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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Hamantaschen

This week we're making a cookie that I've never heard of nor tried before. Hamantaschen hamantaschen hamantaschen. Okay now say it 15 times really really fast :).

I was looking forward to this recipe. Not only this cookie has a story behind it, which I find very interesting, the main ingredient: poppy seeds, is banned in several countries.

According to Wikipedia, Hamantash, is a filled-pocket cookie in a triangular shape. The shape is formed by folding the 3 sides of a circular piece of dough, with a filling in the middle. Poppy seed is the oldest and most traditional filling, though you can substitute other "fruit" filling such as prunes, nut, date, apricot, raspberry, or fruit preserves. The name, Hamantash, is known as a reference to Haman, the villain of Purim. These pastries are supposed to symbolize the defeated enemy of the Jewish people, and resemble the three cornered hat of Haman. I am glad that Rose is exposing us to cookies like this one, cookies with a story behind it.

Onto the next interesting topic, did you know that poppy seeds is banned in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. I'm sure Faithy is substituting and probably is using her 3 year old lekvar from Rose's Heavenly Cakes bake-a-long. According to the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore, poppy seeds is banned because of its narcotics (morphine) content. In Saudi Arabia it is banned for various religious and drug reasons. In airports India, they advised folks not to carry poppy seeds to other countries as it can lead to false positives drug test result.

This leads me to wonder how much poppy seeds one has to consume to show a positive result in drug test. I am glad I am not doing drug test for a new job or a health assessment at the doctor's office any time soon. I would not want to have this on my record: "patient tested positive for morphine due to baking cookies containing poppy seeds for a baking club."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Lemon Posset Shortcakes

How can a recipe that spans 5 pages and has 4 components be considered quick & easy? I was so confused. Especially this recipe calls for making beurre noisette, which I love. But it does make a lot of dishes. I have half a sink full of dishes by the time I finished the shortcake. I took a look at the Q&E list on page 545 of the book and it listed Lemon Posset Alma (page 116), a variation of lemon posset without the shortcakes as the quick & easy. Okay, now that makes sense. So the shortcake is a close cousin, once removed, of the Q&E Alma :).

We were supposed to get a snow storm this weekend. That is what the weather lady said. 4-8 inches on Saturday, additional 3-6 inches on Sunday. That's a lot of inches for the Denver area. They keep talking about it on the radio. I have a habit of doing groceries on Friday night lately. I am baking on Saturday after all, and there's always things to buy. Usually grocery stores is a bit sparse on Friday night, which is kinda nice. Not this time. It was worse than as Thanksgiving week. Parking lots are full. Shelves were half empty. I guess they were not prepared for the storm that is folks buying food to stock up for 2 days! (It is only 2 days people....)  But what they did have that I have not seen this year is Meyer lemon! How perfect is that. Like they knew we're making the baby lemon posset and the recipe calls for lemon. I was so excited to see Meyer lemon that I ended up buying 7 of them, and only used 1. I think they should last until next weekend so I'll have to think of something else to make. Maybe lemon curd?

In all the madness of gawking at the empty shelves, I forgot to buy eggs and heavy cream. I only have 2 at home, enough for 1/2 a recipe. Really. For once I want to make the whole thing and I have to make 1/2. Not happy. I am really lazy to go to the grocery store on Saturday just to get eggs. I was planning to hibernate: bake, knit, eat, sleep. So I proceed with 1/2 recipe and defrosted leftover heavy cream.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

Cake design inspired by Hector Wong and Rose's latest out bakes post.

This is one of the recipes in the book that has no photos. I didn't know how to decorate the cake or what to aim for. I know I want to make 1/2 recipe of the cake *grin* and thought to decorate it by piping the ganache around the base. When I went to get my 6 inch round cake pan from storage, I saw this 6 inch heart shaped pan instead. I had completely forgotten I have this!!! I think I bought it somewhere along baking through Rose's Heavenly Cakes from a cake supply store in town. It's Wilton brand by the way and it's available on Amazon as well. When the cake cake out of the oven and the top was flat and the cake tall (1 5/8 inches), I remembered Rose's out bakes post last week and the Hector-inspired heart design, so I am proudly copying Hector's beautiful rendition.

This cake turned out a whole lot better than I had hoped for, especially since I didn't have the correct flour. I was so excited to see a King Flour brand of cake flour that I completely didn't realize it said "unbleached". That's not the same as bleached. I only realized this yesterday morning when I did mis-en-place for this cake. Well, I am way too lazy to make a trip to the store to get the correct cake flour, so I adjusted the flour by using 90% of the KA unbleached cake flour and 10% non-gmo cornstarch (Rapunzel brand). For those expecting a math lesson (I'm looking at you Monica :)), half recipe is 78 grams total flour - 70 grams of KA flour and 8 grams of cornstarch. For the leavening, it only uses baking powder. I had to check the recipe twice on the baking powder amount - I thought I read wrong. This cake uses a lot of baking powder. It makes my math difficult. 1/2 recipe would be 1 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/8 tsp. 1 tablespoon is equal 3 teaspoon (according to google), so I used 1 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon. Confused yet? We're not done. For the eggs, I have been buying Farmer's Hen House Organic Jumbo Eggs. Jumbo! It's not large or extra large anymore. Each egg is about 60 grams. I used the additional 10 grams for the liquid adjustment. Okay now we're done with the math lessons, hehe.