Friday, October 5, 2007

At Home in Napa

Posted by BAKE-EN at 6:04 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Not nearly as cool as Provence!

This week I've been cooking and baking from Patricia Wells At Home In Provence. This cookbook is beautiful, and all of the recipes are inspiring. Two of the recipes that really stood out for me were the Saturday Beef Salad (page 74) and Garlic Family Soup (page 103). Both of which I decided to make last Friday as a surprise dinner for Joe to come home to. The grapes were finally ready to be harvested last week, so Joe's been working very long days lately. He clearly needed steak.

The Saturday Steak Salad was the perfect meal for us. Joe always wants to eat steak, and I always want to eat salad; so finally we were united in a meal :) This salad was so good. The cornichon's went amazingly well with the horseradish, red onion, dijon and steak. The potatoes made this salad much more of a meal than a starter. The romaine made it feel healthier than it really was :) Overall, I would say this was one of the best salads I've made. While Joe and I were savoring the salad; Joe declared the salad didn't need the romaine. It was the best potato salad he's ever had! So funny, personally I think it needs the romaine to cut through the heaviness of the other ingredients.

In addition to the salad we had the Garlic Family Soup. I was really disappointed by the soup that evening, but I've changed my tune since. In hindsight, it's obvious to me that I paired two very strong flavored items together that would have been better apart. There was simply too much going on, flavor wise, between the cornichon's, horseradish, garlic, tarragon...etc. There were too many competing flavors, and because of that the soup didn't taste that good. All I could get from it that night at dinner was a strong taste of tarragon. The next day though, I had the soup for lunch. It was great. The garlic, leeks, shallots, onions and potatoes united together to form a deliciously creamy soup. The tarragon, which I had found overpowering the night before, was mellow and a nice contrast to the other flavors.

In addition to the cooking, I decided to make the Fig, Apricot Walnut & Raisin Rye Bread (page 183). This bread recipe was delightful to make. I didn't have figs, raisins or walnuts so I did as Mrs. Wells suggested; I used what I had on hand. The bread I made was loaded with dried apricots, cranberries and pecans. To me, this recipe is what bread baking is all about. The best ingredients and a lot of time and patience. The whole process of making this bread took about 13 hours, but it wasn't very labor intensive. Next time, I will make this bread at night right before bed, because the first rise is about 8 hours in the refrigerator. Here's the resulting bread:

It was huge and delicious. On Sunday night I made the most incredible tartines with said bread. Slices of bread were toasted, topped it with a thin layer of cream cheese, some Stonewall Kitchen Old Farmhouse Chutney, Boars Head Maple Turkey, a little watercress and finally some thinly sliced radishes. Then I put the assembled tartines back in the toaster oven to warm everything up. The resulting sandwich was heavenly. We still have a lot of bread to go through though. I'm seeing visions of a delicious bread pudding in our future!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

All Hail the King (King Arthur's Flour that is)!

Posted by BAKE-EN at 10:02 PM 2 comments Links to this post
Contrary to what anyone who knows me would say, I'm actually interested in baking healthy. Yes, it's true I have about 5 pounds of butter in my fridge at all times (just in case). However I also have whole wheat flour and even spelt (though I had to throw the latter out today as it was too old).

Today I decided to start baking my way through King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. Here's a link to King Arthur Flour's website, where you can find many recipes: King Arthur Flour Recipe Index. I really like this book. There are a lot of recipes to work with, and they're all relatively well explained.

An added benefit of many of these recipes is the challenge of making something somewhat healthy that tastes good. The flip side of this however, as I found out, is if the end result actually tastes so good you feel like you can eat more than usual. That's exactly what happened (and is happening, I just ate another) with the Peanut Chews recipe on page 311. I used the Trader Joe's Salted smooth peanut butter with this recipe. These cookies were borderline awesome as raw dough. The smell of the peanut butter, brown sugar, honey...etc... was well, essentially heaven. (Please note the only thing I love more than peanut butter is my husband; I'm borderline obsessed with PB). Anyway, the dough was so good that I was a little disappointed with the baked cookie itself. BUT (that's a big butt :) these cookies are infectious once you've eaten a couple of them. They really are peanut buttery chewy goodness. It's almost as if the sugars are so mellow that it's like eating a peanut butter and fluff sandwich in a cookie. Actually the next step with these should be to sandwich these with fluff. Fortunately for me, Fluff doesn't exist in the Napa Valley (only the crappy Kraft kind). I guess I'll have to save that for when the husband and I move back to the East Coast. Here's a picture of the cookies for your viewing pleasure.

Have you ever made bread that was so good that you actually couldn't stop smiling after eating the end result? Try the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread recipe (page 182). I swear, it's the best bread for peanut butter and jelly. I made it last night, and today I made a panini with the bread, peanut butter and homemade peach-almond preserves. Sorry mom, that's beats your PB&J (but you still make the best blueberry muffins, hands-down). Here's the life cycle of this delicious bread:

Before proofing:

After first rise:

After 2nd rise:

Final Results:

I overproofed the bread just a bit. Oh well, better luck next time. Both the flavor and the texture were prefect, so I'm pretty sure the over-proofing was mainly an appearance flaw.

If you would like to make a muffin full of veggies, nuts and fruit; go for the Morning Glory Muffin recipe on page 35. Today I made these muffins for the second time, and they're great. I love them because they actually are fairly healthy. They have carrots (vitamin A), whole wheat flour (fiber) and apples (vitamin.. uh... apple); anyway, they're really good for you, and very tasty. My husband and I hate/detest/loath raisins, so there was no way I was adding them to the mix, but all the other ingredients went in and the results were delicious.

Here's a cross section:

Okay, try not to laugh. The last recipe I tried for the day was the Moist Bran Muffin recipe (page 45). Why the writers of KAWGB had to title this recipe "moist" instead of "delicious" or "delightful" one will never know. However, I will try to keep the "m" word out of the rest of this review (that's for you Wendy). Surprisingly, my husband has consumed two of these muffins since they came out of the oven; so I think that confirms they're good muffins. I think that may also seal the deal that he's sleeping on the sofa tonight :). In all seriousness, I will make these muffins again. They're good as is, and especially delicious with a coffee (and a roll of toilet paper). Sorry this photo's a bit blurry.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's cookie time, grab your salt lick!

Posted by BAKE-EN at 11:28 PM 1 comments Links to this post
Nick Malgieri has so many cookbooks we knew he would be a great resource for some interesting cookie recipes. The results of our recipe testing were, uh, needing salt. See below:

Alfajores: Crisp Sandwich Cookies Filled with Milk Caramel

From: A Baker's Tour

These cookies were tasty once they were assembled. The recipe didn't call for any salt in the dough, which to me, is sacrilegious. In went 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. The milk caramel filling was a disaster, twice! I know that you can make dulce de leche by boiling sweetened condensed milk forever, but I thought I would try Mr. Malgieri's method. BIG MISTAKE!!!! The first time I made it, the filling became extremely lumpy while baking in the oven. This was not for lack of stirring though. I stirred that mixture so much so that I was afraid my eyebrows were going to bake off my face from the extreme heat of my oven. The second time I made the filling I undercooked it. Eventually, I cooked the filling down on the stove top to the correct consistency. Once assembled, these cookies were great. The cookie dough didn't taste too much of cornstarch, and the brandy flavor complimented the dulce de leche nicely. I'm not the biggest fan of coconut, so I put ground toasted pecans on the outside of half the cookies, and that was really nice. If I decide to make these cookies again, I'll definitely make them smaller. 2 1/2" diameter sandwich cookies are really big.

Lemonade Cookies (on right)

From: Perfect Light Desserts with David Joachim

Chocolate Almond Spice Cookies aka. Basler Brunsli (bottom left)
Almond Butter Disks (top left)

From: How to Bake

The lemonade cookies (picture on the far right) were pretty good for low fat. My husband didn't care for them too much, but that's because he's way more of a chocolate lover than a citrus guy. The cookies were tender and the lemon flavor was pleasant. These would be good cookies to reach for if you're having a sugar craving. Other tasters suggested adding more salt to the batter, and I agree. Next time, I'll add 1/2 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp of salt. The chocolate spice cookies were okay, though I'm not sure any of us would make them again after tasting. My husband liked them, but he thought they were gingerbread cookies. The chocolate flavor wasn't very strong. Both the chocolate spice cookies and the almond butter disks were lacking in the salt department (surprise!). The almond butter disks were nice little cookies. The almond flavor was nice, and they looked really cute sandwiched with a little strawberry jam inside.

Pecan Wafers

From: Cookies Unlimited

With the addition of 1/2 teaspoon of salt, these cookies are outstanding. They are incredibly easy to make, it only takes a few minutes to make the dough. Want to make these to die for? Make them a little smaller then pictured above, then sandwich them with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dorie and Julia-what a perfect combination!

Posted by BAKE-EN at 11:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I swear we're not obsessed with Dorie Greenspan! This will be the last time we review one of her books/recipes for at least one posting :) An overall favorite cookbook among us bakers, we decided to try some recipes from Baking with Julia written by Dorie Greenspan. For those of you who do not own this book, buy it! The breath of recipes alone makes owning this book worthwhile. It has everything from breads to pastries to fancy desserts (and everything in between). This would be a great book to give to a new baker as the recipes are very easy to follow.

Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

These are the kind of muffins that even the most pickiest eater would like. Sit down with a coffee, newspaper and one of these muffins. Life doesn't get much better.

Fresh Rhubarb Upside-down Baby Cakes & Sage Upside-down Cake

These cakes were truly delicious. The bourbon caramel and pecans complimented the rhubarb fantastically. The picture of the rhubarb cakes doesn't do them justice. When they were flipped out of the cake pans, they were a beautiful pink and glistening. For the sage cakes, I decided to cook down some pineapple juice, and use that in lue of the vanilla extract. The flavor of the sage and pineapple was nice, though the rhubarb cakes were the standout.

Hungarian Shortbread

If you love shortbread these bars are for you. Our baker used a strawberry jam instead of the rhubarb, and the results were great. The baker commented that grating the dough was time consuming and (I assume) grating on her nerves :) Also, the shortbread took much longer to cook than the recipe suggested.

Best-ever Brownies

The recipe name says it all. These were the best brownies ever. They were delicious both right out of the oven (who can wait?), and once cooled.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dorie Knows Best

Posted by BAKE-EN at 4:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In order to make our first meeting as successful as possible we looked for a book that would appeal to everyone. Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan was the perfect book to get us started. Not only is the book beautiful; it has a nice range of recipes. The only problem with this book was choosing which recipes to make. They all look so good!

Here's what we discovered.

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

The recipe for these biscuits is certainly a keeper. They are tender and the sour cream goes beautifully with the pecans.

Oatmeal Spice Shortbread Cookies

These cookies were good. There was some discussion about next time pulsing the oatmeal in a food processor, so they would be less "oatmealy." Overall though, it was a nice cookie.


This rugelach recipe is fantastic. Sharyn, the woman who made these, said the dough was very easy to work with. The contrast between the currants and the chocolate in the filling is delish. The dough itself is so good, that it would be fun to play with different fillings such as apricot or almond paste.

Black-And-White Banana Loaf

This recipe was okay. The loaf was moist, but we weren't very impressed with the flavors. It would be good to serve to kids or people that like bland food.

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

This cake is a real crowd pleaser. The cake itself is simple enough to make. Watch out for the caramel though, it can go from amber to "do you smell something burning?" in a matter of a few seconds. The best thing about this cake is that it tastes better the next day. The caramel soaks into the top of the cake at that point, and it's just ridiculously good.

Russian Grandmothers' Apple-Pie Cake

Apple lovers will flip for this nice, homey cake. I wish my grandmother had made this for me! There was some debate about cooking time. It seems that 65-80 minutes is about right. If the top starts getting dark too fast, just cover it in foil or else the filling inside won't cook all the way.
Michelle's side note.
I've made some other recipes from this cookbook, so I thought I would share my thoughts on those items as well.
Basic Biscuits
This recipe isn't the best, but it's certainly good! They puffed up great, and the texture was good. I cut them with a 1" biscuit cutter because I wanted to use them as a cute quick appetizer. I served them with cream cheese and garlic-onion jelly.
Bittersweet Brownies
Back in February I was recipe testing brownie recipes for my rehearsal dinner party (I made 3-tier brownie cakes for everyone-fun!). This recipe wasn't right for my cakes, but it was really good. My husband loved them.
I brought these to an Easter party, and both adults and children loved them. They're really pretty cookies, and easy to make. I love Dorie Greenspan's suggestion of using the cardboard from paper towel rolls to keep the cookie dough round. It worked great.
World Peace Cookies
These are so good, I can NEVER make them again. Way too tempting with a glass of milk.
Perfect Party Cake
I've made this cake recipe several times. My husband doesn't like lemon, so I usually substitute 2 tsp of vanilla bean paste instead of the zest and lemon extract. I recently made cupcakes with this cake recipe, and I fill the cupcakes with a walnut-chocolate filling and topped with a chocolate buttercream. They were so good.

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