Friday, January 30, 2009

Food for Thought: Talking With my Mouth Full

Hey guys, another quickie post here.

I just want to make sure the world knows that I did my assigned homework (we middle children are people pleasers, you know) and read this month's Food for Thought book, Talking with my Mouth Full, Crabcakes, Bundt Cakes and Other Kitchen Stories, by Bonnie Wolf.

This book read more like a collection of essays rather than a story. That's OK though, it's perfect for those times when you have 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.

Ms. Wolf has lived in many different parts of the country that exposed her to a huge variety of culinary experiences. Maryland crabcakes, Minnesota anti-pasta (I know, it doesn't seem to fit, but I learned a lot about anti-pasta in that chapter), Texas chili, and the list goes on.

I enjoyed this book. There were so many recipes included that sounded delish. Unfortunately, I read it over Christmas and promptly returned it to the library before I wrote down specifics I wanted to talk about in my review. (So much for my career as a literary critic, LOL). I promise I'll have more substance next time.

Next month we read Bite Me: Food In Popular Culture. If you'd like to join us, feel free to stop by.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles

Daring Bakers...

Got the tuiles made earlier in the month.

No time to post. (Still unpacking from our move. Husband wants to throw Super Bowl party this Sunday. Deadlines at work. Snow day #3 today. Kids driving me mad.)

Recipe notes:

- fairly easy recipe (thank goodness!!!)
- tuiles are cute and fun
- a little time consuming. I couldn't manage to get my act together enough to make more than two at a time.
- might make these again if I really want to impress someone or as decoration.
- chocolate mousse was delish! (see link to recipe below.)

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a baking sheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Chocolate Mousse

Check out the recipe here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread, chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle. (You can find the recipe at Heather's site, or in Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking: From my Home to Yours".)

I'm calling this "Farewell Gingerbread". It was the last recipe I made in our old house. I gave most of it away... neighbors (as I said good bye), the moving guys, and also the school bus driver. (You'd think we were moving across country, when we're really only moving one neighborhood over.)

The verdict? I thought it was pretty good! I made some modifications (mainly reducing the ginger) that you can see at the bottom of the post. I think next time I would do it the same as I did, but omit the top chocolate frosting. I thought the gingerbread by itself was better and (as I've mentioned before in other anti-chocolate-and-spice posts) the extra chocolate detracted from the spice flavor. (One of the moving guys thought it was perfect, though, so who knows.)

Oh, and I used my fancy adjustable pan for the first time, since I didn't have a 9-inch pan. I got this from a cake-decorating friend in England. I don't know if these are common there. I've never seen them on this side of the pond.

It comes with a tray and six pieces.

Here are the sides in place.

Then add the cross pieces. You can make it any size from 3 inches to 10 inches.

You line the pan with parchment paper to keep it from leaking. Here it is, ready for the oven.

How cool is that??!!! If you're reading this Sue, many thanks for the awesome pan.

Baking notes:

I made several modifications to the recipe:
1. I didn't add melted chocolate to the batter. One, that just didn't sound appealing to me, and two, I have to be in the mood to melt chocolate, and I wasn't.
2. I used semi-sweet chocolate rather than bittersweet for both the chunks in the batter and the glaze. I just can't get into bitter chocolate. (I've tried though!)
3. I only added 2 teaspoons ginger root rather than 2 tablespoons. The recommended amount just seemed like too much, besides, that's all I had.
4. I omitted the stem ginger in syrup. There definitely wasn't room on the "To Do" list for stem ginger.

OK, gotta run! I can't wait to see how everyone else's turned out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cake Slice: Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache

Welcome to the January edition of The Cake Slice, where members bake up a monthly cake from the cookbook “Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes” by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. On the menu this month was Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache.

(Is it just me, or have recipe titles gotten really, really long?)

The praline filling was interesting and introduced me to “sugared pecans” for the first time (both eating and making them). The method for making the sugared pecans was new as well… we first boiled the pecans for 5-8 minutes, let them drain, then coated them with powdered sugar, then deep fried them.

And how were they? Dad-gum good!! I just happened to have a hot cup of tea as I was making them, and let me tell you, just-warm sugared pecans with a cup of hot tea… out of this world! It was hard to save them for the cake.

The filling consisted of chopped sugared pecans with white chocolate ganache. Here you can see it (somewhat) before icing. (Love that skimpy bottom layer of filling... not!)

I'm sorry to say I didn't sample the cake. I sent it with my sister-in-law, who works for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to one of the MDA's monthly events. I heard back, though, that it was delicious.

I'm just happy to have been introduced to sugared pecans.

OK, over and out until next month! If you want the recipe either A) buy the book (you won't be sorry, I promise), or B) check it out here, courtesy of Gigi from Gigi Cakes, and our fearless leader.

No Tuesday's with Dorie

Sorry, folks, I won't be able to participate in this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Berry Surprise Cake, chosen by Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen. I have a good excuse... we're moving this week, just across the way.

That leads me to a question though... do any of you bakers out there have a convection oven? I've been using gas for as long as I can remember. Not only is the new oven electric, but convection to boot.

Ack, how does one bake with a convection oven?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

I’m not sure why my childhood and adolescence were completely void of cornbread.

Was it that we westerners fed the corn to the cows and sheep, saving none for human consumption?

Was it meat-and-potatoes all the way in the small, farm towns of my childhood?

Maybe German folks don’t “do” cornbread. Maybe Lutherans and Catholics don’t either? I dunno.

What about the American Indians and Latinos I grew up with? Were my friend’s families secretly eating cornbread without my knowing?

I pondered these questions as I ate my chili and cornbread muffin, this week’s Tuesday’s with Dorie pick, (actually, they were Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins). Many thanks to Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake for choosing.

Too bad we didn’t have Paula Deen on Food TV whipping up good ole' Southern home cooking back then. Maybe then I'd have known about and maybe even tried them.

Suffice it to say I didn’t know what to expect this week. I’ve never made cornbread. I was a little perplexed by the stiff, dry batter. Was I supposed to mush it down, or leave it like this?

I ended up mushing it down a bit and it seemed to turn out OK. I opted for the standard cornbread rather than the savory version which included red bell peppers, cilantro, and black pepper.

The verdict? I thought they tasted good. However, they were very crumbly and literally fell apart in my hands as I ate them. That's kind of a deal-breaker for me. I like food that stays together. I doubt I'll make these again.

But as always, it was a learning experience.

By the way, I asked my mom if we ever ate cornbread when I was young. She said she made cornbread occasionally, but when pressed, she couldn’t remember what she made it with. Or where we lived at the time. I think she’s making it up, LOL.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TWD: French Pear Tart

One year ago, Laurie, from quirky cupcake decided she wanted to "bake through" the cookbook "Baking: From my Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenspan, which means she planned to bake every single solitary recipe from the book. This is no small feat, considering there are hundreds of recipes. I don't even know how many... 200? 300?

She asked if anyone would like to join her, and "Tuesday's with Dorie" was born.

The response was overwhelming. Of course, we bakers wanted to join in! It's a gorgeously photographed book with a huge variety of delicious sounding recipes. Who could resist?

In celebration of TWD's one year anniversary, Dorie Greenspan herself has chosen this week's recipe French Pear Tart.

(I topped one slice with blackberry puree.)

The tart consists of a sweet tart dough (which reminds me of a shortbread cookie) with a ground almond based filling topped with sliced pear halves.

The verdict? I'm already a fan of almond flavored desserts so it wasn't hard for me to love this tart. The pears gave it a velvety sweetness that perfectly complimented the almond filling. It almost seemed to me like a giant cookie, topped with almondy goodness.

I would definitely make this again.

Thanks so much to Dorie for picking this lovely dessert (you can find the recipe on Dorie's site, or better yet, do yourself a favor and buy the book) and to Laurie for starting this most awesome baking group. I personally have grown by leaps and bounds as a baker, and also I've become much more open-minded about trying new flavors. Thank you both!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

November and December Roundup

While I'm between baking assignments, I thought I'd post my favorite recipes of those I've baked the last few months.

I wanted to share one of my favorite random photos first, though. I can see myself and one side of my kitchen reflected in the mixing bowl. Which is totally by accident. If I'd have been trying to do that, it probably wouldn't have turned out.

Anyway, my favorites from December were:

1. Apple Crumb Pie
2. Real Butterscotch Pudding
3. Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

My November favorites were:

1. The icing from Caramel Cake
2. Cyndi Lauper Checkerboard Hair Pie
3. Ultimate Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
4. Rugelach

(There appears to be a "Pie and Cookies" theme emerging here.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Operation Baking Gals, Round 5

This was my care package for Operation Baking Gals, Round 5, sent to a soldier named Dustin. I wish I could have packed the whole Christmas tree in the box along with mugs of steamy hot chocolate and a gentle falling snow.

I feel so bad for the soldiers that are away for Christmas, and their families. But all I can do is send my box of cookies and say my prayers for their quick and safe return.

Here are the cookies I made...

Butter Crunch Cookies

This was my favorite cookie from this year's cookie exchange with my cake decorating club. They were made by Ceil Kessler, who always manages to make the tastiest treats. This cookie is strangely addictive... I wasn't in love with them at first, but I keep on sampling them and before I knew it the only thing I wanted in life was more of these cookies. I believe this this recipe comes from

2 C. butter, softened
2 C. sugar
3 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tarter
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 C. Cornflakes, lightly crushed
1 C. chopped pecans

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in the cornflakes and pecans.

Scoop by spoonful and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, or cover sheet with parchment paper. *don't use a silpat, I tried one and they spread like crazy* Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 8 dozen

Candy Cane Snowballs

This was my favorite cookie from last year's cookie exchange with my cake decorating club, and was made by Sue Tickel, who wins every cake decorating contest she enters. They come from Taste of Home.

2 C. butter, softened
1 C. powdered sugar
3-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. chopped pecans
8 oz. white chocolate or white candy coating
1/3 to 1/2 C. crushed peppermint candy

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add flour. Stir in pecans. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until easy to handle.

Roll into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate or candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie into the candy coating, then into the peppermint candy.

Makes 5 dozen.

Sugar Spiral Cookies

This is my normal sugar cookie recipe, which you can find at the bottom of ----> this post. Or I'm sure any sugar cookie dough would work.

What I did is to roll the whole batch of dough into as close of a rectangle as I could, maybe a little less than 1/4 inch thick. You don't want them too thick or you won't have a very big spiral (unless of course, you want them that way). My rectangle was maybe 8 inches deep by however long that made them. I trimmed the edges to make a clean rectangle.

I sprinkled a whole gob of red sanding sugar over the rectangle and then pressed it in slightly using my rolling pin. I then rolled them up into a log.

I wet the edge a little so it would hold the spiral shut. Then refrigerated the log until well chilled. At least a half hour. Then I sliced into 1/4 inch slices, chilled for a little while, and baked like normal.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Of course, I had to do like everyone else in the blogosphere and try the famous New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I thought they were very good. I can't say that they were heads and tails above any other recipe I've tried. But they were good, I would make them again.

OK, over and out until next month!! Many thanks to Val and Randy from Just Add Nuts for leading this month's effort.