Bake 6: Queen of Sheba

Bake 6: Queen of Sheba

Drawn by the title and all the chocolate in the ingredients list, I tackled Queen of Sheba last weekend with the help of an assistant I’ll call older sibling, OS for short. My OS is only 11 months older. She is strong willed and competent, opinionated and loving, unafraid to answer tough questions at a political rally from strangers from Boston, from young men who fear billionaires in the long line, or from a foreign media interviewer with a microphone. My OS will hold up a sign and dance, all while watching the TV monitor to see whether we’ll be on the telly. Beside her, I stand mute, 11 months younger, uncomfortable and not quite thrilled to be there in the first place. All of this, yet my OS cannot separate an egg.

From my dependable sidekick persona, adults called me shy as a child. They did not whisper it to each other behind my back. They bent down and looked me right in the eye and accused me: “You’re shy.” I scoffed (on the inside) to this label. Adults were large, sometimes inebriated, seemingly confident, often ignorant.  I had a lot of opinions. I wisely chose not to share them.

As a professor, some students find me intimidating. Scary. “Stand off ish.” When I taught high school, my advanced placement chemistry students asked me to look away while they asked and I answered their questions. Apparently my direct gaze is intense. Looking out from the inside of my intelligent strong woman persona, I am empathetic to all who feel threatened by me. I am 60 inches tall. I am confident. I am not afraid. Like the stories of the Queen of Sheba. Apparently I have learned much from mirroring my OS. Except I can separate an egg.

Back to the bake: Queen of Sheba. “An exotic and mysterious woman of power” per a Google search. When declaring oneself in charge, a female may jokingly refer to herself as the Queen of Sheba. The title may strike fear in the heart of the masses. This is never my intent. But women like Elizabeth and Rachel and Kamala and Amy and Sue and Christa and Judy and Lea and Kate and Meg and Ann and Allie (and more) remind us not to apologize for our strength.

Back to the bake, Laura!

When I learned OS could not separate an egg, I felt bad for her. Sorry for her. Baffled by her. How did she come this far in life? How does she survive? I intentionally tried to avoid further offense or any appearance of shaming her lack of skills by offering to show her how to do it. I just did it. And by watching me separate three eggs in a row, now she at least knows it is a physical possibility. My new insight and embarrassment amid her defensive stance (“I am not a baker!”) led me to walk to the other room and let her have peace and privacy without pressure while she spread the melted chocolate for the decorative shards. How was I to know that she would paint the melted chocolate paper thin instead of merely spreading it? How was I to know she didn’t understand? As with my students, I am not a mind reader–if you don’t express confusion or request help, none will come. You will be considered competent until you prove otherwise.

When I indicated it was too thin, OS blamed me for not supervising.

Can. Not. Win.

Should. Not. Try.

The Queen of Sheba cake recipe is on page 278 of THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF. I melted chocolate in a double boiler.

I mixed the butter and sugar and added the egg yolks one at a time. In a separate bowl I beat the egg whites.


The melted chocolate and butter/sugar and beaten egg whites and sifted flour were folded and gently combined before they got plopped into the pan to bake.


I should have used a smaller diameter pan. QofS came out thin.

OS did a great job massing the ingredients on my kitchen balance until the chocolate chip confusion. Somehow “we” lost 75 g of chocolate chips. I asked her to weigh out 100 g and 75 g of chips and supplied bowls. OS remembers doing so (confused) and then combining them in the same bowl. (why?) She never asked for clarification. When I asked where the 75 g were she pointed to the bowl of 100 g I was melting on the stove. I grabbed handfuls of semi-melted chips to take out 75 g and there were definitely not 175 g of chocolate in there. They vaporized. I continued to make the frosting.


I left OS in charge of melting the new batch of 75 g chips for the decorative shards. I should’ve known she needed help, even when she didn’t ask for it. I should’ve known she had never before spread melted chocolate on parchment paper to solidify. I should’ve known because of all the confusion and anxiety in the kitchen, but I chose to step away and let her just do it her way. I forgot she once made butter by whipping cream by hand. I thought of the incredible spread of food she puts out at holidays. I remembered her confidence and power. I let her independently paint the 75 g of melted chocolate paper-thin over an area three times that expected. (Since volume = LxWxH and area = LxW, when area is tripled, thickness (H) suffers inversely. OS taught math for three decades. She saw the huge sheet of parchment I laid out for her and assumed L and W were fixed by it.) And I should have not reacted at all when I saw it. I should not have been surprised when she implied it was my fault for not supervising because she is “not a baker!” And I forgot to document with a picture.

Sigh. I love that woman so much.

We broke the chocolate wafers into triangles with a pizza wheel and placed them vertically in the frosting, sprinkled powdered sugar and cocoa on top, and the Queen of Sheba came out beautiful and delicious.


If you are ever brave enough to bake with me, come on over. Otherwise, maybe just look at the pictures.



Bake 3: Quick Chocolate Fudge Cake

For my third bake from THE GREAT BRITISH BAKEOFF by Linda Collister, I turned back to page 40, under Cakes and found what looked to me to be a brownie recipe.

Sorry about all the beige and brown pictures.

Note the name includes the word “quick.” Don’t blink. Here we go!

I started by sifting together the flour and other dry ingredients, carefully massed on my beloved kitchen balance.


A food processor (again!) was supposed to produce a “sandy” texture. My fork and whisk and spoons failed, so I used my hand mixer.


I did not have pecans, so I used a mix of walnuts and almonds. I poured the batter over the layer of chopped nuts as directed and put her in to bake.

The chocolate topping was easy.

Once the bake cooled, I flipped it onto a plate and poured on the topping.

This was the quickest, simplest bake. Took longer to write this mini-post. We scarfed it up just as quick.


Moving on to Bake 4 today. Seems to require an apple corer (couldn’t find one at the stupid market) but no food processor (relief), and will be topped with a cherry (pretty). Stay tuned.

Pie 15.0

Pie 15.0

Remember that old song lyric “If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake”? That always sounded so welcoming, so I never do a drop in. I always call ahead before I visit so I’ll be greeted with a cake. It doesn’t work, but I still try. I mean, there’s a song, so somebody must make cakes for expected guests, right?

Anyway, my sister was coming, and I knew she was coming, and it was all a big secret surprise for my other sister, so I baked a pie.

Pie 15.0. Baked late at night in an ill-equipped kitchen. No rolling pin. No teaspoon (but I always have my palm). No whisk. No blades for the mixer (so I brought mine from home). No big bowl (so I used a cereal bowl). No pie pan (so I bought an aluminum one from the stupid market). You get the picture.

Speaking of stupid market–they didn’t sell chocolate covered coffee beans. Nowhere to be found. So I compromised.

Back up the bus. I forgot to describe the pie. It’s officially called “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee Pie” from page 123 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook. It was chosen while in the stupid market, when my sister responded to my text question about what we should eat for the weekend we would spend together with this: “Sat morning coffee. Sat evening eat out. Sunday morning coffee. Sunday lunch your choice.” We are Irish twins, live 1000 miles apart, and both love coffee.

Anyway, I started the pie in the dark by crushing the package of graham crackers with my hands and mixing them with melted butter. I pressed the mush into the tiny pan, chilled, baked and chilled. You know the drill by now.


Then I made espresso in my little pot. Drank some, let some cool, and made the filling.

20181012_165534Here is the nasty smelling unflavored gelatin.

20181011_20111020181011_201050I had to whip some egg whites to fold into the cooked coffee/gelatin/other ingredient concoction, but I should have used a bigger bowl.


There was way too much filling for the tiny pie shell.


This had to set and cool in the fridge for many hours, so I went to sleep.

The topping called for Kahlua, but I didn’t have any, so I made some by boiling down some espresso and mixing with whiskey.


Then I whipped the cream and added the yummy tasty ingredients and spread it on the pie filling.


As I mentioned, the store didn’t sell the required chocolate covered coffee beans, so I shredded a tiny Hershey bar and sprinkled it on top. Voila!

Yummy Beige Pie.


I love my sisters more than coffee.

Pie 14.0

Pie 14.0

This is the best pie I have ever tasted.

(So far.)

I made Pie 14.0 in my sunny kitchen yesterday morning. I started at 8 am and didn’t take a taste until 7:30 pm. I found her on page 83 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook.

It only took two trips to the store to buy all the ingredients. Two trips are annoying, but they were both during my 2-hour Friday evening commute, and together they extended my commute to 3 hours, but what’s an hour in a long work week in the 7th week of a semester that’s blowing by like a typhoon?

I awoke yesterday before the sun. Weekends cannot dent my internal clock during the semester. My brain snaps awake and wonders what it forgot to do. My first thought was pie. My second thought was coffee. Instantly I stopped worrying about the tortuous mess we are in and set my brain on bake. This is my self-soothe. Let me share it with you, at least in words and pictures, if not in the hug it brought me to bake and taste.

The crumb crust called for chocolate wafers and both stores did not sell any. I used chocolate graham crackers because, obviously, I’m a genius.

Instead of my normal crumble technique with a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin, I slammed a whole pack of crackers on the counter and then squeezed them with my bare hands around the throat until they were pulverized. Like I said, I’m a(n angry) genius.

While the crumb crust chilled and baked and cooled (an hour process, at least) I tackled the strawberries. First, I hulled all the strawberries as directed. Then, I crushed five of them with a fork until they were mush and put them in the fridge. Next, I melted chocolate chips with a secret ingredient in the microwave at reduced power for many, many cycles of 30 seconds. I stirred until glossy. I did not lick my fingers.

And then I was momentarily stumped by the directions “Holding the berries by the stem end, dip them one at a time into the bowl.” The stem end was obvious, but the stem for holding was gone, hulled away by the genius. That made the task tricky. How the –bleep- to hold the stemless berries while dipping? Needless to say, the genius got quite sticky. Yet, still she did not lick her fingers.

Here I am! Back from third-person-land, a blackhole that tried to suck me in. Anyway, almost half of the melted chocolate was left over after the strawberry-dipping. I considered re-dipping them. Then I considered eating it all with a spoon. (No, Laura!) And then I poured it all onto waxed paper to harden and save for another pie.


I was delighted by the next step. I snuck some strawberry preserves from the fridge and added a secret ingredient. I spread the mush onto the bottom of the crust and put her back in the fridge so I could attack the filling.

I forgot to mention the formal name of this pie: “Jenna’s Devil’s Food Chocolate Oasis Pie.” The filling needs some separated eggs, a LOT of milk, the magic of cornstarch, and bittersweet chocolate. There is boiling and whisking and sieving involved. It was all too complicated to describe and almost beyond the ability of this baking genius. The hardest parts required three hands. Like the pouring of the massive quantity of milk in a “slow steady steam” while whisking (and holding the handle of the pan). And the pouring of the heavy hot chocolate concoction through a sieve while pressing with a spatula. I only swore a little. Most of the chocolate I spilled has been found and wiped up.

The hot chocolate concoction had to be cooled to room temperature under a buttered wax paper in a glass bowl. The cooling took 2.5 hours. The buttered wax paper was the butter wrapper. What? It’s clean on the inside and it was already buttered.


I eversocarefully dumped the filling over the surprise strawberry layer in the crust and got to work on the topping (5 hours later). In the meantime I napped and watched football. The chocolate filling had to cool for half a day. Eventually I got to the topping.


After a dozen pies, I’m finally pretty good at whipping cream. I folded in another secret ingredient (listen, if you want to know the secrets, you have to buy the cookbook) and spread the deliciousness over the chocolate. Then I pressed on the huge chocolate covered strawberries and Pie 14.0 was complete in all her splendor.


I ate just a tiny sliver (what? I’m on diet again, ok?) and almost groaned at the light and fluffy combination of strawberry/chocolate/whipped cream/crunchy crust in my mouth. This was the best pie I’ve ever tasted. Yet. There’s a lot left if you want to come by for a slice.






Pie 11.0

Pie 11.0

I love chocolate.

This pie cookbook has so many chocolate delights. It’s hard to choose. Someday I’ll get to them all. Apparently the chef didn’t even try to decide which chocolates to focus on for Pie 11.0. She just used them all. I say bravo!

My crazy pie journey started about 4 months ago with the extraordinary Pie 1.0. Eleven pies in, I promise I’m not giving up. Just slowing down. Busy in the summer. Perhaps on a diet so I need to pace myself. And I might never make all the savory ones after the jerk chicken experience. Enough ado. I give you Pie 11.0.

Officially called “In the Dark Dark Triple Chocolate Truffle Pie” from page 86 of the Sugar Butter Flour cookbook, Pie 11.0 was built from dark chocolate, white chocolate, cocoa, bittersweet chocolate, and chocolate cookies, from Ghirardelli’s, Baker’s and Hershey’s–even a small piece of chocolate is ridiculously good. I’ve never thrown out a Hershey in my life.


Here are the chocolates posing for a portrait. (Coffee photo bombed again.)


The crust was the same deliciousness I made for Pie 3.0–crushed chocolate cookies. The butter did not explode in the microwave (like it did for Pie 7.0) this time. Ah memories.


The filling was thin like chocolate milk and baked for 45 minutes until it set.

The topping was chocolate (duh) and fluffy (is that what truffle means? Somebody look that up.) I piped it on with an X tip hooked to a plastic bag, in my normal don’t-have-an-icing-bag-but-a-Ziploc-will-do. Good enough.


I tried to make chocolate curls for the garnish with a paring knife and my innate skill, but the bars melted in my summer hot hands. I should have just used the cheese grater. Somehow I persevered and managed to make a pile o’chocolate shreds for the top. I licked my hands, washed them good, and finished up.

Another globetrotter, this one. She rode frozen in the car to VA, like Pie 2.0 and was eaten for the three days of a long weekend. Perfect for breakfast with coffee.


Pie 12.0 will be made in a week with my daughter, who will also choose the pie. Stay tuned for pictures of more delicious stuff you don’t get to eat. Cheerio!