Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Finnish Pulla

So this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Finnish Pulla. I loved how this bread turned out, although my braiding technique is sketchy. Also, I didn't have enough dough left over to create a bow to finish the wreath. Regardless of all that, the bread is great. Very happy with this recipe and how it turned out.

(Alert: Change of tone ahead.)

I hope you'll pardon me for this, but I want to share a Facebook status update from my local library:

<< Have you been wondering what you can do to help Newtown? Maryellen DeJong and Darlene Garrison, two library staff members, are coordinating a drive to collect donations of classroom supplies. Many teachers spend their own money to decorate their bulletin boards and walls and we thought it would be helpful to gather materials together to make it easier for them when they move in to their new school. If you would like to help, drop off items (bulletin board decorations, pencils, markers, stickers, glue sticks, etc.) in the box by the check out desk OR some people who are not able to come to the library are purchasing gift cards online and having them mailed to the library - Att: Maryellen DeJong, Danbury Library. 170 Main Street, Danbury, CT 06810. (suggestions for stores have been Staples, Parent - Teacher store in Newtown, Target, etc.). Several library employees live in Newtown so this effort is particularly heartfelt for them. If anyone has any questions, give the Community Relations office a call at 203-304-1405. >>

I'm grateful that the library folks are undertaking this project. Since Friday, I've been looking for a noninvasive way to do something supportive for the Newtown community; this seems like a worthwhile effort. Obviously, I don't know if anyone out there is looking to reach out in some way, but if so, here's an option. -- Chris

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

Not much to say yet about this week's Tuesdays With Dorie adventure, Gingerbread Baby Cakes, except for the fact that I made them and they turned out looking great. I made them as mini-Bundts as I didn't have the suggested bakeware for the recipe. I'm tempted to say that they almost didn't smell great while baking, largely, I think, due to the amount of espresso powder in the batter. As they were just finishing baking, I kept thinking, "Is something burning?"

If you want to see the recipe to see just how much espresso powder is in these babies, check out Karen's blog here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Best Ever Brownies

For this entry of Tuesdays With Dorie, we made Best Ever Brownies. Pretty straightforward recipe, fairly straightforward brownie. All in all, I have a go-to brownie recipe already, so I can't imagine that I'm going to revisit the recipe from Baking With Julia. (I'd also like to mention that if you want a great brownie-esque recipe, try the Essense of Chocolate Squares from Lisa Yockelson's Baking by Flavor.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

Today's foray for Tuesdays With Dorie was Buttermilk Crumb Muffins. After October, where we had two yeasted adventures (one of which I still haven't done yet), it was a relief to have something simple like muffins for today. The batter is relatively simple to assemble: Shortening is blended into brown sugar and flour (I used butter instead of shortening here), and a portion of that mixture is reserved for the crumb topping. After spices and leavening are added to the remaining dry ingredients, eggs and buttermilk go in, and that's pretty much it.

I did half of the batter plain and half with dried cranberries. The dried-cranberry batter is in the photo above.

I ended up with two dozen muffins. I tried one while they were still warm, and while I liked the gentle flavor from the spices, I can't say that I loved this recipe. The muffins are kind of meh. The crumb topping is unimpressive, and the muffins feel somewhat insubstantial. I wasn't surprised that they didn't rise with a nice domed top (they don't look that way in the photo in the book, either), but to me, the flat top makes them look unappealing. Since I have scads of other muffin recipes that I really like, I don't know that I'll revisit this one.

For the recipe (and to see how a nice batch of these muffins turned out), visit Easier Than Pie.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Berry Galettes and Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves

Here's my catch-up post for Tuesdays With Dorie. It takes me out of arrears for two of the three recipes I've missed. Fortunately for these two, no insane ingredients! (Although I'm tempted to say that fresh cranberries are a borderline insane ingredient as they were shy of coming into season when I made the bread, it was easy enough to use dried cranberries instead.)

Berry Galette (top photo). Loved it. I'd make this again, for sure. While I made a blueberry batch, I am tempted to say that the raspberry galette is one of the most beautiful things I've ever made. So simple, but so alluring.

Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves (bottom photo). Not worth the effort, if you ask me. Plus, they are ridiculously tiny. If I were to revisit this recipe, I'd made one big loaf of bread. A side note: The tiny loaves would be great sliced, toasted in the oven, and used as base for some sort of holiday appetizer.

One thing I've discovered this far into TWD is that I really enjoy making bread. I'd forgotten that. A loaf of bread feels like a real accomplishment.

I'm looking at making a batch of bagels some time during Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Whole Wheat Bread

Nice, tight crumb.

For our second Tuesdays With Dorie assignment for September, we made whole wheat bread. This recipe was really straightforward and easy to make. I loved the way the bread turned out. At some point, I will try it! Due to scheduling issues, I ended up making the bread, slicing it, then freezing it. On the one hand, lame! On the other hand, I have two beautiful loaves of bread in the freezer. Can't beat that.

Henceforth in my blogging, I am going to label posts when appropriate with the tag "insane ingredient." If I don't have it, it has to be pretty out there. In this case, the bread recipe called for malt extract. After a quick search online to determine what malt extract is, I substituted molasses. Malt extract. Good grief.

Visit this week's hosts, Veggie Num Nums and The Family That Bakes Together, for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

For this edition of Tuesdays With Dorie, I think I need to invoke the McKayla Maroney "not impressed" face. I'm not sure what happened, but this one didn't work out as planned. While I didn't have a 10-in. springform pan, which the recipe called for, I do have one that measures 9.5 in. That seemed close enough.

I ended up with way more cake batter than was going to fit in the pan, so I filled a couple of ramekins with cake batter and baked them off separately. I also decided not to layer in the streusel given the volume of material already going into the pan.

On the plus side, the cake didn't bake over. However, I baked the cake for far longer than the suggested oven time (55 min., believe it or not), and took it from the oven when it tested done. Twenty-five minutes later, when I removed it from the pan and flipped it over -- surprise! -- it wasn't done in the center. I flipped it back fruit-side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and popped it in the oven for 20 additional minutes. The cake portion of the event deflated terribly, and much of the brown sugar/butter topping leaked out and puddled in the protective casing of foil I'd wrapped around the pan.

All in all, kind of a disappointment. If I were to make this cake again, which I might just to see if it would work, I would make it in a regular 10-in. cake pan, with parchment on the bottom of the pan. On the plus side, it was edible and didn't taste bad at all. Also, in a fit of amazing efficiency, I made the next TWD project yesterday, and that one turned out great.

Recipe is available at this week's hosts, The Double Trouble Kitchen and The Little French Bakery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Popovers

For this week's exploration of Baking With Julia, we got to make popovers. (For me, they ended up being birthday popovers! Or at least day-before-birthday popovers, anyway.)

Fortunately, the temperatures and dew points have calmed down a little bit, so it wasn't a burden to crank the oven up to 425°F. While I've made popovers before, I never think of my own as much as I think of eating them at the Jordan Pond House at Acadia National Park. Tea and popovers are an afternoon tradition there, deservedly so.

The only thing I didn't do according to Marion Cunningham's recipe is use ramekins for the popovers. I have a popover pan and don't really use it a lot, so I decided it was worth the opportunity to dust it off and get it in the oven.

I'm not sure exactly how you're supposed to consume popovers except with butter and jam, so that's what we did. It was kind of shocking how quickly three people consumed a batch of warm popovers, too.

For this week's recipe, you can go to this week's hosts and makers of exemplary popovers, Vintage Kitchen Notes or Bake With Amy.

In one other TWD procedural note, I did make the galettes, but failed to post a blog entry in a timely fashion. I'm aiming to get that posted in the next day or so.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Blueberry-Nectarine Pie

Available to a good home: one double batch of pie dough, separated into four disks, one disk gently used. Amazingly, dough was made without a drop of liquid, aside from that existing in a hyper humid atmosphere.

For this week's Tuesdays With Dorie project, we made Blueberry-Nectarine Pie. You know, pie seems like the perfect summer dessert. What could be better than to harvest summer's bounty of fresh fruits and berries, encase it in a flaky dough, and bake it into a dreamy dessert? Basically, when the weather is all disgustingly hot and humid, it all falls apart with the flaky dough. That's why someone invented cobblers, crisps, grunts, and their ilk: all the glory of summer fruit without the agony of producing pie dough.

So that leaves us with the baking assignment. I dutifully made the pie dough from the book. I decided to make the dough early in the day, before the temperatures got too hot; there was nothing I could do to avoid humidity. I chilled everything. Since I figured it would be quicker, I decided to use the KitchenAid mixer to prepare the dough. Before I got done incorporating the shortening -- after already having mixed in the cold butter -- everything came together like cookie dough. I had ice water ready to go, but didn't need it.

What to do, what to do? I dumped out the ice water, divided the dough into four disks, and put it in the fridge. I then decided that I needed a backup, so I turned to Cook's Illustrated. While I'd never made their vodka-infused pastry dough, I remembered the article and figured I'd give it a try. Again, I had the same problem with cold ingredients become warm so quickly that I had a cookie-dough-like situation instead of pie dough. I added the liquid anyway, wrapped up the dough, and put it in the fridge.

The filling was not a problem, unless you count the horrific blueberry-buying trip to our local Costco, which is currently being renovated, meaning the store and its parking lot are in complete disarray.

When it was time to assemble the pie, I got out a disk of dough, floured it, and placed it on the marble. Unfortunately, it could not be rolled out. I went to plan B and got out the CI pastry. It wasn't pretty, but I got it rolled out and into the pan. I had to patch a couple of spots. Next, the filling went in. Then I rolled out the top crust and got it in place, again with a few patches.

Amazingly, it didn't look too bad. I chilled it while the oven was heating, and then crossed my fingers, held my breath, and popped it in the oven. Forty-five minutes later, I ended up with this:

How did that happen? The pie looked great. It smelled great. The crust didn't shrink, despite the amount of liquid I'd dumped in it.

I ended up bringing the pie to work today. After I sliced it, I found that the filling was a little on the runny side, yet the fruit managed to stay together within each slice of pie. All things being equal, the crust was not bad. The sprinkle of sugar on top made it nice and crispy, and it even had a slightly flaky quality.

No idea what I'm going to do with the other batch of dough. Maybe I can press it into small pie tins or tart pans. Now that I've finally tried the CI pie-dough recipe, I feel pretty sure that I'll be using it again. On a dry, cool day. In September or October.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Semolina Bread

The weather we've been enduring on the East Coast this summer has made baking a challenge. Even having central air isn't much help; the heat and humidity are offensively oppressive.

That said, I was on the brink of bailing on this edition of TWD, then decided that if I got going later in the day, then I might be able to bake after things cooled down in the evening.

This recipe for this yeasted bread is pretty easy, with a minimal list of ingredients and relatively long rising times between each step. You start by making a sponge, which rises for an hour. Then you make the dough and let it rise for a couple of hours. Finally, you shape the dough and let it rise for a couple more hours.

For this bread, the dough is pretty sticky. Of course, with the dew point, everything was pretty sticky yesterday. I used the full amount of flour, then added a little more to make the dough manageable.

Because the dough was so sticky, it was challenging to slash the top of the unbaked loaf as directed in the recipe, especially since I didn't happen to have a razor blade handy for that purpose. (Maybe I should have tried it with my Atra? Ha.) I managed to get a few slashes across the top with a sharp chef's knife.

The bread turned out OK. It has a soft crust and a relatively salty flavor. I wouldn't be opposed to making this bread again under different meteorological conditions; it would probably taste good with fresh basil and tomatoes. Since we are in vacation-prep mode and aren't bringing more fresh produce into the house, we are making do by consuming the loaf with a slathering of butter on each slice.

For the recipe, visit this week's hosts at Keep It Luce and The Way to My Family's Heart.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chocolate-Chip Muffins

A request came in to Baking Central for chocolate-chip muffins. This request occurred in the grocery store near packages of chocolate-chip muffin mix.


Since I had multiple motivations (ridding the fridge of perishables prior to vacation; kitchen already overheated up for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie project), I decided to make a batch of muffins using the recipe from Joanne Chang's Flour. Instead of two cups of juicy, healthful fruit, I added a bag of dark-chocolate chips.

Aside from a couple of small glitches (such as discovering that my six-cup muffin tin isn't as nonstick as I'd like, even when it's spritzed with Pam), the muffins came out pretty well. I suspect they'd be even better when the humidity isn't out-of-control crazy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Hazelnut Biscotti

Our latest recipe in the exploration of Baking With Julia is Hazelnut Biscotti. So far, I've tried to be pretty strict in making the recipes as directed the first time out, but I didn't have hazelnuts and didn't feel like buying them. Instead, I decided to use whole almonds: hence, I made almond biscotti. I substituted amaretto for the hazelnut liqueur, and also added a handful of mini chocolate chips.

One of the best things about making biscotti is that you can control the crispness of the cookies. Personally, while I like biscotti, I don't really like the kind that are so hard that I feel like my teeth are going to shatter when I eat them. I made mine just a little softer than that. They still crunch, but I won't need to set up a dental appointment to replace any shattered crowns.

All in all, this recipe (from the most excellent contributing baker Alice Medrich) is enormously adaptable. I could easily foresee a biscotti jag in my future, especially since I now need to use up a Costco-size bag of whole almonds.

If you'd like the recipe, visit this week's recipe hosts, Jodi at Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina at Baking and Boys.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: French Strawberry Cake

Our latest entry in the Tuesdays With Dorie exploration of Baking With Julia is French Strawberry Cake. Basically, it's a super-upgraded version of strawberry shortcake, made with a genoise split into three layers, sandwiched with mashed, macerated berries and whipped cream.

I intended to make this cake last weekend, but my free periods ended up disappearing. I then figured I'd do a catch-up later, but when I saw that we would have three recipes to prepare in July, I decided to just get it done. As it turned out, it all came together pretty quickly, although I started it in the evening and finished it the next morning.

I guess I lucked out, but my genoise turned out really well. Next time, I need to remember the cooking-school trick of whisking in the flour, which helps to avoid those nasty pockets of unincorporated flour. I made the cake last night, and prepped the berries. Instead of an all-strawberry cake, I used raspberries for a portion of the strawberries that were called for.

I'd split the cake into three layers last night, so the assembly went together quickly this morning. I drained the berries in a sieve to get rid of the extra juice, then got going.

The amount of whipped cream seemed a little spare, so I was not overaggressive with what I used between layers.

In a few minutes, the cake was filled and ready to frost.

I am not necessarily a huge fan of whipped cream as a frosting, but I liked the way this one turned out. It seems like this could be a really versatile base, too: I'm thinking a peach-raspberry filling would be good, or pear-raspberry. This recipe will be revisited.

One confession: While I picked up a pint of local-farm-fresh strawberries for this cake (intended for decoration), I ended up eating most of them because they tasted so dang good. What a reminder of how dreadful mass-produced strawberries have become. That said, the mass-produced berries are what I used on top of the cake, and as the filling. No regrets there, either. I loved each and every fresh, sweet, juicy local berry I consumed.

If you'd like the recipe, please visit this week's hosts at Sophia's Sweets and Think, Love, Sleep, Dine. (Both of their cakes look amazing!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Oasis Naan

I'm about a week late with my Oasis Naan for the Tuesdays With Dorie project. Since I knew I was going to be out of town the weekend before the post date for blog reports, I planned to make the naan over Memorial Day weekend. Then, for Memorial Day weekend, it was about 7000°F with a dew point of 6999, and I didn't much feel like it would be a great idea to turn the oven on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I decided to make broccoli quiche for dinner, but needed an onion. I went to the nearest grocery store and bought the onion, along with four bags of other stuff, including a tikka masala sauce and some chicken. It wasn't til I was on my way home that I thought: Hey, naan would be good with chicken tikka masala. I knew I didn't have any scallions, and since I wasn't about to head back to the store, I decided to substitute chives, which I had bought for another recipe.

I ended up making the Oasis Naan dough by hand and have to admit I can't remember the last time I made a yeasted dough in that fashion. The dough was very easy to work with. After I got under way with baking the naan, I should have refrigerated the balls of dough that were awaiting baking as the dough was starting to get puffy as it sat in the warm kitchen.

One other plus to making the naan: I finally had a reason to use a pizza stone I got for my birthday last year. I couldn't track down my pizza peel, but instead, I used a huge spatula that I got for holding cake layers after they've been split. Worked like a charm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Pecan Sticky Buns

For this week's recipe in the Tuesdays With Dorie project, we made Pecan Sticky Buns. Compared to the Hungarian Shortbread, this recipe was more complicated, involving the production of brioche dough, then a lamination process with butter (a la croissants or puff pastry) to create some nice layers in the sticky buns. The brioche starts with a sponge, which gives the dough a nice boost of flavor.
After the sponge is ready, the dough is prepared. As far as making brioche dough, all I can say is three cheers for KitchenAid. The dough rises twice, with the second rise in the refrigerator overnight. After the second rise, the dough is divided into two parts. Each is rolled out, then laminated with butter. I haven't done this process for a long time, and I'd kind of forgotten in which direction to fold the dough for that business-letter process. The rolled-out dough is eventually brushed with beaten egg, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and chopped pecans. I ended up with two nice logs of dough, so I must have managed it all OK.
The rolls are frozen for about an hour; then each is sliced into seven portions. The sticky-buns-to-be are placed in a pan in which the bottom has been coated with a stick of butter and a half cup of brown sugar.
Finally, after rising at room temperature for a couple of hours, the rolls go into the oven, where the buttery-sugary goodness on the bottom of the pan all bubbles up over the top of the pan and drips onto the oven floor, causing a disturbing amount of smoke. Also, after about 40 minutes, you end up with a couple of pans of nice-looking Pecan Sticky Buns.
In the end, I had two thoughts about this one:
1. The sticky buns were pretty good, even if the process was fairly involved.
2. I wish I'd baked only one pan of sticky buns and used the over half of the dough for a loaf of brioche.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Hungarian Shortbread

Hungarian Shortbread

The latest recipe in our journey through Baking With Julia is Hungarian Shortbread, which featured contributing baker Gale Gand. Of all the recipes in the book, this is one of a handful that had caught my eye when I first purchased the book, although I never did quite get around to making it.

The technique is fascinating. You make a big batch of shortbread dough (unusual in that it contains egg yolks), chill it, then shred half the dough into the baking pan, top it with jam, then shred the rest of the dough on top of the jam. I managed to survive the shredding process pretty well, without shredding too much of my hands and fingers. In the book, the recipe calls for a homemade rhubarb jam. As I was unable to find rhubarb in any local store, I ended up using some Smuckers apricot jam. When the shortbread is right out of the oven, it's coated liberally with powdered sugar. I ended up giving it an additional dousing after it had cooled down as well.

After I divided up my batch of Hungarian Shortbread, I checked in to the TWD discussion of the recipe and discovered two things:
1. I wasn't the only one who had a somewhat goopy center to their shortbread. If I'd checked in ahead of time, I'd have known that I should have partially baked the bottom crust, even though the recipe doesn't say you should.
2. I should check the discussion thread before I bake anything henceforth in this project.

In the end, despite the soft center pieces, the shortbread was utterly edible. I cut it into fairly small pieces, which was a good decision as this baked item is quite sweet. I'll definitely try this again, and the next time I do, I will partially bake the bottom crust first.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Lemon Loaf Cake

Our latest excursion into Baking With Julia is Lemon Loaf Cake. I will say up front that I have not tasted this cake yet, so I don't know if it's actually good. All signs, however, indicate that I at least have made something edible.

This loaf is sort of like a pound cake, only prepared sort of like a genoise. (I do have to ask: Seriously? 5-1/2 tablespoons of butter? Good grief. I normally embrace the decimal, but not when it leaves me with a weird amount of a stick of butter.) Three lemons' worth of zest gave the batter a nice, citrusy aroma. I juiced the lemons and made an easy brush-on glaze with the juice and some granulated sugar. Rather than heat the glaze to dissolve the sugar, I left it granular, thinking that it will give the exterior of the cake a sweet, crunchy texture. Also, could a little extra boost of lemon flavor possibly hurt?

I'm looking forward to trying this cake. When I was a kid, I felt ripped off if my mom made a pound cake or Bundt cake because -- hello -- no frosting! Now, I love the flavor of a simple pound cake or Bundt cake, glazed or not. I think this realization may have happened while I was exploring Lisa Yockelson's Baking by Flavor, and it certainly came to its full expression while I baked my way through Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes and have begun to explore Simple Cakes. I'm thinking that Lemon Loaf Cake will make for a nice dessert tomorrow after lunch.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nutella Brownie Bites

A little something from Abby Johnson Dodge's Desserts 4 Today, a cookbook in which every recipe has only four ingredients. Instead of the called-for chopped hazelnuts, I used mini chocolate chips on top of these Nutella Brownie Bites. Ridiculously easy, and tasty. (Another sad example of a good cookbook that has idled for far too long on my bookshelf.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica
Our latest adventure from Baking With Julia is Pizza Rustica, which came from contributing baker Nick Malgieri, who is pretty terrific. Upon reading the recipe, I became a little skeptical about what this would turn out to be: a savory pie (ricotta, mozzarella, pecorino romano, prosciutto, eggs) in what seemed to be a sweet cookie crust. Also, there was the whole work aspect of this recipe. I don't make pies for a reason: Crust is a nuisance, and also, they require a lot of work for minimal payback in terms of enjoyment in my household.

Then I realized I could dovetail my need to provide food for a skating-club event with Pizza Rustica prep weekend. Few things make my heart beat faster than the opportunity to use friends as guinea pigs for my culinary adventures, so it was decided: Pizza Rustica would be my light mid-afternoon entree-snack-noshy thing.

Although the recipe directs the prep of the crust to be done in a food processor, I used my KA mixer. On the rare occasions that I make a pie dough, I have found that I prefer the way the KA paddle blends the butter into the dry ingredients.

Once the crust was done, I refrigerated it overnight. Then, while half paying attention to the crust and half paying attention to the men's long programs at the world figure-skating championships, I got busy with the rolling-out portion of my day. After I had the crust shaped on the marble, I rolled it around my rolling pin, then fit it in the pie plate.

Crust in the pan
My experience with crust is usually a nightmare, with splits, cracks, breaks, fractures, agonies, pains, discomforts ... you get the picture. After I got this crust in the pie plate, I looked at it and thought: Have I been replaced with someone who can actually handle pie dough? If so, when did that happen?

I trimmed the edges of the crust, then filled it with the cheesy-prosciuttoey filling. Next step was the lattice top. The recipe didn't specify a lattice weave, but after watching Yuzuru Hanyu nail a brilliant long program, I felt bold. I've never woven a lattice pie top before, but for a first-time effort, I'm not displeased with the result.

Lattice top on pizza, without crust trimmed

Lattice on, trimmed, and crimped to the bottom crust
With the lattice all set, I popped the Pizza Rustica in the oven. I figured I didn't have much to lose and, frankly, was pretty optimistic that I'd at least have something attractive, if potentially odd to consume.

Fresh from the oven
So it was out of the oven, smelled great, and was ready to serve. The reviews were raves. When I finally had a piece, I had to agree. Perhaps not a quad, but definitely a triple axel. My skepticism was unfounded. I'm still not sure that this pizza would fly on the home front, but I could definitely see myself making this again. For that matter, I can see myself making an actual pie, with an actual crust, perhaps even with a woven lattice top.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pie recipe is from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell. I used the chocolate frosting recipe from the Buttercup Bake Shop books for the filling. Great combo.

BTB: Cornmeal Lime with Chile

Recipe No. 3 from Cake Simple, Cornmeal Lime with Chile. Only I skipped the chile. I don't necessarily love mixing my sweet with my savory. This cake was fine, but it didn't totally bowl me over. I suspect it would be really good in the summer with some fresh blueberries or raspberries, or maybe as the base for a berry shortcake.

Crazy Hazelnut Brownies

Made these brownies using the brownie app from Fine Cooking magazine. The basic brownie is my go-to brownie recipe. This batch was gilded with hazelnuts, Nutella, frangelico, orange zest, and a cookie crust.

BTB: Triple Chocolate Banana

Recipe No. 2 from Cake Simple, Triple Chocolate Banana cake. No complaints.

Banana Cupcakes

Recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. Good cupcakes, but the frosting was more of a glaze.

Also, I have to give props to this cool search feature on the KA website. Very handy!

[Politically Incorrect Name] Cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day

A bit belated here, but I made these cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day. They are, um, the bomb. I don't think I'll be reserving them for Irish holidays.

BTB: Cranberry-Creme Fraiche

My first recipe from Cake Simple was the Cranberry-Creme Fraiche cake. My mistake was the pan choice I made for this one. It was a bit oddly shaped to handle the cranberry filling. That said, this cake is terrific, and I will be making it again in the fall when cranberries are back in season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Irish Soda Bread

After reading the intro blurb for this recipe, I felt really reluctant to make it. I wasn't enthusiastic about making something that would be "as hard as the Blarney Stone" after one day. Then I saw some comments at the TWD site that indicated that this assessment might have been a little over the top.

It's a pretty simple recipe: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. To buy myself a little more freshness time, I made a couple of tweaks: I replaced a portion of the buttermilk with 1/4 cup of melted butter; and I also added a cup of dark raisins that I'd macerated in some Irish whiskey.

The whole thing came together really well, and before I put it in the oven, I sprinkled the top with a tablespoon or so of coarse sugar. The soda bread looks like a giant scone. It's yet to be tasted, but it's going to be served at an event less than 24 hours after it was baked. I hope it holds up. I'll report back later on that, and also get a better photo.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon cupcakes, filled with lemon curd, topped with lemon buttercream.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rugelach

For our third Tuesdays With Dorie assignment, we got to make rugelach, better known as rug unlatch. Thanks, autocorrect! (I don't even know what that means. Rug unlatch? Really?) Since I've never made rugelach before, I was looking forward to getting under way with this recipe.

I started by making a batch of lekvar, the spread that's smeared over the rolled out rugelach. (Lekvar: Was that ever the name of an alien race on Star Trek? If not, why not?) I used apricots for my batch of lekvar as I'm not a big fan of prunes. The lekvar is basically dried apricots plumped in hot water, then pureed with a little brown sugar. To finish, you stir in some finely chopped toasted nuts (I used almonds).

Next up, the dough. It seemed pretty straightforward: a lot of butter, a lot of cream cheese, some sugar. I got that done and in the fridge to chill, then thought about fillings.

I suppose I could have just done a couple of cups of mixed fruit and some randomly assorted nuts for the fillings, but I decided to specialize. Since I had an open bag of pecans and an open bag of sliced almonds, they became my nut choices. I would do one-half of the rugelach with each nut variety. Then, I further subdivided. I knew I'd end up making four varieties of cookies, so I chose four different fillings:

• dried blueberry-toasted pecan
• chocolate chip-toasted pecan
• dried mango-toasted almond
• dried cherry-toasted almond

After I prepped all the fillings, I was ready to roll out my first batch of dough.  I was happy with the dough. It was fairly easy to work with and stuck only in a few places. Since the recipe was clear about not rolling it too thin, I did measure to make sure I was staying within the 10-in. by 14-in. rectangle size recommended.

Here, the dried blueberry version is rolled up, and the chocolate chip rugelach is ready to roll.

Next up, it was the dried mango and the dried cherry. I rolled the dried cherry dough a little thinner than recommended. I then learned why it's recommended to keep it on the thicker side as I ended up with tears in the dough. Fortunately, I saved the trimmings from previous batches of dough, and was able to patch the holes.

Here are the rolls of dough, ready to chill and rest for a few hours.

After the chilling and resting (and hey, who doesn't like to chill and rest?), it was time to brush the rolls with an egg wash, slice the rugelach, then coat the slices with cinnamon nut sugar. The ones above are ready to go in the oven.

They bake for a fairly long time in a fairly hot oven. While the recipe recommends double-panning to prevent overcaramelizing the sugar in the cookies, I didn't double-pan and didn't have a problem. Actually, the bottoms of the cookies caramelized nicely, and the bottoms are addictively crispy.

The finished product. They are like little crumb cakes with delicious fillings. The dried mango maybe wasn't the best choice. It stayed kind of tough in the cookies. I probably should have plumped it in some warm water before I sliced it, but it's still kind of fibrous. My favorite is the cherry-dried almond.

While these cookies taste great and look pretty good, I have to say that this recipe was really time-consuming and involved. It's definitely a special-occasion thing, or maybe a snow-day sort of undertaking.