Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Fresh Rhubarb Upside Down Baby Cakes

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Fresh Rhubarb Upside Down Baby Cakes. Essentially, this is an upside-down cake made with rhubarb, done in individualized portions.

I have worked pretty diligently to adhere to the recipes as printed in the book for this project. Here, I just didn't do it. I couldn't find any fresh rhubarb (weird, I know, because it should be in season). Also, frankly, I wasn't in the mood to mess around with making eight individual-size cakes.

Instead, I used raspberries and blueberries that I had in the fridge, plus an open bag of sliced almonds, for the topping. I used a deep 9-in. cake pan for the cake. It took a little longer to bake than I'd have needed if I'd used the 12-in. pan that the book recommends as an alternative. (No insane ingredient this week, but I would like to say that the 12-in. cake pan is a little bit on the nutty side.)

All in all, this project was a pleasant reminder of the delight of an upside-down cake. I loved the topping I used, and the cake in this case is definitely not an afterthought.

For the recipe, visit this week's host, Erin, at her blog!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Madeleines

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, we made madeleines. Pretty simple little cakes: a genoise batter, baked in a pan with shell-shaped molds. They are quick, easy, and wonderful. While I know that they are a cake whose freshness period is fleeting, I think they tasted better about 12 hours after baking than they did when they were fresh. (I wasn't expecting that, either.)

For the recipe, visit this week's hosts!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rustic Potato Loaves

This week's adventure in Tuesdays With Dorie is rustic potato loaves. The recipe is pretty straightforward, and for a yeast bread, it's fairly quick to produce. I was really interested in seeing how the bread would turn out as potato bread is fairly popular in our household. It's just that it's not this type of potato bread.

As you can see from the photo, not all potato bread is created equal. Personally, I like the crusty, toothsome version. While I buy the spongy, soft variety (white only, never the "whole wheat" variety), it is not what I consume. (If you are sensing a parent-child tug-of-war here, you would definitely be heading down the right track.)

Clearly, I didn't quite get the torpedo-shaped loaves that the recipe was directing me toward, but that's OK. I'm really happy with this bread. It took longer to bake than I was expecting, but that also was fine. The texture of these loaves was excellent, and I think this is the first rustic-style bread I've ever made that developed a crust worthy of the label "rustic." I also think that this might be my favorite bread recipe from TWD so far.

For this week's recipe and a spectacularly creative take on this bread, visit this week's host, Dawn, at Simply Sweet!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, our recipe was mocha chocolate chip cookies. I checked out the recipe and it pretty much looked like the standard Toll House cookie recipe, minus a bit of flour.

I hate that recipe.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

I can make Italian, Swiss, and French buttercreams. I can make marshmallows. I can make croissants. For the life of me, I can't make the Toll House cookie recipe generate a cookie that I'd actually want to eat. I've tried every trick I can think of to make that recipe create something other than a flat, fragile, lacy debacle: I've tried using melted butter instead of room temperature solid butter. I've tried refrigerating the dough. I've tried baking on cold sheet pans. I've tried using parchment and Silpats. I've tried ungreased cookie sheets. Still, the same result. The most success I've had is either by using more flour or by using bread flour. (I did have some moderate success using the recipe in the book from the One Girl Cookies folks, but can't quite recall how they have tweaked it.)

When I looked at this recipe, my first thought was, "This is total filler in this cookbook. It's a Toll House cookie with instant coffee in it. Big deal." I made it anyway. Clearly, I took a slightly different tack.

First, I did substitute bread flour. After letting the dough refrigerate for 24 hours, I opted to bake two test cookies to see what would happen. They flattened out more than I wanted, so I went to plan B. I lined a 9x13 pan with nonstick aluminum foil (a completely genius product), dumped in the remaining dough, and baked it for 25 minutes. Listen, I used a pound of Ghirardelli double chocolate chips in this batter. I wasn't going to end up with a batch of something inedible. Hence, hello, bar cookie!

They are perfectly adequate. I'm not sure I love the combo of coffee and diced apricots, but whatever. They're edible, and I know they'll get eaten.

For the recipe, visit this week's host!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Croissants

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, we made croissants. I've actually made croissants before, when I was in cooking school. It was late afternoon one day in early August, and the day we started them, it was in the 90s in terms of temperature, with a fairly high dew point. Needless to say, in our modestly climate-controlled kitchen, these conditions were not optimal for the preparation of croissants. I mean, how were we supposed to prevent the butter from softening, much less melting, as we were shaping it even prior to starting to laminate the dough? Needless to say, it wasn't the optimal training situation for first-time croissant makers. I don't recall how they turned out, but it certainly wasn't an experience that had me revved up ever to try it again.

Fast forward 20 years, and there I was, all gung ho that we should tackle croissants for March 2013. Apparently, enough other people agreed and that was the choice. Then I looked at my schedule and saw only disaster. I was prepared to pull the plug on it before I even got going. On top of work insanity on weekdays and a class I started last Tuesday night, my weekend leading up to croissant day for TWD was as follows:

Saturday: Be at high school by 7:45 a.m. to help with Girl Scout cookie distribution. At 10:30, leave cookie distribution to take the child to work (50-minute drive from home). Idle while child is working, then rush home to take child to meet friends at the movies. Run to library to return books before library closes. Get home. Run errands and help prep for daylong Girl Scout cookie booth Sunday. Help to double-check cookie orders for troop.

Sunday: Up at 5:30. Quick workout, then shower, then off to drop off huge GS cookie order at location 45 minutes from home. Rush back to the grocery store to help with cookie booth sale, all day long, outside, in the cold, with intermittently blustery wind. Sale scheduled to go from 9 a.m. til 4 p.m. (Reality: We were at the store til 5:30 p.m.)

Yes, somehow in that mess, I was supposed to squeeze in croissants. I checked the questions thread at TWD and decided I had to throw in the towel on this one. I couldn't see how I was going to make it happen. When I checked the recipe in Baking With Julia, that firmed up my decision. The recipe just seemed too time-consuming.

Then I remembered a feature Fine Cooking did a few years ago on from-scratch croissants and decided to check that out to see if maybe there was a way I could streamline the Baking With Julia process. Remembering that article ended up being a major save.

In the end, I used a hybrid of the two processes. I suspect that perhaps my croissants weren't as light and flaky as the Baking With Julia ones would have been, followed to the letter. On the other hand, I wasn't going to argue with what came out of my oven.

How did I get it done? On Friday, I started the dough, then left it in the fridge for almost 24 hours before coming back to it. On Saturday, after I got home from the library but before starting errands, I made the butter layer, rolled out the block of dough, then did the first incorporation of the butter into the dough. I popped that in the fridge, then ran some errands. When we got home, I rolled out the dough for the second lamination. Then we ran out to grab a quick dinner. When we got home from dinner, I did the third lamination. Then I squared off the corners of the block of dough, wrapped it up tight, and put it in the fridge. Sunday night, even before I cleaned out my car of cookie-booth debris, I rolled out the dough, then cut and shaped the croissants. I wasn't sure what I'd do for a warm, moist area to let them rise. After glazing them with an egg wash, I decided just to put the baking sheets in the oven with the oven light on. After two hours, they looked puffy and jiggly, so I figured they were good enough to bake. I reglazed them with the egg wash and popped them back in the hot oven. At this point, I was optimistic.

Every three minutes, I was looking in the oven window. When I rotated the trays halfway through the baking time, I was starting to feel pretty full of myself, because I realized I had managed to pull off something that I didn't think I had a chance of doing just a few days before.

All in all, I could not be happier about how the croissants turned out. What saved me, I think, is that there is not necessarily as much active time as there is resting time for the dough.

The croissants ended up being a huge hit at home. Usually, I bring baked goods in to work to share. I didn't bring in the croissants, for two reasons:

1. I enjoy having my limbs attached to my body.
2. I prefer sleeping indoors.

My photographic documentation is pathetic. That is definitely one part of this project that suffered this time around. On the other hand, I am feeling pretty certain that I will actually make croissants again. In fact, I think I have to, as I want to make chocolate croissants. Also, I'm feeling pretty good about the prospect of making puff pastry and danish pastry. My favorite part of Monday has been doing a recap of my crazy weekend, and finishing it off by saying, "Oh, and I made croissants from scratch, too."

For the full recipe, visit this week's host at Girl + Food = Love.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Boca Negra

For our second Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for February, we made Boca Negra, a basically boozy, almost flourless chocolate cake. The cake assembles pretty easily, except for one small problem incorporating softened butter into a melted chocolate-whiskey sugar syrup. Apparently, there is supposed to be enough residual heat to melt the butter enough for it to blend into the chocolate-syrup mixture. I ended up having to do that over a double boiler.

Other than that, everything about this cake was smooth. I opted out of the boozy white chocolate cream recommended as an accompaniment for the cake, thinking that it might be too much for the 17-year-old. Instead, I served it with lightly sweetened mashed raspberries and whipped cream. Definitely a hit.

For another story about Boca Negra and the recipe, visit this week's host at A Frederick Food Garden.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Focaccia

Due to both the cold weather and the recent U.S. figure-skating championships, I was pretty much indoors a couple of weekends ago. Since I was inside anyway and had the computer in the kitchen anyway (for streaming video of all the skating stuff that wasn't being shown on TV), I decided to tackle the two February Tuesdays With Dorie projects in one day.

My plan was to make focaccia dough, then bake the bread and serve it with pasta for Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, I merely scanned the recipe and didn't read it thoroughly, which meant that I was out of luck as I started the focaccia on Sunday at noontime. I missed that whole thing about letting the dough rise in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours.

Nonetheless, I had the dough under way and decided I'd just finish it off a day later, which freed us to have dinner at Panera. Ha.

I wasn't sure we'd be up for eating three focaccias, so after I separated the dough into three portions, I froze two of them and baked off one. Although the process was a bit time-consuming, I think everyone in the house was thrilled with how the focaccia turned out. I made the focaccia with olive oil, kosher salt, and chopped rosemary.

For this week's recipe, visit Sharmini at Wandering Through ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: French Apple Tart

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie adventure was French Apple Tart. Lots of little steps for this one, but I spread it over a couple of days, which made the process manageable. I started off by making the roasted-apple filling, then refrigerating it for a day. I was pretty happy with how the filling turned out, but was skeptical about how it would fare as tart filling. Meanwhile, rather than use the pie dough recipe in Baking With Julia, I turned to my standby vodka crust from Cook's Illustrated. In addition to being easier to put together and handle, it also makes a single crust.

As I was gearing up to start putting things together, I pulled out my tart pans and discovered I have three 9-in. tart pans with removable bottoms. Only one of them, however, has the bottom ring. Good grief. 

Anyway, after I blind-baked the crust, I filled it and put sliced apples on top. In hindsight, I know I needed more apples on top as they shrunk a bit while baking. I ended up having enough leftover pie dough and filling for a mini-tart, so I made one of those as well.

Again, when it came out of the oven, the apples on top had shrunk. Even though I baked the tart 15 minutes longer than the recommended time, I didn't get the slightly blackened edges to the apples either, or much of a caramelized glaze from the sugar sprinkled on top. However, I thought it ended up looking pretty terrific.

Just out of the oven

The tart was out of the oven and cooled just in time for Downton Abbey. Couldn't have worked out any better than that!

This is a recipe I'd revisit in a heartbeat. It might be fun to make the roasted apples with some raspberries or maybe cranberries, too, to play around with the filling.

For the recipe, visit this week's host, Laws of the Kitchen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Citrus Cupcakes

I made a couple of batches of this Key lime cupcake recipe, one with regular limes, one with lemons. I filled both batches with lime curd, using this recipe. The curd recipe is so easy and seems relatively foolproof. For the frosting, I used the recipe that accompanied the cupcake recipe. However, I split the extract amount so that it was half vanilla and half coconut. For half of the cupcakes, I sprinkled coconut on top. With this project, I used the remainder of the limes I'd purchased for holiday baking in December. Now I have a few lemons to convert into something tasty.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Pizza with Onion Confit

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, we got to make pizza with onion confit. While cooking the onions, I couldn't help but think of a joke we used to share when I was in cooking school: "How do you make a duck confit? Give him warm slippers, a cozy jacket, a comfy chair ..." OK, OK, it certainly cracked us up at the time. All in all, I really essentially liked this recipe. I liked that there was enough dough for two pizzas, which allowed me to start with one plain pizza:

Then I made the pie with the onion confit:

While I liked the onion confit, I'm not sure I liked it as a pizza topping, which is odd because I like caramelized onions as a pizza topping. Maybe I used too much of the confit on the pizza. I do think it would be kind of excellent on a grilled cheese, though. The combination of a very hot oven, a sprinkling of cornmeal, and a heated pizza stone provided for an excellent crust on this pizza. I almost couldn't believe it was homemade, except for the fact that my crust-shaping skills are uninspiring.

Bottom line: I think it's likely that this crust recipe will be revisited, and soon. I don't know if I'll redo the confit as a topping, but I would definitely make pizza at home again.

For the recipe, visit this week's host, Paul, at The Boy Can Bake.

No insane ingredients this week, but over the holidays, I managed to use up the bag of semolina flour I'd purchased for the semolina bread we made last year. I found a terrific biscotti recipe at the King Art website, then made many batches of biscotti.