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.