The Backstage Baker ON STAGE!

decoratedThe cake on the prop table decorated with fresh strawberries and fat free, sugar free Greek yogurt.  Mmmmmm.

Sometimes, there are things asked of stage manager that are far outside their job description . . .

Now, as mentioned in a recent post, the Backstage Baker is stage managing “Time and the Conways” for the Roundabout.  They just started previews at the American Airlines Theater and I hear it’s a smash.  (So get those tickets now, because this is a limited run that closes on November 26.)

This show offered James a baking challenge and believe it or not, it’s not the first time he’s been called on to create something edible to appear onstage eight times a week. (The last time was for a blueberry pie that Dianne Wiest made and baked onstage in the play  “Memory House” back in 2005. Here’s the review where the pie features prominently.)

But back to “Time and the Conways.”  It so happened that one of the actors was staged to devour a mini-bundt cake, but no one wants to consume a sugar-filled, gluten-based cake eight times a week.

Backstage Baker to the rescue!  Late one night, right the middle of technical rehearsals, he got home and started experimenting.  Could a pancake batter of eggs and banana be turned into a cake?  Would it even be edible?  Would it hold the bundt shape and look like an elegant confection worthy of the Conways? More importantly, would the actor be able to eat it with gusto?  Into the wee hours, he baked.  The cakes auditioned the next day and were a hit!   Now you can see them on stage eight times a week at The American Airlines Theatre.

Matthew and cake
Matthew James Thomas (who plays Robin Conway) about to do the taste test.

Matthew tasting cake
It passed the first audition… now to the call back, on stage and in front of the director.

It’s hired!  Now, should you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s the recipe:

Robin Conway’s Gluten Free, Sugar Free Mini Bundt Cakes

Ingredients:

1 really ripe banana mashed
2 eggs separated
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate eggs and whip whites until soft peaks form. Mix bananas and egg yolks together, add flour. Mix well. Add cinnamon and vanilla, then stir gently into whites until incorporated.
Pour into two mini-bundt pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes until set.
Cool in pan 5 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack.

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Cookies

Gaaah!  James posted this photo on Facebook last week, and people were clamoring for the recipe:

“Seems like there was a lot of interest in this recipe so here it is. You don’t taste the chick pea at all and they are REALLY delicious. I will be making them again.

Giving credit where credit is due I found this recipe from an email from Pinterest. It took me to the site of Texanerin.com”

Hmm, the phrase “You don’t taste the chick peas at all” strikes fear into my heart, especially in connection with cookies.  But since it’s from James and we trust him, here’s the recipe.  I’m still trying to get up the courage to make them.

UPDATE 9/3/2017:  I made them and you know what?   They really are good!  You absolutely would not know they contained the dreaded chickpea.  (Dreaded only because chickpeas have no place in a cookie.  Yes, I’m judgey that way.)  I would recommend NOT pressing the balls down to look like cookies because they do not have a cookie crispness at all and you will be disappointed.  They really should look like dough balls because that is what they are!

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups roasted and salted peanuts (or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter)*
1- 15.5 Ounce can of chickpeas, well-rinsed, drained and patted dry with a paper towel
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey (agave or maple syrup for vegan)
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (use vegan and dairy-free chocolate chips, if desired)

Method:
Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Put the peanuts in a food processor (a blender will NOT work). Process for one minute then scrape down sides. Continue processing and scraping at one minute intervals. In four minutes, you should have delicious, amazing peanut butter. NOTE:  At the 2 minute, 30 second mark or so, the peanut butter will be extremely thick. Do NOT be tempted to add oil or liquid, just keep processing.  You can also use store bought natural peanut butter (1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons).

Leave 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons in the food processor (store any remaining in the refrigerator). Add all the other ingredients except for the chocolate chips  and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get the little chunks of chickpeas and process again until they’re combined.

Add the chocolate chips and stir them in. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. At this point, I put the bowl of dough in the freezer to firm up the dough.

With wet hands, form into 1 1/2″ balls. Place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. If you want them to look more like regular cookies, press down slightly on the balls. They don’t rise much.
Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. The dough balls will still be very soft when you take them out of the oven. They will not set like normal cookies. The bottom of the cookies will brown. Cool on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the fridge) for up to 1 week.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

*1.  If you opt for not making the peanut butter do NOT use regular peanut butter! The cookies will come out too oily. You MUST use natural peanut butter.

2.  If you need grain-free baking powder, you can use 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot.

Raspberry Stuffed Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing

James 4

Our Backstage Baker is busy busy —  he’s already deep in rehearsal for his next Broadway show, J.B. Priestley’s Time and the Conways, starring Elizabeth McGovern and directed by Indecent’s Rebecca Taichman.  (FYI, Indecent closed on August 6, but if you missed it, you can catch it on November 17 on PBS’ Great Performances.  Check your local listings, as they say.)

Last week was the first Wine and Unwind for the Conways cast, and James made the Flourless Chocolate Cake already posted on the site. (As an aside, do you realize there are over 85 recipes posted here?  All made by James for the various shows he’s worked on over the past four years.)

This week, he tried a new recipe, and it seems like a keeper.  Enjoy!

Fresh Raspberry Stuffed  Mini Dark Chocolate Cakes with Chocolate Truffle Icing
NOTES:  The individual cakes are made in cupcake pans and then inverted to cool, iced and served.
This recipe is great for a party since it makes 24.

Ingredients
for the mini cakes:
Nonstick Coconut Oil cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups raspberries

for the Chocolate Truffle Icing:
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method:

Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat twenty-four 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Add about 1/4 cup flour mixture and 1/4 cup buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed. Keep adding flour and buttermilk until finished and beat until just combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more.

Divide half of the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Divide the 2 cups raspberries among muffin cups, adding 3 or 4 berries to the center of each cup. Spoon the remaining batter over berries in muffin cups. Do not fill the cups fully.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

To Prepare Chocolate Truffle Icing:
Put cream and corn syrup in a small pan and boil over low heat stirring constantly. Add chocolate chips and let set 2 minutes. Whisk to combine and add vanilla.

To glaze cupcakes, invert one cake at a time onto a slotted spoon. Hold the cake over the bowl of icing and spoon icing over cake, allowing excess to drip down side. Place glazed cakes on a wire rack set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill about 20 minutes or until icing is set.

James 1

If desired, decorate cakes with additional raspberries. Makes 24 cupcakes.

James 2
Actors Cara Ricketts and Gabriel Ebert ( 2013 Tony Award  winner for Best Featured Actor in a Musical)

James 3
Anna Camp, Anna Baryshnikov and Charlotte Parry wining and unwinding

James 5
Assistant Director Katie Lindsay

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Pic 4

This week one of the INDECENT Co-Producers hosted the Wine and Unwind. Let’s welcome Sarahbeth Grossman and her family recipe for Mocha Brownies into the Backstage Baker Club!!! Sarahbeth was also one of the producers on AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and on ANN.

Grossman Family Mocha Brownies

Ingredients:

2/3 cups butter
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Method:

Melt butter, coffee and chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from heat.  Stir in ingredients in the order listed.  Beat at high speed for 30 seconds (batter will turn lighter brown in color.) Pour into greased 9×11 pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min.

Butter Cream Frosting:
Melt and heat 4 tablespoons of butter until light brown and frothy (do not burn).  Beat in 3 cups of confectioners sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 3 Tablespoons of cream or milk.  Stir til smooth then spread over cooled brownies.  Cut into squares after frosting sets.


Pic 1
From left to right: musician Matt Darriau, actor Tom Nelis, Baker, co-Producer Sarahbeth Grossman and her Mocha Brownies, actor Max Gordon Moore

Pic 2
Actor Rich Topol who plays Lemml and a Wine and Unwind guest

Pic 3
Tom Nelis, special guest Vivienne Benesch, Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in North Carolina and Max Gordon Moore

Cheesecake-stuffed Strawberry Bites

Strawberries

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, our Backstage Baker offers up this scrumptious recipe.  In fact, it’s so easy, it’s almost hard to call it a recipe!

But first, don’t forget to watch the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11, 2017 — Indecent is nominated for Best Play, Best Director (Rebecca Taichman) and Best Lighting (Christopher Akerlind.)  Just for fun, here’s a link to a post on The Skriker, a show that Chris lit at the Public many moons ago.

Also, don’t forget that James’ previous show Jitney is also nominated for several Tony Awards this season!  You have to wonder if he sprinkles magic dust on his shows, right?  Maybe it’s just all the baking . . .

But back to these cheesecake-stuffed strawberry bites!  This is a super easy dessert to throw together. Great for parties and week end celebrations. And now strawberries are in season, it’s the perfect time to make them.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberry Bites

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, then hulled and cored
Almond cookies crushed (or for a more traditional taste use crushed graham crackers)
Half cup dark chocolate pieces melted

Method:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until smooth; spoon into a piping bag or a resealabe bag with a corner snipped.
Fill cavities of cored strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Dip filled side of strawberries in the crushed graham crackers to coat. Drizzle with dark chocolate.

KAtrina LenkKatrina Lenk and Adina Verson try the Stuffed Strawberries (Katrina will also star in next season’s THE BAND’S VISIT)

Tom Nelis
Tom Nelis (left) enjoying the wine while discussing his role with understudy Ben Cherry (center) as understudy Eleanor Reissa looks on.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Lemony ALmond Macaroons

Okay, so macaroons can’t really be indecent as they are thoroughly inanimate objects, but James made these for the pre-opening Wine and Unwind of Indecent last Sunday, so I thought the title was apt.  (FYI, Indecent, Paula Vogel’s play, opens at the Cort Theater on Tuesday, April 18.  Check it out here.)  These are also suitable for Passover.  I think.

Indecent Lemony Almond Macaroons

Ingredients:

1- 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large egg whites
3-4 ounces dark chocolate

Method:

Heat oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Mix in the egg whites.

Drop mounds of the mixture (each equal to 2 tablespoons) onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart.

Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges begin to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Or bake one pan at a time. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Melt chocolate by boiling water in a pot and then putting chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and placing the bowl over the boiling water.  Stir frequently until almost completely melted, then remove pot from water and stir until smooth.

Dip cooled macaroons in the chocolate and place on waxed paper (Or be green and place them on the parchment paper they were baked on!!!) Drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops of the macaroons.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

VEgan chocolate cake

When you need a vegan dessert this one is easy, moist and delicious. Jitney’s associate director, Awoye Timpo, is vegan, so the Backstage Baker baked this for her birthday.

It’s amazing.  And super easy to make.  In fact, I think I’ll go bake one now.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Method

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Measure flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a sifter, sift twice. Sift all into and ungreased 9 inch square pan.

3.  Make three holes in the mixture. Pour oil into one hole, vinegar in the second, vanilla in the third. Pour water over all. Mix with fork until smooth and blended. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes (no more).

This cake is so moist it doesn’t need frosting.  Make like the Backstage Baker and top it with fresh raspberries tossed in powdered sugar and shave some chocolate on top.  Mmmm, delicious!