Saturday, October 30, 2010

CwF - Molten Chocolate Orange Madeleines

What? That wasn't the recipe we were supposed to make? Oops.

Julie of A Little Bit of Everything is our fearless leader for Chocolate with Francois. Julie selected chocolate honey madeleines for the group to make this month. It's an easy recipe for us, given that the group has conquered multi-step, multi-day recipes of late. Even easier, the batter is made and rested for up to three days in the fridge before baking. I made these pre-vacation, when I was working tons and feeling stressed. That's my excuse for my seeming disregard of the recipe.

When the recipe said to add the grated zest of half an orange, I figured more was better. When Payard said that you would use two madeleine pans, and get 24 madeleines, I looked at my single madeleine pan and thought "I can put the rest in a mini muffin pan" and then promptly forgot there would be a "rest" to do that with. Instead, I overfilled 19 of the molds, ran out of batter and figured I was good to go. Big mistake. Although my madeleines rose nicely, no matter how many minutes extra I baked them, they never cooked on the inside.

As nice as a molten chocolate cake can be, it's not a good concept for madeleines. These were still good, and the smaller, less gooey ones were delicious, with a nice punch of orange and a very subtle tang of honey.

If you'd like the recipe, and promise to follow the instructions, Julie will have it for you here. And thanks, Julie, for picking something easy and fun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Cake and Yeast Donuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Donuts are one of those dangerous foods that are suppposed to taste better when you make them at home. I really don't need for them to taste better than they already do, but I missed last month's Daring Bakers challenge and I didn't want to miss another one.

My plan was to only make one recipe. My coworkers were almost evenly divided between yeast donut lovers and cake donut lovers. I did a poll and the yeast donut lovers won out, but I decided to make both kinds because, well, I'm insane. I made the dough for the yeast donuts the night before and stuck it in the fridge, planning to roll it out and cut out the donuts the next morning. But a peek in the fridge confirmed the dough was staging a coup and the middle shelf would soon be history. So at 11:00 PM, I rolled out the dough for the yeast donuts, cut them out and froze them on sheet pans. At 5:20 the next morning, after I staggered out to turn on the coffee maker, I pulled the donuts out of the freezer and and put the sheet pans on the counter to defrost. Meanwhile, I made the dough for the cake donuts.

Following Alton Brown's suggestion to use chop sticks when retrieving the fried donuts from the hot oil, I used them to transfer the donuts into the hot oil saving me from getting too many burns. It was hard to know when they were done, so some were very brown and some weren't, but they seemed to benefit from carryover cooking, which I should have taken into consideration.

The donut holes were tough little devils to fry. They didn't want their pale undersides to flip in the oil, and they wriggled every which way to avoid it. It took me twice as long to fry the donut holes as the donuts. Next time I'd skip making donut holes entirely.

When I said "staggered" and "coffee," my regular readers probably registered a silent "Uh oh." I don't do well on not enough sleep combined with before-dawn baking, and this was no exception. After I finished frying the donuts, I found this lurking in the mayhem I used to call my kitchen:

No wonder the cake donuts were hard to roll into a cohesive mass. Eggs would have helped.

I wanted glazed donuts and had settled on Alton Brown's plain and chocolate glazes. I didn't have time to strain the powdered sugar, and my glazes did have a few lumps.

The normal reaction when I take baked goods to work is quite a few emails praising the brownie, tart, etc. People will stop me in the hall and say how much they liked it, ask me where I find the time (when normal people are sleeping or working out), or request the recipe.

This time, silence.

I must admit I was perplexed. I tasted the donuts at home and the yeast donuts were truly amazing.  Light, with an imperceptible hint of flavor from the nutmeg, I finally understood why people were willing to make their kitchen look like this

to make them at home. I expected a lot more reaction from my coworkers. So I stopped by the break room to sample one for myself. What a difference two hours made. It was leaden, dense and not as flavorful as the one I sampled at home. The only thing that saved it was the chocolate glaze.

After this experience, there are a few things I learned:
  • Pick one kind of donuts to make. Don't make both. At least not at 5 AM.
  • Golden brown means...GOLDEN. BROWN.  Not dark brown, not chocolate brown, not medium brown. I was so worried about raw middles that I completely overcooked them.
  • 86 the donut holes. They aren't worth the precious time they consume.
  • Serve the donuts immediately. If it means handing them out car to car at all the lights on the way to work, send them out into the world while they're still appealing.
  • Have the glaze made before frying your donuts. It holds well, unlike donuts.

Maybe it doesn't sound like it, but I was so excited to make this recipe. I tripped myself up, and I hope I learned a valuable lesson. In trying to please everyone, it's possible to please no one. Next time, I'll make a small batch of these for us to enjoy at home.

Egg-free cake donuts

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tuna-Mozzarella Pizzas for Dorie's Birthday Dinner!

Hi, Dorie!

Welcome to my humble home on the web! I'm pleased to be one of your hosts for the first course in our progressive dinner celebration in honor of your birthday.

Holly of Phe.MOM.enon noticed your birthday on your Facebook page and she wanted to find a way to celebrate your special day. She got Laurie of slush involved. You are such a wonderful supporter of both Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays with Dorie and it only seems fitting to invite you over for dinner. Given that the members of both groups are spread out around the world, a virtual progressive dinner party was Laurie's way of inviting you over to gather around our tables.

We were able to choose the course and recipe we'd prepare from Around My French Table. After you wrote about these tuna-mozzarella pizzas on your website (the post is here), I wanted to make them so badly. Your birthday gave me the special event I was saving them for.

This is one of those recipes that are so simple that using the very best ingredients is important. The tuna is heated only for a minute or two in the oven and should be the freshest possible sushi grade. The fresh mozzarella, tuna and tomatoes are sliced and layered on a circle of puff pastry which has been prebaked and topped with lightly sauteed spring onions. Garnished with basil leaves, sliced radishes, black olives, and a drizzle of olive oil, these were delicious. Perfect for a first course for Dorie's birthday celebration, or a weekend lunch for my sweetie.

Happy birthday, Dorie! I'm in the city you love, eating Pierre Herme croissants for breakfast, pastries for lunch and macarons for...any and no excuse at all. I hope your book tour is going well and I'm so happy for my Twitter and TWD/FFwD friends who are getting to meet you.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No TWD, Will Maple Oatmeal Bread Suffice?

I found this glorious bread on my friend Margaret's website, Tea and Scones. It looked and sounded so good I was obsessed with making it and I wasn't disappointed when I finally made time for it. It has a light, lovely crumb and was a smashing success with my coworkers. Maple butter (Margaret has the recipe for you here) certainly doesn't hurt.

Although I planned to submit this bread for World Bread Day, I was on a plane and jetlagged on the 16th. So you get it, and my apologies, instead of the caramel pumpkin pie selected by Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs for Tuesdays with Dorie. Expect another lame excuse next week, when I'll again be jetlagged but from coming home from our vacation.

You can find the recipe for this yummy bread here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fold-over Apple Torte

This will be a brief post but I wanted to tell you about this lovely torte, which we enjoyed this morning for breakfast. Since time is at a premium this week, I used 1 2/3 sheets of puff pastry instead of making pie crust, and it worked very well. Our apple tree is in high gear so I used apples instead of pears. When I make it again, I'll use less of the custard so it doesn't ooze over the folded down edges of puff pastry. I omitted the dried apricots and added more walnuts. It smells incredible while baking and is best still warm from the oven.

This week's wonderful Tuesdays with Dorie pick is from Gaye at the wonderful blog Laws of the Kitchen. Every time I see those strawberry macarons in her header, my mouth waters. She has the recipe for you here. And if you'd like to see how the other TWD bakers fared, you can find their tortes here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gerard's Mustard Tart

I knew it was bound to happen.

See this beautiful (use your imagination) tart? The recipe came from none other than Around My French Table, the new book from Dorie Greenspan. I had no problem with the crust. I mixed up the custard, poured it over the shell, artfully arranged the lovingly steamed carrots and leeks, and carefully placed the tart in the oven. All was good in the world.

Then my tart seemed to be baking much more quickly that it was supposed. I pulled it out of the oven and wondered, where did the filling go? Dunno. It leaked out the bottom of the tart pan (which was thankfully on a sheet pan), leaving a thin layer of well done custard in the tart shell with the lovely vegetables caramelized by their exposure to the oven's heat. Even with virtually no custard in the tart, this was gobbled up by the next day. In my mind, that's a great recipe: I can mess it up, and it still tastes good and disappears quickly.

I made this for the new group French Fridays with Dorie. I've already seen some of their mustard tarts, and they didn't spring a leak in their crust. You can find them all here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Double Apple Bundt Cake

Fall has arrived in many areas of the country, and our weather is the classic hot one day and cool the next. Whatever the weather, this apple bundt cake is perfect.

Lynne of Honey Muffin chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and it created quite a stir in Twitter land. My fellow tweeting TWD bakers were positively rhapsodic about this choice. The consensus is it's better the next day but mine disappeared before it had even cooled all the way. I'm not a big fan of raisins in baked goods, so I left them out and added more pecans. Just a few observations:

  • Butter your bundt thoroughly before flouring it to help your cake pop out intact
  • Apples become very wet when grated. I poured off the liquid, not wanting the cake to be overly wet. In hindsight, it would have been delicious to drink.
  • Although I didn't, you could easily replace 1/2 cup of the flour with whole wheat without a change in texture (plus the color of the cake means your kids won't be able to tell!)
  • Let it cool completely before slicing. It smells so good it's impossible to wait, but if you do, your cake won't crumble like mine did when sliced.
  • Dorie says this is better if you wrap it overnight before serving. I have to take her word for it. It smelled too good to wait.
My advice for you? Make this immediately and often. Its spicy, apple-y fragrance will have people exclaiming "what is that?!?" and clamoring for a piece. Lynne will have the recipe for you here. And if you haven't heard, there's a big group of us who are cooking and blogging our way through Dorie's new book, Around My French Table. It's an extraordinary book and the recipes I've tried are unlike any others I've made. If you'd like to join us, here's the link.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seriously Fudgy Brownies, and My 300th Post

It's been quite a week for me. This week:

I celebrated my 2nd blogiversary;
It was my week to pick the recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie (see what I picked here);
French Fridays with Dorie made the first recipe from Around My French Table, gougeres;
This is my 300th post, and
I finally made these brownies.

If you noticed the clouds parting, the sun breaking through and the birds chirping, these brownies are likely the reason. You're welcome.

I found the recipe on the back of the double-Dutch dark cocoa I recently ordered from King Arthur Flour and it's one of those one bowl, throw everything in and stir recipes that are perfect for busy nights. I made them before work Friday and they couldn't be easier. They resulted in absolute rapture among my co-workers. I cynically thought they wouldn't be this good. The expresso powder smelled like it overpowered the cocoa. They are a very chewy, almost wet, brownie. There is a high ratio of sugar. More eggs than I usually see in brownie recipes. Etc.

But no, these were brownie perfection. The edges cook up crunchy from all that sugar. The middle is very fudgy with no perception of flour to break up the chocolaty flavor. I put the nuts on top so they brown and are a counterpoint to the chocolate flavor. I like the punch of chocolate offset with a crunchy nut. I added semisweet chocolate chips to contrast with the deep cocoa flavor.

I don't know how much the double-Dutch dark cocoa had to do with how great these are but I bet  a lot. I plan to make these again soon. And often.

  • I would use a parchment sling next time to make removal from the pan and cutting easier (it may seem like more work but it's worth it);
  • Allow to cool completely and sit out for a few hours before serving. It's hard to do, but they'll taste so much better;
  • Don't be tempted to cook them until they test done. They won't, and you'll be stuck with overdone brownies. That would be a crying shame. I'm tearing up just thinking about it.
Seriously Fudgy Brownies - (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 cup powdered sugar 
1 1/3 cup Dutch cocoa (preferably King Arthur Flour double-Dutch dark cocoa)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
6 eggs
1/4 cup water
1 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13x9 inch pan cooking spray or line with parchment paper to form a sling. If pan is completely lined with the parchment paper, there is no need to use cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, cocoa, salt and espresso powder. Stir in the chocolate chips. Add the eggs, water and canola and stir with a spatula until combined. Spread batter evenly in the pan and sprinkle over the nuts if using. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until brownies just start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely in the pan on a rack. If using parchment, pull the brownies out of the pan using the ends of the sling. Remove the parchment paper and slice into squares. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie - Gougeres

The collective buzz you've heard is the sound of hundreds of bloggers blissing out over Around My French Table, the new cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. It was released early and those of us who pre-ordered it raced home to find a lovely surprise from Amazon on our doorsteps. I was so blown away by the book that I could only cover 20 pages at a sitting. Each page I thought "This is it...this is the first thing I'm going to make from the book." Then I'd turn the page and think "No, this is the one." And so on. With its eye popping photos, mouth watering recipes, and evocative prose, this is the most impressive cookbook I've seen since Ad Hoc at Home.

French Fridays with Dorie is the brainchild of Laurie of slush. Laurie formed Tuesdays with Dorie when she committed to cooking her way through Baking From My Home to Yours. The group is so popular that Laurie had to close the group to new members, and several hundred people have been patiently waiting for a group to tackle the new book.

The dilemma of what to make first was solved for me when Dorie herself picked the recipes for the first month of French Fridays with Dorie. And the first recipe for the group is gougeres, the classic French cheesy puff. A group of my Twitter buddies set a date for a Twitter bake-along, and we grated cheese, tweeted and had a great time.

Gougeres are made from choux, and they are easy and delicious. It's very helpful to have all of the ingredients measured and ready. I used my small cookie scoop to measure out the gougeres, and the recipe yielded 46 petit gougeres. I baked some to enjoy for lunch, and the rest went to the freezer (freeze on sheet pans until solid, then transfer to a zip top bag). To prepare frozen gougeres, place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper or a Silpat, and bake them without defrosting.

These were sooo delicious, they were almost irresistible. They'd make the perfect hors d'oeuvres for a party or an ideal snack if you have company drop by. You can vary the cheese (I used Gruyere) and even add spices to change up the flavor.

Thanks, Dorie, for getting the group off to such a great start with this delicious and easy recipe. If you'd like to see how other FFwD cooks fared, you can find them here. And check out the book here. It's getting rave reviews, and not just from those of us who have followed Dorie for quite some time.