Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TWD: The Devil Made Me Do It

I'm a bit late with today's Tuesdays with Dorie post because I ran out of milk on Sunday and it wasn't replenished until late last night. So, I decided to wait and make the chocolate shortcakes during daylight hours.

Please tell me, how can a dough that is so sticky and tar-like make such a feathery-light little cake? (ha ha, tar and feathers)

I tried using an ice cream scoop to form the cakes, but the dough was so viscous that it popped the little slidey thingy right out of the scoop. I finished dishing with a spoon.

Anyway, this batch went directly to the freezer, hence the closeness of the dough dollops.

The baked cakes turned out nicely.

Instead of using them for shortcakes with fruit and whipped cream, I chose to take one of Dorie's suggestions and turn them into brunch biscuits, spread with whipped cream cheese and some cherry butter.

Now, that's what I call breakfast!

Devilish Shortcakes were chosen by Tania of Love Big, Bake Often. More shortcakes can be found at the TWD website.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

BBD34: Breads with Grains

November's bread baking challenge (BBD34) was hosted by Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen. The theme was bread with grains, such as (a) rye, (b) barley, (c) oats, (d) buckwheat, or (f) corn. You can choose single grain or in combination.

Wanting to get an early start, I made a whole grain bread that absolutely failed in every way: the dough texture was wrong, it didn't rise, and it tasted horribly. Not an auspicious beginning! I threw it away, something I have never done before with freshly homemade bread.

It took nearly the rest of November for me to shake it off and find another recipe.

My second effort was totally opposite from the first -- a perfect loaf. Everything about this bread was wonderful, the crumb, the appearance, the flavor. It is certainly one recipe that will be remade many times.

Grain-wise, this bread contains whole wheat, cornmeal, oats, and barley, so it met the criteria for the BBD challenge. The oats and barley are lightly toasted, then ground into flour. I used my spice/coffee grinder, which worked like a charm.

Then, because of a busy cooking/baking schedule for the holiday week just passed, I used my bread machine to advantage to prepare the basic bread dough, removing it to hand shape and bake in the normal way.

This was the end result.

It is delicious toasted or plain, slathered with butter and jam, or piled high with leftover turkey as a sandwich.

The round-up of all the grain-filled breads will be posted around December 5th. Thanks to Swathi for hosting and to Zorra for creating Bread Baking Day.

Four-Grain Bread
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Best Bread Machine Recipes)

1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/3 cup quick-cooking barley
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 cups bread flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon gluten flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Spread the rolled oats and barley on a shallow baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree F. oven about 15 minutes, or until light brown, stirring occasionally. Cool.
Place in either a blender or spice grinder and process until the mixture is the consistency of flour. Add all the ingredients to the bread machine according to the manufacturer's directions and select the appropriate cycle.

If using the manual cycle, remove dough when the beeper sounds, let rest for about 5 minutes, then shape as desired. Let rise for about 30-45 minutes, and bake at 375 degrees F. for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the internal temperature reads between 190 and 200 degrees F.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Pasta frolla is a delicious shortbread crust that is easy to make, either by hand or with a food processor. The flavor complements any filling that you use. Typically, the filling is either jam or pastry cream.

Because I was serving this for Thanksgiving, I chose something a bit different, a filling of ricotta cheese and chocolate. It has an intense chocolate flavor with a texture like a brownie or flourless cake. Most delicious.

I've included the recipes for the crust and the filling. For more great creations, stop by the Daring Kitchen to see what the other bakers did.

Pasta Frolla

  • 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Note: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

  1. Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
  2. Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
  3. Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface.
  4. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
  5. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
  6. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
  7. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
  8. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
When ready to use, roll out the dough to fit a 9" tart pan, saving the trimmings for decoration. Blind bake before adding the filling.

Ricotta-chocolate filling
(adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks

Combine the 3/4 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cool the sugar syrup slightly.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate over very softly simmering water.

Pulse the ricotta cheese and cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolks, 1 at a time, and process until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and process until combined. With the machine running, add the sugar syrup in a thin steady stream and process until smooth.

Pour the custard into the tart shell and bake at 350 degrees F. until the filling is almost set, about 30-40 minutes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because of the food and friendship. This year there were only two of us, which meant no pressure in the cooking department, except for my reputation for cooking less traditional dishes.

Even though I like turkey, I don't always feature it for our holiday dinners, and if I do, it's in a different form than the whole bird. (Cranberry-turkey raviolis have been a past hit.)

This year, I chose half a bone-in turkey breast and used the herb-encrusted recipe from Ina Garten's newest cookbook. The bird breast emerged moist and flavorful, so that will certainly go on my repeat list. I used fresh herbs from my garden, and I think that made all the difference in flavor.

The three sides were pumpkin gorgonzola flans

and potato gratin from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan,

along with a salad composed of spring mix, sliced fennel, sliced Fuji apples, and toasted walnuts, tossed with a fruity vinaigrette. It's based on a recipe from the November 2010 issue of Sunset magazine.

Leftovers were manageable. For tonight's dinner, there will be turkey sandwiches on homemade bread, and fresh pear and chestnut soup (also from AMFT).

Tomorrow's Daring Baker post will feature the dessert.

Then, it's on to December baking!

FFwD: Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flan

I saved the last of the French Fridays with Dorie recipes for Thanksgiving Dinner.

That would be the Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans. Only those loving that combination were present for dinner (all two of us), while the pumpkin-blue cheese hater was out of town. Her loss.

This is certainly an easy dish to prepare. My only alteration in the future would be to add twice as much gorgonzola. The cheese loses its strength in the flan, leaving only a soft, salty goodness, so I think more would be just fine.

As you can tell from the photo, the Potato Gratin made a reappearance at the holiday dinner table. It's wonderful that both dishes cook at the same temperature for a similar amount of time.

I'm looking forward to the December FFwD selections. One of the losers will be on the menu for tonight's dinner. Turkey sandwiches and soup -- how can you go wrong with that combination during freezing southern California evenings?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TWD: July Revisited and It is Picante

Way back in the summertime, July to be precise, one of the Tuesdays with Dorie selections was Tarte Noire, a simple shortbread-crust tart filled with luscious chocolate ganache.

I really wanted to participate, but I was somewhere in Colorado, returning from my road trip to Nebraska and New Mexico. Without the where-with-all to bake anything.

I had all the ingredients in the pantry, including this delicious chocolate. I felt sure I could squeeze it in sometime during the month of July.

But, if you participate in TWD, you know that it is a rare thing to either make something twice or fit it in after the due date. Every week it's something new.

Thankfully (no pun intended), Laurie tucked in a Rewind for November, and immediately, I knew that I would finally be able to make Tarte Noire with a dark chili chocolate filling. The hardest part was making the crust, which really isn't hard at all, except for the chilling and baking part. The waiting part. That's what was difficult.

I sprinkled some ancho chili powder over the top of the baked tart to complement the chili-chocolate filling.

To be honest, it isn't terribly picante/spicy, but occasionally there's a bite with a bit of warmth to it.

This is so delicious and elegant that I will have to remember to make this tarte for more formal occasions. Although, there is a large mint-flavored chocolate bar in the pantry, quietly requesting to be used the next time round, and sooner rather than later.

Since all the TWD bakers are making something different this week, it will be fun to stop by and see what each one chose to bake.

Monday, November 22, 2010

FFwD: Caramel Topped Semolina Cake

One of the November selections for French Fridays with Dorie is a caramel-topped semolina cake.

Or, in other words, fancied-up cream of wheat.

It's a pretty tasty, simple dessert. Very similar to how I fix leftover cream of wheat cereal, except for the caramel top.

I was all excited to see how the final dessert would look, but when I flipped it out of the baking pan, it was flat as a pancake. I suspect it needed to cook a bit longer, since the sides of the cake adhered to the pan while the middle part flopped out onto the plate.

It still tasted fine, even cold the next day.

I might make it again sometime; or I might just continue dumping a bunch of brown sugar and milk on leftover cream of wheat to save some time.

If you visit the FFwD website, you can read how the others fared with their desserts.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

TWD: Cranberry Lime Galette

By all rights, this galette shouldn't look as good as it does.

When the baking time was up, I decided that it needed just a few more minutes in the oven. So, I closed the oven door, and waited for the nice golden brown color to appear.

Only I got distracted. I walked over to the computer and started checking out various websites and blogs. Then, I went over to the dog to give her some attention. Somewhere in mid-pet, a little bell went off in my brain. Oh say, didn't you have a galette still baking in the oven? It must be carbonized by now.

Truly, the goddess of baking and ovens must have been overseeing everything, because the galette was perfectly cooked.

This is a simple, but delicious, dessert.

First, you roll out your pastry crust, then spread some finely chopped nuts and bread crumbs in the center.

Next, you spoon your fruit mixture over the crumbs.

Finally, you carefully fold up the sides of the pie dough, pleating the excess as you work your way around the galette.

Brush a little water on the dough, sprinkle with sugar, then bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. (I used a water spray bottle and it worked great.)

This week's hostesses were Whitney, April, and Elizabeth of Celestial Confections. Not only is this a lovely dessert, but it meets all the requirements for breakfast. And lunch.

Stop by Tuesdays with Dorie to see what the other bakers did. I understand there were all kinds of fruits filling this galette.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Lemon Soufflé

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

For the November challenge, we could make either a savory or a sweet souffle, or both. I've made plenty of cheese souffles, so I chose a sweet one for a change, one that was lemon rather than the usual chocolate.

I made a roux-based sauce, adding sugar and eggs along with lemon zest, then folded in the beaten egg whites.

The end-result was an airy dessert with a delicate lemon flavor. It was everything I expected.

For the challenge recipes, head over to the Daring Kitchen. You'll also be able to see some of the amazing souffles that the other Daring Cooks prepared.

Friday, November 12, 2010

FFwD: Roast Chicken

Here's another recipe from November's French Fridays with Dorie, Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux, or lazy person's chicken.

Basically, it's just a roast chicken with garlic and herbs, and it turns out deliciously. The recipe is similar to how I usually roast a chicken, except you are supposed to put a slice of bread under said chicken during the roasting process.

In theory, you end up with a luscious-tasting piece of toast.

In theory.

My piece of bread totally disintegrated and was nowhere to be found amongst the potatoes, carrots, onions, and liquid.

Aside from three meals, I did get a month's worth of tasty-looking chicken stock from the carcass, which is always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TWD: Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake

Four thumbs up for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection! Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen chose a shortbread cookie-type cake with a delicious cranberry-orange jam filling.

The cranberry-orange jam only takes a few minutes to make and would be delicious anytime. You can control the tartness by tasting the finished jam and adding more sugar, if necessary. I only added one tablespoon more and it turned out perfectly -- neither too sweet nor too tart.

For the cake part, you spread the jam between two shortbread layers in a 9" springform pan, sprinkle with sugar, then bake until the top is golden brown. This might require a few additional minutes.

The end result is wonderful. Why do I know this, aside from tasting it?

My daughter took some in her lunch today.

That says it all.

Next week, it will be my turn to make dessert for my quilt group. I was planning on making the Cranberry Upside Down Cake, but now I'm torn between that and this dessert. Decisions, decisions.

Jessica has the recipe posted on her website, and the other TWD bakers have their versions and opinions posted on theirs.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

FFwD: Potato Gratin

For years, I've searched to find the perfect recipe for potato gratin. One that was simple, worked, and tasted good.

With Dorie's recipe, I'm pleased to say that I have finally struck gold.

This was a simple, yet delicious, dish. The thinly sliced potatoes were layered in the baking dish with garlic-infused cream and shredded gruyere cheese, then baked until golden and crispy.

Instantly, this became one of my favorite dishes. Stop by French Fridays with Dorie to see the recipe line-up for November.

Next up for me will be the Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux.

By the way, congratulations to Dorie for making the Best Books of the Year lists for both the New York Times and Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TWD: Peanuttiest Blondies

These are definitely substantial blondies, both in size and in heft.

The first TWD recipe for November was chosen by Nicole of Bakeologie: Peanuttiest Blondies. Chock full of peanut butter, peanuts, and chocolate chips.

The dough is one of the stiffest I've ever made for bar cookies. You really have to work to get it into all the corners.

But, it bakes up nicely.

Being the ornery person I am, I used natural peanut butter. I just can't figure out why it makes a difference.

I gave some to my neighbor's kids for their Halloween treat.

We tend to be brownie fans in this household. For blondies, these are pretty gosh darn delicious.

Head over to Nicole's blog for the recipe, and to the Tuesdays with Dorie blog for all the blondie renditions. (I know for a fact there are more than two.)