A belated Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! Hope everyone enjoyed time with family, porked themselves silly, and got to taste something wonderful!
My family was QUITE excited for me to bake up some goodies, and here we can see exactly how baking orders tend to evolve...
It all started with my uncle. He called and asked for a few desserts:
"Can you make, like, maybe two things?"
"Sure, what would you like?"
"Well, I know you like to experiment, so maybe we can do one of your weird recipes, and one thing a bit more conventional?
So I picked out my Carrot Cake (my uncle's favorite) and a Sacher Torte (the godking of Viennese pastry.) Then I decided, "Hmm.. I'm not eating all this myself- I'd better crowdsource some ideas."
Most of the people I asked just said "Anything you make, I'll eat." I love my family... so trusting! My sisters, however, made their opinions clear.
Little sister, Lauren: "I'm REALLY tasting cheesecake, and pumpkin pie..."
Older sister, Steph: "MAPLE BACON CUPCAKES. YOU PROMISED ME THEM FOR MY BIRTHDAY FOR TWO YEARS! MAPLE BACON CUPCAKES!"
So after three straight days of baking, you can see the results: Carrot Cake, Maple Bacon Cupcakes, Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie (a favor to my father and other uncle, both diabetic), and an improved version of the Sweet Cinnamon Pretzel Cheesecake.
Since Thanksgiving has been over, I've had more time to get back toward experimenting. Although I AM careful to share all my successes with you guys, I won't lie and say there haven't been failures- the most recent being this brilliant idea: The Thin Mint Sachertorte.
The idea was brilliant and clever enough: Sachertorte is an amazing, dry, rich chocolate cake, layered with apricot jam, and enrobed in ganache. My idea was simple enough- Add mint wherever possible, and make a send-up to one of America's favorite Girl Scout cookies. (I'm partial to Samoas myself- please don't burn down my house!)
My lapses in judgement consisted mostly of my choice of filling- I used mint jelly. Now any sensible person knows the obvious differences between jelly and jam. In this case, the key differences I forgot involved structure and water content. Before enrobing, the cake is "iced" in the jam. When warm ganache meets jelly though, the jelly becomes sweet, mint-flavored water. Miserable structure, and miserable eye-appeal. The taste was also, as my chef would say, "not optimal."
Ideas for next time: Use a jam that compliments mint, or perhaps create a sweet mint puree. Thoughts? Comment!
My next project took place two days ago. Those who may not know me personally may have ALREADY picked up on this, but I am a huge literary nerd. So when an Eagle Scout friend of mine sent me a recipe for Swedish Hardtack, calling it his troops "lembas bread," I immediately wanted to try it.
Hardtack is a quintessential trail food- thick wafers of chewy, tough bread that eats well enough on it's own, provides essential carbs for a hike, is lightweight, packable, and apparently NEVER goes bad. I have no pictures of this, but suffice to say that I will be making improvements. For those who would like the recipe, follow this link!
That's all the horror stories I have to offer for right now, but I WILL keep you posted! Next post will involve what's currently in the oven- a holiday classic that I've never tasted before: mincemeat pie!
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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