Category Archives: baking

My Paris-Brest pastry had a flat tire

Cream-filled pastries and feats of athleticism go together like peas and carrots, so the history behind November’s Daring Bakers Challenge recipe makes perfect sense.

The Paris–Brest-Paris bicycle race was first run in 1891 and is the oldest open-road bicycle race that’s still being run. It’s held every four years now, and it isn’t open to professionals. It’s 1,200 kilometers from Paris to Brest and back again, and PBP participants have 90 hours to complete the course. An equivalent distance in the U.S. would be from Kansas City to Detroit. That’s a pretty long bike ride.

The Paris-Brest pastry was created in 1910 to commemorate the PBP race. It’s piped into a circle to look like a bicycle tire, and it’s filled with a fluffy praline-flavored pastry cream because… ummm… I guess just because praline pastry cream is delicious.

The Paris-Brest is made with a pâte à choux dough, which I’ve made successfully in the past. It didn’t go so well this time around, though, and I think it’s because I didn’t cook it quite long enough and didn’t get enough air into the dough. My bicycle tires were pretty well flat. I decided to make the pastry cream with cookie butter rather than praline, mainly because I didn’t want to make praline. Poppy — who often prefers a very subtle flavor — thought I should have used less cookie butter, but the rest of the household was pleased with the result. It was a little bit grainy, but it tasted nice.

Since my pastry was more cracker-ring than pastry, I wasn’t able to cut them in half to fill them. Instead, we piled the cookie butter cream into the centers and called it a day.
Continue reading My Paris-Brest pastry had a flat tire

It’s my birthday! Let’s talk about cake.

Count von Count and his little sachertorte, the Countess.
Count von Count and his little sachertorte.
“My little Sachertorte” is a term of endearment that I could’ve sworn Count von Count used for The Countess, but I haven’t been able to find any evidence to support such a claim. A Sachertorte is also a cake that originated in Austria in the 1800s, when Prince Wenzel von Metternich ordered a special dessert. Metternich’s chef was ill, though, and so a young apprentice named Franz Sacher took on the task and lo, the Sachertorte was born. It was a two-layer chocolate cake with a layer of apricot in the center and a coating of chocolate glaze, which sounds so delicious and yet didn’t really make any waves at Metternich’s dinner party.

Metternich, however, made lots of waves in his time,[ref]”The Diplomacy of Metternich“[/ref] as my in-laws informed me when I told them the story of the Sachertorte. I’ve been aware for some time that my in-laws are the type of people who know about the exploits of a 19th-century Austrian prince, but it’s still amusing when they bring such things up in conversation.

Anyway, Young Sacher eventually became Old Sacher. His eldest son opened a hotel, and that’s where the Sachertorte began to gain fame. People loved it then, and they love it now, and you can buy a 4.5-inch Sachertorte for only 21,90 €, which Google tells me is about $28. Or you could make your own, which is what I did last month when the Daring Bakers issued the challenge.

A goal for the future: Improving my food photography.
I need to work on improving my food photography.

I used Lidia Bastinich’s Sachertorte recipe, but I didn’t follow the instructions very carefully. Rather than putting the cake in the refrigerator to set after putting the apricot glaze on, I charged straight onward into applying the chocolate glaze. And so the cake slowly absorbed the chocolate glaze, so that when I revisited it awhile later it looked like I hadn’t glazed it at all. Naturally, I blamed Lidia Bastinich’s glaze rather than user error, so I made a batch of chocolate glaze from Kitchen Lane and reapplied it. That one set up nicely, and the double-glazing led to a pretty great taste and texture.

I don’t know enough about Metternich’s diplomatic efforts to form an opinion on them, but I do know that his chef’s apprentice created a rather tasty dessert.

The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls are worth the effort

Daring Bakers KitchenLast month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was to make Cinnamon Rolls, which finally gave me an excuse to make the The Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls. They’ve been on my radar for literally years. I don’t know why it took me so long to try them, but now that I have? I’m pretty sure they’re what got the Food Network’s attention and launched the Pioneer Woman empire. They’re that good.

I wouldn’t call the recipe difficult, but it does take some time to come together so make sure you have time for rising and resting and rolling before you give these guys a go. Also, there’s a chance that you’re going to make a serious mess. If you enjoy cleaning as much as I do, you might want to tell your loved ones you’ll make them some cinnamon rolls if and only if they’ll clean up after you.

So the first thing I did was

making cinnamon rolls

And then I



Finally, I took a bite. And I involuntarily did this:

Bill Cosby dancing

I’m 100 percent serious. Prepare your hearts, minds and funky sweaters for a Cosby dance.

The recipe calls for baking powder, baking soda and yeast, and it yields a terrifically rich and ridiculously soft cinnamon roll. I only ran into a few problems. The first was that I didn’t have any maple flavoring on hand, so I used vanilla in the icing instead. This turned out to be not-a-problem-at-all; the vanilla + coffee in the icing ended up tasting like a vanilla latte. Which is to say: It was scrumptious.

The other problem was that I’d looked at the recipe and thought, “Oh, that’s far too many cinnamon rolls! I’ll make a half-batch!” That’s how I learned that, in fact, there is no such thing as far too many cinnamon rolls. Even if you aren’t prepared to eat two dozen of them on your own, you’re certain to find friends who will help.

So I made them again.

This time I made a full batch. I put half of the dough in one big pan and sent it along with Rockford on his Father’s Day golf excursion. I split the other half of the dough between two pans — one for the kids and I and the other for my father-in-law. I left the coffee out of the icing on the kids’ pan, because Poppy asked me to, but I made up for that by using coffee almost exclusively in the pan for my father-in-law. All three pans were joyfully received and consumed.

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!