Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Archive for March, 2010

Pink Peppercorn-Thyme soda

Posted by osakaben41 on March 31, 2010

Just a quick one here.  My daughter is home sick from school and wife is out of town.  It’s gray and wet outside, so what do we do?  We cook.  Well if you consider making savory soda cooking that is.

This come from a back issue of Bon Appetite, and just sat there at the back of the line, waiting for its turn.  Totally unnecessary, but sometimes you just have to make something.  And WOW does the house smell good right now.  Overall it looks like a thin bourbon, but tastes almost like a spicy pimms.  The trick is going to be adding just enough syrup so it’s not too sweet, but still has enough kick to stand out as something different.

Besides, it’s nice to be able to use my seltzer machine for something else these days.


Posted in drink, Savory | 2 Comments »

Pistachio & Poppy-Seed Crackers

Posted by osakaben41 on March 31, 2010

I’ve got a new muse these days, hopefully one that will smooth over the issues of “Sweet-lord what are you going to do with all that ________?!?” Normal people ask each other simple questions like, “I’m feeling peckish, wonder what we have to snack on?” My problem however has been “What am I going to do with this bucket of flan I just made?” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cookies, dough, Nuts, Savory | Leave a Comment »

A very chocolate passover

Posted by osakaben41 on March 29, 2010

From the bottom up: Flourless Chocolate Cake, Matzo praline, espresso chocolate cheesecake, praline, flourless cake, ganache glaze, surrounded by chocolate mousse

Dad, am I a Jew?” says the little girl.  No honey, you’re just ‘jew-ish’. 

Such are the stale jokes of yet another mixed-faith couple.  Easter to me as a young boy meant pounds and pounds of chocolate, and gorging on enough jellybeans to swear me off the stuff for good.  Passover was when the lucky kids at school didn’t have to eat the ‘Sloppy Joes’ on soggy white bread.  What I’m saying is, we’re not that observant. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cake, Chocolate, mousse | 2 Comments »

Nikuman – Bread Baking Day #28

Posted by osakaben41 on March 28, 2010

The trick to being broke in Japan in your early 20s is to know the seams in the system, and how to live off $20/day without dying of malnutrition.  Having spent roughly 2-years there, split between Tokyo & Osaka, I can testify to the number of my people saved by late-night convenience store dinners.  Put aside any thoughts of those 7-11 hotdogs, stuck on hells own treadmill, or the stomach cramping plastic wrapped microwave burrito.  You too can live, nay Thrive, off the occasional $2 meal. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bread, dough, Savory | 8 Comments »

Orange Tian (sort of) – March DB Challenge

Posted by osakaben41 on March 27, 2010

  It’s a strange thing, the places an idle mind will go.  I had every intention of sticking close to this months challenge recipe, but one thing leads to another and here we are.  The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.  

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Cookies, DB Challenge, Fruit, Ice Cream, Recipes | 10 Comments »

Chocolate Oeufs a la neige (Floating Islands)

Posted by osakaben41 on March 25, 2010

They say the 100 pleats in a chef’s toque represent the number of different ways to cook an egg.  If that’s true I’ve got at least another 70 to learn, but this at least was a step in that direction.  More commonly known State-side as “floating Islands” Oeufs a la neige (translated from French as “eggs in snow”) usually consists of poached meringue in a creme anglaise sauce. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Chocolate, Sauce | Leave a Comment »

Wine Poached Grape Tart

Posted by osakaben41 on March 21, 2010

Some time ago I was asked, “what’s your take on liquor in desserts?”  At that time, my only association was a series of retirement/baby shower/engagement celebration cakes that my workplace would occasionally offer.  Yellow cake with a good inch and a half of white frosting, soaked in rum.  If the sugar overload didn’t send you spinning the illicit two shots in the bottom layer would. 

Lately though, I’m thinking of liquor, or wine in this case, as a way to add another layer of complexity, something that’s not as easy to pin down as ‘lemon’, ‘maple syrup’, or ‘chocolate’.  Besides, it’s how I justify to myself this hobby as a think for adults, otherwise, why not just recreate Reese’s Peanut Butter cups all week long. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fruit, Tarts | 1 Comment »

Mango-Hibiscus Macarons – MacAttack V

Posted by osakaben41 on March 9, 2010



Mango shells filled with hibiscus tapioca, candied hibiscus garnish


That time again, when folks start inexplicably making Macarons again.  MacAttack V is upon us, now with instructions to bake something floral, something bespeaking of the glory of spring, something to get us through the cruel taunting New England March that takes us from shorts and spf 50 to snow-pants and wind chapped cheeks from one day to the next.

Rather than try to shape macs like a daisy (wow is that hard), or serve them on ‘stems‘ (though this is something to come back to later), I wanted to revisit my earlier failure with hibiscus.  That time I ground up dried flowers as finely as I could (not fine enough it turned out), added them to the dry ingredients and went from there.  As I’m starting to learn, the shells will almost always taste of almond though, so how best to get a hibiscus flavor in there? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fruit, Macaron, Tropical Fruit | 6 Comments »

Rosemary Caramel Pine Nut Tart

Posted by osakaben41 on March 7, 2010

It’s March, what the hell am I doing baking with Rosemary?  

It’s over 50 degrees outside, the kids played on the monkey bars without their coats, and I’m looking at the sad state of our yard and all the work it’ll need before we can cook outside again.  Spring is coming to Boston and I’m cooking a Christmas dinner?  Anybody with a lick of sense is going citrus crazy right now, if they aren’t scrounging early spring berries that is. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Lemon, Nuts, Sauce, Tarts | Leave a Comment »

Laminated Brioche

Posted by osakaben41 on March 2, 2010

Pardon my French, but these are some Kick Ass rolls!!!  Francisco Migoya strikes again with his recipe for pecorino, roasted garlic, sea-salt and fried sage laminated brioche.  I’ll admit to being intimidated, given my poor history with laminated dough, but anybody claiming to be a true butter-freak just has to try these.  In short, you mix up some butter-heavy brioche dough (on its own a bit of a high-wire act), then fold in a block of butter as you would with croissant dough.  Roll it all out flat, cover with shredded pecorino, roll into a log and cut into 2″ sections.  Proof the rolls for a few hours, top with sea salt and a roasted garlic clove and bake.  Finish with a single deep fried sage leaf.

 Fickle mistress that she is, I’ve been unable to tame laminated dough, and this was no different.  In short, the goal is to enclose a block of butter in dough, then fold it like an envelope, roll it out, repeated at least three times.  The goal is to not work it so hard that the layers tear, or the butter melts.  You can’t just pop it into the freezer or the butter will get harder than the dough, causing it to tear.  Brioche dough presumably has already developed its full gluten, meaning it’s much more elastic than the butter.  Roll it out too quickly and it’ll snap back like so much rubber.  Even if you hit that magic temperature when the dough and butter share the same consistency, if you rush the process and roll too hard, the friction will melt the butter, ruining the dough.

The recipe called for resting the dough for at least 15 minutes between folds, but I gave it a good 30-45 just to be on the safe side.  Even then, I might have pressed too hard when rolling these out, though the dough felt good to the touch.  When they were baked, they puffed up nicely, filling the paper cups, but a decent amount of butter ‘flooded’ out.  What should have been light and airy, was instead weighted down with melted butter and turned partially gummy inside. 

So, though far from a smashing success, it still worked better than the last attempt, so I’m calling it progress.  Regardless of the texture, the roasted garlic, with its hint of sweetness, worked extremely well with the cheese.  Instead of sea salt though, I had some left-over pink Hawaiian salt that really finished it off nicely.  

My wife and I both had one for breakfast this morning (and will probably carry that faint whiff of garlic throughout the day).  Otherwise the rest were intended as a thank you gift for a friend that saved us the other night.  Our babysitter was trapped  in NY after a snowplow crushed her friend’s car, so she couldn’t get back to Boston.  J however stepped in at the last-minute, freeing us up for a much-needed night out.  Garlic-sage brioche is the absolute least we could do for him.

Posted in Bread, dough, Savory | 2 Comments »