Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD: Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake

For this week's Tuesdays' with Dorie recipe, The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones chose Low and Luscious Chocolate Cheesecake.

I didn't know what to expect since I've never made chocolate cheesecake, or even tried it.

I thought it was good, but I have to admit it wasn't my favorite cheesecake flavor. (The more I make chocolate-based desserts, the more I'm thinking that chocolate doesn't play well as a back-up flavor.) But I'm glad I tried it. I have been curious to know what chocolate cheesecake tastes like. Plus, it's nice to have a chocolate cheesecake recipe up my sleeve in case I run into any choco cheesecake fans in need of a little homemade love.

I got some pretty major cracking on top. D'oh!

Thanks Tea Lady for the interesting pick. Please check out Tea Lady's site if you'd like to see the recipe, or see Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread House

I knew after missing last month's Daring Baker's challenge (I'm still planning on making those cannoli!) that I needed to step up to the plate and get this month's done.

And so, without further ado, I present to you my first ever gingerbread house, er, church.

It really wasn't hard at all. I don't know why I haven't tried it before. You make the dough (see recipe below) and let it rest in the fridge. Then roll it out and use a paper template to cut out the pieces. I used a template from this site.

I used royal icing to glue my pieces together.

Golden Grahams made for good shingles and a tasty snack to boot.

A sprinkling of powdered sugar is the finishing touch.

Thanks so much to Anna and Y for this awesome pick. I wouldn't have tried this on my own.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)
Click HERE for the online version

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TWD: My Favorite (Boozy) Pecan Pie

Updated to say: I forgot to mention the first time around that this is my December entry to the You Want Pies with That? blog event. This month we were challenged by June at Sweet Therapy to make a "Holiday Spirit Pie", i.e. an alcohol-insprired pie or tart. Thanks June, I thoroughly enjoyed this rummy pecan pie.

With this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Pecan Pie, I learned a few new things and confirmed another.

Not being a huge fan of pecans by themselves, I learned that roughly chopping the pecans rather than leaving them whole helps to avoid having a mouthful of nothing but pecans. I also learned that I'm too big a chicken to add chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon to pecan pie... sorry, Dorie!

I confirmed what I thought the first time I made pecan pie, that adding a little dark rum really kicks this dessert up a notch, like up to the stratosphere. I don't think plain old pecan pie will do it for me anymore. A touch of rum goes perfectly with the slightly bitter pecans and the sweet filling. (I discovered the rum/pecan pie connection when I made Wayne Harley Brachman's recipe, which you can find here.)

I reduced the recipe and made it in a single 4" tart shell. I had already baked the shell previously, so it did end up getting quite brown. I used sweet tart dough, which I really liked with the pecan pie filling. About a tablespoon of dark rum for a full recipe is just right.

I think I forgot to mention that this pie was awesome. Not too sweet, like Dorie said.

OK, one more week until the big day, Christmas! Merry Christmas to everyone and we'll see you next week!

Thanks so much to Beth of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Brina for the excellent pick this week. Please check out Beth's site for the recipe, or Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TWD: Cafe Volcano Cookies

Before I talk about this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, I just have to ask... what do y'all think about this whole Tiger Woods situation? Personally, I'm wondering how in the world it took this long for him to get caught, with the trail of evidence he seems to have left in his wake. What do you think?

Anyway, on to sweeter matters, LOL. Thanks to Macduff of The Lonely Sidecar we got to make a very easy and slightly strange cookie... Cafe Volcano Cookies. And by "strange", I don't mean bad, I just mean... unusual.

They couldn't be any simpler. Toasted, chopped nuts, sugar, espresso powder, and egg whites get thrown in a pot and heated briefly. Then mounds of the mixture are spooned onto cookie sheets and baked. The motley little piles turn into craggy, holey, crunchy cookies, perfect with coffee or tea.

I passed on the espresso and used almond extract and some concentrated strawberry flavoring I have on hand. The cookies were pretty good, although a tad sweet. I tend to like softer cookies, but they were a nice change and I did enjoy the toasted nut flavor.

OK, that's that. Thanks Macduff for the interesting cookie adventure this week (and thanks for an easy recipe! Gotta love those in December.) Please check out Macduff's site if you'd like to see the recipe, or see Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sables

Mmm, coooo-kies! I love cookies, making them and eating them. To me, it's so easy to whip up a batch of cookies. Some folks don't want to be bothered, but I say "no problem-o". Especially when they're slice and bake cookies like this week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe, Sables, chosen by Barbara of Bungalow Barbara.

Apparently sables are the French version of shortbread. I honestly thought they tasted a lot like my sugar cookies. Now, I didn't bake them for the allotted time, which seemed way too long to me (I prefer soft cookies to crisp). So maybe that had something to do with them seeming decidedly non-French and non-shortbread-ish.

My son and I are baking another batch today, so maybe I'll try leaving them in longer. I'm sure they'll still be delish.

OK, over and out until next week. If you'd like to see the recipe, please stop by Barbara's blog, or find a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TWD: Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

Oops... Somehow this turned into Wednesday's with Dorie...

If you've got a child's birthday that falls right after a major holiday you might understand my tardiness this week. At 6:00 yesterday I was still shopping for presents for my oldest baby's birthday party that was to take place at 7:00. Yikes!

Anyway, once the dust settled from the Thanksgiving cooking and eating marathon and the birthday festivities, I decided to treat myself to a nice leisurely day in the kitchen making this *fantastic* Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart, which was chosen for Tuesday's with Dorie by Lauren at I'll Eat You.

The caramelized pistachios were kinda fun to make.

And the pistachio pastry cream? OMG, give me a spoon and leave me be, please! I could eat this stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mine was extra nice and green thanks to me not realizing I didn't have any eggs until AFTER I poured the milk over the ground pistachios. (Gotta love those mid-recipe grocery store runs... not!)

I really loved this tart. I would place it squarely in my top 5 Dorie recipes. (My thighs are thanking me for only making one tiny little tart.)

Thanks so much to Lauren for the awesome pick! If you'd like to see the recipe check out Lauren's blog, or better yet, get the book "Baking, from My Home to Yours", by Dorie Greenpspan.