Sunday, March 30, 2008

DB Time: Perfect Party Cake

This has been a long month. It seems ages ago that all the Daring Bakers received their March challenge, but, at last, the post day is here. Thanks go to Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts for selecting Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. As a “Tuesdays with Dorie” baker, anything of Dorie’s is wonderful.

I decided to make the cake in stages, since I had a lot of other baking projects going on. The cake was first. Some of the other bakers had issues with having the cake rise properly, but I didn’t run in to that problem. My layers rose beautifully and were easy to split. I have to say, that for a white cake, this one is delicious. I will make it my ‘white cake of choice’ for future projects. The layers also freeze and thaw nicely .

The buttercream was straightforward. The only concern I had was assembling the cake. At first, I was using a pastry cream filling, since I’m not fond of jam between layers. But, the layers kept sliding out of place, so I knew that version was doomed. So, I just scraped off all the pastry cream, spread on some raspberry jam (lemon curd would have been my preference), then added the buttercream between the layers and on the sides and top. There was just enough left to pipe around the edges.

I’d give this cake an A- but only because of the jam. Experimenting with different flavor combinations is the way to go, but even so, it is a winning cake that holds up well. For the recipe, please go to Morven’s blog (or better yet, buy Dorie's book, Baking: From My House to Yours), and be sure to check out the efforts of all the other Daring Bakers. What are we now – close to 1000? It will take the next month to see them all!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Russian Easter, or, A Tale of Two Cans

When I was growing up, one of my passions was foreign languages. I began studying French when I was 8 years old, thanks to an enlightened third grade teacher. My collection of kids books included several in both French and Spanish. I studied French throughout junior high, and when I entered high school, it was my good fortune to be part of the first Russian class in the district. By the time I graduated, I was deeply involved in French, Russian, and Spanish classes.

Now, my Russian teacher was an awesome woman (and still is as far as I know). She was young and beautiful and we shared the birth-state of New Mexico – always a positive thing in my book. Not only did she teach us the Russian language, but she made sure we understood Russian culture. We sang; we danced; we performed; and, of course, we ate. One year, Miss G. arranged a special field trip to a Russian Orthodox Church in Seattle, where we could observe the traditional midnight Easter service. After the service, we all went back to her house, where she had prepared a traditional Russian Easter feast, and all the students partied until dawn. Two items stand out in my mind to this day: Kulich and Paskha. I couldn’t get enough of them.

This month, Bread Baking Day, edition 8, is being hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. Susan is a fabulous bread baker, so every reader will be in for a treat.

So, for BBD8 theme of celebration breads, I decided to re-create the Kulich from my high-school memory. There are a variety of recipes that exist, so I’m not sure which are truly authentic and replicate the one my teacher baked, but I chose one that sounded about right. For a baking container, it called for a 46-ounce can, like the kind used for juice or broth. All I had on hand was a large 48-ounce coffee can, and I came this close II to using it. But, instead, I bought a large can of pineapple juice (the only juice product remaining in large cans) and decanted the juice to another container. So far, so good.

The recipe was easy, although the rising time was closer to 3 hours than 2. Sweet breads usually take a bit longer, so it wasn’t surprising. Once the yeast got busy, however, they really went to town! I put the risen dough into the prepared 46-ounce can and set it aside to rise. In less than 45 minutes, it had reached the top of the parchment – bad sign! By the time the oven was ready, it was emerging above the top of the parchment, so when the heat from the oven created ‘oven spring,’ it sprung over the side of the can and onto the rack. Note to self: use 48-ounce can next time.

Aside from the loss of some dough, the bread turned out very nicely. Toasted, it was delicious. Next year, I plan to make it again, using the larger can, and also making the paskha to go with it. It certainly brought back a memory of one of the best experiences of my life.

To enjoy other celebration breads from around the world, please take a look at Susan’s blog. Thanks to Susan for hosting this month, and thanks to Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte for creating such a great challenge.


Notes: Instead of vanilla bean and vodka, you can use 1 tablespoon vanilla for this Russian Easter bread; add with the milk. Tuck scraped vanilla bean pod into an airtight jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. If making bread ahead, don't ice; let cool, wrap airtight and freeze. Thaw in wrapper,then unwrap and ice. For a Russian finale, sprinkle soft icing with colored candy sprinkles or set small rosebuds in it.

1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean (6 to 8 in.)
1 tablespoon vodka or brandy
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. In a bowl, add yeast and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar to 2 tablespoons warm (110°) water. Let stand until yeast is soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape out black seeds and add to vodka in a cup. Add saffron to milk in another cup.

3. In another bowl, beat to blend remaining granulated sugar, butter, and salt.

4. Add yeast mixture, vodka-vanilla mixture, saffron mixture, eggs, 2 1/4 cups flour, and orange peel. Stir until thoroughly moistened.

5. With mixer on high speed, beat dough until stretchy and shiny, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup flour until evenly moistened.

6. With a dough hook, beat on high speed until dough pulls fairly cleanly from sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky to touch. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat longer.

Or with lightly oiled hands, knead dough in bowl until it feels smooth, pulls from your hands, and is just slightly sticky to touch, about 4 minutes. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until about doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.

8. Line the bottom of 1 juice or broth can (46-oz. size) with cooking parchment cut to fit. Then line sides of can with parchment, extending it about 2 inches above can rim; secure with paper clip. (Or use waxed paper, buttered heavily and dusted with flour.)

9. Punch dough down to expel air, then shape into a smooth-topped ball and drop into can. Cover can lightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until dough is about 1 1/2 inches below can rim, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours.

10. Bake on lowest rack in a 325° oven until a long, thin wood skewer inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours at 300° in a convection oven).

11. Let bread stand in can for 10 minutes, then remove from can and parchment. Lay the loaf on its side on a rack to cool.

12. Blend powdered sugar with lemon juice and 3/4 teaspoon water until smooth. Stand kulich upright and drizzle top with icing.

13. To serve, cut bread into rounds.

Yield: Makes a 1 3/4-pound loaf; 12 servings

CALORIES 245 (34% from fat); FAT 9.3g (sat 5.2g); PROTEIN 4.6g; CHOLESTEROL 74mg; SODIUM 144mg; FIBER 0.9g; CARBOHYDRATE 35g

Sunset, APRIL 1999

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TWD: Caramel-topped Flan

Only one left.

This week, for Tuesdays with Dorie, Stephanie of A Whisk and A Spoon, selected Caramel-topped Flan as our project. This was a delicious and easy recipe, especially if you like egg custards. I chose to do 6 individual custards, since they would last longer for me, but, sadly, I'm down to one. I may have to make more, since custards are a great comfort food. I also added an additional step to the preparation process to help create a creamier custard.

Be sure and take a look at the results from the other TWD bakers.

Caramel-topped Flan
(from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.

Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.
(If you use individual ramekins, you can skip this step.)

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

(At this point, I would suggest pouring the custard mixture through a strainer to remove the chalazae, which has coagulated. No nasty bits to bite down on.)

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don't worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

Sunday, March 23, 2008

WCC: Moroccan Chicken

For years I lived without a crock pot. It was only about 3 years ago that they caught my attention. Cookbooks were featuring delicious-sounding recipes that would cook themselves while you worked, played, or slept. So, I began to change my way of thinking and started researching the various brands of slow cookers. I think it must have something to do with marketing. Doesn't 'slow cooker' sound more appealing than 'crock pot'?

Anyway, I finally narrowed my choice down to one slow cooker (all-clad), so I went ahead and bought it and immediately started preparing a variety of delicious dinners with minimal fuss. It was nice to come home to a fragrant house and a ready-to-go meal.

Since the time I bought my slow cooker, my family decided to disperse and go off to college, travel, or move across country, so I have fewer opportunities to use it now. But, when I know I'll be away most of the day and too tired to cook when I get home or when I have to contribute a potluck dinner, I fire up the trusty all-clad. It's become one of my favorite cooking tools.

This recipe is a favorite among family and friends and really easy to assemble and cook, so I'm submitting it to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge (WCC), hosted this month by the always-amusing Lis of La Mia Cucina. Stop by her blog for a funny-good time.

Moroccan Chicken
(from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely)

2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper, seeded & cut into 1-inch squares
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Place garbanzo beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, raisins, tomato paste, broth, garlic, and cumin in a slow cooker. Mix until well combined.

Place chicken on top of the bean mixture. Cover. Cook on low heat setting for 6-7 hours, or until the chicken is tender. Stir in peanut butter.

Serves 6.

Serve with couscous and vegetables.

Thanks also to Sara from I like to cook for creating WCC.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Festa Italiana

I love Italian food. But it's really difficult to say which particular dish is my favorite. My most memorable Italian experience happened when I was in high school. My family took a summer trip down to Mexico City, and I remember going to an interesting hacienda-like restaurant outside the city. My entree was canneloni -- tender pasta tubes filled with spinach and a minced meat (chicken, perhap?) and covered with a rich bechamel sauce. I've never found canneloni since that matched that one. During the last several years, though, I discovered a new Italian dish that has become one of my all-time favorites: panna cotta. I've written other posts on this dessert, and no matter where in the world I may be, if it is on the menu, I will order it. Sort of like a benchmark. Maryann at Finding La Dolce Vita and Marie at Proud Italian Cook decided to host an Italian Festival this month and I thought a new panna cotta recipe would be a perfect complement to the traditional main dishes. Here's my submission to Festa Italiana.

Neopolitan Panna Cotta

(from Panna Cotta by Camilla V. Saulsbury)

Milk chocolate layer:

Place 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon gelatin over the water and let stand 5 minutes to soften.

In a heavy, small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar to a bare simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in 2 ounces of chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Add the gelatin mixture, whisking until dissolved. Pour or ladle into 6 large martini glasses. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill until set, about 1 hours.

Vanilla layer:

Place 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon gelatin over the water and let stand 5 minutes to soften.

In a heavy, small saucepan, bring 1 2/3 cups heavy cream and 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar to a bare simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in 1 teaspoon vanilla and the gelatin mixture, whisking until dissolved. Pour or ladle the vanilla mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours to set.

Strawberry sauce:

Puree 1 pint of strawberries and 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, spoon strawberry sauce on top of the vanilla panna cotta layer.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TWD: Brioche Raisin Snails

Not much can get me motivated enough to get up before 6 am in the morning, especially on a Sunday. But, this past Sunday, there was a special feature on a television news show that I really wanted to see, so 6 am it was. While I waited for the story to air, I took advantage of my extra time to assemble this week’s “Tuesdays with Dorie” creation, Brioche Raisin Snails, thoughtfully chosen by the charming Peabody, from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. I had prepared all the components the night before, so the task was easy.

First I had made the pastry cream, flavoring it with rum extract, to complement the rum-flavored fruit.

Next, I made the brioche dough. I really was uncertain how this was going to turn out, because the softened butter just refused to incorporate itself into the flour mixture. It took nearly 20 minutes at medium-high speed on the super-duper KA (aka Silver Sage) before it was done. But, I only had to deflate it 3 times during the refrigeration part, so that was ok. I hoped.

Finally, I prepared the fruit filling, opting for currants instead of raisins. I only used ¾ cup and 2 tablespoons of dark rum and had no difficulties with the flambéeing part. Pretty exciting, actually. Next time, I’ll probably cut the amount of fruit back to 2/3 cups, which would be plenty.

So, early on Sunday morning, I just had to roll out the dough, spread on the filling,

slice the rolls, and let them rise. The dough was easy to roll out, which was encouraging. Using a combination of unwaxed dental floss and my bench scraper, made slicing easy as well. Not too much filling oozed out.

While the rolls were rising, I turned the remaining half of the dough into the brioche loaf, which I froze after baking.

The rolls were out of the oven by 9 am, and frosted by 9:15 am.

I have to say, they turned out nearly perfectly, considering my doubts at the beginning. My neighbor happily took 4 of them for breakfast, leaving only 8 to torment me. There are still 4 left, since I’m trying to make them last as long as possible. If I could be that productive every morning, I might think twice about sleeping in.

Thanks to Peabody for a delicious choice. Be sure to check out the results from the other TWD bakers and go to Dorie's own blog for her comments about our group!

Brioche Raisin Snails

1 cup moist, plump raisins

3 tablespoons dark rum

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)

1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448)

For The Optional Glaze

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

About 1 teaspoon water

Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast

1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water

1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk

3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Awash in a sea o'green

Throughout the years while my children were growing up, we'd would experiment with various holiday goodies in the hopes of establishing a new tradition. For St. Patrick's Day, I never could entice them with corned beef and cabbage, standard traditional fare. But, being a pie-lover, one year I auditioned a lime meringue pie, and that is the recipe that became the annual tradition.
This year is my first time to celebrate without the kids, who have set out on their own paths; however, with an abundance of limes, I decided to bake the pie anyway, only in an 8" version. The only glitch this time was that the filling didn't set properly, a hazard of sorts with these kind of pies.

Maybe I used too much lime juice. But it still looks lovely and tastes divine, and since it's just for me, it doesn't really matter. I thought I'd share anyway, since these pies are delicious in any citrus flavor.

Lime Meringue Pie

1 8" pie crust, baked


1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
2 drops of green food color, if desired
2 drops of lime oil, if desired

Stir sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Blend the egg yolks and water and gradually stir the mixture into the sugar-cornstarch mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in the butter, lime peel, lime juice, and food color/lime oil. Immediately pour into baked pie shell.


Beat 2 egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Continue beating on medium-high speed, adding 1/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time; continue to beat until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. In the last minute, add 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.

Spoon the meringue onto the hot filling, carefully sealing the meringue to the edge of the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is a delicate brown. Cool away from drafts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

TWD: Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

Today is Tuesday. Must be time for baking with Dorie again. This week, Natalie (Jhianna) of Burned Bits had the honor of choosing our challenge -- Russian Grandmother’s Apple Pie-Cake. What a great combination – cooked apples, cake and pie. Delicious choice!

For starters, I decided to halve the recipe (being only one at the moment), baking it in an 8” x 8” pan. The dough came together nicely, and while soft, wasn’t particularly sticky or batter-y. I deviated slightly from the written recipe by rolling out my chilled dough before preparing the apples. After I lined the pan with the dough and rolled out the top, I place both of them back in the refrigerator to chill while I did the filling.

Now, I like raisins in some things, but not in everything, so my first choice was to use currants instead. In my pantry I have a full box of currants, unopened. Well, call me frugal or lazy, but I just couldn’t open that box for a handful of currants, so I decided to use the remains of a bag of golden raisins and make up the difference with my already-opened bag of regular raisins. It worked fine, although I will definitely use the currants next time. I also used five Granny Smith apples for an added tartness.

With the filling done, it was time for assembly, made faster because the dough parts were already done. My initial bake time was for 50 minutes, and I decided to keep it in about 10 minutes more, until the top was a nice golden brown and the filling was bubbling. One hour seemed about right and the color and texture were perfect.

I would say it’s best consumed on the day it’s made, since the bottom crust gets a bit soggy with time. But, it’s still delicious either way. I will definitely make this recipe again. Be sure and check out the results of the other (ever-growing) Tuesday With Dorie bakers.

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

For The Dough

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Juice of 1 lemon

3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples

10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji , Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cortland and Rome )

Squirt of fresh lemon juice

1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Simple chicken dinner

Recently, I was playing around with some chicken recipes, trying to come up with a final recipe that would result in a quick, easy, and tasty meal. Here is the final rendition, which I've made several times in the last few weeks because 1. I love how it tastes, and 2. I get leftovers for myself for an even quicker meal!

Teriyaki-like Chicken Thighs

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili sauce (like Heinz or Del Monte brand)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil (I use the non-stick foil). Place the chicken thighs in the baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, then pour over the thighs. I like to make sure both the tops and bottoms have some of this mixture on them. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, if possible. If you have less time, they will still taste fine. Bake at 425 degrees (F) for 40 to 45 minutes. The chicken and sauce goes well with rice.

(If you have any leftover, just re-heat and serve.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie -- Geology in Action

I lose patience when I have to fight with my food. Just a warning.

This week's adventure was chosen by Erin of Dinner and Dessert. The TWD group got to experiment with Snickery Squares, a rich concoction of shortbread, peanuts, dulce de leche, and dark chocolate. What's not to love about that?

Baking-wise, it is a pretty straight-forward recipe. The peanut brittle-like mixture was lucky to survive without being nibbled away. For the dulce de leche, you can either make your own or buy it pre-made. Assembly is easy. The challenge here, though, for me, was cutting it into bars. What you have is a hard top layer (chocolate and peanuts) and a hard bottom layer (shortbread) with a gooey, slippery-slidey middle layer (dulce de leche). It was a struggle to keep each piece in one piece. Not to mention all the crushed peanut bits that kept falling off the top. And the messy fingers trying to hold it all together.

Final consensus: easy to make and tasty to eat, but a real problem to serve. We'll see how my quilt ladies enjoy them in a few hours.

Snickery Squares

For the Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 TBSP powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling:

½ cup sugar
3 TBSP water
1 ½ cups salted peanuts
About 1 ½ cups store-bought dulce de leche

For the Topping:

7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready:

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Crust:

Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.
Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven.
Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:

Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.
Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.
When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping.
Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate.
Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.

Cut into 16 bars.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pease porridge hot . . .

Yellow. I’ve been thinking a lot about yellow recently. The yellow daffodils are blooming in the neighborhood, a sure sign that spring is around the corner; my lemon trees are heavy with ripe, yellow fruit; my favorite piece of fabric at the moment is yellow with metallic gold dragonflies printed on it. So, when Zorra, of 1x umrühren bitte, sent out an invitation to join her in celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, I immediately started thinking about yellow-food possibilities.

Why is it, at those moments, that your mind goes blank and you can’t think of any yellow food? Luckily, the empty-mind-syndrome didn’t last, and I soon had an abundance of ideas. Checking my pantry, I discovered a jar of yellow split peas, tucked in a corner. Split pea soup? Even better – split pea chowder. There was a recipe stuck in the dried peas, so I decided to give it a try. This made a tasty and colorful lunch with enough left over for another day

Celebrate all the great accomplishments of women the world over with your favorite yellow food, and be sure to check out all the other choices on Zorra’s blog.

Yellow split pea chowder

1 cup yellow split peas

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 cup diced green bell pepper

1 cup diced onion

3 strips of bacon

3 ½ cups milk

3 tablespoons flour

1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Pick over the dried peas; cover with water and simmer until tender, but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain.

  1. Cook the bacon until crisp, remove and drain, reserving the drippings. Saute the diced vegetables in the bacon drippings, stirring frequently, until they are cooked.

  1. Mix the flour and mustard in ½ cup milk. Heat over low heat, stirring, but do not boil. Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring until thickened. Add the cooked peas, the vegetables, and the crumbled bacon. Cook gently over low heat until warmed through. Season to taste.

Make about 8 cups. Recipe can be halved.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Cinnamon Bread

One of my TWD baking buddies, Nikki, from Crazy Delicious, decided to start her own blogging/baking event, because she loves the fun and excitement they bring. Her event is called Master Baker, and each month, Nikki will suggest an ingredient. Then, all the participants will bake something delicious and wonderful using that ingredient.

For February, the inaugural month, the ingredient was cinnamon, which just happens to be one of my favorite flavors. I decided to find a new recipe, and came across a cinnamon-y bread on the King Arthur website, which I've copied below with one special recommendation. The bread is delicious, sort of a cross between a coffee cake and a bread. I should also add that it is really difficult to wait until it's cool before diving in.

Easy Cinnamon Bread
(from King Arthur Flour)

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour OR Mellow Pastry Blend
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cinnamon chips
cinnamon-sugar, for topping

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and egg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, beating till smooth. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 hour, covered, then stir in the baking powder and cinnamon chips.

Spoon the batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon-sugar.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until it tests done; a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean. (Note: I put my loaf back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes, and the center was still a bit gooey. I'd start testing after 45 minutes and be prepared to bake it 15 to 20 minutes longer.) Remove the bread from the oven, let it rest in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer it from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Note: Don't slice the bread while it's hot! It'll slice much better when it's completely cool. Yield: 1 loaf.

I'll be looking forward to seeing what everyone else entered as well as what the ingredient for March will be. Thanks, Nikki, for thinking up this new challenge.