Sunday, December 27, 2009

Summer, Fall and Holiday 2009

Wow, that was a long baking hiatus!

Thanks for all the emails asking how I'm doing and when I'm going to post again. My med school exams didn't finish until the 21st of December, so I almost wasn't able to bake - almost.

First, a bit of catching up.

Pat and I moved to a new place this summer and while we are totally in love with the condo, the tiny AEG oven broke my heart a little:

The usable internal space is about 13" x 14" x 15" so I spent some time in the summer trying to scale down some of my tried and tested recipes. So, there was quite a bit of baking during this time. Here are a couple pictures, a strawberry tartlet on the the left and a plain génoise on the right:

I found that tarts, pies, as well as sponge and foam cakes bake very well in this new oven. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for buttercakes. Somehow, buttercakes tend to stay wet in the middle, and if I bake it through the cake begins to shrink by more than 30% in volume when I take it out of the oven, which is a sure sign of being overbaked. On a convection setting, the oven temperature calibration is spot-on, but about 20C too low on conventional baking. I've corrected for this, and use a baking stone to help keep bottom heat, with only so-so results.

Anyhow, on to holiday baking:

These are Dorie Greenspan's simply amazing sable cookies. The recipe is available from the NY Times. It is akin to shortbread, differing only by the addition of egg yolks which gives both crunch and tenderness, setting off the nutty flavour of mildly browned butter. These chic beauties fed me all throughout my exam review period (basically all of December).

Again, because school interfered with my baking scheduling, I was not able to turn out a bûche de Noël this year. I will have to be content with memories of last year's log and those cute little meringue mushrooms:

My bûches are compiled on this page

This year, I went for another favourite, Cooks Illustrated's lemon tart which is improved by Maury Rubin's tart shell. The recipe for the tart filling is the exact same one featured in Leite's Culinaria and the tart recipe can be copied from the LA Times.


Ms Greenspan says the secrets to really sandy sable cookies include not overcreaming the butter and sugar, being very gentle with adding the flour (which is added all at once), and ensuring that the dough gets adequate resting time in the fridge (at least two hours). I am going to highlight another advice: these are amazing on the second day when the flavours have set, so plan ahead.

I am in the middle of planning a cake for a family celebration this NYE. I think it's going to be a génoise with lemon curd and Rose Levy Beranbaum's new white chocolate custard buttercream. So there are a few posts out of me yet before I head back to school.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I am so happy to see you posting again. Hope medical school is going well.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great to read you again!

Your creations look yummy and perfect, as usual!

Happy Holidays and all the best for 2010!



kellypea said...

Good to see you back even for a bit. Best wishes on your exams...

Di said...

Great to see a post from you, Julius! TWD actually did the sablés this month. =) And good for you, figuring out how to work with that oven--I don't know if I would do as well. Enjoy your break from school.

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

Hi Julius! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I love the look of yours. Really beautiful photos. I especially loved the assortment of yule logs. I made a triple chocolate yule log for Christmas and it was amazing!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

happy new year and good to see you back! when we lived in australia, we had a baby oven, and i had had to invest in a bunch of baby baking sheets and dishes to go along with it, so i know what that's like. sounds like you are figuring out all the kinks tho. :)

Lynnylu said...

Welcome back to blogging, Julius. Your lemon tart looks fabulous. Looking forward to seeing the genoise with lemon curd and white chocolate buttercream.
Good luck with your med school studies.