Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TWD: Baking with Julia - Not-Your-Usual Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie is something I have made many times.  We are pretty big lemon pie eaters in my family, on both sides, actually.  It is my dad's favorite and something Mr. Clever Mom requests as well.  This is not to say that I make the perfect lemon meringue pie.  Not at all.  In fact recently I tried a lemon icebox pie and found that to MAYBE be superior to a lemon meringue....  (fighting words!)

Anyway, when I saw this week's recipe, literally entitled "not-your-usual lemon meringue pie" I definitely gave it a second look.  Huh.  It is sort of like a deconstructed lemon meringue pie, I would say.  Sign me up!

You start with making a lemon curd.  I followed the recipe against my better judgement, in that I used the requested amount of sugar.  We are tart lemon pie lovers, not sweet.  So I should have reduced the amount of sugar or used more lemon zest.  However if you like a sweeter lemon pie, the amount of sweetness might be just fine for you.  Even on our regular lemon meringues we drastically reduce the sugar amount.  Pucker up!

After the curd is made, it has to sit in the refrigerator for a little while to set.  In the mean time, you can take a nap as the rest of this recipe is really pretty simple to put together!

Using phyllo dough (from the frozen section of the grocery store), you make little triangles that are layered with clarified butter and sugar, and then baked until crispy.  This is the deconstructed crust.  You were supposed to bake this with a baking sheet on the top so that the phyllo does not puff, but instead I baked it most of the way with the sheet on top and then removed it for the last minute or so, which allowed the phyllo to brown a little.  No puffiness!

By the way, is anyone else watching The Great British Baking Challenge on PBS??  If so, I haven't watched the finale yet so don't spoil it, ok?  In a recent episode they MADE phyllo dough.  As in FROM SCRATCH.  Holy guacamole it was incredible.  These are home bakers, and their challenge was to make homemade phyllo.  I just sat there with my mouth gaping open, watching them pull the dough so thin!  (I do typically watch this show with my mouth gaping open at the bakers total amazingness, and drooling a bit as well, to be honest!  It really does  blow my mind!)  If you haven't been watching this show, I highly recommend seeking it out.  It is available "on demand" here... 

Anyway, back to the deconstructed lemon meringue pie!  Once the phyllo is made into crispy little triangles, whip up some egg whites with brown sugar and then all of the components are ready!

Here we go!  Layer one phyllo triangle,

Spread some lemon curd on the top,

Then top it with a zig-zag of meringue and torch the top.
Repeat this layering one more time and then end with a triangle.  Dust with powdered sugar and there you go!


This was a fun little treat to eat.  I liked breaking apart the phyllo triangles to get a full piece, and they provided a nice crunch to a pie with soft fillings.  Had I reduced the sweetness in the lemon curd, this pie would have been perfect!

Fun, relatively easy, and tasty!  A win-win over here!

You can find this recipe on pages 403-405 of Baking with Julia, or you can also find it here.   I made half of the recipe for  my little family, which worked out just perfectly!  Click on over to the Tuesday's with Dorie blog and check out what the other bakers though of this recipe, okay?


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Pink Grapefruit Tart

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Pink Grapefruit Tart.  This is a tasty recipe that has a LOT of steps.  I am not trying to dissuade you from wanting to make this recipe, I am just warning you that there are lots of steps that have hours of timing inbetween.  Figuring out how to actually plan for this tart was more than I could handle, so it wasn't actually chilled enough at dessert time and was eaten later.  No big deal, it just meant that the clever girl didn't get a piece at that time as she was already in bed.  However that worked out fine, as quite honestly I don't think she would have cared for this tart. Which is not to say that it isn't good, because it is.  But there is a bitter component that I am certain she would not like.  You'll understand as I go along...

Are you ready for the components of this tart?  Looks like there isn't much, doesn't it?  Ha.  First, there is the sweet tart dough.  Easy to mix together, and the it is refrigerated for at least 2 hours, then rolled out and placed into the pan, then chilled again for 30 minutes.  Bake for approximately 35 minutes and allow to totally cool.  That's step 1.  Other steps can be made simultaneously, as there are lots of different timing issues in this recipe.

Next:  Lemon Almond Cream.  This is essentially butter, brown sugar, almond flour, lemon zest and an egg, that get whirled together and the refrigerated for at least 1 hour.  I was excited for this element, as it gave me a chance to use the almond flour that I made by drying some pulp from making almond milk!  Almond milk is my new true love and I make it extremely often so we always have some available.  Thus I have lots of almond pulp left over for which I try to figure out uses.  Almond flour is one of my first!  The bonus is that this almond flour also contains a little vanilla and date, as that is how I make my almond milk.  Mmmm.  I digress...  Let's continue with the Pink Grapefruit Tart components as we are still just beginning...

The next item is grapefruit cremeux.  Here is where I learned a great lesson.  Well, maybe two lessons.  Fresh grapefruit juice is used in this mixture.  So of the 100's of giant Texas grapefruits I purchase and eat every year, there are always a handful that are not very sweet, they are a bit more bitter.  Of course the grapefruit I grabbed to juice for this recipe was one of those!  And of course, I did not taste the juice before using it, as that would have been the OBVIOUS thing to do.  I realized the problem when the cremeaux was almost finished and I noticed a tiny bit of grapefruit pulp sitting by, so I tasted it.  Ack!  I was horrified.  Doubly horrified as I knew that another ingredient for the cremeaux is Campari.  I didn't know anything about Campari before I bought it and then checked it out via my friend Google.  (Had I done that first I probably would not have purchased it, and used Grand Marnier instead or something).  About.com uses these terms to describe Campari:  "extremely unique flavor" of "very bitter orange", it "takes some getting used to" which "might take a few years".  Years?  Good grief.  So here I have a bitter liquor mixing with bitter grapefruit to make a tasty dessert?  Yikes.  I used  little less Campri and added 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar towards the end of making the cremeaux (when I realized my predicament) and hoped for the best.  Honestly, had i used a normal sweet grapefruit, it would have been MUCH better.  You live, you learn.  My lessons here?  Taste, taste, taste.  Oh, and don't work on desserts after drinking 3 glasses of wine.  Just saying.  Probably not my best choice...

Oh, in case you are wondering, the cremeaux has to chill for at least 6 hours.

Then there are the grapefruit supremes.  They are supposed to sit between thick layers of paper towels for 3-8 hours BEFORE you plan to eat the tart.

The lemon almond cream is spread in the tart shell and then baked, then it has to chill completely before the cremeaux is spread inside.  Then, guess what, the whole tart is refrigerated AGAIN after you place the supremes on top, for at least 2 hours.

You see the timing confusion here?  Easy steps, but lots of timing issues!

Taste:  The crust is kind of like a shortbread cookie, yum.  The lemon almond cream is good, though I probably could have used less lemon zest.  It called for the zest of one lemon, and since lemons differ in size I may have used too much.  Good though.  The cremeux definitely has a bitter tone, but isn't bad, especially when you get a piece of the supreme with your bite.  The burst of sweet juiciness of the supreme makes up for the bitter in the cremeux.  Oh, and I served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream.  Mmmm. 

Would I make this again?  I would love to taste it with a sweet grapefruit inside instead of the crummy bitter one I used.  But I don't think it is worth the extensive timing for this dessert.  It is beautiful and fairly tasty, but a ton of prep.  Maybe one of the other bakers figured out a better way to coordinate the timing of this one.  I should have planned this by figuring out what time I wanted to eat the tart and worked backwards from there to figure out the right timing, probably.  But that takes real forethought, which I rarely have on  good day it seems, and certainly don't have after 3 glasses of wine!

The recipe for the Pink Grapefruit Tart is on pages 139-141 of Baking Chez Moi




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yummy Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

I regularly get a hankering for chocolate chips cookies.  Very very regularly.  This time my hankering took a different turn... I wanted oatmeal, too.  Weird, as I am often a chocolate chip cookie purist, but I had to go with the craving.  What else was I to do?  So I found a recipe that I thought might just  be what I "needed", and boy was I right!  Whooey, these are some delicious cookies!  I changed the recipe a bit by adding chopped toasted pecans to the batter (if I am going to get crazy with my cookies, I might as well go all the way)!  Holey moley, these are so good I wonder if I will still make my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe as often....?  We'll see!

Here is an awesome trick I tried with this recipe.....  FREEZE cookie balls, then just pop a few in the oven when you start eating dinner to have FRESH BAKED cookies whenever you want them!!!  Oh, heaven...   Why haven't I done this before???

Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
adapted a bit from King Arthur Flour
yield depends.... see below

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 TB vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats (quick cooking would work, too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/4 teaspoon regular salt)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugars together until they are smooth.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the butter mixture and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Decide what size cookies you want.  I used my new 3/4 oz. cookie scoop (1 1/2 TB) and ended up with approximately 36 cookies.  If you use a muffin scoop (1/4 cup) you'll end up with about 20 cookies.  A tablespoon cookie scoop will give you around 50 cookies. 

Scoop the dough onto the parchment covered sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.  Scoop as many as you want to bake right now onto that sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are a light golden brown and slightly darker on the edges.  Remove from the oven and let them sit on the pan for around 5 minutes, until fully set.  Transfer to racks to cool.

Scoop the remaining batter onto another parchment covered sheet, as close together as you want.  This pan will go into the freezer so the spacing does not matter.  Freeze  until the cookie balls are solid, then remove the pan from the freezer and place all of the cookie balls into a freezer zip-lock bag.  Mark on the bag that you will want to bake these at 325F for around 14-16 minutes (a tad longer because they start from frozen).  When you are ready for more fresh cookies, place some cookie balls onto a parchment covered sheet and bake! 
Printable Recipe


These cookies are finger-licking good!  Yum.  Another benefit of having frozen cookie dough?  You have fewer actual cookies sitting around, so it is harder to act on impulse and eat a cookie.  You have to actually heat the oven and wait, instead of just popping your hand into the cookie jar.  That extra step is SUPER helpful to me and my complete lack of self control when it comes to chocolate chip cookies in the house!

I will be very sad when my freezer bag is empty.  Knowing that there are cookie balls in my freezer is very comforting to me.  All is right with the world.  It's a good thing the ingredients for this cookie are items I always have on hand!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

TWD: Baking with Julia - Creme Bruleed Chocolate Bundt

Our recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie this week is Creme Bruleed Chocolate Bundt cake.  Since it was chosen at a time that corresponds with Valentine's Day, I think many of us probably served it then.  I did, anyway!  We had some neighbor friends over for dinner, which is a good plan as this cake serves a lot and I certainly don't need to eat the entire thing!!

So let's think about this - it is a chocolate bundt cake that is filled with liqueur soaked raspberries and then topped with a light creme brulee custard and then caramelized.  Um, okay, sign me up!  Let's go over the individual elements:

The cake itself is a recipe I would make again even just on its own.  It is delicious.  Super moist and chocolatey.  And guess what, it involved lots of folding and I did a good job!  Maybe I am getting better at this folding business...  Hoping that is true, anyway!  So, chocolate bundt?  Yum.

The next element is the berries...  This is simply raspberries that are tossed with liqueur.  I used a raspberry brandy that we happened to have.  I think I would use less liqueur next time, as it was a bit strong for me.  Plus it ran out under the cake and then mixed a bit strangely with the custard that came next.  So, liqueur soaked raspberries?  Okay but needs a slight revision.

Finally, we get the creme brulee.  To be honest, I am not sure what makes this a creme brulee and not a creme anglaise.  Is there a difference, really?  This is a creme brulee that you can pour, which is unlike any creme brulee that I have ever had.  Which is not to say that this was bad in any way, but I had a different idea in my head as to what it was going to be like.  Unless maybe I screwed up somewhere and it really was supposed to be thicker?  But then you couldn't pour it over the top of the cake, so surely not.  Anyway, the "creme brulee" was delicious (as it always is, thick or thin!)


Overall?  Yum.  The adults all really liked the cake.  The kids did not, but I think that was because of the brandy in the raspberries.  This was not a difficult dessert to make,  it just took a little planning ahead to allow the creme brulee to refrigerate for a while.  It certainly has great visual appeal and looks like you did something tremendous, especially when you pull out a brulee torch! 
 

You can find the recipe on pages 280-281 of Baking with Julia, or you can find it here.  To see what some of the other bakers thought of this dessert, head to the Baking with Dorie blog and check out the LYL posts (leave your link). 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Healthy Valentine Treats

Are you having a Valentine's Day party this year?  Or attending one in which you are supposed to bring some sort of treat?  Here is a healthy idea for you!  Cupid's arrows made of watermelon and oranges!  This is super easy and (I think) will be a hit with people of all ages. 

Here's what you need:
Watermelon
Oranges
toothpicks
heart cookie cutter
sharp knife

Directions:
  • Slice the watermelon into slices that are approximately the same width as the depth of your heart cookie cutter.  Cut out a bunch of hearts.
  • Slice the ends off an orange.  Slice the orange into rings, about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick.  You can't make them too thin or the toothpick won't hold.  Cut some of the rings into triangles for the point of the arrow and slice other rings into wide wedges for the back of the arrow.
  • Create!  Poke the orange rinds first to secure the orange pieces, then stick the other end of the toothpicks into the watermelon hearts.  Each heart gets 2 toothpicks.  
Done.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as the clever girl would say!  Make up a pile of these treats and serve to anyone (except maybe tiny kiddos as toothpicks and toddlers are not a good combination)! 


I  made these for the clever girl's Valentine party at school tomorrow.  She says the will be a hit, so I wanted to share the idea in case you are searching for something fun and healthy, too!  Enjoy!
 

Animal Cookies

Aren't these just the cutest little cookies ever?  Homemade animal cookies, my friend.  Simple and DELICIOUS and without the random multi-syllable chemical ingredients and random preservatives that the store-bought ones have.  You don't actually NEED the special animal cookies cutters, but they are super awesome and, let's face it, ADORABLE.  If you want a set, you can find them here.  The awesome thing about these cutters is that they have a pop-up button.  You place the cutter on the dough and then press a little button that lowers a piece that presses the detail into the animal.  SOLD.  I have way way too many cookie cutters, but these are WORTH IT.  I wish I could find more like this!  Tip:  flour the heck out of these cutters before use!

Anyway, back to the actual cookies.  I have always loved animal crackers (as they were called when I was growing up).  They used to come in that little red box that looked like a circus car or something, remember?  Ahh, I am probably aging myself.  Anyway, when I received a set of the animal cookie cutters as a gift, I clearly needed to make my own batch of these little treats.

And, no surprise here, the homemade ones are WORLDS better than the ones from the store!  They aren't as break-your-tooth hard, and they have a delicious flavor.  Yum.  The recipe is from King Arthur Flour, and it calls for one of their specific extracts, Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor.  I do not have this so I substituted vanilla extract and lemon extract, on the advice of one of the people who reviewed the recipe on the KAF site.  I have no idea what the Princess flavor tastes like, but supposedly it is vanilla/lemon-ish.  Regardless, my substitution was delicious, so it worked for me! 

Animal Cookies
makes a ton (recipe says 80-90), I got way more than that!
Ingredients:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 TB honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Princess Cake and Cookie Flavor, OR 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup oat flour, or finely ground rolled oats

Directions:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, honey, salt, baking soda and flavor/extracts until combined.  Add the flour and oat flour and mix to combine.  Divide the dough in half and make into flattened disks.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line several baking sheets with parchment.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator, leaving the other in to stay cool.  Place it on a lightly floured surface and roll the dough 1/4 inch thick.  (Mine were probably thinner, thus my zillion cookies!)

Dip the animal cookie cutters in flour (very important!) then cut the dough and transfer to prepared baking sheets.  You can place these pretty close together, as they don't spread much at all.  Place the cookie sheet with the cut out cookies in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  This helps the cookies retain their shape and details.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they are lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, until they are set.  Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.
Printable Recipe

These are delicious.  They are dangerously small, making it very easy to justify eating 4-5 in a sitting, or popping in a few every time you walk near the kitchen.  The clever boy LOVED them.  They will become a regular item in our house!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Marquise au Chocolat

It's Tuesday's with Dorie time again!  This week our recipe was from Baking Chez Moi, and we made Marquise au Chocolat.  That is fancy French for frozen chocolate mousse.  Sounds fancy, yes?  I served mine with vanilla creme anglaise (another recipe in the book) and some fresh raspberries.  The raspberries are actually crucial, in my opinion, as they add a nice tart zip to a sweet dessert.  Which is not to say that the dessert is too sweet.  No.  It is not.  It is absolutely delicious and divine.  But I do l like a little zip to cut the sweet sometimes, just me.

This recipe is really not difficult at all, and it even includes FOLDING ingredients (a word that makes me tremble with anxiety).  It simply involves melting a large quantity of bittersweet chocolate (my fave) with some butter (how could this possibly go wrong?).  In the mean time you whip some egg yolks with sugar and some fleur de sel or sea salt.  Fold the chocolate in to the yolks then whip up some lightly sweetened heavy cream and fold that into the mixture as well.  Pour it into a plastic wrap lined loaf pan, wrap it up and put it in the freezer.  You are done.  It needs to freeze for at least 6 hours, so it is best to think ahead a bit with this dessert.

Here is where some bakers got stumped, though.  If you look closely to my abbreviated instructions above, you will see that in no place do the egg yolks actually get COOKED.  Uh, huh.  You mean this includes RAW EGGS?  Yep, essentially that is the case.  There are things you can do to change this up, which some bakers in the group tried, but I didn't go there.  I just bought some pasteurized eggs and called it a day.  Those eggs are safe enough for me.  The percentage of eggs that contain salmonella is very small and since my eggs were pasteurized they were theoretically safe from being part of that small percentage anyway.  Plus, if you added up all of the raw cookie dough/cake batter/etc. that I have munched in my entire life, I have probably eaten about a zillion raw eggs already!  Maybe this was chance-y, but it is the route I took.  If you follow this blog, you might recall that while I was pregnant I made a tiramisu for a birthday celebration that included 2 other pregnant gals.  Tiramisu (at least my recipe) also involves uncooked egg yolks and I took the pasteurized route that time too.  You have to bake/cook in a manner that makes you comfortable, and this works for me!

Anyway, back to the dessert.  Since the mousse freezes overnight, you can also make a creme anglaise to go with it, which is refrigerated overnight.  Then the next day, at dessert time, you can just grab these two pre-made amazing items, plate them, and you are ready!  No sweat! You can see in the photo below that my plastic wrap had some wrinkles, which were sort of carved into the marquise, but I don't mind.  I am actually not sure how to line the pan without getting wrinkles?  Maybe one of the other bakers did a better job and will have some tips to share!

This dessert was made as part of my very dear friend H's birthday dinner.  Happy birthday, H!  Your friendship is an amazing blessing in my life.  What would I do without you?  It is just too dreadful to contemplate!

The recipe for Marquise au Chocolat can be found on pages 357-358 of Baking Chez Moi, and the creme anglaise can be found on page 441.