Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesdays with Dorie: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars

While I'm in arrears for two TWD projects (the grapefruit tart and the lemon madeleines -- hooray for the upcoming rewind week!), I did manage to make the Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. To start, I made the crispy topping. Since I had an open box of Cocoa Krispies, I used those instead of regular Rice Krispies (seriously, who's going to argue over an extra bit of chocolate?). No problems at all with that portion of the recipe. In fact, they were a lot of fun to make. And sample.

All in all, I had no problems with the sticky dough, but I was alarmed when I checked the oven after the base had been baking for about 18 minutes. There was the dough, bubbling away almost like caramel. Since the base was golden brown, I pulled it out of the oven a little early and let it cool down for a couple of minutes. I'd melted some bittersweet chocolate rather than try to have it melt on the warm cookie base, so having a hot-from-the-oven cookie base wasn't as much of a necessity for me. The thin layer of chocolate went on, then the caramelized Cocoa Krispies. All looked good.

I figured that I'd need to be careful slicing these bars, which I suspected might be pretty brittle. For as crisp as they turned out to be, they sliced relatively cleanly.

The downside to these bars? They are insanely good and can be consumed at an alarming rate. Even worse, I now know they are ridiculously easy to make. How will I save me from myself?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tuesdays with Dorie: Loafing Around Edition

I'm a bit late on our latest Tuesdays with Dorie adventures. Between work deadlines, obnoxious weather, and a cold/bronchitis that I'm still battling a bit, not much was getting done in the way of food, especially because while I was on meds for bronchitis, everything tasted as if I were licking the inside of a can.

Anyway, getting back to normal and getting caught up with late tasks. First, I made the Brown-Butter-and-Vanilla-Bean Weekend Cake. It didn't wow me tremendously, but it's something I'd consider making again as the base for fresh berries, as in a shortcake. For the amount of effort put into the whole process of manually combining the vanilla seeds with the sugar, I was expecting a bit more pow from the vanilla.

Then there's the Marquise au Chocolat. Easy to prepare and lovely to consume. This is something I'll definitely make again. It's a frozen dessert, but it requires a few minutes at room temperature to reach its best texture when you're ready to eat it. Otherwise, it's a bit crumbly. Also, it is rich enough that it needs a counterpoint of some sort. I used freshly whipped cream and raspberries, but I suppose a creme anglaise or berry coulis would also be nice.

I was able to get pasteurized eggs for this dessert, but I whipped them over the water bath anyway, to warm up the mixture to dissolve the sugar in an effort to minimize the risk of a grainy dessert. It was a bit of extra effort, but I figured it would be worth it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesdays With Dorie: Granola Energy Bars

Short and sweet this week for Tuesdays with Dorie. It's Granola Energy Bars, they are super easy to throw together, and they are as tasty as you want to make them. I used dried cherries and also added about a half cup of bittersweet chocolate chips because, hey, why not?

The most intriguing thing for me about this recipe is the brown rice syrup as the sweetener and binder in the bars. It's not terribly sweet and also fairly neutrally flavored, so it really allows the rest of the ingredients to shine. I also loved that the oats are toasted; it's nice touch that gives the bars an extra nuance of flavor.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Holiday Baking

Introducing most of the holiday cookie assortment for 2014 (minus the five doughs that were prepared and unbaked but will be baked off at some point in the next few days). From the top, rainbow cookies, lime thumbprints with Meyer lemon curd, sprinkle cookies, chocolate macaroons, chocolate garam masala gingerbread, peanut blossoms, pistachio butter cookies, and linzer cookies. In the center, it's brownie-blondie double deckers and, under them, coffee toffee dream bars. Still to be baked off: ginger-white chocolate cookies, roasted almond thumbprints, ribbon cookies, lemon-rosemary sugar cookies, and butter cookies (cut out with a figure-skate-shaped cookie cutter).

TWD: Gingerbread Buche de Noel

Lucky for us, the debut of Baking Chez Moi happened close to the holiday season, which provided the perfect excuse to choose Gingerbread Buche de Noel as one of our first recipes from the new book. This roulade involves several components, but is relatively easy to put together in stages. I followed the recipe to the letter and ended up with a dessert that had a huge wow factor, both with its appearance and with its flavor. The lightly spiced cake is filled with an essentially unsweetened cinnamon cream cheese filling, then coated with billows of marshmallowy meringue. Chunks of candied pecan finish the cake off, giving it a rustic appearance. Such a great collection of contrasts and flavors: the spiced cake, the tangy cream cheese, the sweet meringue, the crunchy candied nuts.

The only issue I had with this cake was not getting quite the amount of volume I wanted from the egg whites as I was whipping them. I think the problem involved using the stand mixer; its whisk just doesn't get quite deep enough into the bowl to generate volume for a small amount of egg whites. (Actually, I will confess that there were two issues with this cake, but the second one involved securing a serving plate for it, an endeavor that required stops at three stores. On the other hand, I now have a perfect dish for presenting and serving a roulade.)

All in all, though, I really love everything about this cake: It's a project but so worthwhile to undertake.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TWD: The Rugelach That Won Over France

This week, for our third visit with Baking Chez Moi, we made the cookie that apparently caused a culinary coup: The Rugelach That Won Over France. They are indeed lovely. The dough is dreamy to work with, even when rolled out fairly thin, and it bakes up with crispy, flaky layers.

After reading a few comments at the rugelach P&Q thread, I decided that the filling needed to be really non-chunky, so I used mini semisweet chocolate chips, I chopped up the cherries, and I zapped the coconut and toasted pecans in the food processor. It was a little bit of extra work, but I think it was worth it as I had no trouble rolling up the filling in the dough, nor did I have any problems slicing the dough once it was chilled.

I am trying to make it a point to follow each recipe to the letter the first time through, but I opted not to freeze this cookie dough prior to baking it. I did put the unsliced rolls of dough on a cookie sheet on my enclosed back porch to chill (nature's refrigerator!) and felt that that did the trick, plus left the dough perfectly sliceable.

While these cookies are a bit of a production to pull together, I think they are worth it. The only real problem with them is that they are distressingly bite-size. It's far too easy to start eating them and then lose track of how many have been consumed (as I lapse into passive voice in an effort to not acknowledge the embarrassing reality of how many rugelach I have eaten today -- for research purposes, of course).

Full disclosure: This book won me over at the get-go!

Friday, November 28, 2014

TWD: Cranberry Crackle Tart

Our second dip into Baking Chez Moi is for the seasonally appropriate Cranberry Crackle Tart. It's basically a giant cranberry-filled meringue on a layer of jam in a cookie-like tart crust. I thought this was basically OK: didn't love it, didn't hate it. After I tried a slice of it, I started to think that maybe I should try a version of it with raspberries instead of cranberries. Plus, to get more buy-in on the home front, I will need to figure out a way to sneak some chocolate in there.

Also, I realized after I made it that I should have read some of the comments at TWD. Then I would have known to use my hand-held mixer to beat the egg whites instead of my stand mixer, to get better volume. Live and learn!

Finally, belated thanks to everyone who commented on my first Baking Chez Moi post. It ended up being a crazy point with work and home stuff, and I was a negligent community member both in responding to comments here and in checking out others' posts. I hope to make up for that with this week's recipe.