Saturday, December 22, 2012

Finnish Pulla - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 23rd Installment.  The recipe is Finnish Pulla.

I really enjoyed this recipe - it was fairly simple to make.  I was able to neglect it slightly by leaving it rising in a cool room all morning while I was out running errands - no problem at all with the finished (or should I say Finnish, har har) result.  It took lots of space to braid, since it is so long before looping it back into a circle. 
Cardamon is one of my favorite spices for this kind of slightly sweet bread.  I had some pods on hand (leftover from some previous recipe), so grinding those fresh made the flavor even better.  I also had the pearl sugar that I got a while back from King Arthur Flour, and that gave it the authentic look.   It was excellent as toast, days later. I had actually prepared this for the BWD "deadline" of December 18th, but time got away from me.  All too common an occurrence in December!    This would be an excellent recipe for a special occasion brunch or breakfast.
Before baking - very puffy dough

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gingerbread Baby Cakes - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 22nd Installment.  The recipe is Gingerbread Baby Cakes.
I baked this as a large single cake, instead of the "baby cake" size, since I don't have any baby cake pans.   I greased and floured a 10" cake pan, but after attempting to fill it with the batter, I found that it was too shallow.  Take 2: I used a German pan which is a deeper dome-shaped 10" pan ,and that held all the batter.  I had to bake it longer than the recipe said, until it got firm in the center.  The cake is still very moist, even after all that baking.  As described in the recipe, it did look rather curdled while I was mixing it, but then evened out.

I really liked the spiciness of the cake (1 teaspoon of black pepper - wow!).   It didn't taste just like conventional gingerbread.  I was amazed at the 2 cups of molasses included - and even with that, plus the brown sugar, it didn't seem overly sweet.  We enjoyed it with whipped cream.

It would be fun to try this in the smaller pans - something for when I have more cupboard space for baking equipment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Best Ever Brownies - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 21st Installment.  The recipe is Best Ever Brownies.
After the comments in the blog about gooey brownies taking a long time to bake, I braced myself, but as it turned out, my brownies went pretty well.  Maybe all the warnings made me pay more attention to following the recipe exactly.   After listening to a radio interview about how one can't multitask while cooking (or one will suffer the consequences), I decided that maybe this project is helping me to pay attention more directly while I bake.  Or maybe it's just making me realize that I don't always pay attention while I bake :-)

I also increased my popularity in my household by making brownies for "no particular reason" (usually it's for an event, and the brownies are whisked out of the house without a trace).  The brownies tasted great! 

This did seem like a lot of trouble for brownies, with the whisking of sugar and eggs, adding half of it to chocolate and then whipping the rest (getting out the Kitchen Aid mixer for brownies?!).  It seemed more like the method one would use for a cake. 
Eggs and sugar whipped for three minutes
Folding the whipped eggs into the chocolate

I also used my favorite chocolate/butter melting technique in the microwave.  I find it more foolproof than the stove.  You put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave it for a minute or two on 50% power, till the chocolate is getting soft.    At that point, you can add the butter,  and continue on 50% power for another minute or so, keeping an eye on it.  Stir it before adding the butter, and then stir again after the butter has a chance to melt. I'm much less likely to burn the chocolate when I use this method.

I did bake them longer than the recipe said - exactly how long, I can't tell you...I put them in for the amount of time in the recipe, decided they needed a little longer, and then promptly forgot to set the timer.  Luckily, a few minutes later, I remembered them,  ran to the oven and pulled them out right away.  Phew. 

Does anyone know the bio for the author of this recipe?  The name is Rick Katz, but there is no biography in the back of my "Baking with Julia" book.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Buttermilk Crumb Muffins - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 20th Installment.  The recipe is Buttermilk Crumb Muffins
So many things I could say...
  • "Crumb" is right!
  • All that shortening, and they still wouldn't come out of the pan!
When I saw the description "flat topped muffin", I was a bit leery - often that means a wet batter than makes a muffin that won't release from the pan.  I really DID grease the pan, and followed the recipe to the letter (made a half recipe, but otherwise, did exactly what it said).  For the half recipe, I used one regular-sized 6 muffin pan, and another 6 muffin pan with small wells.

I started off optimistically - a recipe by Marion Cunningham, written and edited by Julia and Dorie - how could it go wrong?  I added some additional nutmeg (any baker who hasn't tried using fresh nutmeg should definitely give it a try - it is wonderfully fragrant).

The first sign of trouble was the fact that each muffin  was flat, except for a dent in the center, when they came out of the oven.

The process of attempting to remove them from the pans turned ugly - not a single one came out without the bottom sticking to the pan, and needing to be pulled out separately, as in this photo:
Good thing I wasn't making these for company!
They were very tasty and well-liked by the crowd, but unless I get a sense of where this went wrong, I may not make this one again. I will be interested to read other people's experiences with this recipe.

Halloween Diversion - Chocolate Linzer Cookies

Just a quick detour away from Baking with Julia....

I got a Halloween linzer cookie cutter as a gift, so I looked for recipes, thinking that there might be something other than the usual hazelnut cookie with raspberry jam (not that there's anything wrong with the standard Linzer cookie! :-)

The King Arthur Flour site has a Chocolate Linzer Cookie recipe, so I made that, along with some orange-tinted icing to fill them.  Very easy, and yummy - the icing is pretty basic, without a lot of its own flavor, but the cookies themselves are quite flavorful, and as they say, the effect is something like an Oreo (only better!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bagels - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Nineteenth Installment.  The recipe is Bagels.

These turned out really well - the family suggested I make these again very soon. I had made this recipe when the original series was on TV, so this was my second try at it. It's surprisingly easy. We enjoyed them with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Yum.

Before boiling
I held the raised dough in the fridge overnight, and that worked fine. I love the transformation in the boiling water.

After boiling

I also used my pizza stone and the ice cubes on the bottom of the oven.  I might bake them a little longer next time - they browned a lot on the top, but less on the bottom.  The bagel surfaces weren't as smooth as I would have liked, so I think I could use more care with the shaping to really get that surface tension right, so they're less lumpy.

I actually planned ahead and allowed enough time to do this without going nuts or staying up until all hours! I can be unrealistic when it comes to time estimation, so I'm happy if one side effect of having baking deadlines is that I learn better time management as a side effect of all the baking :-)  Now if only I could master the layout of the blog post with the photos.....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Eighteenth Installment.  The recipe is Cranberry Walnut Pumpkin Loaf.
They looked very pretty, even though this photo is a bit "brown on brown".  Still honing my food photography skills....
This bread is delicious, and great for the changing seasons here in Massachusetts. I had written "great" next to this recipe in the book, but I don't remember when I made them previously.  I think I may have bought the mini loaf pans in order to make this recipe. I do remember being skeptical of a yeast bread with pumpkin, but really like the result, just like last time.
One thing this Baking with Julia project is reinforcing for me is that baking projects are more fun when I really pay attention.  After last time's inattentiveness, leading to over-browned bread, I was determined not to get distracted and miss something.  
This was fairly easy, and I liked the flexibility of the built-in time in the fridge.  I'm so glad people commented in the P&Q warning about it needing overnight rising, because I hadn't read the recipe ahead of time. 
Raised and ready to go into the oven

Monday, September 17, 2012

Whole Wheat Loaves - TWD: Baking with Julia

Whole Wheat Loaves - TWD: Baking with Julia 

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Seventeenth Installment.  The recipe is Whole Wheat Loaves.

Ah, the saga of the whole wheat bread.  I had made this recipe before, and it was as easy as I remembered. I did a lot of baking with whole wheat recipes from The New Laurel's Kitchen cookbook, so this kind of recipe is very familiar to me.  I think the combination of malt syrup and honey makes it taste really good. I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and it even managed to smoothly knead in the water I threw in late in the kneading because I forgot to add at the beginning.

 Apparently pride cometh before a fall, because in my over-confident state, I didn't read the baking instructions carefully, and didn't turn the oven down when I put the loaves in!  I set the timer for slightly less than the minimum time, and when I got to the oven, this is what the loaves looked like (eeeeeeeek!)  At least the bottoms of the loaves weren't blackened, and you can see from the sliced loaf above, the inside was just fine.

 I was a bit sloppy on shaping - I had run out of counter space due to three simultaneous cooking projects (gee, maybe that's why I mis-read the oven instructions :-), so I shaped the loaf in my hands in mid-air and stuck it in the pan.  It may not win a prize for its beauty, but the bread was very yummy. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nectarine Chiffon Upside Down Cake - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Sixteenth Installment.  The recipe is Nectarine Chiffon Upside Down Cake.

  This cake is great!  We had local nectarines, which made it even better.

 I had several phases during the multi-step odyssey:

1. Set up the fruit and brown sugar layer.  I was a bit apprehensive about putting the springform pan on the burner, but it went fine.  Feeling very concerned about the layer sticking to the pan, and wondered if I should use parchment in the pan, but just pressed on, following the recipe.

2. Cake batter layer - very puffy batter and barely fit in the pan.  The streusel was easy to make and very tasty (I liked the ginger and cinnamon combination). 

3. At this point in the process, I realized that when I separated the eggs, I put all six yolks into the batter, instead of only four!  Oh, nooooo....

All's well that ends well - the cake came out of the pan just fine, and everyone enjoyed it with some whipped cream.  I think it was probably slight more moist with the extra egg yolks, and maybe a little heavy - it definitely sank as it cooled.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Popovers - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Fifteenth Installment.  The recipe is Popovers.

We love popovers at our house, so this was a hit with everyone.  Yum. We usually have these with breakfast, but we were away on vacation, so in the time crunch that happened, I made this as the bread to go with our salad dinner one evening when we returned.  It was a great addition to the meal.

Based on a prior experience with this recipe, I used a lot of butter to grease the pan.  Still had some sticking, and am wondering what the solution is to this.  I have had better luck with recipes where the pan is heated and then buttered and filled with batter, or even pre-heated with butter in it. 

Some sticking, but not too bad

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Berry Galette - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Fourteenth Installment.  The recipe is Berry Galette.

This was so easy and so delicious!  I had local fresh blueberries, so just used those, rather than mixed berries.  The crust got rave reviews from my family, and it was a relief to have a positive crust experience after what happened last time.   I have made galettes before (lazy person's pie crust), but never with this combination of ingredients - sour cream and cornmeal.  The crust got rave reviews.

Before baking
I made the whole crust recipe, and took the suggestion in the book to make the cheese and tomato (another local seasonal food) galette for a starter.  Both were devoured in short order.   I wondered if the sugar in the crust would taste odd with the savory filling, but it was quite tasty.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blueberry Nectarine Pie - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Thirteenth Installment.  The recipe is Blueberry Nectarine Pie.

Two reactions....Yummy!! and Arrghhhh!  

First: Yummy! I loved the filling of this pie.  I've never before made a fruit pie where I cooked part of the filling and added the raw fruit  - great combination of juice and chunks of fruit.  It did benefit from cooling for quite a while - I'm sure it held together better because of that.
This filling looked like jewels...
Second: Argh!  The crust drove me insane.  I made a half recipe (since the recipe made enough for two pies) and am starting to wonder if I mis-computed the quantities.  I have made many pies, and used various crust recipes, so I didn't expect to struggle with this.  Even after overnight in the fridge, it would not roll out and hold together.  You might want to look away, because this is ugly ;-)  I attempted to fold the crust over, pick it up, and put it in the cake pan, and this was the result:

I gave up on the cake pan, and pressed it into a pie plate, poured in the filling (skipped the butter dots - after wrestling with the crust, I had had enough of butter for one day), and patched together the top crust.

I'm still not sure why the recipe calls for a cake pan....

The happy ending to this sad crusty tale was that the pie tasted very good and the family enjoyed it.  These two fruits are in season here in Massachusetts, so I was able to buy local fruit, making for an even better result.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Semolina Bread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Twelfth Installment.  The recipe is Semolina Bread.

This was an exercise in how long I could stretch out the baking project.  I was camping during the weekend when I would normally have done this baking, so I was already running late, and then once I got into my work week, I had barely any time to bake.  I mixed the sponge, left it overnight in the fridge, mixed the sponge into dough, left THAT overnight in the fridge.  The next day, I still didn't have time to rise and bake, so punched it down one more time and put it into the fridge for another day before finally rising and baking it.

Yum!  It actually turned out pretty well, which means that this recipe must be fairly forgiving with respect to timing.    I was surprised that it didn't seem too salty - usually I would expect to use only a teaspoon of salt in a loaf this size.  We enjoyed dipping it in olive oil and eating with fried eggs for breakfast.

Here's the loaf before going in to the oven.  I have a gadget from King Arthur Flour to slash the top (called a "lame"), and it worked well on this dough.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hazelnut Biscotti - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Eleventh Installment.  The recipe is Hazelnut Biscotti.

I love baking biscotti!  I feel like they are such a maximum payoff for minimum effort. Although it takes some time to manage the two stages of baking, the result always seems so special, compared to the easy preparation method.

Thank goodness for baking parchment - this was very sticky

I had made this recipe once when the series was on TV - I remember watching and being inspired to make them right away. This recipe delivered exactly as promised. The batter seemed sticky, but baked up just fine. The one twist on this recipe was the second baking on a wire rack.  No fussing with turning the biscotti over in the middle of baking.
First baking done, and one log cut up

I am just wrapping up an insane couple of months at work, and finally am free of the obligation to squeeze some work time into my evening, so I celebrated my liberation by enjoying this Independence Eve baking project for fun.  Biscotti in the morning tomorrow, with my coffee as I watch Wimbledon on my day off from work.  Yeah!

French Strawberry Cake - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Tenth Installment.  The recipe is French Strawberry Cake.

This one was very yummy, and I agree with the description of it being kind of like a strawberry shortcake.  It hit that balance point of fluffy cake with juicy strawberries and cream soaking in, to just the right texture.  I made it with fresh local strawberries - the best!

I have been incredibly busy at work, so despite the fact that I did make this in time for the "deadline" (is there really a deadline when one is baking for fun?), I just now got to posting it.

I really like cakes with multiple thin layers with filling between. - this one has strawberries and whipped cream, with more whipped cream on the outside.  It can be tricky to cut the layers - even with a sharp serrated knife, I find that I don't always cut evenly.  Luckily it was fairly forgiving, especially since you cover the whole thing in whipped cream, so no one can see the evenness of the layers you cut.

Cake before cutting up

Layered with filling before frosting

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Oasis Naan - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Ninth Installment.  The recipe is Oasis Naan.

After an extra week between recipes, I lost my focus and almost forgot to do this week's baking!  Luckily this recipe was quite easy and perfect for a Sunday when I had some other things on my schedule.  I love bread recipes where you don't have to sweat the timing of the rise (thank you Julia and Dorie for telling us this in the recipe!).  My dough sat for an extra two hours in my cool kitchen, and was just fine.

I have made Naan before, but this was the easiest recipe I think Iused.  It seemed lumpy as I started to stir, but then the lumps just vanished and it smoothed right out.    The dough was rather wet, so I had to use a fair amount of flour while doing the 10 minutes of kneading.

Some specific notes:
  • Salt, scallions, and cumin seed as the topping - YUM!   I used Hawaiian sea salt.  
  • It was useful to have a pizza stone and two peels for handling the dough.  
  • I used all-purpose flour - will be curious to see if others tried it with bread flour, since that can make a chewier bread sometimes.  
  • Now I'd like to find a recipe for whole wheat Naan - anyone out there got one?

The recipe was accurate - it was best the day it was made.  My family and I love Naan, and I will definitely keep this recipe on my roster for the future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pecan Sticky Buns - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Eighth Installment.  The recipe is Pecan Sticky Buns.

Wow - these were very yummy, and although they took some time, fun to make and not too difficult.  
  • Love the layers formed by the folding and butter!
  • It's hard to imagine how one would do this recipe for a breakfast...the overnight rise of the dough works, but once you start rolling, filling, and rising,  it's 3+ hours until they're ready to eat. That means getting up at 6 if you want to eat the rolls at 9.  I guess if you are getting this decadent with your menu, it's really brunch where you should be serving the rolls, at 10:30 or later :-)  Those who are up at 9:00 can have some oatmeal....
  • The (Kitchen Aid) mixer did get hot, but held up.  
  • I messed up the sponge step - I misread, and stirred all the flour in at once, instead of half in the sponge and half sprinkled on top.  It was lumpy and took some extra beating in the next step to get it smooth, but it worked.  
  • I added extra flour (1/2 cup in all) to get the dough to be firm enough to slap the side of the mixer bowl.
  • I left the rolls rising longer than specified, but the room was cool and it was just fine.  

One striking aspect of this recipe was the amount of butter (over a pound).  
In the dough

On the dough

In the pan for the caramel layer - one
stick per 9" round!

Spread in the pan
I found the rolling process easier than the Rugelach.  I baked one roll and froze the other roll for later.

Rolls ready to go into the pan

I didn't put the butter dish on the table, and no one asked for it :-)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hungarian Shortbread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - Seventh Installment.  The recipe is Hungarian Shortbread.

First, I want to say (or rather ask) - "Shortbread"?!

 With all my past experience with Scottish Shortbread, this seems more like a buttery cake with filling than shortbread.  It reminded us a bit of the Butterk├╝chen we've eaten in Germany.  You can see from the empty space in the pan that it has been popular in the household :-)

The rhubarb filling makes a nice contrast with the sugary, buttery cake.  I find this shortbread to be very intensely sweet - good as a small slice with a cup of coffee.

The method was definitely interesting (freezing the dough and then grating it!).  It looked more like grated cheese than cookie dough:
Spreading rhubarb filling on lower layer of grated dough