Archive for January, 2012


Apple Celery Cake w/Roasted Carrots (Baked)

[ Equipment: convection oven (preferred) or other LTB oven, a 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 (inch) loaf pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

A Waldorf salad inspired this cake of apple, celery and carrots. The truth is: I’ve never had a Waldorf salad, but the first time I saw it on a menu, I thought the flavors would make an intriguing cake. Because carrot cakes are fairly common, apples and celery make up the main character of this creation, accented with chopped up roasted carrots. There’s an almost ethereal quality to this delicately flavored and smooth textured cake, so lightly sweet that it almost drives a craving to eat the entire cake at one sitting. I like to serve it with dots of tiny seeds (shown with sunflower seeds) on a streak of whipped cream for a crunchy contrast.

The base recipe was a pound cake from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook, but modified. I took out their prune puree for my own applesauce and celery mash, cut back the sugar a bit and reduced over hydration. The low-temperature technique for roasting the carrots essentially steams them first and then roasts them to caramelize lightly and concentrate the sugars. For more intense flavor, increase the oven temperature to 300°F/149°C at the risk of higher acrylamide formation. I baked the cake in a convection oven. It should do well in a slow-cooker oven too, but will be less likely to brown on the top and may require another 10 minutes or so more baking time.

Makes one 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf, 10 servings
– 1800 calories per loaf, 180 calories per serving
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C


  • 2 to 3 stalks of celery ( to make 1/4 cup finely chopped celery)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil spread (see text)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted carrots (see below, see text)

Roasted Carrots:

  • 3 carrots
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil


  • sweetened whipped cream or Cool Whip whipped topping
  • sunflower seeds for sprinkling
  • powdered cinnamon

Roasted Carrots Method:

1. Slice carrots about 1/4 inch thick.

2. Line baking tray with aluminum foil. Put carrots on foil and toss with vegetable oil.

3. Crimp foil into a pouch.

4. Bake at 250°F/121°C for 1 hour.

5. Open pouch and flatten foil. Spread carrots to a single layer. Continue baking for another 30 minutes.

6. Chop carrots into 1/4 to 1/2 inch bits.

Cake Method:

1. Finely chop celery in a food processor with a blunt blade (the same blade used for chopping nuts). Processing with a blunt blade bruises the celery and expresses celery juice. Do NOT puree.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon until well combined.

3. In a large bowl, mix the applesauce, chopped celery, butter and sugar until well combined and the butter has been broken down into tiny flecks – about 4 to 5 minutes with an electric mixer on low setting 1 or 2.

4. Add milk, whole egg and egg whites. Continue mixing for another 1 to 2 minutes.

5. Mix in flour in 3 or 4 portions to form a thick batter.

6. In a small bowl, coat chopped roasted carrots in 1 to 2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour. Fold carrots into batter.

7. Pour batter into a 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inch loaf pan. Smooth surface of batter with a spoon or spatula.

8. Cover top of loaf pan with aluminum foil, crimping down edges. With a knife or the pointed end of a bamboo skewer, cut out a rectangle in the foil, leaving a 1-inch border. With scissors, at each corner of the rectangle, snip a 1/2-inch diagonal cut.

9. Bake until cake has risen to almost touch the foil (about 30 minutes). With 2 spoons or forks, lift the foil flaps up and away from the cake. Continue baking for another 40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the cake is around 200°F/93°C.

10. Remove foil. Cool for about 30 minutes.

11. Un-mold and continue cooling on rack.

12. Slice and serve.

13. This slice was topped with a whipped topping (Cool Whip or a sweetened whipped cream), a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.


Miele Lemon Pudding Cake (Steam Baked)

[ Equipment: steam oven / convection oven (for steam baking) / boiling water steamer, a 6-1/7 (inch) baking dish or cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

This lovely melt-in-mouth cake has a top layer of lemon-y custard goodness with lip puckering lemon flavor thanks to a heavy dose of lemon juice and lemon extract. It’s poured into the pan as a single batter and separates into 2 layers as it bakes with the pudding layer on the bottom. Miele prepared the original recipe for their own line of steam ovens. That recipe made 16 mini cakes. I adapted it for a single 2-serving “large” cake for steam baking in a convection oven.

The only changes I made to Miele’s ingredients roster was substituting lemon extract for lemon zest and some pinches of salt to bring out the cake’s sweetness and a dash of lemon juice in the egg white to stabilize it for whipping. I also changed the mixing procedure. To get that potent, bright lemon flavor, the lemon juice went into the batter after the milk had been combined with the fat. I tried one cake where the lemon juice reacted with the milk in a small bowl first (to make a sour milk), and it wrecked the lemon flavor.

The amount of flour appeared to determine the size of the pudding layer. The less flour in the batter, the more custard formed. Up to 2 tablespoons of flour in the batter still left a thin, sticky coating of pudding.

The maximum temperature of Miele’s standard steam ovens is 212°F/100°C, so the cake could have been baked in a stove-top steamer too. I steam baked it in a high humidity convection oven at 250°F/121°C. I also made one in low humidity oven. The two versions came out slightly different, with the most notable difference being that the pudding layer on the low humidity version was more liquid and the cake a little denser. Once the whipped cream and strawberries go on, the differences disappear.

Makes one 6-1/2 inch cake, 2 servings
– 275 calories per serving
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C (steam baking) or 212°F/100°C (steaming)

  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 + 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/16 + 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil spread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 strawberries, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup Cool Whip or sweetened whipped cream

1. In a medium bowl, beat the egg white, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, 1/16 teaspoon salt until frothy.

2. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 portions, beating until glossy with stiff peaks. Set aside.

3. In another bowl, cream softened butter or vegetable spread with 2 tablespoons sugar.

4. Mix in the egg yolk and 1/16 teaspoon salt.

5. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract and milk.

6. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Do NOT add the lemon juice at the same time as the milk in step 5, because it will affect the lemon flavor.

7. Whisk in the flour.

8. Stir in in 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg white to give the egg mixture a tiny bit of volume.

9. Fold in the remaining beaten egg white. Pour batter into a 6-1/2 baking dish or pan.


Steam Oven or Boiling Water Steamer: Pre-heat oven according to instructions or bring water in steamer to a boil.

Convection Oven Steam Baking (details here): Fill 1/2 of water tray with boiling water. Do NOT cover the water tray. Preheat oven to reach an internal temperature of 250°F/121°C.

11. Place pan on trivet.

12. If steam baking, bake for 30 minutes or until surface is dry and slightly cracked. If steaming in a boiling water steamer or steam oven, check for doneness after 15 to 20 minutes.

13. Cool. Slide knife around edge of cake to loosen it and unmold onto a plate.

14. Spread top of cake with a layer of Cool Whip or sweetened whipped cream.

15. Slice strawberries and place on top of cake.

16. Slice and serve.


Steam Baking In A Convection Oven

[ For more information about LTB terminology, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

Not long after I began using my Cuisinart counter-top convection oven for slow baking and dehydration, I thought about the possibility of baking with moist heat. Steaming pastries in a boiling water steamer is a form of baking on VaporBaker, although technically, it is not considered baking. The air inside a standard stove-top steamer, for example, never exceeds 212°F/100°C with 100% humidity. However, a new type of home appliance, the steam oven, claims to bake either by spraying low-pressure superheated steam over food (heated to 572°F/300°C) or by alternating steam heat with dry heat (a.k.a. a combi-oven, which, in some models, even has settings for the percentage of humidity).

Steam baking fills in the spectrum between dry heat baking and basic steam cooking. In the context of low temperature baking, VaporBaker defines “steam baking” as baking in a controlled humidity environment between 212°F/100°C and 300°F/149°C (250°F/121°C being my preferred temperature), where the pan does not touch the water as it would in a bain marie. For that purpose, I’ve fitted my Cuisinart oven with a water tray, configurable to release low or high moisture. It’s not quite the same thing as a commercial steam oven or a conventional boiling water steamer, and the cooking times differ for all of them, but steam baking is a hybrid technology and does produce interesting results. For the health conscious, the moist heat and low temperatures (250°F/121°C or less) discourage the formation of acrylamides. Moist heat also discourages browning.

The “water tray” is actually the 2-piece broiling pan included with the Cuisinart oven. The pan covers the entire floor of the oven, and when filled with boiling water, can evenly humidify the air inside. I use it with and without the top grill, depending on the humidity desired. The grill has a perforated, wavy surface that restricts the flow of steam, while allowing hot air to circulate all around the baking pan. Without the grill, I put a trivet in the water as a support for baking pans. If a baking pan were to sit in the water, the bottom would heat significantly faster and the setup would be more like a bain marie.

The low profile of the broiler – barely 1 inch tall – leaves plenty of space for pans, even my high-collar springforms. For regular steam baking, I fill it only about half way with boiling water, and refill it about every 20 to 30 minutes during baking. For wet-dry steam baking, I fill it with about 1/8 inch or less water, so that the tray dries out after about 30 minutes. In wet-dry steam baking, steam quickly heats the food and conditions it (keeps it moist), and then dry heat crisps and finishes the baking. The water tray is a nice LTB re-purposing of the broiler, which would otherwise see the light of day only as a dehydration tray. In order to obtain an effective 250°F/121°C interior (and counter the cooling effect of steam), I preset the oven higher and always verify the temperature with a thermometer.

Preparing the Water Tray:

1. Place the bottom part of the broiler on the oven’s rack and fill it to the desired level (half full for regular steam baking and 1/8 inch for wet-dry steam baking) with boiling water.

2. If desired, install the perforated top section or vented grill to limit the amount of steam. If the water tray is fully exposed, place a trivet (such as a round cookie cutter) in the center to raise the pan just above the water line. A trivet allows the air to circulate evenly around and under the pan.

3. Slide everything inside, close the door and pre-heat to the target temperature. With the vented grill on, I have to set my oven higher to 275°F/135C to reach an effective 250°F/121°C interior. With the water tray fully exposed, I have to set the oven to 300°F/149°C for the same 250°F/121°C interior.

4. When the preheat is ready, put in baking pan, either on the trivet or on the vented grill.

The above pictures show sliced carrots baked 3 ways at 250°F/121°C: dry heat, semi-moist heat (with the tray grill on) and moist heat (without the grill for maximum humidity). The baking time for all 3 batches was 30 minutes. The dry heat carrots came out shriveled and tough. The low-humidity moist heat carrots were softer, still very crisp and plump, lightly dessicated and curled on the top layer. The high-humidity baked carrots were tender enough to cut with a fork with a little bit of dryness on the top layer. A boiling water steamer would take about 10 to 15 minutes for the same degree of doneness without any dryness.

In these pictures, two cakes were baked in a moist heat oven at 250°F/121°C, the top cake over a grill-covered water tray (low moisture) and the bottom one over an open water tray (high moisture). The bottom cake rose slightly higher with more surface cracks, because the high humidity transferred heat faster. Neither cake really browned, but the less dense top cake was prone to a bit of singe. The choice of high or low humidity and fast or show heat transfer lies with the type of pastry being baked and the desired textures and flavors. Comparing e cake made in a boiling water steamer, the surface would have been a little spongier and the crumb a bit firmer, and the baking time possibly reduced by half.