Thursday, October 1, 2015

Beautiful Cinnamon Bread

Back in early 2014, the Daring Bakers group made something called Beautiful Bread.  Aptly named, right?  There were two recipes, one involving a cinnamon filling, the other a Nutella filling.  Above is the cinnamon bread.  I do intend to make the Nutella one some day, though. 

While I tend to make desserts that look sort of complicated but actually aren't, this one does actually have a lot of steps.  But it is SO SO worth it.  I mean, really, is that some beautiful bread, or what??  Essentially, you make a sweet dough that is divided into 4 parts and rolled out into 8-inch circles.  Each circle gets a layer of butter and cinnamon sugar, and then the next layer is placed on the top, ending with the 4th layer.  With some fancy cutting and twisting, you end up with the bread you see above.  Here is how it's done:

Beautiful Cinnamon Bread
adapted from Daring Bakers
Makes 8 servings
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon cardamom, optional
 Cinnamon Filling
1/2 stick butter
4 TB cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 TB sugar
For drizzling
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Whisk the egg with the water, milk, butter and yeast, and set aside.  Sift the flour, salt and cardamom in a separate bowl.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and knead until the dough is smooth.  Brush a large bowl with oil and place the dough inside, covering with a damp cloth.  Leave in a warm place to double in size.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 equal parts.  Roll each part into a circle that is at least 8-inches in diameter.  Mix the cinnamon and sugar topping together.  Brush the first circle with butter, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Place a second layer atop the first and repeat the butter and cinnamon sugar.  Do the same with the third circle.  Top with the last, fourth layer and brush with butter.  With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 equal triangles.

Now, make cuts in the center of each triangle that go 2/3 of the way down, not reaching the outer edge or the tip.

Take one of the triangles and gently fold the tip down and poke it into the cut you made, and then pull it down through the cut and back up so the tip is back on top.  I unfortunately did not photograph this step, but this is sort of a graphic to demonstrate how it will look:

It's dreadful, sorry, but if you are making this, hopefully this image will help out.  Do this with each triangle and arrange on a parchment covered baking sheet.  Now pinch the bottom corners of each triangle together, into the middle.  So they are not being pinched to the triangle on either side but rather it's own left and right corners are being pulled together and pinched.  While you are working on this, preheat your oven to 500F. 

Brush the dough with the sweetened milk topping.   Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes, then place into your hot oven (rack in center).  Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400F and bake for 15-20 more minutes, or until the underside is golden brown.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack and drizzle with sweetened condensed milk while warm. 
Printable recipe

Bask in the glow of the most beautiful "cinnamon rolls" you have ever made!

Monday, September 28, 2015

French Lemon Cream Tart

I'm a fan of lemon pies (see here and here), so when I saw "The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart" in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, I knew I needed to give it a try.  It just so happened that my dad was in town when I made this pie (lemon pie is his absolute favorite)!  Essentially, this pie consists of a sweet tart shell that gets filled with lemon cream.  I then whipped some cream and piped little stars around, just to be fancy pants.  If, like me, you aren't sure of the difference between lemon curd and lemon cream, let me share my newfound education!  They basically contain the same ingredients:  eggs, lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter.  The difference is how they are made.  In curd, all of the ingredients are cooked together until they thicken, so you get that nice silky, buttery spread.  In cream, the butter is left out of the cooking - only the eggs, sugar and lemon are cooked until thickened.  Then they are put into a blender, allowed to cool, and whipped with the butter.  This way the butter doesn't actually melt, it gets emulsified, so you end up with a really light, velvety spread.  Lemon cream and lemon curd can be used interchangeably in most cases, however your mood dictates! 
The conclusion?  Lemon cream is blissful!  I would probably reduce the sugar next time (a common theme in my lemon pies) but it was super!  The best part though was when I gave the clever boy a taste of the lemon cream.  He is always eager to try anything I am baking, but had not connected the ideas of "lemon" and "tart".  So when I put a bit of lemon cream into his mouth, his eyes got really wide and he did this little shiver/convulsion throughout his 2-yr old body.  It was hysterical!  Sweet boy. 

You can find The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart on pages 331 and 332 of Baking: From My Home to Yours, or by going here, to Dorie's website. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Tuesday's with Dorie July Catch-up!

Well, all I can say is that my free time seemed to disappear over the summer...  I did a lot of baking, but never managed to set aside the time to edit photos and post to the blog.  Summer is a busy time with two kids!  Better late than never, though! 

The first recipe in July is the White Chocolate Patty Cake from Baking with Julia.  What appears to be a simple white cake, above, is actually a rich, velvety cake made of white chocolate and lots of eggs.  It was fluffy and velvety and scrumptious.  I am not generally someone who jumps for joy for white chocolate, but it really made this cake something special!  The cakes themselves collapse a bit when taken out of the oven, but that's totally fine.  You sort of smoosh the cakes together anyway!  There is a layer of "raspberry crush" in between the layers, and also some on top of the cake (that's the red sauce you see).  It was supposed to be made with frozen raspberries in a light syrup, but my raspberries were simply frozen - no syrup involved.  That worked fine with me though, as it was not too tart by any means.  Plus, the cake itself is sweet (all that white chocolate!) so the contrast between the sweet cake and the tart sauce was perfect!  Once the sauce is spread over the bottom layer, the top layer is placed and then the edges are smooshed together.  Then more sauce is put on top, with fresh raspberries.  This is a delicious summer treat!  It looks and tastes like you worked really hard, and it is actually quite simple!  Try it!  You can find the recipe here

Ready for some more raspberries?  I am!  Truly, when raspberries start showing up in the grocery store, I am thrilled.  My kids love them (call them "finger berries") and I could easily eat an entire tray (no matter the size!) in a sitting.  If you are a Costco member, go there for your summer raspberry fix.  They are AWESOME and like everything at Costco, comes in a bigger container than in the grocery store, for about the same price!  Win! 

This particular recipe is from Baking Chez Moi, and is the Apricot Raspberry Tart.  You can find the recipe on page 145.  This recipe was supposed to have a layer of stale cake crumbs or brioche between the sweet tart and the fruit layer, to absorb the juices.  OR, Dorie suggests that you create an Apricot-Almond Cream Tart and spread a layer of almond cream over the bottom of the tart.  Yeah, HELLO?  I'll take that option, thank you very much!  But I didn't see the purpose of losing the raspberries in the process (Dorie leaves them out in this version) so I used them anyway.  Are you with me here?  Sweet tart dough, almond cream, apricots, raspberries, and pistachios on top.  NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!  Delicious.  This is totally my kind of dessert.  I tend to lean towards the fruity pie-ish type desserts and this baby is right up my alley! 

Finally, in July we made Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta.  This recipe is also from Baking Chez Moi and can be found on pages 370-372.  This I made at my parents house, where the kids and I went to help my mom after a minor surgery.  Surely delicious food and love from grandkids helped her heal well!  I like to think so, anyway!  This is another recipe that looks like a million bucks but is actually fairly simple to make!  If you've never made a panna cotta, you really need to give it a try.  It takes minimal time to prep and can (in fact has to) be made in advance, so at the right time you just have to get it out of the refrigerator and BAM an amazing dessert is served! 

The panna cotta sits on a puree of mango and lime.  You could also add honey to the mix, but my mangoes were sweet so I didn't add any.  The puree goes on the bottom and into the refrigerator.  Then you make the panna cotta, which is made by infusing vanilla bean into heavy cream and milk, then adding bloomed gelatin.  Pour this on top of the cold puree, refrigerate at least 2 hours, and there you have a beautiful dessert!  If you don't care for mango, you could use a different fruit puree or use NO fruit puree, set the panna cotta in a lightly oiled mold, and then pop them gently out to serve on a plate with berries or some sort of syrup.  Panna cotta is super versatile!

Oh, and I can't believe I took this picture.  I probably couldn't do it again if I tried but I love how it turned out!  I'll take my successes where I can!

There you go for a July catch up...  There is still one recipe that I haven't gotten around to making yet, but I'll get there.....  eventually.....

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi June Catch-up!

More catching up to do!  The first recipe for June was Chocolate-Cherry Brownies, found on pages 322-323 of Baking Chez Moi.  Though I do have a favorite brownie recipe, I am certainly willing to try new recipes, especially when in a cookbook written by Dorie!  And this recipe certainly did not disappoint!  Truly, if you use good quality bittersweet chocolate and tart dried cherries that have been soaked in port wine until nice and plump, you cannot go wrong!  Mmmm.  I love tart cherries and when paired with bittersweet chocolate, it is just divine.  These brownies are a one-bowl recipe, which makes them quick to both make and clean up!  Oh, and they will quickly disappear as well!
See the nice crackly top?  That is an important brownie element for me - the nice crackle top before the moist and chocolatey inside.  Mmmm.  Kinda makes me want to bake these again...  Good thing they are so easy!

Our second June recipe was Strawberry Shortcakes, Franco-American Style, on pages 338-340 of Baking Chez Moi.  Instead of using a biscuit, Dorie uses round ladyfingers.  They are nice and light and crunchy and elevate the dessert to something elegant! 
In addition to the ladyfinger substitution, Dorie also recommended using roasted strawberries in lieu of traditional macerated or plain strawberries.  This recipe can be found on page 458 of the book, and essentially involves mixing sliced strawberries with sugar, cloves, olive oil and thick balsamic vinegar and then roasting them in the oven until nice and soft.  I used the roasted strawberries in the middle of my shortcakes, but only for the adults.  I figured the kiddos were better off with typical plain strawberries.  The roasted strawberries provided a nice fancy taste to the dessert.  It was like a surprise with each bite as I don't generally associate those flavors with strawberry shortcake, but it was so good! 

This is definitely a dessert to be eaten as soon as it is made.  I am not sure how the ladyfingers would last, maybe okay in an airtight container for a day or so?  But you might as well just eat it up at once.  Strawberry shortcakes are too good to be left around! 

My summer baking is way off schedule, but I'm catching up, slowly but surely!  Hope you've been enjoying whatever summer treats come your way!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi May Catch-up!

Yes, I know, this blog has been woefully silent lately.  Quite frankly, the end of the school year and start of summer has kept me hopping and I have neglected my blog.  Sorry!  I did not neglect the baking, however, and did manage to bake MOST of the assigned recipes.  Blogging about them has been my hangup.  So, I thought I'd do a little catching up with the May recipes from Baking Chez Moi

The first recipe for May was Nutella Buttons, which can be found on pages 188-190 of Baking Chez Moi. And though I did make them, they were devoured before I managed to take a photo.  So close your eyes a moment and picture this:  a mini yellow cupcake that has a tiny blob of Nutella baked into the center.  No, you can't actually SEE the Nutella in the center, but it is there.  And the Nutella makes the cupcake "button" wonderful.  My only problem with this recipe is that it is for an UN-ICED cupcake, something that is simply NOT RIGHT in my book.  Glazing the top with melted chocolate is considered a "good idea" but not necessary to the recipe.  I disagree.  A cupcake simply needs it's icing cap on top, otherwise it will get cold, or maybe sunburned or otherwise feel naked and sad.  Put a hat on your sweet little cupcake!  All will be well with the world.

The second recipe for May was Rhubarb Upside-Down Brown Sugar Cake, on pages 24-27.  Mmmm.  Easy and delicious!  I had a hard time finding rhubarb for some reason, so I ended up getting frozen rhubarb and letting it defrost first.  It worked perfectly and saved me the step of chopping ad peeling the rhubarb!  Gotta love a time saver!  We originally ate this cake for dessert, but had leftovers for breakfast the next day!  The tartness of the rhubarb is a pleasant match for the sweet brown sugar cake.  Yes, rhubarb is tart, but the cake was not so tart that the clever girl wouldn't eat it. The cake and rhubarb make a good marriage.  And putting a dollop of whipped cream on top makes everything good!

The recipe suggested making a glaze for the top with melted apple, quince or red currant jelly, but I skipped that step.  It would have made it prettier on top, but it was great without.  I will definitely make this recipe again.  Easy and delicious! If you don't have Dorie's new cookbook, Baking Chez Moi, I'd recommend it. Thus far the recipe's I've tried have been a hit!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Pool/Beach Robes

You may recall that a few years ago I  made the clever girl a pool robe.  She loved it and though it still fit around her body, she had grown much taller so the length became a little, well, too short for my tastes.  Thus, she needed a new one, and clearly the clever boy needed one too!  Just in time for our trip to Florida!  I used the same pattern, by MADE, with a few adjustments.

I used bath towels from Ikea, and made my own bias tape with patterned fabric.  The hoods are lined with cute chevron flannel fabric that just happened to match perfectly!  It was meant to be!  I made the mistake of using a bias tape maker that makes double bias tape in 3/8 inch instead of 1/2 inch and that 1/8 inch was sorely missed.  Terry cloth is really thick (even these thin towels) so getting the thinner bias tape around the edges was tricky at times.  If you make your own bias tape, get the right size gadget!  

I used the largest pattern size when I made the previous robe for the clever girl, so I created a new pattern for this one.  I will explain how I did this, so if you have one of these patterns you could do it too!  For most of the pieces, I checked to see how much bigger Dana (of MADE) made each size from the one smaller and made my new pattern using these guidelines.  I made the front and back 1/2 inch taller in the shoulder and about 1 inch wider along the sides.  I made the bottom hem 5 1/2inches longer, so this robe is much longer than the previous one.  The sleeves are 1/2 inch wider and 2 1/8 inches longer, and the hood is 1 inch taller and 1/2 inch deeper (front to back). 

I found that the tie lengths recommended by the pattern to be too long for us, so I shortened them on both kids a bit.  I wish I had shortened the clever girl's ties even further, but realized that only AFTER sewing on all of the bias tape so at that point it was too late!  (Not really, I mean I could have ripped it all out and done it over, but no thank you!)  If I had proportionately increased the length of the tie for the clever girl's robe, it would have been about 83 inches long.  I made it 73 inches instead and again, it could be shorter.  I don't think a pool robe needs a bow tie, just a knot is fine with me.

The clever boy's robe is a size 18m-3T, which had a recommended tie length of 57 inches.  I made this tie 48 inches and it is perfect.  48 inches happened to be the easiest length for the towels I used!

Total success.  These were super comfy to put on after getting all wet and playing at the beach.  Perfect for warming up a bit and still being able to play - digging in the sand, building castles, playing catch with our random toys. Plus they are plenty big that the kiddos should be able to wear them for a good while before they are outgrown!  We are in the process of putting in a pool at our house, so I envision these robes getting a lot of use this summer!

Sure, this is more work than buying a pool robe at the store, but this way it is quality-made, in colors we love, without any additional marketing ploys imprinted on the fabric!  They are not difficult to make and your child can have a one-of-a-kind robe too! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

TWD - Baking with Julia: Ka'kat

I took a bit of a hiatus from TWD for reasons unknown even to me.  It just got away from me, I guess.  And I missed some recipes that looked to be quite good, so I'll have to make them up at some point!  This week, though, was Ka'kat.  Are you thinking, "what the heck?"  I was too.  I would say that bagel+pretzel=ka'kat.  Technically,  this bread is supposed to be covered with sesame seeds (I was out) and flavored with something called mahleb.  I didn't even look for mahleb as I remembered this week's recipe on MONDAY and it was due to be posted on Tuesday.  However, it turns out that Penzey's actually carries mahleb - it is the pit of a dried sour cherry.  Now I know!  At least I know it is fairly easily accessible!  

So, my ka'kat are sesame-less and mahleb-less, but still quite good!  They have the texture of a soft pretzel (which I love) but more of the flavor of a roll or bagel.  I thought it could use more salt, but that could be because my brain was thinking PRETZEL.  Best of all, this little guy was easy to make with only a short rise time.  In fact my handy mixer stayed in it's cabinet the entire day, as all I needed for this bread was a bowl and a spoon!

I am anxious to hear what other bakers thought of the ka'kat and whether anyone used the mahleb.  Is this a spice that I need to acquire??  Click here to find out who else tried this recipe and what they thought!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Clever Boy is 2!

The clever boy is 2!  Hard to believe.  Babies grow so fast!  A year ago he sat wherever you put him and now he is running all over the place and talking up a storm!  This boy is my grand finale of children, so I am trying to savor every minute of little-ness before he turns big.  It seems to happen overnight!

Are you a member of Tasting Table?  It is website that sends me recipes and dining advice and such periodically, and in February they sent a recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake.  Quite frankly, I already have a chocolate cake recipe that I love, but the write-up on this one was interesting enough for me to decide to give it a try! 

The results?  I will definitely make this cake again!  The frosting, however, was a bit gushy for me.  Maybe it needed to sit a little longer and firm up a bit.  When I served leftover cake the next day (that had been refrigerated and the let sit out to room temperature) the icing was much better.  The recipe says to allow the icing to sit for 20-30 minutes, and I probably should have given it more time.  However birthday time was near and I needed to get it done!  So, it was as it was.  Regardless of the consistency though, the icing was DIVINE.  Very delicious.  The cake itself isn't really sweet,  but it is VERY chocolatey, as it uses both cocoa powder AND melted unsweetened chocolate.  It is super moist and almost velvety in texture.  Mmm.  Mmmm. 

To create the decorations on top, I drew a big number 2 on a piece of paper, traced it on to waxed paper, and cut it out.  I gently placed it on top of the iced cake and then sprinkled sprinkles (!!!) all over the top of the cake, carefully avoiding getting any on the sides.  When I reached maximum sprinkles, I gently peeled off the waxed paper 2!  Voila! 
A hit.  The clever boy kept saying "Momma, cake, yum!" and making "mmmm" sounds as he ate.  The rest of the family cleaned their plates and sat with blissful smiles for a while.  Birthday success!

Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from Tasting Table
3/4 cup cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cake:  Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Butter the bottoms and sides of 2 9-inch cake pans and dust evenly with cocoa powder.

Stir the cocoa powder and water together in a small bowl to  make a paste.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl holding the chocolate.  Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is evenly melted and smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour and baking soda through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl.  Add the salt.  Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gently stir in the eggs, one at a time.  Once combined, add the reserved cocoa paste and melted chocolate and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined.

On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk.  Repeat with remaining flour and milk and mix just until combined.  Divide the batter between the two prepared pans.  Even out the tops of each pan with an offset spatula.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Use a sharp paring knife to run around the edge of each cake to loosen them from the pans.  Place a plate or sheet pan on top of each cake and invert the cake onto a cooling rack.  Remove the plate/pan and allow the cakes to cool completely.

Frosting:  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Warm the cream and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar completely dissolves, 2-3 minutes.  Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes while the chocolate softens.  Whisk until smooth and allow to sit for another 5-7 minutes to cool a bit more.  Whisk the butter into the chocolate, 1 or 2 pieces at a time.  Make sure the pieces are all blended before adding additional butter.  Allow the frosting to sit at room temperature until it is set and spreadable, 20-30 minutes.

Assemble:  Place a small blob of frosting in the center of the platter/cake plate you intend to use.  Place one cake layer with the bottom-side up in the center of the cake plate, on the top of the frosting,  The frosting acts like glue, holding the cake in place on the plate.  Spread about 1 cup of the frosting on the top of this layer, smoothing with an offset spatula.  Place the second layer on top of the first.  If your cake domed a little when it baked, place this layer top-side up.  Otherwise, set it bottom-side up (this ensures that the top of your cake is perfectly flat.)  Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

Happy Birthday, sweet clever boy!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah

A very long time ago I printed this recipe for Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  And I have been wanting to make it ever since, it just seemed to never happen.  When I was planning my sort of spur-of-the-moment Easter meal I remembered this recipe and decided it needed to be part of Easter.  I had all of the ingredients on hand so it clearly was meant to be.  Wow, am I glad I did!  Besides looking BEAUTIFUL (I seriously love the round braided look), it tastes absolutely delicious.  Yummy, get-in-my-mouth-right-now, might-could-eat-the-entire-loaf, good.  And guess what?  Not so hard to do! 

The dough for this bread is very wet, in fact at first I worried that I did something wrong and repeatedly asked myself if I put in the right amount of flour (answer, "yes").  But I rolled with it and it turned out fine.  You can make the dough in a mixer or by hand (what?  Not in this busy life...).  This bread is super fluffy and light.  I am sure it would taste quite good without the fig filling, but WHY??  The filling is made by re-hydrating dried figs in orange juice and some water and then pureeing it down so it becomes paste-like.  I could have added more liquid to mine I think, as it was VERY paste-like and hard to spread over the dough.  It was totally unevenly done but I didn't actually care about that so it was all fine!

The dough is divided into 4 long ropes that are then woven around each other to form this awesome round loaf.
There was no need for butter for this bread.  It was simply eaten as it was.  To RAVE reviews.  I will definitely be making this bread again.  You should, too.  It is so so delicious!

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 loaf
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt OR 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt (my sea salt was not "flaky" so I used 1 1/2 teaspoons)
4 cups all-purpose flour

Fig Filling
1 cup stemmed and chopped dried figs
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/ teaspoon sea salt
black pepper - to taste

Egg Wash
1 large egg
Coarse or flaky sea salt

Dough:  In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey with 2/3 cup warm water (110F-116F).  Let it stand for a few minutes to get nice and foamy.  Combine the yeast mixture with the remaining honey, olive oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt and flour and mix with a paddle attachment until the dough begins to come together, then switch to a dough hook.  Run at low speed for 5-8 minutes.  Transfer the dough to large bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour, until almost doubled.

Fig Filling:  Combine the figs, zest, 1/2 cup water, juice, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the figs are tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.  Transfer to a small food processor and process until it resembles a fine paste.  Scrape the sides of the processor bowl as needed.  Allow to cool completely.

Spread Figs:  Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a well floured surface and divide it in half.  Place one half back in the oiled bowl and roll the other half into a wide rectangle.  The size doesn't totally matter.  Spread half of the fig filling over the dough, leaving an inch border around the edge.  Roll into a tight log along the long side of your rectangle.  Gently stretch and roll the log as long as is comfortable and then divide it in half.  My log/rope ended up being 3ft 10 inches before I divided the rope into two.  Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling.

Weave!  You now have 4 dough ropes of equal length.  Arrange them in a tight tic-tac-toe shape, such that the knot/woven part is in the very center.  Lay your tic-tac-toe so that one strand goes over/under and the next goes under/over, i.e. it is woven together.  You will note that on each side of your tic-tac-toe board, one rope comes from under the knot and one comes from over.  Focus on the ones coming from underneath.  Take each of these "under" legs and cross them over the rope to their immediate RIGHT, keeping your rope pressed up against the center knot.  Do this with all four "under' legs.  Now take the legs that were the "over" legs from the beginning, and cross them each over the ropes to their immediate LEFT.  If you still have additional length to your  ropes, continue to repeat this process until you run out of rope.  Tuck the ends and corners under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a tight woven ball.  Place the dough ball to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet or bakers peel (if you will be baking on a bakers stone). 

Egg Wash:  Beat the egg until smooth.  Brush it over the challah.  Let the dough rise for 1 hour.  Approximately 15 minutes before your hour rise is over, turn on your oven to 375F.

Bake:  Before placing the loaf in the oven, brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes.  The bread will be a dark golden brown.  Watch your dough - if it darkens too quickly, loosely cover the top with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.  To check for doneness, you can VERY CAREFULLY lift up the bread and knock on the bottom, it should sound hollow.  Or stick an instant read thermometer into the loaf - it will read 190-195 when the loaf is done.

Cool on a rack before slicing.
Printable Recipe

Give this bread a try.  You CAN do this.  It looks more complicated than it really is, I promise.  And the end result is absolutely worth it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

TWD: Baking with Julia - Sweet Ricotta Pie

Our recipe for today is Sweet Ricotta Pie, from Baking with Julia.  I made this recipe for Easter dinner, hence the bunny!  I have to admit, when I first saw this recipe I was not very excited.  The main flavor in the recipe is anisette, of which I am not actually a fan.  So I changed things up a bit for our tastes and it turned out quite good!

My first change:  Well, this may not actually be a change but I made my own ricotta for this recipe!  I know, crazy, right?  But I happened to get a recipe for making homemade ricotta in my Fine Cooking magazine this month and thought I should give it a try.  I have made it twice now and yum, is it good!  The key thing I need to figure out is the length of time for draining the ricotta.  The recipe says you can drain it anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours, depending if you want it soft or firm.  On my first trial, I made it fairly soft, and this time it was more firm.  None of this was actually intentional, it just happened this way because of course I didn't set a timer or anything smart like that.  Have you ever made ricotta?  It is not hard, just takes a little time.  The basic ingredients are whole milk, heavy cream, sea salt and lemon juice or vinegar.  It is all a matter of quantities of these ingredients.  Many recipes seem to have a 3c whole milk to 1 cup heavy cream and 3 TB acid (lemon juice/vinegar) ratio.  The Fine Cooking recipe used way less heavy cream (1 cup for a gallon whole milk) and called for 1/2 cup lemon juice.  I am not sure what difference the milk/cream ratio makes (creaminess) but the acid amount really does vary.  Lemon juice can have a varied level of acid so I found using apple cider vinegar seemed to get better results.  Using additional lemon juice worked fine too, which is what I did the first time.  It also depends on how pasteurized your milk/cream are.  The less pasteurized your dairy products are, the less acid you will need to get nice curds.  But I'll be darned if I could find anything but ultra-pasteurized dairy!  Anyway, if you have never attempted homemade ricotta cheese, I recommend giving it a try.  It's kinda fun to watch the curds form and could be a fun science experiment for your kids!

Back to the pie recipe!  There are/were very few ingredients for this pie:  crust, ricotta, sugar, anisette, eggs and cinnamon.  The crust recipe is from the book, called Pasta Frolla.  It is a very forgiving crust but not as yummy as my tried and true flaky pie crust.  I'd use my own crust next time.  To figure out what I wanted to do with the filling I did some internet research and learned that a ricotta pie is a traditional Italian Easter dessert!  Huh.  I looked at some recipes to get flavor ideas.  Instead of (1 TB!!) anisette, I used 1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (have you ever used this extract?  Amazing!) and the zest of 1/2 Mandarin orange (about 1/2 teaspoon).  I also added an additional tablespoon of sugar, as it seemed to need it when I tasted the batter.  I mixed the filling in my stand mixer, but an immersion blender would have been even better to get the filling nice and smooth. 

The pie was pretty funny looking when it came out of the oven.  The filling puffs up quite a bit, to the point that some of the lattice strips disconnected from the edges and sort of hovered above the pie plate!  When I looked at the end result, I decided it needed to be served with some blueberry sauce.  It was just a bit boring looking by itself!

I am glad I added the blueberry sauce.  It really did make it better.  My pie was a bit dry, which could be because my ricotta was to firm(?) so the blueberry sauce helped.  I did notice that one of the recipes I saw for a ricotta pie included a cup of cream in the filling, so that would have helped as well.  The filling itself is very light in texture,  almost like a light cheesecake.  I do not think it needed the lattice top, as it seemed to add to the dryness.  I am curious to know what others thought of this recipe.  I liked the pie with the changes I made, but it is not my favorite dessert ever. 

The recipe for Sweet Ricotta Pie can be found on page 376 of Baking with Julia

Blueberry Sauce
adapted from allrecipes
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup white sugar (I used a scant 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup cold water
3 TB cornstarch (I used 2 TB as I wanted a thinner sauce)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the blueberries, 1/4 cup water, orange juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir gently and bring to a boil.  Mix the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water in a small bowl. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture, being careful not to squash the blueberries.  Simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract and cinnamon.  If the sauce is too thick, thin with a little additional water.
Printable Recipe

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hoppy Easter!

While taking pictures with bluebonnets the other day, we met the Easter bunny!  Serendipity! 

I made Easter outfits for the clever kids, which I happen to absolutely love (both the kids and the outfits)!  The clever boy got another jon-jon using my favorite pattern from Children's Corner.  I've made it several other times as well (here and here).  The clever girl's dress is the Oliver + S pattern "Family Reunion Dress". Love.  I wasn't sure if I'd love it since the clever girl tends to prefer twirly dresses, but I am so glad I gave this pattern a shot!

Here's the clever boy!  Whereas I usually find an image from Google Images for my applique, this time I designed it myself.  The clever boy has a few favorite things right now:  #1 is trash cans.  This fascination for trash cans has gone on for a very long time (in fact "trash can" was one of the first things he said!) so I knew I wanted a trash can on his outfit.  His other two loves are dogs, and recently, trucks.  So, I combined the clever boy's most favorite loves together to make an applique for his jon-jon.  I love it!  So does he.  He was thrilled that he could wear a trash can AND a dog-dog AND a truck all at once.  It is the trifecta of awesomeness!

 Happy, happy boy!
What will I do when he gets too big for jon-jons?  I love this pattern!

Here is the clever girl's Family Reunion dress.  Though it looks like it might be complicated, it really wasn't difficult at all.  This is why I love Oliver + S patterns.  They are classic looks and the patterns are written extremely well.  In fact the only tricky part was the piping edge, which I decided to add and isn't part of the original pattern at all.  I forgot to take photos of the back, but it buttons all the way up and has the same little tucks as the front.  I love the tiny details of this pattern: the tiny tucks under the neckline, the little button placket, and the lines of stitching along the bottom edge which give the bottom of the dress both interest and weight so it hangs nicely.  The clever girl is quite thin, so I cut this dress in a size 5 around but size 6 in length.   Oh, and the material I used is also from the Oliver + S company.  Their fabric line is called Lisette and, miracle of miracles, they carry it at my local Joanns Fabric store.  It is a great quality fabric.

I love it!  I think she looks darling!

My clever kiddos.  They really are something special.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TWD: Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars (BCM)

I'm back!  I did not post with TWD last week, as (1) I was on vacation in Florida (yeah, me!) and (2) when I looked for barley flour in the grocery store I couldn't find it and decided it wasn't worth the stress of getting "pebble bread" done before vacation.  But I am back this week with Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars, from Baking Chez Moi

This cookie is sort of like a super-fancy rice-crispy treat, but better!  My family was not a big fan of the marshmallow-y rice-crispy treat, so my mom made them with peanut butter instead.  This was definitely an improvement, but nothing compared to working with CARAMELIZED rice crispies!  Yes, caramelized.  That even sounds better, right?

The base of this cookie is what I think a sugar cookie would taste like if made with brown sugar instead of white.  Though Dorie says that the cookie layer is thin and chewy, mine was more crunchy, but not overly hard.  Many fellow bloggers had warned about baking the cookie layer too long, so I kept a close eye on mine and took it out as soon as it started getting golden brown.  I maybe should have taken it out sooner to get the chewy texture Dorie describes...

On top of the cookie is a thin layer of dark chocolate.  You literally chop it into small pieces and spread them over the cookie bottom when it is still hot from the oven.  Pop it into the still-warm oven for a few moments and then spread that melted chocolate all over the cookie.  Mmmm.

Now, it is the top layer that is the most important.  This is where the caramelized rice crispies come into play.  Before starting this entire project, the caramelized rice crispies are prepared and allowed to form a sort of brittle.  This crunchy deliciousness is crumbled on top of the melted chocolate and then the entire thing is refrigerated until the chocolate hardens.

What you end up with is a crunchy, fun sweet treat!  This would be fun for a school bake sale - a surprising upgrade from your typical rice crispy treat.  The end result is pretty sweet, and you could probably get away with cutting them into smaller pieces, to be honest.  But they are fun to eat and oh, that caramelized topping.  I'll be making more of that to put on ice cream and such!

These bars are a bit hard to cut and eat, as bits of caramelized rice crispies fly off in every direction.  But finding those little bits of goodness makes it all fine in the end!

The recipe for Crispy-Topped Brown Sugar Bars can be found on pages 324-325 of Baking Chez Moi.  If you google the recipe, you will find some people who have posted the recipe on their blogs, but you might just want to buy the book instead...  It's a good one!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Belated Pi Day!

Happy Belated Pi Day!  Yes, I know I am late, but I have good reason!  And the mathy part of me just could not let this date pass me by.  By date, I'm talking about 3-14-15, and if you remember back to geometry class, Pi equals 3.1415....  There won't be another date like this!  Thus, March 14, 2015 was the best Pi day we will have in my lifetime, and what better way to celebrate than baking a pie?  It turns out that we left for Spring Break on March 13, and got to Florida on the 14th.  I did not have the ability (or groceries) to bake a pie right then, so I made it on the 15th instead.  And then didn't blog about it til now, because, well, I was on vacation!

We were on a beach vacation so I decided we needed a beachy pie.  I found  recipe for Pina Colada Pie!  Mmmm, hmmm.  If you are thinking, yum, you would be right!  However this ended up being somewhat of a comedy of errors pie as well.  See, I (being the baking nerd that I am) actually made and froze a pie dough disk in advance to bring to Florida.  Which totally worked.  However when I chose my Pina Colada Pie recipe, I did not think about the fact that you CAN NOT par-bake a pie with no weights inside.  I had not thought of bringing pie weights or buying dried beans, so guess what?  My delicious home-made pie crust slid down the sides of the pie pan and bubbled up in the middle and was pretty much a bona-fide mess!  Time for Plan B!  The pie recipe actually called for breaking up pecan cookies to make into a crust, so since I had thankfully brought a sleeve of graham crackers (theoretically for the clever boy's snacks), I used them for the cookies!  Problem solved!  Oh, and I sprinkled some brown sugar and cinnamon over the weirdo-looking pie shell, baked it for a bit longer, and we had that as a random treat.  I can't throw a delicious (though ugly) pie crust in the trash!

Ok, now that that craziness is all explained, let's talk about the actual pie!!  As I mentioned, the pie crust is made of crushed graham crackers (cookies), which is mixed with coconut and butter, pressed into a pie pan, and baked until browned.  The crust is topped with a layer of pineapple compote - crushed pineapple cooked with sugar and cornstarch until thick.  I added about a cup of coconut to this layer (as I originally thought I'd be using a regular pie crust and not have actual coconut anywhere in the pie).  On top of this comes a creamy layer of cream cheese, coconut cream and eggs.  The entire pie is baked, then you top this with whipped cream that has been beaten with more coconut cream.  I sprinkled toasted coconut around the edges and into a Pi shape in the middle.  Yum.  I mean. YUM.  It tastes like vacation in pie form!

Want to make this beachy treat for your family?  Here is the recipe!

Pina Colada Pie
adapted from Southern Living
2 cups pecan shortbread cookie crumbs (about 16 cookies) or 1 sleeve of graham crackers
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple in juice
1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups coconut cream (1 can - you can find this in the Asian section of the grocery store near coconut milk, OR near mix-ins for cocktails, called "cream of coconut" and often the Coco Lopez brand)
2 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream


Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together the cookie crumbs, coconut and butter, and press against the bottom and sides of a lightly buttered deep dish pie pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  

Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small heavy saucepan.  Stir in the pineapple (I added 1 cup flaked coconut here).  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Cook for 1 minute (keep stirring) until thickened.  Allow to cool completely (takes about 20 minutes).

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, using whisk attachment, until smooth. Slowly add 1 cup coconut cream, beating at low speed just until blended.  Refrigerate the remaining 1/2 cup coconut cream until later.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended each time.

Spread the cooled pineapple mixture over the crust, then spread the cream mixture over the pineapple.  Bake for 38-42 minutes, until set.  Cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours. 

Beat the whipping cream on high speed until foamy.  Add the coconut cream and continue to beat until soft-to-somewhat firm peaks form.  Spread over the pie.  Optional:  top with toasted coconut.
Printable Recipe

All in all, this turned out to be a super delicious pie!  I would definitely make it again, though this time I'd do the crust the right way from the start!

Did you do anything special for pi day??

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

TWD: Baking Chez Moi - Lemon Madeleines

Lemon Madeleines, from Baking Chez Moi.  Yes, the glaze is a bit drippy looking.  Let's just ignore that, shall we?  I should probably entitled this "looks can be deceiving" or something, as that would certainly be appropriate.  

My madeleines don't look anything like the glorious picture in the book.  They were supposed to be a bit more golden instead of brown, and have a lovely hump on the underside.  My oven temp seems to be off, which would explain the darkness of the madeleine.  Plus I super overfilled the pan, as the recipe said it would make 12 so I just used all of the batter in the 12 madeleine holes, instead of getting out my second pan and putting some in there.  They certainly would have looked prettier if they hadn't overflowed the pan.

This recipe was supposed to GUARANTEE a lovely  hump on the non-grooved side, which mine did not get.  This also could be due to overfilling the pan, I suppose.

However, looks aren't everything, because these are delicious little lemony treats.  I want to make a cup of tea and devour the entire bunch.  I will make these again someday.  That time I'll use more pans and see if that makes a difference.  But really, looks aren't everything.  These taste delicious, which is what it's really about!

The recipe for the Lemon Madeleines can be found on pages 212 -213 on Baking Chez Moi

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). 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

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

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).