Sweet Sandy B. Bakes

If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time. Not tomorrow or next year... Today should always be our most wonderful day...

So, let's eat cake!

Notes on my adventure as a mom and baker and life as Sweet Sandy B...

Friday, December 2, 2011

hands down, best Pancakes (cake cakes) EVER

I don't want to get all Pioneer Woman on anyone here- but seriously, these are the BEST.CAKECAKES.EVER

When #1 was old enough to decide that something sweet for breakfast was much superior to baby mush oatmeal, he made it known that cake-cakes were his favorite thing. We began shoveling them down like a fat kid at an all you can eat pancake breakfast... because we are fat kids at an all you can eat pancake breakfast that takes place at my house about 4 mornings a week....
I used to think that pancakes came from a box that required you add water before pouring them on the griddle. Then one day my mother came to visit me here in Smallville and shockingly made pancakes FROM SCRATCH.. from a RECIPE. that I had in a (get this!) COOKBOOK. what?! people actually make pancakes from SCRATCH? who has the time? why bother?!
they were amazing...
This obviously was before I went to FPS and when I still had a godly fear in me about following a recipe. But, it inspired me to start making pancakes from scratch. Over the years I have tweaked the recipe and THIS my friends is the best pancake recipe you will find. Perfectly light and fluffy, slightly caramelized but yet still melt in your mouth..
You will need:

Pastry flour, vegetable oil, milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, brown sugar, regular sugar and salt (of course)

First, whip your eggs up as light and airy as you can. The kids love this part, so wrangle them over to crack the eggs and get to whipping with a fork.

Mix all your dry ingredients into one bowl (or one measuring cup)
Then add the milk, oil, and vanilla to the egg you whipped up. Add the dry to the wet and mix. Per usual, DON'T OVERMIX!!
it is ok to have some tiny lumps though. We aren't perfect and its better to have some lumps than tough pancakes

Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into your HOT pan. Please please heat your non-stick pan to the right temp. And butter away!! If you don't heat up your pan in advance, the pancakes will get soggy and will take forever to cook.
You will flip when you get bubbles like this:

Check out this perfect caramelization!

Listen, the second side NEVER looks as pretty as the first. It just doesn't. Because it won't cook the same way due to the bubbles. It's a fact of life. Deal with it.
After you flip them out of the pan, put them on a cooling rack- if you are making a TON and are going to eat them that morning, turn the oven on to 200 degrees and just put the pancakes in there as you remove them from the pan. This stops them from getting soggy and also keeps them warm. Duh. But if you are only making one batch or don't intend on eating all of them, just put them on the cooling rack like this:

Or you can stack them up tall, and dig in

Better yet, do what we do. Get out your favorite peanut butter (OR NUTELLA!!!) spread it on the pancake, dust with some powdered sugar, add some syrup (or honey)...

roll it up and take the best bite of your life....

life changing

Here is the recipe:
1 large egg
1 tblsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk
2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 cup Pastry Flour plus 2 tbsp (or cake flour, or all purpose if all else fails)
1 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
butter for the pan (or pan spray)

You want buttermilk pancakes? Use 1 cup buttermilk instead of 3/4 cup regular milk. Skim milk= thinner pancakes.
You can also use wheat flour instead. Same amount
**If you use room temperature eggs, or eggs not right out of the fridge- they will whip up better. i.e. fluffier pancakes

I usually whip these up in large batches so I can freeze them and pull them out as needed. Its cheap, its easy and better than frozen store bought ones.
BUT, if you want to be fancy- just put together all the dry ingredients in a plastic container or jar and keep it in your pantry. Just add the liquids to make them up fresh. Add dried fruit, chocolate chips, sliced bananas and nuts...
peanut butter and syrup will rock your world... as will a sprinkle of chopped up bacon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday is fine for pie baking.. or fighting, whatever

(this is your teaser, fyi)

This past weekend I spoke to two of my friends from pastry school that within ten months of graduation have both kicked ass at life and completely surpassed me in ANY of my career steps thus far. Yes, of course I am happy for them. But damn it if I'm not super jealous.
When I was speaking to Jess, she was telling me about one of her plated desserts that she put on her menu as the new pastry chef at "super hip and trendy downtown Chicago restaurant" and used a term that I knew we had learned in school but I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. I was dumbfounded. It's only been ten months.. How do I NOT remember what this is?! and even as I type this I can't even remember the term. That's how bad I suck.
And I was thinking while she was speaking (bless her heart) that I can't even recall the last time I made pate a choux. Or meringue. Or my own pie dough period. I kept telling her how happy I was for her and as I pulled into my driveway I felt like complete crap. Awesome.
So, this morning I decided I would make my own pie crust and make some sort of pie or tart or something. I pulled out my FPS text books and started to flip through my handwritten notes as well. I'm NOT kidding when I say that I couldn't remember the definitions of some of the terms I had written so knowledgeably about just a year ago.
This lead to my WTF moment and opened my fridge and pantry to see what I actually had and what I could possibly make. Every kind of flour possible, apples... bananas... dried cherries (i'm obsessed), butter... cream cheese... and almond flour? I still have almond flour? hm... Ok, maybe I can make something decent.

I ended up making this:
Honecrisp Apple and Frangipan Pie/Tart.
Here is what you will need for the pie crust:

And here is what you will need for the Frangipan (aka almond cream)

and for the apple filling

First thing to remember with the pie dough is that everything needs to be cold. The butter/shortening (my school instructors would shoot me if they knew I was doing this), the flour and the water. All ice cold. I even put the glass pie plate in the fridge. Perhaps going too far...
Well, you want to sift the flour, salt and sugar into the mixing bowl, per usual.

Then, add the COLD and cubed butter/shortening (I put these in the freezer while I was setting up). The shortening is by nature always softer. So, this doesn't need to be cubed as small as the butter. Also, you can do this part by hand or with a pastry cutter. But I'm lazy and my mixer works just fine. You want to make small pebbles. DO NOT OVERMIX!!!

Now we add the ice cold water, slowly. again, DO NOT OVERMIX.

Then remove the dough that is still somewhat crumbly and put it on a piece of plastic wrap, smoosh it all together into a round and then cover it completely with the plastic wrap. Get your handy dandy rolling pin out and roll it flat. This is the most fantastic trick ever because it requires little flour and you don't overwork the dough. overworking = tough dough = bad.

Throw this in the fridge and don't think about it.

Now, work on the frangipan. It really just is an almond filling and I realize that most people won't have almond flour in their fridge. What to do.. You can buy some slivered almonds and use about 1 cup of them with 1/2 cup of sugar and pulse it in a food processor until it turns into a fine "meal"... Some stores *MIGHT have almond cream too. maybe like Whole Foods? hm..

ANYHOW- ok, you need to sift together the almond flour and powdered sugar together. Then add the butter that is room temp and cubed, and finally add the egg and extract.

It will look like cream cheese frosting. I put it in the fridge while I set to work on the apples.

Apples or pears seem to be the fruit of choice for these frangipan tarts. I had apples so I went with that.
Peel/core and slice the apples. Toss them in lemon juice to prevent oxidation (browning) and then add some sugar and flour. At this point I should have added some cinnamon and brown sugar. dingbat. As this is a French type recipe and the French dislike cinnamon and brown sugar is totally an American thing- it wasn't in my recipe. But I love both cinnamon and brown sugar. Next time!

Let the apple slices hang out in the little slurry you made while you set the oven to 425 degrees and then go run an errand or pick up your child at pre-school like I did. Throw all of your mise-en-place in the fridge and get out of the house for about a half hour while your oven heats up, your apples marinate and your dough gets firmer.
..... maybe you could go to the gym? because later after you eat a 1/4 of the pie while standing up pretending to make your children a snack, you will wish you had worked out today....
just sayin'

Ok, the fun stuff

Rolling pin, flour your work surface, pull the dough out. Unwrap it and form it into a ball again. Roll it out into a semi- round shape as quickly as possible. You do NOT want this to warm up, the butter will begin to melt and then you won't be able to pick it up. Once you have it as stretched out as it will go, roll it up onto your rolling pin. This will help you roll it back out on top of your pie pan. I know, I'm tricky.

Then you will push it down making sure the dough is hugging every part of the pan and now you will fill it with the almond cream. You could probably take this out while you are rolling the dough so it tempers a tiny bit. Mine was still pretty hard so I had to use the offset spatula to spread it about. Meh....

And now you can set about to making any pretty design your heart desires. I made a fan like shape and quickly realized I had not cut my apples thin enough and I had too MANY pieces. hm... Oh well. I went with it.

Then pick up the sides of the dough that are hanging off the edge and pleat them over the apples. This is a rustic tart- if I hadn't said this before- so it doesn't have to be perfect. I like the edges to look a bit 'frayed', but thats just me. You can make them round or you can even just cut off the overhang all together. But trust me- it looks so much better this way.

Home stretch! get your egg wash ready, some sugar for dusting and of course more butter because butter makes everything better.
Egg wash the dough, sprinkle with sugar and put pieces of the cubed butter all over the top.

Throw this in the oven and turn down to 400 degrees. In all reality, not sure WHY we start at 425 to warm and then turn down once it is inside. Who knows? Just do it.

Set your timer for 25 minutes so you can turn the pie 1/2 way. Set it for another 25 minutes and watch as the crust begins to turn to a nice golden brown.

Heaven... But you CAN'T EAT IT yet. Let it cool for about an hour. Yes, ONE HOUR. Maybe now is a good time to work out..

make sure you have some vanilla bean ice cream... and maybe some caramel sauce. sweet baby jesus i may have gained 10 lbs today...

Here is the recipe:

Foolproof Piecrust:
1 1/2 c pastry flour (you can use AP flour if thats all you have)
1 tblsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tblsp cold veg shortening (regular or butter flavor, you pick), cubed
2 tblsp cold butter, cubed
1/4 c ice cold water

Frangipan (almond cream)
1 c almond flour (or 1 c slivered almonds)
1/2 c powdered sugar (or 1/2 c regular sugar)
5 tblsp unsalted butter, room temp
2 tblsp flour
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (you can also use almond extract and/or brandy!)
pinch of salt

Fruit Filling:
2 - 3 apples or pears (about 1 1/2 lbs total weight) peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 c sugar
2 tblsp flour
1 1/2 tblsp lemon juice
pinch of salt

to Finish the tart/pie:
egg wash (1 egg beaten, 1 tblsp water, pinch of salt)
1 tblsp of unsalted butter, cubed

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kicking Monday's a**- or Buttermilk Cherry Scones

I realize it's Wednesday, BUT I did these on Monday, the day I kicked ass.
Can't begin to tell you all I did, it would be easier to tell you what I DIDN'T do. It was one of those days.

So, after dropping off #1 at pre-school, grocery shopping and taking Moochie to get her bangs trimmed, I settled into these:

I always thought scones were these awful dense bricks that lacked much flavor and were only a vehicle for jam or butter....
Until I came upon this recipe. Here is what you will need:

Pastry Flour, Bread Flour, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, salt, sugar, butter, buttermilk and cherries

I will talk about modifications you can make at the end along w/ the recipe.
First- lets talk about some important steps

You need a fine sifter- or a "chinois". set it right on top of your mixing bowl and then just dump your dry ingredients in the sifter and push through into the bowl. NOTE- ideally, if you ever have flour, baking soda/powder/salt, etc, you should sift them together. Trust me, it will make your final product MUCH better

Then you add the COLD CUBED butter. COLD. not slightly warm, not room temp. Pretty much the exact opposite of the butter consistency from the chocolate cake recipe.

break up the pieces and drop them in the mixer w/ the dry ingredients. Mix until you get small "pebbles"

This works better when the butter is COLD. and you might want to dig down with your spatula (aka your hands) to make sure the butter worked its way down to the bottom too.
Now we add the wet ingredients:

I combine all the wet ingredients in a bowl, then dump them all in at once into the mixing bowl... more on this at the end.
Here is another warning. DO NOT OVERMIX. repeat after me- DO NOT OVERMIX. overmixing = tough dough = dense brick like scone.
SO- you want to almost pulse the mixer. pour the wet in, turn on the mixer. turn it off. turn it on, turn it off. you just want it to BARELY combine:

now you can add the dried cherries

after you pulse the mixer again, you can see if you need more cherries. play it by ear

Now, have a floured work surface ready for the dough because ideally your dough will be wet and sticky

Drop the dough on the flour and then form it into any shape your heart desires but make sure its about 1/2 inch- 1 inch thick. Depends on how big you want your scone. Then get a cookie cutter/biscuit cutter or a knife to cut the dough into the shape you find most pleasing. I used a biscuit cutter because I fancy the handle- it makes it easy to punch it out and it was the first thing I found. :)

**Keep a little pile of flour on the side of your work surface to dip your cookie cutter/biscuit cutter in between cuts. Bc the dough is so wet, it will help the process.

Alright- if you are a planning type person and have room in your freezer- you can stamp these out, put them in a freezer safe container and freeze these puppies to use as needed- 1 or 2 at a time, etc. then you can appear to be a suzy homemaker any day of the week, or if you have an unexpected visitor and you want to impress them like you are the worlds best Mom, (or Dad) or friend. whatever.

**also, you should ideally punch these out as quick as you can bc you want the butter to stay COLD. If you have hot hands- touch the dough as little as possible. You do NOT WANT TO MELT THE BUTTER.

So, punch these out. if you have time, refrigerate them to make sure the BUTTER IS COLD. If not, put them on a baking sheet that is lined w/ a Silpat OR Parchment Paper:

Now you need to egg wash these (do you have a pastry brush? get one) and then sprinkle sugar on top. Employ child labor as needed

The egg wash in this case was just a whisked together egg w/ a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of water. What does an egg wash do? well, it adds a golden 'sheen' and kind of seals the top. The sugar adds a nice crunch because it will slightly caramelize (aka melt) and add MORE of a golden color. Just do it, trust me.

Throw these in a 425 oven for about 20 minutes.. you will know they are done when they turn that golden brown color AND they have raised and puffed up:

These are NOT meant to be super sweet. They are a breakfast pastry and also delightful with tea, if you are that kind of person.
Moochie and #1 dig these with extra butter in the middle.

Some notes:
-You can add ANYTHING to this basic recipe. If you want raisins or any other dried or FRESH fruit, by all means- swap them out for the cherries. If you aren't a fruit fan, leave them all out and you can add nuts or any sort of chip- chocolate, peanut butter- butterscotch... But if you are a purist, leave these plain and serve them with butter and jam.
-Also, make sure you use an appropriate sized mixing bowl/mixer. I made this recipe in my KitchenAid Artisan- which is I believe a 3 or 4 qt. mixer. My dough really really wanted to escape the bowl. I should have used my KitchenAid Professional (which is STILL IN THE BOX, four months later....) because it has a 5 QT bowl. Or, I could have cut the recipe in half. So, if you are making this recipe and plan to eat them same day, I would cut the provided recipe in HALF.
-Shapes- a traditional scone is either a circle OR a long triangle- like a wedge/slice of pie. People might recognize and know what it is if you present it in that traditional shape.
-Butter- the higher quality butter you can find/use/afford- the better. AND, we want the butter cold because when butter melts, it evaporates water. We want this to happen- but while its in the oven because that's what helps create those pretty layers I tried to show you in that final picture. Which is also the same thought process when you are making croissants. You want those air pockets :) unless you want a brick of a scone

I'll shut up now and HERE is the recipe: (I hope you have a kitchen scale- or can Google a conversion chart)
-12 oz bread flour (approx 1 and 1/2 cup)
-12 oz Pastry flour (most grocery stores now have multiple kinds of flour and if you cant find pastry flour, use cake flour)
-3 oz sugar plus more for sprinkling at the end
-.25 oz salt
-1.5 oz baking powder
-1/2 lb of cold cubed butter (two sticks of butter)
-5 oz eggs (about 2 1/2 eggs- so... crack open THREE eggs, add two to the other liquids and scramble the 3rd and save 1/2 of that third egg for your egg wash)
-13 oz buttermilk (or whole milk, depends on what flavor you want)
-1 tblsp. vanilla
-1 1/2 cups cherries

bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes.. MAY take longer depending on your oven.