Friday, March 30, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

I knew, I knew when I signed up for Tuesdays with Dorie 2.0 that my life gets busy, out of control, and that I sometimes work 14 hour days for weeks on end. In moderation is a fascinating phrase to me, one which I'm scarcely acquainted with. When I'm getting ready to go on vacation, I tend to work more than the average (normal) person, and the few weeks leading up to this recipe were no exception. Worse, M. was traveling, so I had absolutely no reason not to show up at work at 6:30 AM, and not go home before 8 or 9 or...worse.

In the middle of this insanity, it was time to make Irish Soda Bread from Baking with Julia. I literally threw this recipe together when I rolled out of bed at 5:15, and was still in my chair at work by 6:30, with warm bread for other lunatics coworkers who might show up around the same time. I used raisins, and I didn't plump them in spite of my better judgment, so they did look a little charred around the edges. No matter, this easy, delicious loaf was spectacular with softened butter and the odd crumbs I spotted on the carpet in our office were telltale evidence that this one was very popular.

If you'd like the recipe for this one, you can find it with either Cathy of My Culinary Mission or Carla of Chocolate Moosey.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where Flan and I Make Peace, Warts and All

Flan and I, we aren't simpatico. Not that I blame it for (usually) not being chocolate; I enjoy plenty of custard desserts that aren't chocolate. I like creme brulee, but flan lacks creme brulee's crust of burnt sugar. I like creme caramel, but flan's caramel is puddled on the plate rather than easily confined in a custard cup. I honestly believe my dislike of flan comes from it being served at virtually every gathering I attended while living in Miami.

Poor flan. I went into making this recipe with the cautious mistrust of one who KNOWS something is going to go wrong. I was making it to take to my PEO meeting, and the flan didn't let me down, but I let it down.

I made the recipe as written in Baking From My Home to Yours, and it was surprisingly easy to make, not at all temperamental save the hot water bath it likes to bask in.

Its precious caramel? I unmolded the flan before driving to my meeting, over hill, dale and rush hour freeway traffic it slithered all over the serving plate, caramel slurping off the plate into the carrier, until it reached my meeting almost dry, its serving plate practically floating in a sea of caramel. The ladies loved it, thought it was a great flan and, being polite, didn't mention the lack of caramel. I tasted the tiny sliver that they left behind, and I had to agree that it was tasty, with a richness and balance I don't remember my childhood flans having. Maybe my lifelong dislike of flans was because I'd never had the benefit of tasting Dorie's flan. This flan was one I can see letting into my life on occasion, no judgment for past wrongs. It would be delightful made with orange or vanilla sugar, and I can't wait to try the coconut milk alternative.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brioche Raisin Snails

When looking through the many recipes in Baking From My Home to Yours, this is the one that scared me the most, with the floating islands a close second. Long after I'd made brioche (several times), pastry cream (many times) and far more complicated desserts in the book, this recipe still intimidated me.

Now that I finally have made it I don't want to suggest that it was easy, but broken up over multiple days it's definitely manageable. How I did it was to make the brioche dough one night, the pastry cream another, roll the brioche out and fill it another day, and slice and bake it on the fourth day. That taught me a good lesson, that breaking baking projects up into manageable pieces makes recipes formerly out of my reach time-wise now eminently doable.

The results were, if not swoon-worthy, quite impressive. I was impressed that I had made something quite delicious that didn't look half bad. Amazing. I wish I didn't skip soaking the raisins (I would have bypassed the alcohol and used apple or orange juice) because it would have plumped them up and helped them withstand the heat of the oven better.

This recipe is another one down in my quest to complete all of the recipes in BFMHTY. Margaret and Nancy are also playing catch up. Please visit and cheer them on in their countdowns to completion.

If you'd like the recipe for these lovely pastries, you can find it on Laurie's post here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Snickery Squares

I love a snickers bar. The peanuts paired with caramel and some chocolate to hold it all together. Mmm.

This recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours has stopped me each time I've thumbed through the book. When I read the number of components and started imagining how many dirty dishes I would end up with, I always kept going. Until now that is. Nancy and Margaret and I are completing the recipes we missed in BFMHTY and that means I have to make every one of them.

Once I got over needing to make every single component myself (I've made dulce de leche before, and I didn't even like it when it was homemade), the recipe wasn't that bad. I made it in stages: the candy coated peanuts, the crust and then the finally assembly once the crust was fully baked. I honestly didn't expect to like these once I knew they contained dulce de leche, but I was pleasantly surprised: The salty peanuts, rich crust and dark chocolate tie it all together in a way that puts the flavor of the DDL in the background. All in all they were well received and there were no complaints about them being rich (they were), messy (very much so) or overly sweet (ditto).

I think I'd like to try these again with caramel (which is how Nancy was going to make them). I had already purchased a jar of DDL when Nancy made that decision, or I would have gone the same route.

If you'd like the recipe, you can find it on the original TWD post here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Emergency Blender Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting

How irresistible is an easy cupcake recipe you can throw together at the last minute? Especially a moist, chocolatey cupcake? So irresistible that I started these tonight at 8:15 in an effort to make it under the wire to post them on time. All in all, it took less than two hours to complete them (as in wearing icing) and would have taken less if I wasn't goofing off on Words with Friends. I used one of my favorite tricks to cool them off, using my granite countertop to pull the heat out of the cupcakes.

This recipe is from The Weekend Baker by Abby Dodge, and I made it for ABC Bakers. Hanaa has raved about the deliciousness and ease of the cupcakes, so as I worked, I weighed all of the ingredients for which she only gave volume measurements. I knew I would be making them again and I love recipes that I can weigh everything into either the mixing bowl (or blender jar in this case) or a measuring cup.

Hanaa had mentioned that she'd never made the frosting because she always has some extra frosting in the freezer, and I wish I was similarly afflicted. The frosting just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was the sweetened condensed milk. Next time, I'll make a ganache, let it cool and whip it until it's light and fluffy.

These cupcakes are too good to save for an emergency, unless your emergency is needing a quick chocolate fix. If you're craving an easy chocolate entreat, you can find the recipe here. And check out the other ABC Bakers' cupcakes here.