Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie treat was Perfect Party Cake!!! Yes, it deserves at least three exclamation points. Dorie recommends sticking a bright Post-it on this page so you know where to turn “for a just-right cake for any celebration.” There has been a sticky on this page – it’s my very favorite photo in the book – ever since I bought the book in August, but I still had yet to make the cake; I joined the group a couple months after I bought the book and for some reason in never occurs to me to “bake ahead.” Needless to say that after nearly eight months of Tuesdays with Dorie, I was elated that this gorgeous cake was finally chosen. Eloise was excited too, she even put on her party collar to celebrate. Actually, she finds the party collar a little humiliating, but she was mesmerized by this cake, particularly the buttercream.

While I don’t condone feeding my dog things like cake batter (and I’m fairly certain the organization we adopted her from wouldn’t either), when Mr. Penpen does it I can’t help but grab the camera. That is, if I’m not laughing too uncontrollably.

Okay, cake! Since I had such high expectations for this cake, I made sure to read the recipe carefully and follow it exactly as written. I figured that a recipe that Dorie wrote up an entire set of auxiliary instructions for was probably not one to experiment with too much if I wanted magnificent results. The one change I made was substituting vanilla extract for lemon extract. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy lemon desserts, but there was already lemon zest in the batter and I was afraid with the extract the lemon flavor may be too aggressive for what is essentially a white cake. The cake baked up beautifully, and per Dorie’s suggestion, I froze the cake after it cooled, which I had never done before, but certainly will from now on because it made it much easier to cut the layers. I had never made a meringue-style buttercream and that came together nicely, too. The only problem was that I didn’t make enough of it – or perhaps I was too generous with it between each layer. I made two-thirds of a buttercream recipe for a half recipe of cake and ran out as I was frosting the sides. I considered throwing in the towel, taking a photo, and saying that Eloise licked the frosting off (which she totally would have if left unsupervised with this cake for single minute), but Mr. Penpen helped me regroup and make the last third of the buttercream. And since he was so helpful, I didn’t cover the cake in coconut.

And the sticky-tab is staying on, because we loved this cake! I can’t wait to think of an excuse to make it again. It gets a 10 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Carol of mix, mix…stir, stir for selecting this phenomenal cake. You can find the recipe on Carol’s great site and see what the other bakers thought via the Tuesdays With Dorie site.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays treat was Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies, chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures. Megan’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, the tiramisu cake, was a huge hit around here, so I was anticipating another great recipe, and this one definitely did not disappoint. The construction of this cookie dough was similar to the Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds that the Sweet Melissa Sunday group made a few weeks ago, in that they have two (brief) chilling periods before you bake them. I hadn’t noticed that when I started making these late on Friday evening, hoping to serve them with a fresh batch of homemade ice cream. Luckily, I still had a log of the CCC dough in my freezer, so we were able to slice off a few cookies in order to indulge in a Friday evening treat, and I baked the Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies on Saturday. (And now there’s also a log of the Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies in my freezer for those cookie emergencies.)

These are exceptional dark chocolate cookies; they have lovely deep cocoa taste plus an extra burst of chocolate from the chips in many of the bites. We found the cherry flavor very subtle, though I did appreciate when I got a nice tangy bite. I was wondering if next time I should leave out the cherries altogether, since they are such a nice chocolate cookie, or add extra cherries next time. Mr. Penpen is encouraging me to experiment with these cookies and try both ways next time. This recipe gets an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving them an EDR of 4.25. Many thanks to Megan for a great selection and for adding a double chocolate cookie to my repertoire. You can find the recipe here on Megan’s fantastic site (seriously, there is something new and delicious-looking there almost every day) and for more chocolate, click on over to her Brownie Project. You can also see what the other bakers thought of these cookies via the SMS blogroll.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White chocolate has never been one of my favorite sweets, but I do feel like it definitely has its place in the chocolate world. I did happen to be harboring a bit of a grudge towards it, though, due to a minor kitchen meltdown trying to make peppermint bark last winter (for some reason I thought melting the white chocolate baking chunks from Whole Foods would work – don’t try it). However, I got over it last weekend when I made the marvelous white chocolate ganache for the Tuesdays With Dorie Pineapple Dacquoise. I happened to have an unopened (and not expired) bag of white chocolate chunks stashed away in my baking cabinet, so I decided to make some cookies. I have fond memories from my youth of eating White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies from the Blue Chip Cookie bakery chain and thinking they were so much more exotic than regular chocolate chip cookies.

I found this recipe for Salted White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies on Baking Bites. Like many of my favorite cookies (World Peace Cookies, NYT Chocolate Chip Cookies), these have the brilliant addition of extra salt. Although they are tasty no matter how you bake them, I would recommend erring on the lower end of the suggested baking time, as the chewier ones were definitely preferred. This recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and 2 for Effort, giving them an EDR of 4.

Salted White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, from Baking Bites
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 white chocolate chips
3/4 cup salted, toasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
additional salt, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or silicone mat).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, then gradually add in the flour mixture, followed by the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. If your macadamia nuts are unsalted, add an additional 1/4 tsp salt to the cookie dough.
Drop tablespoonfuls of dough (1-inch balls) onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are just beginning to turn a light golden color around the edges. Bake an additional minute or so, until slightly more golden, for crispier cookies. Cool for about 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet until cookies are completely set, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container, makes about 2 dozen (I got 3 dozen smaller cookies.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Baba Ghanoush

In addition to serving my Father’s Day guests the pineapple monster pictured below, I made a quasi Mediterranean themed lunch, and one of the things I made was Baba Ghanoush. I love eggplant and generally prefer this delicious eggplant dip to hummus, its more popular chickpea counterpart. The market near my house sells a great version of it from a local company, so I had never felt a great urge to make it myself. However, I saw an easy (and yummy) looking recipe in Cook’s Illustrated's Summer Entertaining issue and decided it would be fun to try making it. I’m glad I did: this was a very tasty dip and everyone seemed to like it. It has very minimal seasoning, so the smoky eggplant flavor really stands out, as opposed to being trounced by garlic and tahini (not that I don’t like those flavors – a lot, actually – but I’ve tried a lot of versions where they overpower the star of the dip). This recipe gets a 7 for Deliciousness (I am not in total agreement with the superlative title of the recipe) and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 3.5.

The Best Baba Ghanoush, from Cook’s Illustrated’s Summer Entertaining edition

2 pounds eggplant (about 2 large globe eggplants, 5 medium Italian eggplants, or 12 medium Japanese eggplants), each poked uniformly over entire surface with fork to prevent bursting

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about ½ teaspoon)

2 tablespoons tahini paste
Table salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Turn all burners on gas grill to high, close lid, and heat grill until hot, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Set eggplants atop foil on grill rack. Grill until skins darken and wrinkle and eggplants are uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. This should take approximately 25 minutes for large eggplants or 15 to 20 for the smaller varieties. (Note: My large globe eggplants took at least 35 because we didn’t properly heat the grill.) Place eggplants on a plate or rimmed baking sheet and cool for five minutes.

Set small colander over bowl or in sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit eggplants lengthwise; scoop out the hot pulp with a large spoon and place in colander (you should have 2 cups of pulp). Discard skin and let pulp drain for 3 minutes.

Transfer pulp to bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; process until mixture has coarse, choppy texture, about 8 1-second pulses. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; transfer to serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes. Alternatively, you can place the pulp and all the other ingredients (including a tablespoon olive oil and most of the parsley) in a medium bowl and mash with a pastry blender. (I didn’t feel like dragging out my food processor. It may not be as smooth and creamy as intended, but the flavor was still great.)

To serve, use spoon to make trough in center of and spoon olive oil into it; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with pita bread, pita chips, or vegetables.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TWD: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection was Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise. I usually thank the week’s host at the end, but I want to give my express my gratitude to Andrea of Andrea in the Kitchen right away. I never would have given this recipe a second glance if I wasn’t in a baking group since: 1) on the chocolate spectrum, white chocolate is on the opposite end of my typical preference; 2) my boyfriend claims to not like coconut; and 3) the recipe is long and sounds like a lot of work. But now that I’ve made it, I know that white chocolate ganache is very delicious and Mr. Penpen seems officially convinced he likes coconut (at least in desserts). As for the recipe, it did take quite a bit of time, but unlike some other recipes that have sneakily taken over my weekends, I was cognizant that this one would be time-consuming and entered into this endeavor with a patient attitude. And really, none of the steps were that complicated.

I initially thought I would make a mini version, since I wasn’t sure we’d like it, but since I was going to be turning my oven on for three hours (since the temperature was so low, I even left the house and did errands while the dacquoise was baking) and hacking up a pineapple, I decided I may as well make the entire dessert and serve it to my boyfriend’s family for Father’s Day. I baked the dacquoise early Saturday morning, roasted the pineapple and started the ganache on Saturday evening, and finished the ganache and assembled the dessert on Sunday morning so it would be ready for lunch that afternoon. This recipe actually did not contain any butter, but it did contain three cups of heavy cream, which seemed a bit excessive for one dessert. I am a diligent reader of the problems and questions and the always-helpful Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs mentioned she had used Greek yogurt for some of hers. I thought that was a fantastic idea, so one of the layers that was meant to be white chocolate ganache was 2% Greek yogurt sweetened with honey. For the two-thirds of the ganache I did make, I used one cup of cream and one cup half-and-half. I used Guittard white chocolate for the ganache, which I wholeheartedly recommend. It melted beautifully, was quite tasty, and is more budget-friendly than Valrhona Ivoire, which was the other chocolate Dorie suggested. There happened to be a great review of it on Baking Bites the same day I bought it!

And, one of the best parts about this recipe is that it’s a real showstopper; I was quite pleased with myself for making such an exquisite dessert. I didn’t want anyone to see it before dessert, but I was happy Mr. Penpen’s mother did; when she saw it in the refrigerator, she told me that she likes to plan her meal portions accordingly when she knows there’s a good dessert – smart woman! Everyone I served the dacquoise to enjoyed it, making it a veritable success. This recipe rates a 9 for Deliciousness and a 4.5 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2. You can find the recipe on Andrea’s site and see what the other bakers thought via the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SMS: Butterscotch Cashew Bars

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection was Butterscotch Cashew Bars. The bars are made with a brown sugar shortbread base, a layer of butterscotch caramel, and topped with cashews. These gooey bars are from the “After School Snacks” section of the cookbook, which is chock full of yummy treats that I’m sure children would love to have waiting for them when they arrive home from school. I definitely thought these bars were a great afternoon snack! These bars were nice and easy to put together, though I think I might have over-baked my shortbread crust a bit. I made a half batch in an 8x8 pan rather than a full batch in a 9x13 pan as the recipe calls for. I’m pleased I did, because a little of these bars go a long way; they’re very rich and satisfying. Melissa gave instructions on how to “cut like a pro” and Mr. Penpen did an excellent job with the knife work.

These bars rated a 9 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, giving them an EDR of 3.6. Many thanks to Pamela of Cookies with Boys for choosing this scrumptious treat. You can find the recipe for the bars on Pamela’s fantastic blog, and if any SMS'ers happen to have leftover cashews, I highly recommend this stir-fry she posted a few weeks ago – it’s become one of our favorite weeknight dinners. You can also see what the other bakers thought of these bars via the SMS blogroll.

And happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, special wishes to my dad and my favorite doggy-daddy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Deconstructed Tomato Pesto

Okay, this is not a great photograph, as I made the pasta subsequent to returning from an eight-mile run and we were way too ravenous for a proper photo shoot, but this was a great pasta dish! It’s adapted from a recipe Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver (Aka “The Naked Chef.” Does anyone else remember when that show was on the Food Network all the time? That and one called “Doorknock Dinners” were the first shows I remember watching on Food Network. Good times.). Anyway, the first time I made this, I basically just processed all the ingredients together to make kind of a tomato pesto. It was pretty good that way, but I felt the ingredients overpowered each other, so it was hard to taste the individual components, particularly the nuts. I think this version is closer to how it was meant to be, though I made it after I returned the book to the library, so I’m not sure! I also have no idea what it was originally called, so I’ll just call it Deconstructed Tomato Pesto. I do know that it was very easy and delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

Deconstructed Tomato Pesto, adapted from a recipe in Jamie’s Italy
1 pound fettuccine
½ cup toasted pine nuts (or almonds, which is what the original recipe called for)
Leaves from one large bunch of basil
2 cloves garlic
½ cup grated parmesan-romano cheese
Olive oil (approximately 2-3 tablespoons)
3 medium tomatoes, stems removed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to the instructions on package or your preference.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pulse the pine nuts in food processor until coarsely ground, then set the ground nuts aside in a small bowl. Wipe out the food processor (you don’t need to be too fastidious, it will all be going the same place eventually) and process the basil, garlic, cheese, olive oil, and salt and pepper together until well blended. Scrape the basil mixture into a serving bowl. Rinse the food processor bowl again. Cut the tomatoes in quarters in pulse in food processor several times; you should still have some puree and also some good chunks of tomato.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and transfer to the serving bowl containing the pesto. Mix the pasta with the pesto, add the tomatoes and mix. Toss the ground pine nuts over the pasta and serve.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey-Peach Ice Cream

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie treat was . I absolutely adore making ice cream, so I was delighted that this recipe was selected at the beginning of the summer! I had bought some decent peaches at Whole Foods for the peach cobbler the SMS group made last week, but thought I could do a bit better this time and went to an immense nearby farmer’s market on Sunday in search of the perfect specimens. I have to say, I think I may have had just as much fun shopping for the peaches as I did making the ice cream! I browsed and sampled a variety until I settled on some lovely white peaches.

I make a lot of ice cream and still get a little anxious about custard. I definitely err on the side of thinner custard and usually keep the heat on medium-low rather than medium, which may take a little longer. Unfortunately, I’m usually too focused on the custard and don’t look at the clock, so I haven’t timed it. I find just as I’m starting to get impatient, it thickens up and the temperature reaches 170 degrees – I also have become heavily reliant on the thermometer. The rest of the recipe was simple enough to put together, although one of the peaches I was dicing was a bit too ripe to make nice little chunks with, so I diced up an apricot instead. It also helped add a little color, since the white peaches were so pale!

My boyfriend liked this ice cream a lot (though he rarely tries an ice cream he doesn't like, especially if it's homemade) and we both thought it deserved a 7.5 for Deliciousness. I gave it a 3.5 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.14. And though I thought this was yummy, I have come to the conclusion that I like my frozen peach desserts a little tangier. I think next time I put a peach mixture through my ice cream maker, and it’s just the beginning of peach season so there will be a next time, it will be a yogurt or I will substitute buttermilk for regular. Many thanks to Tommi of Brown Interior for choosing this great seasonal treat. You can find the recipe on Tommi’s site and see what the rest of the group thought via the TWD site.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

SMS: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday treat was Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Almonds. Yay! Who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies? At any given time I have a backlog of about five CCC recipes I want to try, since there are so many “best” and “favorites” out there. As most readers of this blog are probably aware, last summer the New York Times published this article and accompanying recipe about the consummate chocolate chip cookie, revealing two key components: twenty-four hours of chilling time and salt. I know it has become my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and from my anecdotal data, gathered from reading various food blogs and talking to other bakers, I would I’m not alone.

This recipe only for two brief chilling periods: first an hour, then another half hour after the dough was formed into logs. As thrilled as I was about the prospect of having cookies in less than two hours, I decided to experiment and bake these cookies in different intervals to see if the flavor and texture were enhanced with extra chilling time. The first batch was baked on Friday evening after the dough had refrigerated for about three hours and they were wonderful! I made the second batch on Saturday morning (fifteen hours later); neither Mr. Penpen nor I could distinguish any noticeable difference in texture or flavor between the two batches. I had pretty much decided that our palates were not sophisticated enough to discern subtle nuances in baked goods and give up on the project, but I still had a lot of dough, so I went ahead and made more on Saturday evening. And I’m glad I kept going, because at twenty-four hours, there was a difference: the carmelly brown sugar flavor was much more prominent. (Although the NYT recipe is taped to my refrigerator, I hadn't looked at the article again until today and it says twenty-four hours is where things get "interesting." I will also have an opportunity to try the cookies at thirty-six hours when I host my book club tomorrow night.) But really, I thought they were just as delicious on Friday when they had only been in the refrigerator for a couple hours. I think I may have a new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have never tried baking the NYT recipe without chilling the dough the entire twenty-four hours, but I have heard disappointing results from people who didn’t wait.

Aside from my experiment, the only change I made was using less chocolate than the recipe calls for. I figured that since I would be chopping up the chocolate, the small, uneven bits would spread throughout the dough just fine – not to mention the fact that I didn’t really feel like chopping up an entire pound of chocolate. I know the idea of less chocolate probably sounds sacrilegious to a lot of people, but I made a double batch with 9.7 ounces of chocolate (one package of ScharffenBerger) and all my tasters (my boyfriend and his family) thought they were great. I don’t typically put nuts in chocolate chip cookies either, but roasted almonds sounded fantastic and they were! Mr. Penpen thought the cookies were particularly good when warm from the oven with Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry ice cream from The Perfect Scoop.

Many thanks Melissa Murphy for creating such a great chocolate chip cook recipe (along with an entire book of great treats) and hosting this week. Be sure to check out the Sweet Melissa Sundays site to see Melissa’s post!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blueberry Oat Scones

When I make scones, they’re typically of the cream/currant variety; I particularly like the ones from The Best New Recipes, which I will definitely have to blog about one day. However, the very first scones I ever ate were made from oat bran and baked by my father. They were adapted from a wheat bran scone recipe in The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham, and he said he used oat bran because it was considered the most heart healthy grain at the time. Whether they were actually healthful or not is questionable – I will have to get my hands on a copy of the book to see what else is in them, but regardless, they were excellent scones. I had pretty much forgotten about them, but then last week I was reading Molly Wizenberg’s Cooking Life column in the July issue of Bon Appetit and was reminded of my fondness for oat scones.

The recipe featured in Bon Appetit is for Blueberry Oat Scones, and they are quite different in taste and texture from the ones my dad used to make (as far as I can remember from the late eighties and early nineties), but equally good. The scones have a buttery, fluffy texture – almost like a muffin; in fact, it was hard to believe there were whole oats in them. I don’t typically use condiments on muffins or scones, and these don’t need anything, but I do think they would be tasty with a little jam or honey, as they are not terribly sweet. Overall, a great way to start a weekend morning! I gave this recipe an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, giving them an EDR of 3.2. You can find the recipe HERE. [Note: the original recipe calls for eleven tablespoons of butter. I made half a batch and used four, and they were great.]

Friday, June 12, 2009

FFOB: Food from Other Blogs

A couple weeks ago, the last time I actually managed to post about something other than a baked good or ice cream, I mentioned that I had found a lot of great dinner ideas on various blogs and wanted to do a round-up. This is just a small portion of all the wonderful recipes I see each week – oh, that stack is endless, but here are five dishes I’ve made at least two times each and will definitely be keeping in our dinner rotation. I won’t bother with my normal Effort to Deliciousness scores since there are so many of them (and you can find recipes by clicking on the links). However, they are all quick enough that I can put them together on a weeknight and delicious enough that I have made them more than once.

The newest addition to the dinner rotation – and was actually dinner tonight – is Chicken Cashew and Red Pepper Stir Fry, which is from Pamela’s blog Cookies with Boys. I appreciate that Pamela balances out the baked goods with some nice, light recipes and I definitely want to try more. I haven’t used red peppers either time I’ve made this dish, but yellow have worked fine and it’s really just a wonderful base stir-fry recipe that can be easily adapted to what you have on hand.

Since I can eat broccoli about four nights a week, another recent favorite dinner has been Melissa Clark's Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp from The Wednesday Chef. Broccoli, shrimp, olive, lemon, and spices – it’s incredibly simple and incredibly good.

Next are Roasted Red Pepper and Lamb Burgers from Jessica’s blog A Singleton in the Kitchen. I had just seen a lamb recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s Summer Entertaining issue that I wanted to try, but when I saw these and thought it would even better to try one from Jessica’s site. And I’m so happy I did, because these are tasty burgers! A great change from beef. And it works out nicely that they share some ingredients with these Chicken Gyros from My Baking Adventures, which are also a fantastic summer dinner (unfortunately, I don’t have a picture).

And last, but not least, is Three Cheese White Pizza from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I think in the year I’ve lived with my boyfriend, we’ve had pizza once a week, though I didn’t start making it myself until a few months ago. And this one is made from ingredients (cheese, garlic, olive oil, thyme) I always have in my kitchen, so it’s perfect.

So there’s round one of Food from Other Blogs, stay tuned for dessert!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Parisian Apple Tartlet(s). This is Dorie’s little gift to all of us bakers who attempt to scale back every week: it’s a one portion recipe! (But you can make as many or as few as you like). I had half a package of Trader Joe’s puff pastry leftover from when the Sweet Melissa Sundays group made apple turnovers a couple months back, so I made four of these adorable little pastries: apple, cherry, apricot, and peach. Since I didn’t make my own puff pastry, I think it officially qualifies as easiest TWD recipe to date: chop fruit, cut dough, sprinkle with butter and sugar, and pop in the oven – a simple and lovely summer dessert. I gave this recipe a 7 for Deliciousness and a 1.5 (I pitted more cherries than I actually needed) for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4.66.

For one of the serving options, Dorie recommends wrapping the tartlets in wax paper to eat standing up, so you can imagine you are in Paris. I loved that idea, because really, is there a better place to be? And these tartlets definitely remind me of Parisian bakeries. A while back Mr. Penpen ran a marathon in Florence, and for the second part of the trip we went to Paris and consumed a gargantuan quantity of pastries. Since I wasn’t the one who ran twenty-six miles, not to mention all the training involved to complete the race, I was worried I had gone a bit overboard. Luckily, that worrying was unwarranted since all the walking we did balanced out the overindulgence. So lesson learned: eat whatever you want on vacation! And now whenever I feel heavy, Mr. Pepen dismisses my complaints and grumbles about the “phantom Euro pounds."

Many thanks to Jessica of My Baking Heart for this great selection. You can find the recipe on Jessica’s site and see what the other bakers thought via the TWD blogroll. Since this recipe involved such minimal preparation, I decided it would be a good week to do a rewind. And what is the total opposite of a this delicate little French pastry? Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters: three classic cookies merged into one tasty treat – yummy! They were chosen back in September and you can find the recipe here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SMS: Bear's Peach Cobbler

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday treat was Bear’s Peach Cobbler. I made a few crisps last fall when, courtesy of my CSA box, I was up to my elbows in pears, but I had never made a cobbler before. And it definitely will not be the last time! Since the recipe specified that the cobbler is best consumed the day it is baked and there are only two of us (and my boyfriend has never expressed any enthusiasm about peaches), my new five-inch pan is making its second appearance this week. This little pan came in a set with a nine-inch pan (another size I didn’t have before) and holds two cups, so it is perfect for quartering recipes that call for eight-inch or two-quart size pans. And if I purchase any more pans, I will need to start finding creative hiding places for them. The parent to this little one sat on the kitchen table for a week and then I found a place for it, but only because most of my Tupperware is in the dishwasher or housing ice cream.

I must say, Melissa Murphy knows how to make a great biscuit! I loved the ones we made for the Strawberry Shortcake selection at the beginning of May and I realized these are the same, though with a bit more sugar. I had a little trouble with the baking time for my cobbler. I knew it wouldn’t take the entire hour and fifteen minutes, so I set the timer for thirty minutes and periodically checked it, and by the time the topping was fully cooked it was probably about forty-five minutes and the peaches were a bit gloppy. It still tasted wonderful, though, and Mr. Penpen is now convinced he likes peaches. We shared some on Saturday afternoon and he had the leftover with his ice cream (pictured below) that night. He should know by now that heaping up gluttonous portions of desserts runs the risk of having the evidence photographed and blogged about (in his defense, we had just run eight miles before this was consumed).

I gave this recipe a 9 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Andrea of Nummy Kitchen for this excellent seasonal choice. You can find the recipe on Andrea’s site and see what the other bakers thought of the cobbler via the SMS blogroll.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy National Doughnut Day!

I enjoy doughnuts every now and then, but I try to limit my consumption of them to rare occasions, like after I’ve run a race and feel entitled to a few extra calories. I also think of them as a “moving food,” (in other words, for when you are in the process of packing and moving and don’t have time or kitchen equipment) but I don’t think I’m going anywhere for a while. And unfortunately, I didn’t find out until lunchtime today, while I was reading the “news,” that today is National Doughnut Day, which would have been a great excuse to have one for breakfast. Tomorrow is Saturday, though, so I will have an opportunity to make doughnut muffins for breakfast.

I found a fantastic recipe for doughnut muffins on Baking Bites a few months ago and it quickly became our favorite weekend breakfast treat. (So far I’ve made two recipes from Baking Bites and they’ve both been superb. I also appreciate that in the FAQ section of the site, Nicole says that she does not mind if her recipes are shared on other blogs, as long as they are attributed back, which is really nice!) You see, our local market used to carry these treats called Cinnamon Bombs, which were essentially doughnuts re-shaped into muffin form in a transparent attempt to trick people into considering them a more acceptable breakfast option, but they soon disappeared. There were probably a lot of people like me who realized, much to their boyfriends’ chagrin, how wholly unhealthy these delightful treats were and stopped buying them. I forgot about them for about six months, but then I remembered how much Mr. Penpen liked them and decided I should try to replicate them. The Sugar Donut Muffins (I add cinnamon to half of them for Mr. Penpen) on Baking Bites are not as dense or rich as the original, but they don’t feel like a bomb in your stomach afterwards either. I think it’s the nutmeg that really gives these muffins that yummy doughnut taste. And not only are they scrumptious, they are super-easy and you can make them with pantry staples. This recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4.

Sugar Donut Muffins from Baking Bites
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling (plus about a teaspoon of cinnamon, if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease (I say generously) a muffin tin with cooking spray or vegetable oil. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour in vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract. Divide batter evenly into 10 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour remaining sugar into a small bowl. When muffins are done, lightly brush the top of each with some melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in sugar. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 10 muffins.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares

This week’s Tuesday With Dorie recipe was Cinnamon Squares. Was I the only one who pictured more of a cinnamon shortbread when they saw the name of the recipe? Every month when the new list of recipes appears on the site, I put sticky tabs on the pages of the book with the date written on them; you know, so I can plan ahead. I have all these grand ideas at the beginning of the month about getting ahead of schedule, and then I inevitably end up making the dessert the weekend before, often late on Sunday night. Or occasionally Monday, though I do try to avoid that as much as possible. Anyway, this month Mr. Penpen saw me tabbing up the book and when he saw the Cinnamon Squares, he asked, hopefully, “full batch?” And I did intend to make a whole batch since I knew this would be a recipe he would really like, but then we got a little bit backed up on treats, so I ended up making a quarter of a recipe. If this recipe didn’t have so much chocolate in it, I think I could have easily pretended it was a breakfast cake and made the whole recipe. I suppose I could have omitted the chocolate (initially I wasn’t so sure about the combination), but the more I looked at the photo of the swirly frosting on the cake, the more appealing it sounded.

And wow! Am I ever glad I made it with chocolate: this cake is absolutely delectable. I think the espresso powder really brings the cinnamon and chocolate flavors together, and you get wonderful hints of all three. I was mildly concerned that I had overbaked my little cake, but the texture ended up being perfect too. I am a little sorry I didn’t make an entire cake, but now that I know how delicious (and easy!) it is, I will definitely make it again.

I gave this cake a 9 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4.5. Many thanks to Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures for picking such a winner. You can find the recipe on Tracey’s fabulous site, plus much more. I began reading her blog regularly a couple months ago, and am continually impressed with how many great recipes she puts up there! You can also see what the other TWD bakers thought of this cake via the TWD blogroll.