Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes

September 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 9 Comments
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oven-roasted plum cakes

These Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes from Marcel Desaulniers were an easy little treat to make with my CSA plums.  The batter was a simple butter cake, flavored with orange zest.  I made half a recipe (6 cakelettes), so I just mixed it by hand.  I had to sub some plain yogurt for the buttermilk, but that worked out fine.  The recipe calls for the cakes to be baked in ramekins or custard cups…I was worried that I’d never get them out (although sounds like I needn’t have been), so I used some shallower mini pie tins instead, buttered and floured.

These were good, although the plums (even though they turned very soft in the oven) wanted to jump onto our forks all in one piece.  I liked them best with whipped cream.  For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (there’s also a video). Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Baking Powder Biscuits

August 19, 2014 at 12:01 am | Posted in biscuits & scones, breakfast things, groups, tuesdays with dorie | 14 Comments
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baking powder biscuits

Marion Cunningham’s Baking Powder Biscuits were good for breakfast, and also good for dessert, all dressed up like shortcakes.  These were easy to make.  I didn’t want to do an all shortening biscuit like the recipe called for, so I swapped out half of it for butter.  I rubbed my shortening/butter and dry ingredients together the night before and stashed the mix in a container in the fridge…in the morning I just had to work in the milk.  They didn’t rise as high as I wished they would have (maybe I should have patted them out less? or maybe they really do work best with all shortening?), but they were very tender, not dense at all.  I made square biscuits instead of round, just so I didn’t have to deal with scrap and reroll.

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

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Poppy Seed Torte

August 5, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 17 Comments
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poopy seed torte

Markus Farbinger’s Viennese Poppy Seed Torte is one of the more unusual things I’ve baked.  Now, I’m aware that poppy seeds are widely used in foods all over the world and are not unusual at all, but we Americans– especially those of us who are many generations and more than a couple hundred years removed from our ethnic roots– normally just mix a mere tablespoon of them into lemon muffins or white cake, or sprinkle them on top of bagels or crackers.  Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll fail a drug test, but any recipe that calls for two cups of poppy seeds sounds a little strange.  The Austrians sure know their pastries though, so I knew this would be tasty, no doubt.

Those two cups of poppy seeds are whizzed up in a coffee/spice grinder, and along with cake crumbs (I used a frozen slice of leftover Vanilla Pound Cake, also put through the same coffee grinder) become the dry ingredients for the cake.  The crowning jewels on top are poached apricot halves.  I found the cutest little apricots with rosy cheeks at the Greenmarket. I didn’t bother to blanch and peel them before poaching…the skins slipped right off anyway once they cooled, and I think poaching them skin-on helped infuse the flesh with that rosy color.  I’m saving the poaching liquid, btw, which I think will be nice as a fruity simple syrup for drinks or poured on top of raspberries and vanilla ice cream.

Based on visuals alone, I’d assume a dark colored cake like this would be dense and heavy. But it’s quite light and springy (thanks to the meringue that’s folded into the batter), moist and not too sweet.  It really tastes like poppy seeds (as it should), and since they are ground into flour, they don’t get stuck in your teeth!  I made a half-recipe..a full makes a big 10-inch cake…and debated the pan size for a while before settling on a 8-inch round.

poopy seed torte

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

French Fridays with Dorie: Gâteau Basque

August 1, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Posted in french fridays with dorie, groups, pies & tarts, sweet things | 19 Comments
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gâteau Basque

Somehow I almost never miss a week of TWD but I hadn’t made an FFWD recipe in like forever.  When I saw that Gâteau Basque was up, I thought it would be a good time to pop back around and say hello.  Not surprisingly, Gâteau Basque is a traditional pastry of the French Basque Country.  You can read up on it here and here, but it’s basically a layer of either pastry cream or cherry jam sandwiched between two almost cookie-like tart crusts.  Hmmm…I wonder if it was the inspiration for Dorie’s Not-Just-For-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake?

We made Gâteau Basque on weekends at the shop where I used to work (and they probably still do).  We used a bit of almond flour and almond extract in our dough there, so I had assumed that flavoring was traditional…but that’s not in Dorie’s version, so maybe it’s not.  Sometimes less is more, but sometimes more is more, so at the shop we always filled ours with pastry cream and fruit.  I can admit that I’m a little greedy when it comes to sweets, and “more is more” is the way I like it, so that’s what I did here at home, too.  I didn’t have cherry jam but I did have some dark cherries that I candied a couple of weeks ago…I dropped them on top of the pastry cream and they worked nicely.

This is pretty easy to make, and you can bust out all the components a day ahead of time.  The dough is sticky, but forgiving, and you can even more or less pat it into the round shapes you need without too much rolling.  It’s really delicious, and beautiful, too, with a pretty crosshatch pattern on top of the golden crust.  For the recipe, see Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan (it’s also here). Don’t forget to check out my fellow francophiles’ posts.

TWD BWJ Rewind: Sweet Berry Fougasse

July 29, 2014 at 12:01 am | Posted in breakfast things, groups, sweet things, sweet yeast breads, tuesdays with dorie | 9 Comments
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sweet berry fougasse

I went from no fougasse ever to two fougasses (or is the plural Fugazi?) in one month.  The group made Craig Kominiak’s Sweet Berry Fougasse back in September of last year, but we were given a choice of two things and I skipped it to make muffins instead.  When we did Leaf-Shaped Fougasse a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me that I could also make enough focaccia dough to turn the extra into the Sweet Berry Fougasse for this week’s make-up.  Know what that’s called?  That’s called strategery.

With the dough ready-made (I had it frozen and took it out the night before baking to thaw in the fridge) and blueberries and raspberries from the greenmarket, all I had to do to put this together was mix up a little sweet streusel topping and turn on the oven.  This was good…it made a fine breakfast treat without the little twinge of shame that I have when I start the day with half a pound of butter.  I pretty much want every coffee cake or muffin I eat to have streusel on it, so it was nice on bread, too, and helped sweeten up the juicy berries.  I probably wouldn’t bother to make this from scratch start-to-finish, but more likely if I have some extra focaccia dough on my hands again.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (a version is also here and there’s a video here that includes Kominiak making all things focaccia and fougasse).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll to see the other recipes folks revisited this week (and the Blogroll from September)!

Raspberry Brûlée

July 23, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Posted in puddings & custards, sweet things | 9 Comments
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raspberry brûlée

The promise of a blueberry pie made my husband finally agree to drive me out to the country for some berry picking last Saturday.  It’s good to know that bribes do work, although I still haven’t made good on my end…this is obviously not blueberry pie.  We came with a quart of U-pick raspberries, too, so using those delicate jewels became my first priority.  Not turning on the oven became my second priority.

You may see the words “raspberry brûlée” and think immediately of Prince, or you may see them and think of crème brûlée…I assure you this is far less fancy than either, even though it looks and tastes like a million bucks.  In fact, apart from straight-up fresh fruit, this might be one of the easiest summer desserts out there.  It’s simply whipped cream folded with fresh raspberries and given a torched sugar top.  It’s fresh and light as air, but with but with a sweet crunch.

A lot of times the broiler works as a reasonable alternative to a kitchen torch.  I’m not sure how it would do in this case though, since whipped cream is not as sturdy as a custard.  You want a bit of runny, melted cream just under the crispy brûléed top, but I suspect the boiler may take melting the cream a step further than a torch would.

Raspberry Brûlée- serves 6-8
adapted from Saveur Magazine, Issue 94 

Steph’s Notes:  The dish can also be made with tayberries (which I have never seen here before) or blackberries, and I’m sure diced peaches or nectarines would be tasty, too.

1 ¼ cups heavy cream
¼-½ cup powdered or superfine sugar (depending on how sweet you like it and how sweet your berries are)
splash of cassis or frambiose (optional)

2 pints raspberries
⅓ cup demerara sugar

- Put the heavy cream into a large bowl and beat until medium peaks form. Add the powdered or superfine sugar and the booze (if using) and continue beat to stiff peaks.

-Add the raspberries to the whipped cream and fold gently to coat.  Carefully transfer raspberries to a wide serving dish or divide them between 6-8 individual gratin dishes and liberally strew the top with demerara sugar. Using a kitchen torch, evenly caramelize the sugar until it gets bubbly and darkened in some spots.  A bit of the top layer of cream will start to “run” in this process, but if you don’t hold the torch too long in one place, what’s underneath will stay whipped.

-Refrigerate brûlée for about 15 minutes to let the sugar harden. If you’ve used one large serving dish, scoop servings into bowls, making sure that each scoop includes some of the crunchy sugar topping. If you used individual gratin dishes, just grab spoons.  Serve immediately.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Vanilla Pound Cake

July 15, 2014 at 12:01 am | Posted in bundt cakes, cakes & tortes, groups, simple cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 23 Comments
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vanilla pound cake

I love a good Bundt, and I think Flo Braker’s Vanilla Pound Cake recipe makes a particularly handsome one.  I’ve been sort of afraid that my nice little 6-cup Bundt pan (that I always use to make half recipes) has been losing its non-stick abilities, but with a good spraying and flouring this cake fell right out, no problem. The cake was no problem to mix either– super straightforward.  The only trick I had up my sleeve was to swap the vanilla extract for a smear of vanilla paste.

vanilla pound cake

The cake is really tender…it’s not dry at all.  Because I only made a half-sized cake, I really watched the baking time and took it out of the oven at just under 40 minutes. I think this cake would go with just about anything, but summer fruit sounds particularly good to me.  I had jar of dark cherries that I poached in the fridge, so we had half our cake with those.  The other half’s in the freezer, but the recipe mentions toasting stale slices as the base for ice cream sundaes, which makes me think about recreating a yummy, fancy affogato concoction my husband had at Brooklyn Farmacy a couple of weeks ago.

vanilla pound cake

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

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Leaf-Shaped Fougasse

July 1, 2014 at 11:43 am | Posted in groups, savory things, tuesdays with dorie, yeast breads | 13 Comments
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leaf-shaped fougasse

Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends!  

In a kitchen without A/C, mid-summer bread baking is not really my idea of a good time, but the oven doesn’t need to be on too long for Craig Kominiak’s Leaf-Shaped Fougasse.  From what I gather, French fougasse is similar to Italian focaccia, and the teardrop leaf shape is traditional in Provence.  I should research the technical differences between the two breads, because I’m sure there are some, but for this purpose, we made the same easy dough recipe that we used for the focaccia last year (overnight rise and all that stuff).  I thought that getting the dough into the teardrop shape would be diffucult, but it wasn’t at all and I followed Cher’s suggestion to easily cut the pattern in the dough by snipping it with kitchen shears.  Also, I did my cutting directly on my sheet pan (which I sprinkled with cornmeal but did not line with parchment), and that saved me from having to delicately move around and transfer the shaped bread.

I find soft, bubbly, salty, oily bread like this to be addictive, and the hole pattern in the fougasse makes for little sections that are way too easy to rip off and snack on.  After R & I demolished the left side, I quickly wrapped up the right side for the freezer, just to stop ourselves from eating the whole thing in one go.  The word “fougasse” makes me think of the band Fugazi, but I guess that’s for another blog.

For the recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (a modified version of the dough recipe itself is also here and there’s a video here that includes Kominiak shaping, cutting and baking the fougasse).  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll!

Raspberry-Rhubarb Crumble with Almonds

June 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Posted in cobbler, crisps, shortcakes, sweet things | 9 Comments
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raspberry-rhubarb crumble

Have you already moved on from rhubarb for the year?  I haven’t– it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I’m happy to pick up a pound from the Greenmarket every week till it disappears.  Right now, I’m in that glorious overlap moment when I can find rhubarb and raspberries at the same time.  Why is strawberry-rhubarb the combo that gets all the love?  Raspberry-rhubarb bakes up deliciously.  Raspberries are often less sweet than strawberries, but I’ve always liked to keep my rhubarb desserts on the tart side anyway.  And that hot pink color…I’d paint my whole house that color if it wouldn’t look like (ummm) questionable things might be going on inside.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m confused about the difference between a crumble and a crisp (I guess we didn’t cover that in pastry school), but I do know that they are both easier than pie- truly- and, I think, just as tasty.  Flipping through Tina Nordstrom’s charming latest book Tina Nordström’s Scandinavian Cooking, which is less a tome of traditional Scandinavian recipes and more a collection of tasty things from around the world she likes to cook in her Swedish kitchen, I saw a recipe for Raspberry Crumble with Almonds that I knew would work with the addition of rhubarb (and a bit of extra sugar).  The sweetness of the crumbly (and crisp!) topping balances the fruit nicely.  You can probably further tinker with the recipe quite successfully, if you’d like.  Swap the vanilla flavoring for cardamom, use oats instead of almonds, and so on.  The one thing I wouldn’t mess with, though, is the ball of ice cream on top.  That’s a given, at least at my house.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Crumble with Almonds- serves 6
adapted from Tina Nordström’s Scandinavian Cooking by Tina Nordström

Steph’s Notes:  The original recipe in the book is for a straight-up raspberry crumble.  If you want to make this without the rhubarb, use 500g raspberries (fresh or frozen) and cut back both the white sugar and the vanilla sugar in the fruit by half (leave the topping as-is).  If you don’t have vanilla sugar, replace with an equal amount of granulated sugar and a dash of vanilla extract.  I like to keep the fruit on the tart side, since the topping’s quite sweet, but if you know you’d like your rhubarb sweeter, add up to a couple of extra tablespoons of sugar to the fruit mixture.

for the crumb topping
3/4 cup, plus 1 1/2 tbsp (115 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (100 g) coarsely chopped or slivered almonds
1/2 cup (100 g)
 granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 1/3 tbsp (75 g) unsalted butter, room temp

for the fruit mixture

about 1/2 lb (250 g) rhubarb, cut into 1″ lengths
about 1/2 lb (250 g) raspberries, fresh or frozen
4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla sugar

-Start by making the crumb topping.  Combine all dry ingredients for the topping in a medium bowl, and use your fingers to mix it all together with the butter.  I like a combination of some clumps and some sandy crumbs.  Put the topping in the fridge or freezer while you preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

-For the filling, toss the rhubarb pieces, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla sugar directly in the bottom of a greased ceramic or glass baking pan, 8-10″ in diameter (22-24 cm).

-Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the fruit mixture.  Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, about 35-40 minutes, turning at the halfway point.  If you notice that your topping is browning too quickly, turn the heat down to 350°F for the remainder of the baking time.

-Let cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes before serving.

Please note that the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, sent me a copy of this book.

Tuesdays with Dorie BWJ: Savory Wheat Crackers

June 3, 2014 at 12:01 am | Posted in groups, other savory, savory things, tuesdays with dorie | 12 Comments
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savory wheat crackers

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Savory Wheat Crackers were a nice little snack to munch on with a chilled glass of wine this past (very fine) weekend.  I’ve made crackers before…here, for instance.  Also, in the restaurants I’ve worked in, pastry always had to make the crackers to go with the cheese plates.  Rolling cracker dough out with a pasta machine (or a sheeter like we had at my first job) is my pro tip from those days.  It gets them super thin, although you have to use a fair amount of flour to not shred the dough in the roller.  I took these to the second thinnest setting in my machine and then topped my crisps with nigella seeds, ground coriander and fleur de sel.

This whole wheat cracker dough is super basic….no leavening necessary.  It comes together with a whiz in the food processor, although my dough was a little sticky, so I added some supplemental AP flour to make it behave. The recipe makes a lot of dough…even the half recipe I made yielded tray after tray of crackers!  They have to be rolled, cut and baked in batches.  It was like a Nabisco factory in my kitchen on Sunday.  Actually, I forgot to cut two of the trays before I put them in the oven– I just broke those into big shards after they were cool.  Real Nabisco would so fire me.  You need a ripping hot oven for these and will likely have to tack on a few minutes to the stated baking time. My crackers took 6-7 minutes to bake through, rather than the three minutes in the recipe.  One minute too many, though, and the crackers will be charcoal (and yes, I did torch a tray myself)!

I made a little spread out of famer’s cheese and flowering chives to snack on with these crackers.  I have lots more to eat up, so I’ll have to think up some other ideas.  For the cracker recipe, see Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TWD Blogroll

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