Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies

September 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Posted in BCM, cookies & bars, groups, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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jam-filled sandwich cookies

I may not be going back to school this week, but in solidarity with the children, I am happy to indulge in some after-school-style snacks.  Oh, wait– I don’t have children.  More Jam-Filled Sandwich Cookies for me, I guess!

These little shortbread cookies are so simple, yet so tasty.  I was initially expecting them two be to separate cookies glued together with jam, but instead, two cookies are sealed together to form one, with jam hiding in (and, ehem, sometimes peeking out from) the center.  Almost like baby handpies.  I made two flavors, sour cherry and concord grape.  Despite the fact that my kitchen has basically no climate control, I didn’t really have any trouble with these in the heat. The dough came together in like five seconds and rolled out no problem between two sheets of parchment.  I chilled it before cutting and afterwards I chilled the rounds before assembly.  As I applied the jam blobs to the bottoms, the dough rounds softened just enough to not crack too much when I sealed on the tops.  It all worked out deliciously well.

jam-filled sandwich cookies

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Brioche Tart with White Secret Sauce

September 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Posted in BWJ, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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brioche tart with white secret sauce

Nancy Silverton’s Brioche Tart with White Secret Sauce is known as “the tart that made Julia cry.”  If you don’t know why, then you’ll just have to watch the end of this video to see.  We’ve used brioche before to make tarts, back in the BFMHTY days.  Seems unusual and maybe it’s just called a tart because of its shape, but brioche is a good base to hold up to juicy fruit.  This tart has a quick and easy crème fraiche (although I really used labneh) custard filling and is topped at serving time with a “secret sauce” and poached fruit.  I didn’t need a box of tissues to eat this myself, but it’s plenty good, thankfully, as there’s a lot to do to if you make all the components.

Formed in a ring or a cake pan, the brioche bakes up golden and fluffy, with a tall back crust.  I was a bit worried that the custard in the center wouldn’t set, but it did.  “White Secret Sauce” sounds a little dodgy to me, but really it’s innocent enough…a sabayon folded with whipped cream.  The sabayon is made with caramelized sugar and wine, but if you didn’t want to take the time to make it, the tart would be absolutely fine, and a bit less sweet, with just some fruit for garnish.  I quick-poached some ripe apricots and plums in a portion of my caramel-wine syrup, but again, if you can’t be bothered and have nice fresh fruit, just use it as-is or macerate it with a light amount of sugar.  You can also use dried fruit, in which case I do think they would be better plumped in liquid.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here and there’s a video, too). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Bubble Éclairs

August 25, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Posted in BCM, general pastry, groups, other sweet, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 18 Comments
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bubble eclairs

I love making pastries with choux paste.  The dough is so fun to make, and then when you open the oven the oven and find a tray of chubby golden puffs, well, I think it’s just delightful. These Bubble Éclairs are like cream puffs piped (I used a pastry bag and tip rather than a cookie scoop or spoon) snuggled up together in éclair form. Cute!

You can get fancy with these éclairs, or keep them simple like I did.  I just sprinkled a little Swedish pearl sugar on the tops before baking and filled them with coffee whipped cream after (flavored with the espresso syrup I still have in the fridge from BWJ’s Cardinal Slice).  I did make a couple of fancier ones with white chocolate glaze and passion fruit whipped cream, but it was such a hot, muggy day that they became a drippy mess when I tried to photo them.  Whatever, you get the idea.  I sure wouldn’t mind an éclair served profiterole-style, with ice cream and chocolate sauce…next time.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Pita Breads

August 18, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Posted in BWJ, groups, savory things, tuesdays with dorie, yeast breads | 6 Comments

pita breads

Homemade Pita Breads are something that wouldn’t normally be on my baking radar.  I admit that most pitas from the grocery store are half-stale and fall apart when I split them, but I do live within walking distance of a shop called Damascus Bakery, where I can (and do often) get great pitas that are fresh made. Those pitas in the picture are actually ones I made a couple of years ago, back when we did Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Eastern Mediterranean Pizzas, a recipe that used the same dough as its base.

This was a pretty easy bread dough to make (and apparently, it can even be made a week ahead and kept in the fridge till you’re ready to pita).  It does use a sponge, but by now that no longer feels like an advanced technique.  The recipe gives instructions for mixing the dough fully by hand…I of course cheated and used the mixer.  You can bake the breads in the oven on a stone, as I did, or there are instructions for cooking them on a griddle on the stove-top.  In the middle of August, the latter may have been the better choice!  These puffed up really well and have a good pocket for tuna salad for lunch or a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.  They are also perfect for warm pita and hummus snack, obvi, and since they’re about half whole wheat flour, they have real flavor.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There’s also a video of Jeffery and Naomi making the pitas with Julia.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Cherry Crumb Tart

August 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Posted in BCM, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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cherry crumb tart

We’re on a roll with tasty tarts from Baking Chez Moi and this week we’re continuing to make the most out of summer fruit with a Cherry Crumb Tart.  Here, we have our old friend STD (sweet tart dough, that is) housing lots of fresh cherries that are nestled in an almond frangipane filling and topped with streusel crumbs.  Yum, right!?!   This tart sounds like it has a lot of components, but you can make your dough (and roll and pan it, too), frangipane and crumb topping all a day or two ahead of time.  Then when you’re ready to go, just par-bake your crust, pit your cherries and follow the bake-off instructions.

When I came home from vacay, I was pretty sure the summer’s cherries were a thing of the past (just like that gorgeous Montana view…boo) and I planned to pick up a punnet of blackberries to use in this tart instead.  But lo and behold, I found some sour cherries at the greenmarket and snapped them right up.  Sweet cherries would be just as good here, btw.  My streusel didn’t really keep it’s crumbly, piecey shapes in the oven but kind of melded together into a (quite sweet) crispy shell.  Not sure why, since I used cold ingredients and chilled it overnight, but it was still delicious.  I flavored it only with cardamom, no orange zest, and thought it was the perfect subtle flavoring to go with the cherries and almonds.  I liked the tart with a little whipped cream and thought it held up just fine in the fridge for a couple of days, as we cut off slices after dinner and whittled it down to nothing.

I’m wishing now that I’d taken a side view photo of a slice.  It really was full of red cherries!  For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Miniature Florentine Squares and Glazed Mini-Rounds

August 4, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 5 Comments
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miniature florentine squares and glazed mini-rounds

I make a lot of petits fours at work, but it’s not often that you’ll see something like Flo Braker’s Miniature Florentine Squares or Glazed Mini-Rounds making an appearance at my house.  I don’t usually get that old-fashioned fancy here.  If I serve up anything post-dessert, it’s typically just a healthy-sized complaint about having to do all the dishes myself.

The Florentine Squares and the Glazed Mini-Rounds are two different recipes in the book, but they are both made the very same way, just cut and decorated a little differently.  They are both ladyfinger genoise layers soaked in sweet wine syrup, sandwiched with jam (I used blackcurrant), glazed with white chocolate ganache and decorated with designs of melted dark chocolate.  I made one cake and cut and decorated some of each style.

They weren’t so hard to make (I watched the video first, and got some tips on chilling the cake before cutting to prevent too much crumbage) and they were pretty fun to decorate.  It’s so hot in my kitchen that my dark chocolate designs got a little droopy as the petits fours sat for their photo shoot.  I thought they were still charming though.  These were tasty little bite-sized treats, but they were quite sweet.  They would have been good with a strong cup of coffee.

miniature florentine squares and glazed mini-rounds

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (and here’s a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta (sort of)

July 28, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in BCM, groups, puddings & custards, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 21 Comments

vanilla-mango panna cotta

Panna cotta is one of those chilled, wobbly, creamy desserts that a lot of people seem to love.  Okay, I am not one of those people…cooked cream sounds like it should be right up my alley, but the secret to this eggless Italian pudding is usually gelatin, something that I avoid whenever possible.  I want to love it though, and I am continuing my quest for a vegetarian gelatin substitute anyway, so I decided to try out powdered agar-agar in this week’s layered Vanilla-Mango Panna Cotta recipe. The only other time I’ve experimented with agar-agar at home was with this mirror thing several years back, and it did not go so well.  I still didn’t really know what I was doing here, but I did a little more research and decided to use 1 tsp of agar powder in place of the 2 1/4 tsp gelatin in the recipe.

I first blended my frozen mango with lime juice and honey and spooned that puree into glasses.  I then cooked my vanilla sweetened cream and milk with my agar powder for a few minutes to activate the agar-agar and poured that on top of the puree.  Then I put the everything into the fridge to set and crossed my fingers.  And when I opened the fridge an hour later, it was really firm…like, nothing delicate about it…not what I was hoping for.

Besides the mirror thing, my only other agar-agar experience is an entry-level molecular gastromy technique that we used at the fancy-pants restaurant I worked for in Sydney called a “fluid gel.”  We’d boil fruit juice with enough agar powder to make it set hard (practically so hard it could bounce) when cooled.  Then we’d blitz it in a high-speed blender until it turned into a gel the consistency of toothpaste (remember Close-Up?) that we could use to make dots and squiggles for plate decoration.

I thought about my fluid gel days with a hint of nostalgia and decided to scrape my not-panna cotta (notta-cotta?), mango puree and all, into the blender and I whizzed it up into a very creamy and luxurious soft pudding.  I had a bit of extra mango puree that was meant to go with my morning yogurt, but plans change, so I divided it up into my glasses and topped it with my vanilla-mango pudding and some blueberries.  I couldn’t call it panna cotta in the end, but it was cold, creamy and tasty anyway.

For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack

July 21, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in BWJ, groups, savory things, snacks, tuesdays with dorie | 11 Comments
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swedish oatmeal hardtack

I admit that is was pretty hard to turn on the oven to make crackers in this sticky summer heat.  My main motivation for doing so was really to have cheese and crackers with a cold glass of white wine at the end of the process.  At least Beatrice Ojakangas’s Swedish Oatmeal Hardtack recipe doesn’t use yeast, or I’m sure I would have had an overproofed dough-blob situation going on in my kitchen.

This was actually an easy, make-by-hand dough to knead together.  It has oatmeal in it to give it a rustic texture.  Technically, it calls for quick oats, which I didn’t have.  I approximated them by plusing my regular rolled oats in the food processor a couple of times to break them up a little, and then hydrated them in the buttermilk for a few minutes while I gathered everything else together.  Since the dough uses oatmeal, I thought a little whole wheat would be good, too, and swapped 1/2 cup of AP flour for WW.  With some chilling time and good amount of flour, I was able to roll and cut the dough right on the sheet tray.  I had a hard time getting my first tray to color and crisp in the oven (especially in the center) so I upped the temperature to 350ºand increased the baking time by several minutes.

I’ve never had hardtack before and, based on the name, anticipated a trip to the dentist with a cracked tooth! The texture, however, is not rock hard but a bit sandy. There’s a little sugar creamed into the fat in the dough, so they are slightly sweet, slightly salty.  I bumped up the salt factor a bit by sprinkling a pinch of fleur de sel on top before baking.   They were good with cheese, and also with peanut butter.  As separate snacks, I mean…not too sure about a cheese and PB combo.

swedish oatmeal hardtack

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  The second half of this video shows Beatrice and Julia making the hardtack together.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BCM: Apricot-Raspberry Tart

July 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Posted in BCM, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 30 Comments
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apricot-raspberry tart

A full-on fruit tart is never one of my go-to desserts.  I don’t know why, since I’m big on the combo of fruit and crust…I can certainly get behind a good slice of pie or a big scoop of crisp.  But I just don’t really think of fruit tarts.  It takes the peer pressure of organized group baking to get me to make one, like this Apricot-Raspberry Tart, and remember how spectacular they can be.

This tart is really all about the apricots.  Luckily, they’re in season now where I live, and at the farmers’ market I found baskets of the tiniest blushing apricots.  Even though I made a small tart using a half batch of sweet dough, I was able to stuff it full of the little guys.  At the bottom of the tart shell. a layer of cake or brioche crumbs (or even ladyfingers) acts as a sponge to absorb any juices from the baked fruit.  At the restaurant where I work, cakes for specials orders are usually baked off as sheets that are then punched out and assembled in ring molds.  That means there’s always some cake off-cut or trim in the walk-in that’s up for grabs.  I took home an square of hazelnut cake last week with this this tart in mind.  My apricots and raspberries held shape pretty well and didn’t release too much juice, but I liked the added flavor that the hazelnut cake crumbs gave.  Having used it, I garnished my tart with some candied hazelnuts instead of the pistachios Dorie suggests.

apricot-raspberry tart

Really, this tart was so pretty I hesitated to cut it!  It’s a fine treat to celebrate Bastille Day today.  Even though it may be best eaten up the day of baking, we had a couple of slices left over and I don’t think they suffered too much from a night in the fridge.  For the recipe, see Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: White Chocolate Patty Cake

July 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Posted in BWJ, cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 13 Comments
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white chocolate patty cake

Over the years, I must have seen the Baking with Julia TV episode where Marcel Desaulniers makes his White Chocolate Patty Cake a dozen times.  Normally, white chocolate doesn’t really float my boat, but for some reason, I could tell by watching the episode that this cake would be fabulous.  I’m so glad that we’ve finally gotten to this recipe– and that my decade-long cake daydreams came true!

The white chocolate here is melted into the cake batter– a whole 12 ounces of it.  Two layers of cake are dressed up with raspberry sauce (made from pureed frozen berries) and fresh raspberries.  I made this with the Fourth of July in mind, so I used a combo of blueberries and raspberries in the sauce and on top.  You know, for that whole red, white and blue effect.  I think blackberries would shine in this cake as well.  In addition to all that white chocolate, the cake also has lots of eggs, so the texture is luxe and velvety.  Snappy berry sauce keeps it from being to sweet.

The cake rises in the oven and then shrinks a bit as it cools. If you make the recipe (which you should!), you might be concerned that the layers look a little schlumpy.  Don’t worry because once it’s stacked and decorated with the sauce and berries, it looks like a million bucks.  The cake will slice neater after it’s been refrigerated for a bit and the sauce has time to firm up.

white chocolate patty cake

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s a a video here of Chef Marcel making the cake with Julia). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

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