Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TWD: All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie

When I was getting ready to start my Tuesdays With Dorie baking, I asked Josh if he thought he could handle eating an entire apple pie this week – with some help from me, of course. He asked if was just a plain apple pie or apple and a bunch of ingredients he may not like as much.* Actually, he just asked if was plain apple, but the implication was that if it wasn’t a good ol’ pie, he might not be as interested. Lucky for him, the recipe for this week’s selection is All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie. So I made a whole pie and it was huge! And also very delicious.

As of next week, I will have been baking with Tuesdays With Dorie for two years and somehow had only managed to make her Good for Almost Every Occasion Pie Dough once before this month I have now made it three times in as many weeks (though I make it with a hand pastry blender rather than with a food processor as Dorie instructs – just my preference) and I can officially say that it’s very well-liked in this household. The only change I made in the recipe was adding a bit more cinnamon to the filling. Along with cheese, garlic, and vanilla, cinnamon is on my list of ingredients that a little extra is most always welcome.

This recipe rated an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.12. Many thanks to Emily of Sandmuffin for a fabulous selection. You can find the recipe here on Emily’s site and visit the TWD site to see how the rest of the bakers like this pie.

*However, last week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection, Caramel Pumpkin Pie, was an instance where an unconventional ingredient (caramel) in a classic recipe made it much better. I didn’t get around to posting last week, so I thought I’d toss it in now. For various reasons, I did not get a slice photo of the apple pie, so at least this post now has a nice slice of pie. A big thank you to Janell of Mortensen Family Memoirs for another excellent seasonal choice!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SMS, Remixed and Mixed-In: Peanut Brittle

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays selection is Peanut Brittle, and is actually the second brittle recipe chosen this month; the first being cashew brittle two weeks ago. The initial reviews of the cashew brittle recipe didn’t exactly inspire me to try the recipe (you don’t really want to hear the words burned and chewy when you’re talking about brittle), but I still wanted to make brittle, so I looked up a couple recipes online and got to work. I didn’t post about it because it wasn’t the recipe from the Sweet Melissa book – or I just felt lazy. Or busy. Unlike many of the sugar-boiling experiences in my kitchen, the cashew brittle I made turned out well and disappeared pretty fast with just the two of us eating it, which is always a good way to determine if a recipe is a success. I decided to give it another go with peanuts.

I think Josh has tried every single flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and one of his current favorites is peanut brittle. I had been on a bit of an ice cream making hiatus, due to Josh actually not liking a flavor I made (for some reason I just kept expecting him to finish it). I decided it was about time he stopped buying endless pints of ice cream, and I made some vanilla ice cream and swirled in some crushed peanut brittle. I also added some chocolate chunks to the ice cream, ‘cos why not?

The brittle recipe gets an 8 for Deliciousness and a 2.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 3.2. Many thanks to JoVonn of The Givens Chronicles. You can find the brittle recipe from the Sweet Melissa book on JoVonn's cute site and visit the SMS site to see how the brittle turned out for the rest of the group.

Nut Brittle, adapted from this recipe on Allrecipes and this recipe on About.com

1 cup (7 ounces) white sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

1 ½ cup peanuts

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Combine the baking soda, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl and set aside. Also set aside the two tablespoons of butter (these ingredients will all be added at the end and I’ve learned the hard way you want to have everything ready and conveniently accessible when making candy).

Combine the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook the candy mixture, stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 275 degrees, then add the peanuts and stir to combine. Keep cooking, still stirring frequently, until the thermometer reads 300 degrees.

Once the thermometer reaches 300 degrees, remove the pan from heat; immediately stir in butter and the baking soda/spice mixture. Pour the candy onto the prepared sheet and spread with a greased spatula. Cool the brittle completely and then break into pieces, either by hand or with a knife on a cutting board.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Note Quite SMS: White Cake with Chocolate Frosting

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays Treat was Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling. I didn’t exactly make the recipe in the book. The frosting contained two kinds of coconut (cream and flakes) and was made with cream cheese. Josh doesn’t like coconut and I am not big on cream cheese icing. I mean, I’ll have a few bites of carrot cake or red velvet cake with it, but it’s definitely not my first choice. I wasn’t really sure if this would be a recipe that would work for our household until I realized the cake was a regular white cake – no coconut – and we both like a good white cake, so I decided to make the cake, or rather cupcakes, and frost it with something else. Of course I didn’t get this great idea until the last minute.

I decided on a simple dark chocolate frosting, which was excellent with the cake. The cake was fluffy as promised and super-yummy. I would say it’s a great vehicle for almost any frosting. This recipe rated an 8.5 for Deliciousness and a 3.5 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.42. Many thanks to Karen of Karen’s Cookies, Cakes and More for selecting this cake. You can find the recipe here on her site and visit the Sweet Melissa site to see the other bakers’ cakes. My apologies to the group for not really making anything close to the recipe in the book.

Miss Irene Thompson’s Dark Chocolate Frosting from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes

3.5 ounces fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, chopped
3 ounces dark chocolate, 60% to 62% cacao, chopped

1.7 ounces (3 ½ tablespoons) butter, at 65 to 75 degrees

1 cup (8 fluid ounces) corn syrup

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In the top of a double boiler, set over hot, not simmering, water heat the chocolate and butter. (Don’t let the bottom of the container touch the water.) Stir often with a silicone spatula until almost completely melted. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and with the silicone spatula, stir until completely melted. Stir in the syrup until fully incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. The frosting keeps for three days at room temperature, for three weeks refrigerated, and for six months frozen. Note: the frosting will be very fluid immediately after making it. The recipe in RHC calls for the first layer to be poured over the cake. To frost cupcakes (or for the second layer of frosting on a cake), you should let the frosting cool for about half an hour or until it is a spreadable consistency.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TWD: Fold-Over Pear Torte

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Fold-Over Pear Torte. There is not a picture of this recipe in the book and for some reason when I saw the name, I assumed, probably because of the word “fold,” that it would be some sort of turnover. It’s actually more like a pie with a tall crust, as it’s baked in a springform pan. I made a half recipe in two 4.5-inch pans and managed to roll one crust a bit bigger, so one torte had more crust folded over. I made one with pear and one with apple, and so far have only tried the apple one. Funnily enough, before it was officially pear season, we were given large quantities of pears by relatives on two separate occasions, but I actually had to buy one for this recipe. I used dried cranberries for the dried fruit component because I didn’t feel like cutting up apricots (lazy baker).

Josh and I spend a lot of time together, but we do have various separate interests and hobbies. I am not interested in sports much at all, and Josh is an enthusiastic fan of baseball and football (and tennis and basketball when he is betting with his friends). He is very happy that the Giants are actually in the baseball playoffs this year, though it has made for some tense sports-watching. I made this recipe on Sunday afternoon while Josh was watching a very close Giants game and there was a lot of shouting coming from the living room. At some point he came into the kitchen and saw a bottle of rum on the counter, for the small amount in the torte, and said he felt like he could use a shot to calm his nerves. Luckily they won, and again last night.

Okay, back to the torte. This is one of those recipes that I would categorize as “surprisingly good,” mainly because I had no idea what to expect, and it was a splendid dessert. It was so well proportioned: buttery flaky crust, a delightfully light custard, and sweet fruit – so nice! We rated this recipe an 8 for Deliciousness and I gave it a 4 for Effort, for an EDR of 2. Many thanks to the lovely Cakelaw of Laws of the Kitchen for a fantastic selection. You can find the recipe here on her site, along with lots of other great treats and epicurean adventures. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the other bakers’ tortes turned out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ABC: Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon

I have decided to take on a new challenge: The Avid Baker’s Challenge! My friend Hanaa started this group and after months of admiring the treats they make and seeing what was on the schedule for the rest of the year, I decided it was time to join the fun. We are baking from Flo Braker’s stupendous book, Baking for All Occasions. It’s one of the (far too many) books in my collection that I occasionally make something from and think, “The recipes in here are so good, why don’t I make things from it more often?” I also think it’s great that Flo gives all measurements in both weight and volume. I have somewhat recently started weighing pretty much everything and it’s nice when the weight measures are in the book so I don’t have to keep looking at my cheat sheet. The recipe this month is Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon. In the recipe notes, Flo shares that this cake was inspired by a cake from Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California. I used to live not far from that bakery, and agree with Flo that it has outstanding treats.

The cake involves a number of steps in preparation (grating chocolate and oranges, juicing oranges for fresh juice, etc.) and quite a few dishes. It was a nice project for a weekend afternoon, not something to bake in a hurry. The recipe was meant to be baked in a ten-inch tube pan with a removable bottom, but since that would yield fourteen to eighteen servings, I cut it in half. I baked the cake in a six-inch pan round pan and four ramekins. I had a little –okay a lot – of trouble getting the cake to come out of the pan neatly, so sadly I do not have a lovely full-cake picture to show. I also had a bit of trouble with the Sabayon. I didn’t think to look up what a Sabayon was before I made this recipe so I’d have a better idea what it should turn out like; according to this link it is “a light custard, which has been whipped to incorporate large amounts of air.” Mine was sort of airy, but didn’t really hold. The honey/orange flavor of the creamy sauce was incredible, though, especially on a light cake, which did turn out delightfully airy and tasted wonderful.

I must say, though everything didn’t go perfectly, I had a good time making this cake and it really did present a bit of a challenge for me, which I enjoy. This recipe rated an 8 for Deliciousness and a 5 for Effort, for an EDR of 1.6. This group is not posting recipes, but you may stop by Hanaa’s site to learn more about The Avid Baker’s Challenge and see the other bakers' links.

TWD: Double Apple Bundt Cake

Tuesdays With Dorie begins October with Double Apple Bundt Cake, the first in a whole month of fabulous-sounding autumnal recipes. When I was tabbing up my book for the month of October and telling Josh what he’d be eating for dessert the next few weeks, he said he was surprised there are so many good recipes left. It’s surprising, though definitely true: the recipes in Baking are consistently good. Oh, sure, there are certainly ones we love more than others, but there is a seemingly endless supply of wonderful recipes.

The only substitution I made was subbing currants for raisins, since that is what I had on hand. I soaked the currants in rum, which I thought would be appropriate with the warm spices in this cake. I also reduced the sugar by about half a cup when I realized the apple butter I bought was incredibly sweet. I have joined a new baking group (the post for that one will be up later) and we made a cake for that group this week; since Bundts are easily transportable and good keepers, I sent this one to work with Josh.

I have only had a small nibble of the cake and thought it was very good. So apple-y and moist, and I enjoyed the crunch from the walnuts. Josh rated it a 7.5 and when I spoke to him around lunchtime today, he said there was about a third of a cake left, as opposed to being immediately decimated, so that sounds like an accurate rating to me (he later told me it was competing with some bagels). I gave it a 3 for Effort, for an EDR of 2.5. Many thanks to Lynne of Honey Muffin for a lovely seasonal choice. You can find the recipe on her site and visit the TWD site for more cake.