Another Post About Bread

I wrote a post about baking bread a while back. Well, I’ve found another recipe that I think is even better than the one I’d been using. It comes from FiveHeartHome although I’ve seen similar recipes elsewhere on the Internet. What I like about FiveHeartHome’s recipe, which you can find here, is that blogger Samantha explains how the recipe works and provides plenty of helpful pictures of the dough mixing process-always helpful when you’re learning a new bread making technique.

So, what’s so special about this recipe? You mix your sponge, let it rest 10 minutes, add the rest of your ingredients, mix, knead, and it’s ready for the pans. Just like that.

Dough after kneading

You let your dough rise to the size you want your final loaves to be. And then you bake it. No fussing about “oven spring.” What you see is what you get.

Dough after rising before baking

I’ve doubled the FiveHeartHome recipe to make four loaves and it works great. I don’t have a stand mixer. I use a sturdy Hamilton Beach hand mixer like this one to incorporate all the ingredients before I start kneading. The kneading doesn’t take long; the dough comes together beautifully. I don’t use a thermometer to determine if my bread is done. The old “thump the loaf” test works fine for me. And I run the hot water from the tap.

The unusual ingredient in this bread is the lemon juice. (I substitute cider vinegar). It helps the yeast work and makes the bread rise nicely. Don’t be tempted to dump all the ingredients into the bowl at once even if you have a professional stand mixer. Follow the instructions in the order given. You won’t be sorry.

Out of the oven
Out of the pans
A nice crumb

I do improvise a little with this bread, throwing in some sunflower seeds and rolled oats when I mix the sponge into the rest of the ingredients. What I really think would be interesting would be a Challah type bread using this recipe as the base. Maybe I’ll try that next.

Less Than Perfect Petit Fours

I have always loved the idea of Petit Fours: little multi-layer cakes that look like miniature  iced gift boxes just waiting to reveal the secret of their delicious insides to whoever is lucky enough to bite into them.


Sensible people buy their Petit Fours but how many times have I told you that I am not a sensible person?  I have been on a periodic Petit Four odyssey since high school when I would experiment in my mother’s kitchen.  I had a willing and perennially hungry friend who would eat the rejects.  I even tried my hand at making fondant, unsuccessfully I might add because I did not have a candy thermometer which my mother regarded as a mysterious scientific instrument not meant for everyday cooks.   Still I had fun and my results were tasty even if they looked like the cat walked over them.  I mean, butter, sugar and eggs?  How can you go wrong?  It’s like shooting Petit Fours in a barrel.


This time around, I got the bright idea that I was going to turn a recipe for Sicilian Cassata  into Petit Fours.  I should have known that there was a good reason I could not find a recipe for them on the Internet.  I decided to develop my own.  I started with one of the best recipes in the world: Sponge Cake courtesy of The Cake Boss.    Believe me, the secret to making this case is beating the eggs as instructed in the recipe.  See the top picture of the thick and lovely batter?  That’s after beating the eggs!  IMG_9964

I made the cake in a big cookie tray (16 X 24) lines with parchment.  It baked up nicely.   Now most Petit Four recipes  tell you to slice the cake into layers,  ice and fill the layers, and then to slice the whole thing into little squares.  Not me.  I cannot slice anything straight.  You can hide wopperjawed  layers,  but not uneven cake sides.


So  after I layered the cake (tip:  cut the cake into small sections and cut into layers a section at a time.  Easier than trying to slice a big cake into layers.  And use a serrated knife.) I cut out little squares and stacked them with ricotta filling in between.  Only it is impossible to make a ricotta filling for cakes this small because it does not hold its shape.  So the filling was ricotta with LOTS of powered sugar.  It was good, but not the same as Cassata filling.

IMG_9966I bought almond paste which I have never worked with and I had planned to use it between layers but I decided to top the  cakes with squares of it instead.



Here are the naked cakes before glazing.  The balls are made of the scraps mixed with the filling.  I thought I could make some kind of truffle from these.


Glazing.  Thank you 350 Degree Oven Blog for the broken fork trick!


I got the idea for the glaze from the Southern Fatty Blog


And this is the best I have ever done making Petit Fours, which means there is still time to screw it up!!


I was going to cover  them with chocolate confectioner’s coating, but for the life of me I could not get it into a pourable  state.


So I ended up topping each cake with a smidge of chocolate.  I attempted to coat the “truffles”  and they came out rather <ahem> rustic looking.


The Petit Fours were a hit at the party I took them to, but I have to confess that I skipped them in favor of the shrimp!

William Blake’s Favorite Chocolate Death Dessert?

I think William Blake nailed it when he wrote “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom… You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. Blake was the sort of man who would have liked Maxwell’s Hockey Puck Birthday Cake. It’s the kind of dessert you eat on the road of excess and you will definitely know when you have eaten too much. I can see Blake now, sharing it with Mrs. Blake on those occasions when they relaxed naked in their back yard after a hard day of poetry writing and print pressing. But I digress. I decided to create a new dessert for my stepson Maxwell’s fifteenth birthday. As a wicked stepmother, I firmly believed that Maxwell was in serious need of wisdom. His father and I didn’t know any ancient wisdom initiation rituals. (You can’t find a decent mountain or eagle feather in Philadelphia anyway.) We had already done the therapist thing but that only meant that the hapless lad would suffer from our mistakes instead of our parents’ mistakes. Besides, the only really useful tip my mother ever gave me was never to slap a man who chews tobacco. (I think Max already knew that.) I was going to write that this is the point where I thought of William Blake, the road of excess, and the Hockey Puck cake. I sadly admit it’s not true. I merely decided to indulge Maxwell’s voracious sweet tooth with a dessert that combined several of his favorite desserts into one. Let’s see-there was his mother’s brownies (high on my list too), his grandmother’s Jello cake, (technically stained glass cakefor the graham cracker crust. (Jello is a poor excuse for a dessert.) Max loved chocolate in its many forms including fudge and toffee (but no nuts because Max didn’t like them. ) I included marshmallow crème for something white. My mother shrieked when I told her my plan, “You’re gonna give that boy sugar diabeetees!” “I hope not,” I worried. At least not until he’s on his own medical insurance. I made the first Hockey Puck (recipe follows) cake and my husband and I each had a sliver. Maxwell and a friend each downed two large wedges after scarfing down spaghetti and meatballs. (Which they washed down with Jolt Cola  laced with saccharin.) My husband and I laid prostrate on the sofa helpless to stop them, listening to our hearts beat like jack hammers. We did achieve a measure of wisdom that night. The teenage boys? Not so much.  20+ years later,  I am happy to say that Max has apparently learned restraint because he does not have diabetes.  Which is good for him because he has two little boys and children try to travel the road of excess as often as it takes to make their parents crazy. And why is the cake called Hockey Puck? When I first made it, my husband took one look and remarked that it looked like a hockey puck with a thyroid condition.

Maxwell’s Hockey Puck Birthday Cake

  • One two-layer fudge cake (recipe follows)
  • One box graham crackers
  • One 14 oz jar marshmallow crème
  • Fudge sauce (recipe follows) or 10 oz jar
  • One recipe chocolate ganache (Recipe follows)
  • Toffee (recipe follows) or 1 lb Heath Bars chopped

I started with a recipe for a fudge brownie cake. You can use a mix, but Max got a cake made from scratch. Here’s a good recipe that has the lightness of a chiffon cake with that brownie flavor Fudge Cake

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3/4-cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/8 cups cocoa powder

Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans and line them with waxed paper. The waxed paper is important because the cake sticks to the pan. Mix the sugar and oil and slowly stir in the cocoa. Blend in the eggs with a mixer. Blend in the milk and vanilla into this mixture. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and add alternately with the milk to the sugar-oil-egg mixture while beating at a slow speed. Go slowly and make sure you are incorporating all the ingredients. Remember to scrape the sides and the button of the mixing bowl. Pour into the cake pans and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the pans and let them cool. Peel off the waxed paper. You can freeze one layer because you will only use two. Toffee

  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Combine butter and sugar in a heavy sauce pan. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan. Cook over medium flame stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from stove when the temperature reached 285°F and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Pour onto a shallow pan lined with waxed paper and sprinkle the chocolate chips on the top. No need to melt them beforehand; they will melt on the hot toffee. Spread them over the entire surface and sprinkle with the nuts, if you are not making Hockey Puck for Max. Break into pieces when cool. Store in tightly covered container. TIP: add a teaspoon of molasses if you like brown sugar in your toffee. I never buy brown sugar; I keep molasses and add a bit of it to white sugar instead. A bit of molasses is also good in the fudge sauce (recipe below). Chocolate Ganache 

  • 16 oz chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour the cream into a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute on high. Add the chips and stir. If the chips do not melt, heat in 30 second intervals on high until both ingredients are incorporated. Stir in vanilla and let cool. If the ganache gets too hard to spread, heat it in the microwave until spreadable. Chocolate Fudge Sauce

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 stick butter

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat slowly until it starts to boil. Boil mixture for one minute and remove from stove. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the cake. If it hardens, heat in microwave.

Assembling Your Hockey Puck

Spread with one third cup of the marshmallow crème, cover with graham crackers breaking them to fit. Cover this with one third of the chocolate ganache. Place on the next layer cut side down and repeat with the remaining layers and filling ingredients. You can use less of the filling if you wish. Cover the top of the cake with foil or plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours. Use the freezer if you are in a hurry. After removing the cake from the freezer, remove the sides of the spring form pan and place the cake on a serving dish. You can surround the cake with strips of waxed paper to keep things neat.
The next step is to pour the fudge sauce over the top of the cake, covering it and letting it run down the sides, spreading it to fill in as best you can. It won’t look real neat, but that is the nature of the Hockey Puck. Crumble the toffee and sprinkle liberally on the top of the cake. Press into the sides. Cover the cake loosely and refrigerate. If you have used strips of waxed paper on the plate, remove them before serving.  Eat slowly, savor and enjoy!

Plumpton reviews the recipe before I kick him out of the kitchen
Plumpton reviewing the recipe before I kicked him out of the kitchen.

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