Tuesday, September 29, 2009

TWD: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

There was a tart that kept popping up on blogs this summer. A chocolate short crust topped with a layer of caramel, finished off with a rich ganache, that had been published in Saveur. I was dying to make this tart. It looked heavenly and downright decadent. Alas, the occasion never arose for me to make the tart. Then, I looked at the September choices for Tuesdays with Dorie, and lo and behold there was a little number called a Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart. Curious, I looked it up in The Book, and there was a tart remarkably like the one I had been wanting to make, and I had an excuse to bake it! My excitement could not be contained.

I had very high hopes for this one, and oh it did not disappoint.

There is nothing terribly complicated about this tart, though it does take some time to make, as there are 3 separate elements and each must cool before the next may be added.

The caramel layer is supposed to contain honey-roasted peanuts, but I just don't like peanuts. So, I sauteed some chopped pecans in a little butter, maple syrup and salt and added those to the caramel instead. They worked like a charm. They added a wonderful element to the tart, so I am really glad I didn't skip the nuts entirely. The slightly salty crunch was such a nice juxtaposition to the ganache and buttery short crust, both of which were rather soft. The only other change I made was to replace the corn syrup in the caramel with agave.

This is definitely in my TWD top 5, and it is a danger to have around! All day, every time I walked past it I snuck a bite. Before I knew it, I had eaten almost 2 pieces. Yikes! Thankfully, I gave most of it away... I can't wait until I have occasion to make it again.

Carla of Chocolate Moosey chose this divine tart, be sure to visit her blog for the recipe. And then go make it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Daring Bakers: Roasted Root Vegetable Vols-au-Vent

I was so excited for this month's Daring Bakers challenge, because I have been wanting to make puff pastry for a long time. Also, the recipe for puff pastry that was chosen was from Baking with Julia - a cookbook I bought several months ago, but had yet to bake anything from. My mind was racing with all of the possible filling options, and I actually made the puff pastry a week before the reveal date, but things just kept coming up and keeping me from actually baking and filling it. Today was finally the day (even though the reveal date was actually yesterday...).

I decided to go with a filling of root vegetables - red and chiogga beets, sweet potatoes and fingerling potatoes - roasted with whole garlic cloves, fresh rosemary olive oil and sea salt. It was beautiful and delicious.

The puff pastry was surprisingly easy to make, and not nearly as time consuming as I thought it would be. I was pleased with how my pastry puffed, though it leaked a lot of butter in the process. Perhaps I wasn't as careful as I should have been while I was making it... Nonetheless, it was so scrumptious. It had a rich buttery flavor - as anything containing a full pound of butter should have - and was quite flaky despite all of the leakage. I'll be making this again for sure, the possibilities are endless!

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough


2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge has been chosen by Steph of a whisk and a spoon. Steph chose Vols-au-Vent, which we are pretty sure in French means, “After one bite we could die and go to heaven!” Wink

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SMS: Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheese Muffins

I will admit, I wasn't terribly excited about these muffins. Especially after reading about others slightly blah results. After making a few changes, though, these are the best savory muffins I have ever eaten. They were unbelievable!

I made a 1/2 recipe because my sage plant has been so picked over, all I could get off of it was 1 tablespoon and I didn't want them to be sage-poor like these cornbread muffins were. Tracey told me not to skimp on the spices, but the spices were cayenne and black pepper - too spicy for my little one. I knew I had to compensate somehow to add some flavor to these muffins. The first thing I did was to brown the butter. I know, I know, do I ever make anything without brown butter? I'm obsessed with it, and it really adds another dimension to baked goods, so I just couldn't help myself. I also added 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (remember, this was for 1/2 recipe), and took the sugar out entirely. The recipe calls for sharp cheddar, which we usually keep around, but we were out so I used what we did have: jack and parmesan.

I absolutely loved these muffins. They smelled divine while baking, and tasted divine once they were out. The coriander was a perfect complement to the caramelized onions, sage and cheese. These are a wonderful beginning-of-fall treat, and I'm sure they'll be making several appearances throughout the chilly seasons to come.

Thanks to Hanaa of Hanaa's Kitchen for choosing these muffins for all of us to bake. They were a wonderfully delicious surprise! Visit Hanaa's blog for the original recipe, and take a look here to see what the other SMS ladies came up with this week.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And the Winner is...

Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures! Just email your shipping address to blueridgebaker@gmail.com and I'll send your square baking dish out ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who entered! It has been a really fun 6 months, and I'm looking forward to many more!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kamut Pound Cake

Ever since I got Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert a few months ago, I have been wanting to try out this pound cake. I finally had the opportunity when a few of us decided to bake it together via Twitter.

The thing that stopped me from making this pound cake earlier was the kamut. The health food store that I shop at regularly doesn't carry kamut flour or whole kamut. Thankfully I did find whole kamut at a different store, and even more thankfully, I own a (previously unused) grain mill. Problem solved. Freshly ground kamut flour in hand, I met up with Nancy, Di and Amy Ruth online to make our cakes.

Kamut is an ancient variety of wheat, that has only in recent years made it into the mainstream. It has a sweeter, more buttery flavor than the wheat we're used to eating, and is higher in minerals, amino acids and protein than its more common relative.

I was really excited to bake with a new ingredient, and I was not disappointed. The end result was an unbelievably moist pound cake, with a wonderfully dense yet separate crumb. The kamut added a cornmeal-like crunch to the cake, that gave it a rustic feel. It wasn't too sweet, which I loved, and I think it would be delicious served with fresh fruit and perhaps a dollop of freshly whipped cream. The only think I didn't like about it was that the crust was greasy. I don't know if my fellow bakers had the same experience or if it had to do with my alterations.

Kamut Pound Cake
adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

3 tablespoons whole milk at room temperature
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1/2 cup kamut flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small chunks

Preheat oven to 350. Line 8x4 loaf pan with parchment. Whisk together milk, eggs, agave and vanilla. Set aside. Over the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together flours, baking powder and salt. If there is any bran left in the sifter, tip it into the bowl. Stir the dry ingredients together. Add butter and half of egg mixture. With the paddle attachment, beat on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Scrape bowl. Add 1/2 of remaining egg mixture and beat for 20 seconds. Add the rest of the egg mixture and beat for another 20 seconds. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake until tester comes out clean 55-60 minutes. If cake looks like it's browning too quickly, place a foil tent over it at 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on rack. Serve it plain or toast thick slices and serve with fresh peaches and cream. Alternately, toast slices and top with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, and serve with a cup of black tea.

Alice Medrich also gives a few variations on this pound cake such as bourbon & nutmeg and whole wheat & chocolate which I'm anxious to try out. If the simple kamut is any indication, I know they will be delicious.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TWD: Cottage Cheese Pufflets + a Giveaway!

When I read the name for these little treats, I pictured a savory, rustic looking ball containing whole cottage cheese. The recipe had caught my eye several times while perusing The Book, and every time, I read Dorie's words with surprise. She says that she had the recipe for these in one of her first kitchen notebooks, and that the only note next to them was "delicious". Honestly, even that endorsement by Dorie wasn't enough to make me read through the recipe - if I had I would have found out that they are actually refined little jam-filled triangles. I don't love cottage cheese, and couldn't imagine it in a baked good. It was not with a lot of excitement, then, that I set out to make them. I should have had more faith in Dorie...

I read on the TWD P&Q that people were having a lot of trouble with their dough. It was sticky, soft and finicky, it needed multiple refrigerations, etc... I decided to drain most of the liquid out of my cottage cheese in order to hopefully combat these problems. Well, it must have worked, because I found the dough really easy to work with, and not unusually sticky at all.

I replaced the sugar in the dough with agave, and filled my pufflets with sugar-free sour cherry jam. If you don't know this already, I have never given my almost 3 year old son refined sugar, so whenever I am making something that I would give him were it sugar-free - basically anything that isn't chocolate - I make it that way.

They pufflets came out of the oven golden, puffed and looking quite yummy!

These were not my favorite jam-filled treats - I would rather have a rugelach any day - but they were pretty tasty, and my son loved them. What more can I ask?

The pufflets were chosen by Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes, where you can find the recipe for them. To see how everyone else's pufflets turned out, look here.

Also, I'm having a giveaway to celebrate my 100th post. Details are here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

BBA Challenge: Cornbread

Being from the south, I have eaten my fair share of cornbread. I can say without a doubt that I do not like it sweet. Now don't get me wrong, I'll certainly slather a warm piece with butter and honey, but it just isn't right to put sugar in the batter. So when I saw that there was not one, not two, but three different sweeteners in this recipe, I knew changes would have to be made.

I eliminated the brown sugar, granulated sugar and honey - yeesh! - and upped the salt a bit. The recipe also calls for bacon. I'm a lifelong vegetarian, so needless to say I didn't use that either. I wanted a little punch to the cornbread, so I added sage, and browned my butter. The recipe calls for buttermilk, but I didn't have any so I substituted yogurt as I often do.

When I got a bite with sage, it was delicious, though I should have added more. The flavor of the brown butter didn't come through, though there is only 2 tablespoons of butter in the recipe so i didn't have terribly high hopes for it.

Two unusual elements of this recipe are that it starts with an overnight soaker of cornmeal and buttermilk, and it contains fresh corn kernels. These were two of my favorite aspects of the bread. The soak made the bread incredibly moist and creamy, and I loved the flavor and crunch of biting into a sweet juicy kernel of corn.

When it comes down to it, though, I probably won't be repeating this one. The extra work that goes into this cornbread just isn't justified by the final product. It isn't bad, it's actually quite tasty. Just not any tastier than my usual recipe. In addition, it takes a long time to make - not necessarily active time, but due to the soaker it has to be planned for in advance - and it uses an inordinate number of bowls. My go-to recipe can be whipped up in about 5 minutes in one bowl.

The recipe for this bread can be found in the wonderful book The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Be sure to enter my GIVEAWAY for a wonderful 8x8 square baking dish. Here's how.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

SMS: Orange Scented Scones

I love scones, so I was really happy that these beauties were the SMS pick for this week.

Everyone I gave them to agreed that they are the best scones I've ever made, and I have to agree!

I love citrus zest, so I used the zest of a whole orange as opposed to 1 tsp as the recipe calls for. They were perfectly orangey. I also subbed agave for the cane sugar in the recipe, and I upped it to 2 tablespoons. The only criticism I have of these is that they could actually be a hint sweeter. Oh, also, the recipe calls for making these in a food processor, but I made them by hand. I really enjoy using my pastry cutter. And I just remembered that I used oat bran in place of the oat flour.

These scones have the perfect texture. They are wonderfully flaky and buttery and have a very light crumb. I can think of many possible variations of these, and I plan on trying them all!

Thanks to Robin of Lady Craddock's Bakery for picking this recipe which can be found on her blog.

On a different note, I'm having a GIVEAWAY for a wonderful 8x8 stone baking dish! Details are here. Be sure to enter!!!

As always, be sure to make the SMS rounds to see everyone else's scones.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

100th Post!!! New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Giveaway!

It has been almost 6 months since I started this blog, I can hardly believe it! And here we are on my 100th post!

It has been an amazing 6 months. I have so enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful bloggers from all over, and being part of such an amazing and supportive community.

In honor of my first 6 months and first 100 posts, I have for you the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies. I know I posted about these a couple of months ago, but they were one of many treats in that post and they are so delicious they deserve a little more attention than they got there.

I am a cookie girl through and through. I love making them and I love eating them. One of the few things my mom baked growing up was chocolate chip cookies (she used a slightly modified Toll House recipe). The memory of eating ccc's is a distinct one from my childhood. They signify home. They are the thing I have baked more than any other by far, though I have always been on the search for the perfect cookie. I am happy to say the search is over. These are my ideal chocolate chip cookie. That is not to say that I won't try out another recipe. I can't imagine that there is a recipe out there that I could possibly love as much as I love this one let alone more, though I suppose there is always a chance...

The recipe can be found here.

In addition, I'm giving away an 8x8 stone baking dish! I do all of my baking (with the exception of cakes) in/on baking stones, and I love them. They are completely non-toxic, they bake incredibly evenly and they become more and more non-stick over time and they're made in the USA! I love stone bakeware and I can't say enough good things about it.

Two ways to enter the giveaway:

1. Leave a comment on this post
2. Follow me on Twitter and tweet about my giveaway with a link to this post!

It's that simple! Increase your odds and enter in both places, but only do each one once. The contest will go for one week, and end on Friday, September 25th at midnight. Winner will be chosen using random.org and will be announced on Saturday the 26th.

I hate to be exclusionary, but this is a heavy item so I have to limit this contest to US entrants only.

Good luck!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Brown Butter Blondies

I have recently discovered that I love blondies. Love them. I have to restrain myself from making them too often, however, because they somehow disappear within mere hours after coming out of the oven. I have no idea how that happens...

Something else I love is brown butter. It makes everything better as far as I'm concerned. So, when a craving hit for blondies the other night, I thought I'd change them up a little and add some brown butter to them. I also used palm sugar in place of brown sugar so my son could eat them.

The result was delicious. And, as predicted, they didn't even last 24 hours...


1/2 cup butter, browned
1 cup palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached white flour

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and lightly flour an 8x8 pan. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the brown butter and palm sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined*. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack.

*At this point, you could also add 1/3 cup chocolate chips, nuts, etc... Also tasty is to sprinkle them on the top of the batter before baking. I didn't add anything to this batch so my son could eat them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quick Cinnamon Rolls

I'm not sure I have the words to adequately express how much I love these cinnamon rolls. I have made them twice in less than a week if that gives you an idea. I discovered them on the wonderful blog Ezra Pound Cake, and they have fast become a favorite around here.

The thing that is so wonderful about them is that they don't have yeast, so you don't have to wait around for hours for your dough to rise before you can enjoy them. Don't get me wrong, yeasted cinnamon rolls are divine, but I love cinnamon rolls, and these I can make on a regular basis.

These are made from a biscuit dough, but even that part is ridiculously easy - there's no butter! All you have to do is mix flour, baking powder and salt, then stir in some cream. That simple! The result is a biscuit that melts in your mouth, and has a lightly sweet creamy flavor. Really, they're unbelievable.

Once again, I topped them with my maple caramel sauce, making this the third time in a week that I've made it. Oh my, this may become a problem...

Oh, two other changes I made: I used 2 tablespoons of agave in the dough and palm sugar in the filling.

Here is the recipe for the cinnamon rolls. Please make them soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

TWD: Flaky Apple Turnovers

Fall is definitely on its way, and how better to usher it in than with apple turnovers!

This is a really easy recipe to put together, and very versatile. Any number of fruits could be used in place of apples.

I enjoyed these turnovers, but the crust wasn't quite what I was hoping for. It just wasn't crispy enough, and the flavor was a bit bland. It could have been my fault, because I didn't have sour cream, so I used yogurt in its stead. I don't know. Perhaps I'll try again sometime with sour cream and see if the results are any better.

My son loved these, however, and would have eaten 10 if I'd let him. Actually, he made his own blackberry version - he rolled the dough entirely by himself, and sealed the turnover, too. His little blackberry turnover is pictured with David Lebovitz's fresh mint ice cream from The Perfect Scoop. It doesn't look like mint, because I sweetened it with palm sugar which is fairly dark brown in color, but it was very minty tasting, and delicious.

Thanks to Julie of Someone's in the Kitchen for hosting this week. The recipe for these turnovers can be found on her blog. You can see everyone else's turnovers here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

SMS: Perfect Pound Cake with Maple Caramel Sauce

Goodness, I'm late in posting this! I didn't wait until the last minute to make something for a baking group - for once - but there were other problems in getting this post up. Namely that a few days ago my wallet, phone and camera were all stolen. Luckily, everything is replaceable, and I now have an excuse to buy a dSLR! Until that happens, I'm borrowing my mom's camera which I didn't get up and running until late this afternoon.

As usual, I made some adjustments so that there was no refined sugar in the recipe. I used 1/2 cup agave in place of the sugar, used 2 cups AP flour and 2 eggs. I baked my batter in 3 mini loaf pans.

I really love a good pound cake, and while I did really like this one, it wasn't spectacular to me. It could have been due to the substitutions I made, though. It had a pretty good flavor, and a pretty good crumb, just not spectacular. Enter: maple caramel sauce.

A few days ago I made these cinnamon roll biscuits. They were unbelievable and so easy and quick to make. I may never make a yeasted cinnamon roll again. Unfortunately, I didn't get to post them, due to the lack of camera. Don't worry, I'll make them again. Soon. Anyway, I made the cinnamon rolls refined sugar free too, and when trying to figure out what to top them with that didn't have sugar I came up with this sauce. It is ridiculous. I think I ate more with a spoon than on my cinnamon rolls. It was so good that I had to remake it when I felt the pound cake needed a little punch. It did the trick.

Maple Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/6 cup heavy cream
2 tsp butter, cut into small pieces
pinch of salt

Bring maple syrup to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes, until thickened and frothy looking. Pour in heavy cream and stir until it settles down - it will spit and rise when the cream is added. Add the butter a couple pieces at a time, stir until melted. Stir in salt. Serve. I haven't tried yet, but I think this would make fabulous caramels given more time to thicken.

Thanks to Michele of Veggie Num Nums for picking this yummy recipe, which can be found on her blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I finally bit the bullet and joined Twitter!!! The only reason being that I love the idea of baking with other bloggers while tweeting. I'd love for you to follow me!

Granola Bars

I've been contemplating making my own granola bars for quite some time, and seeing these on Smitten Kitchen was just the push I needed to finally give them a try.

These are chewy, delicious, and so easy to make.

The recipe is here. Changes I made are as follows: I used pecans; for the dried fruit, I used half figs and half goji berries; I substituted agave for the honey; I substituted oat bran for wheat germ. I also added the butter that Deb left out.

They are fantastic, and so easy to adapt to so many different flavors. I'll definitely keep this recipe in the files.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TWD: Chocolate Souffle

And now for the second chocolate souffle of the week! This one was picked by Susan of She's Becoming DoughMessTic. I'm kind of glad we both chose souffles in the same week, because it gave me a chance to compare the two, and I am becoming quite proficient at making meringue.

I made a quarter recipe of this one, and baked it in a jadeite chili/cereal bowl with about a 12oz capacity. Thanks to Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs for posting measurements for a quarter recipe, and keeping me from having to think too much!

Melissa and Dorie's recipes are quite similar, but there were a few main differences that I saw. One was that in the Sweet Melissa recipe calls for beating the egg yolks with half of the sugar until they double in volume, while Dorie just has you whisk them into the melted chocolate. I prefer the latter method, as it means one less dirty bowl... Melissa's recipe is flavored with Grand Marnier and orange zest, while Dorie's is purely chocolate. The other difference was that Melissa's recipe calls for butter and Dorie's has milk.

My little souffle baked for 20 minutes and came out perfectly done with a nice rise. I rushed to photograph it, then took a bite while it was still warm. Mmm... Really delicious. Much more chocolatey than the fallen chocolate souffle cake, and very much like a light and airy brownie. I got the crust that I was missing from the cake, and all in all really liked this recipe. This I would make again. I would be interested to see how this one would be as a fallen cake, because I love that idea.

I'm not sure why I liked this one so much better than the fallen chocolate souffle cake - it could have been that my expectations were very low - but it was gobbled up just minutes out of the oven, while I still have half of the other one dying in my fridge - though the texture certainly played a big part in my opinion. The cake was all the same texture, while this one had a wonderful crispy crust.

The only criticism I have is that it was a little sweet. So next time I make it I'll reduce the sugar.

Thanks to Susan for hosting this week. The chocolate souffle recipe can be found on her blog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bettter than Brownie Cookies (with a hint of orange)

As soon as I saw these on Tracey's blog a week or so ago, I knew I had to make them. And soon. I was not wrong. Though I'm warning you now, you might not want to make them. Because you'll eat them all. In minutes.

Anything that claims to be better than a brownie has a lot to live up to. Especially in my house. These cookies did not disappoint. They are basically a brownie batter with chocolate chunks in it that is baked like a cookie. I'm not sure I'd agree that they are better than a brownie, but I would say that they are equally as good. And they are fantastic.

The only change I made to the recipe was to replace the vanilla extract with orange extract. There is a bakery near the town I live in that has the most delicious chocolate chocolate orange cookies, and I was hoping to recapture the flavor of them. These were better. I think they would also be great with espresso, nibs, coconut, mint, or as written with vanilla extract. I will (perhaps unfortunately) be making these again. And again. And again...

You can find the recipe here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SMS: Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake + Bonus Flourless Chocolate Cake

This week it was finally my turn to pick a recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays! It was no easy task, let me tell you...

I finally settled on the fallen chocolate souffle cake for a few reasons: I love chocolate, I had never made a souffle and wanted to try something new, I wanted practice at making meringue, it looked really yummy from the photo - it's the picture on the cover of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. The fact that I don't like the taste of eggs was the only reservation I had about this recipe - admittedly, a rather large one, considering there are 8 of them in this cake - but I decided to go ahead with it, and challenge my skills and tastebuds.

Unfortunately, when I made my pick, I hadn't yet looked at the September recipes for Tuesdays with Dorie. Had I done so, I would have seen that the recipe for September 8th is a chocolate souffle. Oh well...

I made the fallen chocolate souffle cake twice in the last week. The first time, I made 1/4 of the recipe and baked it in two 4" springforms for 18 minutes. I was nervou taking my first bite, no one wants to be the person who picked the dud recipe. My reaction? It didn't wow me. It was tasty, but the texture left something to be desired. It was smooth and fluffy and melted in my mouth, which was all well and good, but there was no contrast to that. There was no crunchy crust to counter the soft insides. I was disappointed. So I baked it again.

The second time, I made a full recipe in a 10" pan, as the recipe is written. I was hoping that the problem with the minis was that they weren't in the oven long enough to develop a tasty crust, seeing as how they took only 18 minutes, as opposed to the hour recommended for the 10". Unfortunately, I don't have anything better to report from the 10" version. It baked in 42 minutes, was denser in texture than the minis, but there was still no crust. Maybe this recipe isn't meant to have one, I don't know. It does look like there is one on the cover of the book, and other recipes I've seen for similar recipes have very prominent ones. I'll be very interested to see the results from my fellow SMS bakers, and to read their reactions to the recipe. I hope someone out there loved it.

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake
The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

This is a souffle batter that is baked for a while, until it becomes a cake, and it's one of the most popular cakes at Sweet Melissa Patisserie. It is very rustic, but it looks beautiful when the "fallen" center is filled with fresh berries. Makes 1 10-inch cake

10 1/2 ounces best-quality semisweet (58%) chocolate
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar divided into 2 equal parts
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
Confectioner's sugar, for sprinkling

Before you start:
Postition a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Grease a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray or butter. Line the bottom with a parchment paper round.

1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring until smooth.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg yolks with half of the sugar until doubled in volume. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Transfer the chocolate batter to a large bowl. (Wash the mixer bowl and whip attachment very well, and dry thoroughly.)

3. In the clean bowl of the electric mixer, fitted with the clean whip attachment, make a meringue by whipping the egg whites until foamy. In a slow steady stream, add the remaining sugar. Whip until the whites hold stiff but not dry peaks.

4. Briskly fold one-third of the meringue into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Gently fold the remaining two-thirds of the meringue into the batter until it is just incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Spin the pan to level the batter. Bake for 65 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake will fall as it cools.

6. When the cake is cool, release the springform ring and remove it. To release the bottom, invert the cake onto a flat plate an d remove the bottom and the parchment round. Turn right side up onto a serving plate and dust with confectioner's sugar.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or warm hot fudge sauce and garnish with fresh berries, if you'd like to make the dessert a little fancy. The cake keeps tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 1 week. (Leave the cake in the pan for storing, it is delicate.)

Though this was a fairly tasty cake, it is certainly not one I'll be making again. I wasn't even excited to take photos of it, since it was less than exciting to eat. Very disappointing indeed.

* * * * *

As a consolation to myself, I searched for a different flourless chocolate cake recipe to try my hand at. I wanted one that used a different mixing method, and I found this one at allrecipes.com. It is heavenly.

It is made like a brownie - minus the flour, of course - it is deeply chocolatey, fudgey, and has a lovely delicate top crust. It is ridiculously easy to make, too. This one is a keeper. It is everything I wanted the souffle cake to be, but wasn't.

Thanks so much to all of the lovely ladies who baked along with me this week! It is such a pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful group, and I so love visiting your creative, beautiful, entertaining blogs every week.

Friday, September 4, 2009

BBA Challenge: Cinnamon Raisin Pecan Bread

It's time for the next installment in the BBA Challenge, and what a tasty one it is!!! I ate 1/2 a loaf while it was still cooling...

I loved everything about this bread. It wasn't too sweet, the crumb was lovely, the crust was soft, just delicious. One of my favorite things about this bread is the amount of raisins and nuts in it. I can't stand it when a raisin bread is raisin poor...

I attempted to make a cinnamon-sugar swirl, though it was not terribly successful... It was more of a cinnamon-sugar arc. Ah well, it tasted great...

Once again, I used palm sugar in place of cane sugar. and it worked perfectly.

I have found that with the recipes in this book, I am always adding large amounts of additional flour to get the dough to the right consistency. This time, I added less liquid to begin with - 1/4 cup of water instead of 3/4 cup. I still had to add some flour, but it was only a few tablespoons.

I'm sure I'll be making this bread again, it was a big hit in my house.

The recipe for this bread can be found in The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Lacy Coconut Topped Cocoa Brownies

Alice Medrich is not called The Queen of Chocolate for nothing. The lady knows her stuff.

My first introduction to Alice was through her most recent book Pure Dessert, which I absolutely adore. Everything I made from it was so delicious, I had to get more of her books. Many of them are out of print, unfortunately, and therefore quite pricey. I did, however add Bittersweet to my collection. I bought it used in like new condition on Amazon for quite cheap, though when it arrived, it was not quite in the condition I expected it to be in. I was about to complain to the seller, when I started leafing through the book, and there on the title page was Alice's signature. Well, it was rather thrilling to be holding a book that she had held, and I felt like anything I decided to make from it was destined to be amazing. I don't think the seller knew it was autographed, because those copies usually go for $50 or so, and mine was around $7...

These brownies are absolutely amazing. The chocolate in them is cocoa powder, not cocoa solids, which Alice says gives the softest center and crunchiest crust. The brownie is topped coconut macaroon clumps. Oh my. You must make these.

The brownie recipe is available here on Epicurious.

For the coconut macaroon topping:

1 large egg white
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in heat proof bowl, preferably stainless steel, and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir the mixture, stirring to prevent burning, until it is very hot to the touch and the egg white have slightly thickened and turned opaque, about 3-4 minutes.

Using your fingers to drop clumps of the coconut topping over the brownie batter, and bake until brownies puff at the edges and the shreds of coconut turn deep golden brown and crusty. About 25 minutes.* Let cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Lift by parchment sling and cut brownies into 25 squares.

* Alice says 25 minutes, though I've made these twice and both times they needed more in the ballpark of 40-45 minutes. In order to avoid over-browning of the coconut, I tented my brownies with foil as soon as they were deep golden.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Mom's Birthday Cake

The only request my lovely mom made for her birthday cake was "chocolate". Do you see where I get it from? The love of chocolate? Though a simple request in content, not necessarily simple in it's execution. Here's why: there is not a single chocolate cake I've ever had that I thought was out of this world. I'm talking about the actual cake part here. I've loved white cakes, lemon cakes, carrot cakes, coconut cakes and so on, but never chocolate. Perhaps the bar I've set is just too high, seeing as I love chocolate so, and there are so many amazing chocolate desserts out there.

After much recipe perusing, I decided to go with a Dorie Greenspan recipe. Dorie rarely leads me astray. For the cake itself, I chose the brownie cake from Baking from My Home to Yours. In the book it is paired with a caramel-peanut topping, though I went a different direction. I made a coulis from fresh blackberries and soaked the bottom layer of the cake with it. I topped that with a whipped ganache buttercream - the frosting recipe from the Sweet & Salty cake from Baked, minus the caramel. After adding the top layer to the cake, I covered the whole thing in a glaze from Baking from My Home to Yours that makes an appearance on top of the Amaretti Torte.

I found the cake better than the cake of the Sweet & Salty, but it still wasn't quite right. It was nice and dense, though not chocolatey enough. I think I overbaked it a bit, which I discovered after some research was a common problem with this cake - it was baked by TWD last October, before I was a member. Anyway. In the center it was perfect, but the edges were a bit dry. I brushed the cake with an agave-based simple syrup to try to combat the problem, but it wasn't entirely successful. I would like to try this cake again with more chocolate, and slightly underbaking it.

I topped the cake with more fresh blackberries, as it cratered in the center while baking. Had I read the recipe more carefully, I would have seen that Dorie warned this could happen, but in my haste, I just skimmed it. I trimmed the bottom layer so it would be flat, but the top worked nicely as a berry bowl.

The blackberries were a wonderful complement to the chocolate. I served the slices with freshly whipped cream and a drizzle of the coulis. It was wonderful. My mom loved it, as did the rest of my family.

Brownie Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick(8 TBSP) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
3 TBSP light corn syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract

Butter and flour a 8 inch springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
To make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together. Melt chocolate and butter together using a double boiler.
In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugars together until well blended. Whisk in the corn syrup, followed by the vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter and chocolate. Still working with a whisk, gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. You will have a thick, smooth, shiny batter. Pour the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan a bit to even out the batter.
Bake the cake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool he cake for 15 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the pan and remove the sides of the pan. During baking the cake probably will have puffed to the top of the pan don’t be concerned if tit sinks a little or it if develops a crater in the centre. Cool the cake to room temperature.
When the cake is completely cool, invert it, remove the base of the pan and peel off the paper. Wash and dry the springform pan, and return the cake to it right side up. Refasten the sides around the cake.

Blackberry Coulis
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/4 cup sugar

Blend until smooth in a food processor. Pour through fine mesh sieve.

Frosting (I used 1/4 recipe)
  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat. Pour cream over chocolate. Let the cream and chocolate sit for 1 minute, then, starting in the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and cream in a circle until the chocolate is completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is fluffy.

Chocolate Glaze (I used 1 1/2 recipes)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water

Put the chopped chocolate in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup or in a bowl with a spout.
Stir the cream, sugar and water together in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and wait for 1 minute, then, using a small rubber spatula, gently stir until the glaze is smooth, blended and shiny. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake and, with a long metal icing spatula, spread it over the top, allowing it to spill over the sides of the cake; then smooth the glaze over the sides. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes to set the glaze.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

TWD: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

I'm always up for making a brownie - not to mention eating one - and I love cheesecake, and espresso. This was a treat I was sure I'd love.

I read on the TWD P&Q about a few problems that people had had making these, but for some reason, I chose not to listen to them... And I ended up having the same problems... Namely, that the top of the cheesecake/brownie was supposed to have beautiful swirls of cheesecake and brownie batter.

The brownie batter is made first and set aside while the cheesecake is made. Since there is melted butter and chocolate in it, as it cools down it begins to thicken. By the time I was ready to put dollops of brownie batter on top of the the cheesecake batter and begin swirling, mine was so thick that there was no swirling whatsoever. You can see the brownie globs in the photo below. It was not a pretty sight. I popped it in the oven, and figured I'd drizzle some chocolate on it later to pretty it up.

It took 42 minutes to bake in a 9" round pan.

I made a chocolate glaze that I was intending to drizzle on the top, but it was thick and didn't drizzle, so I just slathered it on. For the glaze, I used the recipe from the Chocolate Amaretti Torte that we made with TWD a few months ago.

Chocolate Glaze (a half recipe)
2 oz bittetsweet chocolate finely chopped
2 oz (1/4 cup) cream
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Place chopped chocolate in heatproof bowl - pyrex measuring cup works well. Bring cream, sugar and water to a boil. Pour over chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Pour on cheesecake and smooth with spatula.

I didn't think the brownie itself was out of this world, though the cheesecake was amazing. The chocolate glaze was certainly a wonderful addition.

For the cheesecake brownie recipe, please visit Melissa's blog, Life in a Peanut Shell. Thanks to Melissa for hosting this week, and for picking such a fun and yummy recipe!

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