Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

When I saw the name of this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Chockablock Cookies, I immediately assumed they were a chocolate-based cookie packed with goodies. They aren’t so much a chocolate-based cookie but an anything or everything you want cookie, as the recipe gives a loose guideline of the fruits and nuts to use - plus chocolate, oats, and coconut. Honestly, I think the best part about these cookies will be seeing what kind of variations the fabulously talented bakers of Tuesdays With Dorie came up with. Not to say they aren’t good cookies, at least the few bites I’ve had (I didn’t make them until last night due to the backlog of treats. Not procrastination). Plus some dough, it was really good cookie dough. My mix consisted of chopped up dark chocolate, dried cherries, and walnuts. I skipped the coconut since Josh doesn’t like it. The recipe calls for molasses, but I used Lyle’s Golden Syrup for the liquid gooey binder instead. I like molasses, but I also like to entertain myself by trying out new ingredients – very exciting, I know.

Josh brought a stash of cookies to work with him today and reported that they rated a 7.5 for Deliciousness. I gave them 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet for a fun selection. You can find the recipe here on Mary’s site and click here to see more cookies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

SMS: Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie. Every week I tell myself that I’m going to write my post on Sunday morning; then pretty much every single week I find myself procrastinating writing it at 10:00 PM, just under the wire. Today is super-busy, though, so I must do it now while I have window of time. In addition to our usual Sunday long run,* Josh and I attended a brunch in the East Bay and we celebrating our third anniversary (of dating) at our favorite restaurant tonight. Yesterday was a quiet, relaxing Saturday – a great day to spend some time in the kitchen and make a pie. It was also an absolutely glorious spring day (and today looks like it will be one, too), so it felt appropriate to be making a recipe filled with lovely seasonal produce. I don’t think I was alone in my excitement over nice strawberries being in season: when I tried to buy them at the Farmer’s Market on Thursday, only empty boxes remained (I went kind of late). Fortunately, Whole Foods was flush with them.

Since fruit pies don’t keep very well, I made a half recipe and baked two mini-pies. I was worried about the cobbler biscuits burning since they were quite small, so I added them after the pies had been in the oven for about fifteen minutes. I used Melissa’s all-butter pie dough, which, now having made twice, I think is an excellent recipe: it comes together (I use a hand pastry blender) and rolls very well, not to mention it is buttery and delicious. I had never made anything with rhubarb before I received some in my CSA box last year, and though it’s not an ingredient I will necessarily gravitate towards, I have enjoyed both times I’ve baked with it. Which is good, because I bought too much for the pie and need ti us it up. The one problem I had with this recipe is the liquid from the pie oozed all over the place! Check out how nice and neat it is before:

And after:

Oh, well, it was still some darn good pie. Melissa suggests pairing the pie with her Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream for “pure heaven.” Oh, Melissa – if you insist. The ice cream was selected by Karen last July and I have made it a number of times since then, so obviously it doesn’t take much coaxing to get me to make it, especially when there’s the promise of pure heaven!

This recipe rated a 9 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.25. Many thanks to our hostess, my blogging buddy Tracey of Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. In addition to her being a super-nice person and excellent baker (I’m lucky enough to have sampled her baked goods through Secret Baker), one of the things I really enjoy about Tracey’s blog is you can tell she learns a lot in the kitchen and is great at breaking down recipes and conveying the information to her readers. She even got me over my fear of making croissants. You can find the recipe here on Tracey's site and visit the SMS blogroll for more pie.

*I mentioned a while ago that I was going to start training for a marathon, and I’m doing it! Barring any injuries, I will be running the Seattle Rock 'N' Roll Marathon on June 26th. This means that a chunk of time each Sunday is devoted to a long run. Luckily today is a “short” long run and I only have to do eleven miles (as opposed to fifteen last Sunday and seventeen next Sunday), so I won’t be too exhausted for our dinner.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Sweet Cream Biscuits. I think this is probably the most “rustic-looking” baked good I’ve ever featured on this site. Last week when I was reminiscing about life before a food blog, I forgot to mention that pre-blog it didn’t really matter what my baked goods looked like, just that they tasted good – and these biscuits tasted great, nice and light! It still shouldn’t matter, but sometimes my vanity gets the better of me and, let’s face it, this biscuits are a little scrappy. I was nervous about overworking the dough and tried to keep as light of a touch as possible; I think I erred on the side of under mixing the dough. Oh well, I will know next time. They did rise. I had initially been anxious to make these to serve with a dinner, simply for the novelty that we weren’t baking something sweet, but I ended up serving them with eggs for breakfast and they were delicious then, especially slathered with butter and honey. I had two and it took a lot of restraint to not go back for a third, and luckily Josh finished the leftovers within 24 hours (it was only a half batch), so I didn’t get too tempted to snack on them.

This recipe rated a 7.5 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3. Our hostess this week is Melissa of Love at First Bite; Melissa’s posts are always upbeat and fun to read and her treats always look terrific. You can find the recipe here and click here to see what the other bakers thought of these biscuits.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

SMS; Sweet Potato Bread with Cinnamon-Rum-Orange Glaze

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Sweet Potato Bread with Cinnamon-Rum-Orange Glaze. The flavors in this recipe say fall to me, but luckily there were not difficult-to-find season-specific ones. And really, when a treat smells as splendid as this one did while baking, who cares what season it is? I planned to make a half recipe in my six-cup Bundt pan, which probably would have worked fine, but I was afraid it would be a little flat, so I upped it to three-quarters of a recipe, which amply filled the pan and made for a nice high cake.

Other than that, I made just a couple minor modifications. I roasted a sweet potato and mashed it up rather than the recommended canned sweet potatoes. I replaced a third of the flour with whole wheat rather than all-purpose and reduced the sugar by half a cup (one quarter of the sugar I used was brown sugar, which seemed to be appropriate with the sweet potatoes and spices). For three-quarters of the recipe it would have been a cup and a half of sugar, which seemed like quite a bit, especially considering I made this “bread” for breakfast.

The bread turned out very flavorful and moist, almost like a steamed pudding. I thought it was quite good. I often omit raisins from recipes, but I actually think they’d be excellent in this. I rated this treat a 7.5 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets for a great pick and also for starting this fun group over a year ago. I can't believe we are over halfway through the book! You can find the recipe here on Lorelei’s site and visit the SMS blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of this bread.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Swedish Visiting Cake, brings me back to a simpler time. A time before I was a member of two baking groups, owned stacks of cookbooks, subscribed to a number of cooking magazines, and read dozen of food blogs. You see, I’ve always enjoyed baking, but my recipe repertoire used to be a lot smaller, and one of the things I made was a nice little almond cake. A friend of mine had made the cake and I loved it: it had a deep almond flavor and a nice chew, reminiscent of marzipan. Anyway, of course I requested the recipe, and it turned out to be from the package of Safeway brand almond extract – no fancy ingredients like marzipan involved! It’s been a few years since I’ve made that cake, but obviously I remember it well, and this one was delightfully similar.

Dorie says it’s called a “visiting cake” because you can begin making it when you see people up the road and have it (nearly) ready by the time you sit down to coffee. I think it works as a visiting cake on another level too: the ingredients are simple enough that if you happen to be visiting someone who is not much of a baker, you could probably still cobble together the ingredients and a pan to bake it in (no leveners and you can bake it in almost anything!) . And then that friend or relative would want to start baking, because this cake proves that you do not need gourmet ingredients or tons of time to make a spectacular cake.

We rated this cake an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR 4.25. Many thanks to the inimitable Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs for an excellent selection. Nancy takes impeccable recipe notes and imparts the details in her posts, which are always a pleasure to read, both on her regular site and also her yeast baking site, The Corner Loaf. You can find the recipe here on Nancy’s site and visit the TWD blogroll to see what the rest of the bakers thought of this cake.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Malted Layer Cake

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Chocolate Malted Layer Cake. I love malt-flavored treats and have many fond memories of eating them when I was small: malt balls from the bulk section of the health food store, Chocolate Malted Crunch ice cream from Thrifty Drug Store (25 cent cones!), Carnation frozen chocolate malts, milkshakes – you name it, I liked it! More recently I’ve been indulging in Ciao Bella’s Malted Milk Ball Gelato, which is awesome. Suffice to say, I was excited to see this cake appear on the SMS schedule. However, I was a little on the fence about the chocolate frosting. I think when I’d seen the name of the recipe, I was hoping that the icing would be more malt than chocolate (an entire pound!). I debated using another frosting, but I decided that in the spirit of the group, I should use the recipe in the book. I mean, we’ve already baked the devil’s food cake portion (which is a great basic chocolate cake to have in your arsenal) of the recipe a couple of other times, so it wouldn’t really be like a new Sweet Melissa recipe if I made a different frosting.

The bad news: my instinct was correct and the frosting was a bit too chocolaty for my liking. The recipe did call for milk chocolate, which I never buy since generally we don’t like it, and I used semisweet, so the darker chocolate could have put the chocolaty-ness over the top. The good news: Josh, who isn’t as crazy about malt-flavored concoctions, loved the cake. I had been slightly worried that this might actually be a dessert he didn’t like (he doesn’t eat the malt ball gelato and typically if there are pints of ice cream in the freezer, they disappear fast), so it all worked out. It’s much better if he consumes more of the decadent treats around here! I wish my dad lived closer and I could give him some of the cake, because I know this would be one he’d love too.

I thought this was a fun cake to make. In addition to being rich, the icing was very gooey to work with and I felt that it was kind of hard to slather on the sides of the cake (though by the time I was finishing up frosting the cake, it had thickened a bit). We actually had a blackout while I was frosting the cake, but luckily it was during the day and I was almost done. Josh rated the cake a 9 for Deliciousness, but I think I’m going to go with an 8 and a 4.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.77. Many thanks to Nicole of Sweet Tooth for selecting this wonderful cake and also for giving me an excuse to purchase malt powder and malt balls (I only made a half recipe, so I have some left to make other treats). You can find the recipe on Nicole’s site and visit the SMS blogroll to see what the rest of the bakers thought of the cake.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TWD: Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake. I’ve mentioned before that I love making Bundt cakes, since they come out of the pan looking pretty and there is no need to fuss around with frosting them (I am not the most patient cake decorator). Unfortunately, this was probably the least attractive Bundt cake I’ve ever made. I had never marbled anything before and my amateur marbling skills led to a very dull and blotchy exterior on the cake. Josh is usually a lot more optimistic when I’m not impressed with the outcome of my baked goods, but he even admitted it didn’t look very good. The solution? Coat it in chocolate. We were allowed to post either this or the coconut cake last week, and I had seen an enticing photo of the Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake coated in a chocolate glaze on A Singleton in the Kitchen, so I poached the idea and made Dorie’s chocolate ganache glaze (these photos were taken the following morning after the glaze had set).

This was a superb cake. It has four flavor components: chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and walnut, and I loved how you could taste them all. The chocolate and vanilla flavors were strong, and I appreciated having the subtle hint of walnut and coffee in the background (they too often get lost). We had a lot of other treats around the house for Easter this weekend, so after a small sample, I sent it off to work with Josh. The first time I sent baked goods to the office with him he asked what he should do if there were leftovers. I assured him that would not be a problem. I mean, if I happen upon treats when I go to get my mid-morning cup of coffee, I find it nearly impossible to resist them (in fact, I consider it a huge triumph if I do) and I’m sure most people feel the same way. Anyway, at 11:30 AM on Monday he sent me an email saying the Bundt cake was gone, even competing with a big basket of Portuguese sweet bread.

This cake received an 8 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort (that marbling stressed me out and there were too many dishes), for an EDR of 2. Many thanks to Erin of When in Doubt...Leave it at 350 for a great choice. You can find the recipe here on Erin’s site and visit the TWD blogroll to see more cakes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

SMS: Pecan Shortbread Cookies

This week’s Sweet Melissa recipe is Pecan Shortbread Cookies, though when I handed Josh one to try he asked if they were Mexican Wedding Cookies, which Melissa also compares them to. Whatever you want to call them, they’re incredibly yummy and I ate more than I intended to. They’re small, so it’s easy to do. We tried them plain and they were tasty, but the powdered sugar coating really makes the cookie. It’s also a wonderfully quick recipe to make, all done in the food processor. The one downside? The cookies are kind of messy to eat and you can easily end up with powdered sugar down your shirt or cookie crumbs on the ground.

We rated the cookies an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Lara of The Lab for selecting this excellent recipe. You can find the recipe here on Lara’s site and visit the SMS blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of this treat.