Monday, November 17, 2008
Thanks for checking in.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Rugelach is a cookie that took me by surprise a few years ago. It was December 2005, and I was working as a manager at a busy bakery in St. Helena, CA. The pastry chef started baking a ton of new cookies for the holiday, and one in particular caught my attention. It was flaky, cut into a jelly roll shape and had dried apricots; it was rugelach. The cookie looked beautiful, so I asked about it; only to be disappointed to hear it contained walnuts. I have never enjoyed nuts in my baked goods, so I wrote them off until one day when I smelled them right out of the oven. The smell was intoxicating and I decided to give them a go. Well, wouldn't you know it; I liked walnuts in this cookie. It was by far the best cookie she made that holiday season.
I've been lucky enough to eat Dorie's rugelach cookies before. My friend Sharon made them when the original concept of my blog was to have my friends bake from a specific cookbook, and then we would all get together, sample the goodies; and I would blog about it later. It was a great idea except for the fact that all my California friends moved out of state; including myself! When Sharon made these cookies we loved them though, so I was excited to try this recipe out myself.
I spent most of today running errands and waiting in line to vote. An hour and a half after getting in line to vote; I was relieved to put my ballot into the machine and walk out with a feeling of hope, and a fun project in front of me. On the way home I stopped by Starbucks for my free voter coffee; big mistake! I am still over caffeinated 2 hours after drinking the coffee (or maybe it has something to do with all the sugar I consumed after making these J).
I doubled the recipe because we have a big family party to go to on Sunday.
After processing the doughs and letting them chill for a few hours; I started the process. I made four different types of rugelach. The first was Dorie's chocolate filling except I subbed cranberries for currants. The second batch was Dorie's filling sans walnuts. For the third batch, I decided to play around with Nutella. My cookie contained Nutella, hazelnuts and espresso sugar.
Lastly, I made a cookie that contained caramel pear butter, cardamom sugar and almonds. Here they are before going in the oven.
They were all fantastic, but if I had to choose I would say the Nutella, espresso sugar and hazelnut rugelach was my favorite. Many thanks to Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal for picking this recipe.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
It's that time of the year again. The leaves on the trees have changed, all the bakeries are selling hot mulled cider and pumpkin is showing up on every menu in the Boston area. I have a love hate relationship with pumpkin. I love pumpkin breads and muffins. I love carving pumpkins for Halloween. The only problem with pumpkin is pumpkin pie. The only reason pumpkin pie's a problem is because we're going to be making literally hundreds of pumpkin pies next month! It's not that I hate pumpkin pie, I'm just not a fan of the anxiety I feel when I think about the logistics of baking hundreds of pies. Oh yeah, did I mention we're making our own pumpkin puree? No cans for us, we're a hard core bakery and we only use the freshest ingredients. Next month is going to be a whirl wind of pumpkin and pie dough. It's going to be so much fun, I can't wait to see how it all works out.
Why all this talk of pumpkin? Because Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp chose pumpkin muffins as this week's TWD recipe. The recipe was really easy to make, and I followed it to a T except I didn't add nuts or raisins. I was surprised by how thick the batter was. I've been making a lot of breads/muffins lately that use canola oil so I'm used to a wetter batter. This one was very thick.
Surprisingly, I didn't like these muffins. I am pretty sure that I overbaked them after reading what other people wrote about this recipe. Foolishly, I decided to would squeeze a quick shower in between putting them in the oven and taking them out. I got back just in the nick of time to take them out at 24 minutes. They were certainly done at that point, so I'm sure I could have taken them out earlier. It seems like other TWD'ers really liked this recipe though, so I'll have to try again soon.
Monday, October 20, 2008
When one finds themselves with 10 pounds of pears, what does one do?
In this case, make caramel pear butter. I found the recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appetit and it seemed like it would be a cool gift to give people. One thing I forgot was just how long the whole canning process takes. From cleaning all the jars, to boiling the huge vat of water, to making the recipe; it takes forever! I started this project at about 5:00, and I wasn't finished till 9:15. Over four hours of, ugh, fun?
Here's the recipe. I increase the amount of pears to 7 1/2 pounds because my Moonglow pears were so small I thought they may not yield as much fruit as Barlett's once they were chopped up. I ended up filling 7 1/2 half-pint jars once the recipe was finished.
Brown sugar gives this pear butter a caramel-like flavor. See our guide to canning for additional tips and tricks.
Makes about eight 1/2-pint jars
Recipe by Jill Silverman Hough
October 2008 Ingredients
1/4 cup apple juice
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
7 pounds ripe Bartlett pears
3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in heavy large deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears, 1 at a time, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces; mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning.
Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat. Press pear mixture through fine plate of food mill into large bowl. Return pear puree to same pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent scorching, about 1 hour (I actually stirred it more than that because I could feel the puree starting to cling to the bottom of the pan).
Ladle pear butter into 8 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.
What happens when I leave my husband alone to plan a dinner menu while I'm at work? Meat cake, that's what happens.
A few weeks ago, Joe and I went to Crow Book Shop in Burlington, VT. While I was there I found a copy of David Burke's book David Burke's New American Classics for sale. I purchased it because Joe and I had just been to David Burke's restaurant David Burke and Donatella in NYC the week before and like it. Joe was really excited to see the book because of one recipe in particular; the Meatloaf Bundt Cake. I knew Joe would find a reason to make that cake as soon as possible. The following Sunday, I got a call at work saying we had company coming over and asking "do we have any croissant dough in the freezer?" It was meat cake time. Luckily we did have croissant dough in the freezer because I made the croissant recipe from Baking with Julia a couple of months ago and froze the extra dough.
That night, I came home to what can only be described as a glorious meat cake. It was a sight to behold that's for sure, and the taste was amazing. I know for a fact Joe will be making this again... looks like I should start making more croissant dough.
In addition to making meat cakes, Joe also likes to make beer. On Saturday, he and a friend make two batches of beer at our place. One pale ale and a dark brown ale. I can't wait to see how they turn out.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I randomly stumbled upon this recipe last night while poking around on Chow. Apparently the recipe is from Cooks Illustrated. I decided to make them because I had all the ingredients on hand, and people on Chowhound were raving.
The only thing I regret about making these, is that I didn't double the recipe. Brown butter and brown sugar mixed together in a cookie…pure bliss.
Brown Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 Dozen Cookies
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (about 1 3/4 ounces)
2 cups packed dark brown sugar (14 ounces)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Heat 10 tablespoons of the butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue to cook the butter until it is browned a dark golden color and smells nutty, about 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and stir the rest of the butter into the hot butter until it melts- let this rest for 15 min. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, mix granulated sugar and a ¼ cup of the brown sugar until combined well; set this mixture aside to roll dough balls in. Mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Add 1 ¾ cup brown sugar and salt to cooled butter and mix until there are no lumps. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla to butter mixture and mix well, then add flour and mix until just combined. Roll dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, and roll balls in brown sugar and white sugar mixture. Place balls about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake sheets one at a time until cookies are puffy and lightly browned, about 12- 14 minutes. (It says the cookies will look slightly raw between some of the cracks and seem underdone, but be careful not to overbake.) Cool on sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool.
Joe and I went to go apple picking at Bolton Spring Farms' yesterday. It was a beautiful fall day, just the right conditions for apple picking. The only thing was that once we got there, we found out they only had one size bag and one price for picking. We just didn't need a bushel of apples for $20! We decided to walk across the street to the farmstand and think it over. While standing there, deliberating about what to do we noticed we were standing in front of a table of seconds. We ended up buying a ½ peck of Paula red apples, 2 ½ pecks of Moonglow pears and a cheese pumpkin for under $8. I was so happy about the great deal that I forgot all about apple picking. As Joe said after "nothing cheers you up like a great deal."
I've had Alice Medrich's book Pure Dessert on my "Bake from this soon" list for a while. Her recipe for Bea's apple crisp looked delicious, except Joe doesn't like orange zest and I didn't have dried apricots; so I had to omit those two items. Also, she calls for cubing the apple and leaving the skin on, but I prefer skinless apples in recipes like this. Here's my version of her recipe resulting in an exceptionally delicious apple crisp.
Apple Crisp adapted from Pure Dessert
½ cup AP flour
½ cup rolled oats
Scant 1 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces
½ cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut small
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine flour, oats, sugar and salt. Add butter and work it in with your fingers to pea sized pieces. Add walnut pieces
11 Paula Red apples (they were small, so if you're using larger ones you may only need 6)
¼ to ½ cup sugar (depending on tartness of apples)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Peal, core and cut apples. Toss with cinnamon and sugar. Put in a buttered 2 quart dish. Top fruit with crumb topping. Bake at 350 for 1 ¼ hours to 1 ½ hours.
I've made a lot of biscotti recipes over the past few years. They were on my production list when I worked at Bouchon, so I've made literally thousands of them. I once made 5 different kinds of biscotti for everyone I knew as Christmas gifts. All that being said, I love really good biscotti. My definition of good biscotti is a cookie that's firm on the outside, but still a little soft on the inside. I hate biscotti that cause me to contemplate calling the dentist, as in; did I just break my tooth on this thing?
After reading Dorie's description of these cookies, I decided they were a must try. At first I was going to make one of the playing around recipes, but when I read that she makes these cookies in double batches twice a week, I thought maybe I should try the original recipe first. I'm glad I did. The recipe itself is really easy. Basically cream butter & sugar, add eggs, add dry, fold in nuts. One thing that surprised me was that Dorie didn't call for resting the dough. I find that biscotti dough firms up, and is easier to form into a log if you let it rest in the fridge for a while. That being said, I followed Dorie's directions, and I formed the logs right after making the dough.
They were a little sticky, but easy enough to shape. I was surprised by how much my biscotti spread in the oven, but they ended up looking great once I cut them.
This turned out to be one of the most delicious biscotti's I've ever eaten. The almond flavor is amazing, it actually tastes like there's almond paste in the cookies because they're so tender on the inside. I found Dorie's description of them to be true "crunchy but not rock solid, dippable, dunkable and eminently munchable." Many thanks to Gretchen of Canela & Comino for choosing this recipe. Because of you, Gretchen, I was able to justify eating a cookie for breakfast this morning. Anyone interested in making this recipe, can find it on Gretchen's website.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
How fabulous is this cake?
- I've made it 4 times in the past year.
- Peanut butter, caramel and chocolate.
- Beautiful, shiny caramel topping for extra sparkle.
- It's impossible to have just one piece.
Someone had to pick this recipe, and I'm glad that Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy did just that. I can't wait to see how much the other TWD'ers loved this recipe.
The recipe is very straight forward. I have a few pointers to help anyone who is going to make this cake based on my own experience.
- Make sure to not overcook your cake. When you think about it, it's a brownie cake, and honestly; who doesn't love a brownie that's a little underdone? I made the mistake of drinking a little too much vino while making the cake for Thanksgiving last year. Oops, I left it in the oven a little too long. It wasn't burned, but it was too dry for my liking.
- Watch your caramel very closely. It can go from beautiful amber to bitter black very quickly. Also, never add cold cream to a caramel. It results in major caramel eruptions. Instead, slightly warm the cream, or at least make sure it's room temp. The caramel will still sputter when the cream is added, but not nearly as much as it would if adding cold cream.
I hope everyone enjoyed this cake as much as I have in the past.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
It was my turn to choose this week's TWD recipe. Exciting? Yes. Difficult? You bet! There are so many fantastic recipes in this book, it was nearly impossible to choose one recipe. I decided on the plum cake because I love plums and cardamom is one of my favorite spices. Also, I've been very busy with work and travel lately, so I decided it would be safe to choose an easy recipe that I could throw together quickly.
Wow, I'm so thankful I choose such an easy recipe. In addition to working 14 hour days at the bakery; last week I went to a Star Chef conference in NYC for two days, and then Joe and I went to NYC again Sunday returning late last night. Both trips were great. I hope to post about the conference sometime today, it was amazing. Yesterday we had a nice lunch at David Burke and Donatella, and afterwards I shopped around while Joe went to an appointment. We got home late last night, and skipped dinner because we were still stuffed from lunch.
Back to the plum cake. First off, I decided to halve the recipe. Both Joe and I have been consuming copious amounts of baked goods since Sofra opened, so I decided we didn't exactly "need" 8 servings of this cake! I baked the cake in a 6" round cake pan, which worked out perfectly. I think the cake may have been slightly shorter than Dorie's, but I wanted to fit more plums on top of the cake and I knew my 4" pan would only hold about 5 plum halves. The recipe was easy to make. Cream butter and sugar, add egg(s), add oil, zest, and vanilla; and finally add dry ingredients till just incorporated.
I scraped the batter into my cake pan, leveled it out a bit, and then topped it with 7 plum halves (I couldn't squeeze the last one in).
My bake time was surprisingly longer than Dorie suggested. I baked the cake for just over 45 minutes at 350.
When the cake came out of the oven, I was slightly disappointed with how dry the plums looked.
I decided to beautify it by making a plum cardamom glaze. What I did was I cut a plum up into small pieces and put it in a pan with some sugar, once the sugar started to melt, I added two fresh cardamom seeds and a little bit of brandy.
I left the skin on the plums because I love the color that plum skin leaches while cooking. Next I went to the dining room to pay bills. Having forgotten about my plum glaze, I came back to a nicely caramelized plum glaze (phew)! I wish every time I forgot about something on the stovetop that would happen! I added a little bit of water to thin out my glaze and topped the cake with it.
Appearance wise, I think the glaze made this a really beautiful cake.
It's the kind of cake I would want to buy at a bakery based on appearance. I swear my pictures don't even come close to showing just how pretty this cake was. Overall though, I wasn't blown away by the cake itself. I have a feeling it's because my plums weren't that great. There were hundreds of purple plums at the grocery store, but they were all rock hard. I chose the ripest of the lot, but that's not saying much. I will certainly make this cake again when I can find some beautiful plums. I have a feeling that will make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the cake. Also, I'm interested to see what this cake tastes like tomorrow. Dorie says that the first day the cake is like corn bread and the 2nd and 3rd days it's soft and moist. Perhaps I'll fall in love with it tomorrow.
Just a side note. If you have David Lebovitz's book Ripe for Dessert try his recipe for a yeasted plum tart with red wine-plum sauce. It's a fantastic plum recipe. Also, today I plan on catching up on some posts. Check out my posts on both Sofra and the Star Chefs Conference.
Here's the recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours
Dimply Plum Cake (page 41)
1 ½ C AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp salt
Scant ¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
5 Tbsp Unsalted butter, room temp
¾ C Packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 C flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
8 purple of red plums (in the fall, use Italian prune plums), halved and pitted
Getting Ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degress F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour, tap out the excess and put the pan on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder; salt and cardamom, if you're using it, together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a mixture after each addition. On medium speed, beat in the oil, orange zest and vanilla. The batter will look very light and smooth, almost satiny. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only till they're incorporated.
Run a spatula around the bowl and under the batter, just to make sure there are no dry spots, then scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plums cut side up in the batter-I usually make 4 rows of 4 plum halves each-jiggling the plums a tad just so they settle comfortably into the batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is honey brown and puffed around the plums and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 15 minutes-during which time the plums' juice will return to the fruit-then run a knife around the sides of the pan and unmold the cake. Invert and cool right side up.
The real highlight for me was I was able to attend a workshop with Michael Laiskonis the executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin. He is an incredible pastry chef, and though my class with him was short, I feel I learned quite a bit. Here are some pictures from his workshop:
Chocolate Corn Petit Four:
Chocolate Menthol Petit Four:
The three petit fours he presented (two above plus peanut butter cup):
Additional Petit Fours:
If you're interested in learning more about Michael Laiskonis check out his blog at:
If you are in the Boston/Cambridge/Watertown area please come and visit. We're located at 1 Belmont St. in Cambridge. www.sofrabakery.com
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
Egyptian shortbreads with fig jam (the jam is seasonal will change to quince soon)
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
Almond and apricot brioche:
|From Food as of 8/17/08|
Maureo's and earthquakes:
|From Food as of 8/17/08|