Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate - Crunched Caramel Tart

Today's Tuesdays with Dorie posting is a bit late on purpose. I wanted to wait until the temperature outside was civilized before standing over a hot stove. This week's selection was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey, and a delicious one it is.

Last Saturday, I did a lot of baking in the early morning because I knew that by late afternoon I wouldn't want to set foot in the kitchen. One of the baked items was the tart crust. I just packed it away until today and it was very nice to have it ready to go.

I did reverse the cooking process a bit. I made the ganache first so it could cool to room temperature. Then I made the peanut-caramel layer, using honey roasted peanuts from Trader Joe's. The caramel layer was nice and gooey. And very tasty.

By the time I was ready to add the ganache layer, it was nice and thick -- not too thick, but just the right consistency to pour and stay in place.

Even though I refrigerated the tart for not more than 30 minutes, the peanut-caramel layer was still soft, flowing a bit on the plate.

There were no complaints about this dessert. Definitely a winner.

As with every recipe this group tries, there are many variations and results, so stop by the
TWD blog and take a look at all the other chocolate-caramel tarts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Vols-au-vent

This year is flying by. Why, we're already celebrating the ninth Daring Baker challenge for 2009! Only three more to go.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent, based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

While kitchens in the northern hemisphere should be getting cooler, kitchens in southern California are experiencing the usual heat waves that arrive with the first day of autumn. Yes, as with my recent buttercream adventures, I am suffering the 100°F-kitchen while preparing my puff pastry. My granite countertop will melt butter under these conditions, so it is not the right place to roll out heat-sensitive dough. Once again, my strudel table came to the rescue.

After the dough was well chilled, I chose the morning hours to actually make the vols-au-vent, since the sun wouldn’t be directly bearing down upon that side of the house until mid-afternoon.

For this challenge, the hardest part was choosing the fillings. In the end, I made two fillings: a savory one -- shrimp curry,

and a sweet one -- blood orange chiffon.

I only used half the dough for these pastries, so when the weather cools down (hopefully this coming week), I will roll out the remaining half and play with more fillings.

If you want the recipe, go to Steph's blog. It really is very easy to make, and since the dough and/or the unbaked vols-au-vent can be frozen, there's no excuse not to have some on hand.

The Daring Bakers are a very creative group of bakers and cooks. Be sure and stop by some of their blogs and be prepared to be blown away by all the variations.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

BB: Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Lately, it seems as if every time I work with buttercream frosting, we're experiencing a heat wave and my kitchen is 100 degrees. This time was no exception.

The second selection for this month's Barefoot Bloggers was Beatty's Chocolate Cake, chosen by Mary of Passionate Perseverance. I made this yesterday, thinking I would take some to work with me in the evening. The cake part went well, although 1. I was really concerned about how liquid the batter was, wondering if it would actually transform itself into a solid cake; and 2. I was extremely thankful I had 3" by 8" cake pans, meaning no overflow.

I've had 1 1/2" by 8" cake pans for years and used them with no problems. One day, however, I decided to make one of Martha Stewart's cakes. Apparently, both Martha and the Universe changed the caking baking rules on me, because the cake overflowed its boundaries and flooded the oven. Ah, the joy of scraping baked-on cake batter from an oven.

Fearful that this might happen again with future cakes, I searched for taller cake pans, and rather than settle on a measly 2 inches, I bought the big guns -- 3 inchers.

I was prepared.

In the process of preparing the cake batter, I also had to scrounge for cocoa powder.

I managed to totally consume my KA deep dark chocolate cocoa powder and my Fair Trade cocoa powder (very delicious stuff, I might add), while using a bit more of my precious Frango Mint baking cocoa. The blend gave a subtle, but pleasant, flavor to the cake.

Finally, it came time to frost the layers. Let's see. After following the instructions to soften the butter to room temperature and to cool the melted chocolate to room temperature, I ended up with melted butter and hot chocolate. All room temperature, of course.

45 minutes before leaving for work, I was spreading flowing chocolate buttercream over the cake. Good thing it was delicious. I probably didn't put enough on as a filling, and it was difficult to frost the sides thick enough, since the frosting kept melting off. While I was getting ready for work, I put the cake into the fridge, hoping to harden the frosting just a little before cutting the cake.

Just before leaving, I cut half the cake into two pieces, placed them in a carrying container, and drove to the library. Imagine my horror, upon arriving, to find that the two hunks of cake had merged into one, frosting everywhere in the container. Well, I figured that it may not look terrific, but it would still taste delicious, so I performed minor surgery on the one large piece, quickly refrosted the two resulting pieces, and placed all of it into the library's fridge to chill well before evening break.

I came home with an empty container, so I guess that looks really didn't matter in this case.

My daughter's only comment, upon eating her piece, was that it was too hot for chocolate cake.

Too hot?

Geez, I thought she was better trained than that.

Anyway, this cake gets rave reviews from nearly everyone (see just above), and I plan to make it again for sure, when the weather cools down a bit.

I do apologize for such a plain-Jane cake -- heat and the clock usurped my limited creativity this time. And, I'm still searching for a use for my outdated 1 1/2-inch cake pans.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes and caused quite a bit of discussion among the TWD bakers.

What was a pufflet?

Cottage cheese?

Dough-handling issues.

Who knew that such an unassuming baked good could cause such a ruckus.

For me, that was all the more reason to try these out. I made one teensy change in the recipe, however. Instead of cottage cheese, I used ricotta cheese, because that's what I had on hand. We adore cottage cheese in this household -- it disappears very quickly -- but since I needed to use the ricotta, I decided to experiment with it.

Yes, the dough was soft to roll, but not too soft, especially if it was well chilled. So, no problems there. Using ricotta didn't make much of a difference.

I used some of my blackberry-lime jam that I had made during the summer for the filling.

I did have to bake these for an additional 10 minutes because they just wouldn't turn golden.

I'm glad I made only half a recipe, since I ended up having to eat all of them. Not all at once, of course, but my daughter just wasn't in a jam-cookie mood this week. These weren't difficult to make and they tasted just fine, but they didn't 'rock my boat' as they say. Given a choice, I would bake and eat the apple turnovers from last week any day over these little cookies. But, that's just me.

I'm sure the other TWD bakers felt differently, so stop by their blogs and see what they had to say.

Saturday, September 19, 2009



Sometimes baking and cooking challenges produce such delicious results that you just have to bake/cook them again.

Case in point: the Russian Black Bread from early in the month.

I really loved the flavor of this bread, and since my rye starter was happily bubbling away, I decided to make a more user-friendly-shaped loaf before I relegated the starter back to refrigerated hibernation.

The dough started out looking like this:

But ended up looking like this:

This bread makes the best sandwiches.

Sorry, but no photos of the 'wiches -- they get eaten too quickly!

This week there were also repeats of the Flaky Apple Turnovers and the Yellow Curry Sauce.

For the turnovers, I used the remaining scraps of dough and the leftover apple filling. These turnovers are just too delicious. I will certainly make these again and try out different fillings. Lemon comes to mind at the moment.

The yellow curry was a tremendous hit. I whipped it up quickly on Thursday night and just served it over rice. Now I need to replenish my supply of dried coconut milk, and perhaps even keep some canned milk in the pantry.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD: Flaky Apple Turnovers

Turnovers have always been one of my favorite treats. When I was young, my mother would buy the Pepperidge Farm frozen turnovers and bake up a batch for dessert. While I preferred the lemon filling, I also enjoyed the apple, cherry, and blueberry ones.

It's been quite some time since I've had turnovers, so I was very pleased to see this week's selection by Julie of Someone’s in the Kitchen. I was really looking forward to making and enjoying these apple turnovers, which I did, immensely.

The dough came together very easily for me; it was nice and smooth. I understand that other bakers had crumbly dough, but it certainly wasn't the case for me.

Half of the dough gave me 8 turnovers, with scraps left over to play with.

I chopped my apples into a very small dice, and added a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice along with the cinnamon and sugar.

Folded and crimped, brushed and sprinkled.

Fresh from the oven.

There's that yummy apple filling.

I was really hoping that I would be able to eat them all, because one of my daughter's least favorite foods is cooked apple. It's a texture thing. But -- and this is high praise, indeed -- she ate two of them, saying, that for a cooked apple dessert, it was one of the best.

I did get the remainder, however. Yesssss.

Catch the turnovers from the other bakers on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daring Cooks #5: Vegan-style Indian Dosas

There's a small, unassuming Thai restaurant in the town where my mother lives. It's on a corner at the edge of town in a mostly residential area. No other stores are nearby, so I often wonder how it manages to stay in business. It must have a very loyal clientele. When we visit, we always try to eat there at least once, and we always get one particular item: yellow curry.

I've tried to duplicate the flavors and color, but haven't succeeded until now, when I made the sauce for this month's Daring Cooks' challenge. Bingo. It was the yellow curry we've been seeking.

September's challenge was just that, a challenge. We were tasked by Debyi from The Healthy Vegan Kitchen to make Indian Dosas without using any kind of animal product. Although we're omnivores in this house, we mix it up a lot and intersperse meatless meals in the weekly menu. To make it vegan, though, I had to concentrate on ingredients so I wouldn't inadvertently use chicken broth or some other animal-based product.

I had planned to make the sauce and filling the night before I wanted to use it, but when both items were simmering away on the stove, and they smelled SO heavenly, I just went ahead and made the little crepes and served the dinner the same night. It was really very simple.

On my last order from King Arthur Flour, I had purchased some dried coconut milk powder to have on hand 'just in case,' so here was my opportunity to actually use it before 20 years had passed. For the yellow curry sauce, it was perfect. With fresh tomatoes from the garden and freshly made coconut milk along with fragrant spices, the sauce simmered on the stove, thickening nicely and filling the kitchen with a wonderful fragrance.

Next came the filling, a mixture of garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and more spices.

While the sauce and filling were minding their own business, I prepared the batter for the little crepes. I had never used spelt flour before, so this was a new taste for us. A pleasant one, too. Since I already had some coconut milk made up, I used that for the liquid. I make crepes, pancakes, and tortillas quite frequently, so these were fast and easy to make. I used a non-stick pan with no additional oil and spread the batter into a circle with the bottom of the ladle.

For assembly, I placed some of the filling into the crepe,

and rolled it up enchilada-style. (We affectionately called these Indian Enchiladas.)

Some of the delicious yellow curry sauce was ladled on top, and rice and garnishes were added.

Let's just say that two of us polished off every morsel of food that evening. We even fought over the sauce, it was that good.

Thanks to the Daring Cooks and to Debyi for a most delicious challenge. If you want to make this for yourself, go to either the Daring Kitchen or to Debyi's blog for the recipe.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

BB: Birthday Sheet Cake

The first September challenge for the Barefoot Bloggers was Ina's Birthday Sheet Cake, chosen by Susy of Everyday Gourmet. I made this yesterday afternoon and took half of it to work with me in the evening, where it received rave reviews from everyone who had a piece.

I'm glad I didn't read any reviews prior to making this cake, because the lemon zest in the cake was delicious, adding just the right amount of zing to a potentially bland cake. The frosting was rich and tasty. It was a bit runny, but firmed up nicely when refrigerated.

I also only made half a recipe, using an 11x7 pan. Next time I will use one that is 9x13, which I think is a better fit for half the batter. Either way, you just have to pay attention while it's baking rather than depend on time alone.

If I bake it again, I might also frost it with a lemon icing, since I feel that the chocolate frosting, while delicious, overwhelms the delicate flavor of the cake.

For other, and possibly different, opinions. head on over to the Barefoot Blogger site.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fresh Corn and Avocado Salad : LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2009

There is no way that I would miss the Taste of Yellow event, hosted annually by Barbara of Winos and Foodies.

The LiveSTRONG event will held on October 2, 2009. It marks the 10th anniversary of Lance Armstrong's cancer diagnosis, and raises awareness of cancer and cancer-related issues through stories of all kinds. Last year I entered Rosemary Polenta and shared the story of my friend, David.

This year, while I have no recent stories to relate, I dedicate this light and tasty salad to all my friends and acquaintances, both in the real world and the blog world, who are courageously battling this disease.

Thanks to Barbara for hosting this event.

The recipe for the salad can be found here.

LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow is an official LiveSTRONG Day event sanctioned by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Livestrong 2009