Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 71st installment. The recipe is Chocolate-Mint Nightcaps.

This was one of those few recipes without a photo in the book, leaving me wondering if mine were turning out correctly.  It's a thin wafery (but soft) cocoa cookie, sandwiched together with chocolate mint ganache.  How could I go wrong? ;-)  The ganache recipe has you soak fresh mint in the hot cream, and then pour over chopped chocolate, and I used peppermint extract instead, since I had no fresh mint on hand.   I was too time-strapped to watch the video (yes, too time-strapped to watch a few minute online video - that sounds insane ;-) so I just guessed at the "nightcap" shape for the ganache decoration on top, based on the description in the book.  Looking forward to seeing other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers' versions of this!

The cookies seemed a little floppy (visible in the photo above) - I think I was expecting something crisp, rather than spongy.  So, I'm not quite sure I got this to match what the recipe writer was looking for.  They are pretty yummy, especially the ganache part (of course!)
Cookies after baking

Mixed-Starter Bread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 70th installment. The recipe is Mixed-Starter Bread.

This recipe was a French-style bread dough, made in several stages over two days.  It was delicious, and kept quite well, which I find is the case when the bread has a slower start and rise. You start with a small piece of dough, soak it in water, and add add a small amount of flour, and that is the first starter.  It rises for eight hours, at which point you put that starter into water, soften it for a few minutes and then add another small amount of flour.  This rises for four hours.  

At this point, it is very liquid and bubbly:

Now it's time to turn it into dough, with a small quantity of yeast (just 1/2 teaspoon), plenty of flour and salt.   This rises for 1.5 hours, and then you can shape and have the final rise before baking.  I tried several shapes - the basic baguette, the "wheat ear" (having not watched the video, I was just winging it in terms of the cuts to make the shape!) and the mini "Pain Fendu", with a channel down the middle, kind of baking up like two skinny short baguettes.  Here they are, on the peel, after rising, and before going in the oven:
Baked it on the baking stone, with a cast iron skillet of water in the oven, per the directions.  We really liked the bread!  I'm not sure if it's better than the speedier French bread recipe we did earlier - I'd need to try them side-by-side to know for sure.
I was glad the recipe included a time table, so I was guided on how to split this over the two days.  It wasn't a lot of hands-on time, but I did need to be time conscious in order to keep on top of getting the steps done without staying up too late the first night.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cranberry Crackle Tart - TWD: Baking Chez Moi

Here's the next installment of Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi - Cranbery Crackle Tart.
This was fluffy, tasty and  easy!  I've never made a pie with cranberries as the main fruit.  Dorie suggests two possible crusts you can use - I chose the Galette dough, which is a lot like an American pie crust, and mixed in the food procesor.  You roll it out, put it in the pan, and then use a pastry wheel to cut the edge off down below the rim of the pie pan, so you're making a tart with a low edge, inside a regular pan (I was glad it didn't call for a special pan for this - I may use this technique for future tart baking)  Pre-bake the crust (I used pie weights to keep it from puffing up), and then spread it with jam.  I found a strawberry/raspberry/cranberry jam, and used that:

Next, you whip up meringue, mix in cranberries, and pile that on top of the jam. I use the stand mixer with whisk attachment for meringue, and it is pretty reliable. Meringue is fun to play with, making swirls on top of the pie....


It bakes for a fairly long time at a low temperature. I'm not quite sure if I baked it long enough, but it seemed like the right consistency inside.   
We had many desserts already lined up for the Thanksgiving dinner, so had this as a pre-Thanksgiving treat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Amaretti - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 69th installment. The recipe is Amaretti.

These cookies are a recipe from Nick Malgieri, and contain very few ingredients; almond paste, sugar, and egg whites, with optional pine nuts to top them.  I skipped the pine nuts and just went for the plain cookies.    The texture and taste are both quite addictive - crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and very pure almond flavor.  Yum - I will definitely consider making these again.
 The finished cookies are flatter than I expected - I think of amaretti as little domes, rather than flat disks. As soon as I put these on the cookie sheet, they flattened right out.  The dough more like a batter than a dough. I also did not have to cook them as long as the recipe said.

The recipe suggests using almond paste in a can, since that has less sugar.  I did get a can of "Almond Filling", but it looks like it has some other odd ingredients that may not enhance these cookies  - coconut (?!) and a preservative.  I also had the almond paste in a tube, so I used that instead of the can, and will save the can for a future experiment.  
The cookies stuck to the parchment, and as I was too lazy (!) to do the suggested trick of setting the parchment on a wet cloth in order to soften them up, I just used a thin meta spatula to get them off as well as I could.  The bottoms of the cookies weren't completely intact (damage hidden in the photo above! :-) but that didn't affect the taste!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Palets des Dames- TWD: Baking Chez Moi

Maybe I'm crazy, but I want to try baking along with the Tuesdays with Dorie group for at least a few recipes from Dorie Greenspan's new Baking Chez Moi book.  I was enticed by the gorgeous photo of these cookies, and the fact that there was a free download of the recipe (the first one's free....).  I'm not sure I can keep up the pace, given the continuing "demands" (ok, complaining about baking being demanding is idiotic :-) of Baking with Julia, but I'll see.
Meanwhile, I did prepare the first recipe, this vanilla cookie called Palets des Dames.  The dough was quite simple, butter and sugar based, and came together quickly. You chill it, and then put small scoops or balls on your cookie sheet:

You bake the cookies until just golden - you can see from some of mine that I lost my focus (oops) and let them go a little too long for one of the cookie sheets, although they were perfectly delicious anyway.
Once they're baked, you ice them with a simple confectioner's sugar glaze, and that's it!  They are simple but delicious, and it's a good change of pace from the "chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate" tendency we have in our cookie baking here.

Alsatian Onion Tart - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 68th installment. The recipe is Alsatian Onion Tart.
Imagine my surprise when I read the recipes for November and realized that DARN, I don't have any pastry scraps left from October's puff pastry extravaganza, and now I need to make a new batch for Alsatian Onion Tart.  I was all ready to get out the food processor when I decided to look up how Julia herself (rather than Michel Richard, the contributor of the recipe in Baking with Julia) would make the puff pastry.  I pulled out my copy of Julia's The Way to Cook, and decided to follow her recipe for pastry, and then do M. Richard's Alsatian Onion Tart.

The Way to Cook has a simpler sequence of steps, without the package method.  You cube the butter:

and then toss it in the mixture of cake and all-purpose flour:

After that, you use your hands (my method) or a stand mixer to mush the butter cubes until they are "the size of a fordhook lima bean" (!!).  We had to look that one up, which led to a lengthy discussion about lima beans.   The next step is to add water and mix up the whole mess on your work surface, eventually forming a messy rectangle, which you fold in thirds and then roll, just as in the traditional recipe.  You "turn" it this way six times.  Eventually the mess starts to look like dough:
except instead of layers of butter, you have lumps of butter throughout.    
This seemed slightly easier than the other recipe, and dirtied fewer dishes (no food processor).  
The Alsatian Onion Tart (the whole point of this escapade) was quite good.  You cook a whole lot of chopped onions in chicken broth, blanch and then saute some bacon cubes, and pile the onions, with bacon on top, onto your pastry circle. 
Tart before baking
The pastry is quite easy to roll out, as long as you stay aware of flouring the surface to ensure it doesn't stick.  I'm sure this was all easier because the temperature is rather cool right now - would not want to do this in August.  I think it would have been even better baked on a baking stone to really crisp up the bottom.  Everyone devoured it, and it also provoked a conversation about "where IS Alsace, and what is its history?"  And I still have more puff pastry, so I won't be caught off-guard next time.... ;-)

Puff Pastry Pizzettes - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 67th installment. The recipe is Puff Pastry Pizzettes.
I baked this one on schedule, but then have had no time to sit and write!  So, here goes the second puff pastry adventure of October.  I used the remaining puff pastry from the previous recipe.  It was great to have puff pastry ready to just throw these together.  You cut out circles (I used my very dull biscuit cutter - since then, I have replaced it with a new, sharp one - good excuse to upgrade!)
and then top with cherry tomatoes (barely squeaked by with the last ones of the season!) and cheese.  The recipe called for goat cheese, but after a full day spent outdoors watching the Head of the Charles regatta, I couldn't face shopping, so I just used what I had, which was fresh Asiago cheese.  I also made some with mushrooms and herbs.
Pizzettes before baking
Once they come out of the oven, you brush with a little olive oil and top with a basil leaf (yum!).  My pizzettes were slightly lopsided - it was hard to anchor the round side of the tomato onto the flat surface of dough, although the directions say to push it into the pastry, I was a little too gentle with that, because I didn't want to smush the tomato.  I also wonder how "puffed" to expect the dough to be - mine didn't puff very high.

The recipe also suggests a sweet variation, with a slice of fruit or a spoonful of fruit compote.  Something to try with future scraps of dough....