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 - Cranberry 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....

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 66th installment. The recipe is Sunny-Side Up Apricot Pastries.
I enjoyed this puff pastry adventure.  The pastry itself was fairly easy - few ingredients, and since it's cool right now, I didn't struggle with the butter or rolling.  You make a simple dough, as the recipe says, like Play Doh, in the food processor.  You pound out the cold butter into a one inch thick slab. 
I got the "European-style" butter, hoping that it would make the pastry extra yummy, although it came in 8 ounce slabs, so I had two chunks instead of one.  You roll out the (play) doh/dough, put the butter on the center, and then fold the dough around the butter like an envelope.

At this point you start the serious rolling and folding.  I did not watch the video from the episode, so was just following the written instructions.  My rolling surface (a silicon sheet) has inch markings, so I was able to tell when I had rolled it out to the correct length (24 inches!).  You roll to 24 inches long, and then fold in three layers, like a letter.  You do the roll/fold cycle once or twice, and then chill.  You repeat these steps until it has been rolled and folded a total of six times.
Here's the dough when it had been through all the rolling and folding, with a million (OK, not a million) tiny layers of butter and dough rolled together.

At this point the dough is ready to roll and cut.  I cut out the circles using a bowl as a guide.  I bet a really sharp cutter works well for this, as it would cut through the layers cleanly - I think my tracing around the bowl with a knife made the edge a little squished.
There were no apricots to be had in my store, so I used local prune plums instead.  You poach the fruit and make a vanilla cream - mine was a little bit "tough", as I think I should have cooked it more gently, but it tasted good anyway.  
Here are the pastries before baking:

The pastries were delicious!  I would defintely prepare this again.  And I put the remaining puff pastry in the freezer for the next installment of puff pastry, later this month (to be continued... :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Classic French Bread - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 65th installment. The recipe is Classic French Bread.
This recipe made everyone in the household say "oooooh, you're making baguettes....." :-)  Talk about an easy way to get popular....

This recipe was fairly straightforward and we liked the bread a lot.  I'm still not sure if making one's own baguettes is worth the work, since it's so easy to buy great baguettes.  On the other hand, French bread is good when it's very fresh, and baking at home gets it to you as fresh as possible.

The dough has very few ingredients, and doesn't even take too long to rise - one rise, shape the dough, rise again, and bake.  The recipe called for cake yeast, which I did not have (and also did not have time to obtain - where does one even get it? :-) so I used active dry yeast dissolved in water.   I had a time crunch on the day I was baking, so I even stuck the dough in the fridge for the first rise, and it still worked out great.  It kind of blew the lid off the bowl in the fridge, but that didn't seem to hurt anything.

I kneaded it by hand, rather than machine, because I was in the mood for that.  Long ago (back when I only worked four days per week - woohoo!) I used to bake bread every Friday, and taught myself a lot using the New Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, so kneading and shaping is familiar to me.

I watched the video, and found myself kind of thinking about the "original" Julia child recipe that I have used in the past.  I really like Julia's explanations in general, and actually found the description in the book of how to shape the loaves rather inscrutable - a diagram in there might have helped.  The video was more illuminating, but I still kind of fudged the shaping process - something to perfect in the future.  Here's the dough after shaping, ready for its second rise:

I have a perforated metal pan for baguette baking (talk about specialty bakeware - got this as a gift), so I used that, rather than the baking stone.  It allows plenty of heat to circulate and keeps the bottom of the bread rounded rather than flat.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting on my blog - I enjoy the company of other bakers and always want to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 64th installment. The recipe is Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes.

This is a delicious recipe, and was fun to bake, despite the temperature in the kitchen being 90 degrees with very high humidity :-)   It's a great use of summer fruit, and we ate ours with ice cream.  I bet it would be good with other fruit as well.  I am curious about the recommendation in the book to use bittersweet chocolate sauce instead - maybe next time. 

The basic method is to make a brown-sugary butter cake batter and then put a surprisingly small amount of batter (2 heaping tablespoons!) into a dish, put a plum half cut-side up on top, and then sprinkle with more brown sugar before baking.  They are served face up, so you can see the carmelized plum.

I was initially a little intimidated by the amount of effort required (it was Labor Day holiday, and consequently, I felt lazy :-), but once I watched the video, it seemed easier than I had initially thought by reading the recipe in the book.  

This recipe makes 12 cakes - I had a patchwork of 10 little pans, so I made due with what I had.  My mini square pans only hold 4 ounces volume, which is half that of the recipe's recommendation of 8-9 ounce custard cups.  For those, I used a plum quarter instead of a half, and baked them for only about 12 minutes.   Here are the pans with batter and plums, and before brown sugar sprinkling:

I put a bit more than the recommended amount of batter in the half-size pans, because I didn't have enough pans, and the batter rose up and covered the plum, which wasn't as pretty (but still delicious).  Here is the result after baking. 

 They were slightly tricky to get out of the pan, as the fruit made them sticky, but since you serve them top side up, it was pretty easy to scoop out the remaining scraps from the pan and tuck them under the mini cake on the plate. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Baking Powder Biscuits: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 63rd installment. The recipe is Baking Powder Biscuits.

Well, it's hard to go wrong with a Marion Cunningham recipe for a quick bread (although I still question the sunken muffins from a previous installment :-).  Her Breakfast Book is one of my staple cookbooks.
This recipe was quite easy, and the results were great.  It seemed to be a traditional method of rubbing in the butter, and then adding the liquid. Butter and gentle handling really make the biscuits better.  I don't usually put them next to each other, but it makes the sides softer, which was nice. 
Forget the artistic photos - here's what really happens to baked goods around here....

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Poppy Seed Torte: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 62nd installment. The recipe is Poppy Seed Torte.
This was an unusual recipe, so it was a fun change of pace.  It was quite different from any typical "American" style cake that I've baked - including:
  • 2 cups of poppy seeds ground in the coffee grinder
  • 1.5 cups of cake crumbs (and no other flour - it's a cake made from cake!)
  • 7 eggs
  • flavorings of cinnamon, lemon, and espresso
Here's what the poppy seeds plus cake crumbs looked like (I used pound cake from the grocery store....)

Butter, some sugar, and egg yolks get mixed, and then you alternate adding the mix of poppy seeds and cake crumbs with the seven (!!) stiffly beaten egg whites.  Here it is in the middle of that process:

It looked like a mess, but eventually came together.  After putting the batter in the pan, you top it with poached apricots, and then bake.  Once it comes out of the pan, you top the (now kind of shrunken) apricots with additional poached apricots that look nice and pretty.

Before baking
After baking, and before re-apricotting
The recipe was a bit fussy (lots of dirty bowls!) but we really liked the result.  It was great with coffee.  After the first taste, when we did find it not quite sweet enough, I put on the optional apricot jam glaze, and that was perfect. I bet it would be good with other fruit as well.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vanilla Pound Cake: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 61st installment. The recipe is Vanilla Pound Cake.
This recipe was quite straightforward, and turned out well.  I had just attended a cake baking class at Flour bakery in Boston, so was inspired to add some vanilla seeds from a vanilla bean - I think it made the flavor a little better, but it would be good with an even more intense vanilla flavor next time. This is a large recipe and the dough gets very fluffy as you beat it:
 I think of pound cake as rather solid, but this dough was definitely full of air. 
 It mixed and baked exactly as described, and I was very happy when I got it out of the pan successfully (always a bit apprehensive of those ridges in the Bundt pan...).
It looks a little plain on the cake plate, but we ate it with tropical fruit on top (star fruit, mango, pineapple) during our World Cup viewing party, and then again the next day plain and with ice cream (yummy!)

Leaf-Shaped Fougasse: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 60th installment. The recipe is Leaf-Shaped Fougasse.
Another try at the Foccacia , this time with a fancier shape.  This was yummy, although, again, not as puffy and dimpled as I expected. I liked the fresh herbs and olive oil (no surprise), and it was useful to have a single edge razor tool (which I got from King Arthur Flour) for making the slashes.  This recipe also has you spray the inside of the oven - it wasn't clear that increased the humidity much.  In the past, I've used ice cubes in order to make moisture inside the oven (I think I got that from an older Julia Child book somewhere or other....). 

Before baking

Monday, June 30, 2014

Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 59th installment. The recipe is Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches
For some reason, the phrase "from the sublime to the ridiculous" occurred to me as I went from Savory Wheat Crackers (totally minimalist) to Phyllocine Ice Cream Sandwiches (really wacky).    Phyllo + Fettuccine = Phyllocine :-)  Not an ice cream sandwich you can eat with your hands, but delicious anyway.
This turned out to be a pretty streamlined recipe, despite its appearance.  I was thrilled to not be handling entire sheets of phyllo - you unroll the package, remove the wrapping paper, re-roll and then cut crosswise into strips, to make fettuccine-like strands.  Not too difficult! Here are the "nests" on the baking sheets - you put a pile of fluffed-out phyllo strips on the baking sheet, and then splash with butter and sprinkle with sugar.  

After they bake, you put on some simple raspberry sauce and rasperries, then ice cream, and top with another "nest", throw on the whipped cream, and then spear it with a fruit skewer.   Here's the assembly line:

I would definitely try this one again because the flavors were delicious, and it looked fancy without being a ton of work.   My nests were a little bit dense - I think next time I will fluff and separate the strips a little more.
Whew - caught up with June...on to July....

Savory Wheat Crackers: TWD Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 58th installment. The recipe is Savory Wheat Crackers.

These were very easy, and the result was good.  I think I would like to try them again, because I like the idea of being able to whip up some crackers with simple ingredients, but they weren't as crisp as I wanted them to be. I tried to avoid overbaking them, but I think I underbaked as a result - it was difficult to know how long to keep them in the oven. 

The dough has a minimum of ingredients and was easy to roll out.  I didn't have the nigella seeds, so I used sesame, anise and poppy seed.  It seems like you could top them with anything (parmesan cheese?)

We ate these with cheese and hummus.  I did have to re-bake the ones I saved for the next day, as they became very soft.  Once they spent a few minutes in the oven, they were back to being crisp.
(This entry is in the 'better late than never department' - I actually baked these earlier this month, but life has been so hectic, I didn't get a chance to post until now.)