Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TWD: Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

I think one of the best ways to measure the success of a treat is how quickly it disappears. Though Josh enjoys most things I bake, occasionally he will tell me he likes something I made, but then I’ll find myself having to remind him it’s around (and will he finish it, please, so I can bake something else?). I made this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, on Saturday morning and when I went to photograph them on Sunday afternoon, there was a sizable dent in the cookie jar – success! When I mentioned he must be enjoying them, Josh said they are “small guilt-free little cookies.” I don’t think most people would characterize chocolate shortbread cookies “guilt-free,” but I’m glad he likes them!

Dorie has a neat trick for this recipe: rolling the dough in a Ziploc bag! I was impressed with how evenly it rolled. I was not so impressed with my cutting abilities (it was Saturday morning and my coffee hadn’t kicked in); after a half-hearted attempt trying to cut the cookies neatly into squares per the instructions, I resorted to a cookie cutter. I don’t always like chopping up chocolate, but I thought these cookies deserved a nice chocolate bar and it was worth it. Since we were out of ice cream, I made a batch of Cacao Nib Gelato (recipe here) to go with the cookies, and it proved to be a divine combination.

This recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.2. Many thanks Donna of Life’s Too Short Not to Eat Dessert First for a yummy selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers thought.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TWD: Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart

I always forgot how much I like peaches until I eat them. I think that the fuzzy skin will bother me and they’ll be sloppy. When I bite into a peach at the height of the season, neither of those attributes bothers me anymore. I stocked up on peaches, not certain if I was going to make a full version or scale back this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Crunchy and Custardy Peach Tart. I ended up making only a quarter of the recipe and was happy to eat the leftovers. In fact, I went to the farmers’ market on my lunch break today and bought more. We’re finally getting some hot weather in the Bay Area and Josh couldn’t believe I went outside on my lunch break when I didn’t need to. I told him I am more than willing to sacrifice being cool for summer produce.

A quarter of the recipe fit nicely into two four-inch tart pans. I was pre-baking the tart shells in the oven, then went upstairs and did not hear the timer go off, so the tart shells were a bit darker than I would have liked, but fortunately not burned. Other than that, it was a nice and easy recipe. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the combination of custard with the peaches; I was happy to bite in and realize this tart is just perfectly balanced in terms of both flavors and texture. I like how the hint of almond brightens the flavors. And seriously? Streusel topping is pretty much always a good idea. It definitely reminds me of a treat you’d find in a fancy French bakery.

I rated this dessert a 7.5 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Rachel of sweet tart for hosting this week. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site for more tarts.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SMS: Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone Frosting (All-Homeade, Semi-Fail)

Sweet Melissa Sundays has had a nice variety of recipes for the month of August. This week’s selection is an absolutely delectable sounding layer cake, Sweet Almond Cake with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone Frosting. This is one of those recipes that would seem pretty time consuming and leave you with quite a heap of dirty dishes if you made all three components at the same time. I ended up dividing it over the course of the weekend. I started with the cake yesterday morning when I was busy with a couple other non-SMS kitchen projects and was considering buying a jar of lemon curd to save a bit of time (not just making it, but waiting for it to cool). Frugalness won out, though, and I made the lemon curd this morning.

I made a half recipe of the cake in my (favorite!) six-inch cake pans. The whole recipe used 12 egg whites, plus three whole eggs for the lemon curd. I made my half recipe of lemon curd with one whole and most of the two leftover yolks. I used the other four egg yolks to make some fantastic lemon gelato. So, cake? No Problem. Lemon Curd? Surprising simple. Now we get to the frosting, where somehow all went wrong. The recipe advises to mix the frosting until the ingredients are just incorporated and to not over-mix. Well, mine looked incredibly lumpy after that and very watery. I tried to “troubleshoot” and add more sugar, more butter, cream cheese (I was out of mascarpone at that point) – anything that might help get it to come together. The frosting started to look a bit better and I refrigerated it for about half an hour, hoping it would set. Unfortunately, it was still pretty watery and lumpy, but I went ahead and slathered it on.

Despite looking terrible, the frosting was sweet and tangy and a lovely complement to the almond cake, which was a scrumptious as I thought it would be. We rated this cake an 8 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.6. A big thank you to Katie of Katiecakes for giving us the opportunity to eat cake! You can find the recipe here on Katie’s lovely site visit the Sweet Melissa site to see if the other bakers had better luck with the frosting.

Lemon Gelato from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

Printable Recipe

2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

4 egg yolks
¼ cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
graham cracker crust pieces (optional)

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over a medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form. Around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees. Do not bring to a boil. (The recipe specifies to cook over low heat, but I felt the custard was taking a very long time to come to temperature that way, so I turned up the heat a bit.)

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool completely, stirring often. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least four hours or overnight.

Remove the custard from the refrigerator and gently whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the graham cracker crust crumbles five minutes before the churning is completed, if using. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

I was definitely interested when I saw the name of this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, since it sounds like an amalgamation of what Josh and I eat for breakfast. After much experimentation, I have decided oatmeal is the only breakfast that can get me through to lunch without snacking and eat it pretty much every weekday (I have had my hands full with granola this week, though)and Josh always eats some kind of carby breakfast treat or bread. I was expecting this to be a grainy, lightly-sweetened bread. Though there are delightful bites of chewy oats, the bread turned out to be more like a coffee cake speckled with chunks of dried fruit (I may have gone a little overboard on the dried fruit). No complaints, though, it’s absolutely delicious.

In the recipe notes, Dorie says this recipe was most likely developed in the eighties, when applesauce was often used in baked goods to replace much of the fat, and this recipe actually does not contain any butter(!) – just applesauce and canola oil. I am very impressed at how warm and rich-tasting this bread was, despite the lack of butter.

We rated this recipe a 7.5 for Deliciousness and I give it a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.75. Many thanks to Natalie of Oven Love for picking a fantastic recipe. You can find the recipe here on Natalie’s site and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers thought of this bread.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

SMS: Cherry Almond Granola

I remember one time when I was young smelling something absolutely incredible baking and I was positive my mom was making some delicious cookies. It turned out to be granola, and we were so disappointed that my mom actually did make some cookies. Luckily I have grown to like granola and was happy when Cherry Almond Granola was chosen for this week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday recipe. And it’s a good thing I like granola, ‘cos this recipe makes a TON.

Three nearly full eight-cup containers! Fortunately, granola lends well to sharing: I gave one container to Josh’s parents and I made Melissa’s Granola Breakfast Cookies to bring to work tomorrow. The group made the cookies a long time ago, but I used store-bought granola and added peanut butter, so I figured this was a good opportunity to make them properly. The cookies, as well as the granola, are outstanding. I think granola is a fun thing to make; once you have a good basic recipe, you can just go down the bulk food aisle and throw in whatever dried fruits and nuts strike your fancy. I actually like all the ingredients in Melissa’s original recipe, but I subbed dried apricots for golden raisins, since golden raisins + currants just seemed too raisiny for me.

In addition to being tasty, this is also such a simple recipe. You have to stir it every fifteen minutes, so it’s the perfect thing to bake on a lazy afternoon or when you have other kitchen projects. I rated the granola an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.2. Thanks to Wendy of Pink Stripes for an excellent selection. You can find the recipe here on Wendy’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see how the rest of the group fared this week.

Since we’re on the topic of granola, I must share something I saw in my local market recently: a $28.99 bag (24 ounces) of granola! It’s a local company and made with organic ingredients, but my goodness! It is a bit more reasonably priced on the company’s website.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte

It’s nice when you’re pleasantly surprised by a recipe (or anything, really) and this week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection, Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Torte, exceeded my expectations. The last chocolate-raspberry dessert I made was not a hit and usually when the word “truffle” is involved, I assume the dessert will be a bit rich for me. I liked this torte, though; the texture is kind of like a baked chocolate mousse and the bites of fresh raspberry hidden in the chocolate are a nice reminder that it is summer (when you live in a windy corner of Marin county, you definitely need to be reminded of the season on occasion).

Since I wasn’t sure we’d like the torte, I only made a quarter of the recipe in a 4-inch springform pan. Josh and I both gave it a thumbs up, though it’s probably not something that will go on my repeat list. Based on the few bites I took, I would give the torte a 7.5 for Deliciousness. It was very easy to throw together, so I’d give it a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3. Thanks to Jennifer of The Rookie Baker for hosting this week. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see what the rest of the group thought of this treat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TWD: Gingered Carrot Cookies

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Gingered Carrot Cookies, and after a slightly disappointing TWD recipe last week (for me anyway, most people seemed to like the blondies), I am happy to say I love these cookies! Josh pointed out that it’s rare that we chomp through baked goods at the same pace, but it’s happening with these cookies. Keeping up with his prodigious cookie consumption requires me to break my “no bringing baked goods to work” rule; these are worth it, though. And they have carrots, raisins, and nuts, so they’re kind of like having a granola bar as a snack, right?

After depriving myself of coconut with the last two TWD recipes, I added it to half of these cookies. I forgot to separate them when I put them in the cookie jar, but Josh said that “disgusting chewy shreds sticking out” distinguish my cookies from his. I halved the recipe with the exception of two ingredients: I used the full amount of ginger and fewer raisins, as I don’t like them in every bite. I soaked my raisins in a bit of rum to plump them up, and instead of draining the rum, I tossed it in (it was probably about a tablespoon) and it added a nice punch of flavor to these tender little cookies.

I rated these cookies a 9 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 3. A big thank you to Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina for an excellent selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site for more cookies.