Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TWD: Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie Treat is Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte. The past few TWD recipes have been fairly simple, homey and comforting ones prepared with mostly pantry staples, so it was about time we had a fancy dessert with a long ingredient list. I finally broke down and bought a bottle of Kirsch, which I had put off for a while since it’s kind of pricey. I read this post on David Lebovitz’s blog a while back where he lists it as one of his top five baking essentials and assures his readers that a little goes a long way. This was my second experience flambĂ©ing fruit and alcohol, and I’m happy that a package of long-stem matches appeared at my house since the last time, as it made the process a lot less nerve-racking knowing I wasn’t going to burn my hand or drop a match in the pan. I recommend having some in your kitchen (both Kirsch and long-stem matches).

This was a good dessert to divide up over a couple days; nothing is excessively laborious or complicated, but the brownie layer must cool before it is coated with the creamy mousse topping, which needs to set for another four hours. I baked a quarter recipe in two 4.5-inch springform pans, which probably took about 35 minutes to fully bake. The result was a gloriously dense fudgy brownie, laden with chunks of chocolate and tart cherries. The mousse topping was supposedly pourable but mine fell more in the spreadable spectrum of toppings. I don’t know if I overmixed or undermixed.

My boyfriend and had I disparate opinions on two torte-related issues this week. The first was the quantity to make. I told him I planned to make a quarter recipe, and he reminded me that there have been some weeks in the not so distant past where I’ve made small portions and we wanted more. But, aside from the fact I don’t own the proper-size pan for a half-batch, I could tell this one would be insanely rich and we would not need more than a quarter recipe, so that’s what I made. I told Josh if he really needed more dessert I’d make something else (and he’s still working on the torte). The second disagreement was the Deliciousness rating. I initially gave it an 8 and he rated it a 9.5, but then when I tried it the second night I thought it was absolutely divine, so the torte ended up with a 9 for Deliciousness. I gave it a 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.57.

Many thanks to April of Short + Rose for selecting this great dessert. You can find the recipe HERE on April’s site and see what the rest of the bakers thought by visiting the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

SMS: Devil’s Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays treat is Devil’s Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting, yum! Josh started a new job a couple months ago and I realized I had yet to send him to work with treats. They seem to be very enthusiastic about Halloween around his office, so I figured this week was the perfect opportunity for him to bring some goodies. I made cupcakes since, obviously, they are easier to share than a big layer cake. This recipe makes a lot of cake! I got twenty-four cupcakes, plus two ramekins (so we could sample today), and a six-inch cake, which I am freezing for later in the week when I don’t have time to bake. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, with the exception of diluting the coffee a bit with hot water. I remembered when the group made Melissa’s Brooklyn Brownout Cake that the coffee flavor was pretty aggressive, and since not everyone likes coffee, I didn’t want the chocolate to be overpowered. (On a semi-related note, I recently watched an episode of the Barefoot Contessa which featured flavor enhancers; she has people blind sample two versions of several different recipes and one of Ina’s flavor enhancers was coffee for chocolate cupcakes.)

I was happy for an excuse to finally try peanut butter frosting; I’ve seen it on a lot of blogs and it always sounds amazing. I did not use the version in the book, which had six sticks of butter, though. Once again, the Problems and Questions section of the Sweet Melissa site came in handy. Karen of Karen’s Cookies, Cakes, and More had posted an alternative recipe involving more peanut butter and less butter (two sticks). I’ve seen lots of beautiful cupcakes on Karen’s site, so I figured she was a good resource for frosting recipes and it was excellent. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I sampled, probably at least a cupcake’s worth, and I’m looking forward to making it again. The cupcakes were superb, too.

We rated this recipe a 9.5 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 3.5 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.71. Many thanks to Holly of PheMOMenon for selecting this cake and giving me a chance to finally try peanut butter frosting. You can find the recipe HERE on Holly’ site, plus lots of stunning photos and yummy recipes. Also, be sure to stop by the Sweet Melissa blogroll to see how the other bakers liked this cake. And thanks to the bakers last week who gave me tips on filling a pastry bag, this was my best frosting piping experience to date!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Sweet Potato Biscuits. The last time I combined sweet potatoes and flour, to make gnocchi, it was a big, bland mess (I guess that’s what I get for thinking I could make my own recipe), and so there was really nowhere to go but up. And it did! Biscuits have always been a baked good I could take or leave, but with the addition of sweet potato, nutmeg, and a little brown sugar they were fantastic! Not only were the biscuits tasty, they were super-quick and simple to make. I misread the instructions and cut my biscuits a little too thin, so they weren’t as puffy as they could be, but still tender and tasty. I used a fresh sweet potato rather than canned, since baking a sweet potato really isn’t that much work (poke holes, bake uncovered at 400 degrees for about forty-five minutes).

I am not a member of the group Craving Ellie in My Belly, but some of the blogs I read are. Last week I read some positive reviews of a Tuscan Vegetable Soup and decided to make it to eat with these biscuits, which was a great dinner. I’ve resisted joining more than two online food-related groups, but I have not been able to refrain from buying a number of cookbooks associated with the various groups; it’s a good thing at least one of them is full of healthy (and delicious) recipes! I definitely recommend Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life. You can find the recipe for the soup HERE on the Food Network site.

This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Erin from Prudence Pennywise for selecting these biscuits. You can find the recipe on Erin’s site and see what the other bakers thought by visiting the TWD blogroll.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SMS: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays treat is Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes. They’re kind of like a cupcake with the frosting in the middle rather than on top. Melissa is effusive with her praise in the recipe write-up; I also knew Josh would be seeing a lot of his friends this weekend and they always welcome baked goods, so I decided to go ahead and make a full batch. It really was more like cake batter than cookie dough, but the cookies baked up nicely. The recipe recommends piping the dough, but I can’t fill a pastry bag without making a huge sticky mess (If anyone has good tips, please let me know), so I made some with a medium cookie scoop and some with a small cookie scoop. I stuck with the recipe, but added some cloves and ginger in addition to the cinnamon and nutmeg to give them more of a pumpkin pie taste. Cream cheese frosting generally is not my favorite, but it seemed to be the appropriate pairing with these cookies and most people seem to love it, so I made it. (I did not mind the cream cheese icing on the cinnamon buns from last week, though, since the proportions of that one was a much higher sugar to frosting ratio than this recipe and I added a healthy dose of almond extract to the icing.)

As I put the cookies together, I realized they weren’t the best portable snacks and also wouldn’t do well if they ended up sitting in a car for a while, so they did not get sent off with Josh yesterday as initially planned. We were both planning on going to a brunch this morning and I figured I could bring the cookies to it. But yesterday afternoon I got word that it was cancelled, so I found myself with way too many pumpkin cookies for two people. We live in a townhouse complex and they are currently repaving and piping the area, and the construction workers were hard at work yesterday. Since the entire area is complete dirt piles and it rained earlier in the week, I’m sure I look cranky when they see me tromping through the mud to get in and out of my house, particularly when there’s a set of muddy paws to wipe down. I noticed the construction workers having lunch in front of my house and brought them a plate of cookies; hopefully they made working on a Saturday a little more bearable.

The result? I liked the cookies, but didn’t love them. I prefer them without the frosting, I think they would have been good with just a drizzle of glaze on top rather than in sandwich form. I thought these were a great seasonal choice and enjoyed making them - love the smell of fall seasonings, but all things being equal, there are a lot of other pumpkin treats I’d try before making these again – and I’m sure I will see dozens of pumpkin-centric recipes on blogs from now until Thanksgiving. (I made THESE yummy pumpkin pancakes with the leftover pumpkin this morning.) This recipe rated a 7 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 2.8. Many thanks to Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees for selecting this recipe. You can find the recipe HERE on Debbie’s site and see what the other bakers thought of these cakies by visiting the SMS blogroll.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie Treat is Allspice Crumb Muffins. I sometimes wonder how many recipes from Baking I would have tried if I hadn’t joined Tuesdays With Dorie just a couple months after purchasing the book. I’m pretty positive I would have made these muffins a long time ago if I didn’t have recipes preselected each week and that they would currently in heavy rotation in my household – you know, you find favorites and make them all the time. They’re quick to make, consist of pantry staples (though I did not have milk the night I originally intended to prepare them - oops), and I don’t think my boyfriend has ever met a crumb topping he didn’t like. What’s not to love? I made a half recipe, which yielded eight large muffins. Per Nancy’s suggestion on the Problems & Questions section, I used some whole wheat flour in both the muffins and the topping, and subbed in half nonfat plain yogurt for half the butter (I pretty much always do this with quickbreads and muffins, it works so well and doesn’t seem to compromise flavor). The whole wheat flavor was nice with the allspice and gave the muffins a nice sturdy crumb. I also couldn’t resist adding cinnamon to the topping and it was really yummy with both spices.

Kayte, our hostess for this week, almost always posts photos of her tasters, so in honor of her selection, I took photos of Josh (no more pseudonyms) eating a muffin. He loved them, in case you couldn’t tell.

I wasn’t intending on letting Eloise have any, but she drooled so much (yes, that’s drool on my table) that Josh let her have a few bites.

This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4 – excellent. Many thanks to Kayte of Grandma’s Kitchen Table for a fantastic recipe choice, I know I will be making these again. You can find the recipe HERE on Kayte’s site and visit the TWD blogroll to see what the other bakers thought of the muffins.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

SMS: Sticky Buns (and Cinnamon Rolls)

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays treat is Sticky Buns. There was also an alternative in the recipe to make cinnamon rolls; since I found it insanely difficult to decide between those two enticing options, I made both with one whole recipe of the dough. I had never made “real” cinnamon rolls before, just lots of cheater versions such as cinnamon roll muffins and non-yeast ones and this was the push I needed to make one of our favorite breakfast goodies. The last time the Sweet Melissa group made yeast buns, Bee Stings, I had a heck of a time with the dough, both in terms of stickiness and reluctance to rise. I am pleased to say this time, with the exception of the second rising period, I did not have nearly so much trouble. The recipe called for two and a half to two and three quarter cups flour, so I started out with the higher amount, figuring I could add even more if necessary, and my dough actually did not end up needing it. Thanks to the Sweet Melissa Problems & Questions section, I also remembered to warm the milk before making the dough.

After rising for a couple hours, the dough was very smooth and malleable, easily shaped into its rectangle, and rolled up nicely. The recipe calls for putting an egg wash on before the cinnamon sugar mixture, and it was very helpful in getting the cinnamon to stick. I made cinnamon bread a few weeks ago and I think I lost about half the cinnamon/sugar mixture when rolling, so it’s nice to find a way for it to stick. I was very impatient during the second rise this morning, but the soft buns drenched in the sweet buttery sauce were well worth the wait. The cinnamon rolls with almond-flavored cream cheese icing were delicious too. (I really consumed more than my fair share of carbs today.)

The sticky buns received a 9.5 for Deliciousness and the cinnamon rolls received an 8. I would give this recipe about a 4 for Effort, so it’s an EDR of 2.37/2. Many thanks to Jen of Not Microwave Safe for finally getting me to make cinnamon rolls. Jen is a student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, which is where my dad went to grad school in the seventies. My parents have shared many fond memories of food and friends from their time there, so it’s nice to know it’s still a good place to live and cook. You can find the recipe HERE on Jen’s site and see what the other bakers thought of the recipe by visiting the SMS blogroll.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

TWD: Split Level Pudding

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie treat is Split Level Pudding: one layer chocolate and the other vanilla. Actually, the book gives a variety of options for the top layer, but I chose to go with vanilla. This recipe was well-timed, as the chocolate layer is ganache and I had plenty left over from last week’s tart. The little Tupperware container full of ganache is the type of remnant I never want to throw away; I’ll tell my boyfriend I will use it for something else and then two or three weeks later, it will end up in the trash bin when I do a refrigerator purge. So I was really excited to actually use the yummy leftover chocolate. The ganache had solidified and seemed to be taking its sweet time to soften up on the counter, so I ended up microwaving it for fifteen seconds to make it more of a pudding consistency.

I made a third of the recipe of the vanilla pudding layer, mainly since the ingredients were easier to divide that way than by quarter. The recipe calls for using the food processor several times. I recalled disliking moving hot liquid in and out of the food processor the last time I used it to make pudding, so I used a whisk and it worked just fine and my pudding was nice and thick (not to mention the bonus of having fewer dishes to deal with, those food processor parts add up). Instead of using vanilla extract, I used a quarter of a vanilla bean, which I added to the milk and sugar mixture while it was heating.

I licked the spoon and decided that the vanilla layer was excellent on its own and the chocolate would be a disruption to its perfection. I went ahead and layered the pudding, though, and I’m glad I did because it was even better with the bittersweet chocolate. I gave the pudding an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Garrett of The Flavor of Vanilla for selecting this great recipe. You can find the recipe on Garrett’s site and see what the rest of group thought by visiting the TWD site.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

SMS: Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday treat is Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble. This recipe was posted several weeks ago and I knew I was going to be out of town for a wedding this weekend. However, I decided not to make it advance. Not because I’m a procrastinator (though I am), but because I couldn’t think of anything more comforting than having a homemade apple dessert after a weekend away and this recipe seemed simple enough to throw together. I even made buttermilk ice cream earlier in the week so it would be waiting to top the ice cream. (The buttermilk ice cream recipe can be found HERE on Smitten Kitchen. It’s excellent with pretty much any dessert, particularly warm fruity ones. I highly recommend it.)

Melissa suggests using four different types of apples, which I actually ended up doing since I’m indecisive and there was a very inviting selection of apple varieties at Whole Foods – yay Fall! I reduced the sugar in the apple mixture from a whole cup to half a cup, and upped the spice content in both the filling and the crumb topping. I used a pie pan and ended up with a bunch of extra apple filling, which I will turn into applesauce tomorrow. I can smell the crumble baking now and can’t wait to have it for dessert! I will try to update my post later with photos of the finished product and a recipe rating. Many thanks to Cristine of Cooking with Cristine for selecting what I’m sure will be a wonderful dessert. You can find the recipe on Cristine’s site soon and see what the other bakers thought of the crumble via the SMS blogroll.

UPDATE: We thought the crumble was fantastic! I thought the filling to crumble ratio was perfectly proportioned, and love how you get apple and the crunchy topping in every bite. This recipe rated a 9 for Deliciousness and 2.5 for Effort, giving it an EDR of 3.6.