Sunday, November 15, 2009

Apple Cider Pound Cake

Hi there, remember me? Yeah, me neither!

This summer was a blur. It left me buried under a pile of CSA vegetables and farmer's market offerings. As much as I loved my CSA, I found myself overwhelmed with prepping, pickling and preserving the season's bounty.

And before I knew it, it was all over. Summer had gone and fall had arrived.

Apple Cider Pound Cake

Growing up in New England, apple cider was a given at our family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. My grandmother would prepare the dinner and my grandfather was in charge of filling everyone's glasses. Besides washing the dishes, the cider was his only real responsibility and he was so enthusiastic about it!

When they got older and my grandmother could no longer host, my grandparents would come to my mom's house, my grandfather carrying a cooler that surely contained cider.

Now that they're gone, I think of them both every fall when I enjoy my first glass of apple cider. And you'll never find my Thanksgiving table lacking apple cider!

Apple Cider Pound Cake

The cider flavor in this cake is not overly pronounced but the spices give a heavenly fall flavor!

Apple Cider Pound Cake
Source: Taste of Home
3 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan (I used a 9 1/2 inch bundt pan and had some batter left over. Two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans should also work just fine.) and set aside.

In a large bowl (I used my stand mixer), cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients and set aside. Combine cider and vanilla. Alternate additions of the dry ingredients and the cider mixture to the batter. Mix until well blended.

Spoon into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes (mine took longer) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert pan onto a cooling rack.

Combine icing ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drizzle icing over the cake while it is still warm.

Apple Cider Pound Cake

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Face off: Butter vs. ICBINB Cooking & Baking Sticks

Recently, I told you about my interest in testing the difference between butter and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Cooking & Baking sticks. Well, I finally had a chance to put the two up against each other in a good old-fashioned taste test.

For the test, I chose to whip up two half batches of Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – one using butter, the other using ICBINB sticks.

I set up two bowls, each labeled with the fat of choice.

ICBINB vs. Butter

Next, I creamed the sugars and fats together.

ICBINB vs Butter

Then, I added the eggs and mixed until well combined.

ICBINB vs. Butter

This is when I noticed the first major difference – the texture of the ICBINB mixture was much softer and looser.

ICBINB vs Butter

Then, I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

ICBINB vs Butter

Next, I lined two half-sheet pans with parchment paper and marked the underside of each sheet with either a B or I to indicate which batch was which.

ICBINB vs. Butter

Then, using a large spoon, I dropped the dough onto the appropriate pans. The ICBINB dough was significantly stiffer.

ICBINB vs Butter

Between batches, I switched up which versions cooked on which racks in the oven. When each batch came out, I noticed that the butter-based cookies consistently spread more and browned more.

ICBINB vs. Butter

In the side-by-side taste comparison, the ICBINB version was preferred 6 out of 10 times. My taste testers commented that the ICBINB cookies were moister and tasted a bit sweeter. Truth be told, I still preferred the butter version, even though I was outnumbered. But, I wouldn't turn an ICBINB cookie down. If I weren't tasting them side-by-side, I don't think I'd notice a difference.

ICBINB vs Butter

So, in the end, what does this mean? Well, if you're watching your saturated fat intake, the ICBINB Cooking & Baking sticks might be a better option for you and you don't have to sacrifice taste. That's good in my book.

ICBINB vs Butter 2

*This post is in no way endorsed by I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. I did this test because I was curious. = )

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Source: Quaker Oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

On a separate note, it's my blogiversary! A whole year ago, this little blog was born. It's been a lot of fun and I'm excited about the year to come!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eating local and Food, Inc.

Recently, I've begun looking into ways to eat more locally. That is to say, I'd like to support local farms and move towards eating more organically grown/raised foods. To that end, this year will be my first involved with a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, share and I could not be more excited!

It all began last summer when I stumbled upon Amy's blog, Eggs on Sunday. She documents the contents of her weekly shares and then spotlights recipes she made with those items. I was fascinated! Until that moment, I had never heard of the CSA concept before and had to know more about it.

To my delight, there are several CSA options in my area. Local Harvest is a great resource for finding a farm that you can sign up with! I found one that suited my needs and budget and signed up immediately! I'm so happy to be able to support a local farm and benefit from the foods I will receive.

Now, I've got my sights set on finding local resources for eggs, dairy, meat, and fruit. If you know of any good ones in southern New Hampshire, please let me know!

It was just today that I learned about a new documentary called Food, Inc. This film sheds some light on the realities of food production and manufacturing. It looks to be a real eye opener and I am looking forward to watching it, for sure.

Check out the trailer!

What efforts have you made toward eating locally, if any?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Daring Bakers: Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

In my life, I've known two incredible bakers. One that I've mentioned many times before, was my grandmother, Pat, who taught me how to bake. From her, I learned how to follow a recipe and measure precisely.

The other is my step-father's step-mother Rozina, or Rosie as we call her. She's one of those people that never uses recipes and never measures a thing, and yet everything she makes comes out perfect. (I'm sure she'd disagree with that statement, but it's so true!)

Rosie grew up in Slovenia before moving to Canada and later to the U.S. As soon as I saw that the challenge was a traditional European dessert, I knew what I had to get her involved. So the e-mail went out asking if she'd be interested in making strudel with me. She surely was and the plans were made.

Rosie grew up eating, and later making, strudels. It was a tradition to have them for holidays. Since fruit, especially apples, was rare in Slovenia, the typical strudel in Rosie's home was made with farmer's cheese, sour cream and raisins. I later found that Kaffeehaus includes a recipe for this style strudel.

As it turns out, Rosie hadn't made strudel in years ... but even still, she knew it by heart. In keeping with the challenge, we used the recipe from Kaffeehaus for the dough. Though we measured the ingredients for the dough, Rosie mostly went by feel. She knew what the dough should look and feel like and added extra flour until it was just right.

Then, Rosie kneaded the dough using a side-to-side motion that I had never seen before. She was moving so fast I had a hard time catching a photo of her in action! She has clearly made a strudel or two over the years.

The dough was kneaded until it was no longer sticky and had become smooth and firm. Then the dough was oiled and covered. It rested for about 45 minutes while we prepared the filling.

Rosie's favorite strudel filling is apple walnut. She typically uses shredded apples for her traditional apple-walnut filling, but for our joint-effort version, we thinly sliced five Granny-Smith apples and then roughly chopped them. They were sprinkled with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browning, then covered with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.

The apples were set aside while we prepared the walnut portion of the filling. 1/2 pound of shelled walnut halves went into a food processor with 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Cinnamon was added, though I couldn't tell you how much - Rosie sprinkled it until it looked right. My guess would be about 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon.

The final filling component was 1/2 cup of ground Nilla wafers (in more traditional strudels, breadcrumbs would be used), about eight wafers worth.

The filling was set aside while we worked with the dough. Rosie spread out her strudel tablecloth (yes, she has a tablecloth just for strudel!) and sprinkled it with flour.

The challenge recipe called for rolling the dough, but Rosie did everything by hand. She sprinkled a little flour on the dough ball, picked it up and stretched it over the backs of her hands.

Once the dough was too big to hold, she set it down on the tablecloth and began stretching it carefully.

She lifted an edge, reached under the dough, then with her hand flat against the dough, gently pulled it toward her.

For me, this was my favorite part of making the strudel. It wasn't nearly as difficult as I had expected - it was even fun!

Once the dough was tissue thin and very large, we trimmed off the thick edges and added the fillings.

First, we sprinkled the walnut mixture evenly over the dough, then the Nilla wafers. We gently spread the nuts and crumbs to just an inch shy of the edges being careful not to tear the dough.

We followed the walnuts with the apples but only along one end of the dough.

The last step before rolling the strudel was to drizzle one stick of melted unsalted butter over everything. Alternatively, you could brush the just-stretched dough with a butter-soaked pastry brush, but you risk tearing the dough.

Then it was time to roll. We gently folded about an inch of dough at the edge over the apples. I fully expected the rest of the rolling to be difficult. I thought the dough would be gently and slowly rolled to prevent tearing. Boy, was I wrong!

Rosie grabbed the tablecloth and with one swift motion, flipped the strudel over. She did this repeatedly until it was completely rolled. She went so fast I couldn't get a good shot of it!

The roll was then cut into two pieces, so as to fit on the sheet pan, and brushed with more melted butter.

The strudel baked in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes to an hour until it was golden brown. Then it was covered in a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

This challenge was fantastic! Not only did I get to spend time with Rosie, but I learned to make something new from an experienced baker and it came out beautifully. The strudel was much easier to make than I expected and I would love to make it again and again.

If you'd like the recipe for the dough, please check out Linda's post.

Now get yourself over to the blogroll and check out the other Daring Bakers' strudel creations!

Monday, May 11, 2009

What the?

So I was flipping through one of my many food-themed magazines yesterday when I came across an ad for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Cooking & Baking sticks.

Their big claim is 50% less saturated fat than butter. But in a way, I'm not sure it's worth it as there is no difference between butter and this product in terms of total fat and calories.

Now, I've got to ask. Has anyone tried these? I'm so curious about their taste! I'd love to try a side by side comparison by baking a recipe once with these and again with butter.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A confession

I have a confession to make.

I've been afraid of yeast. It's true.

For the longest time, I've been watching other bloggers post beautiful breads, doughnuts, bagels, pretzels, etc., etc. and I've been jealous.

That's one of the reasons I joined The Daring Bakers back in September. I was hoping to overcome my fear of yeast. I thought surely I'd be thrown in to a world of yeasted treats – then I'd have no excuse. I'd have to jump in and get over it.

And sure enough, my first challenge was a lavash cracker that included yeast. And though my batch came out all right, they were too thick and not quite right.

Then, my second challenge was pizza. Again, a yeasted dough. And while I thoroughly loved this challenge, my dough, again, wasn't quite right.

So, I decided to try again. I'd find a recipe that featured yeast and give it a shot.

Months ago, I saw Amber's post on Focaccia, a no-fuss recipe that looked simple enough. Yet, I bookmarked it and tucked it away in the corner of my mind. You see, I was still scared.

Finally, I convinced myself to give it a try. Why hide forever when I can keep trying until I get it right?

Luckily, this recipe really was no fuss. It worked like a charm! The bread came out light, airy and full of flavor!

No-Fuss Focaccia
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour, as seen on Amber's Delectable Delights
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
14 ¾ ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 white or yellow onion, frenched
3 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and stems discarded
5 sprigs fresh thyme,
leaves removed and stems discarded

Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat at high speed for 60 seconds.

Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, until puffy.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with additional herbs.

Bake the bread until it is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Stay tuned – there are more yeasty recipes to come!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Cheesecake

You may be wondering where I've been. In fact, I'm wondering where I've been! Sadly, I've been around but not posting. It seems I've lost my bloggy mojo. And damn, if time doesn't fly! Before I knew it, a month had gone by, then nearly two! Don't fear though, I will find my mojo once more! Expect me to be back and posting regularly again soon!

But now, it's time again for another Daring Bakers challenge! The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
For a light(ish – it is cheesecake after all) springtime treat, I chose to make a Limoncello cheesecake.

My love of Limoncello started way back when Food Network was relatively new to me. I saw an episode of Mario Eats Italy all about the fruity liqueur. I was fascinated, mostly due to my love of anything lemon, and had to get my hands on a bottle.

For some reason, I didn't run out and buy some. No, I waited until Christmas and was happy to unwrap a bottle – a gift from my mother. I stashed it in the freezer and, when icy cold, finally had my first taste. Wow! What a refreshing spirit!

Strangely, even with my enthusiasm for it, this bottle lasted me forever. I'm not much of a drinker, you see. At Christmas this past year, my mother remembered that I had once wanted a bottle and bought me another, not knowing I had yet to finish the first. So now I figure, it's time to start using it up!

For the original recipe, please visit Jenny's site – the version below is a variation of Abbey's recipe.

Limoncello cheesecake
For the crust:
2 cups Nilla wafer crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
3 sticks of cream cheese, at room temperature

zest of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons Limoncello

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too. If using a two-piece springform pan, cover bottom of the pan securely with foil. Set crust aside.

Mix sugar and zest together until fragrant. Combine cream cheese and zest/sugar mixture in the bowl of a stand-mixer and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place a pan, larger than your cake pan, on the center rack of your oven. Place the cake pan into the larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge – you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill overnight.

Overall, this was a great challenge. I think the recipe could use a bit more lemon flavor – it was a bit too subtle. Perhaps some more limoncello or some lemon extract would intensify the flavor. Also, the crust was a bit soggy so I plan to blind bake the crust the next time I make this.

Now hop on over to the blogroll and check out the creative flavors the other Daring Bakers came up with this month!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Valentino

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

The rules were as follows:
Bake the Chocolate Valentino and serve with homemade ice cream
any flavor we choose.

The challenge mentioned that it would be best to select high-quality chocolate as the cake would taste exactly like the chocolate used. Knowing this, I went on a search for any of the top three: Valrhona, Callebaut or Scharffen Berger.

My local grocery store doesn't carry these so I wound up searching Chowhound for any suggestions on buying chocolate locally. Luckily, I saw a thread regarding Trader Joe's and their chocolate selection. The only Trader Joe's in the area is a few towns away, but not too far to go for good chocolate.

When I walked into the Trader Joe's on a busy Saturday morning, I wandered about looking for the chocolate. I eventually found the Valrhona, but only in small bars. I combed the store up and down before finally asking an employee for help. He managed to find some tiny bars of
Scharffen Berger for me but no luck on the Callebaut. He then recommended that I try the Trader Joe's brand of imported dark chocolate. It comes in "more than a pound" bars and, in his words, "we don't put crap in our chocolate!"

So here was my choice, spend a gazillion dollars on little bars of high-quality chocolate or spend $4 on the Trader Joe's brand. What to do?

Buy all three, of course!

I planned to make the cake three times and taste test the difference between the brands. Um, yeah, that didn't happen.

So, in the end, I made it once using the Trader Joe's chocolate. I'll have to find something else to make with my one pound each of Valrhona and Scharffen Berger.

Poor me. = )

A traditional Valentino is baked in a heart shaped pan, but I wasn't about to buy one just for this so I used my 8" x 8" square pan – I love that pan.

Chocolate Valentino (
Flourless Chocolate Cake)
Source: Sweet Treats by Chef Wan
16 ounces (1 pound) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold gently until no white remains without deflating the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140 degrees F. (If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.)

Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

For a long time now, I had my eye on a Cuisinart ice cream maker. I had added it to my Amazon wish list but held off buying it. I was worried that I'd have no room for it in my teeny kitchen and that either I'd never use it, or I'd use it too much. (Moderation? What's that?!) Well when this challenge was announced, I knew the time was right and made my purchase!

Ideas were zooming through my mind for different flavors I'd like to try. Ultimately, I gave a list of about 10 options to Matt and let him choose.

When he took his first bite of this ice cream, he said, "let's never buy ice cream again!"

Now that's some good stuff!

Peppermint Patty Ice Cream
Adapted from Elise at SimplyRecipes (who got help from David Lebovitz)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup chopped peppermint patties

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan making sure the sugar and salt dissolve completely.

Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a mesh sieve on top. (I used a colander lined with cheesecloth.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Temper the yolks by slowly pouring the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream. Then stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture over night in the refrigerator.

One the mixture is thoroughly chilled, add peppermint extract, a 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired flavor.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Once the ice cream reaches a soft-serve consistency, add your chopped peppermint patties. Move to an airtight plastic container and place a layer or plastic cling wrap on the surface of the ice cream. Place in the freezer (not in the door) for at least an hour, preferably several hours.

To serve, take the ice cream out and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes or so to soften a bit.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Another great challenge for the Daring Bakers. I loved making my own ice cream and plan to make a lot of it in the coming months so stay tuned!

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see what variations the other Daring Bakers came up with this month!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daring Bakers: Tuiles

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

The challenge was to use one of the batters given, shape it either prior (using a stencil) or right after baking and pair it with something light; fruit, sorbet, a mousse, etc.

Source: The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeinck
65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / ½ cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice (optional)
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet or parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream butter, sugar and vanilla using a low speed until you have a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip and pipe the desired shapes. Or, if using a stencil, press the stencil on the baking sheet and use an off sided spatula to spread the batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

If desired, mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa or food coloring and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe your decorations.

Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from the baking sheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm so you might want to bake a small amount at a time.

I chose not to use any coloring or cocoa. I piped large circles (about 8 inches in diameter) and used an offset spatula to smooth the batter into a thin circle. As soon as the tuiles came out of the oven, I placed them over an upside down drinking glass to get the bowl shape I wanted. Then I went about making the fillings for the bowl.

Clementine Curd
Adapted from: The Elegent Sufficiency and Alton Brown
Zest and juice of 4 clementines
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Place zest, juice (you'll need 1/3 cup of liquid total – add water if you're short), sugar and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Whisk until smooth, about 4 minutes.

Set bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch or two of simmering water. Whisk continuously for 7 to 10 minutes until it is lighter in color, opaque and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add butter one piece at a time whisking until each piece has melted completely before adding the next piece.

Your curd will keep for four weeks in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap pressed on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Vanilla Mousse
Source: Tartelette
2/3 cup (160g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
2/3 cup (160g) whole milk
1 vanilla bean
4 medium-sized egg yolks
3 oz (6 Tbsp / 80g) granulated sugar
3 Tbsp (25g) cornstarch, sifted
4g / 2 tsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
1 cup (240g) whipping cream (35% fat content)

Pour the milk and 2/3 cup cream into a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean halves into milk and put the vanilla bean in as well. Heat to boiling, then turn the heat off, cover and let infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then remove the vanilla bean.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white, thick and fluffy. Add the cornstarch, beating carefully to ensure that there are no lumps. While whisking vigorously, pour some of the milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Put infused milk back on the stove on medium heat. Pour yolk mixture back into the milk while whisking vigorously. Keep whisking vigorously until mixture thickens considerably.

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, leave on for only 2 more minutes. Add the gelatin and let it melt completely, stirring once or twice.

Whip the 1 cup whipping cream until stiff and add gradually to the pastry cream. Blend delicately with a spatula.

To assemble the dessert, pipe the vanilla mousse into your tuile bowl and top with curd. Garnish with a curl of clementine zest.

Overall, the tuiles were fairly simple to make and I would make them again. Some changes I would try next time would be to add a little bit of flavoring to the batter – I think a few drops of almond extract or lemon extract would be perfect.

I would also try to get my toiles thinner. It was quite tricky getting them large enough to form a bowl and spreading them thin was even harder.

My favorite part of this challenge was making the clementine curd. It was much simpler than I expected and it came out beautifully. I thought it was a bit too sweet at first, but once it was chilled the sweetness was just right. I had some of the curd spread on toast for breakfast the next morning and it was heavenly!

I can't believe I've ever shelled out my hard-earned money for store bought lemon curd. Never again!

And once again, I had trouble with the pastry cream. Following a different recipe this time, I wound up with the exact same results – too-thick pastry cream with some lumps of coagulated corn starch. Both times it was edible and had great flavor, just not the right texture.

That's it pastry cream, it's on! We're gonna have this out until you're no longer my enemy. You and pie crust – you're going down.

Guess that means it's time to make a cream pie ...

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see what creations the other Daring Bakers came up with this month!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Instant pancakes

Another breakfast post?
I know, I know but I can't help myself – it's my favorite meal!

On Saturday mornings, when you head into the kitchen all bleary eyed, do you ever reach for the box of instant pancake mix? You can tell me, I won't judge you. I do it too.

My mix might be a little bit different though. I'm talking about Alton Brown's "instant" pancake mix. A mix that I put together myself so I know exactly what goes into my pancakes. I keep it in my cabinet at all times. Whenever the pancake craving hits, I can grab my mix and easily whip up a bowlful of batter.

Instant pancake mix
Source: Alton Brown
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.
Use the mix within 3 months.

Instant pancakes
Source: Alton Brown
2 eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups Instant Pancake Mix, recipe above
1 stick butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don't try to work all the lumps out.

Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired.

When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

Be sure to serve your pancakes with some real maple syrup – local if possible!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

White Hot Chocolate

Being a New England girl, you would think I'd be used to winter. But it's been cold. No, I mean really cold. Friday's forecast showed a high of 18 degrees ... and a low of -15 degrees.

15 degrees below zero.

Seeking a way to warm up, I decided to make some hot chocolate. Not just any hot chocolate, but the most decadent hot chocolate recipe I have ever made. I'm telling myself that the calories were worth the warmth.

White Hot Chocolate
Source: Paula Deen
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla whipped topping or freshly whipped cream, for garnish
Mint leaves, for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in the half-and-half, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of vanilla whipped topping and garnish with mint leaf.

I halved the recipe which made two large portions. The vanilla whipped topping had the flavor of tapioca pudding which was not bad – but I came for the hot chocolate. I'll skip it next time and just savor the white chocolate's flavor.

Okay Old Man Winter, let's warm things up around here before my pants don't fit!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quick and easy cinnamon buns

Sunday morning breakfasts are usually the most decadent of the week in my home. It's the one day I can actually spend the time to make a special morning dish.

This week I decided to give cinnamon rolls a try. I've been wanting to make these for quite some time now, but haven't gotten around to it because of the immense time requirement. In looking for a recipe, I stumbled across two versions in my new copy of Baking Illustrated– one a traditional yeast-dough, the other a non-yeast quick version.

Cinnamon buns in one hour? My heart be still!

I just so happened to have every ingredient on hand with one exception. The icing calls for cream cheese and I was sadly lacking. So I went on a hunt for a cinnamon roll icing that sounded rich and dreamy but did not call for cream cheese. I found just the recipe I needed on the King Arthur Flour site.

Quick Cinnamon Buns
Source: Baking Illustrated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, for greasing the pan

For the cinnamon-sugar filling:
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the biscuit dough:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for work surface
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Pour 1 tablespoon of the melted butter into a 9-inch nonstick cake pan; brush to coat the pan. Spray a wire cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the cinnamon-sugar filling:
Combine the sugars, spices and salt in a small bowl. Add tablespoon of the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles wet sand; set the filling mixture aside.

For the biscuit dough:
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter in a measuring cup or small bowl. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed (the dough will look very shaggy), about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy.

Pat the dough with your hand into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border of plain dough around the edges. Press the filling firmly into the dough. Using a bench scraper or metal spatula, loosen the dough from the work surface. Starting at the long side, roll the dough, pressing lightly, to form a tight log. Pinch the seam to seal. Roll the log seam-side down and cut it evenly into 8 pieces. With your hand, slightly flatten each piece of dough to seal the open edges and keep the filling in place. Place 1 roll in the center of the prepared nonstick pan, then place the remaining 7 rolls around the perimeter of the pan. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter.

Bake until the edges of the buns are golden brown, 23 to 25 minutes. Use and offset metal spatula to loosen the buns from the pan. Wearing oven mitts, place a large plate over the pan and invert the buns onto the plate. Place a greased cooling rack over the plate and invert the buns onto the rack. Cool about 5 minutes before icing.

Vanilla Glaze
Source: King Arthur Flour
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 5 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the sugar, vanilla, and enough cream to make a spreadable icing. Slather on the cinnamon buns with a spatula.

While the texture may not be the same as yeasted cinnamon rolls, these are a great substitute. The flavor was perfect and the buns had a slight crunch to them that Matt thoroughly enjoyed. I do hope to try making the real thing soon, but in the meantime, I'm pretty happy with this version!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


When thinking of treats to include with my homemade jam, I decided that shortbread was appropriate. Not only is it tasty on its own but it would be a nice platform for the jam.

I chose this recipe because of its simplicity. I wanted a recipe that used accessible ingredients and would come out right every time – a must when baking in bulk. I found the addition of almond extract very pleasant though it's more traditional and equally delicious without it.

Source: King Arthur Flour
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at cool room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Lightly grease two round 9" cake pans or line them with parchment, and grease the parchment. (I prefer my shortbread in rectangles rather than wedges and used two 8" square baking pans. The resulting shortbread was a bit too thick for my taste. I will use a larger square or rectangular pan next time. Also, I found that using parchment paper worked very well for preventing the shortbread from sticking to the pan.)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, then beat in the flour. The mixture may seem a little dry at first; keep beating until it comes together. If it absolutely won't come together, dribble in up to 1 tablespoon of water, until it does. This is a stiff dough.

Divide the dough in half, and press each half into one of the prepared pans, smoothing the surface with your fingers, or with a heavy-bottomed glass.

Use a fork to prick the dough all over; this allows any steam to escape, and prevents the shortbread from bubbling as it bakes.

Bake the shortbread until it's a light golden brown across the top surface, and a deeper golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes.

Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn each shortbread round out onto a clean work surface.

Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut each round into 12 wedges. (Do this while the shortbread is still warm; if you wait until it's cool, it won't cut easily.) Transfer the shortbread wedges to a rack to cool.