Friday, December 31, 2010

BBD35: Breads with Dried Fruit

Just in the nick of time, I have my bread for the last Bread Baking Day (35) for 2010. It's Fruit and Nut Cinnamon Rolls. (Really yummy, too.)

This month, BBD was hosted by Taste of Pearl City, who chose the theme of dry/dried fruits. I used dried sour cherries and cranberries along with toasted pecans.

I debated whether to make an entry, since I had already made my stollen for Daring Bakers, and I didn't think it was right to use it for both events.

Then, I found a recipe using the bread machine, and I was back in the game. I put the basic ingredients into the machine, then went out a ran errand, arriving back home in time to make the filling and nut topping.

When the bread comes out of the oven, you flip it over so the nut side is on top.

I don't know. I think I like the looks of the bottom rather than the top. What do you think?

Bottom side up:

Top side up:

It's delicious either way. Next time, I will combine the nuts with the fruits and then put a vanilla glaze on top.

The roundup for BBD35 will show up during the first week of January.

Thanks to Taste of Pearl City and to Zorra.

Fruit and Nut Cinnamon Rolls
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Best Bread Machine Recipes)

3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup toasted pecans
3/4 cup mixed dried fruit bits


powdered sugar glaze (optional)

Add the first seven ingredients to the bread machine. Select the manual dough cycle. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough, cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes

Filling: Combine the brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour, and cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in the 1/3 cup butter until crumbly. Set aside.

Grease two 8x1 1/2-inch round baking pans. Sprinkle the pecans over the bottom.

On a lightly floured surface roll the dough into an 18x8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the filling over the dough; sprinkle with the fruit bits. Starting from the long side, roll up the dough, jelly-roll style, and seal the edge. Cut into 18 1-inch-thick slices. Place, cut sides down, into the prepared pans. There should be 9 slices per pan.

Cover and let rise about 45 minutes, until nearly double.

Brush with milk.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until the rolls are golden. Cover loosely with foil for the last 5-10 minutes if they are getting too brown.

Loosen the edges and invert onto wire racks. Cool slightly. If desired, drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze.

FFwD: Speculoos

This was one exciting morning. We woke up to complete silence. Or, at least I did. Sometime during the night, the power went out. Southern California had unusually high winds, and blessed our neighborhood with a blackout.

Great. The rolled out Speculoos dough was waiting in the fridge.

For better or worse, my daughter has an ipod docking station that, for some reason, isn't affected by power outages. Although, instead of the usual soothing music, a shrill alarm went off at the appointed time. Curses! She can't even use a power outage as an excuse to be late for work!

And being a thoughtful daughter, she woke me up at 6:50 am. The sun was just peeking above the horizon and the inside of the house was colder than Antarctica. (Thanks.)

Having errands to run, I booted the dog outside, then set off, treating myself to breakfast and coffee at one of my favorite restaurants. I couldn't stay home and starve in a freezing house, now, could I?

By the time I returned home, the power was back on and timers and clocks needed resetting.

And cookies needed baking.

I only baked off half the dough. I'll bake the remainder over the weekend. They sure made the house smell wonderful with all those spices. They don't taste half bad, either. (That's a joke. They taste terrific.)

One of my Christmas gifts was a set of writing pens. (It's sort of like being a cheap date. Pens. It's an inexpensive, but vital, present.) So, anyhow, I used the Green One to mark in the cookbook about the missing egg. All is well in the ingredient world.

Are we ready for January? For 2011? For all that wonderful baking and cooking? Hope so. It's already starting off with exciting changes. I can't wait to get started.

Happy New Year!

(Don't forget to stop by French Fridays with Dorie to check out the recipes.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TWD: Birthday Cake Rewind

With all the holiday baking recently, you'd think there would be no more room (or desire) for another dessert. In addition to the holidays, most of the family and friend birthdays happen in December. Talk about dessert overload!

Luckily, I was remiss on my extra baking this month. I only managed to do what was required for each baking group I follow. In a way, that's sad, because I rarely get to bake the traditional family favorites anymore; but, on the plus side, we are not inundated with sweet things.

This last Tuesdays with Dorie challenge (gosh, it's the last one for 2010, too!) was a Rewind. I gave this a lot of thought, trying to decide what to make.

Finally, because of all the December birthdays, I chose to make the Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake from last January. At that time, I made the Tarte Tatin instead of the cocoa cake, so I thought it was high time I baked it.

As a nod to the season and abundance of desserts, I halved the recipe and made cupcakes.

Cupcakes and I don't always get along, so I am very pleased to announce that these cupcakes came out beautifully. The flavor of this cake is wonderful and moist. It's definitely a cake I will make again.

The frosting is a 7-minute one, using the leftover egg white. These cupcakes are so versatile that any icing will work, which is just as well since I was informed by my daughter that 7-minute icing is not one of her favorites. Who knew?

She did, however, rave about the cake.

I suspect some TWDers are baked out; some may be stranded in the blizzard; and some may be too busy with holiday events, but there
should be a few of us die-hard TWD bakers posting today, so it's still worth a visit to see what everyone baked.

Now, it's on to the New Year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Daring Bakers: Stollen for Christmas Breakfast

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by
Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Each year, for Christmas breakfast, I make some kind of special bread. This year I was able to use the featured recipe for the Daring Bakers, Stollen. It came out beautifully.

For the fruit, I used golden raisins, dried sour cherries, dried cranberries, and candied lemon peel, all of which I soaked in a mixture of brandy and rum. I used the last of the brandy! How could that be? I rarely go through a bottle of spirits, since I forget I have it and use it primarily for cooking. The rum was the backup.

I laid a strip of slivered almonds on the rolled out dough, then rolled it up and formed a ring. I slashed and twisted the sections so the bread would resemble a wreath.

After a good hour's rise, the bread was baked, whereupon I immediately brushed it with oil and sprinkled it with powdered sugar.

This morning we sliced it up to go with a brunch of blueberry soup, scrambled eggs, and grapefruit. The texture was perfect and the flavor was just so delicious.

For the recipe, stop by the Daring Kitchen. While there, you can see how the other bakers did. We're posting over a several day period because of the holiday.

Best wishes for the New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

FFwD: Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots

Oh yay for me! I got to make the spiced carrots this week!

My cooked-carrot-hating daughter decided to go out to dinner with a friend, so I immediately put this recipe on the menu. I would have anyway, even though, for all her willingness to taste what I make, she refuses to try a cooked carrot.

Well, more for me, I say.

I halved the recipe, using 5 small-to-medium carrots.

It was so delicious that I ate the lot. That's how good they were. I think the hints of cardamom and ginger make all the difference. It's subtle, but important.

Only one more recipe to go for the month of December. Cookies. I'm hoping that the week between the two holidays will be less hectic, so I can enjoying the cookie-baking experience.

Do head over to the French Fridays with Dorie website to see what the others post and to catch a glimpse of the January recipes.

Holiday wishes to everyone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TWD: Cardamom Crumb Cake

OK. This one is a sleeper. It's filled with yummy ingredients like cardamom and orange zest and a hint of coffee, but it looks so nondescript.

This is one cake that truly improves in taste the longer it sits. First day, it was okay. Second day, it was fragrant and moist. Third day, it disappeared. I barely got a photograph of a piece.

The coffee is hardly noticeable. The orange zest adds a brightness to the cake without overpowering it. This would make an excellent tea cake; it certainly made a great breakfast cake, with a few desserts thrown in for good measure.

Head over to Jill of Jill’s Blog for the recipe, and to the TWD blog to read the stories from the other bakers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

FFwD: Three for the Price of One

Time to get caught up on my FFwD posts.

For lunch last week, I chose to make the Leek and Potato Soup. I had half a fennel bulb that I added during the sautee part. I did a rough puree when all the veggies were soft, and added a splash of whole milk to finish it off.

This made several lunches, always nice on a gray day. (Sunny on day one, it seems.) Sitting for several days only improved the flavor, so it's a good soup to make ahead of time.

Last weekend I made the Sweet and Spicy Nuts. I had a leftover egg white from making Hollandaise sauce, so it was a perfect application. The nuts were a mixture of peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and almonds. Needless to say, they disappeared quickly. So far, this is my favorite December recipe.

I've decided to make this again to give as gifts when my quilt group meets again next Tuesday. I bought a giant jar of mixed nuts today, so this coming weekend I will be busy in the kitchen. Now, I just need to find some cute little bags to hold the nuts.

This week I made the beef daube. We'll be having several meals from this one, since it made quite a lot. For the wine, I used a bottle of 2005 Syrah from the Blackstone Winery in Kenwood, California. It gave the stew great depth of flavor. I also included the parsnips, and for a second meal, tossed in some baby Yukon gold potatoes.

Next time, I will cook the daube the extra thirty minutes that Dorie suggested. While the meat was tender, there were still some chewy pieces that would have benefited from a bit more time in the oven.

Only two more recipes to make for December. Not sure the cooked carrots will happen, since I'm the only one here who will eat them. If I can scale back the recipe, I may squeeze it in.

Be sure and stop by French Fridays with Dorie to see what everyone else cooked this week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Poaching Foods

Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill (jillouci) have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose the Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Eggs Benedict and poached eggs are classics. I've been poaching eggs for years, always looking for the method that gives the best results. One key factor is to use the freshest eggs possible.

Several years ago, one of my friends, who raises chickens, brought some just-laid eggs to class. Those eggs poached beautifully! No run-away egg filaments to spoil the view. However, not everyone has access to such fresh eggs.

In researching this challenge, I read one of Alton Brown's recipes where he suggested submerging custard cups in a pot of water, adding vinegar and salt, then gently pouring the to-be-poached egg into the awaiting cup. Having nothing to lose, I tried out this technique. End result: near-perfect poached eggs. Definitely a technique I will use again and again.

Another component to this challenge was to make Hollandaise sauce. I've always used the double-boiler method, but this time, using the same Alton Brown recipe, I made my sauce directly over the flame. This technique requires attention and control, and it worked just fine.

Before-sauce eggs:

After-sauce eggs:

For this challenge, I also made English muffins from scratch. These muffins were a snap to make and turned out tender and tasty. (That post appeared on 13 Dec.)

Roasted asparagus, with a Hollandaise dressing, completed our dinner, one of the best we've recently enjoyed.

An alternative to Eggs Benedict is Oeufs en Meurette, where the eggs are poached in a red wine sauce and the sauce is reduced and served along with the eggs. When I was in Tours several years ago, I had this dish at a local restaurant. It was super delicious, so the next time I open a bottle of red wine, I will give this version a try.

The good thing about this challenge was that I was able to try out a new poaching technique, one that was very successful. I can see more poached eggs in our future.

Stop by the Daring Kitchen to see all the results and recipes.

TWD: Cake for the Eva Girls

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie special was the Apple-Coconut Family Cake. I'm sure it was delicious, but I'll never know unless I bake it a second time.

I had a dilemma. My daughter does not like cooked apples or coconut, so I had to decide whether or not to bake this cake. I wouldn't (or shouldn't) eat it all myself. So that meant I would have to share it, or, better yet, give it away.

Donate it to a good cause.

That good cause dropped right in my lap. My dear neighbor's long-time friend was participating in a bake sale on Saturday morning. It was the Eva Girls 5th Annual Bake Sale, with all the proceeds going to the Ribbons of Life Breast Cancer Foundation.

It had to be.

So, bright and early on Saturday morning, we drove over to Eva Street (hence, the name) and dropped off our goodies. My neighbor's son made ginger snaps and donated them for his bit of community service for his school.

I don't know the fate of the cake, or how much money these lovely ladies made, but I do know that at 8:30 in the morning, the crowds were already there and the baked goods were disappearing quickly.

I can say that the batter was delicious and the cake smelled heavenly. For once, I didn't have to bake it longer than the specified time; it just worked out perfectly.

For the recipe, stop by Amber's blog, Cobbler du Monde. For other opinions and outcomes, stop by the TWD blog.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Simple English Muffins

Last week, my eye caught this post by Michael Ruhlman about English Muffins.

Over the years, I have tried various recipes, but none have been so sensational or so easy that I would make them again. This recipe, however, appeared to have potential, and it seemed to be as easy as making pancakes, which I do frequently.

The risen yeast dough had the texture of a thick batter. I used my 1/4-cup measure to scoop out the portions and place them on the heated griddle that had been dusted with cornmeal.

Free form, too, for that added bit of interest.


Then, split, using only a fork, of course.

The only mistake I made was halving the recipe.

As a result, they disappeared way too quickly.

Because the muffins are so fresh and tender, they take nearly twice as long to toast. But, oh, they are truly delicious!

This will be my new BFF English muffin recipe. The dough can be prepared the night before, so there will be no excuse not to have fresh muffins for breakfast.

Stop by tomorrow if you're interested in seeing how the English muffins were used for last Saturday night's dinner.

For the recipe, head over to