Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream

This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection is Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream. I was a little nervous about how I was going to market this one since Josh doesn’t really care for eggnog. Since it didn’t involve a buying a carton of eggnog, I thought maybe I could get away with just calling it a spiced buttercream (and bringing it to my family if he didn’t end up liking it). I ended up telling him what it was, though, and he ended up liking the buttercream, which is good, since due to stormy weather conditions and my family living an hour away, I am not shopping with my mom and sister today as I had planned. :( Josh informed me he would be glued to the TV until 1 PM, but would then go shopping with me once it has been determined if he has won his fantasy football league’s super bowl. I can’t face the holiday crowds alone! 

For those of you who are not in the baking group, the reason the buttercream looks so speckled is because there is cinnamon in nutmeg in it, not because I am an extremely messy froster and got a ton of crumbs in it, though admittedly there are probably a few. I made a half recipe of the cake in six-inch cake pans, and two thirds of the buttercream recipe. I once ran out of frosting when I halved the recipe, so ever since then I always make at least two thirds or even the whole recipe to eliminate potential frustration. I find frosting cakes challenging enough as it is. 

This would be a superb dessert for Christmas dinner: not too fussy and very festive, not to mention delicious. I need to bring a dessert to my extended family’s holiday gathering on Christmas, so this selection was a week early in terms of the baking group schedule. The recipe can be found here on the group website and be sure to check out what the other bakers thought of this cake.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Spicy Brownies

I am not the best about planning ahead with the recipes for Baked Sunday Mornings.  Josh's office had a holiday cookie exchange earlier this week.  After much deliberation, I made these Speculoos Buttons, which were on the cover the December issue of Bon Appetit.  However, after baking this week's Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Spicy Brownies, on Saturday, I realized they would have been a perfectly acceptable treat for the cookie exchange.  The good news, though?  They were both excellent recipes!  I would definitely make the speculoos again (and probably will before the holiday season is over) and we loved the brownies.

I have made the famous Baked Brownies from the first book numerous times, and think they are pretty much my ideal brownie:  fudgy, but not gooey and perfectly proportioned in terms of sugar, butter, and chocolate.  Not to mention they do not have any annoying fussy steps and do not get many dishes dirty.  The spicy version is a fun twist and I am also looking forward to trying the peanut butter variation.  I made a half recipe in an 8x8 pan, which took 25 minutes to bake rather than the 30 recommended for the 9x13 pan.  I also omitted both kinds of ginger that were in the recipe because I am not big on the chocolate/ginger combination.  We had the brownies warm with vanilla ice cream last night, which was fabulous of course.  I do have to say that when I sampled one today, I thought it was even better,  since the spices had a chance to settle.

To see how the rest of the group fared, please visit the Baked Sunday Mornings site, where you will also be able to find the recipe.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting

I’ve only been baking with the Baked Sunday Mornings Group for a short time, but this week marks the group’s two year anniversary and we’re celebrating with cake - Pumpkin Almond Cake with Almond Butter Frosting.  I made myself wait until October 1 to begin baking with pumpkin and have managed to make a prodigious amount of pumpkin treats in less than two months.  I finished the end of a can of pumpkin with this cake and think it might be a good time to take a break from pumpkin goodies for at least a week or two.  That being said, this is a fantastic cake to end the pumpkin binge with.

I made a half recipe of the cake in a six-inch cake pan, with enough leftover batter for a tester ramekin.  I wasn’t sure about using almond butter in the frosting, probably because I usually buy chunky almond butter (I thought smooth would be better for this recipe so that’s what I bought), and ended up thinking it was wonderful.  I loved that it was a little more salty than the average buttercream.  I had initially thought I might add some almond extract to amp up the almond flavor, which it did not end up needing at all.  I am happy to have found a new kind of frosting I like so much!

I realized that Eloise has not made an appearance since I started blogging again, so this marks the return of Monster Cuisine.  We just got this mat to go below the sink in the kitchen and she thought it was a new pad for her.  You know, since of course we want a food-obsessed Weimaraner as close and comfortable to us as possible while we are cooking!

Anyway, if you would like a delicious cake recipe, head on over to the Baked Sunday Mornings site.  You can also see if the other bakers enjoyed it as much as I did by viewing the bakers’ links.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Baked Cheese Grits

I missed Baked Sunday Mornings last week because we were busy painting the upstairs of our house and packing things up, which allowed for little recreational time over the weekend. (Also, the recipe was very coconut-heavy, so I knew my husband wouldn’t it eat it and that definitely decreased my motivation to fit it in.) We have entered the stage of the home improvement project that we are not doing ourselves. I optimistically thought that it would be completed in the two day estimate we were provided with, and that as of Saturday evening, we would be putting the house back together and preparing for Thanksgiving. Clearly I am new to home renovations projects (I mean, other than the many hours of HGTV I’ve watched) because after two days, the project is only about a quarter completed, most of our possessions (including a lot of our furniture) are packed away, we can only use about half of our house, and I am taking photos from my iPhone. Luckily, at the moment, the useable half of the house does include the kitchen and I was able to make this Sunday’s selection, Baked Cheese Grits. 

I remember seeing grits mentioned in books occasionally when I was a kid and just assuming they were something with an unpleasant gritty texture. As a Californian, they are definitely not regular part of my diet or even on restaurant menus all that often (at least at places where I eat). I do make this recipe for Buttery Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil Fried Eggs on a regular basis for dinner during the cold months, which can also be made with grits. I made the cheese grits exactly as instructed in the book, and instead of having it for breakfast today, I plan to reheat it and serve it with fried eggs and greens per my usual polenta recipe later in the week. After coming home to a chaotic house, it will be nice to have dinner over halfway done some weeknight. And I keep reminding myself that it’s just a few days of living in dishevelment and that our home will be beautiful forever. 

To get the recipe for Baked Cheese Grits and to see how the rest of the group fared, head on over to the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Buttermilk Pie (with a a hint of Maple Syrup)

This week the Baked Sunday Mornings group made Buttermilk Pie (with a hint of Maple Syrup). I was not familiar with buttermilk pies until a couple years back when I made a lemon buttermilk pie with another baking group. Custardy pies are not usually a favorite around here, but we enjoyed the buttermilk pie before, so I was looking forward to this one. Even so, I decided that it might be good to scale it back in size, as pies do lose their appeal after a few days and there are just two of us. During previous holiday seasons – and seriously, I guess it is that time – Crate and Barrel sold some cute six-inch ceramic pie plates. I went in search of them, but they do not seem to be available this year. Luckily I happened upon one at a different store, making it easy to cut the recipe in half. And yes, I am acutely aware, particularly this week, that I am fortunate that these are the types of “problems” I have. 

This was my first time making the pie dough from any of the Baked books. I usually make it by hand rather than in the processor and the processor made this dough appear smoother than my dough generally looks (I just hope it wasn’t overworked). I have yet to actually try the pie, so I have yet to assess if it turned out. I did make a little tester ramekin of the filling and loved it. I think this pie would be wonderful with any kind of fruit, from berries to spiced baked pears. 

The recipe notes do acknowledge that this pie is not very pretty and I have to say I found it hard to photograph, as there is not much contrast. To see how the other bakers’ pies turned out, please visit the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle

 It’s been years since I’ve been in school, but I still manage to have anxiety dreams about not knowing I was enrolled in a class and not having my homework done for the class every now and again. I had one last night, which may or may not have had to do with getting this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings post up. You see, last week I managed to make the recipe, but then due to various factors, did not get around to posting. However, even though I did not pre-write my post ahead of time, this is the first Sunday morning in weeks that I haven’t had a long run or a race on my agenda, therefore; barring any computer problems, which are entirely possible these days,I would have plenty of time to write about this week’s selection, Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle. (And there are my Joe Froggers from last week below.) 

 I hadn’t made any sort of brittle in a long time and thought making candy was a fun selection for Halloween week. As I was patiently waiting for my sugar mixture to become “almost clear,” I decided to look at the group’s website to see if any of the other bakers had perhaps mentioned how long this might take, as it seemed to be taking a while. I decided to just push up the heat a little, since low on my stove is really low. I also decided to break out the candy thermometer to make sure the sugar got to 300 degrees, which took eight minutes after the butter melting, which is how long the recipe said it would take. I just get way too nervous about burning caramel, so I like to have the extra insurance of the thermometer rather than just visual cues. 

I thought the brittle was excellent. I had thought the total amount of salt in the recipe seemed high, but it ended up being perfect. In addition to the cinnamon, I added a pinch of cardamom, and think it perhaps could have done with a bit more spice. I am more inclined to snack on treats of the nutty/seedy variety than Josh is, so I am thinking the majority of this brittle will probably need be taken to one of our offices tomorrow. You can see how the rest of the group fared with this treat by checking out the other bakers’ links on the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: atmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

Over the past five years I have run numerous road races. There have been a few that have been not so great (usually involving hilly streets in in San Francisco), many that I have enjoyed and/or learned something from, and one particularly spectacular day in 2010 that involved completing a marathon and a proposal. There are a few common factors that pretty much all races I run have: Josh is with me, Rihanna is on the playlist, and I eat a Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch Clif Bar before the race. This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones, is basically the awesome pastry version of my pre-race fuel of choice, so naturally I felt pre-disposed to like it. 

These scones did not disappoint. I mean, seriously, peanut butter and chocolate chips for breakfast? No complaints here. Other than the chocolate chips, there really was not an excessive amount of sugar in the recipe - I have definitely made more decadent scones. I gave one to Josh warm out of the oven and he pronounced it “ridiculously good.”  (And went on to have a second shortly thereafter.)  I had made some healthy-ish muffins for his breakfasts last week, and he ate them, but these are definitely a step up in the breakfast department. 

You can find the recipe here on the Baked Sunday Mornings website and check the other bakers’ links here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum (Vanilla) Frosting

I tend to be a very indecisive person. Sure, this is fine for major decisions, but my husband frequently has to remind me that cookbooks I am buying will not be the last I ever purchase when it takes me five days to place an Amazon order or that I will have another treat tomorrow when I agonize over whether I want a cookie or an ice cream cone. Yesterday morning I was having a hard time deciding what to make for dinner that night (it had to be good - I always make something nice on Saturday, not to mention it was the first night of National League baseball playoffs). The upside to last night’s meal? I knew no matter what I made for dinner,* we would have a fabulous dessert, as I had already made this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection, Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake with Caramel Rum (Vanilla) Frosting, from Baked Explorations

Bundt cakes are naturally beautiful, as you make them in a pretty pan, and rarely have more than a light glaze or dusting of powdered sugar to decorate them. This one had both a generous layer of frosting and a garnish, which borders on being a little gaudy and over-the-top sugary (I am trying not to think about how much sugar was involved - let’s just say it’s a good thing we buy ten-pound bags of it at Costco), but it works in both aesthetics and flavor. The cake in the book is very dark, which made me worry I didn’t cook my caramel mixture long enough. I was happy when I bit into it and tasted a nice carmelly cake with a nice sturdy crumb, rather than just a plain sugary cake. I almost wonder if the cake in the book was made with brown sugar. 

Two weeks in and we are very pleased with the selections for this group! You can find the recipe and see how the other bakers fared on the Baked Sunday Mornings site.

*Dinner ended up being exceptionally good, too, meaning the only disappointing part of the evening was the Giants losing. I made Pork Shoulder Ragu with Papparedelle, from Dinner: a Love Story (DALS), which is quickly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks and has generated a handful of go-to recipes in the past few months. You can find the recipe for the pork ragu on the DALS website, here.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

Well. I certainly didn’t intend to post one recipe for Tuesdays With Dorie 2.0 and then stop posting for 8(!) months. I won’t bore you with a litany of excuses; the blog just got low on my priority list and I just decided that it wasn’t worth stressing myself out about something that was supposed to be fun. Yeah, I managed to get stressed out about a baking group. Every now and then I would mention I wanted to start doing it again and my husband would always encourage me to join another group - you know, since I had enjoyed doing it before, not at all because he wanted yummy treats. 

Anyway, I recently saw a blog post pop up in my Google Reader with a recipe for the Baked Sunday Mornings group and, having recently purchased Baked Elements, felt inspired to dust off the blog. This week the selection was Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels. I am proficient at making yeast doughs, but Josh is much better than me at shaping dough (which we found out on the rare occasions I make garlic knots), so I enlisted his help and made this recipe a team effort. I did parcel out the dough for him in eight equal portions. He asked how I knew if the were all the same size and I told him him I weighed them. At which point he obviously realized who he was talking to (his very meticulous wife) and said, “of course you did.” As Josh was shaping the pretzels and I was preparing the baking soda bath to boil them, I remembered why I like being in a baking group so much. I have been baking on a regular basis, and though there has been the occasional batch of sticky buns or interesting treats, I admit that I have defaulted more to the cookie/fruit crumble spectrum of baking. 

It is fun to be back trying new things. I think pretzels are delicious, and not surprisingly, ones brushed with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar are even better. The one downside is the recipe’s disclaimer that they are best consumed within twelve hours. We are doing our best, though, and it is a slightly healthier endeavor than the one time I fried doughnuts at home and “forced” Josh to eat about eight chocolate doughnuts in twenty-four hours. (Above is a picture of the doughnuts, which I made two Octobers ago and never wrote about.) 

If you are interested in a great pretzel recipe and seeing more about Baked Sunday Mornings, you can check out the group’s website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWD/BWJ: White Loaves

Tuesdays with Dorie are back and this time we're Baking with Julia! I had this somewhat delusional idea that this time around I would totally be organized; baking and preparing my post ahead of time. Naturally I didn’t get around to baking this week’s recipe, White Loaves, until this past weekend. Then my plans to write my post ahead of time also got derailed due to working late last night and being too tired once I got home, so here I am on Tuesday night, finally getting my post up and happy to be here. I’m excited for the new challenge (there are some complicated looking recipes in the new book) and reading about everyone’s experiences - apparently there are over 300 bakers.

I find the most difficult part of baking basic yeast breads is planning the time for multiple rises without the bread taking over your entire day. I solved this by putting the bread in the refrigerator after shaping the loaves on Saturday evening. I was planning on letting them rise in the morning, but they actually got rather billowy in the refrigerator so I didn’t have to wait long (I let them sit out around half an hour to take the chill off) to bake them. I followed the recipe exactly as written, though I used about an ounce and a half less flour than the recipe called for. I loved the tip in the book of removing the loaves from the pan for the last ten minutes of baking - it gave the bread wonderful crust.

I didn’t find this bread difficult to make, so I am rating it a 3.5 for Effort and Josh rated it an 8.5 for Deliciousness, for an EDR of 2.42. Thank you to our hostesses, Laurie of Slush and Jules of Someone’s in the Kitchen for getting the group off to a great start; you can find the recipe here. To see how the other bakers fared, click over to the TWD site.