Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TWD: Caramel Topped Flan

This weeks recipe is Caramel-Topped Flan picked by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. I can't remember if I've ever eaten flan. Of course I've seen it on restaurant menus but when I get dessert when I'm dining out, I usually go for something like cheesecake or whatever cake may happen to be available. I'm normally not a custard eater. Regardless of my dessert eating habits, I was excited to try and make flan at home. I had heard numerous horror stories and disasters of other people attempting to make the wiggly jiggly dessert at home so I was a bit nervous. However, quite a few of my fellow Dorie bakers said they had wonderful results so I plowed ahead.

Because of my track record of forgetting ingredients or having to rush to get one part done as another was needing to get started, I made sure everything was laid out and waiting for me at the right moment. As I have said in the past, its just me eating whatever I manage to end up with, I followed another baker and made a third of the caramel and half of the custard.

Of course, the flaw in my reasoning for making smaller portions was assuming that making a third of the caramel would be proportional to the photo in the book. Uh...yeah...not really. While there was some caramel and it coated the top, there wasn't anything close to the caramel drenched flan in the photo. They had to have doubled the recipe for the photo. I know I made a small batch but still...I don't think make half would have given me the same result. Maybe I should have made the whole amount for half the custard. Oh! To give it a little zing, I added some orange zest to the caramel...it was delicious!

Despite the lack of caramel, it was actually a very easy recipe to make. Since I had everything ready to go before I started the caramel, it came together quickly. I was scared the caramel would burn so I took it off as Dorie says, when I saw the first whiff of smoke. I think I took it off to early actually. It didn't get as dark as the picture either. Maybe that's my problem. Whenever there isn't a picture, I whine and moan wishing there was one. But when there is a picture, I compare my results to that and always find myself lacking. I don't think the knife I used to unmold the flan was thin enough either. There was a ring of custard left on the ramekin.

Despite my setbacks (and not so good looking photos), the flan was actually very tasty. The orange zest gave the caramel a nice, light citrus taste. The custard itself was very good and for the most part not very eggy. The bottom (top when baking) was slightly eggy.

I told my mom about making flan this weekend and I've been told (ordered rather) to make it for my family when I visit next weekend. So maybe making it a bigger batch will give me a better result. I'm also going to try the coconut version. Till next week!

Come back on April 1st for Gooey Chocolate Cakes picked by Leigh of Lemon Tartlett.

Caramel-Topped Flan

From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.

Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don't worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I love peanut butter. I love cupcakes too. So when I finally found a recipe that combined both peanut butter and cupcakes, naturally I jumped at the chance to make them. With only 1/2 cup of peanut butter in them, these cupcakes are not overwhelming in their peanut butter taste. The taste of the cake is subtle and when paired with a simple chocolate ganache glaze then topped with chopped peanuts...delicious. I think these cupcakes would also be good with a jelly inspired glaze or frosting. So next on my list is to come up with something to match that and goes with the cupcakes.

These are not cupcakes that require a lot of frosting. In fact, I think it would ruin the flavor of the cake if they had a pile of frosting on top (this coming from the girl who scrapes the frosting off a cake to eat first). I went ahead and used the glaze included with the recipe, though I used semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate. I love milk chocolate but sometimes its just too sweet.

I loved the added crunch of the chopped nuts on top. Very, very tasty. The guys at work accused me of trying to make their desks messy since I keep bring muffins and cupcakes with crumbly tops! Hehehe...maybe I am!

While these were in the oven baking, my apartment smelled like peanut butter cookies. It almost made me whip up a batch of cookies to go along with them! I made these for a co-worker's birthday last week and they were a definite hit. It definitely gave me a boost to receive praise on them. I've been stepping up my baking lately and trying to experiment with different flavors to expand my baking/cooking abilities.

I'm also trying get more into the food blogging game. I've been participating in Tuesdays with Dorie to get my feet wet and I've been having a blast. Sorry if the look of my blog seems to change often, I'm trying to find a nice balance with it and I'm not as familiar with Blogger's customization options. Bare with me through my learning!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

2/3 cup heavy cream
8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet instead)
2/3 cup chopped peanuts

Special equipment: a muffin tin with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups and paper liners

To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, then mix until just combined.

Divide batter among lined muffin cups (about two-thirds full) and bake in middle of oven until pale golden and a tester inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn cupcakes out onto a rack and cool completely.

To make the Icing while cupcakes cool: Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate in a small bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.

To thicken icing to spreading consistency quickly, spread it on a metal baking sheet and chill until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Scrape icing back into bowl and stir until smooth. Spread icing on cupcakes and sprinkle with peanuts.

Cooks' notes:
* If you aren't pressed for time, chill icing in bowl, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes before spreading on cupcakes.
* Iced cupcakes keep, chilled in an airtight container, 3 days.

Source: Food Network and Gourmet Magazine


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TWD: Brioche Raisin Snails

Brioche Snails

After my success last week with the Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie Cake, I was excited for this week's challenge. Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody chose Brioche raisin snails for us to tackle and I must admit...I was a little scared. I'd never made Brioche before or bread for that matter. And to top it off...I don't own a stand mixer. This recipe required a lot of mixing and beating which was going to make it tough for those of us without KA or the like.

But...if those ladies could do it before the days of electricity and stand mixers could flex their muscles and beat that buttery, rich dough into submission, surely I can too! Ha! Yeah right. That's what I thought at first. Me? Little ol' scrawny, wimpy armed me. I seriously doubted my ability to conquer the dough (way to state the obvious now Heather). However...the lure of the Brioche Raisin Snails was stronger than my ability to psyche myself out.

To try and save time, I thought I would make the pastry cream on Thursday night so I could spend Friday after work on the Brioche since I knew it was going to take me awhile ;). Yeah, I screwed the first batch of the pastry cream. I followed the directions and whisked and whisked and whisked so there would be no eggyness at the bottom. And there was none. No...Heather scorched the milk. The saucepan I used to heat the milk wasn't even burned (or browned) so I didn't realize it until I added it to the egg mixture. What an idiot. I had to throw it out because it was nasty, nasty, nasty. My next batch turned out much better. Mainly because I got the egg mixture ready BEFORE I started heating the milk. I could have just eaten the pasty cream, it was delicious! Well, the good batch anyway.

So Friday night I was huffing and puffing my way through the Brioche recipe. You know...it really wasn't so bad. Sure it took some extra time and muscle to get it done. Sure my arms were tired when I was done. Oh fricken' well. After the dough rises the first time and in the fridge (mine seriously kept rising, I didn't think it would stop), it was a snap to finish up the snails.

I used dried cranberries instead of raisins and I had to use rum extract because silly me forgot that my town is dry (well, at my part of the area is). It took me a few minutes of wandering around the grocery store before I figured it out. Because I am not a big drinker, I just used rum extract so I wouldn't be left with a bottle of booze later. No flambe for me though.

My cut snails puffed up but my dough seemed to be really soft. I don't think they puffed as much as they should have. Oh! The trick for cutting them using dental floss was genius! It was a clean cut and very easy to do with the soft dough. After they baked, I managed to wait ten minutes before I just had to try one. yum! Here's a picture of them pre-glazed.

I couldn't resist and I added the glaze. The glaze was sweet but I think it definitely worked with the Brioche and the rum of the cranberries.

OMG! These things were delicious! I only made half of a recipe (the rest is in my freezer for later) and two days later, they are gone! I wish I had made the whole batch but considering how quickly I had the ones I did make...I'm glad I didn't. My waist line couldn't take it! I also froze the rest of the Brioche dough so there will definitely be more in the future. Maybe next time I'll share. eh...maybe not. ;)

Come back next week for Carmel Topped Flan as picked by Steph of A Wisk and a Spoon. yum!!! This one looks so good too!

Brioche Raisin Snails

From Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

1 cup moist, plump raisins ( I used dried cranberries)
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448)

For The Optional Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit 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 up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)
With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.
Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 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

For The Glaze
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.
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.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.


Monday, March 17, 2008

TCHO Chocolate

I was lucky enough to be a recipient of some TCHO Beta chocolate bars courtesy of last week's giveaway at Blake Makes. I got it in the mail today and I could not wait to try it. This chocolate was delicious! It was dark and chocolatey and so yummy! It would have been perfect in my Chocolate Muffins I made last week. I only nibbled on two squares (it was so hard not to eat it all!). I can't wait to try it in something!

It is also very fragrant. I could smell the chocolate before I opened the inner bag. This chocolate is seriously good. I could definitely become a fan (and I'm normally not a big chocolate person as I said in my previous post).

If you haven't checked out TCHO please do! They sound like they are going to have some awesome chocolate coming out! And don't forget to go by Blake Makes. They've got some great things going on over there!

Thanks Blake!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Normally I am not a big chocolate person. Sure I like it but I don't go out of my way to eat it or devour it like a chocolate obsessed fanatic (and I've known quite a few of those). I'm more of a chocolate flavored dish or recipe fan than chocolate bar fan. My chocolate cravings do hit though as they do with most women (and we all know when that usually is ;). My favorite chocolate to reach for when I do desire a taste is Cadbury. No, not the Hershey made wrapped in the Cadbury wrapper you tend to find in the States ... actual Cadbury chocolate made in the UK. I know I should be saying fancy, super high quality chocolate made by Ghiradelli or some other such place. While I do enjoy those chocolates on occasion (I'd be crazy not to really), its just chocolate to me. Nothing special. Maybe I've just never tasted truly wonderful high quality chocolate. Maybe I haven't found one I can afford! lol

Cadbury isn't anything special either but what makes it my favorite isn't the taste (though it is quite tasty). Truthfully, its the memories of eating it in London on my semester abroad two years ago. I know...a silly reason to pick Cadbury as my favorite chocolate. But remembering sneaking it in to a play to nibble on or sitting crossed legged on my tiny bed while chatting with my roommate about everything we've done in London as we eat bar after bar...that's what makes it my favorite.

While flipping through Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours, I saw a very tempting picture of her Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins. Unable to resist, I quickly made up a batch to take to work in the morning. I made a few changes to the recipe, mainly using semi-sweet and tossing in some white chocolate chips. I didn't have any bittersweet in my pantry so I made due with what I had. I think the muffins would have been delicious using the bittersweet only but I prefer my chocolate to be sweeter. The combination of semi-sweet and white was scrumptious! I have half a mind to keep them all for myself! The recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but I think it may make a couple more than that. I ended up using all the batter in 12 tins to make big, puffy muffins. The puffed up but didn't spill over and stick to the pan. Perfect. Once again Dorie delivers!

Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsley chopped
2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspon salt
1-1/4 cups buttermik
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough — a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Makes 12 muffins.

Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake

I recently signed up to participate in the weekly challenges at Tuesdays with Dorie.  And what a great week for me to start!  The chosen recipe for March 11 was Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake.  Yum!  I love apples and cake AND pie so why not mix it all together to make something absolutely delicious!  Way to go Dorie!

Because its just little ol'me eating the fruits of my labor, I halved the recipe.  I still ended up with quite a bit but not too much.  I'll definitely be enjoying this tasty dish several times during the week.
The recipe calls for chilling the dough for at least two hours or up to 3 days.  So to make it easier for me (and I'm all about that), I made the dough Saturday night and let it chill in the fridge until I was ready for it on Sunday.

When the time came to start putting the rest together, I was expecting it to be a bit more complicated than it actually was.  Since I had made the dough ahead of time, that left me with a bit of time to get the apples cut up and the whole thing put together before the apples started browning.  


Fuji apples are one of my favorite apples to eat. Their sweetness and crispness made them perfect for this pie.  I lost a few of the apple slices in the process.  Some to me because I just can't seem to bake and NOT taste what I'm using.  The others went to my Shih-Tsu Charlie because he thinks he has to taste anything and everything that is being cooked in the kitchen.  Oh what the heck... and because he looks so cute begging that I can't help but feed the little bugger.

The only issue I had was when it was time to roll out the dough. I had planned on getting the dough rolled and in the pan before I cut up the apples. Of course, it was to hard to roll as the warning in the recipe said and I had to wait until I was finished with the apples before I could roll it out. Even then it was still a little hard to roll.  But I perservered and finally it started to give!  woo hoo!  Now I had a nice little rolled crust and my arms got a workout as well!  Then I looked at the top part of the crust sitting there oh so innocently waiting to be rolled as well.  Crap.  Well...another workout for my arms awaited (I'm sure they'll love me tomorrow, hehe).


Anyway, when my unexpected workout was done, I placed the bottom layer of the crust in my 8x8 in pan and pressed it in and up the sides of the pan.  It didn't quite make it all the way up the sides but that was okay.  That done, I dumped the apples in and spread them out.  For a moment I thought there would be more apples than pan but in the end it fit alright.


I put the top crust on and didn't quite have enough overhang but I managed to cover everything on the top...well mostly.  There was an apple and raisin that had just a tidge short on the crust.  
Oh well.  The end result was absolutely delicious.  I let the pan cool for awhile on a wire rack as suggested and it was hard not to dig in early!  But like Dorie says, I think that waiting and cool down made it tastier.  I'm usually not a crust fan but this crust was really good.  Sweet and slightly crunchy but not overly so.  I finished up the presentation but adding a dollop of Cool-Whip.  No, not good old fashioned home made whipped cream.  While that is tasty, I have always enjoyed having the tub stuff on my pies.  And it did not disappoint.   


Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake

From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan 

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: 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 together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

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


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Minestrone Soup

On a cold, icy day like today in March (In Texas...go figure), nothing sounds better than a hot, hearty bowl of soup.  One of my favorite soups to make is Minestrone.  Its quick, easy, and oh so delicious.  All day I could just imagine the delicious aromas as it simmers.  Yum!  I could hardly wait to get home and get started on a big pot!  No doubt it will be 80 degrees tomorrow after all...this is Texas.  Weather can change moment to moment, day to day.  This wonderful soup will be just as tasty on those warm days as on a cold one.   

I used a classic version from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook but to make it fit Monthly Mingle - One Dish Dinners challenge, I modified the instructions a bit.  Instead of cooking the pasta seperately, at step 1 instead of reducing the heat, I let the mixed vegetables continue boiling for 2 minutes before adding the pasta and spinach.  I then let the entire pot boil for about 10 minutes or until the pasta was tender.  Of course, feel free to follow the directions if you prefer.  This recipe makes a big batch so there will be plenty of leftovers for lunch or frozen for later.


42 ounces beef or chicken broth (I prefer chicken)
1 - 15 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 15 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 - 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 - 11.5 oz vegetable juice
1 - 6 oz can tomato paste
2 - tsp sugar
1 - tsp dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1 1/2 - cups frozen mixed vegetable blend (I prefer California blend)
2 - cups pasta, such as medium shell macaroni or mostaccioli
2 - cups fresh or frozen spinach leaves, cut into strips

1.  In a 4-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients except mixed vegetables, pasta, and spinach.  Bring to a boil and add mixed vegetables.  Reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2.  Stir in cooked pasta and spinach; heat through.  If desired, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book 75th Anniversary Edition, published 2004


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blueberry-Raspberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

I love blueberry muffins.  I love muffins.  Who doesn't?  Especially when you take them out of the oven and they are all warm and moist....yummm!  I usually lose one or two as soon as they are cool enough to eat because I can't stop myself from devouring them.

This recipe comes from Emeril Lagasse courtesy of Foodnetwork.com.  Normally, when I think of Emeril, I don't think of baked goods.  He always seems like a more meaty kind of guy to me.  But when looking for a new blueberry muffin recipe to try, I saw this one and liked the idea of using blueberries and raspberries.  Twice the berries, twice the yum!  

When they came out of the oven they smelled delicious!  I was hard pressed not to eat one right away.  They were very moist and the berries made them very flavorful.  The combination of the blueberries and raspberries gave them a nice tangy taste.  

The streusel topping could have used a little more sugar and I would add more berries next time.  I like my muffins bursting with berries and this recipe didn't quite have enough for me.

Overall, I liked them and think the guys at work will enjoy them (heck...its food...of course they will!).  

Update: 3/6/08.  Yep...they loved them. lol

Blueberry-Raspberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts (I used hazelnuts)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
To make the topping, in a medium bowl, mix together the topping ingredients until crumbly. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the melted butter. Add the buttermilk and lemon zest and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just to combine. (Batter will still be somewhat lumpy; do not overmix.) Gently fold in the blueberries and raspberries so the berries do not break open and pour into the prepared muffin tin. Crumble the streusel topping over the muffins and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on wire racks.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Now I'm not a food blogger or chef by any means, but I do like to bake.  I came across Culinary Concoctions by Peabody and her Snickerdoodle Muffins.  Snickerdoodle cookies are one of my favorite cookies so I had to try them.  Literally.  It was nine at night and I really should have been going to bed but no.  I was baking these wonderful muffins.  And I do mean wonderful.  They were moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  Perfect!  The recipe made 2 dozen so I took half to the guys at work and they were gone in minutes.  They are still yummy four days later.  I will definitely be adding these to my frequent baking list.

Please forgive the horrible picture.  Like I said, it was late at night.  And I'm not a photographer.  Maybe...just maybe if I continue with this as inspired by Irene at Confessions of a Tart, I'll improve somewhat!

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