Sunday, May 30, 2010

SMS Rewind: Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope everyone is enjoying the three-day weekend as much as we are around here. The holiday-free stretch between the middle of February and the end of May is just way too long for me. This week’s Sweet Melissa Sunday selection is Coconut Custard Pie, selected by Ruby of I Dream of Baking; the recipe can be found here on her site and you can stop by the Sweet Melissa blogroll for more pie. I apologize for not baking along with the group this week, but Tuesdays With Dorie also involved coconut and there’s only so much I can handle. Instead, I’m rewinding back to the Orange Blueberry Muffins with Pecan Crumble, chosen by Chaya of Sweet & Savory three weeks ago; the recipe can be found here. I actually baked, photographed, and consumed these muffins the week they were “assigned,” but then didn’t get around to posting them and if I don’t do it now I probably never will!

The group has made several of the muffin variations in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, and it has been well-documented amongst the group that although the flavor combinations are superb, the actual muffin base leaves a little to be desired. The words dense and dry have been thrown around a lot, which certainly aren’t the most inspiring adjectives for a muffin recipe. With just a few minor adjustments (namely more liquid), the muffins’ texture is fluffier and moister. I have mentioned many times that I often substitute nonfat (European style) yogurt for some of the butter in muffins and quick bread. I subbed a couple tablespoons in this half batch, and then added a couple more, plus some extra milk. I typically substitute small amounts of yogurt for butter when I feel that it will decrease the fat a bit, without sacrificing flavor or texture. However, I actually recently learned from Cook’s Illustrated magazine that yogurt assists in yielding attractive muffin tops.

We thought the blueberry orange combination was delicious, and what’s not to like about a crumble topping? I don’t know if this recipe will ever reach the top of my make-again pile, but they were a delightful spring breakfast treat. We rated the muffins a 7.5 for Deliciousness and I gave them a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie. Mine is better described as a Pineapple Coconut Sorbet Tart. I enjoy all the ingredients involved and I intended to make the recipe as specified, which involved blending ice cream, bananas, and rum for the filling, but for some reason I just wasn’t sold on the combination. I bought some coconut sorbet on sale at Whole Foods last week and decided to just scoop it on top of the crust with some pineapple. Hmm, I guess it wasn’t even much of a tart, more like a cookie topped with sorbet and fruit. Regardless, it ended up being a terrific combination. The coconut-shortbread crust is a brilliant creation.

I’ve given up trying to convince Josh to like coconut desserts, so I just made a mini for myself and didn’t even make him taste it. He is enjoying the leftover shortbread cookies, though. I gave this little tart an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort (since I only made one part), for an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Spike of Spike Bakes for an excellent selection. You can find the actual recipe here on Spike’s delightful blog and visit the TWD site to see the rest of the bakers’ creations.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SMS: Butterscotch Pralines

I’m happy to be back to Sweet Melissa Sundays with Butterscotch Pralines. Usually when a recipe involves cooking sugar, my post involves me going on about how nervous it makes me and how I always burn or undercook it. I am happy to say that I actually had no problems this time – hooray! I don’t know if was my new candy thermometer (after going through several, hopefully this one will work out) or my fearless attitude, but something worked. I do have a few tips for this recipe: 1) They say a watched pot never boils, but definitely keep your eye on the boiled sugar – I used a medium-size pot as suggested, and it nearly boiled over (what a sticky mess that would have been). 2) Make sure you soak the bowl with the candy mixture immediately after making the pralines. Do not eat dinner and watch “Top Chef,” then think you can just clean it up - no fun. 3) Definitely crumble some of the pralines over Melissa’s Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream, which she recommends. That ice cream is undoubtedly the recipe I have made most from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. So good.

Now for the rating. Often times I ask Josh for a Deliciousness rating right after I make something and he tries the treat. I have decided that’s not always the best method, as a fresh baked good (or piece of candy in this case) is always appealing. Sometimes he’ll give a high rating, but then treats won’t get eaten quickly and I’ll have to remind him they’re there. I made these on Wednesday night and asked for a review today: they received a 7.5, and they are steadily (not rapidly) disappearing, so it seems pretty accurate. I thought the pralines were tasty, but on the cloyingly sweet side. I think they would be spectacular layered on top of a buttery shortbread cookie, for a nice contrast of flavor and texture. I gave them a 3 for Effort, for an EDR 2.5.

Our hostess this week, Tessa of The Cookin’ Chemist, said she selected the recipe since they were quick and would be great on ice cream, which I think are awesome reasons to choose a recipe. I also think it’s awesome that the scientist chose a candy recipe. You can find the recipe here on Tessa’s site and visit the SMS blogroll to see how these worked out for the rest of the group.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TWD: Apple-Apple Bread Pudding

After taking a somewhat unintentional week off from Tuesdays With Dorie last week (and two weeks of Sweet Melissa Sundays), I am back with this week’s selection, Apple-Apple Bread Pudding – and hopefully back-on-track. Bread pudding is one of those desserts I really enjoy, but I find about once every six months is about the appropriate frequency to eat it. The other times I’ve made bread pudding, I’ve baked small portions in ramekins. I had a feeling Josh would have no trouble eating copious amounts of apple bread pudding (with a little help from me, of course), so I made a half recipe in a 10x7 pan. I made the full amount of apples, though, for extra apple-y goodness; I used about three quarters of them in the pudding and saved the rest to eat with my oatmeal.

After a busy week last week, I was grateful to have more free time this weekend and I made brioche! I used the “Middle Class” brioche recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which used a moderate amount of butter (two sticks) and yielded lovely light buttery bread. A definite winner and perfect in the bread pudding.

As predicted, this bread pudding was a huge hit. Josh had a hectic day today and didn’t have time for lunch, so I offered to make a heartier dinner than I had planned. He rebuffed my offer and said he would just have an extra-large dessert instead (as opposed to all other nights :). We rated the bread pudding a 9 for Deliciousness and a 3 (this does not count baking the bread) for Effort, for an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Elizabeth of Cake or Death (cake, please) for a yummy selection. You can find the recipe on Elizabeth's site and visit the TWD site to see what the rest of the group thought.

This photo? Not the extra-large dessert. Just a moderate portion of bread pudding, brownies, and ice cream.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD: (Not Quite) Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

Tuesdays With Dorie begins the month of May with Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. Ice cream – yay! Last Wednesday, which is about four days before I typically start my Tuesdays With Dorie recipes, I decided to get to work and announced to Josh that “I can burn sugar with the best of them!” He quickly agreed that he’d seen it many times. So what did I do? I added the milk and cream to the sugar before it had browned enough and ended up with sugar ice cream - totally not burnt. It wasn’t a total loss, though: I added some vanilla and chocolate chunks to the mixture, and it became chocolate chip ice cream. Josh actually said it was one of the best ice creams I’ve ever made. Luckily I was ahead of schedule and had time to give the ice cream another try on Sunday morning. This time I was slightly less anxious about rendering the sugar to an unpalatably burnt stage, but I think I was still a little gun shy. The ice cream did have a pleasant caramelly flavor, though, so there were no complaints here.

Josh rated the ice cream a 9 for Deliciousness and I gave the recipe a 4.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2. (Josh also thought I should point out that photo with the enormous portion of ice cream was after our long run on Sunday.) Many thanks to Becky of Project Domestication (awesome name!) for selecting ice cream! You can find the recipe on Becky’s site and visit the TWD site to see what the rest of the group thought.

Dorie suggested several different types of cookies to pair the ice cream with. I had made all of them at some point, and though I had enjoyed them, I decided to make a different sugar cookie recipe. I think some of my other cookbooks tend to feel neglected. I made Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies from Martha Stewart’s Cookies, which are an excellent classic chewy sugar cookie. They also received a 9 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.6. Here’s the recipe.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Printable recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Put sugars and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed 30 seconds. Add butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Mix in eggs one at a time, and then the lemon juice. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop (I used a smaller one), drop dough onto lined baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Flatten cookies slightly; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar. (Note: I did not bother with the double layer of sugar; I just rolled each flattened cookie in sanding sugar.)

Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes (mine only took 10-11 minutes, since they were smaller), rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 3 days. I made half a recipe, and it yielded over two dozen small cookies.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SMS: Peanut Butter Truffles

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Peanut Butter Truffles. Josh has asked me to make chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks several times and I never want to do it because it sounds unappealing to me. Since I didn’t think I’d want to eat too many of these truffles myself (I like chocolate, but my threshold for rich, dense chocolate treats is pretty low), I decided that I would make chocolate ice cream studded with these truffles for Josh . Unfortunately, my ice cream “plans” for the week got a little thrown off (there will be more about that on Tuesday) and ended up making two non-chocolate based ice creams. So just plain truffles here. This is the second time the group has made truffles and the recipes in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book are quite simple: you make a chocolate ganache, let it firm up for at least two hours (mine sat in the refrigerator for two days), then scoop and roll the truffles in peanuts. I decided to make it slightly more difficult and made a mess tempering white chocolate and attempting to dip the truffles in it - trust me, you don’t want to see the results. There were reports on the Problems & Questions section that the peanut butter flavor did not come through, so even though I quartered the recipe, I still used a quarter cup of peanut butter, which was the full amount.

And I still didn’t really taste the peanut butter! The recipe said to use bittersweet chocolate, and I usually think the darker the better with chocolate, but I think semisweet would have been a better complement to the peanut butter. I kept thinking the ganache had an off-taste, but Josh said it was fine. I guess I just didn’t like these truffles. Josh said they were okay and rated them a 5.5, but when I suggested he put some on his ice cream last night, he said no and I heard him offer one to Eloise (don’t worry, we wouldn’t really give our dog chocolate!). I though that they were a 2 in terms of Deliciousness, so with Josh’s 5.5, the average rating is 3.75, with a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.5. Oh well, if we loved every treat I made, it would be bad news. The Sweet Melissa Sundays group has welcomed a lot of creative and talented new members recently, and this week’s hostess, Mara of Love Your Mother Earth, is one of them. You can find the recipe here on Mara’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa Sundays blogroll to see how these turned out for the rest of the group.