Tuesday, December 27, 2011

TWD: Kids' Thumbprints

Sigh. It's the last Tuesday with Dorie and Baking: From My Home to Yours. It's been an incredible journey. I've used pounds (and pounds) of butter, chocolate, flour, sugar, and vanilla. I've tried new things, found new favorites, and made some amazing friends. I'm very sad to see this chapter end, and I'm also excited to start our new adventure.

These cookies were, very surprisingly, not chosen until the end. Dorie Greenspan, herself, is the host this week.

These are thumbprint cookies with a twist. Thumbprint cookies are pretty much what they sound like. You use a thumb (or in this case awooden spoon) to make an indentation in an unbaked cookie. It leaves a lovely dent that begs to be filled with jam or chocolate. These are a little over the top because the base cookie is peanut butter. Peanut butter cookies are The Husband's favorite cookie. He was very happy with the choice. She goes a step further and has us coat the dough balls in peanuts.

The coating was very messy and also very delicious. I did get lazy, though, and only coated the first batch. I used strawberry jam for some of the cookies and chocolate chips in others. For the last few - especially for the husband - I used some single malt Scotch marmalade. Yes, we do have that in our fridge. He was even happier.

Here is an array of all the cookies.

A close up of the peanut rolled cookies. A mini PB & J!

Then I realized that my dish and the cookies looked slightly alien-like. I needed to add to the image. ;-)

Thank you all for baking along, cheering me along, and sharing all the treats. Dorie has the final hosting post here. Have a wonderful, happy, healthy, and sweet new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TWD: Rewind!

Since it's a holiday week, and since we'll all be doing a lot of cooking and baking, it was decided that this week's TWD would be a rewind. That means that we can either go back and bake something that we missed or revisit an old favorite. I went with an old favorite.

It's the first day of winter break here, and I thought scones would start the vacation on a nice note. One of my favorite scone recipes is the Honey Nut Scone that we first made (ok, I went through my archives and I couldn't find it - anyone?) This is a lovely, slightly sweet, nutty scone. It calls for whole wheat flour in addition to white flour. Dorie's recipe uses walnuts, but I don't like them and I had almonds in my cabinet that needed using.

These are delicious. They were wonderful warm right out of the oven with nothing added. I don't think that butter or jam would have improved them.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TWD: Puffed Double Plum Tart

Yowsa. Back in May of 2008, I decided to jump on the blog bandwagon. I was mostly writing about the CSA box I was getting each week. Then my friend told me about this baking group she had heard about. A woman named Laurie received a cookbook as a present and put out a call to her friends to see if anyone wanted to join her in an ambitious project. They had started in January and were baking a recipe a week from a book by Dorie Greenspan called Baking: From My Home to Yours. Sure, I thought. I love to bake. I signed up that week. And I was hooked. (Almost) every Tuesday, I baked along with a great group of bakers. I think in our heyday there were close to 400 bakers.

Now it's December of 2011, and there is a small but solid core of bakers who are finishing the book with us. We realized about six months ago that we were nearing the end. This week, Laurie and I are hosting two of the last three recipes. She made Unbelievably Good Chocolate Blueberry Ice Cream. You'll have to check out her blog to see how delicious it looks.

I made the Puffed Double Plum Tart, and I'm sorry to say that mine doesn't look so good. I think I might have used too much syrup, or I tried to put on too many dried plums (prunes for the rest of you). My puff pastry did not puff. It was Trader Joe's all butter puff pastry, and the other sheet that I used later that day to make a different dessert worked better, but it was not as puffy and the photos on the box would lead me to believe it should be. Maybe it was a combination of only ok puff pastry and user error. The flavor of the plum tart was lovely on the edges. The middle was just kind of goopy. Also, it's December in Chicago, and there is not a fresh plum to be found. I used pear instead. I tried to get artistic with my fruit arrangement. If you loosely interpret artistic, it works.

Something did not go well here. Bah and sigh.

I would absolutely try this one again when plums are in season. Thank you to Laurie for her great idea and mostly for a lovely friendship that has blossomed. Thank you to Dorie for writing an amazing cookbook. Thanks to all the bakers for the suggestions, cheers, and gorgeous desserts. We're starting another fabulous book in February (Baking with Julia) Keep an eye out on the TWD site if you'd like more information or if you'd like to join us.

Puffed Double Plum Tart

For the topping:
1/2 c. hearty dry wine, such as Chianti, Rioja or Cabernet
2 wide strips orange zest
juice of 1/2 an orange
2 1/2 T. sugar
1/2 piece star anise (or one 1-inch piece cinnamon stick)
about 18 pitted prunes (dried plums)
about 10 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted

For the pastry:

1 8-ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, preferably all butter
1/2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T. heavy cream or whole milk

To make the topping: Bring the wine, zest, orange juice, sugar, and star anise to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes., then add the prunes and boil for 3 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prunes to a bowl. Return the saucepan to medium heat and boil for another 5 minutes or so, until the syrup is reduced a bit and slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Have a baking sheet at hand, as well as a sheet of parchment paper or silicone mat.

To make the pastry base: Working on the parchment paper or silicone mat, roll the puff pastry into a 9 x 10 inch rectangle or a 9 or 10 inch square - the dimensions are up to you, although if you change the size too much, you may have to adjust the amount of fruit. Lift the pastry, still on its paper or mat, onto the baking sheet. Smear the butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1 inch border bare. Sprinkle the buttered area with about 1 t. sugar.

Arrange the prunes and fresh plums in rows across the pastry, leaving the un-buttered border bare. I like to alternate dried and fresh plums and to alternate cut side up and cut side down fresh plums. Using a pastry brush, lightly dab the fresh plums with a bit of syrup. Brush the border of the puff pastry with the cream and sprinkle with about 1 T. sugar.

Bake the tart for 10 minutes, at which point the borders will have puffed some. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake for another 15 minutes, (total baking time is about 25 minutes) or until the fresh plums can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.
Cool the tart on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before cutting it into quarters and serving with the poaching syrup.

Playing around: The plum duo, complete with wine syrup, can be used as the fruit in the French Pear Tart (p. 368) it's a natural with the almond cream filling.

Friday, November 25, 2011

TWD: Rewind!

This week was a chance to bake something new that you missed or to re-bake an old favorite. I went with option B.

I made the Cranberry Upside Downer. The last time I made this for TWD, I used peaches. I wanted to try again with cranberries.

This was a total win. It was a snap to make. The tartness of the cranberries played nicely with the sweetness of the cake. YUM!

We're winding down here. There are only about six recipes left. Make sure you stay tuned to see how this adventure ends and the next one begins!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TWD: Bittersweet Brownies

This is going to be a short post - partially because this is a SIMPLE recipe and partially because I forgot to take pictures before they were eaten.

As far as brownies go, this was fine. I prefer mine a bit thicker and fudgier, but that's a totally easy fix.

I did not make the Alsatian Apple Tart, which was one of the options for the week. Jessica of Cookbook Habit was the host for this one.

Leslie of Lethally Delicious chose the brownies. Go to her blog to see what they should look like.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

TWD: Honey Nut Scones

I hate when life gets in the way of my baking. I was almost not going to get to bake again this week. Boo. It was about 2:00 when I remembered that it was scones, and that they are one of the easiest things in the kitchen to make.

Dorie's recipe called for walnuts. I don't really like them, and I didn't have them handy, so I used almonds. The dough is a mix of whole wheat and regular AP flour. I am really enjoying whole wheat flour these days. It adds just the right something to certain baked goods. These came together in a snap. I patted the dough into two circles and I baked them for 20 minutes without cutting them. I pulled them out of the oven, cut and separated them, and then baked them for about five more minutes. Perfect!

My favorite finishing touch is a sprinkling of coarse sugar. Yum! These were done and cooled just in time for a yummy after school snack.

Thanks to Jeannette of Whimsical Cupcake for choosing this one. I didn't get to the Far Breton, which was chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

TWD: Ginger Jazzed Brownies

We have a love for all things ginger in this house. We use ginger syrup on our pancakes. We sprinkle ginger sugar on our toast. My kids eat candied ginger as a treat. And, you can certainly never go wrong with chocolate or brownies. I've put the two together a number of times with great results. This was no exception.

I started out with a bit of difficulty because as I began to bake, I realized that I was out of unsweetened baking chocolate. So, I went to my handy substitutions bible. To replace one ounce of unsweetened chocolate, you substitute 3 T. of cocoa powder and 1 T. butter. Ok, I can do that. Then I realized that the the ratio of unsweetened to bittersweet chocolate was opposite what I thought. Lucky for me, I found a second substitution - remove 3 T. of sugar and 1 t. of butter for each ounce of bittersweet that you add in. Fingers crossed that this was going to work out!

The third substitution was because I got lazy. Instead of going all the way into the basement fridge to get my knob of ginger (I store it in sherry, which by the way is fabulous for cooking once the ginger is gone), I used 1 t. of dried ginger, and I diced up about a quarter of a cup of candied ginger and stirred it in.

I cheated on the pan prep. A simple spray of Everbake did the trick just fine. Mine baked in about 30 minutes.

After they cooled came the moment of truth. Did all the substitutions work?

I'll take that as a YES! The Boy really loved them. The Girl did as well, but she was at swim team practice while I was taking pictures, so her thumbs up came later. He made a scale of how gingery the brownies were. On a scale of "no ginger" to "tons 'o ginger", these came in just below neutral or medium. We'll see tomorrow how much the ginger flavor has intensified.

I love the texture on these. They aren't gooey, but they have a bit of a fudginess. They aren't cakey, but there's a bit of a spring when you bite into it. I can certainly see making these again.

Thank you Hindy of Bubie's Little Baker for choosing the recipe this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TWD: Twofer - Basic Biscuits and Apple Nut Muffin Cake

Basic Biscuits is such an innocent name. But it's recipes like this that make me nervous. It's the ones that seem so simple that can often be the hardest. In general biscuits are pretty straightforward. The ingredients are easy to find. It only took one bowl to mix up, so there were few dishes.

But, and there is a BUT, the biscuits are made or broken with the mixing. Dorie warned us a number of times that a light hand is what makes the difference. Mix less, knead less, fuss less, and you get better biscuits. I'm not good at that. I like a cohesive dough (I'm also lousy at leaving lumps in the pancake/waffle batter like everyone says). I was doing great up until the "knead three or four times" instruction. My dough was not coming together. So I did some more kneading. And then a bit more.

And my gentle patting to get my biscuit dough to a 1/2" was, perhaps, a bit forceful. I cut out my biscuits, and then re-patted the dough for the second round. And then I did it again. I wasn't so confident at this point. Into the oven they went.

Boy was I surprised when they came out of the oven.

Ta dah! Those are actually layers!

Apparently, this dough is rather forgiving. So good to know for future baking! It takes down the intimidation factor just a bit. The flavor was wonderful. I did the buttermilk version. These were lovely warm out of the oven. The few that are left will be breakfast for the Boy and Girl with eggs and cheese. (The request has already been made)

So pleased with the way these rose and split.

The arrangement for the dinner table. The Girl wanted to make sure you saw her placement handiwork. ;-) The Boy painted the plate.

Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort was the host for the biscuits. Thanks, Jennifer!

Due to some family stuff, I wasn't able to post last week's recipe. I did bake it though, so I wanted to share.

More apple baking! Yay! This, apparently, was supposed to be muffins. And then Dorie ran out of time, so it became a cake. Either way, I think it's yummy.

So so moist and delicious. A sprinkling of coarse sugar adds a little crunch to the top.

This was pretty darn easy to put together. Rather a few dishes, but the end result was worth it. I subbed in cinnamon chips for the nuts, and I think it was rather inspired. This was a perfect after school snack for the Girl and Boy. And then breakfast the next morning.

Yum and yum!

This pick was Katrina of Baking and Boys.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TWD: Flip Over Apple Cake

This was really supposed to be a plum cake. But we went apple picking on Saturday and we are long on apples.

This cake was simple beyond simple. You melt some butter right in a baking dish, add some sugar to your cut up fruit, mix up a simple batter, pour the batter over the butter, pour the fruit over the batter and butter (this is starting to sound a little Seussian) and then bake! Easy!

I have a little back story to my saying that baking something is "easy." Like a lot of you, I bake often - once or twice a week. So what is easy for me might not be for other people. Too many times my stock answer to a compliment about my baking is "it was easy." I have one particular friend who rolls her eyes every time I say that. But in this case, this really was an easy cake!

I made some substitutions. Again, I used apples for the plums, and instead of using almond extract, I used all vanilla. I think I used the wrong size pan, and it still worked. Dorie calls for a 9 x 12 pan, and instead of grabbing my 9 x 13 pan, I used my 11 x 7. It was, perhaps a bit thicker than it was supposed to be, but it was delicious regardless.

I brought the cake to a friend's house, and it was an instant hit. We fought (sort of) over the crusty, golden corners. It's not the prettiest dessert, but it more than makes up for it in taste.

I have a very similar recipe to this one where you cook the fruit a bit first. I could easily see converting to this one.

Go see Becky's blog, Project Domestication to see what a plum version looks like.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TWD: Salt and Pepper Cocoa Shortbread

This was an intriguing recipe for me. I have made chocolate cookies before with a touch of cayenne in them, so pepper in cookies wasn't an entirely foreign idea. And I've tried fleur de sel on sweets, so that one was a known quantity. But I've never had them combined in a cookie.

This was a basic shortbread. I love that this type of cookie comes together so easily. I used coarse ground pepper and fine sea salt in the cookies. In the original recipe, Dorie has us roll the dough into two logs before refrigerating it. I went with my favorite technique of hers for shortbread and I spooned the dough into a gallon size zip top bag. It gets rolled flat and stored in the fridge until baking time. Then I just cut it into squares and bake them off. Dorie's original recipe said the yield was 24 cookies. I got 64. Hmmmm.

Before baking, I sprinkled one cookie sheet worth of dough with Portuguese Cream Salt. It was recommended to be the last time I was at The Spice House. (LOVE that place) I think some coarse sugar would have been good as well.


This is a really good cookie. I would certainly label it a "grown-up" cookie, but The Boy and The Girl gave it big thumbs up. It's not very sweet, and the salt taste hits the tongue pretty strongly. But then there's this... something. A slight burn, maybe, from the pepper. It really adds up to some excellent flavor.

I think the problem with making them smaller and making more of them is wanting to eat more of them. Ooops.

Thank you Tia of Buttercream Barbie for choosing this one!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

TWD: Classic Brownies

I needed a dessert for an event this weekend. Since brownies are one of the most popular sweets around, I thought it was excellent timing.

This is a simple brownie. I love a recipe that uses melted butter, so when I get home at 9:00 on a Friday night and need to bake, it's much easier. This has unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate as part of the batter. The amount of sugar added is very low. It also has a scant amount of flour. I am not a fan of walnuts in general or nuts at all in my brownies. Instead, I substituted some white chocolate and milk chocolate chips. I liked the idea of the visual, and I thought the sweetness would counter the richness of the batter well.

These were tricky to take out of the pan because they were SO moist. I will admit to having to eat some evidence of imperfect squares. These were a huge hit. People at the BBQ who were "stuffed to the gills" managed to put away a couple of brownies. This recipe just might replace the Ghirardelli mix that I keep in my cabinet.

Thanks Anne of Anne Strawberry for the pick!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

TWD: Chocolate Spice Quickies

I'm all for truth in advertising. Unfortunately, I don't think these cookies lived up to the name.

This is essentially a sable with some cocoa powder, ground almonds, and ground clove added in. On paper, this is a great cookie. It's a log cookie, which means that it's easy to get to cookies - you just slice and bake. I think the "quickie" part of the name is for the time between slicing and baking, because there's a four hour window between making the dough and slicing. It was easy to put the dough together, and my "cookie dough into a log" technique is much improved.

The cookie uses ground almonds as part of the mix. I didn't taste almond. I didn't taste much chocolate or spice, either. Mostly this was a sweet, tender cookie without a distinct flavor. It didn't stop me from eating them, because I did enjoy them. However, I don't think I'll be making these again. I'd rather have a more assertive flavor somewhere in them, be it chocolate, almond, or clove.

Jessica of My Baking Heart has photos worth looking at and the recipe.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A new baking adventure: Sourdough

About a week ago, my sister-in-law decided that she needed to try making sourdough bread. NOW. I followed right along. I was placing an order at King Arthur, and that's where she saw that they sell a live starter. We ordered. It arrived.

She has a great statement about sourdough starter. She decreed that it was "the puppy of the baking world." Which, when you think about it is eerily descriptive. You have to constantly feed and coddle it. At least it doesn't need to be walked....

If you don't plan on refrigerating your starter, you need to feed it twice a day. Considering that you throw some out or bake every time you feed it, there was no way that was happening. I was lucky and my starter was somewhat trained when I got it. At one point instead of throwing out a portion, my sister-in-law gave it to me as my base. Refrigerated starter needs to be "revived" a bit before baking, so that does take some advanced planning.

I'm going to try to bake something sourdough every week. Or ten days. Or two weeks. We'll see how it goes. Check back to see how the adventure continues!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TWD: Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf

Back in the saddle! I (sadly) missed the last two weeks of TWD due to work, travel, and life getting in the way. I'm in a slight work lull right now, so I was able to get in some baking.

This one was good. I love the crunch that cornmeal brings to baked goods. This loaf ended up being a slightly sweet, apple-y bread that was perfect for snacking.

It was a snap to put together. The recipecalls for fresh as well as dried apple. I have to say that I didn't really see the benefit of the dried apple. I think next time I would leave it out. And I'm pretty sure there will be a next time. I added a sprinkling of coarse sugar on the top of the loaf. It added just the right texture and sweetness.

You can see the darker bits of dried apple vs. the lighter fresh apple. I think this would be equally good with pears.

Thank you Caitlin of Engineer Baker for choosing this delicious recipe. Go see her blog for much better photos.

Monday, August 15, 2011

This space intentionally left blank

I've been crazy busy lately. Between work, travel, and family stuff, baking has fallen off my radar. I'll be back to it one of these days.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cookie Carnival: Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I haven't baked along with the cookie carnival group for a while, but when I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to make it.

Actually, I've made it three times in the last month. That's how good these cookies are. This is an intensely chocolate cookie. It is also an incredibly versatile cookie.

The first time I made it, I followed the recipe pretty exactly. I added more espresso powder (1 T more) because I wanted a really strongly flavored cookie. It was perfect. It was a slightly bitter really chocolatey cookie. Yum. The second time I made it I used cappuccino chips for the mix in along with the higher ratio of espresso powder. The third time I used milk chocolate chips for the mix in and got a great cookiewith a hint of sweetness.

Here's the cappuccino chip version.

My imagination can only go from what I've done so far. Reducing the espresso powder back to 1 T. would make a rich chocolate cookie without the coffee hint, so any chip could be fabulous (mint? cherry? toffee bits? dried fruit?)

You wish this was on your counter.

I know that this will be a recipe that I go back to often.

Tami will have the round of of all the bakers. Go see what the other bakers did!

WWD: Cocoa Almond Meringues

This is turning into a bad habit. It's not Wednesdays With Dorie, and yet, that's where I've been for the last two weeks. Do I get any sympathy if I tell you that my air conditioning isn't working and it was 95 yesterday? Just checking.

I know meringues are a like 'em/hate 'em thing for a lot of people. I fall firmly into the like 'em camp. I'm really lousy at making them, though. For some reason, I can never get the whites to whip up the right way. I use a perfectly clean bowl and beaters. I bet them for a long time. I add the sugar in small amounts. Maybe the humidity defeated me on this one.

No crags or mountains. More like small sand dunes?

Mine taste good, but they don't look anything like Dorie's. There is almost no rise to them. I like the subtle cocoa flavor with the bites of semi sweet every so often. I don't taste the almond at all. I wonder if a little almond extract might be better than vanilla in these if you are looking for that taste.

Thanks to Mike of Ugly Food for an Ugly Dude for choosing this one.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TWD: Creamy Dark Chocolate Sorbet

This past week was HOT. There was very little baking going on in my house. Though, I was totally willing to get behind some sorbet.

I think, that if you are using the strict definition, this isn't sorbet. A sorbet doesn't generally contain dairy. Whatever you call it, however, it is lovely. This was a snap to put together. It requires four ingredients - water, dark chocolate, sugar, and milk of some form (cream all the way down to skim works.) You boil it for five minutes, stick it in the fridge for a while, and then churn it in the freezer.

The taste of this one is fabulous. I did, however, have some texture issues. I think I didn't cool my base down enough before I churned it. It was very soft before it went into the freezer, and it ended up being a little icy. I would make this again in a heartbeat. I can see adding some fruity extracts to this one or varying the intensity of the chocolate.

A "scoop" each for The Boy and The Girl. It was too soft to really scoop well.

Thanks to Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon for choosing this recipe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not a TWD

Too. Hot. To. Bake.

Next week is sorbet! I'm in!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WWD? Cream Scones

I'm a day late and a dollar short. But I have some really good scones. I kept meaning to make these, and time got away from me. This afternoon, I finally pulled it together.

These were simple to put together. I used half and half because I didn't have heavy cream. There is a tiny amount of sugar in the scones, so instead of currants, I used milk chocolate chips as my mix in. I also sprinkled the tops with some coarse sugar.

Mmmm. Hot out of the oven!
This recipe got a big thumbs up from everyone. I'm still not great at mixing and leaving a little flour behind. I have to blend it all, and I'm sure that the texture suffered some. Having said that, these are great. I would absolutely make them again.

Just look at that golden brown deliciousness with the shiny coarse sugar. And don't forget the chips!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

TWD: Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Slightly behind on my posting tonight. I only find that funny because I made the muffins last week. I'm good about baking. I'm happy to take pictures. I'm just really lousy and getting the photos from the camera to the computer. But, they're here now!

Tah dah! Muffins!

These were simple to put together. They are VERY chocolatey. The flavor comes from melted chocolate as well as chunks. I used a chocolate that we had in the cabinet that had diced candied ginger in it. It was definitely a good choice.

Had I waited to make these after a few other bakers chimed in, I might have added more chips. Most folks thought it was better with more chips. I probably could go either way.

These really are a rich, gorgeous brown. Chocolate for breakfast! It's a win.

Go see The Way the Cookie Crumbles for the recipe. Or seriously, go buy the book already!

**baby steps on improving my photos. Playing with natural light and using closer shots. Baby steps.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TWD: Sour Cream Chocolate Cake Cookies

I had some high hopes for these cookies. Dorie describes them as plain looking but with a taste that brings you back for cookie after cookie. They are more cake than cookie. They are also more sweet tasting than any distinct flavor.

These were a bit of a disappointment to me. I wanted them to be more... something. There wasn't enough chocolate to make them a rich chocolate cookie. There wasn't enough nutmeg or cinnamon to make them a chocolate spice cookie. The sour cream made the cookies tender, but I didn't feel it added to the taste.

They were very easy to make. And if you don't already have a mini ice cream scoop (I used my 1 T. scoop), you should buy one. They were also good as a vehicle for other foods. (Strawberry rhubarb vanilla compote for one) Having said that, I don't think these will be made in my kitchen again. I like my chocolate cookie to have a bit more chocolate oomph. I love that spellcheck likes the word "oomph".

Now all I need is a little ice cream....

Thanks Spike of Spike Bakes for choosing this one. I'm glad to have tried it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TWD: Date Nut Loaf

I was looking forward to making this one. I really like dates. I especially like dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese, but that's another post. I actually almost always have some pitted dates in my house. You know, just in case an appetizer emergency comes up and someone needs something with bacon. Anyway, I was looking forward to baking with them.

This is a simple loaf cake. It has a few extra touches - cream cheese for a bit of tang and almond extract for a nice flavor twist. Dorie called for walnuts, but I used toasted pecans instead. Best tip ever for cutting up sticky dates - use a food scissors. Goes through 'em in nothing flat. This came together easily. It smelled amazing when it was baking. It bakes for 40 minutes uncovered and then 40 more covered. In my case, I think it was a bit too long. While not exactly dry, this loaf doesn't have the moistness I would expect.

Having said that, it's delicious. I only made it last night, and I expect that it will ripen and improve over the next couple of days. I assume it will last that long. Only the Boy is home right now; the Girl's at her first overnight camp experience, so I suspect that treats might make it an extra day in our house. Dorie suggests that this is a great toasting loaf, so that's an option as well.

Breakfast of champions! Iced coffee and Date Nut Loaf. Mmmmmm.

Thank you Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet for choosing this one!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TWD: Chocolate Biscotti

Biscotti is such a great cookie concept. It's great for a treat with coffee. It's an excellent ice cream spoon. It's wonderful dipped in jam or chocolate. And, if you can get them to last, they get better with age.

Biscotti in general is easy to make. It tends to be a one bowl cookie that you bake twice. This one was a two bowl. They came together pretty easily. Dorie's has us make two logs, but I like mine smaller, so I made three. I'm always surprised by how much biscotti spread. I like to skip the middle step of moving the logs to a cutting board, so I carefully cut on my cookie sheet. They bake a second time. It gives it a lovely crunch.

These were a hit with the family and the friends who tried them. I used almonds and chocolate chips in mine, but I could see many many variations. I sprinkled coarse sugar on top, and I liked the crunch and sweetness that it added.

Thanks Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes for picking this one!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

TWD: Blueberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake

AHHH! I fell asleep last night before I wrote something. I made it. It was delicious. I'll get more up later.

Totally quick post here - I made the cake last week. It's a good cake, but for my money, it was a bit fussy. The recipe has us separate the eggs, beat the egg whites, and fold them in to the rest of the batter. (On a side note - I discovered that my new mixer is TOO BIG to only whip two egg whites) I have another blueberry cake that I love a bit more that has fewer steps. I also didn't seem to have the sinking problem that other people had. Not sure why.

Still, this one was tasty. Not sure that I'll be making it again, though. Thanks Cindy of Everyday Insanity for choosing such a seasonal cake.

Looks lovely in the pan.

Edited to add: Here's the link for my favorite blueberry cake.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not a TWD: I revisited some old favorites

This past week/weekend, I made a couple of my favorite recipes, one of which was Dorie's. There was delicious strawberry rhubarb ginger crisp at our Memorial Day BBQ today. Last weekend I made some fabulous Chocolate Dark Cherry Toffee cookies.

What that means is, is that I skipped the caramel pots de creme. Come back next week, and I'll be back in the swing of TWD.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TWD: Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones

I've professed my love for a good scone in a previous post. For the most part, they are very easy to make, I generally have the ingredients on hand, and they're pretty tasty. This was no exception.

The only item I didn't have on hand was buttermilk, but it's so easy to clabber milk that I didn't bother to run out and get some. I also decided to sub in some white whole wheat flour for 2/3 c. AP flour. I thought the nutty flavor would compliment the oatmeal. Speaking of nutty, I can't recommend grating your own nutmeg enough. It keeps forever in its "nut" form and absolutely outshines the pre-grated stuff. I also decided to throw in some diced prunes. Good choice.

They came together in a snap. I formed the two circles right on my Silpat. This was a pretty sticky dough, so instead of trying to separate the wedges, I just scored them to start. After they had baked for about 18 minutes, I tookthem out and put enough room between them to ensure crunchy edges.

Post separation.

We tried to let them cool for the whole ten minutes. These were very good. I loved the flavor of the nutmeg with the prunes. The oatmeal and whole wheat flour were a good blend as well. I could see these made with dried apricots or cherries. I could even see me making them.

I love how craggy and rustic these are. Delicious!

Thank you to Patricia from Life with a Whisk for choosing this one.

Monday, May 16, 2011

TWD: Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits

Making these biscuits was an afterthought. We just received the 1/4th of the whole hog that we ordered with some friends. Just in case you were wondering, a 1/4 of a whole hog is about 40 pounds of pork. Yes, it was more than I was expecting. We had some bacon and sausage from the same farmer that I purchased earlier in the spring that was calling out to be eaten. Plus, it lost its home in the freezer. My solution -- breakfast for dinner!

I love maple in just about any form. And cornmeal in baked goods adds a crunch that I really like. This recipe was a match made just for me. These were a total snap to put together. It was four steps. 1) mix the dry ingredients 2) cut in some butter 3) mix in the wet ingredients 4) scoop and drop on a baking sheet. Oh, and put them in the oven. I guess that's five.

They came out of the oven all golden and craggy. We ate them hot with a bit of butter and other additions. Small sandwiches were made with bacon and then strawberries. All were amazing. They were equally good the next morning.

For my taste, I could have used a bit more maple, but that's an easy fix. These are such a winner that I know we'll be making them again soon. I have more bacon and sausage. Lots more.

Thank you Lindsay from A Little Something.... Sweet for this fabulous choice. Go visit her blog to see some better photos.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TWD: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

I love a Bundt cake. Bundt cakes are so simple. With little effort, you get such a pretty cake. This one has the added bonus of being delicious.

First of all, the name called to me. Brown sugar bundt cake? What's not to love. Dorie's original recipe called for pears and prunes. I trust Dorie, but the fruit was not calling out to me. As always, she offered up a variation for this cake. I made a variation of Dorie's variation.

Her variation makes it a brown sugar nut bundt cake. I decided to do that version. And then I changed it a bit more. After realizing that I ran out of almond meal, I went to plan B. Being that I was too lazy to get out the food processor and make my own almond meal, I found a stand-in. I subbed in the peanut flour for the ground almonds. I used some toasted slivered almonds. And then I added in toffee bits. Yeah. It was a good choice.

The cake smelled amazing at it was baking. I was a bit nervous about how long it baked because it smelled good for a long time. It baked for just about an hour, and it was the right amount of time. The crust was a gorgeous brown color.

Mmmmm. Brown sugar, almonds, and toffee bits. Mmmmmm.

I let it ripen overnight. Another good choice. This cake is such a winner. I could see using it as a base for so many delicious add-ins. I left mine unadorned, but a bit of powdered sugar wouldn't have been bad. Neither would a chocolate glaze. Or a cinnamon glaze. Or an almond glaze. You get the idea.
Please don't let my lousy photography deter you from making this. Thank you Peggy from Pantry Revisited for choosing this one. YUM!

A very goofy, very enthusiastic thumbs up from the Boy.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

TWD: Basic Marbled Loaf Cake

Or, not so basic. The original recipe is a vanilla/chocolate marble cake. Dorie, however, has to gild the lily just a bit with some other options. There is a peppermint/chocolate version and an orange/chocolate version. Then there was the one that really caught my eye - a cardamom/coffee version. Yum!

This was absolutely a winner cake. It was an easy batter to put together. After the base is mixed, you add flavorings to each half. In my case, I added espresso powder that had been dissolved in water to one half and ground cardamom to the other half. Just a side note here - I used cardamom pods and ground them into powder in my spice grinder (old coffee grinder) The difference between pre-ground and freshly ground cardamom is amazing. The fresh stuff has an amazing taste. I highly recommend this method if you can do it.

Golden brown and delicious!

Instead of a loaf pan, I decided to use my Fiesta Bundt pan. I baked it for exactly one hour, and I think it would have been fine at 50 or so minutes. It seems a tiny bit dry to me. My swirling technique still leaves a bit to be desired, but I did get a good mix of each flavor in each slice.

Not so much a swirl as a clump.

This is a good recipe. I truly enjoyed the mix of flavors. I think if I need a simple cake for some event, this would be one that I would revisit. Thank you Carol of The Bake More for choosing this one!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TWD: Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies

I have almost never enjoyed chametz so much. (Chametz is essentially all the stuff you can't eat during Passover, which these cookies absolutely are). It's now over for me, and I jumped right back into baking.

I don't think Dorie has ever steered me wrong with her butter cookie recipes. This one is no exception. These have two wonderful twists that really make them special. First is the cornmeal. It adds a great crunch and a little texture that gives these bite. The second is the fresh lime zest. The recipe called for lemon, but I had a lime, and I love lime and corn together. Her trick of rolling out the cookies in a plastic bag is genius.

I learned that Dorie's butter cookies should be VERY COLD before baking. I cut them into squares and then put them back in the fridge until just before they go in the oven. It's what helps them keep their shape. I didn't bake them until they were very crispy, but I think I enjoyed them with a little chew instead of snap.

Just out of the oven. Mmmmm.

On the plate, where they did not last.

These are definitely going to be made in my house again. Thank you Valerie of Une Gamine dans la Cuisine for choosing this recipe.