Thursday, May 29, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Herbed-Baked Eggs

I recently joined a new food blogging group called Barefoot Bloggers. Sound familiar? This group is dedicated to the recipes of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Ina has long been a favorite of mine. At first I thought her recipes were too complicated for me, however, once I actually took a look at them and watched her show, I realized they were actually quite doable for me. So when one of my fellow TWD Bakers, Tara of Smells Like Home, started Barefoot Bloggers, it was a no brainer for me.

Another reason to join was to get me to do more than just baking. While I love to cook period, baking seems to be more of my forte. I have had better luck in that department than any other. I know that the recipes won't strictly be non-baking but there will be more of a variety to get me doing more 'regular' cooking.

The first recipe chosen was Ina's Herbed-Baked Eggs. I have to say I was excited to see this one. I've been waiting for a chance to make this since I saw Ina make it a few weeks ago. And it did not disappoint. After a nine minute bake in my toaster oven, the whites were set and the yolk still runny but starting to firm. The cheese-herb mixture on top was golden and crisp. I was in heaven with the first delicious bite. The combination of the eggs and Parmesan cheese is out of this world. The herbs add a nice hint of freshness. While eggs may traditionally be a breakfast or brunch good, I had these for dinner one evening and it was the perfect one dish meal.

This will definitely be on my make again list!

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Herbed-Baked Eggs

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving
Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.
Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.


Source: Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers: Opera Cake

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After my successful first Daring Bakers Challenge last month, I was excited to begin the challenge for May. Our hosts for this month were Lis, Yvonne, Fran, and Shea. Their chosen conquest for this month...Opera Cake. Opera Cake? hmmm...I wasn't familiar with the cake but this is the Daring Bakers so I was up for the challenge.

And challenge it was. The recipe is composed of many different components that come together to create a layered almond sponge cake. The Elements of an Opéra Cake are:

  1. Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal, traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).
  2. Syrup: The joconde is flavoured with a sugar syrup that can be flavoured to suit your tastes.
  3. Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.
  4. Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved. We are giving Daring Bakers the option of either using the buttercream to cover the final layer or, if they’re feeling up to it, to go ahead and make the ganache/mousse.
  5. Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.
Sounds complicated right?  Well...yes....but our loverly hosts broke the recipe down to make it easier for us to bake and not so daunting.  By breaking it down into easily managable sections, it was easier than I thought it would be and allowed me to spread the baking over a few days.


Opera Cupcakes

Because it was just going to be just me eating the cake, I decided to make Opera cupcakes instead of one large cake.  I added some orange zest to the cake to give it a slightly citrusy flavor and the syrup was flavored with honey.  The buttercream was vanilla so it would not over power the other flavors.  The glaze called for white chocolate but since we were allowed to use another if white chocolate was not an option or a liked flavor, I went with a simple vanilla glaze instead.

I would love to say that my Opera Cupcake experience was trouble free.  It wasn't.  The first issue I had was the cakes.  Out of the 6 I made, only 2 were salvegable.  The rest were tiny and dense.    


Opera Cupcakes

The second issue was the buttercream.  After the first round of beating, it was grainy no how long I beat it.  I decided to let it set in the fridge overnight, hoping it would thicken up so I could beat it again.  After the sit, I put it back in the mixer and turned it up to high.  After about 15 minutes it finally started to come together.  

The syrup came together quickly and without incident thank goodness.  Because I was making cupcakes, I skipped the mousse/ganache since it was an optional step.  I think it would have been too much for a tiny cupcake.

The next issue to come up came during assembly.  After I put the syrup on the cupcake halves (I took one cupcake and halved it.  I only had 2 joconde layers instead of 3.), I added the buttercream to the first.  The next layer was placed on top and another layer of buttercream topped it all off.  Off...that's a nice word isn't it?  Actually...no its not.  Why?  Because the second joconde layer just slid off the first and on to the plate.  

I realized then that I need to let my buttercream thicken up in the fridge a little longer and so in it went again.  I tried to save my joconde layers but it was a mess so it went into the trash.  I had one cupcake left and just enough syrup so I was praying this worked.  

I let the buttercream chill for a couple of hours before trying one more time.  I carefully layered the remaining cupcake with the thickened buttercream (yes!).  Nothing slid off this time!  Woo hoo!

Opera Cupcakes9

 It went back into the fridge for another chill just to make sure it was all set.  While that was chilling, I whipped up a simple vanilla glaze and I added a drop...err..two drops of yellow food coloring.  Once everything was ready, I added the glaze to the chilled cake.

The glaze was waaaay to yellowy for me but since this Daring Bakers Challenge was dedicated to the A Taste of Yellow hosted by Barbara of Winosandfoodies.com.
A Taste of Yellow supports the LiveSTRONG foundation by Lance Armstrong. While we are a little late for the actual event, I still want to dedicate my post to Barbara and all of those involved for the time and dedication that they put into such a important event.

While I had many troubles getting my cupcake done, it was a great experience. I would have ever attempted something like this if it were not for the Daring Bakers. I look forward to attempting this again and experimenting with flavors.

See you next month for the next challenge! Check out the other Daring Bakers to see their fabulous Opera Cakes! Also have a look at the new public forums at the NEW Daring Bakers site! The lovely Lis and Yvonne have moved the Daring Bakers to new site to hold our growing numbers and they have also set up a section for those who while not a member of the Daring Bakers, would love to find out all kinds of baking info.



Opera Cupcakes

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)

Ingredients:

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula

Ingredients:

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C)

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below) I skipped this step... too much for a cupcake.

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer

Ingredients:

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler

Ingredients:

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.


Opera Cupcakes

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Anytime I see the word Sticky in a recipe, I get excited. I mean, seriously, it has to be good. Anything that is messy usually is delicious. When I found out that Madam Chow of Madam Chow's Kitchenchose Pecan Honey Sticky Buns naturally I was eager to try these. Another reason to love the chosen recipe this week was that I would get to use the rest of the brioche dough I made when we did Brioche Raisin Snails.

Instead of making the recipe early in the week as I try to do, I waited until I was home visiting my family again for the long Memorial Day weekend. But my excitement to make the buns came to a screeching sticky halt when I remembered that my youngest sister (the sous-chef from the Florida Pie) can't have nuts. She was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease a year ago and while she can eat loads more than when she was first diagnosed, there are still a few items that she can't have. Most of the women in my family have stomach issues, I was told I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome when I was my sister's age. Now they think I could have a very mild case of Crohn's but it isn't as big an issue for me as it is for my sister since I learned what I can and can't have early on when I was sick. My sister is a very picky eater so it has been a big challenge for my parents to get her back up to a somewhat normal weight. She does love to help cook so I was eager to make the buns something she could eat and participate in making.

The excitement grew again once my mother wisely suggested we make them without and sprinkle the nuts on top for those who wanted them. Well...duh...I would have gotten there eventually. Uh huh...sure Heather. When it was time to make the buns, I got my thawed brioche dough out and quickly rolled it into what I hoped was the right size.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Since it was chilled, it rolled out quickly. My middle sister, helped make the sticky sauce (and did a great job at it by the way). The youngest was MIA so I had to find a replacement.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Once the sauce was made and the dough rolled out, it was quick work getting the dough filled and rolled up. There was a debate on the way I should roll the dough up, I said using the width, my mom said we would get more if we rolled along the length. Naturally, we went the way of my mom.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Here we enlisted the help of my dad. He measured the slices to make sure that they were all even so we would get the most buns we could (we like to eat after all). He used the butter knife method to measure.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

To cut the buns, I used the dental floss method I learned last time. It make cutting them clean, quick, and so easy!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

The only issue I had was the rising. As with the Brioche Snails, the dough was very soft and did not seem to rise very much. I don't know if this was because I made the brioche by hand or not. I'm anxious to try the dough again now that I have my mixer to see if there was a difference. Of course, it could naturally be user error. ;)

I would like to say that there was plenty of time to take pictures but there wasn't. Since I made them the night before and they were baked for breakfast, they went fast. Everyone loved them, even my super picky youngest sister. Hers were nutless but the best part was the super sticky sauce. yum! I'm definitely putting these babies on the make again list!

Check out the other TWD Bakers for more Pecan Honey Sticky Buns! Next week will be French Chocolate Brownies chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook.

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.
Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What You'll Need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You'll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Amano Chocolate and Dorie Greenspan

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

A few weeks ago, I was once again a lucky winner of some chocolate from Blake Makes. This time I received 3 different bars of chocolate from Amano Artisan Chocolate. Since my mom is the dark chocolate lover in the family, I waited until I was home for mother's day so she could taste all of the different flavors.

Amano Artisan Chocolate

Out of the three, our favorite was the Ocumare Grand Cru Premium Dark Chocolate. It had fruity undertones that we just loved. I'm a fruity kind of girl and anything that incorporates fruit flavors rates high in my book. The Madagascar bar also had a fruity taste so it was a close second. Also included was the Cuyagua bar. This bar is a limited edition due to the scarcity of the bean used. It was definitely delicious.

Amano Artisan Chocolate

As soon as I got the chocolate, I couldn't wait to try them in a recipe. Flipping through my Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, I came across her perfection pound cake. Pound cake has always been a favorite of mine so I was excited to try Dorie's. She includes an option of making marbled pound cake and I thought it was a perfect recipe to incorporate one of my Amano chocolate bars.

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

For the pound cake, I chose to go with the Madagascar chocolate bar. This was one of the tastiest Chocolate pound cakes I've had. The marbling both on top and inside was perfect! I was surprised since this is my first time marbling a cake. The chocolate wasn't overwhelming but you could definitely taste the slight fruitiness of the chocolate and the quality. This makes a great breakfast to take to work. I took a couple of slices and my guinea pig raved about it. This will definitely be on my make again list! Enjoy!

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

Perfection Pound Cake

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2-1/4 cups cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I also added 1 teaspoon almond extract)

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan or an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated - don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all of it, by hand with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70 to 75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes.

Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.
Storing:

Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature (stale cake is great toasted) or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

To marble the cake: Divide the batter in half and add 4 oz of melted chocolate to one of the halves. Stir until combined and alternating spoonfuls, add to the pan. Using a butter knife, gently swirl the batter. Be careful not to over swirl or you want get the classic marble!

Marbled Perfection Pound Cake

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Blog Design!!!

Jess at Delicious Design Studio created this fabulously fierce new custom blog layout for me!  I gave her a few likes and she totally got what I wanted!  Its everything I was looking for and more.  Simple yet amazing! She is so talented. If you are looking for a blog or website face lift, please check out her site and see all the other wonderful designs she has made!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Traditional Madeleines

Traditional Madeleines (Muffins)

Don't they just look like fields of yellow mushrooms? No? Oh well...maybe its just me. And I don't even like mushrooms! Go figure! This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was Traditional Madeleines courtesy of Tara of
Smells Like Home. I have to admit, I was relived when the recipe was announced last week. I needed something simple, quick, and somewhat lighter to make after the more involved and calorie laden desserts of the past few weeks.

Unfortunately, I don't have a madeleine pan to get the traditional madeleine cookie shape and at this time, I just can't justify buying another pan. One of my fellow TWD bakers suggested using mini muffin pans instead. And guess what I just happened to bring home from my mother's kitchen over mother's day weekend? yep! Mini muffin pans! You're probably thinking that I get a lot from my mother's kitchen. Yeah, I do but seriously! The woman had multiple pans! And she's moving so every time I go home, she's shoving stuff in boxes for me to take!

Traditional Madeleines (Muffins)

Making the madeleines in the muffin pans gave me the perfect excuse to take them to work for breakfast. They were compact, crunchy, and so yummy. The lemon zest made them fragrant and very tasty. It wasn't overwhelming in lemon taste though. Just enough to be light and refreshing for breakfast. The powdered sugar sprinkled on top gave them just a touch more sweetness and it was soooo good with the lemon. yum! Perhaps I will take Dorie up on her suggestion and eat these with espresso (from my mother's gift from me) when I'm visiting my family again this weekend (its Memorial Day weekend and my sister's (the sous chef from last week) birthday. I bet they are delicious together.


I'd love to be able to make them traditionally so someday a madeleine pan will be on my list to buy. Until then I'll definitely be making these (Un)Traditional Madeleine Muffins.

Come back next week for Pecan Honey Stick Buns from Madam Chow of Madam Chow's Kitchen. Yes! I've been wanting to make those since I saw the picture! And I get to use the rest of my brioche dough that was leftover from the Brioche Raisin (Cranberry) Snails.

Traditional Madeleines (Muffins)

Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie Bakers for more Traditional Madeleines!

Traditional Madeleines (Muffins)

Traditional Madeleines

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the batter form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines. (For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pans.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don't worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven's heat will take care of that. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pan(s) before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners' sugar.

makes 12 large or 36 mini cookies

serving: Serve the cookies when they are only slightly warm or when they reach room temperature, with tea or espresso.

storing: Although the batter can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, the madeleines should be eaten soon after they are made. You can keep them overnight in a sealed container, but they really are better on day 1. If you must store them, wrap them airtight and freeze them; they'll keep for up to 2 months.

Source: Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TWD: Florida Pie

TWD: Florida Pie

I have been craving key lime pie for awhile now.  I think the craving first hit in early April when we first starting getting consistent warm temperatures.  Key lime pie has always been one of my favorites and when it was announced that Dianne of Dianne's Dishes had picked Florida pie...I just knew it had to be a version of key lime (I was at work and didn't have my Baking with me).  Key lime pie just screams summer to me.  Its tart, refreshing, and so delicious.  Come to think of it...its a great pie to have any time of the year!    

I usually try to make the chosen recipe mid week but this time around, I decided to wait until the weekend.  Since it was Mother's Day and I was heading home for the holiday to spend with my mom and the rest of my family, it was a perfect time to spread the Dorie.  

TWD: Florida Pie Prep

TWD: Florida Pie Prep

My youngest sister is my self appointed sous chef when I visit and she tackled the process of juicing the tiny key limes.  45 long minutes later we finally had enough juice for the filling.  Its not that the tiny limes took forever to release their tangy tart juices...no...she's just a bit of a perfectionist you see.  lol... she did a great job...I tease the poor child.

To make it a little bit easier on us, we decided to use a pre made crust. While I would love to make it from scratch it is just too much of a pain to do after last week. All of the key limes pies I have had were coconut less so I was not keen on adding it to the pie but after discussing it with my mom (after all...it was her pie) we decided to use canned coconut cream instead of making it as Dorie describes in the recipe.  As you can tell from the picture we used a little too much cream.

TWD: Florida Pie

After the lime juice was ready, it was a pretty easy pie to put together. The excess cream rose up and surrounded the lime layer when it was added in but I really don't think it hurt the pie at all. In fact, the extra coconut cream got rave reviews from the tasters. 

TWD: Florida Pie

The direction say to bake for 12 minutes but ours baked for a little bit longer than that.  It seemed to be too jiggly after 12 and even though it was going in the freezer after it cooled, I wanted to make sure it was done.  

We left the pie in the freezer until Sunday after lunch.  I decided to skip the meringue layer because I am not a big fan of it on any pie except for coconut cream...mmmm...coconut cream pie...yum. The first few slices weren't very pretty, the coconut cream oozed out every where but for some odd reason the third slice and later ones came out perfectly.  I had planned on making homemade whipped cream to top the pie but ended up using the canned kind with the cool little top that makes rosettes thingys. The pie was sooo good with the whipped cream on top. So much better than meringue! 

TWD: Florida Pie

Don't forget to check out the other TWD Bakers and see their tasty results! Up next week is Traditional Madelines picked by Tara of Smells Like Home.

TWD: Florida Pie

Florida Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, seperated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:

Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe comes from Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food (love her blog name!) and she choose Peanut Butter Torte. I am a peanut butter lover so I was excited to see this one be picked. This torte is a chocolate and peanut butter lovers dream come true. The crust is made of crushed oreos and the filling is packed with peanuts, peanut butter and the whole thing is topped with a chocolate ganache.

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

Of course I couldn't just stick to the recipe and make the same thing. No...definitely not me. What's the fun in that? So what did Heather decide to do to this luscious torte? Graham Crackers for the crust and in the filling. I didn't stop there either. I also added a banana slice under the chocolate ganache...the white chocolate ganache. I also decided to make mini tortes instead of one giant torte...seriously...my hips, thighs, and rear end were ever so grateful for the rest.

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

As much as I would have liked to stick to the original recipe, the fat and calorie readings were off the chart and in the interest of being healthier, I decided to make the above changes. I also went with reduced fat peanut butter and graham crackers as well as fat free cream cheese. What about the heavy cream in the filling you ask? Well, I was going to sneak that in and just not tell myself but I just happened to forget the heavy cream when I went shopping. It was too late to get more so I searched the Internet for an acceptable substitute. Ummm....there's really not one that could be deemed perfectly acceptable. I did find one site that suggested yogurt and since I did have that (fat free vanilla), I went ahead and used it. It was actually really good in combination with the peanut butter. Plus it was FAT FREE...one more score for the healthier me! Woot!

I halved the recipe and ended up with more filling than crust but that was ok since the filling was tasty by itself. To help keep myself from eating the entire torte, I made little torte bites. They were about the size of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Let me tell ya...they were tasty! As small as they were, they were just the perfect bite to satisfy. Sorry for the crappy pics this week. I couldn't get a good shot for the life of me!

Don't forget to check out the other fabulous bakers at Tuesdays with Dorie to see their takes on the Peanut Butter Torte!

Come back next Tuesday to see what Dianne of Dianne's Dishes has picked for us!

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

Peanut Butter Torte

1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping) (I used toasted graham crackers)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender (I used graham cracker crumbs)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural; Dorie uses Skippy, I use reduced fat Jif)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

Getting ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mouse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

To Finish The Torte: put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.

Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and , working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.

Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.

When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Things you don't know why you love but you do anyway



If there is one thing I would have never thought to fry it would have to be green beans. And since I live in Texas and we love to fry just about everything that's saying something. Since I first had these delicious sticks of fried goodness, I can't pass a TGI Fridays without drooling. Of course, for the sake of trying to be a healthier person, I usually keep on driving. Even though they are a vegetable, the health benefits drop to nil when dipped in batter and dropped in oil to be fried. However, today I was out shopping for my mother's gift for mother's day (its an espresso machine by the way) and right next to the store was a Fridays. Since it was lunch time and I was hungry...I pulled right in and ordered a batch of green bean fries.

It had been awhile since I indulged and they were oh so delicious! I don't know what it is about that that I love so much but every time I bite into those crisp beans, I love them all the more. If only they weren't fried I would probably eat them more often! I would love to be able to make these at home. Maybe baked instead of fried. Now all I need to do is find a fool proof recipe that tastes good! ha! Good luck with that Heather!

So what do you absolutely love to eat that's out of the ordinary?

Random post I know...couldn't help myself!

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