Beat until creamy. Transfer to piping bag or ziploc bag with corner snipped. This is a messy process so keep a damp kitchen cloth handy. To Assemble Cake
This is messy, as well, so do it over a baking sheet to catch crumbs. Flip cake over. Cut 6 or 7 deep holes in the bottom of the cake. Be careful not to go all the way through. This is a challenge but after careful consideration, I successfully did this.
Once the holes are made, using your hands, burrow down and connect the holes to form a tunnel. Be careful not to puncture cake.
Clear the cake from the holes and discard.
Now start filling holes with cream filling. Do not overdo this because cake could burst open.
Once holes are filled, carefully flip cake over. Dust with powdered sugar.
I have never been formerly taught the art of cooking and baking. As a young woman, it never interested me and I only associated it with tireless house wives who considered it a chore. In seventh and eighth grade I had Home Economics classes and that was my first true introduction to it all. We made simple dishes, no bake cookies and rice krispies bars and I have a fleeting memory of cooking pudding on the stove.
My present baking knowledge is from observation of others and from trial and error by myself. I guess it’s true what some people say, that no matter how old you are, life is full of learning opportunities. Recently I wrote a post highlighting my friend Michelle’s exciting career as a baking instructor at King Arthur Flour. I asked her to share some useful baking tips for others and I ended up thoroughly surprised that I didn’t know some of the tricks.
Michelle informed me that most people’s mistakes with baking is using too much flour. People are always asking her why their bread comes out like bricks and pizzas like hard frisbees. The key is using less flour. While many experts will tell you to measure in cups, King Arthur Flour encourages bakers to weigh the flour. A cup of King Arthur Flour weighs 4- 4 ¼ ounces. By weighing flour and not using volume, you’ll be accurate with the amounts.
Another tip Michelle shares is when measuring flour, don’t pack it in the cup. ( if you are still using cups and not weighing) Instead, sprinkle the flour in loosely and level with a knife at the top. When I think of this, I think of the act of packing brown sugar in a cup. You want to do just the opposite because if you pack it, you have too much flour.
I have the King Arthur Baking cookbook and I noticed when browsing recipes, a commonality is the note of avoiding over mixing. I already knew this tip from blueberry muffin recipes. Michelle says to be careful not to overmix cookies, cakes, and muffins. If you mix the batter too much, there will be too much gluten. If you want tender baked goods, DO NOT OVERMIX!
A hint for amateur pie crust bakers, keep your butter cold when adding to your flour mixture. Also Michelle reminds us that using melted butter instead of softened makes a negative difference. For example, when baking cookies make sure you leave out the butter overnight so it softens. Melting the butter will change the consistency. When you cream the butter and sugar you are supposed to put air bubbles in. If you use melted butter instead, it’s very hard to get the air in it. I didn’t know this, amazing fact!
Now that we learned some valuable baking tips…let’s get out there and bake! Use these techniques and see how much better your cakes, cookies and breads are! Share these tips with your family and friends and always have fun in your kitchen!
This weekend I’m baking a chocolate cheesecake for my son’s girlfriend’s birthday and old fashioned whoopie pies shaped like footballs for the Super Bowl. Go New England Patriots!
This is a heartfelt thank you to Michelle for her gift of time for the interview and her kindness.
Meet my friend, Michelle Kupiec. I first met her a few years ago through my good friend, Laurie Burridge. Ever since we get together a few times a year for lunch. We used to go Black Friday shopping together at Wal-Mart but have graduated to a shopping day. I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always great conversation and really fun! We are just busy working moms and wives with no airs about us, just working hard and loving our families.
Michelle has a pretty cool job at King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, Vermont. She’s a baking instructor/ purchaser, which means that she instructs cooking classes and purchases all the supplies for the class. Michelle’s one of about a dozen instructors. If you love baking, then doesn’t it sound like your dream job?
Michelle started at the company working on the baking hotline and did this line of work for a year. Did you know that King Arthur Flour hosts a hotline? People call with their baking questions to converse with an employee, who can help them figure out what went wrong with their project. Michelle says that she enjoyed it because it was detective work to figure out what went wrong with peoples’ baking projects. One common mishap is using too much flour. Adding too much changes the consistency of cakes,cookies and breads.
We were all laughing hysterically when Michelle shared her favorite caller stories. One outrageous baker called with a bread emergency! Her loaf of bread was exploding and popping out of the oven! Laurie kept us in stitches, reminding us of the bread scene in the Lucy show. The woman told Michelle that she used a pound of yeast, when an average recipe calls for a teaspoon. Another caller asked where you can buy scalded milk for a recipe. This sounds like an entertaining job!
Presently Michelle teaches different classes from making pizzas ( one of her favorites) to breads. Baguette classes and Bread101 are popular choices and because of that, Michelle suggests to sign up early. She also instructs a Pizza From the Hearth class, where you can learn how to bake a pizza in a wood fired oven.
Classes consist of 12 to 16 people with one instructor and assistant. King Arthur hosts children classes, children and adult classes ( for instance a mom, dad or grandparent could bring a child) and adult children and parents are welcome to sign up as well. This sounds like a good Mother’s Day experience or just a special day with someone close to you.
Michelle reminisces of her favorite classes, the ones with kids because they’re funny and cute. Many times the little ones wear their apron from home, such a great idea for fun and learning! Holiday classes are also popular and fun. My friend’s favorite aspect of the job is making people happy while finishing the class. It’s rewarding to her and I can see how this would be!
King Arthur Flour classes range from 3-4 hours for a day event. Some are long class workshops, some four and five days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. Classes on cookies, cakes, breads, pizzas and pastries all tempt the baker inside you. If you’re interested, you can sign up online at Kingarthurflour.com under the learn tab. A monthly calendar shows the class variety and times and if any there are any openings.
The classes start with all the participants in front, watching the instructor demonstrate. Then each person bakes the piece with guidance from the teacher and assistant. Not only do they learn a new baking skill or hone on one, they get to go home with your creation.
King Arthur Flour originated in 1790, the days of George Washington. The company started out near Boston Harbor, importing the product from England. Soon after, colonist farmers started growing wheat in the colonies and the flour was made here. Eventually the company made its home in Norwich, Vermont ( just a hop from Hanover, NH). The company is completely owned by its employees!
In the last 20 years or so, the flour has been available in all 50 states. Michelle says a new classroom facility is open in Burlington, Washington. This is a sure sign of progress and popularity.
King Arthur Flour’s facility hosts a store, cafe, classrooms for the classes and kitchen area. I visited the store last year with my mom. It’s fun to browse at different kitchen tools while instructors are creating goodies before your eyes. Within the facility is a cafe as well, where you can buy a coffee and danish or sandwich for lunch. From the tables in the cafe, sprawling windows invite you into the kitchen where the bakers are baking bread.
If you wish to call King Arthur’s baker’s hotline, call 855-371-2253. Monday-Friday: 7am-9pm Saturday & Sunday: 8am-5pm. You can also email them with questions by visiting the website, kingarthurflour.com and click on the contact us tab. For delicious recipes and baking help, see their blog at blog.kingarthurflour.com.
I have the cookbook as well, that’s jam packed with delicious and unique recipes.
Thank you ever so much for your time and great ideas, Michelle!
If anything intimidates me in the kitchen, it’s pie baking. It all starts from mixing the dough perfectly to the rolling step and lastly fitting the crust over the pie. Because of these fears, most of the time I’ve stayed away from pies and baked cakes and cookies instead.
I remember that first pie I crafted. I was 24 and living in our apartment in a tight kitchen place but got this desire to bake an apple pie. I got the recipe from Theo, my mother in law and away I worked. Truthfully it came out magnificent for my first one and received compliments and an empty plate from Tom. The crust came out perfect the first time but it wouldn’t last.
Here is the apple pie recipe Theo shared with me. It makes a delicious pie, using honey!
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon, I use 1 Tbsp cinnamon. It depends on your preference
2 Tbsp corn starch
6-8 medium cooking apples (7 1/2 cups)
1 beaten egg for brushing over crust
coarse sugar to sprinkle atop crust
Place aluminum foil or pie guard around crust for first 30 minutes and remove after that.
Peel and slice apples. Add sugar and honey and spices. Coat with corn starch. Mix all together and place in prepared pie crust. Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake for 15 minutes and then lower to 350 F. Continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and apples are soft.
For years I’ve played the struggle game, mixing and measuring, holding my breath so it wouldn’t fall apart. No matter what I’ve tried it doesn’t come out right. Now 23 years have flown by and I think I got it right. I’m not stating it’s perfect but pretty darn good!
Back in November my mom shared a pie recipe that she had. I was skeptical…every time I’m optimistic about crafting the crust, it becomes a horror show! Yet, I managed to bake a nice pie…with the best pie crust I’ve ever made!
Here is the recipe and believe it or not, it has vinegar as an ingredient!
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
½ cup ice water
¾ cup Crisco shortening
Mix flour together with salt and sugar. Add Crisco and work in dough, until crumbly. You can use a pastry blender or two knives. Add vinegar to ½ cup of ice water. Sprinkle a little at a time, moisten and gather dough together. Form two balls in bowl. Roll out on floured surface.
My next challenge is making the crust look halfway decent on the pie. The edges can be difficult but I’m going to practice and see how it goes. There are many decorative edges you can craft, from using a corkscrew, fork, pinching the crust and using the back of a spoon to make different designs.
Do you have trouble with your pie crust? Do you have any little pie crust secrets to share with me?
Start a Christmas Cookie day tradition this year! For me, it started about 15 years ago when I baked cookies with my sweet mother in law, Theo. A few years we baked in her log home, a beautiful big kitchen and laid our treasures on her bar counter and dining room table. Then we started making them at my house, the house we used to live in. Even though our kitchen was a nook, we made it work by putting a big wooden cutting board over the sink. We would divvy up the cookies for home to give away to co- workers and friends and family. Last year I had two Cookie days, one with Theo when she visited from Florida and one at my sister Barb’s house with her, my niece and mom.
The Cookie tradition continues and today we celebrated baking, sistership, family and love all in one. We laughed and talked about life, my niece’s Kindergarten class and about future trips to Florida we are planning for next year. Bing Crosby and Judy Garland Christmas tunes played in the background as we rolled out gingerbread and mixed chocolate toffee cookies. The hot oven buzzed every few minutes and we hurriedly grabbed pot holders and checked the goods. “Not done, pretty close, done and ready to come out!” Sitting on cooling racks,they smelled delicious and the spicy ginger aroma coaxed the kitties in to investigate.
My niece rolled out dough, sometimes I helped and other times her mom, my sister Barb helped. Cutting gingerbread men, Santas and bells, she popped them on baking sheets to wait to bake.
What’s special about our cookie days is anything goes. I drank white wine while my sister had a shot of Baileys. We snapped photos of us by the tree and in the thick of cookie making. We enjoyed our labors and each other’s company.
Do you want to start this with your family or friends but not sure how it goes?
Let me give you some helpful tips:
*Decide who you wish to approach with the idea, sisters, brothers, mom’s, aunts, best friends, daughters, who ever likes baking cookies
*After deciding who will come, pick a mutual date, time and place that works for all. If you can’t decide where, choose one and the next year you can switch
*Decide who will bring what. I chose to make simple chocolate toffee cookies that could be mixed and spooned on the tray easily. I also made the gingerbread dough and refrigerated it for two hours for easy rolling. My mom brought peanut butter cookie dough for chocolate kiss cookies and my sister brought all the extras to decorate the gingerbread men.
*If you’re planning a few hours three or four types of cookies will do, because remember you have to share the oven and bakers cooling racks. We did three kinds and it worked very well.
*Write an ingredient list ahead and make sure you have what you need for your cookies. Each person coming will be responsible for their cookies. Sometimes it’s easier for them to mix it together at home and bring to bake and decorate.
*Prepare your kitchen by getting out cookie pans, cooling racks, scoops,cookie spatulas( to take off pan), bowls, spoons, measuring utensils and I got out my favorite big jar of cookie cutters. It usually sits on my high cupboard but today it had a place on the table so we could choose which cutters. The jar was a pickle jar and I found it on EBay for $20.
*Have cookie exchange guests bring plastic containers or tins to take their cookies home in
*Designate who has what space and make sure there is enough baking cookie sheets, scoops, spoons, etc
*Play a Spotify or a Pandora Christmas tune play list. Mine includes many old favorites of mine by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Judy Garland,Andy Williams
*Plug in all the house twinkling lights and Christmas tree
*Wear your favorite apron and or Santa hat
*Take lots of photos and even videos to remember moments
*Lastly have lots of stress free fun and enjoy baking and your company!
Do you have family or friends over for cookie parties? What are your traditions?
Just a week and a half ago, when my sister in law and I were prepping for the Thanksgiving dinner, my thoughts were how organized we were while we cooked. Because I have a good sized kitchen and workspace now, we each had ample counter room to gather our ingredients and get to work. Not only that, but we washed dishes after each task and dried them shortly after.
Now I have a question for you and you just think about it and be honest with yourself, are you organized or messy? When you cook or bake, do you clean as you go or create a magnificent mess and deal with it later? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, as long as it gets cleaned up eventually. Perhaps you are already organized and neat as a pin in the kitchen, so then just be content that you’ve created great kitchen work habits.
Honestly most of the time, I make a bit of mess, a disarray of ingredients on the counter amid bowls and cups and measuring spoons, while cooking or baking. I’ve always been that way, organized setting up the ingredients but messy with the rest.
Now that I’ve faced this problem, I feel like I should work on it to become a bit more organized. First it’s necessary to fill the kitchen sink with soapy hot water and as I use the cups, teaspoons and bowls I can plop them in. Washing dishes as you go prevents a big mess and saves time in the end. Next I plan to wash the counter as I spill flour, sugar or whatever. Lastly it’s helpful to put each ingredient away as you use it. I do this sometimes but it’s truly not a habit yet.
Other tips to stay organized:
*Write down baking times or set a timer as a reminder of your goodies being done
*Plan your oven times. This was a challenge at Thanksgiving because we used the oven for several things, many with different baking temperatures. Decide which dishes go in first and set the timer. Write a list or keep a mental list of the pies, cakes or dishes, their temperature and baking time. It helped us that we did some dishes the day before.
*Write down any ingredients that you use up for a future shopping list. It’s important to pen this, because you may forget you used it up until you need it for baking again.
*If you must share your space, do it in fun. Fun chatter and a magical music playlist will lighten the mood. Designate which counter top or space you and your friend will have. Give that person the bowls, cups and measuring spoons she needs.
*Play music and create a magical atmosphere
Staying organized and clean in the kitchen will alleviate any chaos or mess. You’ll be happier that you did this and probably will save yourself some clean up time.
Do you have any kitchen organization tips that you would like to share?
Every family has a staunch recipe that stands the test of time. It’s the go-to dish that always results in success. It’s passed down with pride and the unspoken agreement that future generations will do the same. My family has this recipe… it was my Grammy Doyle’s dessert recipe and you always could count on her making it at gatherings, whether it was my dad’s birthday or Christmas.
The word was that it was a secret, though I’m not sure of the origin. I’ll never know where my Grammy got it or if it was handed down to her. All I know is that it’s one of the few constants when going to her house and I will never stop associating Grammy with her Mystery Mocha dessert. Now that she is gone, this recipe means even more…a little reminder of what was.
When arriving in the small hamlet of West Fairlee, Vermont, one corner market stood. A traveler would see quaint simple houses. Next to the fire station stood my grandparent’s house on a little hill and when you rolled up the sloped gravel driveway, you spied a screened in porch. Amid dusty chairs sat an old forlorn piano, forgotten and well out of tune. All the grandchildren probably tinkered with the keys at one time or another.
This many years later I can still hear the rickety screen door, as if it was on the set of the television show, The Walton’s. Inside the house you entered in the dining room, where was a huge wooden table that had fed six children at one time and all the visiting relatives through the years. Another prized piano stood beyond, where my Grammy played church hymns on it. This treasure was played often and every once in awhile she played for us.
The living room had wooden exposed beams, a rustic living space with a few windows to let light in. A long old fashioned radio stood on one wall, which belted out many Red Sox games. My Grammy and Grampa would sit and listen to the radio and play by play well into the seventies. Then years later a television stood there as well, but I think it was never the same to them as the play by play. As kids, we would creep over to Gramps, who would be relaxing on the couch and he would grab us and tickle us. Wth a silly grin and rolled up tongue, he was the tickle master. There were squeals of delight because he was fun and loving.
Mystery Mocha cake was often baked for my dad, since it was his favorite. He was her first born, David, and was and still is a chocolate fan. (I think this is where I got my chocolate addiction!) When my parents were married, my mom made it and I’m sure my stepmom makes it as well. Now my sister and I make it from time to time. My sons aren’t used to the rich chocolate taste and since it has coffee in it, they don’t care for it, but my husband likes it well enough and I do too.
It’s as if Grammy’s kitchen comes to life when I make Mystery Mocha, for it’s a family recipe and a reminder of her and our visits to the Doyle house. It does taste the very same, with rich, dark chocolate with a complement of mocha flavor from the double strength coffee. I think it’s more than a recipe but a bit of Grammy’s legacy in every bite!
Grammy Doyle’s Mystery Mocha Cake
1 cup flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup cold double strength coffee
Mix dry ingredients. Melt the unsweetened chocolate with the butter. Add the milk and vanilla. Put mixture into greased cake pan and top with the following: brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cocoa. Pour cold coffee over the top. Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Serve for family or company. I recommend serving this rich dessert with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream!