Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Not a TWD. Instead, I talk about breakfast

This week's recipe was for cheesecake. I am not really a fan of cheesecake. I could pretty much go the rest of my life without eating another bite of cheesecake and never miss it. Are those gasps that I heard? For some of you, I'm talking crazy talk. I understand. I'll be back in full TWD swing next week with a recipe chosen by.... Dorie herself!

Ok, so breakfast. I love breakfast. I could, and do, eat any time of the day. Breakfast is just good food.

Here is a very common sight at our house:

It's a waffle iron. A pretty old and messy waffle iron now that I look closely at the photo, but anyway.

This is a slightly underdone waffle just coming off the iron. (It's because I put the extras in the freezer, and they brown and crisp up when I toast them.)

This is a yummy, crisp waffle just waiting for butter and maple syrup. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or peanut butter and maple sugar.

I never quite understood the pre-made frozen waffle thing. Waffle irons are pretty cheap, and I think they pay for themselves rather quickly. They are amazingly easy to make (thank you Alton Brown) Mostly, they are just good. You can play around and add cinnamon and vanilla. Or ginger and molasses. Or cocoa and orange extract.

Each batch makes plenty. So the extras go in the freezer for those during-the-week waffle breakfasts. So now I've taken away the "frozen waffles are so convenient" arguement.

Here's all I'm saying. Give it a try. It really does beat the boxed frozen version.

Oh, and this is an English Muffin that I tried making. Not very successful. For now, I'll stick with the store-bought kind. I'm open to recipes and/or suggestions.

Next week: French Pear Tart. See you then!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD: Real Butterscotch Pudding

After all the cookies, I was happy to tackle something else. Last time we made pudding, it was amazing. I had high hopes for nothing less this time.

This recipe called for real scotch. Dorie recommends a single malt. I know for some of you, this was an issue. Why buy a bottle of scotch when you need only three tablespoons? I had no such problems. The husband is a..... collector of single malts. This is what I had to choose from:

Yes, there are eight bottles of scotch on my table.

So with the scotch procurement handled, I started on the pudding. Like the last time, it was an easy recipe. Not diet food for sure. Egg yolks, heavy cream, butter, and whole milk make up the bulk of the ingredients. And scotch.

I still hate the smell of boiling milk. I skipped the food processor for the pudding this time. I could tell a difference. This was slightly heavier and thicker. But, I didn't want to make the mess I made last time.

This pudding certainly isn't going to win any beauty contests.

We did have to dress it up a little. Whipped cream from a can is so much fun. And the cookie nestled in the bowl? Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties from Smitten Kitchen. It is a cookie more delicious than any cookie has a right to be.

Anyway, back to the pudding. I liked it. The girl and husband liked it as well. The boy liked the whipped cream and the cookie. It was pretty boozy. The alcohol doesn't cook out, so the scotch flavor is pretty prominent. I would make it again. For adults. No one was getting tipsy, but it did have a decidedly adult flavor.

I have another bonus side recipe. I found a great thing to do with the three egg whites that were left over after I made the pudding. Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Nuts. You know, similar to the ones that you can get at any county fair? I love these.

Slightly out of focus but delicious candied cashews and pecans.

Here is my sad, almost empty container.

I can't remember where I got the original recipe, but here's the version I use:

3 egg whites
1 T. water
1 T. vanilla
1 1/2 pounds of nuts (usually pecans, but I've used almonds and cashews as well)
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt (if you use unsalted nuts)

Preheat oven to 250. Line a sheet pan with a Silpat or foil. Froth the egg whites with the water and vanilla. Toss the nuts in the mixture to coat. Mix the sugars, cinnamon, and salt (if using). Add to the nut mixture and stir well to coat. Pour onto pan. Spread the nuts to cover the pan. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Try to separate nuts with each stir. Depending on the dryness of the day or the liquidity of the eggs, it may take a little longer. These will dry out and crisp up as they cool. Store air tight as long as they'll last.

Thank you Donna from Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases for choosing the pudding. She'll also have the recipe on her site for anyone who is interested. I'm opting out of next week's recipe. It's cheesecake, and we're just not cheesecake people here. I'll try to have something else interesting to show you.

•••• Edited to add -- I think I may have put in three tablespoons of scotch.  That's why mine was so boozy.  Ah well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Linzer Sables

This is a tricky TWD month. We were allowed to make the recipes in the order than we saw fit. This was the recipe I was supposed to make when I made the Buttery Jam Cookies instead. I swapped. Like I said, tricky.

Anyway, a Linzer cookie, as far as I have gathered is a traditional shortbread cookie layered with jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar. A sable is a French butter cookie. Now just by themselves, those things sound wonderful. Dorie uppped the ante a little by making the cookies with ground nuts. It definitely adds a little something.

This was a pretty easy cookie to make. It came together well. I used ground almonds for mine. I've said before that I'm not a fussy cookie person. This verged on fussy for me. My rolling skills leave a little something to be desired. I rolled out my two pieces of dough into (relatively) level rectangle-like shapes. The two pieces of cling wrapped help keep it all neat. I used my 2" cookie cutter for the bases and "frames". I found this star cutter in a box of old cookie cutters from my mom.

Just a little tangent -- I know that I re-roll more than I should. It's just that wasting even a little dough kills me. Thank goodness there was no extra flour with the rolling. Ok, back to the main post.

My cookies baked a tad unevenly because they weren't all the same thickness. I sandwiched them with either raspberry or apricot jam. They actually turned out pretty well. They look nice, and they are tasty as well. I'm not sure that I'm rushing to make these again, but I'll keep them in the arsenal for an afternoon tea or something.

These were made with the star cut outs. Not as pretty.

Apricot jam. Mmmmm.

This recipe was chosen by Dennis from Living the Life. I should be back on track with butterscotch pudding next week. And it uses real scotch!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookie

Another cookie with a mouthful for a name! This week I'm up to speed and doing what everyone else is doing.

I don't really have a "go to" sugar cookie recipe. I don't actually tend to bake many cookies that call for sprinkles and decoration. In a word, I am lazy. (I'll even admit to taking the easy way out on this one) I have made them in the past, and I like them. When I'm baking cookies, however, I usually go with something chunkier. Or chocolate. Which is interesting, because I almost like chocolate chip cookie dough without the chips almost more than with. But I digress.

These cookies were a pleasant surprise. They are an easy easy cookie to make. I used my stand mixer, and the dough came together in about five minutes. I did mix in the last bit of flour by hand. I chose to make slice and bake logs instead of rolling and cutting. See, I told you I was lazy. I put the logs in the freezer for about half an hour to speed up the process, and then kept them in the fridge until I was ready to bake. You can also make a couple of disks, and then do the roll and cut thing.

The boy helped me choose the sugar sprinkle colors. We chose to roll one roll in pink sugar. That made a pretty cookie with pink edges.

The second log got different colored sugars sprinkled on top. Green, orange, or yellow.

I like that the logs can be stored in the freezer for a while. This would be a perfect dough to have stashed away so that I could slice and bake pretty much at will. And I think the possibilities for variations are endless. I'm already imagining mini chocolate chips, or orange cream cheese frosting (I have to find that blog!), or a dab of jam, or crystallized ginger, or.... See. Endless.

This is definitely a keeper recipe. It's a good basic. Thanks, Ulrike from Küchenlatein for this choice. Next week I'm making last week's recipe. I know. It's confusing. You'll see. It all works out in the end.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies (Surprise!)

This is an interesting month for the TWD crowd. We've been given permission to make the December picks out of order! I know!

This one sounded yummy, and, to be frank, didn't require much effort on my part. My kind of cookie! After the food fest that was Thanksgiving, I needed a little bit of a break.

This was an easy cookie to make. The ingredients are all things I have on hand. Before I read the recipe, I was expecting this to be more like a thumbprint cookie. But, the jam gets mixed into the dough. I used a home-made cherry jam. (recipe here) It's a drop cookie, which was just right for my energy level. Instead of milk, I substituted egg nog. It's what I had, and I thought it might add an interesting taste note. There is also a touch of ground ginger in the recipe.

Look! Real cherries!

The dough was fantastic. The cookies, while they were warm were "eh". It was a good butter cookie, but there was no real flavor to it. I couldn't taste cherry, ginger, or egg nog. A few hours later, however, I had a change of heart. These are some pretty tasty cookies. The fruity flavor stands out a little more. The egg nog and ginger add a richness that really complements the fruit.

These are chewy cookies, and they just keep getting better with age. I would definitely make these again. I'm interested to try other jam flavors and see how they turn out.

Not the prettiest cookie I've ever made...

Heather of Randomosity and the Girl chose this recipe. Next week I'll have another of the December recipes. It's a mystery!