Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
Welcome to the merry month of May 2021!
I’ve created some really special things this month and I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite recipe.
The Blackberry Jam Cake with Caramel Icing is a classic from the southern kitchen where buttermilk-based, blackberry cakes still appear in Southern baking cookbooks. If you like any sort of cake, you’ll love this retro spice cake, mellow with blackberry jam (any jam will do) and its fast and easy Caramel Glaze. I prefer my cakes, even simple ones, cakes to have at least something on top – a bit of demerara sugar, a glaze, or a drizzle of chocolate because they are ever so much more fetching that way. Not only do we eat with our eyes but a finishing touch in a glaze or thin frosting goes a long way to seal in a cake’s freshness. This cake is a naturally good keeper and obedient slicing cake, i.e. no crumbs, no foul – the perfect sharing cake.
The Strawberry (or Raspberry) Tarts are a classic and yet? Just try looking for a standard recipe for a great pastry cream or pate sucree or tart dough. It’s not that I don’t have these things in my recipe files and cookbooks but I wanted to do a refresher course and come up with the best pastry and a definitive pastry cream. I was amazed at the less-than-stellar recipes out there and/or the lack of consistency. So I created my own tarts from the ground up and they are beyond devourable. Flakey, slightly sweet pastry is home to a silken custard and the whole affair is then topped with fresh berries and a slick of apricot jam glaze. Everyone who had them was delighted but also surprised to see something a big different, light and French come out of my kitchen (people forget I spent three years in hotel school!).
Pro tip: if you want total success with these, make the pastry and custard a day before. Then next day, relaxed and prepared, you’re ready to go and bake up French pastry shop perfection. In fact, you can even bake up the tart shells and fill them the next day. That’s the key btw in pastry. Prepare your elements ahead of time and then when you’re non-frazzled and cool as a cucumber and your kitchen is relatively neat, you just assemble the pastry, add the filling and decorate with the fruit. Such sanity.
French Pastry Strawberry Tarts, elegant and springy.
Like the perfect black dress you can never have too many brownie recipes. The recipe for Chocolate Decadence Brownies was inspired by a bit of nostalgia. Back in the day, when Montreal had Woolworth’s stores, their brownies were exceptional: fudgy and dense with an icing layer that was about as thick as the brownie itself. This is a distinct contrast with today’s icing-less brownies. When icing and brownies parted company I don’t know but when I recently made a batch of brownies that was missing a cup of sugar. Since the brownies themselves were sweet enough, dense and moist. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to ice them with that Woolworth’s one-inch layer of frosting. Because the brownies are sweet but not cloying, happenstance and creativity converged into brilliance. These triple layer brownies are break-you-at-your-knees delicious. I doled them out, wrapped and frozen, to a few people, none of whom could even wait for them to defrost. What makes these exceptional is also the icing itself. It’s based on a ganache and it’s soft and luscious.
Chocolate Decadence Brownies because no issue of BB is complete without a chocolate offering.
The Free Recipe of this month is Bumble Berry Muffins which is one of my favorites and perfect for spring. It's a simple recipe as muffins tend to be but surprisingly delectable thanks to the beautiful batter that's replete with a medley of berries.
Happy May everyone! As always, happy baking from my kitchen to yours,
Author, Master Baker