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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Gingersnaps

This week we're back to small portions folks!

For these cookies, I made 1/3 recipe this time. How, you might wonder, would I adjust the 1 egg and 1 egg white by 1/3. I first calculated the 1/3 amount of egg and egg white needed in grams. Then I separated the egg yolk from the egg whites. Then I weighed them separately. The egg yolk weight 16 grams so it's normal size, so I split it into 1/3 (5 grams). I add the amount of egg whites needed for 1/3 of egg weighted. Are you still with me? And lastly I added then 1/3 additional egg whites.

It dawned on me recently (thanks Rose), that I should probably mention any high altitude adjustment that I make on recipes. I think all of the Alpha Bakers are at sea level so this is probably not very interesting. But perhaps it can be useful for others reading this blog if they happen to be at high altitude. Denver is at 5,000 feet above sea level so adjustments needs to be made for cooking and baking.

I usually adjust two things: leavening agents and liquid. Decreasing leaving agents is because at high altitude baked goods rise more quickly. The second adjustment is increasing liquids. I always thought that increasing liquids is because it's so dry here but that is not the only reason. At higher altitude, evaporation happens faster so add that to the dryness baked good taste less good. Some folks adjust the dry ingredients: increasing flour, reducing sugar, etc. I feel that increasing flour is counter-intuitive to adding liquids to prevent dryness so I never really bother with that. As for sugar, Rose's recipes is not too sweet so that's not needed, in my opinion.  It is not as complicated as it might have sounded. Trust me on this - I almost failed high school chemistry.

For this gingersnaps I adjusted the baking powder and baking soda by about 20%. I didn't measure very accurately since it's impossible to split 1 teaspoon baking soda into 1/3 and then reduce 20%. Let's just say I measure 1/3 of it and then take a bit off.

I waited until everything is being mixed in the mixer, the batter almost come together with the stated amount of eggs. There's still a few stray crumbs left and the batter feels a tad dry to the touch, so that's when I added 1 tablespoon of egg whites to it and mix it by hand. I avoid using the mixer at this step since it is harder to mix a dough that's already come together with additional liquid - at least that's how I think of it in my head haha.

1/3 recipe yield 10 cookies, all exactly 27 grams.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Golden Orange Panettone with Chocolate Sauce

I love panettone. Before I knew how to bake, a long time ago when my oven was used for pots and pans storage, I used to get panettone at Whole Foods. They always have a huge tower of it around the holidays. I thought it was the best thing. It hails from Italy so it must be the best, si? (little that I know that years later I would learn that it is the best when it hails from Rose Levy Beranbaum). Back in 2011 Hanaa and I wanted to do a virtual bake a long and we made a recipe from (Hanaa, do you remember? :). For comparison, I also made Rose's Panettone recipe from the Bread Bible. The allrecipes version was not good but Rose's was awesome.

The panettone recipe in the Baking Bible is different than the one in the Bread Bible. Both recipes uses golden raisins, but the Bread Bible version used chestnuts vs. this version using candied orange peel. The Baking Bible version uses golden syrup and has an extra step of making a biga 3 days beforehand and also has more steps in the dough preparation. It was too long ago for me to remember which one is better, but I can't imagine anything better than the Baking Bible's version. My husband said it best, "it is perfect." Funnily, he asked why I made the full recipe. I told him it is because I know it is going to be really good so I have to.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homemade Candied Orange Peel

For the Panettone next week, I decided make my own candied orange peel. I've been curious about it but so far have been too lazy to make it. I figured now is as good a time as any.

There are a lot of recipes out there and most of them have similar instructions. The only big variance is the sugar amount. I finally settled on a recipe from BrightEyedBaker. I'm not familiar with this website but I like that she has the least amount of sugar compared to some others. Even with the smaller sugar amount, I still reduced it by 1/4 cup. I also like that her recipe comes with really good step by step photo instructions.

This turned out pretty easy and now I wondered why it took me this long to try. I'm already planning on making this again and use chocolate next time. Doesn't chocolate-dipped orange peel sound good?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Black and Blueberry Pie

For Christmas, my husband surprised me with several things from Anthropologie home/kitchen section. One of them was the rolling pin in the above photo. When I opened the nicely wrapped rolling pin on Christmas morning, I hold the handle on each hand and made the motion in the air as if I'm rolling a dough. He looked at me and said in a serious tone "I didn't intend for you to use it for baking. I thought you can use it for pictures." Well, he is right, the pin is made from ceramic so I suppose pressing on it is probably not a good idea, :).

I am not very excited about pie but I love Rose's cream cheese pie crust. I think it's the best pie crust. I have made other pie crust (Rose's flaky pie crust and also recipes from other authors). The cream cheese pie crust wins every time. So even though I am not a huge pie fan, I am looking forward to this because of the pie crust. Also, I get to use my new 4 inch ruffled pie pan and take photos of the new for-photography-only rolling pin.

I made 1/4 recipe of this pie. This time I remembered to measure in volume my 9 inch pie pan vs. the 4 inch pie pan. By volume the 4 inch pie pan is 1/4 the 9 inch. So all set to divide everything by 4.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Chocolate Cuddle Cake

I am a little ashamed of posting this cake after seeing how tall other's cakes are and comparing it to how tall the cake in the book is. My cake only measured 1 1/2 inches tall. Sniff. The loss of height is because of my own fault. If you keep reading you'll find out why...

I was really looking forward to this cake. Plus it coincides with my birthday. I planned to bake the day before my birthday, though I didn't sleep well and didn't feel like baking. I started anyway. I should know better. Since I was not in the right mood, of course I messed up. It was bad. I had to make the caramel three times to get it right. My fault because I forgot to order a new instant thermometer so had to make do with the dying thermometer - don't really trust a dying thermometer, it seems to be working okay around 200 degrees but can't go past 250 degrees. So I am doing this by eye-balling, which is a bad sign. My first caramel, I was afraid of the caramel (still remember the caramel burn I got from a couple of years ago) so I didn't wait until the caramel was dark enough. And then I forgot to separate the cream to add to the cocoa powder. So I mix the cocoa powder into the caramel directly while it was still warm.