Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BBD28: Buns

Years ago, when I had just graduated from college and was on my own as an adult, I bought a copy of Betty Crocker's New Dinner for Two Cookbook. I didn't need recipes that made massive amounts of food and this cookbook fit my lifestyle.

To this day, I still use recipes from that cookbook. They have become family favorites, familiar standbys. The book is falling apart, but the contents are very much alive and used.

One of my favorite bread/bun recipes is from this book: Batter Buns. These buns may not be glamorous show-stoppers, but they are quick and easy to make, especially if you want a nice yeast roll with little time to spare.

Batter buns are my contribution the the 28th Bread Baking Day, hosted this month by Rachel of Tangerine's Kitchen, and created by Zorra

Batter Buns

2/3 cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft shortening or butter
1 egg
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Measure the water into a mixing bowl. Add yeast, stirring to dissolve. Add sugar, salt, shortening, egg, and 1 cup of the flour. Combine by hand, or with a mixer at low speed. Add the remaining flour. Beat until smooth. Spoon into greased muffin cups, filling each a scant 1/2 full.

Let rise in a warm place until the batter just reaches to top of the muffin cups, 30 to 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 10-12 buns.

TWD: Orange-Coconut Tea Cake

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie offering was a Coconut Tea Cake. There were all kinds of variations to be made, so, since the lime-coconut version seemed to be the most popular, I decided to go with a Blood Orange-Coconut cake.

I added the zest of two small blood oranges and a few drops of orange oil. In place of the coconut milk, I used some of my powdered coconut milk, which I added to the dry ingredients; then I heated the water and butter together.

My only disappointment was that I couldn't detect the rum. Maybe I'll use more next time.

The outside of the cake looked a bit motley, but it was moist and delicious with a nice sugary crust. I had great plans to freeze some so I wouldn't be tempted to eat it all.

I lost.

It did last for quite a few days, retaining its moistness and flavor the entire time. I would highly recommend this cake as either a breakfast treat, a light snack, or a nice dessert.

The tea cake was chosen by Carmen of Carmen Cooks. It's definitely a cake I will make again. To read other opinions, stop by the TWD blog.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

This month's Daring Baker's challenge provided a perfect opportunity to use some of my blood oranges in a dessert. The season is just about finished, and I noticed that my tree is beginning to bloom again, so I can expect more oranges around the end of the year.

The main components for this challenge consisted of a pastry crust, homemade marmalade, a whipped cream filling, and orange segments to decorate the top. The last touch is a caramel-orange sauce.

I love marmalade, and the blood orange version has a lovely deep orange color. I'm sure I will be making more when the next season's crop is ready.

I don't have baking rings that the recipe called for, so I improvised and lined a small souffle dish with plastic wrap, built the dessert, froze it, then unmolded it.

I also used a new recipe for the pastry crust (pate sable). This recipe came from my baking text book and seemed to break all the rules for making a crust: softened butter, whipping the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then blending in the flour. It actually turned out to be a great crust, sort of like a shortbread cookie, and since I have quite a bit leftover, I plan to make some tartlettes, just for fun.

The other Daring Bakers came up with some delicious variations using strawberries, blueberries, and other citrus fruits. It's always inspiring to see their efforts. This dessert is lovely and delicious, and not at all difficult to make, so stop by Jennifer's blog to get the recipe.

Friday, March 26, 2010

BB: Caesar Club Sandwich

The second Barefoot Blogger recipe for March, the Caesar Club Sandwich, was one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. It had to be the caesar mayonnaise.

It was so good that my daughter never realized there were sun-dried tomatoes on it. (Score!)

While I did buy a ready-made ciabatta from the local grocery to save some time, I did make the caesar mayonnaise, including the bit of anchovy. I had a tube of anchovy paste in the pantry, just in case, so the time had arrived. I really believe it made all the difference in flavor, adding a subtle undertone to the dressing.

I love arugula, so that was the first layer.

Next came the sun-dried tomatoes,

followed by slices of Parmesan and some baked prosciutto. I could only find chopped pancetta at the grocery, so I decided to substitute with the prosciutto. Only a purist would know the difference.

The next layer consisted of slices of chicken.

Finally, there was another layer of arugula,

and, there you have it.

A most delicious sandwich, perfect for any meal.

Thanks to Karen of Shortbread for a great choice. Stop by the Barefoot Blogger site for more inspiration.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TWD: Dulce de Leche cookies

It's 9 am. I've been up since 4 am.

I drove my daughter down to the LA airport so she can fly to Rochester, New York, for a visit with her NY friends. No taste tester for two weeks. I have the house and food all to myself with no schedule of any kind. Yay! I plan to just work and bake, maybe pull a weed or two, clean up the house, fit in some quilting, and wait for a new grandbaby to arrive.

Yesterday, I squeezed in these most delicious dulce de leche sandwich cookies.

I'm glad I only made half a batch, because they are Addictive. And, actually, half a batch gave me over 30 sandwiches.

We especially like the cookies that were a little more browned around the edges. The filling tasted that much better in contrast.

This week's choice, Dulce de Leche Duos, was made by Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake. I do believe my quilt group will love these cookies, especially the few who don't care for chocolate, so the next time it's my turn to bring dessert, I will be baking these again.

For the recipe, head over to Jodie's blog; for other opinions, check out the Tuesdays with Dorie site.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Consider me either fashionably late or extremely early for National Chili Day, which occurs on either February 25th or 26th, depending on which source one uses. I don't remember much of February, partly because I worked long hours every day, and partly because it was a short month. The two states are incompatible.

I did, however, almost make the chili deadline. Two of the chilis were prepared and consumed, but not posted. This left the door open for chili #3, which was made and eaten on St. Patrick's Day.

The overall consensus was that each chili was delicious in its own right. No hands down favorites. This is both good and bad. Good, because each can be made again depending on what flavors one is hungry for; bad, because one has to decide which flavor one is hungry for.

Well, enough chatter. The following are the winning chilis.

The first to be made was one of the chilis from the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Cooking Light. The cover photo featured a delicious-looking chili that led the way,
Beef and Pinto Bean Chili.

It used hunks of beef, spices, tomatoes, and beer. I used Red Stripe lager. I also used black beans instead of pinto beans, since I didn't have pinto beans already cooked. It was very tasty, especially with sour cream and avocados as a topping.

The next chili version was from Tyler Florence. February was Tyler Florence month. The recipes were made, photographed, and consumed, but as you can tell, they haven't yet been posted. Soon.

Florence's chili did double-duty, therefore. This is his Beef Chili with Red Beans, Chocolate, and Ancho Chili Powder. I cooked up the kidney beans ahead of time, and blended the ancho chili powder using the eye-ball method, since I was halving the recipe. This chili also used hunks of beef, simmered for several hours, with some chocolate and corn meal added at the end.

This chili had a lovely depth of flavor and didn't require a lot in the way of toppings except for some grated cheddar cheese. It had a totally different flavor profile from chili #1, and was every bit as good.

Finally, there is chili #3, Boozy Beef Chili for St. Patrick's Day. I found this recipe on Susan's blog (Food Blogga), and it looked too good to pass up. So, chili with Guinness stout was on the menu for St. Patrick's Day.

Sadly, however, there was no Guinness to be had in the house. My daughter is the beer connoisseur, and she assured me that we were out. What to do, especially since no one was willing to make a run to the store just for beer? Crazy, I know.

Then, my daughter, in ultra-sacrifice mode, allowed me to use one of her precious Pipeline Porters. Brilliant! Pipeline Porter has essences of chocolate and Kona coffee, perfect, I'd say, for chili.

This chili used ground beef, a blend of spices, and a bit of brown sugar, and was much quicker to prepare than the previous two. The flavors were truly wonderful, helped along by the choice of beer. I doubt it would taste quite the same if the Guinness had been used. I cooked some pinto beans for this chili, then added sour cream, avocado, and sliced green onion as garnishes.

I think that the final test will be to combine ingredients and flavors from all three chilis and see what develops. I suspect another Pipeline Porter will volunteer. Beef chunks rather than ground beef will be the meat choice, along with a hearty spice blend and some grated chocolate.

March is now two-thirds over, so I guess I'd better get busy with baking, cooking, posting, and working. Not a moment to lose!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TWD: Razzzzzberries

Sometimes, even in the middle of a huge project, a gal just has to bake. Clears the cobwebs from the brain.

Eating chocolate doesn't hurt either.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie adventure was the Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Heavenly soft chocolate.

First, I prepared the crust, adding in some almond meal. This crust is easy to prepare and very delicious. If it wasn't for the chocolate filling, I would have just eaten the crust by itself. It's like a huge shortbread cookie.

Next, I sprinkled on the raspberries. Even though they aren't in season, I found a nicely-priced pint at the local grocery store.

The chocolate ganache filling came together quickly and easily. I changed only one part -- I combined the cream and the butter in a measuring cup, then heat them to boiling in the microwave before adding the mixture to the melted chocolate. That saved one pan.

The final result:

This tart is delicious when it's still a bit warm, and even tastes fine the next day. I sacrificed by taking all the corner pieces and side pieces, saving the middle parts for my daughter. What can I say? I love the crust!

Thanks to Rachelle at Mommy? I'm Hungry for a great choice. I've read that other TWD bakers will be substituting different fruits for the raspberries, so it will be interesting to see how their tarts turn out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Two Risottos

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

The tasks for this edition of the Daring Cooks were to make risotto and homemade chicken stock. Flavor combinations were up to the cook.

I chose to make a savory risotto for my first go-round, using asparagus and serving it with salmon. I blanched the cut asparagus in the chicken broth, then cooled it down while preparing the rice.

Instead of white wine, I used red because the bottle was already open. I just couldn't justify opening a whole bottle of white for such a small amount. The red worked out fine, and didn't even add much color to the rice.

The risotto turned out perfectly and was a lovely complement to the salmon.

For risotto #2, I wanted to improvise and create a sweet dish using apples and cranberries. I discussed this with my daughter/taste-tester over brunch yesterday.

To me, the conversation went like this:

I'm thinking of making a sweet risotto using cinnamon, apples, and dried cranberries and cooked with apple juice. What do you think?

To her, the conversation apparently went like this:

wa Wah, wa Wah, apples, wa Wah wa Wah peaches, wa Wah wa Wah wa Wah wa Wah.

Really? Peaches? Did I mention peaches?

Shades of the Far Side. Kids never listen, no matter what the age.

Anyway, for breakfast this morning, I experimented with this risotto.

First, I peeled and diced one apple, then sauteed it briefly in butter, adding a small amount of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a dash of cinnamon. While the apples were cooking, I heated the apple juice, placing some dried cranberries in the juice to plump and fishing them out when done.

Next, I sauteed about a half cup of Arborio rice in the apple pan for about one minute, then began adding the apple juice. It took a good half hour for the rice to cook. (Next time, I would dilute the apple juice a bit, but overall the end result was fine.)

After the rice had absorbed the juice, I added the zest of a small orange, then folded in the cooked apples and cranberries.

The sweet risotto turned out great, and made a nice change from the usual breakfast.

For more interesting risotto dishes, head over to the Daring Kitchen. The complete recipe for the savory risotto and its variations can be found at either Eleanor's or Jess's blogs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

BB: *@$ Meatloaf

In this case, *@$ doesn't mean something bad.

Me: What did you think of the meatloaf?

Daughter: It was 'effing' delicious.


That is mighty high praise, indeed. I have a long-time meatloaf recipe that beats out every other recipe I try. Except this one.

I was told, however, to continue to make 'my' meatloaf; that this one was a pretty close second.

Our first Barefoot Blogger recipe for March was Ina's Individual Meat Loaves. Clearly a winner. You can thank Tonya of What's On My Plate for this delectable choice.

The main difference, from what I can tell, is that the onions are sauteed before being mixed into the meat mixture and you make individual loaves instead of one big one. Even though it appears to be just another ordinary meatloaf, the flavor profile must be affected by the combination of seasonings.

I'm thinking of trying this again, only baking it in an 8x8 pan as I normally do. It might help with portion control. I halved this recipe, but I'm embarrassed to say that the two of us consumed every bit at one sitting.

Head on over to Tonya's blog for the recipe and to the BB blog to see who else baked this week.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TWD: Big-guy thumbprints

While I'm still trying to get caught up with life and projects, I did manage to squeak out a bit of time to bake cookies this week.

There's always time for cookies.

This week's TWD choice was brought to us by Mike of Ugly Food for an Ugly Dude. He chose Thumbprints For Us Big Guys. They seemed like a normal size to me. I guess I thought they would be bigger than the average cookie.

Still delicious, nonetheless.

And, they certainly weren't ugly. ; )

I used ground hazelnuts in the dough. There were some ground almonds in my freezer, but I stuck with the recipe. The cookies had more texture as a result, which is not a problem for me, but my daughter, who is texture-sensitive, didn't particularly care for the nutty bits. The dough came together nicely and was easy to roll into one-inch balls.

If you make these cookies, though, I would definitely recommend adding salt to the dough. They were a little flat (in taste) without it and the added jam filling made them almost too sweet.

Speaking of filling, I experimented with different kinds.

First, I tried some Nutella, hoping to complement the hazelnuts. It was fine, but all you tasted was Nutella.

Then, I went for the jam. My cupboard was amazingly bare of jam, so I ended up opening some boysenberry jam given to me by one of quilt friends. The jam-cookie combination was very good, although perhaps a bit too sweet. The salt would probably help that.

Finally, in a moment of inspiration, I took some mascarpone and blended it with some sugar, lime zest, and a pinch of salt. That was our favorite combination. The tang of the cheese went well with the sweetness of the cookie. That variety disappeared most quickly.

For the recipe, stop by Mike's blog, and then check out the great jam/filling combinations by the other TWD bakers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Flapjacks or granola bars?

Tuesdays are quilt group days. Our small group meets twice a month and we take turns bringing dessert. This week was my turn and I needed something quick and easy.

I could have bought something from a bakery, but that's not what I do. Monday night, during my "15 minutes of bed-time reading" time, I came across this recipe for Flapjacks in the latest issue of Bon Appetit.

Funny name for a bar cookie, but, hey, I had all the ingredients, even the golden syrup. My oats were old-fashioned rather than quick-cooking, but I figured it wouldn't make much of a difference. It didn't.

These were very quick to assemble and bake, and had cooled down nicely when dessert time came around. The interesting thing about these cookies is that the first bite is rather unimpressive, but as the essence of cookie lingers in your mouth and a minute or two passes, the nicest caramel flavor emerges.

There were only four of us this week. The recipe makes 16 cookies. There were only 2.5 cookies left. You do the math.

My daughter and I split the leftovers after dinner and kept wishing for more.

You can find the recipe here.

TWD: Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart

My coconut tart was slightly delayed this week, but all for a good cause.

Yes, I am swamped with work and debated whether to take the time to make this, but Wednesday evening was my last shift at the library, and I had promised my coconut-loving friends and co-workers that I would make this tart as my farewell gift to them. Besides which, my daughter is not a big coconut fan, and I certainly don't need to consume the entire dessert by myself.

The recipe stated that the tart is best served the day it is made, so that meant Wednesday. It also meant sacrificing some work time for a good cause and a much-needed mental break.

I decided to use my rectangular tart pan for a change.

The custard filling came together easily. Once again I used my technique of mixing all ingredients together, then cooking them until thickened. I also added a few drops of coconut extract along with the vanilla and rum. I personally did not detect much rum flavor, so when I make this again, I might consider adding a few drops of rum extract as well.

I also used unsweetened coconut. I swear by this now. Using the unsweetened version cuts the cloyingness that results when that over-sweet stuff is used. I made converts last night.

Finally, just to dress it up a bit, I piped on the whipped cream, then sprinkled the top with more toasted, unsweetened coconut.

The verdict?

To die for.

Only one small piece remained, which I split with my neighbor this morning after our walk. It was only fair, after all, since she lent me her styrofoam container for last night's transport.

Thanks goes to Beryl of Cinemon Girl for a most delicious choice. You can find the recipe on Beryl's blog. Other TWD bakers were very creative with this dessert, so be sure and check them out, too.