Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monster Cuisine:

I was going to post about raspberry bars tonight, but Eloise (aka Ms. Ears) just ate an entire pound of frozen chicken so I’m anticipating a trip to the emergency vet at any moment and need to keep this quick. Mr. Penpen made the ridiculous assumption that our dog would not gobble down frozen golf-ball sized chicken pieces left unattended on the counter. This episode also reminded me that, though I have managed to gratuitously post pictures of Eloise any chance I get, there hadn’t been actually Monster Cuisine* incidents to blog about for a while. Not because she has become less obsessed with food, but because we have become incredibly diligent about making sure there is not a crumb in sight – not an easy task when you bake a lot. I didn’t take a photo of the near-empty pyrex dish that had contained our dinner, but here are some of Eloise, amazed at her good fortune, eating leftover strands of pasta as if it’s her last meal on earth.

And one of Eloise and my mom’s dog, Burgan, mournfully watching pizza boxes leave the kitchen.

And one of Burgan angling for some macaroons I brought my mom.

*I started a Monster Cuisine section a few months back when I realized that I was spending a lot of time writing about Eloise. I started my blog in October and we got Eloise in December, so these two fun new things in my life coincided. If I ever move blog servers I may throw the rating system out and just call the blog Monster Cuisine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Cream Tart

Tuesdays With Dorie concludes April with Chocolate Cream Tart. I thought it was fun that we had two fancy versions classic diner-type pies (the first being the banana cream pie) this month. I have to admit that when I saw the recipe schedule, I was a little worried I would be completely fed up with recipes that involved chocolate and custard by the time this one rolled around. Luckily I wasn’t and decided to go ahead and make a mini tart (It’s also lucky we’ve had beautiful spring weather and I’ve run a lot this month.) I initially was going to make it with a graham cracker crust, but after reviewing the comments on the TWD Problems and Questions section, I decided the chocolate tart shell was the way to go. It totally made sense to try it: graham cracker crusts are good with a lot of pie fillings and I wasn’t sure when I would be inclined to try chocolate dough.

Okay, now that I’ve made it, I would certainly be likely to try a chocolate tart shell again – it was fantastic. The only thing I would do differently is use a darker cocoa powder for the crust (I generally use Scharffenberger for everything, which is usually great). I thought the chocolate custard had a fairly light mousse-esque consistency, which was a pleasant surprise. I smothered the whipped cream topping over the entire dessert, which felt oh-so-decadent, but completely delicious. Overall, this is a lovely chocolate dessert.

Mr. Penpen gave this recipe a 10 for Deliciousness and I gave it an 8, so I will average it out to a 9. I gave this recipe a 3 for Effort – though I must get a pastry blender next time I’m at a kitchen store, giving it an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Kim of Scrumptious Photography for selecting this scrumptious tart; you can find the recipe for it on her site. Coincidentally, this is my first TWD post with my new camera, an anniversary gift from my wonderful boyfriend, so hopefully my food photos will start to get a little better once I learn to use it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SMS: Granola Breakfast Cookies

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe was Granola Breakfast Cookies. I am a big fan of any cookie you can justify eating for breakfast, so I was looking forward to making these. I am habitually in a huge rush on weekday mornings and require portable (and neat) food to eat on my commute. My typical breakfast is a Luna Bar, and sadly, since the salmonella outbreak earlier this year, my favorite peanut butter flavored ones have been unavailable. I decided to take this as an occasion to turn this into a peanut butter breakfast cookie.

I added a half-cup of peanut butter to the cookies, added an extra quarter cup of flour, and a handful of peanut butter chips and chopped peanuts. The recipe said that the cookies should be chewy, but probably due to my hasty additions, they were rather crumbly. I liked them that way, though, so it worked out fine. I loved that you could really taste the honey flavor in the cookies, since I feel like it is something that often gets overpowered by other ingredients. I have to confess that the dough was so yummy I ate a little more than I should. Thus far a lot of the Sweet Melissa recipes have involved making extra goodies - brownies for a cake, orange peel for biscotti, granola for cookies - if you have the time and inclination (you can also easily purchase them). I think it’s fun to have the opportunity to make multiple treats, but this week, despite having a long weekend, I was a little short on kitchen time, so I opted for store-bought granola, which worked out fine.

I gave this recipe a 7.5 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 3.75. Many thanks to Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen for giving us SMS/TWD bakers a break from rich desserts and selecting this great cookie. You can find the recipe on Jessica’s site, and see what the other bakers thought via the Sweet Melissa Sundays site.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rice Krispies Treat Ice Cream

Last summer I discovered how easy and wonderful homemade ice cream is, and Mr. Penpen and I went a little overboard experimenting with different flavor combinations. Seriously, I think there was a three-month period when there was a batch in our freezer at all times. One of the flavors Mr. Penpen considered trying was Rice Krispies Treat. I could see his logic; I mean, who doesn’t love the simple but satisfying combination of rice cereal and marshmallows. And homemade ice cream? Also irresistible. I was a little skeptical of combining the two, though, since I wasn’t sure how Rice Krispy Treats would freeze, and ice cream maker went into hibernation (after I stepped on the scale) before Mr. Penpen had a chance to try it.

It turns out he was on to something: last Sunday we were out to brunch with some friends, and the restaurant’s “shake of the day” was Rice Krispies! Naturally our table had to try it and it was just as awesome as Mr. Penpen had speculated it would be. Sweet, creamy, and the krispies added a fantastic crunch. We decided we must try it at home (Mr. Penpen is elated to report the ice cream maker has been back in action on a more moderate basis for several months now.).

I used the basic vanilla ice cream recipe that came in the booklet with my Cuisinart ice cream maker. I do occasionally make custard-style ice creams, but I prefer Philadelphia-style (no cooking or eggs – yay!) when I’m making vanilla ice cream with goodies mixed in. I don’t really think there is much you can do to improve upon the basic Rice KrispiesTreat recipe, but I always add at least an extra cup of marshmallows, as I like a high marshmallow to cereal ratio.

Rice Krispies Treat Ice Cream
4 Rice Krispies Treats
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 cups cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon malt powder (I would actually up it next time to about a tablespoon)

Cut three of the Rice Krispies Treats into small pieces and put in a freezer-safe container, place the remaining treat in a Ziploc bag, and freeze all of the treats for forty-five minutes. Remove the treat in the bag from the freezer and crush the treat with a heavy jar until it turns to crumbs. Whisk together the sugar and milk in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves, then stir the vanilla and cream into the mixture. Chill in your ice cream maker, according to instructions. For a Cuisinart ice cream maker, the total time is twenty-five to thirty minutes. Five minutes before the ice cream is done chilling, add the krispy crumbs, malt powder, and cut-up treats. When ice cream is done mixing, serve or chill in freezer. Serve with extra Rice Krispies Treats on top.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TWD: Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding. I discovered I liked bread pudding several birthdays ago when I was presented with a serving with a candle in it (the restaurant didn’t have cake). My favorite bread pudding is from Tartine, the seminal San Francisco bakery. They make it with brioche and top it with seasonal fruit, and serve such a generous portion that it lasts several days. The Tartine cookbook has the recipe, but I’ve never attempted it, so I was pleased that bread pudding was selected as a TWD recipe so I’d finally get around to making it. (I’ve actually never made anything from the Tartine cookbook, but it has gorgeous photos!)

After last week’s debacle with barely getting my post up before the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, I decided to make my bread pudding on Friday evening. I made a third of a recipe – can’t trust myself around bread pudding – which fit perfectly into four ramekins. I didn’t deviate from the original recipe much; though I used 1% milk instead of whole since that’s what I had, and I added a little bit of brandy to the custard mixture to deepen the flavor. I also forgot to add an egg, but that wasn’t intentional (I did remember the egg yolks). Since it is requisite for all TWD bakers to have cream (and chocolate and eggs) in their refrigerator this month, I whipped up a little to top the bread pudding with and it was fabulous.

I gave this recipe a 7.5 (which doesn’t quite translate to four stars) for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Lauren of Upper East Side Chronicle for finally motivating me to make bread pudding. You can find the recipe on Lauren's site, and as always, check out the TWD site to see what the other bakers thought of it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SMS: Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling

The recipe selected for the third Sweet Melissa Sunday was Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling. I was very excited to make this recipe, as there is rarely an apple dessert I don’t like. In fact, my very first blog post was about apple desserts. The recipe was seemingly easy to make (you can prepare each component in advance and use purchased puff pastry), but for some reason it took me forever. I partly blame the weather, since it was so beautiful this weekend I continually wanted to get outside and enjoy the sun. There were also a couple of technical difficulties on my side that prevented the turnovers from being made late Sunday afternoon rather than early Saturday morning as planned.

The first issue was my apples not caramelizing. After two attempts to get amber-colored syrup, I decided that I just would not have nice caramelized applesauce and get on with my day. By that time it was too late to make the turnovers for breakfast, and as it turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because my frozen puff pastry was completely distorted and impossible to remove from the paper, which I discovered on Sunday morning when I tried to make the turnovers. Since Mr. Penpen and I had a brunch to attend, errands to run (including purchasing more puff pastry), and a dog to exercise (although basically all she did was move from one shady spot to another), I finally got around to baking the turnovers this afternoon.

The result? Wonderful flaky pastries, with a sweet and creamy filling – the apple filling was fine. I gave this recipe a 10 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for choosing such a fantastic dessert – or breakfast. You can find the recipe on Tracey’s site, and be sure to check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays site to see what the other bakers thought of these.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I recently read the delightful culinary memoir A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. I have always enjoyed cookbooks that contain anecdotes about the recipes’ provenance and I also adore cooking memoirs, most of which I’ve read just have a handful of recipes. This book was the ultimate combination of both: it had a recipe for each story.

Amongst many wonderful recipes (I’ve already made several and they’ve all been outstanding), was one for Coconut Macaroons With Chocolate Ganache. I think I felt an affinity towards this recipe because it derived from a deli just a stone’s throw from my house. I enjoy coconut desserts every now and then, but since my boyfriend does not like coconut, I rarely make them. However, I was forced to buy a bag– really, sweetened coconut does not come in the bulk section – several weeks ago when TWD made Coconut Butter Thins. I had the good part of the bag of coconut left after making a half recipe of the cookies and then after making the Banana Cream Pie a week later, I had an excess of egg whites, so I knew it was time to make macaroons.

I had never made macaroons and it was quite simple: just four ingredients for the cookie portion, plus two more for the ganache. I gave this recipe a 2 for Effort and a 7 for Deliciousness, giving it an EDR of 3.5. You can find the recipe here on Orangette, in addition to a slightly different version of the tale. I only glazed about half of my cookies, and I actually found I preferred them without the chocolate. They are nice, sweet, chewy cookies – very hard to stop eating, especially since I made them small. Since Mr. Penpen doesn’t like coconut, though he did say he could get behind chocolate-covered coconut, I froze a good portion of them and will bring them when I see my family next week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWD: 15 Minute Magic Chocolate Amaretti Torte

A while ago I implemented a Tuesdays With Dorie rule for myself. I decided that I would finish writing my post on Monday night and publish it before I went to work on Tuesday in order to not have that horrible last-minute homework assignment on Tuesday evening when I come home. This also prohibits me from glancing at others’ posts before I write mine, which I don’t like to do. And up until this week, I have followed the rule and it’s been great. (And tonight totally convinced me to stick with my rule, since our internet has been down for the better part of the night.) I got a little behind this week, between other baking (hopefully some will make it here soon), taxes, and Easter; so it was extremely fortuitous that this week’s recipe was called 15 Minute Magic Chocolate Amaretti Torte.

This is a fabulously quick, easy, and delicious dessert – Dorie isn’t kidding when she says fifteen minutes. I managed to throw mine together on Monday night while I was making dinner. I quartered the recipe since I’ve had quite a bit of chocolate recently, but I would certainly make a full-size version of this torte in the future. There was much discussion on the P&Q board about amaretti cookies; I did not find Dorie’s favorite brand, but I found some wonderful ones sold individually (perfect since I made a mini) at A.G. Ferrari Foods, they were even wrapped up in pretty Easter colors.

I gave this recipe a 9 for Deliciousness (I’m sure it would be a 10 with the glaze and almond whipped cream) and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4.5. Many thanks to Holly of Phe/MOM/enon for selecting this lovely torte at just the right time. You can find the magic recipe on Holly’s site, and be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Brooklyn Brownout Cake

The recipe selected for the second week of Sweet Melissa Sundays was Brooklyn Brownout Cake, which is a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting and a brownie crumble. Well, today is a holiday; and if you can’t indulge on holidays, when can you? (Our Easter dessert is actually a pound cake, though.) Mr. Penpen finished the Banana Cream Pie from last week’s TWD on Monday, so I decided that in order to keep him in desserts for a few days, I would bake the brownies Tuesday and then make the cake over the weekend. I made the brownies from Baked – totally the best brownies ever – figuring I’d save the Sweet Melissa brownies for when they are selected. I will get on with the cake in a moment, but the Baked brownies were such a hit that Mr. Penpen had to tell me to set aside the amount I needed for the cake so he wouldn’t gobble them all up before the weekend. BTW, half did go to work – even Mr. Penpen can’t finish an entire 9x13 pan of brownies in four days.

I made a third of a recipe of the cake in two four-inch springform pans. They baked up into nice chunky layers, and I thought the cake was very tasty: dense, sweet, and fudgy, plus a nice hint of coffee, which I always love. I usually like cookbooks that have photos so you can see what the finished product looks like, but since I’m baking the recipes from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book with a group, I think it’s kind of fun to not know ahead of time and then see how the desserts look when everyone posts them on Sundays. That being said, I think I may have been a bit too aggressive when combining the brownie chunks with the ganache (I used a fork rather than my fingers), so I’m not sure if my brownie crumble turned out right. I managed to coax it onto the sides of the cake just fine, though, and it was yummy! Mr. Penpen thought the finished product looked like an alien chocolate concoction.

This recipe gets a 9 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Elyse of Confectionary Creations for choosing this amazingly decadent cake and providing me with the opportunity to bake two awesome treats this week . If you would like the recipe for Brooklyn Brownout Cake, head on over to Elyse’s site. Also, be sure to check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays site to see what the other bakers thought of it, and perhaps even join us!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hobo Monday: Pizza!

Last month I participated in a food blog event called Hobo Monday, where participants must cook a meal for two for $5 or less. And I failed! Both monetarily and taste-wise: my meal was $5.74 and had the lowest EDR ever. Naturally I had to try again. I’m going to keep this short since I am tired and my DVR is filling up with good Thursday night shows as I type this.

This time around there was an additional challenge: no pasta allowed. So I made pizza. Recently I have taken to buying Trader Joe’s pizza dough and using it as a repository for aging vegetables and leftover meat. This time around I did a combination of caramelized onions, mushrooms, pesto sausage, and eggs. The pizza really didn’t need eggs, but I had wanted to try it for a while and my initial Hobo Monday idea had been to do an egg dish, so I went for it. I’m happy I did because I discovered that egg on pizza is actually quite delicious. They cook up like poached eggs, which are my favorite kind and I have yet to master.

Cost breakdown: $1.19 (I think) for the pizza dough, $1.07 for the sausage (1/4 of a $4.29 package), about $2 worth of onions, and I would say about $.80 for the cheese. I’m not sure how to assess a monetary value to the mushrooms because they were leftover from takeout salads we ate on Saturday night; Mr. Penpen asked for his mushrooms on the side, thinking I might want to eat or cook with them. And I’m calling eggs a staple, since anyone who bakes as much as I do always must have eggs. That’s a total of $5.04 (and there were leftovers), which is much better. The pizza gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4 – also much better. If you want to see how others stretched their meal budgets, there will be a round-up posted on the Thursday Night Smackdown site on Saturday. You can also find about Hobo Mondays if you wish to participate next month. Okay, this post wasn’t quite as succinct as I planned. Time for "The Office."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TWD: Banana Cream Pie

This rather rich month of Tuesdays With Dorie desserts commences with Banana Cream Pie. A while ago Mr. Penpen and I ran a 10k race called the Banana Chase (there actually were people dressed as bananas that the runners were supposed to chase!) and think he used every bad banana pun out there, so I will refrain from using too many in this post.

I didn’t discover the pleasure of baking pies until last year. I was petrified of making pie crust – ridiculous, I know, but after a few tries I took a shine to it and am now happy for any excuse to make pie. I have to admit I cheated and did not use Dorie’s pie dough recipe, though. I’ve had such great success with Cook’s Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough (secret ingredient is vodka) that I figured I might as well stick with it. One day I promise to try Dorie’s Good for Almost Every Occasion Pie Dough. Other than the crust, I followed the recipe precisely, with the exception of halving the recipe and adding a pinch of ginger. I vaguely remember having very sweet banana cream pie at some point, and this is a quite different version. It was tasty right after I put it all together, but even better after it was refrigerated for a day. The brown sugar and spices in the custard are reminiscent of pumpkin pie; I think it would be a rather appeeling pie for the winter months.

I gave this recipe an 8 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.66. Many thanks to Amy of Sing for Your Supper for selecting this yummy dessert; I had a bunch of fun baking this week. You can find the recipe on Amy’s site, and be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Honey Beescotti

I’m pleased to say that I have joined another baking group, called Sweet Melissa Sundays. We’re baking our way through The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy, the owner of the Sweet Melissa Patisserie(s) in Brooklyn. A few months ago I may have thought it was insane to join a second baking group, but I have such a great time trying out recipes I never would select myself, I decided it was an excellent idea. And if I’m crazy, I’m in good company. The first recipe chosen was Honey Beescotti, which I was delighted about for two reasons: 1) I love biscotti, which I recently found out is easy and fun to make. 2) It’s “bee” season in my line of work, so the name of these cookies made me laugh – gotta love silly puns. Last year one of my co-workers made us all bee antennae. Eloise (better known around here as Ms. Ears) looks much cuter than I do in them, so she is modeling them below. I had to wave a treat in front of her nose, so she would forget there was something on her head, in order to get a picture. So much for dressing her up as a bunny next week.

The first step involved for these wonderful cookies was making candied orange peel. I’ve seen candied orange peel at Whole Foods, but I thought it would be more satisfying (and economical) to make it myself, and that turned out to be true.

I found this recipe fairly easy to put together and very delicious. I adore regular almond biscotti, but the caraway seeds and candied orange really make the cookie burst with flavor. I’m not sure the cookies came out quite the right size. When I read the Problems and Questions on the Sweet Melissa site, most people said their biscotti spread. Mine came out quite small. The size reminded me of the ones served in Italy with the dessert wine, Vin Santo. I happen to have a bottle (hopefully still good) of it in my wine rack, so this gives me the perfect excuse to open it.

This recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.66. A huge thank you to Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets for organizing this new group and choosing such a fantastic first recipe. You can find the recipe on Lorelei’s site, and be sure to check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays site as well. I’m looking forward baking along with this great new group!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dandelion Greens and Cookbooks

I subscribe to several food magazines. I’m currently annoyed with one of them since I keep receiving back issues, bills, renewal notices, and finally the current issue of the magazine. (I don’t need a copy of a magazine that had already been removed from newsstands before I ordered my subscription, I paid my bill in full, my subscription does not expire for at least eight months – let me breathe, and why does my copy not come until about two weeks after the magazine hits the stand?) Okay, rant over. On to a magazine that has made me very happy: the May issue of Bon Appetit.

This week my CSA box threw me another curve ball: dandelion greens. I wish I’d taken a photo before I cooked them; they really looked like a weed. And raw, they tasted rather bitter. Serendipitously, I saw an article about spring greens in Bon Appetit the next evening that included a recipe called Chicken and Spring Greens Gratin, and dandelion greens were one of the recommended varieties. I made the gratin last night and it was excellent, though not terribly photogenic. The greens were no longer bitter, and went nicely with the chicken and eggs. You can find the recipe here. The only things I did differently from the original recipe were use whole milk rather than cream, and add extra chicken. I resisted my initial instinct to add cheese to the dish, and I’m glad I didn’t because it really doesn’t need it. Oh, and apparently dandelion greens are very good for you.

The May issue also had an article about California, which mentioned a newly-opened bookstore in San Francisco called Omnivore Books on Food. Mr. Penpen and I had a free day today, so we made the jaunt over the bridge so I could check it out (we also had lunch and took Ms. Ears to the beach for some good off-leash fun, in order to make the trip more interesting for other parties). The store is wonderful, but a little overwhelming. They have everything gastronomical: antique and rare books, popular new titles, gardening, food writing - even fresh eggs. In the brief time I was there, I overheard the proprietor having conversations with a local author and a chocolatier – fascinating! Having this glorious store close to home more than makes up for Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks being closed when I went to New York last year.

I showed amazing self-restraint, and only purchased one book, Bake Until Bubbly: The Ultimate Casserole Cookbook, by Clifford A. Wright, the same man who wrote the recipe for the gratin. With this book in hand, I should be able to handle any future odd greens thrown my way.