Still Life, With Cats

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Baking Sisters

Deep fried

This month, for our #BakingSisters event, my sister suggested we do a Doughnut Day. I was immediately on board, because for one thing, doughnuts (!!), and also I’ve actually never deep-fried anything before (with one minor exception), so I figured this would be fun. Over the past few weeks we’ve both been poking around, looking for interesting recipes to try (because why do boring regular donuts when there’s so many other options out there?). For the purposes of this challenge, any fried dough counts as a doughnut, and we each made three fried varieties and one baked one, although not all of them were the same.

To kick things off, Friday night we each put together the dough for beignets, since it needs to chill at least overnight. And then this morning, before we even got together online, I made Peanut Butter Doughnuts for breakfast, because I was getting hungry.

Technically I might have been cheating a bit, since I’ve made these doughnuts lots of times before – they’re one of the very few baked doughnut recipes I’ve tried that has the close texture and consistency of an real cake doughnut, instead of just being a muffin baked in a ring instead of a muffin tin, like the majority of the ‘baked doughnut’ recipes actually are. You can go through the hassle of making the chocolate glaze for these, if you really want, or you can just take the easy way out and smear them with Nutella prior to stuffing them into your face.

Once we connected via Google Hangouts, my sister immediately set to work making these Maple-Glazed Bacon Doughnuts, while I put together the dough for Koeksisters, which are a South African treat. I also got the oil started – first in my old Rival crockpot which technically could be used for frying (it even came with a fryer basket), but which never got up to temperature, so eventually I just dumped all the oil into a big pot on the oven and popped in my thermometer and hoped for the best.

Next, while my sister then put together the dough for Sopaipillas – a snack I remember my mom making back when we were kids – I rolled out my beignet dough and cut it into little 2-inch squares, and started dropping them into the oil to fry.

A quick digression. A couple years ago, for a Sisters Weekend, my sisters and I spent a couple days in an intensive baking class, where we made, among a plethora of other types of baked goods, beignets. They’re basically a brioche dough, fried and then rolled in vast quantities of powdered sugar. So technically I *have* deep-fried things before, except it was in someone else’s deep fryer gadget and i wasn’t responsible for tracking temperature of the oil and so on. Having never been to New Orleans, my memory of beignets is based solely on those, which were fluffy and soft and absolutely delightful.

These, however, weren’t quite the same. I’m not sure if it was because my oil was too hot (it was a royal pain trying to get it to stick to a consistent temperature), or if the dough was too dense, or some other factor, but while they were tasty enough, they didn’t in any way resemble the light, fluffy things we made in that class, lo those many years ago. Ah well.

Powdered sugar can cover up all *kinds* of things, like the fact that some of them were probably a little overdone.

That done, it was time to return to the Koeksisters, now that the dough had rested enough. I rolled it out, then cut it into pieces and cut those into thin strips, which were then braided together.

I took this picture after braiding them but before frying because I was worried they’d come apart in the oil.

Into the fryer they went. By this time I had gotten a better handle on maintaining the temperature, so these fried up a lovely golden brown, unlike with the beignets. Once out of the fryer, they got a quick few seconds to drain on some paper towels, before being immediately placed into a lightly spiced syrup. I actually made that earlier in the morning because it needed to cool completely prior to dropping in the hot doughnuts, and I was concerned it otherwise wouldn’t have enough time to chill.

A couple of the koeksisters fell apart in the syrup (all the better for taste-testing!), but most of them held together. I was pleased to see that braiding was still clearly visible after being fried.

These are actually quite tasty. The spices didn’t come through – it’s possible I just didn’t use enough – but the dough is crunchy on the outside, yet soft in the middle, and the syrup adds a delightful sticky sweetness to the mix. I wondered about the fiddlyness of braiding the dough beforehand, except that I suspect doing this creates more nooks and crannies for the syrup to soak.

Finally, it was time to tackle the fourth recipe: Ponchiki. There are numerous variations out there for this doughnut, depending on if you want the Hungarian version (Turofank, which I made) or the Russian version (Ponchiki, which my sister made). In all the variations, the common denominator is the inclusion of cheese – either cottage cheese (which is what we used) or ricotta, or something similar. It’s just stirred directly into the batter when you make it, which sounds really odd, except that once it’s fried, you would seriously never guess it was there to begin with.

This was a much wetter dough than any of the others, more like fritter batter than something shaped. They rolled and bounced around a bit like angry puffer fish in the oil, and occasionally spewed out little blorps of dough here and there. And when you’re done you have a pile of strangely shaped little brown puffs.

I know they don’t look like much in this picture, but, still warm from the fryer, they were delightfully light and airy, with just the faintest hint of sweetness. Alas, the version my sister made didn’t turn out as delicious for her; she said they were a bit stodgy and not at all interesting.

My sister and I with our various fried goodies.

All in all, it was a fun morning, despite the mess of oil splatters all over my counter, and I got to try some new-to-me recipes. My favorite of the three new ones were the koeksisters and I’m pondering whether I could mimic the texture by baking the braids instead of frying them, prior to dipping them in the syrup. As for the beignets, I’ll leave those to New Orleans. It was fun to make them, but they were more trouble than they were worth, and, much like the Ponchiki, they were only good when fresh and warm, and they’re not the sort of thing that tastes good when reheated.



Just don’t ask me to pronounce it

As noted earlier, for April’s #BakingSisters project, my sister and I did liege waffles, but since the bulk of the work for those was done the day before, we decided to also make Kvaefjordkake.

This is a Norwegian cake (the internets tells me it’s the Official Cake of Norway, although as I am not Norweigian, I can’t attest to that being the truth or not), and it’s comprised of layers of cake, meringue, and pastry cream. It is also a shockingly simple cake to make, for all its various components.

First you make the pastry cream. Here is where I admit that while my sister went the full from-scratch direction, I took advantage of the ‘cheater’ method espoused by King Arthur Flour (that link goes to their version of this cake) and made mine from a box of vanilla pudding and some heavy cream and the insides of a vanilla bean.

Once the pastry cream is chilling in the fridge, then you make the cake, which is nothing more than a very thin vanilla sponge. My sister made the King Arthur Flour version of this cake, so she spread hers into two round tins, while I dutifully followed the instructions in the version I was using, and spread mine out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Then you make meringue, which is really nothing more than egg whites whipped until stiff, with sugar stirred in, and you spread that on top of the cake batter.

It looks a bit like it’s been topped with marshmallow fluff.

Then that gets sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and chopped almonds (or in the case of my sister, who is unfortunately allergic to nuts, feuilletine), and popped into the oven to bake until the meringue is dry and crispy on the outside.

While that cooled, we took a short kitten break (or rather, I took the laptop into the foster room and held up both kitten and momma to the camera so my sister could see them). And then finally it was time to assemble.

For the sheet pan version, that meant just cutting the thing in half. For the round version, that required a little more effort in order to extricate the cakes from the tins. Luckily the fact that the meringue is topped with cinnamon sugar and almonds means it already looks a bit rustic, so if the meringue gets a little cracked or smooshed during the process, that’s okay.

For the final step, you spread one half with the pastry cream, and then top that with the second half. My sister added berries to hers, but as I do not like berries, I kept mine plain. I also followed a suggestion I found in the comments and put the bottom layer meringue-side down, so that the pastry cream was sandwiched between the cake layers, in order to help keep the meringue crisp.

Verdict: This thing is incredibly delicious (and incredibly rich), and I can easily see why it’s earned the nickname of World’s Best Cake. The flavors of each layer are very delicate but they all work well together. The meringue provides a crisp, yet chewy texture and the almonds provide a much-needed crunch. Many yummy noises were made on both sides of the camera, from all four taste testers involved (both husbands eagerly took part in this).

My sister’s looks so pretty with the berries!

I did not actually assemble the whole thing on the day of baking, because I really didn’t want to have that much cake sitting around, tempting us. So instead I only layered two small pieces for the initial tasting, and then carefully wrapped up the remaining pieces of cake for later. The rest was fully assembled and taken to a meeting a few days later, where it was devoured with much enthusiasm. I think it’s safe to say I’ll definitely be making this one again.



Fit for kings

Many, many years ago, when my older sister and her husband were first married, my brother-in-law was accepted for a year’s study at the Von Karman Institute of Fluid Dynamics in Belgium. This was a huge opportunity for him, so since they were still young and unencumbered, they packed up all their stuff and stashed it in a storage shed in my parents’ back yard, found a friend to live in their apartment and take care of the cats, and headed off to Belgium.

My parents and my younger sister and I flew out to visit them, because how could we not? It was a wonderful trip – wandering around all these amazing, historic sites, wandering through buildings that were older than my own country and trying to soak in as much as we could in just a few days. The trip spoiled me completely for chocolate, because there is no comparing the chocolate over there with the waxy, too-sweet stuff I could get back home (although in the decades since, that has thankfully been slowly changing), and for bread (there is no comparing the tasteless packaged loaves sold in major grocery stores with what you can get from the tiny bakeries that were everywhere). And of course, there were the waffles.

When you think waffles in the US, you think of breakfast food. But in Belgium, they were snack food, and there were little street cart vendors everywhere, selling sticky-sweet waffles wrapped in grease paper. They were at once crunchy and chewy and absolutely divine.

On returning to the US, we started noticing some restaurants advertising that they offered Belgian waffles. Alas, much to our disappointment, these were not what we had had in Belgium. These, instead, were soft, floppy things with extra-deep pockets, but otherwise made of the same dough as any other ordinary breakfast waffle. My understanding is that ‘Belgian’ is the brand name of the original waffle iron with those deep pockets, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the country.

Decades later, the internets tell me that we were not the only ones who were let down by waffles of a similar name. What we didn’t know at the time, but since have learned, is that the things we had in Belgium are actually known as liege waffles. Not that it would have helped us much, since liege waffles are, alas, not a ‘thing’ in the US, but at least knowing the name pointed us in the direction of recipes to try to make them ourselves for this month’s #BakingSisters project.

There are a lot of recipes out there, but we used this one. This is a yeasted dough, and the recipe linked above had all sorts of extra steps, which meant that in order to actually cook waffles on our #BakingSisters day, we had to do a whole lot of prep work the day before.

First, you mix up a sponge of flour and water and yeast and let that sit for an hour, and then you mix in all the rest of the ingredients, including a whopping 11 tablespoons (no I am not kdding) of butter. That creates a lovely soft and silky dough that sits for four hours to rise, and then then goes into the fridge to rest overnight.

The next morning, the dough comes out of the fridge, and then – here’s where it got messy – you take this very soft and sticky dough and you knead in pearl sugar. In some recipes you could probably swap sugar types with ease, but here, you really have to have the pearl sugar, because that’s what gives liege waffles their signature texture and flavor.

After the pearl sugar is all kneaded in, next you divide the batter into six pieces and let it sit for another 90 minutes.

And then, finally, you are ready to cook them.

It took a couple waffles to get the hang of how best to cook them. My sister did hers in a Belgian iron (the kind with the deep pockets) but I just used a regular waffle iron. The first one or two were a bit misshapen and it was hard to tell quite how long to cook them (the recipe says 2 to 4 minutes). I started using the bottom of a pan to help press the top of the waffle iron down on the last few, in order to spread the dough out more uniformly, and that seemed to help.

So were they everything we remembered, lo those many years ago?

Yes, I think so. A couple of mine got a little overdone, but they were still a good representation of what we remembered. The pearl sugar melts and creates these little pockets of caramel goodness on the outside of the waffle. It’s not something I’m likely to make again, or at least not for a very long time (since it’s time consuming and messy) but it was fun to take the first bite, and to reminisce about a trip, so many years ago.



Knot worth it

What’s that, you say, you’ve been missing all my rambles on baking since the end of this year’s Thingadailies? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Yes, that’s right, it’s time for another #BakingSisters bake!

This weekend my parents were up in Seattle in order to visit with my sister and also see my niece play a mermaid in her last high school play (because somehow she is now a senior, even though I can’t figure out how that happened because the rest of us certainly haven’t aged that much since she was born, right? Oh, wait….

Anyway, because they were visiting and because things were going to be busy with the play, this month we decided to do cookies – specifically Tudor Jumbles. These were a recent Technical Challenge recipe on the Great British Bake Off, should the name sound familiar.

The dough itself is pretty basic – flour, sugar, butter, some flavorings, and an egg. Where it gets complicated is with the shaping, because you can’t just plop a lump of dough onto a sheet pan and call it done. No, these had to be carefully knotted into complicated shapes, then brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with sugar before baking.

My sister (with my mom joining in) made the dough in that recipe above. I, however, do not like either caraway seeds or anise (licorice) flavoring, so I went a bit off script. I made two half-batches of dough – one with ginger, and one with some almond flour (primarily because I had some that needed using up) and almond extract.

The first shape is a circular knot. The dough I flavored with ginger was really, really dry and it was actually pretty hard to ‘knot’ the rope of dough without it cracking into a million little pieces.

The second shape is a triangle ‘knot’. I know that technically I should have figure out a way to do it all with one single continuous rope of dough, but this one was a nightmare to shape to begin with (the almond dough was a lot softer than the ginger dough, to the point where I actually ended up kneading in a whole lot more flour prior to shaping, just so it would be firm enough to work with), and any attempts to weave the circle through the triangle points just ended up with broken dough and a lot of under-the-breath swearing.

Shaping these cookies was not a quick process, and it seems rather anticlimactic that for all that work, you only end up with 12 cookies in total. They’re also *big* cookies – each one is a couple inches across.

Verdict: Eh. The flavor’s not bad, but it certainly wasn’t worth all the effort of making the knots for just an okay cookie. My sister did comment that it might be fun to try the knots again with a different type of dough – perhaps a gingerbread – that had a little more pliability, and a lot more flavor. So we’ll see – maybe come Christmas time I’ll feel the urge to wrap dough into stupid little knots again. Or maybe….not.



Roly-poly

Today is National Cream Cheese Brownie Day, but I’m not actually going to talk about that, because there won’t be any of those in this house. Not that I have any issues with Cream Cheese Brownies – they are quite tasty – but because today was this month’s #BakingSisters day, so instead of doing the National Day thing, we made mini Swiss rolls.

Originally we were going to use this recipe, which was used in a Technical Bake in the most recent season of Great British Bake Off, but then I went a-Googling, and found some other options, and so instead, I used the cake from this recipe, and the filling and ganache from this one. I do love peppermint and the thought of peppermint cream inside tiny little chocolate cakes sounded delightful but that was going to end up as an awful lot of peppermint for the weekend (spoilers!), so I went with peanut butter instead.

My pastry-chef-by-training sister recommended that a sponge would be a better option than the cake we’re more familiar with in America, so we started with that. You mix eggs and sugar over a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved, and then decant that into a mixer and whip until it’s pale yellow and fluffy. Then you carefully fold in a mix of flour, cocoa, and salt, and also some melted butter.

I was *so* careful when folding (I’ve seen enough people on GBBO fold too quickly and lose all their volume) but my batter still shrunk a lot by the time I was done, so maybe I didn’t get the egg and sugar mix whipped enough to start with. Who knows!

Next you spread the batter out into prepared sheet pans (covered with parchment paper and then greased and sprinkled with cocoa powder). Here is mine.

It looks kind of sad. My sisters was a much lighter color and filled her sheet to the rim, so clearly one of us had a misstep, and considering which of us has had prior training, I’m guessing it was me!

Then it goes into the oven and bakes for 6 minutes, and as soon as it’s out, you immediately dump it out of the pan onto a clean kitchen towel that’s been sprinkled with cocoa powder. Hah. My sister was frantically warning me ‘cut the corners!’ so the cake wouldn’t stick to the pan, but, uh, see above for why that was not remotely an issue for my cake.

After it’s onto the dish towel, you roll it up right away, apparently so that the cake then has the ‘memory’ of the roll once it’s cooled. Which sounds really really weird to say but totally works.

While that cooled on the counter, then we made the fillings. My sister made two fillings – one peanut butter and one caramel, but I stuck with just the peanut butter filling, which is really just peanut butter buttercream. It is, by the way, insanely delicious and I was a Very Loving Wife when I let Richard lick the whisk attachment after I was done instead of keeping it all to myself, even though I was VERY VERY tempted.

So once the cake is cooled, then you unroll it, *carefully*, and fill it. Because we were making tiny rolls, we first cut the cake into quarters, and then filled each one individually and rolled those up. I did not, for some bizarre reason, take a picture of them pre-rolled, but here they are, after being rolled up, and before going into the freezer to chill.

I am quite pleased to report that there was minimal cracking on any of my rolls! I know this is an issue because every time there is a rolled cake challenge on GBBO, someone has a massive cracking failure, so hooray for the lack thereof! Also, if some pieces fell off the ends, well quality control is important and the cake tasted quite fine.

After the cakes were chilled enough that the filling was firm inside, then we cut them into pieces.

Aren’t they pretty? I totally didn’t make sure to turn them all so that the nicer side face the camera, nope, not at all.

The final step was ganache, so we heated up cream (or in my case half and half, because that’s what I had in the fridge) and poured that over chocolate and corn syrup, and whisked that together until it was smooth and lovely, and then poured it over the little cakes.

The recipe called for dunking each cake individually but that seemed like a lot of hassle, and I was worried there would end up being too much chocolate and the peanut butter flavor would be lost. So instead I just spooned it over the tops of mine, so the pretty swirls were still visible (well, except for a few drips), and then sprinkled them with chopped peanuts.

Also when one is the baker and there are trimmings and leftover filling and ganache, one *has* to do more quality testing. For..um..science. Many yummy noises were made on both sides of the camera. So many.

Here we are with our finished rolls! This is from my sister’s side of things, because I had to use both hands to hold up my tray, and she was thus the only one with an available hand to work the camera.

And how, you might ask, do they taste?

SO VERY AMAZING. The peanut butter filling is very light and fluffy and really helps counteract the dark chocolate of the ganache and the cake. Five stars, would totally make again some day when I have lots of hours to spare and don’t mind turning the kitchen into a cocoa-powder-coated disaster zone again.

Making a thing a day for Thingadailies.



The word of the day.

A long time ago the fats of choice for baking (and for cooking) primarily came from animals, because frankly, that’s what was available. It wasn’t until more recent history that we decided that animal fats were bad and started making fake fats that act the same as animal fats (and turn out to actually be worse than the original anyway), and the good stuff (at least in America) fell out of favor.

Yes, I’m talking about lard here. Lard, lard, larrrrrrrd (let’s face it, now you’re saying it in your head, ha, my work here is done!). I’ve played with it ever so briefly before, when a friend sent me a jar rendered from her own animals, and as long as that jar lasted I had a fierce discussion in my head every time I used it, which consisted mainly of ‘is this baked good lard-worthy?’ Because lard, I am here to tell you, makes some *delightful* baked goods. You want a super flaky crust? Bring on the lard! Biscuits that are soft as pillows and yet still flaky? Lard is your friend. Hooray for the lard!

Anyway! All this is to say that ever since I watched my first season of the Great British Bake Off I have been wanting to try hot water crust pastry, which uses lard but also hot water, which as any baker knows is the antithesis to flaky food. Except that apparently it isn’t! Because lard? I don’t know! We just don’t do this sort of thing in this country!

So for this month’s #BakingSisters challenge, we decided to tackle hot water crust pastry. And not only that, but we decided if we were going to do this, we were going to go all out, and so we did free-form, hand-raised pies, of the sort that are baked without any mold at all, just like they did back in the old days.

Cat interlude #1: Here, have a picture of a Sherman being cute!

So. We made our hot water crust pastry, which was really, really, *really* weird to work with. Since neither of us has ever done this before, we have no idea if we were doing it right, or if the consistency was correct, but we mixed up the weird goo anyway and then dutifully formed it over some pint jars, as per Paul Hollywood’s excellent instructions. Because the beauty of doing this sort of thing when one is *not* on a baking competition is that one has access to a recipe with *all* the steps, and not just vague hints.

I didn’t take a picture of the jars before they were chilled (that was the next step) but here are the pies after I carefully peeled them off their jars (easier said than done) and then spent about fifteen minutes doing clumsy patchwork so as to avoid any structural failures later, and then stuffed them with filling. My sister made one around a jar, and then put the other into a tiny springform pan so technically only one of hers was truly free-form, but okay, if I actually owned a tiny springform maybe I would have done that too.

The filling was from a different recipe and is really just meat, meat, and more meat, with some salt and pepper and a bunch of other spices mixed in. This is because these things were originally designed for people who were heading off to do a full day of manual labor so they needed something that would be calorie dense and would also keep in decent condition wrapped in a cloth and stuffed in a pocket or a sack. Also meat is less likely to lose a lot of water and lead to a soggy bottom and we all know that the *last* thing you want is a soggy bottom!

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, building my pies. Next you stick lids on top of the pies, into which you have carefully cut holes for the steam to escape, and you crimp (HA HA HA) it into place (the laughing is because neither of us actually *measured* our lids so they didn’t fit but luckily they were too big and thus provided extra dough for the structural spackling required earlier). Pro tip – make sure you cover the plate on which you were chilling the lids with plastic wrap or else you might have to chisel it off said plate prior to placing it atop the world’s ugliest hand raised pies. Ahem.

Then into the oven they go, for roughly an hour, during which you realize that the recipe makes wayyy too much meat filling, so then you decide to use the lard (lard, lard, larrrrd!) to make *more* pastry dough. Except without the hot water because that was just nasty.

Interlude #2! Here’s a cat in a box! Said cat spent the majority of the entire baking session *whining* because I have no idea why except cats.

Finally the pies came out of the oven. I am pleased to report that my pies did not leak, nor did I have any significant structural failure (unlike my sister’s free-standing pie, which had a rather impressive blow-out on one side).

So. Once the pies are out of the oven, you are supposed to then pour in a mixture of broth and gelatin, which is supposed to fill in all the nooks and crannies to keep the meat moist or the pie from collapsing or something. I have no idea. All I know is that mixing broth and gelatin creates a concoction that smells absolutely *foul*. And also there was literally no room at the top of my pie in which to insert a funnel so that I could pour in the meat jello in the first place. So I didn’t end up doing that part.

And how, you may ask, did they taste?

Eh.

The filling was fine – a bit on the peppery side, but otherwise about what you’d expect if you mix sausage, bacon, and poultry together in a bowl and smash it into a pie crust. The crust is sturdy and yet still a bit flaky.

Overall, it was fun to try, although I have a feeling neither of us is going to be dashing off to work with hot water crust pastry again any time soon. And I am quite happy to report that were no soggy bottoms on either side of the webcam (Mary Berry would be so proud).

Mmm. Lard.



This time around we came up with a hashtag

Because we had so much fun making Stroopwafels, my sister and I started immediately working on what we wanted to bake next. She was in the mood to do something with yeast dough, so a flurry of possible recipes flew back and forth. Since I picked the recipe the last time, I told her she had to pick it this time, so finally she decided on these, which are yeasted buns filled with cinnamon and chocolate, and plaited into a complicated shape. Due to the fact that it’s a yeast dough, we decided we’d both make the dough and set it aside for its first proof, and then join up via Google Hangouts for the next half of the process.

Looking at the recipe, I noted that we were going to be otherwise twiddling our thumbs for an hour during the second rise, which is why we then also decided to make the Cinnamon Star from King Arthur Flour. Conveniently enough, that happens to be the current monthly bake-along from King Arthur Flour (although I hadn’t realized it at the time I suggested it), so that link actually includes lots of details and pictures of the entire process, if anyone else wants to play along.

I made both doughs last night and popped them into the fridge, but the dough for the buns didn’t work out, so this morning I hastily remade it…which is why we ended up swapping the order for what we made, since my dough needed extra time to rise.

Anyway. First up – the cinnamon star. My sister’s made that one before, and she happens to have a lot of apples so she decided to add some chopped apples to her cinnamon mixture, whereas I stuck exactly to the recipe.

Here is my star, prior to baking.

It looks way more impressive than it has any right to be (trust me when I say this was a hot mess prior to the cutting and the twisting step).

So once we had the stars formed and resting under towels, next we tackled the buns.

These were…a pain. The instructions are text only, so both of us were reading them aloud, trying to figure out what, exactly, we were supposed to be doing with the plaiting and the stuffing. At one point I was holding up the laptop, so that the camera was facing down at my worktop, trying to plait the dough one-handed (not very successfully) so she could see what I was doing. Suffice it to say, neither of us has a clue whether we did it correctly or not. But we got them all plaited and stuffed, in one form or another. Here they are, rising.

So once *that* was done, and all the snickering and inevitable comments about ‘playing with our buns’ were out of our system (I kid, those will *never* be out of our system!), it was time to bake the stars.

Here is my cinnamon star, after baking.

It smells as delightful as it looks, and tastes even better!

Here are my sister and I, with our respective stars.

Hers spread out a bit more due to the apples (and took a lot longer to bake because the apples made the dough a lot wetter).

Verdict from both sides of the Google Hangout – yum!

And then about 20 minutes after those came out of the oven, it was time to pop in the buns. Which then proceeded to grow to ginormous size in the oven.

Think I’m kidding about the size? Here we are, both of us posing with buns almost as big as our faces. One of us may or may not have quoted modified lyrics to Baby’s Got Back at this point. Mayyyybe.

Naturally we allowed these to cool completely before we, oh who am I kidding, you all know darn well we cut one of those suckers open and tried it immediately.

The dough itself is quite lovely – it’s a nice light texture and has some good flavor. The filling was…eh. I suspect next time I need to try to get a lot more of the sugar mixture into there (or else don’t use as dark a chocolate as I did). Verdict – tasty, and fun to try, not something either of us will likely do again.

So overall, the second #BakingSisters day was a success.



Stroopwafel Saturday

My younger sister is a baker – not just a baking enthusiast like me, but a ‘went-through-training-and-knows-what-she’s-doing’ baker. So she’s who I contact when I have questions about why my bread is doing things it shouldn’t be doing, or what sort of cookie dough one should use when one is going to do cut-outs with patterns, and that sort of thing. She also, like me, loves to try new recipes, and on a recent trip up to Seattle to visit with her, we took advantage of the fact that we were both in the same place with access to a kitchen, and tried out a couple recipes – chocolate-filled hand pies, and homemade Tagalongs (the chocolate-covered peanut butter-filled cookies one can usually only get from Girl Scouts). It was messy and silly and tasty and a lot of fun and when I got home I got to thinking that if she and I lived closer, we’d likely be getting together on a regular basis to try out recipes and play with butter and sugar and flour.

So a week or so ago I sent my little sister this recipe and said, hey, even though we’re not in the same place, maybe we could try doing these together over Google Hangouts. She was game, so we checked our calendars, and today was the day.

The recipe itself is pretty straightforward – you mix up the dough and let it sit for a bit, and then you make the caramel (both of which smelled absolutely delightful while going together), and then you make the cookies themselves. And then the next step is to split an already-thin cookie into two even thinner pieces, while still hot (possibly there was a tiny bit of swearing and uttering of ‘ow, ow, ow!’ during that process), then dollop a generous amount of caramel in the middle and finally, smoosh the two pieces together, spreading the caramel syrup between them. Then you set those aside to cool and when they are done, you have stroopwafels!

If you happen to have a pizelle maker, which my sister does because she scored it for $10 at a garage sale years ago, then you can smash the dough in there and it will come out nice and thin with gorgeous patterning on both sides. However, if you do not have a pizelle maker (like me), you can jury-rig a dough-smashing system via the clever combination of an electric skillet and a saucepan. Put the dough on the skillet, grease the bottom of the saucepan, and then use that to smash it down into a flat thing. Pro tip – a regular waffle iron doesn’t work (I tried) – the divots are too deep and your dough won’t smash thin enough.

Here are my finished stroopwafels. I know they look a lot like lopsided pancakes (see above re. ‘don’t have a pizelle maker’), but trust me, they’re actual cookies, with delicious brown sugar maple caramel syrup in the middle, and they are quite, quite yummy.

The end result of the whole thing is that we both had a lot of fun, laughing and chatting over the video call, showing each other our dough and our cookies and our caramel, and we have decided we are going to try to do this on regular basis. Because after all, we live in the future now, with webcams and laptops that can be propped up in the kitchen, and living two states away from each other should not be the deterrent to doing something we both love to do, together.




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