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.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TWD: Palets de Dames

With the arrival of Baking Chez Moi, it's time for more baking with Dorie Greenspan! I missed out on the bake-along for Baking From My Home to Yours and started out with best intentions to stick with Baking With Julia. Circumstances and schedules, however, left me falling far behind, and I ended up bailing on that endeavor. This time, I'm determined to stick with the plan and make my way through Baking Chez Moi.

Our first recipe is Palets de Dames. They're a simple cookie with a dough that is borderline cake batter and requires refrigeration to firm up before baking. After the cookies are baked, they cool and then are dipped in a simple glaze. The sprinkles are optional, but who am I to miss out on a chance to use sprinkles? The fairly unassuming nature of these cookies makes me think they could be a nice option for a holiday cookie tray to contrast with other more complicated offerings.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes

Apparently, I never get tired of making these chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream from More from Magnolia.

Walnut Shortbread

After pulling out Magnolia cookbook No. 2 the other day to make cupcakes, I ended up making this shortbread instead. I subbed walnuts for pecans since I had them on hand and went ahead with the white chocolate glaze. All in all, very happy with how this batch turned out. I liked the recipe enough to start thinking about how much fun it would be to experiment with other nut/chocolate combinations. (Also, technically, I am not sure if purists would let this count as shortbread since the dough contains an egg.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

I tend to think of so many batches of chocolate chip cookies as failures; they tend to flatten out and not have a thick, chewy, chunky appearance. I felt, too, that I had tried nearly every trick in the book to get a good chocolate chip cookie (refrigerating the dough, using bread flour instead of all purpose, etc.). Whilst perusing Cookies for Kids' Cancer: All the Good Cookies, I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe that sounded worth a try, even though it made me wince a little as half of the fat in the cookie is solid vegetable shortening, which I'd read can help forestall spreading problems with chocolate chip cookies. (At least the other half is good old butter.) As much as I hate to say it, I really liked how these cookies turned out: not too much spread, thick and chewy, lots of chocolate chips. I still can't decide if I should be appalled about the shortening; I'd probably be more upset if the cookies had turned out badly.

Lemon-Poppyseed Angel Food Cake

After making a few batches of ice cream in the past couple of weeks, I had ended up with a surplus of egg whites, eventually enough to make an angel food cake. This recipe came from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mango-Lime Marshmallows

From Shauna Sever's Marshmallow Madness. Although the recipe calls for a bit of chili powder in them, I made them without. A fun flavor combination.