Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TWD: Almost-Fudge Gateau

For the last week of 2010, the Tuesdays With Dorie bakers were treated to another rewind recipe and could select any previously-selected recipe, which was very welcome during the busy holiday season. I had been asked to bring a dessert (naturally) to my family’s Christmas dinner, which I was happy to do. I made these phenomenal Caramel Pecan Bars (sans curry powder) for Thanksgiving and they were such a hit that I knew I must make them again for Christmas. Despite the fact that I was pretty time-challenged, I thought it would also be nice to also bring something with chocolate. I had seen a few bakers make the Almost-Fudge Gateau from Baking last time we did a rewind, and it seemed like it would be perfect for Christmas. This recipe was chosen in February 2008 by Nikki of Crazy Delicious Food and you can find the recipe here. Due to an incredibly large and delicious dinner, and several other desserts competing for its attention, not a ton of the cake was eaten on Christmas, but we’re certainly not complaining about having leftovers.

This lovely chocolate dessert was very quick to put together and only baked for thirty-five minutes, though I think it probably could have done with a couple minutes less, as the inside wasn’t quite as fudgy as I anticipated. (My oven, or rather the thermometer, has been a bit unreliable lately). Nonetheless, we are enjoying slivers of it for dessert each night and Josh rated it an 8 for Deliciousness. I gave the recipe a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.66. I can’t wait to check out the Leave Your Link section of the TWD site to see what the other bakers made this week!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TWD: Cardamom Crumb Cake

I always say the best way measure of how delicious a treat is to see how quickly it disappears. We first cut into this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Cardamom Crumb Cake, on Sunday afternoon and when I looked at the pan last night it was nearly two-thirds finished – by two people. I say that’s a darn good indication of an excellent crumb cake. I have not baked with cardamom much and find it can be a bit intense, but there was just the right amount in this cake. The cardamom blended amazingly well with the orange zest and coffee, each bite was interesting and left you wanting just a little bit more. I also enjoyed that this was not a very sweet cake.

This recipe rated an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.83. Many thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Jill of Jill’s Blog for a superb choice. You can find the recipe here on Jill’s site, plus lots of other unique kitchen creations, and visit the TWD site to see if it was a hit in the other bakers’ kitchens.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

TWD: Apple(Pineapple)-Coconut Family Cake

I think I’ve managed to refrain from complaining about this on the blog, but a couple months ago, I developed a condition called Plantar Fasciitis in my left heel and have not been able to run very much recently. Since I like to stay active (and go a little crazy without running), I have been trying a lot of other forms of exercise, one of which is power yoga. During the beginning of class on Sunday morning, the instructor asked us to focus on humility and challenged us to think of anything in our lives we could be less prideful and more humble about – little things to let go of. Naturally, I couldn’t think of anything at the time. Several hours later, when I took this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Apple (or in my case pineapple) Coconut Family Cake, out of the oven, my first thought was that it looked absolutely terrible – can you say overflow? – and that I needed to remake it, since it wasn’t “perfect” and I needed to photograph it for my blog.

But then I thought about what was said in class that morning and realized I didn’t want to spend precious end-of-the-weekend minutes remaking a quarter of a cake that I wasn’t that excited about to begin with. I mean, the baking group is about having fun and sharing our experiences – not having amazingly photogenic baked goods (though that is always a plus). So, I did not remake the cake and I’m glad I did not, because I actually did not like it very much. I kind of suspect I did something wrong. I made the double-nut version and used unsweetened coconut. I did enjoy the crunchy edges, but something about the flavor and the texture of the inside was a bit off for me. Josh doesn’t like coconut and didn’t think the cake looked very appealing (I am sparing y’all photos of the inside) and didn’t even bother trying it.

This recipe rated a 3 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.2. Thank you to Amber of Cobbler du Monde for hosting this week. You can find the recipe here on Amber’s site and visit the TWD site to see how this turned out for the rest of the group.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TWD: Devilish Shortcakes

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Devilish Shortcakes. I will not lie: I was a little worried these would not get made. I had trouble picturing them on Thanksgiving table and they don’t appear to be a portable/shareable treat, since for the full shortcake experience you need accoutrements. Fortunately by Sunday, we were no longer completely overwhelmed with holiday sweets and it was a quick recipe, both in hands-on and baking time, so they got made. I made a half batch and got eight generous shortcakes, using a standard ice cream scoop.

I made them in the late morning, between breakfast and lunch, so the first shortcake actually became an errand-running snack (must keep the blood sugar up). Josh bit in and said it tasted like a chocolate scone. The chocolate flavor is fairly subtle, but nice and they have a lovely lightly texture. We enjoyed one with blackberries and whipped cream. Josh had one with ice cream (of course) and ate the remaining shortcakes for breakfast over the next couple days – we’ve done much worse for breakfast around here, trust me.

This recipe rated a 7 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.8. Many thanks to Tania of Love Big, Bake Often for giving us the opportunity to try chocolate shortcake, a fun spin on the standard biscuits. You can find the recipe here on Tania’s blog and visit the TWD site for more shortcakes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Chunkers

This week Tuesdays With Dorie was treated to a rewind – any recipe that has already been selected, either something new or an old favorite. Fun! My method for selecting a recipe was to print out the list of recipes that had been chosen before I joined the group, check off the ones I have since made (not that many), and hand the list to Josh to make the decision. He thought cookies called Chocolate Chunkers were definitely worth trying. This recipe was selected by Claudia of Fool for Food in September 2008. I had a little trouble finding a direct link to the recipe on her site, but Dorie baked along that week and posted the recipe here. These are kitchen sink cookies: in total, they contain five forms of chocolate (powder, bittersweet, unsweetened, semisweet, and milk or white), plus nuts and raisins. And in writing this post, I realized that mine contained even more, because I didn’t notice the “or” in milk or white chocolate. Oops. I was a little nervous, since there have been a few mix-in heavy recipes that haven’t been big hits in our household, and also because the dough barely adhered all the goodies together.

My worries were unwarranted, though, because they baked up just fine and are yummy. They are pretty much candy; Josh likened them to Rocky Road. Yum! In the recipe notes, Dorie mentions that she made a version of these cookies called Chocolate Chubs (also an awesome name) at Sarabeth’s Bakery. Dorie recently posted a rave review (and a recipe) of Sarabeth Levine’s new book, Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, here on her site. Josh surprised me with a copy of that book the day before Dorie posted her review of it, and coincidentally I had bread from it proofing when I read the review! Anyway, it’s a splendid book and worth putting on your holiday wishlist.

This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.66. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the bakers made!

I also rewound to one of our very favorites: Classic Banana Bundt, which is an easy and excellent use for old bananas, which I found myself with last night. This recipe was chosen by the Queen of Bundts, Mary the Food Librarian and the recipe can be found here. And, wow, it photographed much better when it was glazed and I had natural light!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

I’ve been busy the past couple weeks and have gotten behind on blogs – both updating mine and reading others, but I did manage to make and photograph this week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. We had a Thanksgiving potluck at my office on Friday, and I was originally going to multi-task this dessert and bring it there; two people had already signed up for pecan pie, so it got delayed until this weekend. When Josh saw the pre-baked pie shell, I had to reassure him that it was chocolate pie dough and that I had not burned the dessert. It was kind of hard to tell how “baked” the dough was since you can’t see a dark crust browning, so I ended up tenting the pie with foil pretty early, just in case. I thought it was fun to make a chocolate crust and think it gives the pie a pretty contrast.

I try to at least taste everything before I blog about it, but I am sending the whole pie to work with Josh tomorrow. We debated whether or not we should sample it this afternoon, and thought having a slice missing may encourage people to go ahead and eat the pie when they see it (you know how no one ever ones to take the first or last slice of something?). There are plenty of other goodies around our house and we managed to resist the temptation. Many thanks to Jennifer of Oh, Sweet Day for hosting this week. You can find the recipe here on Jennifer’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to the other bakers’ links. If it gets rave reviews I may have to make it again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TWD: Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread

After last week’s diversion of peanut butter and chocolate, Tuesdays With Dorie continues to celebrate fall flavors with Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread. Cranberry jam and shortbread are two totally delicious foods that I never would have thought to put together – excellent idea, Dorie! The texture of the shortbread layers reminded me more of a big, soft sugar cookie than a typical shortbread. Whatever the texture, you can’t complain about jam sandwiched between two layers of buttery goodness. I also like the jam layer so much that I’m thinking of making another batch of it. I had a feeling this recipe would be a winner and went ahead and made the full recipe, and the two of us are doing a prodigious job of getting through it. This is the type of treat that makes you want to have a light dinner to ensure room for dessert.

We rated this recipe a 9 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.57. Many thanks to Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen for choosing this amazing dessert; you can find the recipe here on her site. Jessica is a talented writer, and does an excellent job of sharing her family and food memories – I always look forward to the stories that accompany her posts. I hope the other TWD bakers enjoyed this recipe as much as I did.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

SMS: Ginger Custard Pumpkin Pie

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Ginger Custard Pumpkin Pie. We’ve had a lot of pie recently, and pumpkin treats for that matter, so my initial inclination was to scale this recipe way back and just make a couple crustless ramekins since it sounded too good to miss completely. Josh assured me he was happy to eat more pie, though, so I ended up making a half recipe with a Biscoff cookie crust. I’d never made a pumpkin pie with a cookie crust, but I love crumb crusts, so I figured it didn’t hurt to try.

This recipe uses fresh ginger and cinnamon sticks seeped in cream for the spice flavoring. I’m not sure if I didn’t chop my ginger fine enough to thoroughly infuse the cream or if I just like a strong ginger punch, but I had to add some ground ginger to the custard in order to get the flavor to my liking. There have been a lot of sweets vying for our attention this weekend, so we haven’t really tried enough to rate it yet and tell if it will be a contender for a Thanksgiving dessert. I do know that the cookie crust was definitely a good idea. Many thanks to Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Fivedees for hosting this week. You can find the recipe here on Debbie’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see what the other bakers thought of this dessert.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ABC: Pumpkin Ice Cream Profiteroles

It’s the first Tuesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Avid Baker’s Challenge and another intriguing recipe from Baking for All Occasions. This month the recipe of choice was Pumpkin Ice Cream Profiteroles with Caramel Sauce, aka the recipe that convinced me to join the ABC group! I have a long list of baked goods I want to try making at some point and profiteroles had been on that list far too long. They seem so fancy-schmancy, definitely restaurant caliber. I was happy to learn that they really aren’t so fussy. I did have trouble telling if the Pâte à choux (the dough) was mixed enough and was worried the profiteroles did not have enough height, but they were nice and airy after they were baked and, especially once they were filled, they were plenty tall. The profiteroles were supposed to have a cookie on top, but I skipped that part of the recipe.

I did make my own ice cream to fill them with, though. I had made pumpkin ice cream before, from this recipe on David Lebovitz’s site. He had adapted the recipe from The Craft of Baking, and I happened to be making something else from that book the same morning, so I made the ice cream directly from the book this time. In comparing the recipes, David adds a bit of liquor to the custard, which I did the first time I made the pumpkin ice cream, and I decidedly prefer it without. The butterscotch sauce recipe Flo recommends to go with the profiteroles contains bourbon, which is enough alcohol in one dessert. I made an entire batch of butterscotch sauce, which is fantastic, but I am not sure what I’m going to do with it all – you really don’t need a lot for the profiteroles.

I didn’t have a special occasion to make these for (I decided that I should have people over for dinner more often so I will be motivated to clean and so I have good reasons to make desserts like this), but I one of the great things about this recipe is that it stores very well. We aren’t great about saving and eating baked goods from the freezer, but the profiteroles keep beautifully, and you just have to take them and the ice cream out a little bit before you want to assemble them. This recipe rated a 9 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.25. The ABC group now has its very own blog so our lovely administrator, Hanaa, no longer has to run it from her site, so go check out how the other bakers liked this dessert.

TWD: Peanuttiest Blondies

This week Tuesdays With Dorie takes a break from fall flavors with Peanuttiest Blondies. Peanut butter and chocolate are a splendid flavor combination any time of year, in my opinion. I made these on Thursday evening so I’d be able to take some to work and clear the decks for the weekend, when I knew there would be a lot of treats around and other things on my baking list. In addition to enjoying recipes that involve peanut butter and chocolate, I am also a big fan of ones you can put together and get in the oven in the time it takes for dinner to cook, and this one came through on that account as well. I had leftover peanut brittle from Sweet Melissa Sundays that we had been a bit slow getting through, so instead of using peanuts, I chopped up the brittle and decreased the sugar in the blondies.

The blondies I brought to work were gobbled up quickly and we thought they were tasty. I don’t think they’re something I’d make again, but definitely enjoyable. We rated this recipe a 7 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.8. Many thanks to Nicole of Bakeologie for a great selection. You can find the recipe here on Nicole’s site and visit the TWD site to see what the rest of the bakers thought of this treat.

Eloise says go Giants and a belated Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TWD: All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie

When I was getting ready to start my Tuesdays With Dorie baking, I asked Josh if he thought he could handle eating an entire apple pie this week – with some help from me, of course. He asked if was just a plain apple pie or apple and a bunch of ingredients he may not like as much.* Actually, he just asked if was plain apple, but the implication was that if it wasn’t a good ol’ pie, he might not be as interested. Lucky for him, the recipe for this week’s selection is All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie. So I made a whole pie and it was huge! And also very delicious.

As of next week, I will have been baking with Tuesdays With Dorie for two years and somehow had only managed to make her Good for Almost Every Occasion Pie Dough once before this month I have now made it three times in as many weeks (though I make it with a hand pastry blender rather than with a food processor as Dorie instructs – just my preference) and I can officially say that it’s very well-liked in this household. The only change I made in the recipe was adding a bit more cinnamon to the filling. Along with cheese, garlic, and vanilla, cinnamon is on my list of ingredients that a little extra is most always welcome.

This recipe rated an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.12. Many thanks to Emily of Sandmuffin for a fabulous selection. You can find the recipe here on Emily’s site and visit the TWD site to see how the rest of the bakers like this pie.

*However, last week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Caramel Pumpkin Pie, was an instance where an unconventional ingredient (caramel) in a classic recipe made it much better. I didn’t get around to posting last week, so I thought I’d toss it in now. For various reasons, I did not get a slice photo of the apple pie, so at least this post now has a nice slice of pie. A big thank you to Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs for another excellent seasonal choice!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SMS, Remixed and Mixed-In: Peanut Brittle

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Peanut Brittle, and is actually the second brittle recipe chosen this month; the first being cashew brittle two weeks ago. The initial reviews of the cashew brittle recipe didn’t exactly inspire me to try the recipe (you don’t really want to hear the words burned and chewy when you’re talking about brittle), but I still wanted to make brittle, so I looked up a couple recipes online and got to work. I didn’t post about it because it wasn’t the recipe from the Sweet Melissa book – or I just felt lazy. Or busy. Unlike many of the sugar-boiling experiences in my kitchen, the cashew brittle I made turned out well and disappeared pretty fast with just the two of us eating it, which is always a good way to determine if a recipe is a success. I decided to give it another go with peanuts.

I think Josh has tried every single flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and one of his current favorites is peanut brittle. I had been on a bit of an ice cream making hiatus, due to Josh actually not liking a flavor I made (for some reason I just kept expecting him to finish it). I decided it was about time he stopped buying endless pints of ice cream, and I made some vanilla ice cream and swirled in some crushed peanut brittle. I also added some chocolate chunks to the ice cream, ‘cos why not?

The brittle recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.2. Many thanks to JoVonn of The Givens Chronicles. You can find the brittle recipe from the Sweet Melissa book on JoVonn's cute site and visit the SMS site to see how the brittle turned out for the rest of the group.

Nut Brittle, adapted from this recipe on Allrecipes and this recipe on About.com

1 cup (7 ounces) white sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

1 ½ cup peanuts

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the baking soda, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl and set aside. Also set aside the two tablespoons of butter (these ingredients will all be added at the end and I’ve learned the hard way you want to have everything ready and conveniently accessible when making candy).

Combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook the candy mixture, stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 275 degrees, then add the peanuts and stir to combine. Keep cooking, still stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 300 degrees.

Once the thermometer reaches 300 degrees, remove the pan from heat; immediately stir in butter and the baking soda/spice mixture. Pour the candy onto the prepared sheet and spread with a greased spatula. Cool the brittle completely and then break into pieces, either by hand or with a knife on a cutting board.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Note Quite SMS: White Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays Treat was Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling. I didn’t exactly make the recipe in the book. The frosting contained two kinds of coconut (cream and flakes) and was made with cream cheese. Josh doesn’t like coconut and I am not big on cream cheese icing. I mean, I’ll have a few bites of carrot cake or red velvet cake with it, but it’s definitely not my first choice. I wasn’t really sure if this would be a recipe that would work for our household until I realized the cake was a regular white cake – no coconut – and we both like a good white cake, so I decided to make the cake, or rather cupcakes, and frost it with something else. Of course I didn’t get this great idea until the last minute.

I decided on a simple dark chocolate frosting, which was excellent with the cake. The cake was fluffy as promised and super-yummy. I would say it’s a great vehicle for almost any frosting. This recipe rated an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.42. Many thanks to Karen of Karen’s Cookies, Cakes and More for selecting this cake. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see the other bakers’ cakes. My apologies to the group for not really making anything close to the recipe in the book.

Miss Irene Thompson’s Dark Chocolate Frosting from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

3.5 ounces fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, chopped
3 ounces dark chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped

1.7 ounces (3 ½ tablespoons) butter, at 65 to 75 degrees

1 cup (8 fluid ounces) corn syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler, set over hot, not simmering, water heat the chocolate and butter. (Don’t let the bottom of the container touch the water.) Stir often with a silicone spatula until almost completely melted. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and with the silicone spatula, stir until completely melted. Stir in the syrup until fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The frosting keeps for three days at room temperature, for three weeks refrigerated, and for six months frozen. Note: the frosting will be very fluid immediately after making it. The recipe in RHC calls for the first layer to be poured over the cake. To frost cupcakes (or for the second layer of frosting on a cake), you should let the frosting cool for about half an hour or until it is a spreadable consistency.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TWD: Fold-Over Pear Torte

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Fold-Over Pear Torte. There is not a picture of this recipe in the book and for some reason when I saw the name, I assumed, probably because of the word “fold,” that it would be some sort of turnover. It’s actually more like a pie with a tall crust, as it’s baked in a springform pan. I made a half recipe in two 4.5-inch pans and managed to roll one crust a bit bigger, so one torte had more crust folded over. I made one with pear and one with apple, and so far have only tried the apple one. Funnily enough, before it was officially pear season, we were given large quantities of pears by relatives on two separate occasions, but I actually had to buy one for this recipe. I used dried cranberries for the dried fruit component because I didn’t feel like cutting up apricots (lazy baker).

Josh and I spend a lot of time together, but we do have various separate interests and hobbies. I am not interested in sports much at all, and Josh is an enthusiastic fan of baseball and football (and tennis and basketball when he is betting with his friends). He is very happy that the Giants are actually in the baseball playoffs this year, though it has made for some tense sports-watching. I made this recipe on Sunday afternoon while Josh was watching a very close Giants game and there was a lot of shouting coming from the living room. At some point he came into the kitchen and saw a bottle of rum on the counter, for the small amount in the torte, and said he felt like he could use a shot to calm his nerves. Luckily they won, and again last night.

Okay, back to the torte. This is one of those recipes that I would categorize as “surprisingly good,” mainly because I had no idea what to expect, and it was a splendid dessert. It was so well proportioned: buttery flaky crust, a delightfully light custard, and sweet fruit – so nice! We rated this recipe an 8 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2. Many thanks to the lovely Cakelaw of Laws of the Kitchen for a fantastic selection. You can find the recipe here on her site, along with lots of other great treats and epicurean adventures. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the other bakers’ tortes turned out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ABC: Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon

I have decided to take on a new challenge: The Avid Baker’s Challenge! My friend Hanaa started this group and after months of admiring the treats they make and seeing what was on the schedule for the rest of the year, I decided it was time to join the fun. We are baking from Flo Braker’s stupendous book, Baking for All Occasions. It’s one of the (far too many) books in my collection that I occasionally make something from and think, “The recipes in here are so good, why don’t I make things from it more often?” I also think it’s great that Flo gives all measurements in both weight and volume. I have somewhat recently started weighing pretty much everything and it’s nice when the weight measures are in the book so I don’t have to keep looking at my cheat sheet. The recipe this month is Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon. In the recipe notes, Flo shares that this cake was inspired by a cake from Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California. I used to live not far from that bakery, and agree with Flo that it has outstanding treats.

The cake involves a number of steps in preparation (grating chocolate and oranges, juicing oranges for fresh juice, etc.) and quite a few dishes. It was a nice project for a weekend afternoon, not something to bake in a hurry. The recipe was meant to be baked in a ten-inch tube pan with a removable bottom, but since that would yield fourteen to eighteen servings, I cut it in half. I baked the cake in a six-inch pan round pan and four ramekins. I had a little –okay a lot – of trouble getting the cake to come out of the pan neatly, so sadly I do not have a lovely full-cake picture to show. I also had a bit of trouble with the Sabayon. I didn’t think to look up what a Sabayon was before I made this recipe so I’d have a better idea what it should turn out like; according to this link it is “a light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate large amounts of air.” Mine was sort of airy, but didn’t really hold. The honey/orange flavor of the creamy sauce was incredible, though, especially on a light cake, which did turn out delightfully airy and tasted wonderful.

I must say, though everything didn’t go perfectly, I had a good time making this cake and it really did present a bit of a challenge for me, which I enjoy. This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.6. This group is not posting recipes, but you may stop by Hanaa’s site to learn more about The Avid Baker’s Challenge and see the other bakers' links.

TWD: Double Apple Bundt Cake

Tuesdays With Dorie begins October with Double Apple Bundt Cake, the first in a whole month of fabulous-sounding autumnal recipes. When I was tabbing up my book for the month of October and telling Josh what he’d be eating for dessert the next few weeks, he said he was surprised there are so many good recipes left. It’s surprising, though definitely true: the recipes in Baking are consistently good. Oh, sure, there are certainly ones we love more than others, but there is a seemingly endless supply of wonderful recipes.

The only substitution I made was subbing currants for raisins, since that is what I had on hand. I soaked the currants in rum, which I thought would be appropriate with the warm spices in this cake. I also reduced the sugar by about half a cup when I realized the apple butter I bought was incredibly sweet. I have joined a new baking group (the post for that one will be up later) and we made a cake for that group this week; since Bundts are easily transportable and good keepers, I sent this one to work with Josh.

I have only had a small nibble of the cake and thought it was very good. So apple-y and moist, and I enjoyed the crunch from the walnuts. Josh rated it a 7.5 and when I spoke to him around lunchtime today, he said there was about a third of a cake left, as opposed to being immediately decimated, so that sounds like an accurate rating to me (he later told me it was competing with some bagels). I gave it a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Lynne of Honey Muffin for a lovely seasonal choice. You can find the recipe on her site and visit the TWD site for more cake.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TWD: Tarte Fine

Tuesdays With Dorie is kicking off the fall baking season in style with Tarte Fine. From the name, I had no idea what kind of confection this was, and was happy that it is a lovely French apple tart. I didn’t get around to making this until last night and I wasn’t feeling that great. Luckily, this must be one of the very simplest recipes in the book: it only has a few ingredients, and since the base is made out of frozen puff pastry, there is very little to do other than slice apples. And I delegated the task of slicing apples to Josh (though I did peel them). He gave me a mandoline as a gift, but I get sort of nervous using it ‘cos I managed to slice my finger the first time I used it. He enjoys using it, though, so it really is a gift that keeps giving.

I made the version of the cake from the “playing around” section of the recipe, which involves adding more butter (since there’s not enough in the puff pastry) and sugar to the tart. Dorie advises to eat the tart within an hour of baking, but word on the Problems & Questions section had it that the tart was fine the next day, which worked out well since it wasn’t done until after ten last night. Josh took a couple pieces with him to work for breakfast/snack and he said it was gone before noon.

This recipe gets an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 1.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 5.66. A big thank you to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for a fantastic selection – I’m sure I’ll be making this one again. Leslie is a witty writer and it’s always fun to see what she’s up to in the kitchen; her post on the Tarte Fine is no exception. To see what the other bakers thought of this treat, visit the TWD site.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SMS: Plum Raspberry Preserves

I am delighted to be hosting Sweet Melissa Sundays today; the recipe I selected is Plum Raspberry Preserves. I typically don’t get around to writing my post until about 10 PM on Sunday night (often because I haven’t baked the recipe until that day), but since this is my week to host, I thought I’d try to demonstrate a modicum of organization and have my post in order for others to link the recipe. It also doesn’t hurt that I made the recipe several weeks ago and that I selected preserves last time I hosted, so most of the recipe is already typed up.

I always think it’s fun to read about how people come to a decision when presented with the overwhelming task of selecting a recipe. I was actually a little worried about choosing a recipe with summer fruit when the posting date was at the end of September, but I like making preserves (and most things with fruit). There were still four preserve recipes left and we won’t make it to summer again before we’re done baking through the book, so I figured I’d go with it. The preserve recipe in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book is trouble-free – you really just have to chop up some fruit and let it cook. There is no pectin in this preserve recipe, just apples, and I felt like I had to mash the apples a bit (and therefore the rest of the fruit) in order to not have big chunks of apples. I think the consistency of the preserves was fine, though, and they tasted excellent.

I canned six jars of the preserves, plus there was a Tupperware container left over. One of the things I enjoyed about choosing preserves last year was seeing how everyone used them. People definitely thought beyond toast. So far I have given some away and made bar cookies. I used the preserves in my favorite raspberries bars (recipe here) when I first made the preserves, then I made Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars from The Craft of Baking a couple days ago, which are the bars pictured in this post. Though they do contain oats and nuts, I really think they show greater resemblance to a cookie than a granola bar, don’t you? Whichever, they are fantastic, very easy to put together, and would be excellent with most any jam or preserves you happen to have on hand. Since I didn’t have to type the preserve recipe, I am also including the one for the bars.

The preserves rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. Thanks to all the Sweet Melissa members who preserved along with me this week. Be sure to stop by the Sweet Melissa site to see how the others used the preserves.

Master Preserve Recipe, from page 165 - 166 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Printable Recipe

8 cups peel and sliced ripe fresh fruit of your choice (2 dry quarts)
2 cups peeled and cubed Granny Smith apples (2 to 3 apples cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces)
2 cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon and/or orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated citrus zest

In an 8-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit, apples, sugar, juice, and zest. Cook, until the mixture reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, stirring often to prevent scorching. You may mash the fruit slightly with a potato masher, if necessary. Once the preserves have reached 212 degrees, continue to cook for 30 minutes more, stirring often, until thick. You can check the consistency by placing a dollop on a plate and setting it in the freezer until just cool. If it is runny, continue cooking; if it is thick, you’re good to go.

Can the fruit in clean canning jars as directed by the manufacturer, or cool to room temperature, tightly cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 6 months.

Plum Raspberry Preserves
Use 1 ½ quarts (six cups) unpeeled sliced plums and 2 cups raspberries. Use lemon juice and orange zest.

Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars, from The Craft of Baking
Printable Recipe

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raspberry preserves (or plum raspberry)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden and fragrant, about five minutes. Cool the sheet completely on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and pecans. Pour in the melted butter, and using a wooden spoon, mix together until well combined. Transfer about two thirds of the dough to the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan, forming a firmly packed layer.

Using an offset or rubber spatula, spread the preserves over the dough. Evenly sprinkle the remaining dough over the preserves. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the top is golden brown and fragrant, about forty minutes (mine took more like forty-five minutes). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Then cut into two-inch squares.

The bars can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TWD: Coffee Break Muffins

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Coffee-Break Muffins, was actually the very first thing I made from Baking, over two years ago. I remember being anxious to start making things from the book and wanting to make something I had all the ingredients on hand for, but was also not just your basic muffin or cookie. I drink quite a bit of coffee and luckily Josh does too. On one of our early dates, we were going to a concert and when Josh picked me up, he brought me a cup of coffee, since it was going to be kind of a late night for a weeknight. I was charmed with the gesture and pleased to learn he understood the importance of coffee early in our relationship. Suffice to say, these muffins were a big hit both times I made them. I don’t know why it took me two years to get to this simple and delicious treat the second time.

I jazzed the muffins up a bit with some toffee chips and some milk crumbs, which were leftover from another recipe I made last weekend and seemed like an appropriate addition (though we actually are black coffee drinkers in this household). This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous for a yummy selection. You should be able find the recipe on Rhiani’s site and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers thought of these goodies.