BAKE Field Trip

June 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

We jumped on the Blue Line this morning on an adventure.  Our mission, to take on Wicker Park and visit one of our favorite bakeries in the Chicago, Bake (2246 West North Ave).

Like them on FB.

When we arrived at the Damen stop we decided to take a detour south past Wicker Park and West on Schiller for a mini walking tour of the neighborhood before arriving at our set destination.

Pastry Chef Jennifer Estrella makes some the best American desserts and pastries you could ever imagine (and her Chocolate croissants aren’t so bad).  Her buttercream frosting on a red velvet jumbo cupcake is truly a little taste of heaven.  I dream about this buttercream…the real stuff like my Grandmother used to make (only better- sorry Granny).  Although, I don’t have Jen’s recipe I have experimented a lot over the years and found one that I really like (it’s the next best thing to BAKE).  Scones- lemon, raspberry jam, maple and brown sugar…need I say more. Yummy macaroons, muffins, cookies, homemade pop tarts, sandwich cookies, fruit tarts, homemade ice cream sandwiches, homemade granola- all with the freshest ingredients.  You can see Jen every Sat. at the Gold Coast Farmers Market on Division too.

Today I’m sharing inspiration from our BAKE field trip.

A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch. ~James Beard

Vanilla Bean Cake Layers- from Sweetapolita

Yield: three 8-inch round layers


1 1/2 cups (3 sticks,  341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter apprx 20 minutes)
2 2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups (630 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste – 4 oz, OR 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.  Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.  Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.

5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream Adapted from Fine Cooking

Yield: ~7.5 cups, enough to fill, crumb coat, and frost a 3-layer 8-inch round cake

5 large (150 g) egg whites
1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (213 g) light corn syrup
1 lb (454 g, 2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt


1. Wipe a mixer bowl with dampened with some lemon juice to remove any traces of grease.

2. Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl and, in the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until foamy.

3. Gradually add 6 tablespoons (72 g) of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little).

4. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil; there should be bubbles covering the entire surface, and no pockets of sugar undissolved on the surface.

5. Promptly remove the syrup from the heat and, with the mixer set on medium-high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream between the bowl and whisk, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk (otherwise you end up with sticky hot syrup splatters stuck to the sides of the bowl).

6. Set the mixer to medium speed and whisk until the bottom of the mixer bowl feels neutral to the touch. Add the butter in, 1 tablespoon at a time (doesn’t have to be precise, just in small chunks), until it has all been incorporated.

7. Add vanilla extract, pinch of salt, and a few drops of any food colouring gel you want to use, and beat until thickened and smooth.


1. Place bottom layer face up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board (on a rotating cake stand, if possible. I use ). Spread and smooth ~ 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife (I use Ateco Palette Knife – Offset – SS/Wood – 8″).

2. Repeat step 1 using second cake layer.

3. Gently place third cake layer, face down, on top.

4. Spread a thin layer, also known as a crumb coat, all over cake using an the offset palette knife for the top and straight palette knife for the sides (I use Ateco Ultra Palette Knife – Straight – SS/Polypropylene – 10″). Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. This works best while slowly spinning your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the bench scraper with the other (I use this one: Fat Daddios Bench Scraper – Stainless steel). Refrigerate your cake at this point, for between 30-60 minutes (can be more).

5. Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake. If you want a smooth finish, you can repeat step 4, but with a thicker layer of frosting.

6. Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!

Warning:  This is an enormous cake!

Strawberry Pop-Tarts from Bon Appetit

This homemade version of the childhood favorite is absolutely incredible. Flaky pastry, strawberry preserves, and powdered sugar—what’s not to like?

makes 8


  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus additional for shaping and rolling
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 12 tablespoons strawberry preserves (preferably organic homemade)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Fresh strawberries


  • Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips or back of fork, blend in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.
  • Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13×11 inches. Trim to 12×10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5×3-inch rectangles.
  • Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.
  • Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out). Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh berries.

Fresh Berries Tartelettes from Tartelette

Makes four to six 4-inch tarts

Notes: if you are not baking gluten free, replace the rice, millet, sorghum flours and cornstarch with 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.

I use this flour combination the most because 1/ these are the least expensive gluten-free flours out there and like most of us who bake a lot, I have to pay a close eye on the budget and 2/ because their flavors combined are mild enough that non gluten-free folks are not taken aback by the taste or the texture.

If you choose to make one 9-inch tart with this, you might want to double up on the berries and add more sugar to taste.

I used a combination of butter and leaf lard, but feel free to use all butter or half shortening – half butter which keeps the crust nice and flaky. Lard also has less saturated fat than butter.

For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used half butter and half leaf lard I got at the market this time)
3 egg yolks
pinch salt
1/2 cup (80gr) superfine sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) corn starch (or tapioca flour)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cold milk

For the filling:
1 pint blackberries
1 pint raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 chopped tablespoon lemon thyme (or your favorite herb)

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip the butter on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add the salt, and all the different flours, and the xantham gum and mix briefly. Add enough milk to moisten it. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your prefered pie pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10-15 minutes until almost completely baked. Remove the weights and parchment paper. At this point you can refrigerate the baked crust for up to 3 days before using. Roll some extra dough to form lattice pattern on top if desired. You can also freeze the extra raw dough for up to three months.

For the filling:
Place the berries in a non reactive bowl. Rub the sugar and thyme together and sprinkle over the fruit. Gently mix with a spatula. Let the fruit marinate for about 20 minutes.

Divide the berries among the tart shells, top with lattice if desired and bake 20 minutes. Let the tarts cool completely before eating. Depending on the water content in the fruits, some may release more juice than others so be aware when you eat…it might drip.

Homemade Granola from Ina Garten


  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup good honey
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced dried apricots
  • 1 cup small diced dried figs
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even, golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries, and cashews. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.  ~Mark Twain

We’re so lucky to have such great friends over the years.  Feeding on each others passions, celebrating our successes and savoring the moments.  Thank you Pam and Jen! xoxo

And since we were in the neighborhood, couldn’t resist, Mere.




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