Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD: Chewy, Chunky Blondies

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe is Chewy, Chunky Blondies. I had high expectations for this recipe and anticipated it would probably be Josh’s new favorite treat. Sadly, my bars did not come out quite as wonderful as I expected them to. They didn’t seem done after the allotted baking time, so I baked them a bit longer since I didn’t think it would be possible to slice them, and possibly ruined the texture. (These photos were taken about four days after I made them, so they are not at their prime. And yikes – there were still some left four days after I made them; almost imaginable around here.) My add-ins were a cup of chocolate chips, a cup of toffee bits, and a cup of walnuts. Just last week I was saying how nuts interrupted brownies, but with blondies, I think they’re a nice addition to cut the sweetness a bit.

“Too much” has never been an issue for Josh when it comes to desserts (and the recipe comes with a warning that it is more mix-in than cookie), but he actually said he would have preferred a higher dough to chip ratio. Since I wasn’t completely satisfied with how they turned out, I kind of wanted to make them again, but I ran out of time and decided it could wait until we are low on treats. Even though we didn’t love the blondies, they’re still pretty good. This recipe rated a 7 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.8. Many thanks to Nicole of Cookies on Friday for selecting a recipe I’d wanted to try for a while. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site to see how the blondies turned out for the rest of the group.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SMS: Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

This week the Sweet Melissa group made Toasted Almond Lemon Bars. I didn’t get around to making the bars until today and I had one of those weeks where procrastination really paid off: I benefited from the tips of other bakers and yesterday at my family’s annual ladies lunch, I ended up going home with at least five pounds of Meyer lemons. And pears. I really have my work cut out for me this week. I do love the challenge of using produce before it goes bad, though.

The main issue with the recipe this week seemed to be the dough being incredibly soft, so since I made my bars so late, I knew to freeze my dough a bit before baking, which worked well. The dough was so soft and buttery that I was worried the shortbread would be greasy, but it turned out to have a nice texture and the hint of almonds gave it a splendid depth of flavor. Since Meyer lemons are a bit sweeter than regular lemons, I reduced the sugar in the lemon filling by a couple tablespoons. I forgot to line the edges of the baking pan with the dough, so I was a bit concerned the filling would seep underneath the bars. It did make it over the sides a bit, which made the edges carmelly and chewy, so no complaints!

These are fantastic lemon bars; I'd never made lemon bars and I'm happy I now have a good recipe. I’m glad I’m sending them to work with Josh so I won’t be tempted to eat too many. We rated them a 9 for Deliciousness and I gave them a 3.5 for Effort, for and EDR of 2.57. Many thanks to Rebecca of Indecisive Baker (that’s how I feel a lot of the time: so many recipes so little time) for a yummy selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see what the rest of the group thought.

I also did a rewind this weekend and made the North Fork Peach Raspberry Pie, selected by Rebecca of Beurrista (the recipe is posted here). I was out of town the weekend the group made it, but had been looking forward to it and wanted to be sure to make it while peaches were in season. I didn’t get a slice photo, but it was delicious and my family enjoyed it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD: Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake. Dorie encourages substitutions, so basically if you have spotty bananas and minimal pantry staples, you can make this cake. I especially like the name of this recipe for the TWD. Every Tuesday we see the recipes from Baking lots of different ways, and through the group I have learned lots of excellent substitutions and been inspired by many ideas. Of the lots-of-ways to make this cake, I made a plain banana cake. I had planned to add coconut and blueberries, but I sampled the batter and decided it was perfect as-is.

I didn’t get around to baking the cake until Monday night, so haven’t eaten enough to assess its Deliciousness score (which I must remedy shortly), but it is only a 2 for Effort. Josh will think I’m making him sound picky for saying this, but bananas are the only fruit he eats consistently (unless the fruit is in a baked good), so I buy lots of them and inevitably some spot up and need to be stashed in the freezer before we finish them. And to be fair, I’m picky about the ripeness of the bananas (I like a hint of green) and stop eating them about halfway through their ripeness cycle.

Many thanks to Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities for choosing a recipe that reduced the frozen banana stash. You can find the recipe here on Kimberly’s site and visit the TWD site for lots of banana cakes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Brownies

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Chocolate Walnut Brownies. Funny, I didn’t even think about the fact that we were making brownies for both SMS and TWD until I started making these yesterday. There have been a few other times when the two groups’ selections collided and making both seemed a bit problematic, but with something as simple and guaranteed to be eaten such as brownies, I didn’t consider skipping either recipe. The proportions of ingredients in this recipe seemed a little different than other brownies recipes (low on chocolate and high on both flour and butter). I was tempted to reduce both the flour and the butter, but decided I’d try the recipe pretty much as written. I did add two ounces of 71% chocolate in addition to the four ounces of unsweetened in order to ensure a chocolaty brownie. I’m not a crazy chocoholic who adds extra to everything; four ounces just didn’t seem like quite enough. I mean, when you bite into a brownie, you want to taste the richness from the chocolate, not the butter. The walnuts were listed as an optional ingredient and I opted not to use them (as Josh put it when he tried them, “why would you interrupt the deliciousness of chocolate with nuts?”).

The recipe said to bake the brownies for 45-50 minutes, and in my experience, my oven usually bakes things a lot quicker than the times specified in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, so I started checking at 30 minutes and pulled them out of the oven at 35 minutes. I thought they turned out excellent: fudgy and rich, and I loved the sturdy structure and texture of the brownies. I passed some on to Josh’s parents and they liked them a lot, and we’ve been enjoying them here, too. I made David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream to pair with the brownies, because seriously, what is better than homemade brownies and ice cream? I guess in Josh’s case, brownies, ice cream, and a vanilla cupcake.

Josh gave this recipe a 9 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 2 for Effort, for a very good EDR of 4.5. I guess I know which of the two brownie recipes I tried this week may see a repeat performance in this kitchen. Many thanks to Tiffany of A Spoonful of Laughter and a Heap of Fun for a yummy selection. You can find the recipe here on Tiffany’s site and visit the SMS site to see what the other bakers thought of this treat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Twosdays With Dorie: Brrrr-ownies and Tarte Noire

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Brrrr-ownies: incredibly rich chocolate brownies with a refreshing mint flavor due to a healthy handful of peppermint patties. What a great dessert for warm weather (though I guess turning on the oven sort of cancels out the “coolness” of a mint treat and it’s really not very hot where I live right now). Every now and then, we are required to purchase fun ingredients like York Peppermint Patties for Tuesdays With Dorie baking and I will not lie: not all the peppermint patties made it into the brownies, I just couldn’t resist sampling one or two. This was a quick, easy brownie recipe and would be excellent with or without the candy tossed in. I was slightly horrified to see the candy filling had oozed to the top of the brownies, but apparently I was not alone with that problem. I didn’t get around to photographing the brownies until several days after I made them, so they look a little tired (Josh, not unkindly, told me they weren’t terribly attractive to begin with).

These were good brownies, but all things being equal, I think I’d rather consume my brownies and peppermint patties separately. This recipe rated a 7 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.8. Many thanks to Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life for a fun selection. You can find the recipe here on Karen’s site and visit the TWD site to see how these turned out for the rest of the bakers.

I am also rewinding all the way to last week’s selection, Tarte Noire. I was in Portland, Oregon running my first full marathon* over the Fourth of July weekend, so I fell a bit behind on my baking and blogging, but I couldn’t pass up this delectable tart when I returned. One of our favorite TWD recipes to date has been the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart and this was essentially the same recipe, sans caramel and peanuts. That recipe rated a 10 and without the caramel and peanuts, this one rated an 8. The buttery shortbread crust and rich chocolate ganache are a winning combination by themselves. In small quantities, of course: it’s a very rich dessert. Many thanks to Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life for an excellent selection; the recipe can be found here.

*I’m happy to report that my marathon went very well and I am already planning on running a second one in December, which means I will resume training in about three weeks.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SMS: Sour Cherry Almond (Pistachio) Biscotti

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Sour Cherry Almond Biscotti. It has been well-documented on this blog that Josh consumes the majority of the treats I make, but I am actually the bigger cookie monster when it comes to biscotti - I love it. I’ve made a few different biscotti recipes and the one issue they all seem to have in common is that the dough is sticky to work with. This recipe called for chilling the dough for at least an hour before baking, which helped, but I still had to use a generous amount of flour when shaping the dough into logs before baking. I had a surplus of pistachios leftover from when the Sweet Melissa group made the Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints last month, so I subbed them for the almonds in the recipe (still used the almond extract, though), since pistachios tend to be more difficult to find uses for.

The cookies are nice and crunchy and I love the addition of dried cherries, so yummy. Josh tried one tonight and assured me that he will snack on them this week. (I just better not make any competing snacky treats for a few days. I’ve learned my lesson not to do that when it’s something he isn’t super-crazy about.) A nice lady from our HOA saw Josh and Eloise out for a walk and informed Josh that there is another family with a Weimaraner who recently moved into our neighborhood, so we are going to welcome them with some biscotti.

This recipe received an 8 for Deliciousness and a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.66. Many thanks to Tracey of Made by Tray-Tray for a great selection. You can find the recipe here on Tracey’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see what the rest of the group thought of this selection.