Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gingersnaps - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 47th installment. The recipe is Gingersnaps.

Mmmm...ginger...something to cut through the fog of holiday preparations and food overload.  I had made these once before, because I had notes in my cookbook about the dough being soft and rather fragile, but I have no recollection of actually cooking them! (got to start putting dates on these notes...)

I'm glad I reviewed the advice on Tuesdays with Dorie from people who had already prepared this recipe, and increased the spices - I quadrupled the ginger and doubled the cinnamon.  These cookies are very tasty, although the dough was not easy to work with - I used a lot of flour on the board, and still some of the cutouts wouldn't really come up without getting smushed.  The dough didn't firm up much despite a couple of hours in the refrigerator.  I put the scraps of dough back into the fridge to see if prolonged chilling will help with this.  I was interested that the recipe included water - not usually a cookie ingredient.

The recipe was simple, and easy to mix up. As stated in the recipe, they didn't spread much on the cookie sheet, which is nice because I could bake many at once and they kept their shape:

I'm not sure about the molasses glaze - maybe it's not necessary. I will try the later batch without it to see if I notice any flavor difference.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Challah - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 46th installment. The recipe is Challah.

This recipe was very easy, and the bread is great.  We really love challah at our house. I don't know if there will be any left for any French toast!  I even prepared this after work yesterday evening.  I had a sudden panic during the day when I realized that it was time for the first recipe of the month, stopped to buy eggs on the way home, and although I did get to bed a bit late, the bread was done that evening.  What a wonderful aroma in the house. 

There were no real tricks to the technique, although I had one loaf that was smoother than the other.  It seemed harder to roll the smooth long pieces from the second half of the dough - maybe it was saggy from having sat while I rolled out the first one. There was a lot of yeast, so it rose well, even without any kind of warm spot to sit in as it rose.  I used my Kitchen Aid to do the kneading while I worked on other things in the kitchen.

Before braiding
Before rising - having short hair, I never have learned to braid very neatly :-)
My loaves look a little dark partly because of the lighting when I took the photo - I did let them brown before putting a foil tent over each while they continued baking.  It's tough to fit two loaves in my oven - it always feels like one is too high (and thus browning too much in the hotter part of the oven) and one is too low (and thus too close to the lower element and browning too much on the bottom).  I set the timer for smaller intervals and kept swapping the loaves top to bottom, and turning the pans back to front, to help them cook evenly.

I would definitely make this recipe again - very simple, and rewarding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Double Chocolate Cookies - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 45th installment. The recipe is Double Chocolate Cookies.
These cookies are really rich and chocolatey.  They have 12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and four ounces of unsweetened - a pound of chocolate in one batch of cookies?!  Some of the chocolate is melted into the dough, and some chopped and thrown in as chunks. They have just enough flour to hold them together...kind of like a chocolate chunk brownie in cookie shape.  You can see the shiny surface in the photo.  It was important not to overbake them - I did overcook one batch, and they turned slightly black on the bottom and got a little dried out.  (Of course we ate them anyway!).

The cookies were easy to make, and I had no problems following the recipe.  I really like the fact that the recipes in this book are clear about when you can hold things in the fridge, and for how long - I baked some of the cookies, and then kept the rest of the dough in the fridge until a few days later when I had more time to bake the rest.  Everyone loved them - we ate them slowly, since they were so rich and dense...they were quite popular with the afterschool snack audience ;-)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pumpernickel Loaves - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 44th installment. The recipe is Pumpernickel Loaves.
I really liked this recipe and would definitely make it again.  The recipe went on for pages, but it really wasn't that complicated. I was glad it wasn't a multi-day process like many of the other recipes - it was great to start at midday and be done by evening. 

The recipe calls for the final rise before baking to be done in a sling made from a dish towel with holes punched in its corners, plus an S hook. I initially thought I would skip that, but then slowed down and read the suggestion to just tie opposite corners of the towel together, so I did that, and hung the slings on a doorknob.  I'm not sure whether it affected the final result, but it was interesting :-)
The flavor of this bread is very authentic - maybe a result of the combination of chocolate, prunes, coffee and rye flour.  I made the prune lekvar from the book, since I didn't find any prune jam at the store - wow, the leftover has been delicious with yogurt or ricotta cheese ( and why do people dislike prunes?! :-) For the espresso powder, I used some Starbucks instant decaf French roast as well as a little bit of espresso powder.  Also used whole milk yogurt, as I thought that would likely help with the flavor.

The bread has also kept quite well - it's a few days since baking, and still very moist. Good for sandwiches, toast, and with soup!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Danish Braid - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 43rd installment. The recipe is Danish Braid.
What a fun recipe to bake! I really liked trying some techniques that were new to me, including the low-effort flaky pastry (food processor plus simple rolling and folding), and the microwave fruit jam and confectioner's cream fillings.  I made raspberry and cream filling, which was delicious.  Another practical aspect of this recipe: you can prepare it mostly the day before, get up in the morning at a reasonable hour, shape and bake the braid, and still have your fancy pastry for breakfast (rather than brunch).

I didn't watch a video of this, so I was a bit clueless on the filling quantities, and I think I used a bit too much of the fruit filling.  The recipe did say "you might not need all the filling", but I wasn't clear on how much was too much, until I did it.  I also think my cream filling wasn't quite thickened enough, because the two fillings ran all over the place when I was shaping it (the pretty photo is above, and the scary photo is below :-):

It did bake up pretty well (although with a bit of burning sugar smoke coming from the liquid on the parchment) and held together once it was cool.  I wasn't quite sure how to close off the ends - I think that next time I would leave a little space within filling, so I can fold it over better.

One warning to anyone who hasn't tried this yet - you need to chill the pastry dough overnight before rolling and folding, and then again after rolling and folding, so some planning is in order.  I had not planned ahead very much, and didn't have time to do the first overnight chilling. I did let it go for 6 hours in the fridge, so it was quite cold when I got to rolling and folding it, and it seemed to be a bit soft, but not too difficult to roll.  I did wonder if the yeast would have developed more if I had left it longer in the fridge.

Fortunately I made the full recipe of dough, and put half in the freezer, so I will have another shot at perfecting this :-)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

X Cookies - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 42nd installment. The recipe is X Cookies.

This recipe was very easy, in the sense that it went exactly as described in the book. You blend the filling in the food processor: figs, apricot jam, almonds, raisins, orange peel, and a little bit of chocolate...yummy. What did the original Sicilian bakers do without a Cuisinart? Big knives and lots of chopping? Mortar and pestle?  I'm a big fan of dried fruit, so this was right up my alley.

Dough and filling pieces before rolling
The dough also came together easily and was easy to work with. I used a ration of 1/4 lard to 3/4 butter - I had enough lard for the whole thing, but thought the lard might overwhelm the flavor if I used only that.
I enjoyed the technique of rolling out flat strips of dough, and then wrapping them around the rolled out pieces of filling to get a long skinny roll of filled dough.  I applaud whoever wrote these instructions (Dorie?), because I was actually able to follow them without watching the video, even down to the reminder to run a flat knife or spatula under the rolled out dough strip to make sure it didn't stick.
Cookies before baking

The end result is delicious - I think the filling is inspired, because of the combination of flavors.  Maybe not the new favorite cookie for the kids in the household, due to the paltry amount of chocolate, but I definitely want to make these again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Espresso Profiteroles - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 41st Installment.  The recipe is Espresso Profiteroles.

This recipe was fairly easy and really delicious.  Coffee-flavored cream puffs, with cinnamon ice cream, and chocolate sauce on top - great combination!  You could do other combinations as well - I bet a raspberry ice cream would be good here.  Confession: I bought some locally-made cinnamon ice cream, instead of following the recipe in the book.  Please don't take away my Baking with Julia license ;-)  I have made ice cream before, but knew the extra time spent would push this project over the line from fun into schedule overload.

I have made cream puffs before, both large and small, so that part of the method was familiar.  I remember my mom teaching me how to make them and how different it was from a cake or cookie recipe, with the hot liquid butter and water, and then beating in the eggs.  
Ready for baking
It's very useful to have a pastry bag with a 1/2" tip as specified in the recipe - I'm not sure how else you could manage to make uniform puffs, since the dough is rather sticky and hard to manipulate.  I ended up with some peaks on them - hard to twist the pastry bag to smooth them off, so I had to smooth over with a finger after piping them onto the sheet.  It was a little tricky to put the egg wash on the batter blobs - next time, I will definitely try to put on more, since I liked the shine that it added.

 They puffed up very well in the oven, and I made sure to bake them long enough - in the past I have removed cream puffs from the oven too early, and they can be a little soggy and deflated. They are a little irregular looking, but I think uniformity would take away their personality :-)

All in all, a lot of fun and a recipe I would definitely prepare again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blueberry Muffins - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 40th Installment.  The recipe is Blueberry Muffins.
Fluffy batter in the pan
 These were yummy, and more like a fluffy cake batter muffin than a sturdy quickbread muffin.  I used Maine wild blueberries - the end of the season, but glad there were still some available!

I did have another slightly frustrating muffin pan removal experience.  Bottoms of the muffins stuck to the pan - I'm starting to conclude that if the muffins look flat like the photo on the left, I should expect trouble.  I don't know if it's the pans, or something else - I did grease with vegetable shortening, which usually works, and when I make more solid muffins, they come out of the pan fine.  The recipe said to turn them out immediately - that would have been a disaster.  I let them sit for 10 minutes, and they still didn't quite hold together.

At least they tasted delicious, and at the suggestion of the recipe, I toasted the leftovers this morning, and that was very good too.

Raspberry-Fig Crostata - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 39th Installment, part 2.  The recipe is Raspberry-Fig Crostata.

This installment had 'choose your own adventure', picking from Johnny Cake Cobbler or Raspberry-Fig Crostata.  Having already done the cobbler, I then decided to do the crostata as well, after reading about it on other people's blogs.  Wow - I am so glad I did. It is stupendous!

The crust was like a soft, nutty shortbread.  It has ground sesame seeds and almonds in it - sounded a little strange initially, but it was delicious.  It was a bit soft and needed a lot of patching - definitely important to chill it as directed. I can imagine rolling out and cutting up the crust for little shortbread cookies.   The filling had a perfect balance of tart and sweet, and wonderful texture - the figs keep their shape, and the raspberries turned into jam-like sauce. 

When I took it out of the oven, it was bubbling through the lattice crust like lava (check out the bubbles in this photo.   It was good to let it cool completely so the filling would hold together.
I would definitely like to make this one again, maybe with different combinations of fruit.  Blueberries plus something would probably be good.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Johnny Cake Cobblers - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 39th Installment.  The recipe is Johnny Cake Cobblers.

Super easy and very tasty!  I made this with regular yellow cornmeal (didn't have a local source of Johnny Cake meal, although living in Massachusetts, I know I have seen it somewhere or other around here, since it is from Rhode Island....).   I added the optional grated ginger to the biscuit topping, which was great.  I did the big dish variation, since I had a crowd to feed.  Everyone loved it.  We were staying in a vacation cottage, and this was easy to make, even with the patchwork of kitchen gear in the cottage.
Plums, nectarines, peaches - before cooking

 I had some plums and nectarines that were not very ripe (and not even local - boo hoo!), and some local peaches that were perfectly ripe.  The cooking on the stove turned them into a nice texture before baking.  I served it with ginger ice cream, which was wonderful with the ginger cobbler topping.  We even ate some for breakfast (of course, with the ice cream - it was vacation after all :-)
After cooking, and before baking

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 38th Installment.  The recipe is Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas.
Very easy recipe to follow, and delicious.  I made the sponge in the morning, and then mixed up the dough in the late afternoon, followed by making the pizzas in the evening, so the timing worked out well for a weekend day when I was puttering around the house and garden.  It really didn't take much attention at all.  I left the dough slightly sticky, since I didn't want it to dry out.

I think I loaded on a little more filling than the recipe called for, but it was so yummy, and because I used a pound of lamb, technically I had a quadruple recipe, so I had plenty to spare. This pita dough was easy.   I made a full recipe of the dough, and used half for pizza and half for pita which I baked on my baking stone.  A few of the pitas puffed up really well, although most of them did not - I'd still like to figure out the secret of getting pita bread to puff up reliably.  I guess the pizzas don't puff so much because of the filling, or maybe because they are baked on a baking sheet instead of the hot baking stone. 

I think this is more like a side bread course (kind of like a naan bread with onions) or an appetizer, rather than a true main dish pizza, which would have more filling for each crust.  I'd like to try this with different fillings - looking forward to seeing what the creative types in the TWD baking group did with this.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Vegetable Tart - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 37th Installment.  The recipe is Summer Vegetable Tart.

Hmmm...was this a success?  It is a phyllo pie shell, which you pre-bake, and then fill with a lightly cooked vegetable mixture, topped with goat cheese, and then served.  It had a lot of potential.  The flavors were definitely yummy, although I found the whole thing didn't really hold together.  When we sliced it, the phyllo shattered and the loose filling, which wasn't really coherent, fell all over the place, so calling it a "tart" seems like stretching the term.  Also - what's with the edge draped over?  Seems very messy, although part of the problem was my shredding phyllo (see below).  It left me wondering if I did something wrong somewhere along the way.  I will check out the rest of the crowd's attempt at this dish to see if there's some improvement that I can try.

I did experience the dreaded "Phyllo Frustration Syndrome", with the phyllo layers shredding as I attempting to separate them from the pile, butter them, and lay them in the dish.  I patched it together and kept going.  I used whole wheat phyllo from the natural food store - it tasted good, but maybe that contributed to the dryness. 

The shell after baking - not exactly pretty...
When I first started my work life, my housemate and I got on a kick of preparing phyllo-based dishes. It was my first experience with phyllo, and I thought 'it's not as hard as everyone says".  It was relatively easy to work with.  I wonder if we were just getting really good quality, fresh, phyllo, because recently my attempts to bake with phyllo have been very frustrating - the dough is dry and is impossible to manipulate without it completely falling apart.  So, now I'm seeing what everyone was talking about when they said that it's 'hard to bake with phyllo'.  I do love it, so will keep on trying, and maybe looking for places to get it where the phyllo hasn't been in the freezer section for a long time (good excuse for a visit to the Armenian grocery stores!)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baked Yogurt Tart - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 36th Installment.  The recipe is Baked Yogurt Tart.

Another very yummy recipe from this book.  I loved the fruit and nut combination (almonds and blueberries and blackberries). I was surprised by two things about the recipe:
  • Lots of vanilla - two whole tablespoons, which tasted great and not overpowering at all

  • Non-fat yogurt - it tasted quite rich, kind of like cheesecake, but lighter
I had a bit of trouble figuring out which pan to use - recipe called for a pan with 1 1/2 inch sides, and my springform (which would have been the easiest) was too tall.  I used this cake pan (which has 1 1/2 inch sides), and wonder of wonders, the filled tart came right out of the pan after baking!  You bake the crust, and then fill it and bake some more.  The edge of the crust did drop down a bit in spots while I was pre-baking it (you can see how the filling runs right to the side of the pan at the bottom of this photo of the tart before baking:

I would also say that the Flaky Pie Dough recipe in this book isn't my favorite.  I've now made it twice, and I find it a bit shortening/butter intensive.   I think I'm used to a lower ratio of shortening to flour.  I also never think ahead to chill the shortening, so perhaps that's part of the reason I find it overly soft. (My favorite pie crust is the Flaky Piecrust from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything).

I will definitely bookmark this one to make again - wondering how it will taste with other fruits and nuts.  Looking forward to seeing what the other TWD bakers have done....
Here's how it looked on the plate - how can you go wrong with fresh fruit, nuts, yogurt custard and pie crust?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Cheese and Tomato Galette - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 35th Installment.  The recipe is Cheese and Tomato Galette.

I love this recipe!  I made one of these last year when we did the berry variation, and have made it a couple of times since then.  The crust is easy (although you do need 2 hours lead time to chill it) and absolutely delicious.  It's almost a bit flaky - must be because of the way the butter gets cut in, or maybe it's the sour cream.  This is one of those recipes that is easy to prepare, but tastes and looks amazing, as if you worked for hours.   This time I used regular tomatoes, rather than plum tomatoes - they turned out well, although maybe the filling was a little moister than it would be with plum tomatoes.  My only problem is that people devour it so enthusiastically that there are never any leftovers :-)   

Ready to fold and pleat the edges
Ready to bake

Savarin - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 34th Installment.  The recipe is Savarin.

I made this for the deadline, but then life got the better of me, and I didn't get around to posting it (dance recital!  high school graduation! collapsing on the couch after dance recital and high school graduation! :-)   I think the delay in my posting also reflects a (gasp!) lack of enthusiasm for this recipe.  It was intriguing to make something truly French, with techniques that are new to me, but it seemed like an odd blend of yeast bread and cake.  It was very interesting to see the texture going from sticky, stretchy goo to puffy dough to very light cake/bread.   I didn't love the texture after soaking with sugar syrup.  I made a strawberry rhubarb mix for the fruit component, and whipped cream is always welcome.  Now that I have time, I'm going to go check out some of the other TWD bakers' blogs to see what everyone did with this.  Did I miss something about how wonderful it could be?  Did mine even turn out the way it was supposed to?
Sticky dough
Puffy and ready to bake

Baked and then soaked with sugar syrup

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Savory Brioche Pockets - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 33rd Installment.  The recipe is Savory Brioche Pockets.
Believe it or not, I think all this scheduled baking is actually improving some of my skills!  I found myself handling the Brioche dough and thinking it was no big deal.  I've also started planning ahead more, so that I expect baking projects to take two days, and then when they don't, it's a pleasant surprise :-)
These were quite yummy, and I can see the many possibilities - looking forward to seeing what my fellow TWD bakers have stuffed in their pockets.  The potato/goat cheese mix is a good base, and I used both asparagus and roasted red pepper on top of it.  I like the flexibility of having the dough in the fridge overnight, and maybe I'll try putting some in the freezer sometime.  It would be good to pull dough out and make some of these.  
I baked them a little too quickly - had the oven up too high - so they were slightly darker than desired, but there were delicious anyway.
Roasted red pepper strips


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fresh Rhubarb Upside Down Baby Cakes - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 32nd Installment.  The recipe is Fresh Rhubarb Upside Down Baby Cakes.
Whipped cream mandatory, rather than optional :-)
Yummy!  This was one of the recipes I had made before, and written "Stupendous" in the book.  It was just as good the second time.  The directions for this recipe are very clear - plenty of detail to guide you, which is especially important when dealing with caramel, which I never quite feel I have mastered.
I had to use a combination of various small pans (since I don't have official "baby cake" pans).
Caramel and rhubarb in pans

I set them all on a jelly roll pan for ease in moving in and out of the oven.  Both the caramel and the batter were easy to mix up (actually had my ingredients at room temperature this time).  
Batter on top of rhubarb caramel

We don't quite have local rhubarb yet, so this was made from out-of-town rhubarb :-) 
The smaller pans cooked more quickly, and I took them out first. And best of all, most of the caramel and rhubarb released from the pan.  I just had to scoop a little of it out of the bottom of the pan and replace it on the cakes.  A success, and pretty low-stress over all!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Madeleines - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 31st Installment.  The recipe is Madeleines.
OK, so they're not exactly Madeleines....
I had to take the ladyfinger option, since I don't (yet) own a Madeleine pan.   I didn't realize that they are the same batter.

The subtitle of this post really should be 'Don't Forget to Set the Timer'!  They were not quite done, so I put them back into the oven for just one more minute, and didn't kick off the timer to remind me to pull them out.  Five minutes later....eeeeek!  You can see the result above - at least they were edible, if drier than I really wanted.

This was definitely a bit fussy, but that was OK - they're not called 'Rustic Madeleines' after all :-)  I followed the directions, and they went pretty well - interesting method, whipping the eggs and then folding the butter in at the end.
After gently folding in the butter
The batter spread out/flattened a bit more than I thought it would.  I ruled the lines onto the parchment, and piped the ladyfingers at the prescribed distance apart, and a number of them merged into their neighbors, which was OK because the recipe then told me what to do in that situation - cut them apart with a pizza cutter (well written recipe, as usual!).

I made a half batch, since I knew we didn't have enough people to eat an entire batch, and the recipe said they don't keep very well.  Next time maybe I'll make a whole batch and use part of it for Tiramisu or something like that.  

Looking forward to seeing the TWD group's variations on this one....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rustic Potato Loaves - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 30th Installment.  The recipe is Rustic Potato Loaves.

Here I am, running to catch up with Tuesdays with Dorie...I was so caught up in my day-to-day living that I didn't check the site to see that our first recipe was 'due' in the very first week of April - by the time I looked at the site, I had missed the 'deadline' - oops!  So I squeezed this project into last weekend, and was so glad I did.  I loved this recipe, and so did my family. 
They just fit on the baking stone
 Any kind of potato bread tends to draw raves around here, and this was no exception.  And it was SO EASY and SO FAST.  I couldn't believe the short rising times (20 minutes?!?) produced such a delicious result.  I love the way the seam on the bread turned into a big slit in the top of the loaf - I was surprised I didn't have to slash the bread to make that happen.

It helped to have a Kitchen Aid for the lengthy kneading, and a baking stone, to enhance the crusty texture.  I appreciated the specific directions in the recipe about the texture of the dough - it seemed too dry initially, but the mixing worked its magic.  I think it might have to do with the moisture in the potatoes gradually making its way into the dough over the course of mixing.