Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

The final August selection for Tuesdays with Dorie is the melt-in-your-mouth Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies.

One taste and it's like you've died and gone to heaven.

No special issues to report. Instead of chocolate chips, I chopped up one of my Valrhona bittersweet chocolate bars. I will so do that again.

These shortbread cookies are perfect for bake-on-demand desserts. I keep the plastic bag in the refrigerator and only measure and cut what I'm going to bake. I'm also using the toaster oven, lining the tray with nonstick foil. This way I don't add extra heat to the kitchen on those toasty summer days.

Otherwise, we would eat the whole lot of them in one sitting.

I'm sure about that.

My camera decided to take blurry photos this time, hence the lack of pretty cookie pictures. Check out the TWD blog for oodles of nonblurry photos.

Thanks, too, to Donna of
Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First for a winning cookie choice. These cookies will definitely go on the 'bake again' list.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Mixed Berry Cheesecake

Down to the wire it is.

The final recipe for August's Barefoot Blogger is Mixed Berry Cheesecake.

You will, no doubt, notice the lack of said Mixed Berries. As pretty and as tasty as they may be, we, in this household, prefer our cheesecake plain. Chocolate or marble are also acceptable; but no toppings.

We want to taste the Cheesecake, after all!

Since I began this blog about three years ago, I've made more cheesecakes than I can count. Each one contained a slightly different set of ingredients, and each one had different baking requirements. I still have one more recipe that I want to try. The recipe calls for baking the cheesecake overnight.

I must say, however, that Ina's cheesecake is super delicious. And well it should be since it contains a ton of cream cheese and several chickens' worth of extra-large eggs. It's also nice and lemony, just the way I like it.

The only issue I had was with the graham crackers. What exactly constitutes a graham cracker? Is it one little section, a half of a big cracker, or the whole thing that you pull out of the wrapper? I ground those crackers and measured them, and noted that 1 1/2 cups equals one entire package plus two big crackers from a second package. (I also miss the waxed paper packages that were much, much easier to open and still kept the crackers fresh.)

Except for the funny-looking sunspot pattern on top, it came out perfectly. (Maybe that's why you add the fruit, to cover the spots. Heck with that. They add character.)

The cheesecake had to sit overnight in the refrigerator. Sheer torture. I came this close to having cheesecake for breakfast on Sunday morning. Let's just say it was a lunch appetizer. (After all, I did have to photograph it when the light was at its best, right?)

In the spirit of saving calories, arteries, and waistlines, I sent a third of the dessert over to my neighbors, who adore cheesecake. It's always nice to share.

As for me, I'm into delayed gratification. One more post to compose, then it will be time for No Reservations and a slice of yummy cheesecake. Maybe a tad bit larger than the one below.

Thanks to
Nathalie of
Snowbell Jewelry for having us try another cheesecake recipe. You can find the recipe here, and if you can brave the amounts of cream cheese and eggs, you will have one might fine cheesecake to gobble down.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oven-Fried Chicken a la Barefoot Contessa

The second Barefoot Blogger recipe this month was Oven-Fried Chicken.

Basically, you soak chicken in buttermilk, dredge it in flour,

fry it until the outside is golden brown and crispy,

then finish it in the oven so the chicken is cooked through.

I always have buttermilk in the refrigerator because I regularly use it for soaking chicken and making pancakes. Skinless, boneless chicken thighs were my meat of choice. They take less time to cook and the happy eaters don't have to wrestle with bones.

I like Ina's suggestion to deep fry in a very deep pot as opposed to a frying pan. No grease spatters to clean up!

The consensus was that the chicken was delicious, but because it does take extra time and ingredients (aka peanut oil), I would probably make it just for special occasions. Oven-baked chicken is every bit as good and requires a bit less effort.

Thanks to Vicki of
My Fare Lady for a delicious chicken dinner. The recipe can be found in Barefoot Contessa Family Style on page 81, or on the Food Network website.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

NFR: Fitness Friday on Saturday night

I'm getting closer to posting on Fridays. Baby steps.

This week has been the best mileage week so far. I'm still in Virginia, and I still have a long way to go, but it's motivating to see the distance increase each week.

It also helps that I finally figured out how to piece the rectangles for my quilt. Section 1 was completed yesterday, photographed this morning. I'm having great fun going through my stash and pulling colors.

Section 2 was begun this morning. We'll see how many more sections I can complete by next Friday, assuming I earn enough pieces of fabric. That's truly motivating, since I can envision the end-result and don't want to come up short fabric-wise by having low mileage.

And, clearly, with all the breads, tarts, baked alaskas, and grilled sandwiches, I need to keep moving.

Stop by Tallgrass Prairie Studio and the LBL exercise site to learn more about the walking project

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Oh yeah. Definitely an Ultimate Sandwich.

I've loved grilled cheese sandwiches for as long as I can remember. My daughter and I make them on a regular basis, and being purists, we only use real cheese. Real, extra-sharp, sharp cheddar cheese. No fake stuff for us, even if it does melt like crazy.

As participants of the Barefoot Bloggers, we were lucky this month to be able to get a sneak preview into Ina's new cookbook, due out in late October,
“Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?”

, of Ezra Poundcake fame, chose the Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich as our first recipe from the new cookbook.

I had all the ingredients on hand, extra-sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan, gruyere, bacon, bread.

Oh, and I am a mayo girl. Forget ketchup and mustard, give me mayonnaise for my sandwiches, hamburgers, and hot dogs. As a kid, my favorite burger was a beef patty with lots of mayo and dill pickle slices. Anything else was a hideous addition. Decades later, I still feel the same way, although I'm a bit more tolerant now of other condiments.

I don't think it really matters if you have a panini press for this. I don't press my normal grilled cheese sandwiches, and, frankly, they tasted just fine cooked the ordinary way. My one change would be to cut back on the salt, or omit it altogether. I do like salty foods, but this was just about over the edge. My daughter loved the mustard in the spread. Me, too. It wasn't overpowering and added just the right bite.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the other new recipes are. Meanwhile, I'll keep going through the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks that I currently own. They are quickly becoming some of my favorite recipes that I make many times.

For the sandwich recipe, head over to Rebecca's blog. You'll be glad you did.

Daring Bakers: Baked Alaska

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

Mandatory: Whether you make the Baked Alaska, the petit fours, or both, you must make the brown butter pound cake as written and the ice cream from scratch.

Since my daughter had just returned from an Alaskan cruise with her best friend, I chose to make the Baked Alaskas.

I made the brown butter first,

then make the brown butter pound cake.

I had intended to use the leftover cake to make a few petit fours, but, for some strange reason, the remaining cake disappeared before I could get back to it. Take that as a testament to how delicious the cake was.

I used some peach ice cream that was leftover from the July Daring Bakers challenge, as well as some chocolate ganache ice cream from another baking group. Hands down, the chocolate was the favorite.

For the meringue topping, I tried piping it and spreading it on with a spoon in a free-form design. It truly doesn't matter, they both taste the same, although the piped meringue has an edge on attractiveness. I used my handy little blowtorch to singe the meringue.

The end result was a lovely, delicious dessert that can be made ahead of time, making it a good candidate for entertaining.

Do stop by the Daring Kitchen to see all the daring creations and to get the recipe for the Brown Butter Cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sweet Portuguese Bread

Why is homemade bread so delicious, especially a slightly sweet homemade bread?

This month the Bread Baking Babes played around with Sweet Portuguese Bread. It's been awhile since I joined in, but the timing was just right for August.

Last night I made the sponge. This morning I set out the remaining ingredients so they could come to room temperature. It didn't take long because we are having a heat wave. It didn't take long for the bread to rise, either. After two hours, the dough was ready to overflow my big bowl.

I decided to bake the loaves in cake pans. In preparation, I greased them well and lined the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. In the heat of the early afternoon, they doubled in size in just less than one hour.

Baking was a breeze.

The end result was a light, fragrant, wonderful-tasting bread. I did add some ground flax seed, as was suggested. It gave the bread a nice, speckled appearance without altering the taste.

For the recipe and other Bread Baking Babe details, stop by Tanna's blog, My Kitchen in Half Cups. Thanks for the opportunity to bake along with you.

Now, back for another slice.

TWD: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart

It's peach season now, and there could be no better way to celebrate than to make Dorie's Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart. I made this a few weeks ago, and it disappeared in the blink of an eye.

When I go to the farmers market on Wednesday, I will see if there are still peaches and nectarines available, because I really need to bake this tart again!

In between the peachy spokes, there is a lovely custard that has been topped with a streusel mixture. This creates a wonderful flavor and texture combination between the creamy and nutty and the fruity. There is a visual texture as well.

Thanks to Rachel of
sweet tarte for a perfect summer dessert. You can find the easy recipe on her blog.

After looking at a few early posts, I'm wondering if we all used the same recipe and instructions, because my tart looks totally different. That's one of the fun things about baking groups, though. Everyone's efforts can look completely dissimilar. I'll be checking the TWD blog tomorrow morning to see all the tarts and read all the comments.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NFR: Fitness Friday on Sunday night

This week I surpassed my weekly walking goal, and, in fact, it's the best week in August for mileage. With one more full week, I'll do my best to make it the top week for the month. I am still, however, in Virginia.

I'm going through orange and yellow fabrics and will head to green next. Still trying to decide on how to cut the strips -- I'm probably over-thinking this whole process. Some bright idea will click soon, I'm sure.

Meet my walking companion and my office "helper." That's 86 pounds of German Shepherd squeezed under my desk.

For some reason, she likes having her paw held.

Stop by Tallgrass Prairie Studio and the LBL exercise site to learn more about the walking project

Boozy Breads

The theme for August's Bread Baking Day (#33) is Breads with Booze, hosted by Adriana of by Baking Powders.

What you see above is my favorite sandwich, a reuben, full of pastrami, gruyere, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing. This is my benchmark sandwich. I make a thumbs-up or thumbs-down review on any new reuben-offering restaurant by how good the sandwich is.

When I was looking for a bread recipe to meet this month's requirements, I ran across Caraway Cheese Loaf in one of my cookbooks. It's a hearty bread with Swiss cheese, caraway seeds, and dark beer. Perfect match.

My daughter sacrificed one of her Pipeline Porters.

I had gruyere on hand, so I substituted that for the Swiss cheese.

I pulled out my bread machine, added the ingredients, and pushed the button.

Because I wanted to make sandwiches, I used the standard 9x5 bread tin.

The kitchen smelled more heavenly than usual while the bread was baking.

After a short wait, until the bread was cool enough, I sliced it open to try a piece. It tasted like a reuben sandwich just by itself.

The rest is history. For three days straight, I practiced my reuben-sandwich techniques, each sandwich better than the one before. At its best, it rivaled the one from my local deli, which has the best reuben to be found anywhere in the west.

So, Caraway Cheese Loaf is my submission for Bread Baking Day #33. Thanks to Adriana for hosting, and to Zorra for creating this great, monthly bread-baking event.

Caraway Cheese Loaf

¾ cup shredded Swiss Cheese

3 tablespoons bread flour

1 ¼ cups dark beer

1 egg

3 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon caraway seed, crushed

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

In a small mixing bowl, toss together the Swiss cheese and the 3 tablespoons of bread flour. Place the remaining ingredients in your bread machine bowl, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the Swiss cheese mixture. Select the manual cycle.

When the manual cycle has finished, remove the dough, shape, and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375°F for about 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature is between 190°F and 200°F.

Remove from oven; remove from pan and let cool on a rack.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

A couple of Saturdays ago, I decided to depart from the normal breakfast of cold cereal and bake the TWD Oatmeal Breakfast Bread. It was definitely a good choice. You just can't beat a nice moist bread with a streusel topping.

Instead of raisins, I chose to add dates. Dried sour cherries were a close second, but the dates won out. They were ideal, too, contributing to the moistness and the subtle sweetness.

While it's not very photogenic, the taste is wonderful, truly a nice change from the usual weekend breakfast treat.

Natalie of
Oven Love made a great choice. You can find the recipe on her blog. The other TWD bakers have made some lovely variations of this bread, so be sure and stop by to take a look.