What about single-acting baking powder?

I’ve received a couple of questions on the subject this week. Honestly I didn’t know single-acting powder was still out there for anything other than commercial/industrial use. As I mentioned below, double acting baking powders deliver two “actions”, one that happens fast when the batter is being mixed, and another that happens slowly as the batter gets hot. The effect is achieved by combining two different acids with a specific quantity of baking soda (plus a little corn starch to keep the chemicals from reacting in the can). For the fast reaction baking powder manufacturers either use …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 4 Comments

Madeleines With a Humpback

I’ve had several requests to show how madeleines can be made with a hump on the back of them, a shape which many consider to be more authentic (whatever that means) than simple, symmetrical clamshell-shaped ones. I personally like those, but who am I to deny my readers? …

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Filed under:  Madeleines | 10 Comments

What about baking soda?

Reader Liam writes to ask whether a baking soda-leavened batter needs to be rushed into the oven as soon as it’s mixed, since that’s what he’s always heard. Another fabulous question. The answer is a rather unsatisfying “it depends”, Liam. A lot of bakers consider baking soda to be something of a chemical one-trick pony. You add it to a wet batter and it reacts, end of story. But that’s not the whole of it. True, if you combine baking soda with plenty of acid à la a baking soda volcano you are going to get a big chemical reaction that will be over almost immediately. However reacting baking soda with acid isn’t the only way to get it to leaven. You can also degrade it by applying heat. Those are two different processes and both …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 11 Comments

Bienenstich Recipe

Lovers of pastry will notice that bee sting cake bears a striking resemblance to tarte Tropézienne. That makes sense since tarte Tropézienne is really a German cake adapted to French resort town living. What are the differences? The bee sting cake filling isn’t as rich, being more custard-y than buttercream-y. Then there’s the matter of the topping: a caramel and sliced almond combo that gives the appearance of a mass of bees on a honeycomb. Here’s what you need:


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Filed under:  Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich), Pastry | 19 Comments

Action and More Action

Reader Dan, who is working on financiers this week, has a very interesting question about baking powder:

If you’re using [baking powder], why rest the mix in the fridge? Surely the [baking powder] is activated, and loses its potency before you actually come to baking?

It’s very reasonable to assume that, Dan. Conventional wisdom holds that whenever you get baking powder wet you need to hurry it into the oven so you don’t lose any volume. That actually isn’t the case. It’s certainly true that you get a gas-producing “pop” when the baking powder gets wet. That’s the first “action” of double-acting baking powder. The second action happens when the baking powder gets hot. …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 9 Comments

Are things feeling a little cozy in here?

March is always hell on my numbers, I assume because of spring break (if not I’m seriously losing my edge). I generally check analytics around the first of the month, and this morning I laughed out loud when I saw the trend line since the 8th. Given how few of us there are here today, let’s relax the usual formality, push the tables and chairs to the side of the room and just sit cross-legged on the floor. I’ll pour a little hot chocolate around and we’ll talk bienenstich. Sound good?

Filed under:  Pastry | 32 Comments

Next up: Bienenstich

German “bee sting” cake is what this is, and I’ve been wanting, then forgetting, then wanting, then forgetting again to do this cake for years. Thankfully reader Bina got on may case about it a couple of weeks back. It’s high time I got this thing done!

Filed under:  Pastry | 13 Comments

Making Pan de Ramerino

These little Tuscan breads are ingenious. Neither completely savory nor sweet they’re scattered with raisins, perfumed with rosemary and olive oil and lightly painted with an apricot glaze. They’re a variation on the hot cross bun, and as such appear around Easter in Florence. Traditionally this bread was made in loaves on Holy Thursday for the observance of the Last Supper. The loaves would be baked, taken to church for a blessing then eaten after mass. Nowadays I’m told this bread is mostly baked up in buns, and no longer just for Holy Thursday. You’ll want to eat yours all year round as well. Begin by assembling your ingredients. …

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Filed under:  Pastry | 24 Comments

Pan de Ramerino

“Rosmarino” is how you say “rosemary” in Italian, but in the Tuscan dialect it’s “ramerino”. The formula has a few extra steps compared to a typical herbed bread as the aim is to infuse the oil with rosemary flavor instead of adding chopped herb to the dough. The results is a very light and elegant flavor. If you like a stronger rosemary flavor, add a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves at the same time you add the raisins to the dough. The bread goes like this:

2 ounces (1/4 cup) olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3.5 ounces (2/3 cup) raisins
3 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ounces (scant 2 tablespoons) sugar
17.5 oz (3 1/4 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
2 eggs
egg wash
apricot glaze

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Filed under:  Pan de Ramerino, Pastry | 3 Comments

How to Make Hot Cross Buns

These come together so quickly and easily you’ll want to bake up a batch every Friday (or Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday…). They’re light, slightly sweet with a hint of spice and candied fruit. Delicious but not so much of a Lenten indulgence that you’ll have to go to confession afterward. Use whatever dried fruit is handy. Raisins are very common, currents are very English, citron is very hip, dried apricot is very, um…Louisville. Mix and match them to your heart’s content. Start by…

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Filed under:  Hot Cross Buns, Pastry | 29 Comments