Thursday, September 30, 2010

FFWD: (That's French Fridays with Dorie) Gougeres

OMG, am I crazy or what? I don't have time for another blog event!

Yea, um. About that...

Welcome to the premier post for French Fridays with Dorie! (Too bad Dorie's name isn't Florie... "French Fridays with Florie" would sound awesome, LOL) This time around, we're baking through Dorie Greenspan's newest book "Around my French Table".

Dorie herself picked the recipes for October. (Thanks, Dorie!) First up is Gougeres, which is fancy talk for "cheese puffs" ;-).

Simple to make, delicious to taste. They start simple by first boiling water, milk, butter, and salt.

Flour is added all at once and the mixture stirred to beat the band.

The mixture quickly turns thick and pasty (if you've ever made homemade play-doh, it's exactly the same effect).

After hanging out to cool in the mixer for a minute, eggs are added one at a time and mixed thoroughly until...

you get a wonderful, shiny, smooth pate-a-chou dough.

Once you add the cheese, the puffs become cheese puffs.

The dough is scooped out onto the awaiting pan and baked (or, as for these guys, they're stowed in the freezer for later baking).

The final reward? Wonderfully cheesy gougeres....

Mmmm, perfect! How's that for a home run on the first at bat?

OK, that's it for this week. Join us next week for a mustardy Frenchy tart thingy. If you'd like to see the recipe... go check out the FFWD site (this month only, recipes are supplied), or get a copy of Dorie's new book!

TWD: Tarte Fine & Coffee Break Muffins

I know, I know! I'm two recipes behind on Tuesdays with Dorie. ("Late" seems to be the norm around here these days.)

Anyway, this week, Leslie of Lethally Delicious decided on Tarte Fine. I've really been looking forward to this recipe... it just seems so utterly simple and tasty. And French.

If I have time, I really enjoy making my own puff pastry. I find all of that rolling and folding relaxing. (If not, store-bought is just fine, though.)

I guesstimated how much was enough. After it was all said and done, I think I rolled it too thickly, though. (Oh well, next time...)

I used two apples, one Granny Smith and one Gala. I liked the difference in colors but they seemed to even out after baking.

As I said, I think the dough was too thick, or maybe I didn't bake for long enough (I did about 30 minutes) because the crust under the apples was a little doughy. It still tasted good, though. I think I'd like to try this again... it's a lovely little dessert. Thanks Leslie for a great pick! (Please see Leslie's blog for the recipe.)

Moving on (or backward)...

Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous picked Coffee-Break Muffins for last week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe.

Yea, they don't look like anything coffee, do they? Sorry, I don't do coffee... so that left me scratching my head wondering how to un-coffee-fy muffins that contain both espresso powder and brewed coffee.

I decided to do a whole-sale change-out of the coffee for something, anything, else.

Enter... strawberries! And tea.

I tried to stick with the spirit of the muffins, so I traded brewed tea for brewed coffee. I added small chunks of strawberry hoping to mimic the "Strawberry and Cream" scones from Panera (LOVE those!).

Sadly, fresh strawberries don't really work in muffins (notice the gaping, moist holes) but the muffins still tasted awesome. If I could find dried strawberries, I would definitely try these again. They were moist (I baked for less time than instructed) and light.

Thanks for the pick, Rhiana, I hope you don't take my anti-coffee muffins personally, LOL.

OK, all caught up now. If you'd like to see the muffin recipe, please stop by Rhiana's blog, or find a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Daring Bakers: Decorated Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Mandy added an extra challenge to the challenge by making it themed. We were to make decorated sugar cookies with a theme of "September".

I thought I'd make it a little "Diary in Cookies" to chronicle some of the more interesting happenings in my family this month. The big event this month was "back to school" after an extra long summer break.

This is my son's first year of middle school. Guess what time the middle school bus comes.

6:30 a.m.!

Oh sweet mother! I do not want to hear this at 5:45 am:

I'm not a morning person. This is about what I look like in the morning.

But... I'm slow but surely (sort of) getting used to it (I think, maybe).

September hasn't been all school and early rousing... we've had some fun too; like family birthday parties.

And watching the Cincinnati Reds as they march their way toward the playoffs (YEA!).

Another noteworthy event from this month was that my husband spent most of it in Thailand, on assignment with his job.

And... that's about it for September!

I used a slightly different method for coloring the cookies than using colored icings. You see, I despise coloring icing. I don't know why, but I do. Instead, I outlined all of my cookies in black and then filled in with white. I then let them sit overnight for the royal icing to harden some.

Then I used edible markers in some cases...

and watered down food coloring in others. When using this method, I dab the first bit of paint onto a paper towel so I don't lay down too much color. You have to be careful not to wet the royal icing too much.

I guess I need to admit that I don't use this coloring method often, mostly because I'm not crazy about hard royal icing on my cookies. But if you don't mind royal icing, it can be a time saver when you aren't making a large quantity of cookies. If you try it, you need to experiment to make sure the cookies turn out like you want... it's a little less predictable than coloring with paint on paper.

OK, If you'd like to see the recipes we used this month, please visit Mandy's site. She's got them posted. I have to admit that I prefer my own sugar cookie recipe just a bit more, so I'll post it here. But be sure to stop by Mandy's site, she's got some excellent tips and how-to photos.

Thanks Mandy, for a great challenge!

Melissa's Sugar Cookies

This is my go-to sugar cookie recipe that I got from a friend and cookie-decorator extraordinaire. These cookies are soft and cakey with just a hint of salt. This recipe is perfect for cut-out cookies or, any other sugar cookie needs, such as Halloween mummies.

1 C. sugar
1 C. salted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 to 3 C self-rising flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add 2-1/2 C. flour. If dough is sticky to the touch keep adding flour until no longer sticky. I typically use about 2-3/4 cups flour.

Dough does not need to be chilled, but can be. If the kitchen is warm, I will chill my pan of cut out cookie shapes before baking to keep them from spreading in the oven.

For cut out cookies, roll to desired thickness (I use a smidge thicker than 1/4 inch), cut shapes with cookie cutters and lay on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-9 minutes. I like them just set with no brown edges. Watch the tops while baking, when they no longer have a sheen, they're done.

If you want, stop by my "no cookie cutter? no problem" post to see how I roll them to a perfect thickness every time.

OK, see you next month!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TWD: Cranberry Upside-Downer

Sabrina of Superfluous chose Cranberry Upside-Downer for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

I've got to say this is one of the least attractive desserts I've turned out in a while. Although it looks like a peach-topped mound of goo, there really is cake under there somewhere. Honest! I don't know if I didn't bake it long enough or if it was too much butter/sugar for that size pan. Whatever! It looks like something that would come with the warning "Don't Try This at Home!".

For all of my carrying on, it actually tasted pretty good. I like the addition of the healthy dose of cinnamon to the cake. I'd like to try this again sometime with a full size recipe to see if I have better luck (I baked 1/4 recipe in a 4-inch pan). Also, I might have to give the cranberries a go when they start showing up in the local grocery stores.

On a side note, school *finally* started last week after our extra-long summer (thanks to several new schools being built over the last year and needing extra time to finish this summer). I thought this was a cute picture of my 4th grader waiting with dad to head to the bus. He looks so little!

OK, head on over to Sabrina's blog if you'd like to peek at the recipe, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TWD: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Sorry, Mr. Piggy, tell all of your sugary friends that the peanut butter cookies are all gone.


Because these Peanut Butter Crisscrosses were darn-near as good as my favorite recipe, my grandma's. Maybe even on par with hers. (I can't say "better" out of respect for my grand-mum, bless her dear departed soul.)

Thanks to Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine, who selected them for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

I baked them only for as long as called for and they were delicious and soft, just the way I like them.

It was a busy holiday weekend, with cookie-baking falling on the heels of some fondant critter-making. I made these little guys for my friend to put on her two-year old's birthday cake.

May I present Mr. Pooch,

Sir Wrinkly Nose,

Mr Tiger (as opposed to Mr. Striped Cat),

and finally, Mr. Mon-kay.

I wish I would have done their eyes differently... maybe some white around the black. Oh well, I'm guessing little birthday boy didn't mind.

OK, that's that! If you'd like to see the recipe, please visit Jasmine's blog or find yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Friday, September 3, 2010

TWD: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First picked Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. (Or my version.... "Fridays with Dorie".)

I love Dorie's method of rolling out the cookie dough in a large Ziploc bag. I sometimes wonder how much time was spent in recipe development, making sure the quantity was just right to make the perfect thickness of dough.

No matter, these were super easy to throw together.

As for the taste... now, my hatred of coffee and coffee-flavored desserts is usually never wavering. But these cookies were a complete surprise, because I liked them. Go figure!

I did cheat a little by using coffee powder rather than espresso powder. But still, the coffee flavor was definitely there.

Thanks so much for this pleasingly surprising pick, Donna! If you'd like to see the recipe, please visit Donna's site, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Daring Bakers: Ice Cream Petit Fours

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I have to admit this is not my best work. At least these petit fours tasted pretty darn tasty to make up for their homeliness.

Our school district is having the longest summer break in recorded history, so in this, our 14th and final week of break, I'm just trying to hold on to the last whisp of sanity I have without putting any of the 4-foot tall members of the family up for adoption. Things like getting my Daring Bakers challenge to look appetizing or even posted have taken a back burner this month.

But anyway, there you go, I did it. And I'm glad I did. I love anything with brown butter in it, so I enjoyed this cake (although by itself, it was a little dry). Next time I will have to try this with some fantastic browned butter ice cream that I've made before and fell deeply, madly in love with.

For some infinitely more beautiful and inspired versions, please check out the Daring Baker's Blogroll. You can find the recipes below.


Brown Butter Pound Cake

19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract

1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)

2. Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.

3. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.

4. Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon [5ml] if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons [15ml] if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.

5. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz:

Chocolate Glaze

9 ounces (250g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (32g) light corn syrup, Golden syrup, or agave nectar
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract

Stir the heavy cream and light corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate. Let sit 30 seconds, then stir to completely melt the chocolate. Stir in the vanilla and let cool until tepid before glazing the petit fours.

Assembly Instructions – Ice Cream Petit Fours

1. Line a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) pan with plastic wrap, so that no sides of the pan are exposed and so there is some extra plastic wrap hanging off the sides. Spread 1 ¾ to 2 cups (450ml to 500ml) ice cream into the pan. Cover with more plastic wrap and freeze several hours.

2. Once the brown butter pound cake has completely cooled, level the top with a cake leveler or a serrated knife. Then split the cake in half horizontally to form two thin layers.

3. Unwrap the frozen ice cream. Flip out onto one of the layers of cake and top with the second layer of cake. Wrap well in plastic wrap and return to the freezer overnight.

4. Make the chocolate glaze (see above.)

5. While the glaze cools, trim ¾” (2cm) off each side of the ice cream cake to leave a perfectly square 7.5” (19cm) ice cream cake. Cut the cake into twenty five petit fours, each 1.5”x1.5” (4cmx4cm).

6. Glaze the petit fours one at a time: place a petit four on a fork and spoon chocolate glaze over it.

7. Place the petit fours on a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the freezer for one hour.