Tagged With baking

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Stella Parks — aka “the BraveTart” — knows more about cake than most people know about anything. She has the CIA training and the restaurant experience, but it’s her attention to detail and infectious enthusiasm for American desserts that makes her recipes not only technically great, but downright joyous.

And while cooking and eating sweets is a veritable dream job, one cannot live on cake alone, which is why we were thrilled to talk to Stella about her favourite savoury dishes, the horror of chocolate-covered strawberries, and the reason she has to taste test the entire cookie.

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Most people identify as either a chocolate dessert person or a fruit dessert person. I’m firmly in the second category, but more specifically, I’m a Lemon Dessert Person: give me a dessert lemony enough to pucker my lips and contort my face, or give me nothing at all.

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Baking is less about feeding oneself and more about having a hobby, and I tend to gravitate toward dead-simple recipes I can throw together on a whim. Though I have absolutely nothing against perfectly executed pastry, it takes a certain amount of patience to make such, which is why I bake my bounty of summer fruits into cobblers rather than pies.

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Rhubarb rarely gets a starring role in desserts, with most recipes relying on strawberries to temper its raw, unpleasant sourness. This classic pairing, while tasty, makes very little sense to me. Rhubarb shines when gently cooked, but a hot oven destroys everything that's special about a ripe strawberry - so why do we insist on cooking them together?

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My love for boxed mix brownies is strong and true, but I have never felt much affection for cake that came from a near-instant mix. They always seemed too sweet, too one-note, and had a distinct chemical leavening agent flavour that was impossible to ignore.

But things are different now, for I have found an ingredient that not only improves the flavour, but the texture as well, and that ingredient is whipped cream.

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I am not an architect. I do not know how to understand blueprints or make things stable or even really understand what a “model” does. I am a competent cook, but a bad baker. The two layer cakes I have attempted to make in my life both began to slump like the tower in Pisa within hours of their completion. I am, however, immensely stubborn, and very spirited.

I kept seeing gingerbread houses everywhere, and as someone who loves a good snap cookie and a bunch of gummy candies, I sought out some experts to give you (me) the tips that don’t quite make it into the recipes you read online (and there are hundreds of them).

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Pies are really great, like, really great. Personally I am a huge fan of a dessert apple pie with custard and vanilla ice cream during the holidays, or anytime for that matter. With Christmas coming up why not learn how to make a great apple pie that will blow your relatives away?

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Baked custards are everywhere on the holiday dessert table. Apart from apple pie, just about every other holiday classic calls for baking a sugar-and-egg slurry until perfectly set. It seems simple enough, but custard pies are notoriously tricky — especially when canned pumpkin gets involved.

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Blind baking pie crusts should be so simple: Line crimped, chilled pastry with parchment or foil, fill with dried beans to weigh it down, and bake until crisp. This works out OK most of the time, but for truly crisp crusts with no puffy spots, reach for the sugar.

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As a person who keeps at least 1kg of butter on hand at all times, I’m constantly cycling blocks of the stuff between my freezer, fridge and butter dish. Recently, though, I found myself in an unthinkable predicament: I was out of butter. I dug around in the back of my freezer, and behind a half-empty bag of frozen dumplings and some chicken stock, I found one last box.

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If you are a maker of pastry you probably have, at one point of another, lovingly brushed some buttery dough with a beaten egg, or some portion of an egg, never stopping to wonder why. (Or maybe you did wonder why. I’m not in your brain box.)