Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD: Finnish Pulla

Oh my, but this is a fabulous recipe.  It's a sweet, but not so sweet bread.  It made the house smell AMAZING.  We are cardamom lovers in this house, so I was looking forward to this one.

I started this morning.  The dough was simple to put together.  I used my stand mixer to do the kneading.  I am lucky to live near a fabulous spice shop called The Spice House.  They have cardamom seeds that have already been shelled.  It's lovely because it retains potency that ground cardamom loses, but I don't have to break open all the pods.  Win!  I have a dedicated spice grinder, and after a quick whir I was ready to go.  

I was pretty happy for the P & Q this week.  I saw that some other folks had played with the rising time some, so I was fairly confident about walking away for a bit.  I made the dough, let it do the first rise, and then shaped it.  It was so silky and so easy to roll and braid.  After shaping, I put it in the fridge for a few hours.  After it came back to room temperature, I let it rise for another half hour or so and then baked it off.  I chose to make two smaller loaves instead of a round.  One was coated with pearlized sugar and almonds and one with just sugar.

They are a gorgeous golden brown.  As of this writing (9:00 pm Chicago time) all of one loaf and most of the other are already gone.  I will say that there seven of us eating it, but still.  It's great on its own, but we also discovered that it's amazing with a small amount of nutty, sweet cheese (Sartori) melted on top.  

I will be making this again.  The friends who are over and helping us to eat it have threatened me if I don't.  My photos absolutely do not do the bread justice.

 Here is the version with almonds.

 This is the sugar only loaf.

Sliced and ready to be eaten.

The Boy gives his sign of approval.

Go visit Erin's blog for the recipe (You want to make this).  Or go buy the book already!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

TWD: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

We are major ginger lovers at this house.  I can't wait for the fall when ginger abounds (though, I'll eat it at any time of the year)  Anything ginger usually disappears pretty quickly.  I make gingersnaps, lebkuchen, and gingerbread on a regular basis, so I was pretty sure this would be a hit as well.  I was correct.  This is some SERIOUS gingerbread.  With the high ratio of molasses and the hit of black pepper, this was not for the (ginger) faint of heart.

These were ridiculously easy to put together.  Dry ingredients in one bowl (the surprise addition of powdered espresso and cocoa powder added more flavor dimensions) and liquid in the other.  Quick blend, and done.  I was a little surprised at the amount of molasses.  My favorite gingersnap calls for twice the flour and half the molasses.  I also realized that I didn't have fresh ginger, so I subbed minced candied ginger.  I used my mini bundt pan, which makes 12 mini cakes.  There was enough batter left over for one three inch cake.  These took longer to bake than I expected.  Mine baked for a total of 28 minutes with the mini cake taking about eight minutes more.  The house smelled delicious throughout, so the longer baking time was ok.

This is a very good gingerbread.  It was suggested to me that a dollop of creme fraiche and/or lemon curd would be lovely.  These did beg for hot chocolate or something just a little sweet.  I will certainly file this away as a possibility for future baking, but we have a few favorites that would take precedent.  I will say that these minis were a perfect size.  I think too much more would have been a little overwhelming.

Go see the recipe and better photos at Karen's Kitchen Stories.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Yes, I have been baking

I feel like I'm offering up excuse after excuse as to why I'm not baking along.  Mostly, I'm baking and not taking photos or posting.  

Here's some of what I've been baking:

 Wheat bread from Baking with Julia.  Perfect toast.  (Couldn't stop the boy from biting before I took the photo)

 Various forms of baked pumpkin donuts.  Minis up above, larger and a loaf down below.  Yum!

Homemade English Muffins.  Easy enough to do for a weekend.  They stored beautifully for early in the week.

First day of school blueberry scones.

I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.  The next two BWJ recipes are on my radar.  Granola and bacon chocolate chip cookies are on the list as well (I know!  YUM!)  Now if I could only stop eating it all....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TWD:BWJ - Bagels!

So, hi.  It's been a while.  Two months, actually.  Wow.  And it's not that I haven't been baking, because I have.  It's that I haven't been posting.  I'm trying to get back into it.  Baby steps.

Anyway, bagels are one of the best foods on earth.  I am blessed and I live minutes away from fabulous bagels - and not the fast food variety (I'm looking at you Einstein Bros, Big Apple, and Panera)  I mean local, freshly made bagels from guys who learned at the knee of relatives.  And while I'm ranting, you won't find apple/cinnamon/walnut/hazelnut/chocolate/blueberry/strawberry etc at these places.  The only sweet is cinnamon raisin, and I can't even get myself to eat those.  I love a savory bagel with everything;  salt/poppy/sesame/onion/garlic/rye.  And now I'll get off my soapbox and show you some bagels.  

At their core, bagels are bread.  But there is a special step involved to make the outside chewy - they are boiled.  It's a quick process, and one that shouldn't be skipped.  This particular recipe also had an overnight rise.  I've made bagels in the past without that step and they were still delicious.

The still damp bagels are topped with a great blend of seeds and seasonings.

And then baked to chewy, golden brown perfection.

These were delicious.  Really good, especially when they were warm out of the oven.  I'm glad to have made them, but unless I get snowed in or something, I can't see myself making them on a regular basis.  
Heather is our host this week.  Go check out her bagels at Heather's Bytes.

**Edited to add - I get my "everything" mix at King Arthur Flour.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TWD: Popovers

I'm an admin for the TWD site.  You'd think that would mean I'd remember when it was time to bake and post a new recipe.  You'd be wrong.  I happened to see that my friend Dawn of Simply Sweet put up a post on Facebook about loving the popover recipe.  And then I screamed internally.  I meant to make them with dinner.

But this recipe?  This recipe is fabulous.  I whipped it up in about two minutes (literally whipped - you make it in the blender) and got it in the oven.  There are five ingredients.  Five.  Butter.  Milk.  Flour.  Salt.  Egg.  All things I have on hand.  I don't have a popover pan, so I used my muffin tin.

These were so good.  Really good.  The Girl was almost convinced to stop reading while she was eating.  That's how good these were.  The Boy crunched on despite having his braces tightened today.  The pain was worth it.  

These are definitely going into permanent rotation.  I can see adding some savory touches and some sweet ones as well.  These could sub really well for profiteroles.  Go see Paula's and Amy's blogs for much better photos and the recipe.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

TWD: Berry Galette

This is what a summer dessert should be.  Mind you, I made mine in about three minutes with dough left over from last week's berry pie.

You just roll the dough in a circle(ish), pile on berries, fold the dough over the berries, sprinkle on some sugar, and put it in the oven.  Thirty minutes later, it's ready!

Mine was pretty small because I didn't have a lot of dough.  Having said that, I think these would be perfect to make into individual servings.

Berries and ice cream - the perfect summer combination!

Lisa of Tomato Thymes in the Kitchen and Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness were the hosts this week

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWD: Blueberry Nectarine Pie

Summer is meant for fruit pies and ice cream.  I was a little worried when I saw the fruit combo for this pie, however.  I love a good blueberry pie (thought I don't like raw blueberries).  I love a ripe nectarine (though I can't stand them cooked).  Somehow, this came together in an amazing fashion.

Although I am sure that the crust recipe in the book is a good one, I stuck to my tried and true Cook's Illustrated vodka pie crust.  I know that it works for me every time.  I whipped it up and put it in the fridge to chill.  In the meantime, I started with the filling.  The recipe had me cook up some of the fruit and add the fresh to the cooked.  I started with frozen berries, so I cooked all of them to work out some of the moisture.  I also added a bit of cornstarch and water to thicken the fruit.  I didn't want to take chances.  The boy could not stop asking to taste a bit more of the filling - you know - to see if it needed more lemon juice....

My crusts rolled out beautifully.  The cooled filling was the perfect amount for my deep-dish pie pan.  The boy took care of the egg wash.

I hate when I cut the slits off center.  Ah well.  It came out looking and smelling delicious!

You'd think I'd know by now not to cut into a pie when it is still warm because the juices all run out and you don't get a solid slice.  I'm sorry.  I couldn't help myself.

And then the next day, when it was cool and set, I had a bit with ice cream. I even waited long enough to photograph it.  

This is a great fruit combo.  I would absolutely make it again!  Go check out the blogs by Liz and Hilary.  They have the recipe.  Then go make it yourself.  

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

TWD:BWJ Hazelnut Biscotti

But not hazelnuts because I hate them.  I'm a big fan of biscotti.  I love the crunch.  Add to that the ease with which these are made, and it's a win.

I threw these together in about five minutes.  It was done without the aid of a mixer (I know!)  I used shelled pistachios that I buy at Trader Joe's.  They are big pieces of nut.  I love the color and flavor that they bring to the cookie.  The original recipe calls for hazelnut liqueur.  I added triple sec because orange really compliments pistachio.  The finishing touch was a sprinkle of sparkling sugar.  Again, more crunch.

These turned out really well.  I didn't bake the cookies for the entire suggested time.  The smell told me that they were done enough on the first bake.  I cut them into slices and stood them up for the second back.  That way no turning is required.  They were nutty, crunchy, and just sweet enough for me.  This recipe lends itself to a number of variations.  I can see it being added to our cookie rotation.

Go visit  Jodi of Homemade and Wholesome and Katrina of  Baking and Boys to see much better photos and the recipe.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD: Slacker

I've been really bad about TWD baking.  I didn't make the naan.  I meant to make the French Strawberry Cake.  Instead I've been all about blueberries (muffins and scones) and whole wheat biscotti.  With toffee bits.  The July recipes are up, and I'm pretty sure I can get behind those.  I'll be back!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Last day of school!

It's the last day, and the kids are only in school for an hour.  (Really?)  Anyway, the bus comes 20 minutes earlier, so breakfast was a banana and a hug.  But this is what is waiting for them when they come home:

Yum!  Blueberry muffins!  Oy!  Summer!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

April is birthday month!

The Girl and Boy both have birthdays in April.  She turned 11 and he turned 9.  We have a very fun tradition at our house.  Birthday mornings = cake for breakfast!  (Just a side note - you know who doesn't get cake for breakfast....)

The Girl requested carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  I went with the newest recipe in Cook's Illustrated.  Truthfully, it was delicious but it was seriously ugly.  The cake was too delicate for the frosting.  I kept pulling up swaths of cake with each swipe of frosting.  Still, The Girl was happy.  

The Boy asked for chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.  His cake was smaller because there was a baseball game (where we gave all the players cupcakes) and a birthday party (more cupcakes and a cookie cake).  Delicious!

It was a lovely month all around.  And thank goodness that it's over.  ;-)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

TWD: Hungarian Shortbread

This recipe appeals on SO many levels.  First of all, there are only six ingredients to the shortbread.  It is rich, buttery, crumbly, and smells amazing when it's baking.  Second, you fill the middle with a rhubarb jam.  Rhubarb.  I have long documented my love of all things rhubarb.  This falls firmly into the WIN column.

The recipe was originally baked with Julia by Gale Gand.  She is a wonderful pastry chef who happens to live a couple of towns over from me.  I've had the very good fortune to see her bake in person and to enjoy her treats at one of her Chicago restaurants.  

April is birthday month around here, so there has been a lot of cake baking.  (Look for that in another post ;-)  I wasn't sure I was going to get to this one.  Then I re-read the recipe and realized how simple it was.  I did end up making a few modifications in the name of time saving.  First, I cut the recipe into fourths.  We have cake, cupcakes, cookies, and more cupcakes already in the kitchen.  I didn't want to pass this up, but I didn't need a whole pan.  I initially was going to make this in my 6" square pan.  As I was reaching into my cabinet, I noticed my 3 - 3" round pans.  Oooh, this could be good.  

The dough came together in a snap.  As I finished blending in the flour, I couldn't help but notice that the dough was in lots of small crumbles.  Hmmm.  Instead of squishing them together, freezing the dough, and then grating it, I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge to chill.  An hour later, I greased my mini pans, crumbled in some of the crumbles, and did a 10 minute pre-bake.  (Some of the other bakers commented that the bottom layer didn't always bake through to the shortbread texture that they were after and a pre-bake helped with that.)

Lucky for me, I usually have some rhubarb compote or jam in my fridge.  That went on top of shortbread #1.  #2 got a layer of Scotch marmalade.  #3 was filled with orange/vanilla marmalade that I made over the winter.  The rest of the dough was crumbled on top and they went back into the oven.  

Tah dah!  Three mini shortbreads!
Those crispy brown edges are calling to me.

This little baby shortbread just begging to be eaten.  Which we haven't done yet because I made these too close to dinner. 
These are very good.  The best bite, as voted on by the family, was the rhubarb/berry version.  The orange/vanilla version came in second.  The scotch marmalade was a bit much for all of us - even the scotch drinker.  I could so easily see making these in a mini-muffin tin for a bite-sized treat.  If you'd like the recipe, go check out Lynette at 1smallkitchen or Cher at The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD:BWJ Lemon Loaf Cake

I am a sucker for lemon desserts. I love a puckery, assertive lemon flavor offset by a bit of sugar. I was pretty excited for this one. It'sa one bowl/one loaf pan dish. That's my kind of baking!

This recipe had a minor fuss factor. The flour needed to be sifted and stirred in in shifts. But the butter was melted (yay time saver!) The eggs were cracked directly over the sugar. Everything else was added to the one bowl and then poured into the loaf pan. I'm not sure that I beat the batter enough. My cake was pretty squat.

Where I did worry about this recipe, however, was the lemon factor. It only called for the zest from three large lemons. While zest is wonderful and full of flavor, I was skeptical that is was going to be enough. I gilded the lily a bit. I added the juice of one lemon to the batter. (Again, could be part of the reason there wasn't much rise) I also made a glaze with the juice of the remaining two lemons and some powdered sugar. They were naked and sad and begging to be put out of their misery.

I glazed the still-warm cake a number of times. First I took a skewer and poked a bunch of holes in the cake. Each time I glazed, I gathered the run-off and poured it on again.

This was a winner. The glaze made it very moist and the lemon flavor was out of this world.

Having said that, I'm not sure that I'd rush to make it again. I have another recipe that I really enjoy and comes out slightly less dense. Go check out the recipe and lovely photos at the host blogs this week. Truc has the recipe at Treats and Michelle has it at The Beauty of Life.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Now that it's almost Passover...

I forgot to show this year's hamantaschen bake-fest. For the past five years or so, we've had a baking party for Purim and included lots of the Boy's and Girl's friends. This year, we had some sickies, so our party consisted of one good friend. She's been a part of the baking for a few years now, so she's pretty expert.

For the uninitiated, Purim is a spring festival that celebrates people doing the right thing. (Yes, that's a total nutshell. Go visit wikipedia for more details) One of the traditional treats is hamantashen. It's a butter cookie that is filled and then squished together to form a triangle of sorts. Traditional fillings include apricot, poppy, and prune. I have kids. Our fillings are chocolate chips (white, milk, and dark) butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, and apricot, strawberry, and raspberry jams. The combinations are endless.

Two of our intrepid bakers - The Girl and her Friend.

Rolled and cut dough starting to get filled.

The squishing technique.

Formed hamantaschen waiting to get baked.

Tah dah!

Hamantaschen! Not all of them stayed squished. Those are the ones you eat first.

Everyone's favorite part!

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

TWD BJW Pizza Rustica

This is called pizza, but it's not like any pizza I've had before. I'm a Chicago girl, so I'm naturally drawn to stuffed pizza. I also like thin crust, and I've been known to eat my share of thick crust pizza. (Maybe this is a post for another time....)

Anyway, this is more like a double crusted quiche than a pizza. This starts with a simple dough, though mine never quite came together. It's sweet, which is interesting for a savory dish. I used four tablespoons of sugar instead of the 1/3 cup that the recipe called for. (The Husband pointed out that this may be part of the reason my crust didn't quite work) It ended up looking more like a cornmeal crust than a flour one. It rolled out ok, but I couldn't do a woven lattice. I ended up laying my lattice strips across the top. The edges of the crust browned nicely, but the top and bottom were still pretty pale.

The filling, as written, was fairly plain. It's made up of ricotta, pecorino, and mozzarella cheeses, some eggs, a bit of prosciutto, and not much seasoning. I decided to make a vegetarian version. I caramelized some onions with thyme, then cooked down some portobello mushrooms and spinach. I added that to the cheese/egg mixture and added a good dose of garlic and pepper.

Mine needed a few extra minutes in the oven. It smelled reallygood when it was baking. The verdict from the whole family was a thumb's up with one small caveat. The Girl liked the crust and she liked the filling, but she didn't like them together. The Boy, who normally HATES mushrooms, ate up the whole thing.

Not so photogenic, but delicious!

I would absolutely make this again. I loved the filling version that I made. I really want to try this crust at least one more time to see if I can get a better roll/lattice.

Check out the recipe at Emily and Raelynn's blogs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TWD: BWJ - Irish Soda Bread

Round about March 17, everybody and their brother becomes Irish. I have no Irish blood in me, but I do love me some corned beef and (mini) cabbage, which is a traditional (American) Irish dinner for St. Patrick's Day.

This year I made baked corned beef (so so so good), shredded sauteed Brussels sprouts, pan roasted potatoes and Irish soda bread for our celebration. The stout chocolate brownies came today.

Back to the soda bread. This was a recipe that Julia baked with Marion Cunningham. This one is simple beyond simple. It consists of four ingredients - flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. It's a one bowl bread. I even did the minor amount of kneading in my bowl so I didn't dirty the counter. There's no rising time and no special pans needed. Mine baked in a glass 9" pie plate.

This came out a gorgeous golden color. I followed the recipe exactly, but I could see there being a zillion variations. I was gifted with a pound of European butter, and we used some on this bread. Heavenly. I added a small dash of sea salt as well. I could have easily eaten half the loaf with gobs of butter on it.

This will absolutely be added to my recipe rotation. There are nights when I'll take a soup or stew out of the freezer for ease. This is the perfect bread recipe to go along with it.

Clearly not my piece - not enough butter!

Go visit Carla of Chocolate Moosey or Cathy of My Culinary Mission for the recipe.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

TWD: BWJ - Rugelach

I am a huge fan of rugelach. (Pronounced at my house as roo-gah-lach with a little throat clearing on the last syllable) It's a staple at Jewish events that require baked goods, which, now that I think about it is just about any Jewish event... Anyway, the traditional style is a cream cheese pastry crescent that is stuffed with a fruit/nut mixture. This version was turned around a bit, and we made ours in a pinwheel.

This is not a difficult recipe, but there are a few steps. The good news is that the steps could be spread out over a couple of days. The first step is to make the dough. I did mine in the food processor. I like doing that because I can use cold dairy. In this case it was three sticks of butter and one brick of cream cheese. Not so low fat, this recipe. It calls for a minimal amount of sugar because the filling is sweet. Once the dough came together, I separated it into two disks and put it in the fridge overnight. This recipe calls for homemade filling called levkar. The traditional versions are apricot and prune. I'll fully cop to being lazy on this one, and I used jam for my filling. The dough rolled out pretty easily with only a small amount of flour. The key here is keeping it cold. I rolled a bitand put it back in the fridge. Then I rolled again and was ready to fill. This version is pretty quick because of the jelly-roll style of filling. I spread apricot jam on the dough and sprinkled it with a cinnamon sugar mix and toasted almonds. The second version used raspberry jam, cinnamon sugar, mini chocolate chips, and toasted pecans. The rolled up dough went back in the fridge for another chill.

Then it was slicing time. Dorie's version calls for a pretty substantial slice. I've made this style before following Smitten Kitchen's recipe. She uses a thinner slice. I like the thinner cookie as opposed to a thicker pastry, so that's how I sliced these. They got a sprinkle of coarse sugar and went into the oven. I had to watch my baking time.

These came out just great. I love the cream cheesy pastry swirled with the sweet jam and nutty fillings. I didn't venture out of my comfort to make these thicker, but I am sure they would have turned out really well. I will note that the Smitten Kitchen recipe uses one less stick of butter. I'm not sure that it was really necessary in the finished product for me.

Here they are side by side.

Here's the apricot/almond version.

And the raspberry/chocolate/pecan version.

Go visit Jessica of My Baking Heart or Margaret of The Urban Hiker for this week's recipe.