Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TWD: Coconut Tea Cake


What?! Heather's actually posting? I know...it seems a little strange.  I took a two weekish mini break from posting/baking/cooking due to my younger sister (the older one) staying with me for a week and then deciding to spend the next week recuperating from all of the eating out we did (Alaskan King Crab at Pappadeaux anyone?).  It was nice to spend time with my sister and equally nice to eat out at places I don't get to go on my budget very often (my budget usually being the .99 menu it seems).  Of course, once she left, I took a look at my bank account and wondered if I should go on a beans and cornbread diet for a while.

Coconut Tea Cake

First up for Tuesdays with Dorie was Coconut Tea Cake that Carmen of Carmen Cooks chose for us.  I love coconut but I know it's not a favorite of many people.  I'm always hesitant to bring baked goods to work that include coconut because I don't want to end up bringing home what's left simply because some don't like coconut.  I know those that do and I usually bring in a few slices for those people to nosh on while the coconut haters remain ignorant of the coconutty goodness.  I can sympathize with their dislike because I certainly feel the same way about cilantro.  Blech.  Nasty soap tasting ickiness.

I have to agree with the man Dorie mentions in the recipe introduction. He likes his cakes 'dry'.  Not dry as in not moist. Rather, he prefers his cake without icing.  Some cakes I like icing but on others, I like it plain and dry.  If there is enough moisture in the cake itself, I have no need for icing on top. Though I probably wouldn't refuse the cake if it did.

When I went to the grocery store this weekend, naturally I forgot to pick up an essential ingredient...coconut milk.  Since it was later in the day when I was planning to make the cake and I didn't want to go back to the store, I went ahead and made next week's recipe, the Mocha-Walnut (pecan in my case) Marbled Bundt, since I had everything for that already.  However, the next day I had to make a run to another store so I also went over to the grocery store to get the coconut milk.

Coconut Tea Cake

I'm glad I went back to the store to get it because I really enjoyed this cake.  It was moist on the inside and a little crunchy on the outside.  The cake wasn't overly sweet which I liked.  I had used the sweetened coconut so I was worried it might be too sweet since I didn't cut down on the rest of the sugar.  I went with the rum and orange options and while I could just barely taste the rum, the orange wasn't noticeable at all beyond a few flecks of orange zest.

This would be a nice cake for those who like the flavor of coconut but not the texture if you left out the shredded coconut.  I like the random bites you would get of the shredded coconut but it would still be a delicious cake if you left it out.  The cake makes either a tasty dessert or a slightly decadent breakfast.

Thanks to Carmen for a lovely pick this week!  You can find the recipe at her blog or on pages 194-195 in Baking.  To see more coconut tea cake or the mocha-walnut marbled bundt (we could do either since Easter is next weekend), check out the TWD blogroll.


Friday, March 12, 2010

HBinFive: Avocado Guacamole Bread and Pesto Pine Nut Bread


Pesto Pine Nut Bread

Up first for the next round of HBinFive was the Pesto Pine Nut Bread.  Pesto is one of my favorite sauces but I rarely make it.  I can't seem to keep basil alive and the packages at the store are too expensive most of the time.  But this bread sounded like it may be delicious so I decided to switch the basil for spinach.  I used a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis.  Very, very tasty.  I will definitely make the spinach pesto again.

Pesto Pine Nut Bread

While the unbaked bread looked wonderful with it's pesto speckled surface, the baked version looked a little plain.  If the pine nuts had not been visible, I would have thought it was just a loaf of wheat bread.  But appearances aren't everything so I sliced into the loaf to see how the taste came across.  Ummm...not exactly the best thing I've tasted.  There was no pesto taste.  Not even a tiny hint of it.  Like the appearance, the taste failed to do anything for me.  There was a slightly odd after taste that I couldn't quite place.  It didn't taste like the pesto that's for sure.

Avocado Bread

Next was the avocado guacamole bread.  I am a huge avocado fan.  I can eat it plain, in a guacamole, on a burger, etc.  I had never tried it in a bread before.  It's not like avocado is the first thing you think of when you want to make a bread.  But I'm eager to try my favorite foods in different ways.  I added in extra avocado because one did not seem like enough.  I also left part of it slightly chunky so there would be well...chunks of avocado obviously.

Avocado Bread

The first batch of the avocado guacamole bread was made into buns.  By themselves they were rather plain.  Not much avocado taste unless you got a chunky piece of avocado.  The texture was also a little off.  I added a few slices of cheddar and made a little sandwich in an effort to get something tasty out of it.  The avocado flavor wasn't any different but the cheddar really paired well with the bread as a whole.  I'm not sure what made it better with the cheese but it definitely worked.

Avocado Bread

With the last of the avocado guacamole bread, I made a single loaf.  This time I liked the texture of the bed much better.  I think this was due to baking the bread directly on a baking stone and using the steam method in the directions.  Taste wise it wasn't any different.  

I'm not sure I'll make either of these breads again.  Neither of them wowed me despite using some of my favorite ingredients.  I really wanted to like them but in the end I was just kind of ehhh about both of them.  I did get some amazing pesto out of it so that's a plus for sure!

Check out the blogroll here for more delicious bread. If you would like more information on HBinFive, visit our founder Michelle at Big Black Dog. You can purchase the book here to get the recipes. And you should definitely buy it!


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TWD: Thumbprints for Us Big Guys


Pecan and Strawberry Jam Thumbprints

Mike of Ugly Food Dude selected Thumbprints For Us Big Guys for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  This another one of those recipes that I had marked from the moment I first looked through Baking.  I love thumbprint cookies.  There is something just plain fun about sticking your finger in the middle of the cookie and squishing it nearly to the bottom.  As a kid, I always looked forward to family functions where an aunt would bring (store bought) thumbprint cookies that had a pecan sandy base and a super sweet sugary filling.  While I still have a fondness for those store bought cookies, I much prefer making my own especially since I have a myriad of tasty options for the filling.

Dorie's thumbprints are a little more grown up than the sugary ones of my youth.  She fills the cookies with a raspberry jam instead of icing and the cookie is made with hazelnuts instead of pecans.  Like most Dorie recipes, you do have a little leeway in the flavors you want to use.  I used a strawberry jam and stayed with pecans for my cookie.  

Except for mis-measuring the amount of butter for the cookie dough (I was making a 1/4 batch and scaled down incorrectly), I really didn't have any big issues with the cookies.  When I realized that I had not put the right amount of butter in I had to melt the remaining butter slightly to get it to incorporate into the rest of the dough.   That didn't work as well as I wanted so I also added a small amount of milk to get everything to combine completely.  

Pecan and Strawberry Jam Thumbprints

The strawberry jam was perfect with the pecan cookie base.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Are they more adult?  I think so.  But it really depends on the filling you use.  I'd like to try them with either apricot or cherry next time.  And if I happen to run across some hazelnuts in the store and remember, I'll pick some up to use in these cookies.  I'm sure they'll be delicious no matter what combination I try.

To get this week's recipe, you can check out Ugly Food Dude where Mike will have the recipe typed up.  You can also find it on page 164 of Baking.  For more thumbprint cookies, see the TWD blogroll.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Recipes to Rival: Chicken Mole Poblano

Recipes to rival meat logo

Chicken Mole

I'm not normally a spicy foods eater. My tolerance for eat is low. Pathetically low if you consider the amount of spice that other family members like. Jalapenos, habaneros, etc all find their way on to their plates. Not mine though. Nope. Not me.

So naturally the challenge for February's Recipes to Rival is Chicken Mole Poblano. Mole is traditionally made from chili peppers, other spices, and chocolate. Chocolate? Now that's a new one. I've never had mole before but I had heard about it. It seemed like an odd combination of flavors but one that I've always wanted to try at least once. My only tiny problem was going to be the amount of spice. I'm open to trying new things, I just don't want to burn my tongue!

The recipe we were given is made of 3 different types of dried chiles. My local grocery store only had the dried ancho so I just used that for all 3. Besides that change, I also used dried cranberries instead of the golden raisins. I never have raisins anymore but I always have dried cranberries in the pantry. I also used chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken.

I thought the mole might be a little complicated to make but it was actually fairly simple. There are numerous steps that are pretty simple, they just take a little time to get done. I had planned on making this on a weekend day but ended up making it on a weeknight with no problems. From start to finish it took me less than an hour to make.

When I first tasted the mole before it simmered with the chicken, it was really spicy. I had only used one serrano pepper instead of the listed 2 so it wasn't as spicy as it could have been. But it was still really spicy with just the one. After it had simmered for about half an hour with the chicken, the spice had really mellowed out a lot. It still had a kick to it but it was no where near what it was before simmering.

I served the chicken mole poblano with brown rice, some sliced avocado, and a dollop of sour cream. Together it was a really delicious meal. The avocado and sour cream gave the mole a nice creaminess that help tone down what spice was left in the mole. I had extra mole leftover so I froze that for the next time I make pulled pork. I have a feeling it will make some really yummy tacos!

To see more chicken mole poblano, check out the Recipes to Rival blogroll.

Chicken Mole Poblano
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence


Mole sauce:
2 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 dried anaheim chilies, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chilies, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican, broken in pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 serrano peppers, stemmed and seeded
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Mexican, chopped

1 capon or large chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chicken stock

Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving

For the mole: Tear the ancho, anaheim, and chipotle chiles into large pieces and toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat until they change color a bit, about 2 minutes. Put them into a bowl with the raisins and cover them with hot water. Soak unti softened, about 30 minutes. In the same skillet over medium heat, add the almonds, sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, oregano, and thyme. Toast for 2 minutes, grind in a spice grinder, and add the powder to a blender. In the same skillet over medium-high heat add the olive oil, onions, garlic, and serrano. Cook until lightly browned, then add the tomatoes. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 to 15 minutes, then add to the blender. Add the chocolate and the soaked chiles and raisins to the blender along with some of the chile soaking liquid. Puree, adding more soaking liquid as needed, to make a smooth sauce. (This makes about 4 cups sauce, the recipe uses 2 cups, the extra can be frozen).

Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and season it well with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet and brown the chicken on all sides; remove the browned chicken to a plate leaving the oil in the pan. Pour 2 cups of the mole sauce into the hot skillet and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and return the chicken pieces to the pan. Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve over cooked white rice. Garnish everything with cilantro leaves.

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