Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TWD: Tarte Fine

Tuesdays With Dorie is kicking off the fall baking season in style with Tarte Fine. From the name, I had no idea what kind of confection this was, and was happy that it is a lovely French apple tart. I didn’t get around to making this until last night and I wasn’t feeling that great. Luckily, this must be one of the very simplest recipes in the book: it only has a few ingredients, and since the base is made out of frozen puff pastry, there is very little to do other than slice apples. And I delegated the task of slicing apples to Josh (though I did peel them). He gave me a mandoline as a gift, but I get sort of nervous using it ‘cos I managed to slice my finger the first time I used it. He enjoys using it, though, so it really is a gift that keeps giving.

I made the version of the cake from the “playing around” section of the recipe, which involves adding more butter (since there’s not enough in the puff pastry) and sugar to the tart. Dorie advises to eat the tart within an hour of baking, but word on the Problems & Questions section had it that the tart was fine the next day, which worked out well since it wasn’t done until after ten last night. Josh took a couple pieces with him to work for breakfast/snack and he said it was gone before noon.

This recipe gets an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 1.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 5.66. A big thank you to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for a fantastic selection – I’m sure I’ll be making this one again. Leslie is a witty writer and it’s always fun to see what she’s up to in the kitchen; her post on the Tarte Fine is no exception. To see what the other bakers thought of this treat, visit the TWD site.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SMS: Plum Raspberry Preserves

I am delighted to be hosting Sweet Melissa Sundays today; the recipe I selected is Plum Raspberry Preserves. I typically don’t get around to writing my post until about 10 PM on Sunday night (often because I haven’t baked the recipe until that day), but since this is my week to host, I thought I’d try to demonstrate a modicum of organization and have my post in order for others to link the recipe. It also doesn’t hurt that I made the recipe several weeks ago and that I selected preserves last time I hosted, so most of the recipe is already typed up.

I always think it’s fun to read about how people come to a decision when presented with the overwhelming task of selecting a recipe. I was actually a little worried about choosing a recipe with summer fruit when the posting date was at the end of September, but I like making preserves (and most things with fruit). There were still four preserve recipes left and we won’t make it to summer again before we’re done baking through the book, so I figured I’d go with it. The preserve recipe in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book is trouble-free – you really just have to chop up some fruit and let it cook. There is no pectin in this preserve recipe, just apples, and I felt like I had to mash the apples a bit (and therefore the rest of the fruit) in order to not have big chunks of apples. I think the consistency of the preserves was fine, though, and they tasted excellent.

I canned six jars of the preserves, plus there was a Tupperware container left over. One of the things I enjoyed about choosing preserves last year was seeing how everyone used them. People definitely thought beyond toast. So far I have given some away and made bar cookies. I used the preserves in my favorite raspberries bars (recipe here) when I first made the preserves, then I made Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars from The Craft of Baking a couple days ago, which are the bars pictured in this post. Though they do contain oats and nuts, I really think they show greater resemblance to a cookie than a granola bar, don’t you? Whichever, they are fantastic, very easy to put together, and would be excellent with most any jam or preserves you happen to have on hand. Since I didn’t have to type the preserve recipe, I am also including the one for the bars.

The preserves rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. Thanks to all the Sweet Melissa members who preserved along with me this week. Be sure to stop by the Sweet Melissa site to see how the others used the preserves.

Master Preserve Recipe, from page 165 - 166 of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book
Printable Recipe

8 cups peel and sliced ripe fresh fruit of your choice (2 dry quarts)
2 cups peeled and cubed Granny Smith apples (2 to 3 apples cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces)
2 cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon and/or orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated citrus zest

In an 8-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the fruit, apples, sugar, juice, and zest. Cook, until the mixture reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, stirring often to prevent scorching. You may mash the fruit slightly with a potato masher, if necessary. Once the preserves have reached 212 degrees, continue to cook for 30 minutes more, stirring often, until thick. You can check the consistency by placing a dollop on a plate and setting it in the freezer until just cool. If it is runny, continue cooking; if it is thick, you’re good to go.

Can the fruit in clean canning jars as directed by the manufacturer, or cool to room temperature, tightly cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 6 months.

Plum Raspberry Preserves
Use 1 ½ quarts (six cups) unpeeled sliced plums and 2 cups raspberries. Use lemon juice and orange zest.

Back-to-School Raspberry Granola Bars, from The Craft of Baking
Printable Recipe

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raspberry preserves (or plum raspberry)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden and fragrant, about five minutes. Cool the sheet completely on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and pecans. Pour in the melted butter, and using a wooden spoon, mix together until well combined. Transfer about two thirds of the dough to the prepared baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan, forming a firmly packed layer.

Using an offset or rubber spatula, spread the preserves over the dough. Evenly sprinkle the remaining dough over the preserves. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until the top is golden brown and fragrant, about forty minutes (mine took more like forty-five minutes). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Then cut into two-inch squares.

The bars can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TWD: Coffee Break Muffins

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Coffee-Break Muffins, was actually the very first thing I made from Baking, over two years ago. I remember being anxious to start making things from the book and wanting to make something I had all the ingredients on hand for, but was also not just your basic muffin or cookie. I drink quite a bit of coffee and luckily Josh does too. On one of our early dates, we were going to a concert and when Josh picked me up, he brought me a cup of coffee, since it was going to be kind of a late night for a weeknight. I was charmed with the gesture and pleased to learn he understood the importance of coffee early in our relationship. Suffice to say, these muffins were a big hit both times I made them. I don’t know why it took me two years to get to this simple and delicious treat the second time.

I jazzed the muffins up a bit with some toffee chips and some milk crumbs, which were leftover from another recipe I made last weekend and seemed like an appropriate addition (though we actually are black coffee drinkers in this household). This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort, for an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Rhiani of Chocoholic Anonymous for a yummy selection. You should be able find the recipe on Rhiani’s site and visit the TWD site to see what the other bakers thought of these goodies.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SMS: Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie. I will be hosting Sweet Melissa Sundays next week and this is actually the recipe I had been planning to pick! I guess the good news was I would get to make it earlier. However, I did end up making my selection two weeks ago and didn’t make the pie until today.

It’s late, so I’m just going to keep this short and say I loved this pie! It was really pie perfection in my eyes: sweet fresh berries, a tangy and creamy center, and a fabulously buttery-flaky crust. I used this pie dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I happened to make two pies in one weekend earlier this summer: one with Melissa’s all-butter dough and one with Smitten Kitchen’s, and decided I preferred the one from SK (only by a small nudge, though).

I rated this pie a 9 for Deliciousness and 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.57. Many thanks to Melissa of Lulu the Baker for an excellent choice. You can find the recipe here on Lulu the Baker, along with many lovely food photos (the presentation on Melissa’s site is always beautiful) and yummy-looking recipes, and stop by the Sweet Melissa site to see how the rest of the group liked this pie.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TWD: Cranberry Upside-Downer

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Cranberry Upside-Downer. I’d never made an upside down cake and this was a great one to start with. Not so great? The supply of cranberries in September. I’ve had the urge to bake cranberry desserts in early fall before and I actually talk about how Josh drove to five different stores to find cranberries for me in my very first post, almost two years ago (you can also read about my oh-so-scientific rating system in that same post). Luckily, I remembered the store where frozen cranberries are carried year-round and had no trouble finding them this time. Dorie also gives the option of a peach version, but after eating a terrible peach a couple weeks ago, I’m off them.

The recipe advised this cake is best served the day it’s made (though I can attest it’s still pretty good on day three), so I made a half recipe in a six-inch cake pan. Inspired by some fabulous sorbet I made during cranberry season last year, I added some vanilla bean paste to the butter/sugar mixture that went on the bottom of the pan. I was nervous about flipping the cake, but it came out of the pan seamlessly – must be all the butter in it! The one thing I would think about changing in this recipe is the cinnamon in the batter; I thought the flavor was a bit strong. If I were to make this again, I would omit it and possibly add some orange zest to the batter. This would be an excellent holiday dessert if you are looking for some variety and are short on time.

We thought this cake deserved a 7.5 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3. Many thanks to Sabrina of Superfluous for choosing this lovely cake. You can find the recipe here on Sabrina’s site. There was a lot of chatter about using different fruits, so I can’t wait to see what variations the creative bakers came up with.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TWD: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Peanut butter, cookies rolled in sugar, and three day weekends are all pretty high on my list of Things That Are Awesome so I was pretty happy to make this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Peanut Butter Crisscrosses, on Saturday. The recipe called for chopped peanuts, but I used the dregs of a bag of peanut butter chips for the extra peanut component. Since chewy is the preferred cookie texture in this household, I baked the cookies for ten minutes rather than twelve, and they turned out soft and delicious. (Actually, I like crunchy peanut butter cookies, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t me who consumed the majority of them.) Our dog loves peanut butter, which means I could tell whenever Josh was eating a cookie this weekend: Eloise was trailing around behind him with her ears perked up. I don't think she was lucky enough to have any crumbs thrown her way.

These cookies rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.2. I can’t wait to try the version with chocolate; perhaps some time when I’ll be seeing my younger brother. Thanks to Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine for a yummy selection. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the TWD site to see how these turned out for the other bakers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

SMS: Mom's French Pancakes

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Mom’s French Pancakes, which are in fact crepes. Yum! Is anyone else watching “The Great Food Truck Race" on the Food Network? I think it’s kind of a fun show and last week the crepe truck was eliminated. I have to say, as much as I like crepes, when I get food from a truck – which is not too often – I want something a little heartier, like a big messy sandwich or a burrito (the team had been doing well up until last week, though). Anyway, back to this week’s recipe. The crepes were our second breakfast today, actually more like brunch. We are training for marathon number two (well, number two for me, a lot higher number for Josh) and ate energy bars before our fourteen mile run this morning and the crepes were a wonderful treat to look forward to after the run.

Better yet? The batter can be blended ahead of time (and takes approximately one minute to mix) and I made it last night, so all I had to do was cook the crepes this morning. I was worried it would be difficult to swirl and flip the crepes, and suspected I might make a complete mess of the crepes. I almost made a full recipe in anticipation of disaster. I can definitely use more practice, as my crepes definitely were not perfectly round, but I’m glad I stuck with a half recipe, since they’re just light enough to keep eating. We had some with jumbleberry preserves from the Sweet Melissa book and some with Biscoff spread, which has a consistency similar to Nutella, but a spice cookie taste. Since I need more practice with my crepe skills, I will have to make more soon to try other variations.

This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2 for Effort for an EDR of 4. Many thanks to Jamie of Good Eats and Sweet Treats for an excellent selection. You can find the recipe here on Jamie’s site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see other variations of these yummy crepes