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!