Friday, July 30, 2010

My Kitchen, My World - Cooking in the USA!

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Make some food from the USA for this month's challenge. Until I started thinking that the things we think of as American foods hail from other shores. I consulted with some of my Twitter buddies who helped me see that the melting pot that is the USA makes virtually all foods American. But I tried to make a meal from ingredients that would have been here when Native Americans called this their land. Fresh salmon on the grill, a salad of baby lettuce, herbs, asparagus, tomatoes and corn, dressed with lemon and olive oil. OK, maybe olive oil wasn't here yet but it made a great salad. I had planned to make brownies, too, but the month just got away from me.

My Kitchen, My World is a wonderful group where the host picks a country for the month and if you want to participate, you cook from that country's cuisine and put a link to your post on the MKMW site. You can find it here, along with links to everyone who participated this month. It's a lot of fun, discovering foods from cuisines you may not be so familiar with. This month is the exception, but who knows where we'll go next month...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

CEiMB - Mango Lassi

Craving Ellie in My Belly has been rejuvenated by Marthe at Culinary Delights, and I was thrilled when, in spite of my spotty participation of late, Marthe invited me to host this week.

Hosting is a big deal. First of all, I try to pick a recipe that will be easy, use seasonal or inexpensive ingredients, be flexible (so you can leave out things you don't like) and be something kids and adults alike will love. I've had good success with my past picks for this group (Nutty Granola, here, and Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, here), and I didn't want to pick a dud and ruin my record.

It's hard to pick a dud with Ellie Krieger's recipes. For the most part, they are fast, flavorful and always better for you than most similar recipes. I picked the Mango Lassi because M. loves mangoes and we love lassis. I may not have ever posted this before but we love spicy food, me even more than the hubs, and dairy (the base of a lassi) is the best way to turn down the heat from capsicum, the active ingredient in hot peppers. My heat tolerance level is burn-my-face-off, and M. loves to tell the story about the time we were in Tokyo eating at an Indian restaurant and the Indian owner admitted he couldn't even eat the curries as spicy as I do. I really enjoy a good lassi not only for its ability to take the edge off of the burn but because of its full body and tangy sweetness.

So it was incredible that I've never made one of these at home until this recipe, indeed, this morning. See, things are crazy busy at work, I'm working 12 hour days and I'm kind of tired. Yesterday, I carried my cereal bowl around with me, trying to eat breakfast and didn't manage to eat lunch until almost 4 so a meal I can drink out of a glass sounds ideal!

The trickiest part of the recipe is getting the mango out of the mango, but Ellie has a great method for freeing the slippery mango from its skin. Once you have cubed mango, you're almost done! Put it in the blender with yogurt, honey, and ice. I added a scoop of protein powder and called it breakfast--a small glass to drink while writing this post and a big take-along cup. This was a yummy, creamy, delicious breakfast I had time to enjoy on the drive to work. Give this one a try, it's super easy and tasty. Next time, I think I'll branch out and try peaches or apricots for a twist.

You can find the rest of the CEiMB cooks here...check out how they did with this one. I can't wait to see what flavors they introduced to their lassis!

Mango Lassi

Ellie says: This is my take on the classic Indian drink which is traditionally made with lots of sugar. I use a bit of honey to bring out the natural sweetness of the mango and the result is nirvana--a silky-smooth delight that is sunny shade of yellow.

2 ripe mangoes
1 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups ice (1 tray of cubes)

To peel and cut the mango, cut 1/4" of the top and bottom of the fruit and sit it on its larger end on a cutting board. At the top end, find the pit with your knife and cut down alongside it (a mango's pit is flat). Do the same with the other side. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 slices. Cut the peel from each slice and slice the mango crosswise into chunks.

Place the mango chunks in the blender and process until smooth. Add the yogurt, honey and ice and process until the ice is crushed and the drink is frothy. Serve in tall glasses with additional ice if desired. Serves 4.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

When you're working 10-12 hours days, six days a week do you:

a) Enlist help from family and friends,

b) Say no to requests for time, desserts, favors, etc.,

c) Make sure you're eating right, sleeping enough and getting plenty of exercise, or

d) Join a new baking group, for which the challenges truly are challenging.

If you said d, you know me too well. Yes, it's official, I have lost my mind.

Daring Bakers caught my attention over a year ago. I kept seeing blog posts with these fantastic desserts that I wouldn't tackle on a good day. It seemed like an exclusive club of accomplished bakers, so I knew right away I wouldn't fit in. But as time went on, I wanted to challenge myself to more involved recipes and learn some new skills. When it was my turn to pick for Chocolate with Francois, I chose macarons and with some trial and error, managed to turn out some decent looking and delicious macarons. Emboldened, I emailed the powers that be and in due time got my reply. I'm in!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita's World - Life and Food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that's then used to make a bombe filled with hot fudge.

Sunita provided her recipes for the cake roll, ice creams and hot fudge but gave us the freedom to use our own recipes and play around with the flavors. We like chocolate and vanilla so I decided to stick with those. I used Dorie Greenspan's vanilla and chocolate ganache ice cream recipes from Baking From My Home to Yours, and I used my own hot fudge recipe, but I used Sunita's recipe for the Swiss cake roll and cream filling.

I made this recipe over two days, making the chocolate ganache ice cream and hot fudge sauce one day, and the other components and assembling the cake the next. I served it the day after it was assembled. As Sunita promised, none of the recipes were difficult, but the bombe did require lots of freezer time in between assembly steps.
This recipe made me so grateful for my standing freezer in the garage, which M. talked me into last year. The forum on the Daring Kitchen site had several comments from bakers who were more challenged by finding space in their freezers than they were by making the dessert.

The fun began when I started on the sponge cake and filling. The sponge couldn't be easier--whip eggs and sugar until they reach the ribbon stage, add the flour and cocoa (presifted), fold in and then add a couple tablespoons of boiling water. Divide evenly between two 9x11 pans (I used quarter-sheet pans, which are 9x13, because that's what I had). Fortunately, I have an extra bowl for my KitchenAid, so I weighed it on the scale empty and then weighed the bowl with the sponge batter. I then weighed the sheet pan, and added 1/2 of the batter by weight. If I eyeball it, my cakes end up very different heights.

My sponges baked for about 14 minutes at 400 degrees, longer than the recipe stated. After removing them from the oven, I lifted them out by their slings and flipped one onto a dish towel sprinkled with sugar. I then rolled the layer into the towel and left it on a rack to cool, then tackled the other layer. So far, so good.

I again employed the extra bowl to weigh the cream mixture for the filling and portioned it out for the two sponges. This is where things didn't exactly work the way I'd planned. As I unrolled the first sponge it stuck badly to the towel, breaking apart in one area. I didn't panic, thinking there's a reason they call these recipes challenges. Then I dumped on half of the cream as I realized, could it be, that my sponge had shrunk?!? There was such a thick layer of cream that as I rolled it, cream came gushing out the seam and through the little area that had broken. I wiped off the extra cream and moved on, using much less for the second roll, which didn't stick or break! Wrapped in plastic, they went off to the fridge as I contemplated the mounting pile of dirty dishes.

The hardest part was over. Now came the slicing, arranging the slices in the bottom of a big glass bowl, freezing, spreading the vanilla ice cream over the slices, freezing, pouring in the hot fudge, freezing, adding the chocolate ganache ice cream, freezing. Then the waiting.

Unless we wanted bombe for a midnight snack, this had to wait another night to be eaten.

We had this for dinner the next evening. As I have been working tons and am sick to boot, ice cream sounded soothing for my stomach. We each had two small slices, and found it delicious. That surprised me because neither of us like whipped cream. Freezing it made the texture completely different and less heavy than normal. The ultimate measure of success was when M. vetoed taking the leftovers to work.

Thanks, Sunita, for such a fun and delicious recipe!

The Swiss rolls (recipe by Sunita of Sunita's World - Life and Food)

6 medium sized eggs
1 C / 225 grams caster sugar /8 oz + extra for rolling
6 TBS. / 45 grams/ a pinch over 1.5 oz of all purpose (plain) flour + 5 TBS. /40 gram / a pinch under 1.5 oz of natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted together
2 TBS. /30 ml / 1 fl oz of boiling water
a little oil for brushing the pans

For the filling:
2 C / 500 mls/ 16 fl oz of whipping cream
1 vanilla pod, cut into small pieces of about 1/2 cm (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
5 TBS. / 70 grams / 2.5oz of caster sugar

1. Pre-heat the oven at 200 deg C /400 deg F approximately. Brush the baking pans (11 inches by 9 inches) with a little oil and line with greaseproof baking paper. If you have just one pan, bake one cake and then let the pan cool completely before using it for the next cake.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat till very thick; when the beaters are lifted, it should leave a trail on the surface for at least 10 seconds.

3. Add the flour mixture, in three batches and fold in gently with a spatula. Fold in the water.

4. Divide the mixture among the two baking pans and spread it out evenly, into the corners of the pans.

5. Place a pan in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the center is springy to the touch.

6. Spread a kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle a little caster sugar over it.

7. Turn the cake on to the towel and peel away the baking paper. Trim any crisp edges.

8. Starting from one of the shorter sides, start to make a roll with the towel going inside. Cool the wrapped roll on a rack, seam side down.

9. Repeat the same for the next cake as well.

10. Grind together the vanilla pieces and sugar in a food processor till nicely mixed together. If you are using vanilla extract, just grind the sugar on its own and then add the sugar and extract to the cream.

11. In a large bowl, add the cream and vanilla-sugar mixture and beat till very thick.

12. Divide the cream mixture between the completely cooled cakes.

13. Open the rolls and spread the cream mixture, making sure it does not go right to the edges (a border of 1/2 an inch should be fine).

14. Roll the cakes up again, this time without the towel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge till needed, seam side down.

Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar

Put the chocolate in a 2-quart liquid measuring cup or a large heatproof bowl. Bring 3/4 of the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it sit a minute, then, using a rubber spatula, and starting in the center of the mixture, slowly stir the cream into the chocolate in ever-widening concentric circles. When the ganache is smooth, set it aside.

Bring the milk and the remaining 3/4 cream to a boil in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle, Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon: if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. The custard should reach at least 170 degrees F, but no more than 180 degrees F, on an instant-read thermometer (this took about 8-10 minutes on my stove.) Immediately remove the pan from the heat and slowly and gently stir the custard into the ganache. Refrigerate until cold, then churn in ice cream maker.

Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

Bring milk and cream to a boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. If you are using a vanilla bean, put the seeds and pod into the pan, cover and set aside for 30 minutes, then bring the milk and cream back to a boil before continuing. If you are using vanilla extract, wait until later to add it.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar together until very well blended and just slightly thickened. Still whisking, drizzle in about one third of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remaining liquid. Pour the custard back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring without stopping, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon; if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard should not run into the track. The custard should reach at least 170°F, but no more than 180°F, on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and strain the custard into a 2-quart measuring cup or clean heatproof bowl. Discard the vanilla pod or if you are using vanilla extract, stir it in now.

Refrigerate the custard until chilled then churn it in an ice cream maker.

Rich Hot Fudge Sauce
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 sticks butter, cut into bits
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream

In a heavy saucepan melt the chocolate and the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, then stir in the cocoa powder, butter, sugars and the cream (I usually mix the sugars and the cocoa together in a bowl with a fork, bypassing the sifting, and let the sugars melt in before adding the cream). Bring the mixture just to a boil, stirring, and simmer it until it is smooth and the sugar is dissolved (it should be glossy). Pour it into a 2 cup measuring cup or microwave safe decorative pitcher (I use either a small glass milk bottle or porcelain pitcher.) To reheat, microwave for about 15 seconds, swirl it around and repeat until it is quite warm but not hot.

Assembling the cake:

1. Cut the Swiss rolls into 20 equal slices (approximately 2 cms each).

2. Cover the bottom and sides of the bowl in which you are going to set the dessert with cling film/plastic wrap.

3. Arrange two slices at the bottom of the pan, with their seam sides facing each other. Arrange the Swiss roll slices up the bowl, with the seam sides facing away from the bottom, to cover the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till the slices are firm (at least 30 minutes).

4. Soften the vanilla ice cream. Take the bowl out of the freezer, remove the cling film cover and add the ice cream on top of the cake slices. Spread it out to cover the bottom and sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and freeze till firm (at least 1 hour)

5. Add the fudge sauce over the vanilla ice cream, cover and freeze till firm. (at least an hour)

6. Soften the chocolate ice cream and spread it over the fudge sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4-5 hours till completely set.

7. Remove the plastic cover, and place the serving plate on top of the bowl. Turn it upside down and remove the bowl and the plastic lining. If the bowl does not come away easily, wipe the outsides of the bowl with a kitchen towel dampened with hot water. The bowl will come away easily.

8. Keep the cake out of the freezer for at least 10 minutes before slicing, depending on how hot your region is. Slice with a sharp knife, dipped in hot water.

Chewy, Chunky Blondies

There are so many bad blondie recipes that I automatically assume that all blondie recipes are bad. In general, they're dry and not as yummy as their cousin the brownie. I've made Martha's brown butter blondies before to great acclaim but that's been the exception for me. Until Dorie's blondies. They were so delicious with their additions of chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts and chopped toffee (I used Skor) that I made them twice in three days. The first time I made them I was tweeting with my friend Kayte and I had a blast making them. Kayte managed to eat around the chocolate and she loved them, too. I didn't give enough of them away and M. and I ate too many both times.

I lined the pan with parchment to eliminate sticking and ease cleanup. Because who wants to lose a bit of this beauty?

This wonderful recipe comes from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Tuesdays with Dorie is baking its way through this super book. Our host this week and the  person who chose this recipe) was Nicole of Cookies on Friday. Nicole, we loved your pick and I know I'll be making it again and again.

If you'd like to have the recipe, you can buy the book, or Nicole will have it for you here. And you can see what the other TWD bakers thought of it here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

When I was 8 and on vacation with my family in Mexico City, I became violently ill shortly after eating blueberry pancakes at IHOP. Since that day, blueberries and I have had a shaky truce. I eat them fresh in small amounts, but never as the star in a recipe. I will never arm wrestle you for the last blueberry muffin. I rarely make blueberry anything (except for a slammin' blueberry buttermilk tart), so today's blueberry streusel muffins were quite the event.

I figure if anyone can make me like blueberries, it's the queen of all things delicious, Ina Garten. So I was excited when Maria of Close to Home selected blueberry muffins for the first Barefoot Bloggers recipe for July (thanks, Maria!). And these muffins were good (especially since I upped the amount of streusel), but not great enough to make me rethink my tendency to avoid blueberry muffins. They lasted for hours at work, but it was a week when a lot of people were out of the office. If you'd like the recipe, you can find it here.

We have a relaxed posting deadline for Barefoot Bloggers in July and August, so I hope I'm not the only one posting these later in the month than normal. I'll be skipping the Greek panzanella salad (chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home). Sorry, Tara!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lots of Ways Banana Cupcakes

This week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie was chosen by Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities. Lots of Ways Banana Cake is, as the name implies, open to many changes. I know I'll see a lot of variations on the theme of banana cake if I'm able to tear myself away from my spreadsheet du jour and visit my fellow TWD bakers. And to those of you who are still stopping by to see if I'm still alive (yes!), I'm ever so grateful to you for continuing to do so in spite of my seeming neglect of your posts. I read much of what you write while I'm eating my lunch, but I don't comment, thinking I want to wait until "later" to comment when I'll have more time to write something more meaningful than "nice brownie." It's still not "later" so I have yet to write the intended comments. My Google Reader has a life of its own. I could cut it down considerably by marking as read all the Lolcats and The Kitchn posts, but who doesn't need a laugh and a recipe?

My inability to cope with the sheer volume of work and external demands on my time led me to punt with this week's recipe. Dorie suggests we make cake layers and then suggests a few ways to top them. The spectre of taking a cake layer to the office and disappointing three-quarters of my coworkers was added stress I didn't need. And I was confounded by trying to imagine how it would look. So I made cupcakes. I even made sort of healthy cupcakes (no, thank you, I am feeling quite all right). I subbed about 1/3 of the flour with white whole wheat. The recipe yielded 17 regular cupcakes and 24 minis. I followed Dorie's suggestion and made her ganache for the umpteenth time and took it to work with me to frost the cupcakes after they cooled. My coworkers streamed in and out of the break room, oohing and ahhing when they spied cupcakes topped with chocolate for breakfast. And since not everyone likes chocolate, I left some bare. I grabbed one (with ganache, naturally) to enjoy as my afternoon snack. As the day played out, I emailed with my coworker who was ripped out of her position and stuck in another one, not in my department, as a result of the layoffs we had. She's miserable, and I met her while she took her break. The banana cupcake, while not a solution to her problems, did bring a smile to her face. And isn't putting a smile on a crying face so much better than eating a cupcake?

These were lovely, fluffy cupcakes, delicious with their undertone of coconut. I heard that the ganache + banana was a winning combination. They're a definite repeat.

Thanks, Kimberly, for choosing such a versatile and easy recipe. If you'd like the recipe, Kimberly has it for you here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Brownies & Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti

I was craving chocolate when I noticed that Tiffany of A Spoonful of Laughter And A Heap of Love had chosen chocolate walnut brownies for this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays.

M. was working away on his laptop when I called out "Walnuts or pecans in the brownies?" I already knew the answer but occasionally he'll surprise me. This week, it was the predictable choice of pecans for our brownies.

The recipe is a little different than the brownie recipes I usually make. Melt chocolate and butter - check. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale yellow - what? I knew this would make the brownies more light and caky than dense and chewy. Knowing they would tend to be cakier than we like, I set the timer for 40 minutes, the low end of the time range. Melissa's recipes and my oven seem not to be calibrated, so I checked the brownies after 37 minutes. Yikes! The top was dull and they had pulled away from the pan. I yanked them out of the oven and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, they were a bit drier than we like. They lasted 4 days, an eternity for a brownie in this house, and the extra days didn't make them any moister. The chocolate flavor wasn't as prominent as we like. Although I enjoyed making these and was intrigued by Melissa's technique, these won't be a repeat around here. Sorry, Tiffany!

Check out how the other SMS bakers fared with their brownies. You can find them here.

I also made last week's Sour Cherry & Almond Biscotti. I made them last Sunday, in plenty of time to post, but was struck by a wave of laziness so I never completed the post. I didn't mound my dough up enough and they ended up too brown for my liking, but the flavors were great. I especially liked how the recipe has you reconstitute the dried sour cherries by boiling them in orange juice. That kept them from being hard, chewy nuggets in the biscotti. These biscotti were chosen for Tracey of Made by Tray Tray. Thanks, Tracey! We both ate these for breakfast (I know, I know) on more than one morning.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

CEiMB - Panzanella with Field Roast Chorizo

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly selection was chosen by my buddy Peggy of Pantry Revisited. Peggy is hilarious and I always enjoy visiting her blog to read what she's been up to.

I have been insanely busy at work, working 11-12 hour days six days a week, so I considered skipping this one. But I didn't because a) it's Peggy and b) I'm afraid I'll be kicked out of the group if I don't make something soon. So one night after a short (11 hour) day at work, I came home and tossed together this salad. I made a single serving since I was on my own that night. I only had wheat sandwich bread on hand, so I cubed it and toasted it in the oven. I didn't want to have onion in my salad but I had a lonely head of red cabbage in the crisper so I used that in place of the red onion (radicchio would have been a better substitution). And although I'd be happy to have chicken sausage, I haven't found one yet that isn't made with pork casings, so I substituted a Field Roast chorizo. In case you haven't tried Field Roast yet, it's grain-based and texturally similar to sausage (and is also made to resemble other meats). Because it was chorizo, it was nice and spicy. I sliced it on the diagonal and sauteed it in a pan sprayed with cooking spray. I tossed the rest of the ingredients (cucumbers, cabbage, bread cubes, basil, olive oil, vinegar) in a bowl and garnished it with the Field Roast chorizo.

This was a deee-licious salad. I've never enjoyed panzanella, finding the bread too soggy (wet bread is so texturally offensive to me that I'd skip lunch rather than eating a sandwich with wet bread...and I don't normally skip meals). But toasting the bread so that it was crisp on the outside while still soft on the inside made all the difference. The crispy outside absorbed the oil and vinegar without getting at all soggy.

Thanks so much, Peggy, for choosing this recipe! I'm so happy to have found a panzanella recipe that I like!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brrrr-ownies and Their Cousins, Skor-ies

I have to admit that when Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life picked these for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I had no idea what to expect. Were they made with ice cream? Were they plunged in the freezer when they first came out of the oven? Was Dorie cold when she named them?

None of the above. These brownies contain York Peppermint Patties, and their cool flavor is the chill the name implies. I bought a bag of the small patties and made a double recipe in a 9x13 pan. I followed the instructions carefully and this is what I got:

Craters. My brrrr-ownies had craters. Or more accurately, they looked like gophers attacked them from underneath due to the stickage on the buttered heavy duty foil. I advised my Twitter buddies to butter their foil to the extreme and they decided to go with parchment instead, which was a smart solution. They were delicious and addictively chewy, but I wanted to go in another direction with them.

On the next version I made of these, I replaced the York Peppermint Patties with chopped Skor bars and declared them Skor-ies. M. says I should patent them but I explained that I don't own the rights to the Skor name, and these are Dorie Greenspan's brownies, not my creation.

The Skor-ies turned out fantastic...they were chewy like the brrrr-ownies and had hidden pockets of chewy toffee. We liked them a lot, better than the brrr-ownies. Lining the pan with parchment solved the sticking problem and made it much easier to enjoy every last bit of this delicious treat.

Thanks, Karen for a great pick. If you'd like the recipe, Karen has it for you here. And it's her 1,000th post, so please stop by and congratulate her on an amazing accomplishment!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

BBA - Marbled Rye Bread

I'm baking with the Slow & Steady Subgroup of the Bread Baker's Apprentice group, and I'm behind. Most of them are poised to start the panetone, and I have three loaves to make before that one makes it to my to do list. I jumped ahead and blogged about the pain a l'ancienne for my bread baking anniversary, but I baked this loaf about a month earlier.

For some reason, this loaf had me procrastinating. I think it may be because I knew my swirling skills are sub par, plus I'm not a fan of caraway and to me, rye bread tastes like caraway. So when I finally made this bread, I left out the caraway and found the flavor to be excellent. My blogging and tweeting pal Kayte passed on her expertise (this loaf is the new favorite at her house) and that of our friend Nancy. Their collective advice practically guaranteed my success with this loaf. Based on their advice, I used the cocoa to color the dark rye, and I used honey as the sweetener in the light rye. This gave me a great visual distinction between the two ryes and made the swirl seem more dramatic. And the swirl? It was easy and I wondered why I put off making this delicious bread for so long.

The Slow & Steady group of the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge consists oNancyCathy, JessicaMelissa, KayteSarahDi, Margaret and Nicole of Pinch My Salt. Nicole started the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge but now she's baking at a slower pace and we feel thrilled and honored to have her join our group.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tarte Noire

One of the many things I love about Tuesdays with Dorie is that we make lots of recipes I never would have thought would be good and others which I would have thought were too hard for me. This tarte noire was one of the later. I've enjoyed slivers of deep, dark chocolate tarts in Paris and was in love since the very first one I had.

It was our first trip to Paris and we were still in that first year where you fight a lot have many misunderstandings. We'd had a fight difference of opinion and I stormed out of the hotel and set off walking. I walked all over Paris and in my ultimate act of defiance, I went to La Maison du Chocolat alone. I spied these mini chocolate tarts and I had to have one. Even though I was angry, I wanted to take something back for M., so I asked for four rochers. I was showing off, using the twelve words of French that I know, so I was quite shocked when she handed me a bag with four rocher that were larger than golf balls instead of the tiny bon bons I thought I'd asked for. One of the pitfalls of pretending you speak a language that you don't is you get things you didn't ask for and you have neither the nerve to admit you made a mistake nor the words to ask for what you really wanted. So I headed back to the hotel with the huge chocolate golf balls. I had no idea what kind of mood M. would be in (though, truth be told, his moods were far more rational than mine) but having scarfed down my mini chocolate tart, I was ready to find out.

He had gone out after I stormed out, and at the little grocery store across from our hotel he found pear/peach flavored bottled water that he knew I'd like. So he bought it for me. I gave him the rochers and he gave me the waters, and all was good with the world. Those rochers remain one of our favorite things. The water only lasted a few years before the store stopped stocking it. To this day, neither of us can remember what we argued about.

I always thought chocolate tarts were difficult. Tart shells don't like me. Dorie's tart crust, supposedly easy to pat in the tart pan, only highlights my inability to do anything evenly. A while ago I saw Deb's post that she solved that problem by adding the whole egg, not just the yolk, to the dough. Eureka! This enabled me to roll out the tart shell and get the flat bottom and sharp sides I had been missing.

Look at those sharp sides and even bottom!

The star of the tart is the filling. Use your very best chocolate because that is where your flavor is coming from. I gradually heat the cream rather than cranking it up to high to avoid breakage. Stir the ganache from the center and slowly. I thought I'd get creative and make a swirl pattern in my tart so I let it set a little before attacking it with a palette knife. BIG MISTAKE. Some of the chocolate had started setting and my swirl made it look grainy. Panicked, I heat an offset spatula over the flame of a burner and reswirled the top until the chocolate had smoothed out.

This tart was a huge hit at work. It was cruel of me to take 3/4 of a 9 inch tart for 60 people, but I had to get it out of the house. Our host this week is the fabulous Jessica of bliss: towards a delicious life. I love reading Jessica's blog because she can write, unlike my stream-of-consciousness babbling. Thanks, Jessica, for bringing back a great memory and helping me overcome my tart shell demons.

If you'd like the recipe for this delectable tart, Jessica has it for you here. But really, you should buy the book everyone is talking about, Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I was a decent baker before I joined TWD, but the things I've made from this book in the last almost-two years have honed my skills considerably.

NOTE:  If you'd like to see the ethereal tarte noir from La Maison du Chocolat, stop over at Nancy's. She included a photo in her post.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pain a l'Ancienne & Happy Bread Baking Anniversary to Me

A year ago, I was a bread baking failure. I could kill yeast faster than squashing a bug. I could produce the least risen, toughest, densest bricks, suitable for home building or weight lifting. But a loaf of bread? Nope, not a chance.

My first pan of rolls still looks beautiful to me

Then I saw a post by Anne that gave me hope. She gave us her neighbor's recipe for quick dinner rolls and all but said it was idiot proof. I was hooked. I was still in the midst of the Great Kitchen Reno so all cooking was done on the grill, all dishes washed in the bathroom sink. It took me more than six months to get up my nerve and it was the result of deciding to join the Bread Baker's Apprentice event and finding it was closed. I wondered if I'd ever learn to make yeast breads. Then I remembered Anne's rolls, and I made them. They worked. They smelled amazing while baking. I ate an astonishing number of them, froze some of the dough and baked it as garlic rolls. I was so excited I could have issued a press release, but I wrote a post instead. Nancy invited me to join the Slow & Steady Subgroup of BBA, and I did.

A year has passed since that fateful night when I made Anne's rolls. I've tackled bagels, pizza dough, brioche, focaccia, French and Italian breads, challah, ciabatta (the first was a fail so I made it twice), English muffins and more. Every step of the way, I had this book by my side:

I love this book. Not to be overly dramatic, but Peter Reinhart changed my life. So to celebrate my first year as a bread baker, my year of yeast if you will, I made Pain a l'Ancienne. This is a classic bread that is basic as it gets: flour, salt, yeast and water. That's it. Those ingredients, the bread baker's basic four, ferment over night in the fridge after kneading. The next day, I let the dough come to room temperature and finish doubling before shaping the loaves. I saved half of the dough to make pizza for dinner another night. My loaves ended up much longer and skinnier than I planned, but they baked up incredibly crisp and crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. We loved this bread! We ate it with some flavorful olive oil and both found it impossible to resist. M. said that if I hadn't told him I made it, he would have thought it was from Paris. That's his highest form of praise.

A year ago, I never would have imagined I would have been capable of making all the wonderful breads we've enjoyed this year. I never would have believed I would stop buying bread, insisting on making all of our bread. I couldn't have known that the rare failure wouldn't discourage me but would make me analyze the reasons I failed before making the recipe again.

Many of you have given me tips, advice and encouragement over the last year, and your kind words and support have meant more to me than you'll ever know. I especially want to single out Nancy and Audrey, who both encouraged me to join the S&S bakers. And Anne, without whose recipe I probably would still be labeling myself as a bread making failure not a bread baker, will always have a place at our table and a spot in my heart.

Yup, I made pain a l'ancienne. It was no big deal.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

North Fork Peach Raspberry Pie

Sometimes, I'm not very smart. Take this pie. I waited until today to make it even though the forecast high was 90, and we don't have air conditioning. Not very smart.

Rebecca of Beurrista picked the recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays this week. I intended to make it as written, truly I did, but when I saw the crust wasn't all butter, I decided to give Melissa's all butter crust one more try. I made it here and it was a disaster. If I was a pie newbie, I would have sworn off of pie making forever. But lots of SMS bakers were successful with it, so I gave it another go.

After reading Tracey's post, I decided a mini pie was the way to go (check hers's adorable!) I tweeted her...did she use the pie crust from the book? She hadn't but still I stuck to my plan. Inspired by Tracey's mini deep dish pie pan, I went with my heart-shaped pie plate.

The peaches on our tree are finally ripe so I used those with some raspberries I had frozen a few weeks ago. Our peaches are white Babcocks, delicious and juicy but very fragile. I was concerned they would lose their beautiful white color after I peeled and cut them, but the pie was still lovely. I also blew off the tapioca and used very little sugar (resulting in less juice to jell) and just 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch. I also skipped the egg wash, and instead slathered on some heavy cream with my finger and then lightly dusted with sugar. I baked my little pie for 1 hour and 15 minutes and forced myself to not cut into it while it was hot. I had to go to work for a few hours so it worked out well.

Instead of cutting the pie into wedges, we shared it with a single spoon. It seemed appropriate for a heart shaped pie, don't you agree? The raspberries gave the white peaches a pink hue that was lovely, and the peaches were wonderful and sweet. I was glad I cut way back on the sugar and let the flavor of the fruit come through. In the end, the crust was fine. Not as good as my regular crust, but definitely less fussy and easier to make. It makes a perfectly fine fast all butter crust.

Thanks, Rebecca for choosing this delicious pie for us. I really enjoyed making it, even if I did go a little rogue. Rebecca has the recipe for you here; and if you'd like to see how it's supposed to be made, she has it for you.