It's been a year since I posted a photograph of a little business card reading "To Begin, Begin." A year since my first post.
It hardly feels like a year, and yet it feels like forever ago. As I said a couple of weeks ago, those early posts just seem so far removed from what I'm doing now and where I want this blog to go. It's not even that I wasn't prepared when I started this thing ... I was. But I guess I just wasn't as intentional about it as I am now.
I only started to take this blog seriously a couple of months ago, after the BAKAbar pop-up had closed its doors. I spent four hectic months working on our very own coffee and pie bar and from all the valuable things I learned during that time, I think the most important thing was that I didn't want to open, own or work at a coffee bar right now.
Honestly, most of the time at BAKAbar, I felt disconnected. All the kneading, all the baking, all the coffee-making ... I was mostly just going through the motions. I realized that the butter, the sugar and the chocolate, while integral to my baking, weren't at the heart of my love for it. I realized that baking, for me, was about memories, about comfort, about building and maintaining relationships.
The coffee bar offered me little time or room to explore those aspects. There was no time to experiment or make a recipe my own. There was no room to tell a story. There was no time to share my desserts with the people I loved most. No matter how kind and heartwarming the compliments we received were, they didn't build memories. Which is why I decided to part with BAKAbar when the doors to our pop-up bar closed and to focus solely, and more deliberately, on les filles de madeleine.
Today, I feel like I've finally found the time and space to tell my stories, to build new memories and to grow. This blog isn't yet what I want it to be and I admit that I can feel a little disheartened when I see where other people were after 1 year of blogging, but I know that I'm building something real, something personal and something durable. Something worth celebrating, too.
These friands felt like the perfect treat with which to do so. I wanted to make something that connected both to my past and to my future, but that was modest enough to acknowledge that this is still, only, a blog and still, only, one year. With their tiny size and combining one of my all-time favorite flavors - almond - with those that I'm learning to explore only now - orange and cardamom -, these friands do just that. Even though I can practically see my mother raising her eyebrows right about now, thinking about how much I used to hate everything involving orange peel, I am quite smitten with these little guys. They prove that I am growing, that I'm learning to diversify and that I'm learning to appreciate so many new (and old) flavors. If that's what this past year has done to me, I think I have every reason to be proud of it.
• Friands are best when they are made in tiny little molds. I used a mini-muffin tin, but you could also use miniature cupcake liners. If you're baking them in the liners alone, I would suggest you use two liners for each cake. This will stop them from spreading too much, so that they hold their shape and height a little better.
• The recipe requires you to heat up the batter until it reaches a temperature of about 70°C. You can use a candy thermometer to make sure, but honestly, it doesn't have to be that exact. I just test the temperature with my finger and take it off the heat when it feels really warm to the touch.
• The batter for these tiny cakes is really runny. I use a disposable piping bag to divide it, but you could also spoon the batter into the tin or cupcake liners. If using a disposable piping bag, wait to cut open the tip until you have filled the bag completely. Twist the end to close the piping bag and hold it upside down as you cut off only a tiny bit of the tip. Then pinch the tip to close it, so that the batter doesn't leak out as you turn the piping bag around. Release the tip to fill the molds, pinching it closed again as you move from one to the other.
• I would like to urge you not to overdo it with the icing. It is mostly there to 'glue' the candied orange peel to the cake. Too much of it (or too much lemon juice in it) will overpower the flavors of both the cake and the orange peel. If you don't want to use any icing whatsoever, try using a little dab of egg white instead.
• It's best to start the candied orange peel a few hours, or even a few days ahead. Keep orange peel and syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator until a few hours before using them.
Vanilla Cardamom Friands w/ Candied Orange Peel
friands adapted from Bakbasics - candied orange peel adapted from Martha Stewart
makes ca. 24 friands
for the cakes
100 gr unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
75 gr granulated sugar
75 gr almond meal, sifted
150 gr powdered sugar, sifted
50 gr all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
pinch of salt
150 gr egg white (about 5 egg whites)
for the candied orange peel
70 gr granulated sugar + more to finish
for the icing
100 gr powdered sugar
a few drops of lemon juice
a few drops of water
for the cakes
1. Grease a mini-muffin tin or fill a baking tray with mini cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 200°C.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Set aside.
3. Split the vanilla bean in two, lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Rub the seeds into the granulated sugar until fragrant.
4. In a medium cooking pot, whisk together sugar, almond meal, powdered sugar, flour, cardamom and salt. Stir in the egg whites until fully combined.
5. Over medium high heat and stirring continuously, heat the batter until it feels really warm to the touch or registers 70°C on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and stir in the melted butter.
6. Transfer batter to a closed disposable piping bag. Remove the tip and fill the molds, almost to the brim. If you have any batter leftover, place the piping bag, upside down, in a tall glass while you wait for the first batch to bake.
7. Bake until risen and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let the friands cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
for the candied orange peel
1. Using a citrus zester or vegetable peeler, shred long strips of orange peel. If necessary, use a pairing knife to cut the strips really thin, about 1 mm.
2. Place strips in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and drain. Repeat two more times with fresh water.
3. Place sugar in a clean saucepan with 120 ml of water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the orange strips to the boiling syrup and reduce the heat. Leave to simmer until the strips are translucent, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let strips cool in the syrup for at least 1 hour. If making the orange peel in advance, move strips and syrup to an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
4. 1 to 2 hours before you need the orange strips, remove them from the syrup and place them on a wire rack. Allow to dry at room temperature for at least one hour.
5. Fill a bowl or plate with granulated sugar and toss in the orange strips, a few at a time, until coated with sugar. They are now ready to use or snack on.
1. To make the icing, mix the powdered sugar with a few drops of lemon juice and water. Add water, a few drops at a time, until you have a thick, opaque icing.
2. Put a tiny dollop of icing on each cake and finish with a few bits of candied orange peel.