the trimmings made a nice bonus traditional croissant.

Thomas Keller recipes often have one or two ingredients that are quite specialized, which makes for quite the scavenger hunt.  For the croissant dough, a small amount of diastatic malt powder is added to the dough.  Malt powder comes from malted barley and contains the sugar maltose.  Diastatic refers to the presence of enzymes such as amylase, which are preserved if the malting process is performed below a certain temperature.  The presence of maltose and the enzymes works together with the yeast to make the dough more complex and also contributes to the color.  Diastatic malt powder is not available at Safeway, Whole Foods, Draeger’s, Berkeley Bowl, Bi-Rite Grocery, or Rainbow Grocery in the Bay Area.  Dry malt extract, found in home-brewing supply stores, I am pretty sure is not correct.  I found “malt powder” in a Korean grocery store in Santa Clara, but I have no idea whether it is diastatic or non-diastatic.  Regardless, the pastries turned out great using this malt powder.  I found Bird’s brand custard powder, used to make pastry cream, at The Milk Pail in Mountain View.  Finally, chocolate batons or chocolate pieces used for the chocolate croissants can be found at Spun Sugar in Berkeley.  I think everything could be found on-line, but what’s the fun in that?

The croissant dough starts with a poolish, a yeast, water, and flour mixture that ferments overnight and is used as a starter for the croissant dough.  The croissant dough contains flour, water, sugar, salt, butter, and the poolish.  A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment makes kneading the dough easy.  The dough rises for about an hour.  Then a 330 gm (11.6 oz) block of European-style butter is enrobed in the dough and then laminated several times (rolled out and folded over itself to create layers).  This takes a lot of time and work, because the dough has to be put in the freezer after each fold to keep the butter cold, and the cold dough is a bit difficult to roll.  One can then use the dough right away, but I kept mine in the refrigerator overnight.  I used half of the dough to make the pain aux raisins, and half to make the pain au chocolat.  To make the pain aux raisins, there are two sub-recipes, Rum-soaked Raisins and Pastry Cream.  Rum-soaked raisins are easy – raisins are soaked overnight in simple syrup and a splash of rum (actually, 30 gm to be more precise).  The pastry cream uses egg yolks, vanilla bean, whole milk, and custard powder and requires constant attention over low-heat for the thickening process.

The croissants had shatteringly crispy outer flaky layers, and were buttery, rich, and delicious.  Pretty much perfect versions of pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins, fresh out of the oven were incredible.  I might have liked a little more pastry cream in the pain aux raisins, but this is a minor complaint.

Cost: about $20 for 10 chocolate croissants and 10 pain aux raisins.  This includes ingredients that were used in limited amounts, like the diastatic malt powder (3 gm or about one teaspoon), custard powder, and chocolate batons.

Time: minimum time 22 hours.  Mine took about 34 hours from start to finish with active time of about 7-8 hours.

Level of difficulty: Thomas Keller.  I have a new scale for level of difficulty: easy, moderate, difficult, and “Thomas Keller”

Deliciousness: incredible (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: although the pastries were really good, this is probably a one-off due to the amount of time required.

Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

Cookbook Review: Bouchon Bakery Cookbook (and 100th post!)


Chocolate Bouchons

Chocolate Bouchons

Thomas Keller is chef-owner of a number of high-end restaurants including the French Laundry in Yountville, CA and Per Se in New York City.  He started the Bouchon Bakery to supply his restaurants as well as the public with delicious breads and pastries, and there are locations in Yountville, New York, Las Vegas, and Beverly Hills.  The Bouchon Bakery in Yountville is one of my favorite bakeries, so I had been eagerly anticipating this cookbook.  His previous cookbooks, like the French Laundry cookbook, are classics known for their high attention to detail.  The Bouchon Bakery cookbook is a massive 400 page tome written in that same tradition that provides his, along with pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, approach to French pastries and bread-making.

The level of detail is incredible, and one can really learn how things are prepared at a high-end bakery.  I enjoyed learning about the many tips for how things are done at Bouchon Bakery.  For example, allowing muffin batter to rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours for the flour to absorb moisture.  The downside is that baking muffins takes two days, instead of, say one and a half hours.

However the level of precision can also be a source of frustration.  Eggs are given in volume or weight measurements; instead of a recipe calling for one egg, it might call for 75 gm or 1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp, preferably strained through a fine mesh strainer.  FYI, one extra large egg is approximately 50 – 54 gm.  When it gets really frustrating is when a recipe like the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie calls for 62 gm of egg, or just a little more than one egg.  Who would crack another egg just to get that extra 8 – 12 gm?  Well, me, but still – why did the authors not scale the recipe for just one egg?  I know baking is precise, but I wish the recipes were adjusted to be a little more practical.  And this was just the first, supposedly easiest recipe in the book.

The recipes also use vanilla paste, which is more of a syrup flecked with vanilla bean seeds and is not carried by typical grocery stores but can be found on-line or at Williams-Sonoma.  It is not really explained why vanilla paste is used rather than the more available vanilla extract.  It would have been helpful to provide a conversion.  As an aside, a lot of specialty items required in the book are sold at Williams-Sonoma including molds to make treats like madeleines and bouchons.  There is definitely some sort of corporate synergy strategy between Thomas Keller and Williams-Sonoma.

The Chocolate Bouchons are tiny chocolate cakes in the shape of a cork and are Thomas Keller’s take on brownies.  These are excellent and pretty easy.  I have made this recipe twice, first using Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder and the second time using the recommended Cacao Rouge by Guittard (available at Spun Sugar in Berkeley for readers in the Bay Area), and I preferred the Guittard version.  To get the right shape one needs the special silicon mold, but a 2-3 ounce ramekin would probably work as well.

The Madeleines are light and airy cakes made in special molds that reminded me of ones served at bakeries in Paris.

The Chocolate Cherry Scones were a big hit and relatively easy to make.  The recipe is pretty straightforward scone recipe that incorporates chocolate chips and dried tart cherries, which can be found at Trader Joe’s.  The dried cherries are macerated for several hours in a simple sugar syrup with vanilla bean.  Then the macerating syrup is used to make an icing.  Nice technique, and easy to do.

For the very patient and resourceful baker, the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is very comprehensive, a great reference, and produces delicious baked goods.  I look forward to attempting (and tasting) some of the more challenging recipes in the book.  Definitely recommended.

Link to Bouchon Bakery cookbook here.

This is my 100th post.  Thanks to all readers and subscribers for stopping by!

Recipe Review: Momofuku Corn Cookies


It’s been a while since I made something new from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  The recipes I have made multiple times are the Ritz Crunch, the Chocolate Chip-Marshmallow-Cornflake cookies, and the Crack Pie.  Recently I finally made the corn cookies, and they are delicious, with a buttery, rich, salty-sweet corn flavor.   The recipe is really easy, but there are two specialty items to track down, which is what took me so long to make these cookies.  The first is freeze-dried corn.  Not available in Bay Area grocery stores as far as I can tell.  I had to order online through Amazon.  One 8 oz bottle was enough for two batches of cookies.  The freeze-dried corn is easily pulverized to a powder in a blender.  To this is added corn flour, which I found at an Asian grocery, Ranch 99.  Corn flour is a finely ground corn meal, ground from the whole corn kernel.  The remainder of ingredients are common.  I would love to try these cookies with corn ice cream in the summer.

Cost: about $15 for two batches (12-13 cookies each batch)

Deliciousness: 4 out of 5 stars

Health: are you kidding?  this is a Christina Tosi recipe.  About 1.3 Tbsp butter per cookie

Make again?  yes (already did)

Link to recipe here.  Link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Fall Fruit Crumble


The Fall Fruit Crumble is one of my go-to recipes because of its versatility, ease, and deliciousness.  In the Fall version,  there are apples, pears, and cranberries, topped with a simple crumble of oats, flour, sugar, and butter.  The recipe can be easily modified to use fruit that is in season – a summer version might include nectarines and blueberries.  The recipe was first published in Gourmet magazine, and an on-line version is on epicurious.com.  The recipe is highly rated and many people have suggested modifications to the recipe.  I did enjoy a modification of adding an additional 1/4 – 1/2 cup of oats to the crumble.  I also bake the crumble for approximately forty minutes as opposed to the twenty minutes in the recipe.  A great, handy recipe for your repertoire.

Link to recipe here.

Coming soon…


Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, CA (with branches in New York and Las Vegas) owned by Thomas Keller, is one of my favorite bakeries (along with Tartine and Sand Box in San Francisco; Bakesale Betty in Oakland; Flour, Clear Flour Bread, and Mike’s Pastries in Boston; and of course Momofuku Milk Bar in New York).  Bouchon Bakery makes perfect versions of classic French pastries and refined versions of American classics like ho-hos.  I have been there twice, and both times I told the person at the counter, I am going to need a bigger box…

October 23, 2012…just in time for Christmas or a belated birthday gift (hint, hint)…I will definitely be making recipes from this book when it arrives!

Link to Michael Ruhlman’s website about the making of the book here.

Recipe Review: Black Bean Brownies


These brownies have a secret ingredient.  Have you seen the movie The Help?  I keed, I keed.

The secret ingredient is black beans, which makes these brownies “healthy” (sigh).  The black beans substitute for flour, making these brownies also “gluten-free” (double-sigh).  Instead of refined carbohydrates from the flour, you get fiber and protein from the black beans.  The black beans are mashed and then mixed with eggs, vanilla, canola oil, cocoa powder, baking powder, and chocolate chips.  The brownies turn out fudgy, moist and chocolatey, and the surprising thing is that no one can taste the black beans!  I followed one commenter’s suggestion and lined the bottom of my baking dish with parchment paper, which helped prevent sticking.  Who knew that gluten-free black bean brownies would taste good and be good for you?

I first saw this recipe on Baker on the Rise’s amazing blog.  Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Chocolate Chip Layer Cake


This cake from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is another of Christina Tosi’s delicious multi-component layer cakes, made from a chocolate chip vanilla cake, passion fruit curd, chocolate crumbs, and coffee frosting.  In the book she tells the story of how this was a birthday cake for David Chang, and it was a huge hit in the Momofuku kitchens.  This cake was easier to make than the Carrot Layer Cake, probably because I had been through the madness of making that cake and knew what to expect.  It takes some advance planning, because the cake, chocolate crumbs, and passion fruit curd need to be cooked and cooled before final assembly, but is doable for the home baker.

The vanilla cake batter is made from sugar, brown sugar, butter, eggs, buttermilk, grapeseed oil, vanilla, cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  The batter needs to be whipped for a long time in a stand mixer to homogenize all of the liquid and fat components, longer than the suggested times in the book.

The chocolate crumb is pretty easy and is made from Valrhona cocoa powder, sugar, flour, cornstarch, salt, and butter that are mixed together into a crumble and baked.

The passion fruit curd is made from passion fruit puree, sugar, and eggs that are blended together and then heated over low heat to thicken.  This mixture must be stirred constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking, so the constant monitoring and low heat make it a bit of a pain.  Once the mixture boils, it is poured back in the blender and blended with gelatin and butter to make a rich, tart filling for the cake.

The coffee frosting is made from butter, powdered sugar, Nescafe instant coffee, salt, and milk and is pretty straightforward.

 

To assemble, I used a 6″ x 20″ strip of acetate to line the sides of a 6″ cake pan. The chocolate chip cake is cut into two 6″ rounds, and the rest of the scraps are smushed together to form the bottom layer of the cake.  The cake is soaked with some passion fruit puree, then topped with passion fruit curd, chocolate crumb, coffee frosting.  This is then repeated with the second cake round.  The final cake round goes on top, which is then topped with coffee frosting.  Finally, the entire assembly is frozen overnight and thawed a few hours before serving.

Verdict: the chocolate chip cake was really good, and its sweetness was balanced by the tartness of the passionfruit curd.  The chocolate crumb added bits of intense chocolate crunch, and the coffee frosting was really buttery with a subtle coffee flavor.  A delicious, impressive cake for guests.

Link to recipe here.

Amazon link to Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook here.

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