Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tasty braids

I think this is my favorite Daring Baker challenge so far.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy things like cake and cheesecake.  But I think bready things are even better!  You might have guessed that based on the past challenges that I've replicated--bagels and cinnamon rolls.

This month's challenge was Danish Braid, chosen by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'?  The specific recipe chosen was from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. (It's handy when the recipe is from a cookbook I own...)  The dough for a danish braid and other danish shapes is laminated (think puff pastry or croissants).  That's the main reason I've avoided making it up until now.  I imagined it would be more difficult that it actually was.  But that's what the Daring Bakers are all about, right?  Being challenged and making new things!

I think one of the things that helped was that I've made brioche dough a couple of times now.  I know how tasty the end result of a buttery dough can be.  =)  I was worried that the process  would be pretty time consuming.  And while it did take a fair bit of time from start to finish, a lot of that was waiting time.  I was able to do a bunch of stuff around the house--wash dishes, do laundry, etc.  (I made the dough on one of the days I was on vacation--kids at daycare, so peace and quiet.)  A number of people had challenges with the butter oozing out of the dough, but I didn't run into any of that.  While we've been having a month-long heat wave here (20+ days of triple-digit temps), my house is nice and air conditioned.  All in all, I found the dough very nice to work with.

We were allowed to vary the filling and play around a bit with the flavor of the dough.  I had planned to make the dough almost exactly as written, with flavors of cardamom, orange and vanilla (extract only--I couldn't find any affordable vanilla beans locally and kept forgetting to check out online options).  The cardamom I already had on hand, so no problem there.  And I thought I had oranges.  Well, technically, I did have them, but it turned out that they were moldy.  Since I had everything else ready to go when I discovered that, the orange was out.  I substituted some additional milk for the orange juice, which seemed to work fine.

On to the filling... My favorite is cheese danish.  That was pretty easy to do--Sherry Yard has a simple recipe in the section of the book with other danish shapes.  To make things a little more interesting, I paired the cream cheese filling with some of my favorite raspberry fruit butter (I'm sure those who read my blog are so surprised by that!).  For the second braid I added some peach butter, too.  Yum.

The house smelled amazingly good while the braid was baking.  I could barely wait for it to cool enough (hot cream cheese filling isn't that appealing).  And the taste?  Out of this world good, especially with a little icing drizzled on top.  Plus it looked so cool!  Brianna wasn't so sure she liked my filling choices, but Gillian had no complaints.  And I got lots of compliments when I shared the second braid with some coworkers.

I found one thing kind of interesting...  The first braid was made the day after I made the dough (after it had rested overnight).  I wasn't sure when I would get to the second one, though.  So after the second part of the dough had been in the fridge for about a day, I popped it in the freezer.  The day before I was going to bake the second braid, I put the dough in the fridge to thaw overnight.  While the first braid was very good, the second one was fantastic.  It browned better and the outside was very crisp and flaky.  Other than holding the dough in the fridge and freezer for the week, I only did one thing differently.  The recipe says to apply the egg wash to the braid before it proofs, but I forgot that the first time, so I did it right before I baked it.I did it the way the recipe says for the second one.  That may have had something to do with it.  But then I remembered something that I'd read in a Cook's Illustrated article for Crescent Rolls. The person testing the recipe found that refrigerating that dough for a longer period of time made for a blistered, flaky crust.  I'm thinking that might be what happened with my dough, since I held it for quite a while.  I'll just have to make some more danish to find out for sure!

Thanks again to Kelly and Ben for picking a great challenge this month.  I learned a lot, and I'm not afraid of laminated dough anymore.  On to croissants!  =)  Oh, and be sure to head over the the Daring Bakers Blogroll for lots more delicious pastries!

For the dough recipe and instructions, check out Kelly's or Ben's blog.  Here's the filling I used:

Cream Cheese Filling
(enough for one braid when combined with other filling)

4 oz cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat because it's what I had)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 beaten egg (approximately--I measured out about half and used the rest for my egg wash)
pinch salt

Cream everything together until smooth.  When forming the braid, spread the center section of the dough with jam or other fruit filling.  Dollop the cream cheese filling on top and gently spread on top of the jam.  Proceed with braiding.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Berry good (TWD)

I've mentioned before that my husband Jamie gives me a hard time about eating leftover desserts for breakfast.  In the case of this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, I really don't see how he can complain.  Biscuits and fruit--sounds like breakfast to me!  

This week's selection is Mixed Berry Cobbler, chosen by Beth of Our Sweet Life.  I really enjoyed this pick, in part because it's something I probably wouldn't have chosen myself.  I like fruit desserts, but I make crisps much more often than cobblers.  And even when I do make cobbler, it's more likely to be something like peach, rather than berry.  I tend to reserve berries for eating straight up or in fruit salad dressed with a bit of sugar or simple syrup.  But one of the great things about this recipe is that it works quite well with frozen fruit, so I can have my cake and eat it too, as it were.  =)

Another reason I enjoyed this recipe is that it gave me a chance to try out a new flavor combination.  Dorie's filling recipe calls for a mix of berries, some sugar, cornstarch and lemon or lime zest.  I'd usually go with the lemon without even thinking much about it.  But lately I've seen quite a few recipes for raspberry with lime, and I've been wanting to see if I like it.  So I went with a combination of raspberries, blackberries and lime zest.

I wasn't sure that I was in the mood for a big cobbler, so I decided to make half the recipe and make it in two smaller dishes (about 2-cup capacity each).  Even though the recipe says you don't need to thaw the frozen fruit, I was a bit skeptical, so after tossing the berries with the sugar, cornstarch and lime zest, I microwaved them for a couple minutes on half power.  Oh, and because a number of people mentioned in the P&Q that the cobbler was a bit soupy, I used close to the original amount of cornstarch even though I was halving the recipe.  I went with the topping recipe as written, patting the dough into two rounds and topping each dish with one.  I baked my cobblers for about 30 minutes, until the tops were lightly browned and the juices were very bubbly around the edges.  

The verdict?  Very tasty.  I thought that the simple biscuit topping was a nice contrast to the tart fruit, and I really liked the bit of lime in there.  I'll definitely make this again.  Probably even later this week, since I still have half a bag each of the raspberries and blackberries.  And it sounds better than the other things I have on hand for breakfast.  =)  

Want to give it a try yourself?  Check out Beth's blog, or check out this page, where Dorie shared the recipe with NPR.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Say cheese!

I love bread.  Especially fresh bread.  Jamie laughs at me because I immediately eat the end off of any loaf that I buy.  I've been known to get annoyed when I take a whole loaf to be sliced when I'm at Central Market and the person running it through the slicer isn't careful about getting both end pieces back into the bag.  I like sandwiches, but with really fresh bread, I eat the bread with butter and a bit of salt (I buy unsalted butter) and have any meat and cheese on the side.  

Buying bread is good, but making your own is even better--can't get any fresher than that.  The tough part is waiting for it to cool enough to eat.  Sometimes I don't. =)  So I was thrilled to find a recipe where you are actually encouraged to eat it hot.  I mentioned in my last post that I've been reading recipes over at the Baker's Banter, run by the folks at King Arthur Flour.  The one for Gruyere-Stuffed Cheese Bread caught my eye a while back.  I've been meaning to make it for a while, but I keep forgetting to mix up the starter the night before.  Then, about a month ago, I read several accounts of making this bread, including one on The Sour Dough.  Things were still a bit too crazy for me to get it done, though.  So I added it to my list of things to make while I was on vacation.

It still took me until the weekend to make the bread.  I almost forgot the starter again, but remembered it as I was getting ready for bed Friday night.  The nice thing is that it only takes a few minutes to mix together.  I left it for about twelve hours, which seemed to be fine.  The dough was also pretty easy to mix up.  As I was cleaning out the fridge Saturday morning, I took stock of my cheese options.  I didn't have enough of any one cheese, so I went with about two-thirds sharp cheddar and one-third jack (plain--don't like peppers).  I'm glad I did--I think all cheddar would have been a bit overpowering.  I got the dough rolled up with the cheese inside and left it to proof.  Part-way into that, I realized that my timeline wasn't going to work, so I ended up moving it to the fridge to slow things down.  Next time, I'll chill the dough log right away if I'm going to have to put off baking, since the dough over-proofed a bit.  Not too bad though.  I went with four small loaves, and baked them for about 25 minutes.  I definitely recommend baking this bread on parchment--the cheese makes a mess.  But boy is it worth it!  

We pretty much ate bread for dinner.  With some fruit on the side (I love peach season around here).  This bread is amazingly good.  I'm already coming up with ideas for different flavors--how does fontina with some oregano and sundried tomatoes sound?  We restrained ourselves and only ate one loaf last night.  The others are getting sliced up to go to our dance this afternoon.  The bread is best hot, but it's still pretty good cooled, and if we keep it around here, I'll eat it all, which wouldn't be at all good for my waistline.  

If you love cheese and bread, you've got to try this recipe.  As with many other KAF recipes, there is a great blog entry that illustrates how to make it.  Don't put it off like I did!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Knot a vampire in sight

It's been a busy baking week around here.  There were plenty of other things I probably should have been doing with my time off, but I mostly took advantage of the opportunity to relax.  And baking is relaxing for me.  =)  

One of the blogs that I enjoy reading is the King Arthur Flour Baker's Banter.  They invariably have really tasty-looking things on there.  Earlier in the week I was getting caught up on a few posts that I hadn't read, and one immediately caught my eye--garlic knots.  I've had some form of garlic rolls at a number of Italian restaurants, but I haven't really tried my hand at re-creating any of them.  These looked really good, though, and I decided that they would go nicely with pasta for dinner.

The dough was pretty quick and easy to pull together.  I didn't have any potato flour at the time, so I left it out.  I also didn't have dry milk handy, so I substituted 1/3 cup of milk for an equal amount of the water.  No dough improver or pizza dough flavoring, either--one of these days I'm going to have to see about ordering some of these interesting things from KAF.  Anyway, the dough turned out just fine even with my changes.  And making the knots was fun.  My rolls definitely improved in shape the more I did.  

The verdict?  Really good, although I probably should have let them brown a bit more.  And I went a bit overboard with the garlic.  I think next time I'll do something to cook the garlic a bit to take the raw edge off.  I still have half the dough in the freezer, so I'll have a chance to experiment in the near future.  If you want to give these a try, check out the recipe here, and check out the blog for some nice step-by-step instructions.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Close encounters of the strawberry kind

I was fortunate enough to find some more good strawberries when we went shopping on Sunday.  I ended up buying a 2-pound container because they looked a lot better than the smaller ones.  We ate about half of them on Sunday, and then the rest ended up in the fridge.  They sat there until yesterday, when I decided that I'd better do something with them before they went bad.  (Especially since I'd already had that happen with some raspberries a day or two before.)  

Brianna's been bugging me to make ice cream or popsicles, since it's been so hot.  I did remember to find room in the freezer for my ice cream machine canister, but I really don't like fruit ice creams that much--I'd rather put berries on my ice cream than in it.  So while I was out yesterday I stopped by Target and picked up a popsicle mold.  I can't say that I really used a recipe.  I just hulled the strawberries (I had about a pound), sliced them into chunks and tossed them in my blender.  Then I added a few tablespoons of sugar (to taste) and the juice of a lime.  I pureed everything together, filled the molds and popped them in the freezer.  I actually had more puree than I needed--more on that in a minute.

The verdict?  Brianna and Gillian both loved them.  Gillian hasn't really had popsicles much, so I kept my eye on her for a while.  Then I made the mistake of turning my back for a minute or two:  

I know it's a bit blurry, but the picture was too good to pass up.  =)  At that point I resigned myself to the fact that she was going straight to the tub afterwards, and let her finish.

And of course, I had to take pictures of Brianna, too:

As for the rest of the strawberry puree?  I added some orange juice, a bit more sugar, some rum and some frozen peaches and blended everything until more or less smooth and slushy.  Brianna was a bit put out that I wouldn't share my "grownup smoothie" with her.  =)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

TWD: Peppermint Cream Puffs

I've never liked eclairs.  The chocolate on top is great, but I really don't care for the filling--I'm not a big fan of custardy things.  But cream puffs?  That's a different story.  I can remember sitting in Gramma Stanley's kitchen as she made chocolate cream puffs.  That is to say, cream puffs filled with chocolate whipped cream.  Yum.  I'm not sure how old I was, but I really only remember the end result, not the process of Gramma making them.

What does stick out in my memory is watching Jacques Pepin on PBS ten or twelve years ago making a Paris-Brest on Cooking with Claudine.  In fact, I pulled out my copy of the companion cookbook to review his recipe before starting on this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection.  While I don't refer to his cookbooks as often these days (I have 5 or 6 of them), watching Jacques taught me a lot about cooking.

Even though I watched a number of other TV personalities making pâte à choux after I watched Jacques doing it, it was quite some time before I attempted it myself.  The push to give it a try came from Jamie giving me a copy of Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking.  I absolutely love that cookbook.  I really appreciate her approach of presenting a master recipe and then showing how it can be modified to create a variety of other things.  One of the first things I tried?  The chocolate cream puffs. =)

I had every intention of getting this week's recipe done early.  I actually started on the filling ingredients on Saturday night.  I wanted to make chocolate whipped cream in addition to the mint cream, but it just didn't cooperate.  I've got to stop trying to make it with 70% chocolate--it always breaks on me.  Either that, or I've got to go back and review Alice Medrich's instructions for whipped ganache using high percentage chocolates.  After several attempts to salvage the chocolate/cream mixture, I finally gave up.  As for the mint cream, the main problem I had was that I couldn't find fresh mint.  So I improvised, and steeped some peppermint tea (the herbal kind that's just dried mint leaves) in the hot cream.  That worked pretty well, until I went to take the teabag out.  I made the mistake of trying to squeeze the excess cream out of the bag, and it popped open, dumping lots of bits of dried mint into the rest of the cream.  After I acquired some cheesecloth (which I'd been meaning to buy anyway), I was able to strain the mint bits out of the cream.  I sweetened it a bit and whipped it, deciding to pass on the sour cream.

It was Monday night before I finally got around to making the actual pâte à choux.  My original plan had been to make the cream puff ring while Jamie's parents were here, but they left Sunday morning.  I realized that it didn't make sense to make a big dessert for just Jamie and me (since I wasn't sure whether Brianna or Gillian would eat it).  So I cut the recipe in half and made small puffs (I ended up with 15) instead of the ring.  At some point I do want to make it as Dorie intended.  

The verdict?  The puffs themselves turned out great.  The chocolate glaze was extremely tasty (though I had to tinker with it, since I was using 70% chocolate again).  I didn't really care for the mint cream.  Next time I'll stick with regular whipped cream or another flavor (raspberry is always good).  

Thanks to Caroline of A Consuming Passion for this week's recipe choice. The recipe can, of course, be found in Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours.  You can also find it here, on Epicurious.  Be sure to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll for many other delicious puffs.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Spicing things up for Father's Day

Brianna has been going on all week about what she wanted to do for Father's Day.  She was quite insistent that we had to make something special for breakfast.  Her idea of special?  French toast.  I'm sure it's merely a coincidence that she happened to pick her favorite breakfast food for us to make. =)  So we did make French toast, though Brianna didn't really help this time--too busy watching cartoons.  

I wanted to add something else to make things seem a bit more special, plus I haven't baked anything in a few days.  (However, I'm on vacation this next week, which should give me a chance to try out some new things--yay!)  I've been wanting to make the Cardamom Crumb Cake from Baking From My Home to Yours for quite some time, and a spent a little while looking at that page in the cookbook.  But it wasn't exactly what I was after, and I don't usually have any brewed coffee on hand.  I've enjoyed the Allspice Crumb Muffins from that same tome, despite the fact that I've had some problems with them.  So I decide to combine the two.  The verdict?  Quite good, almost certainly a do-again.  I'd like to play around with the recipe some more to see what else I can come up with.

Allspice Crumbcake
(inspired by Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

For the crumbs:

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the cake batter:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 eggs
1 cup milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan (I used Pyrex).  

For the crumbs:  Put all the ingredients except the butter in a bowl and toss them together just until blended.  Add the butter, and using your fingers, mix everything together until you've got crumbs of different sizes.  Set the crumb mixture aside while you make the cake batter.

For the batter:  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and allspice in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir with a rubber spatula just until combined.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the crumbs over the top in an even layer.  

Bake for 30-35 minutes (mine took 35), or until the cake has risen, the crumbs are golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack to cool in the pan.  Serve warm or room temperature.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Picture this (TWD)

So you know you've really gotten into this food blogging thing...  when you get up in the middle of eating your dessert so you can take another picture of it.  Which is exactly what I did Sunday night.  =)

That got me thinking about how much things have evolved over the past 6 months since I started doing this.  Thank goodness for digital cameras and being able to take a whole bunch of pictures to see what works and what doesn't.  I think the single thing that has helped the most was discovering the macro setting on my camera, so I can take close-up shots that aren't blurry in front and focused on something in the background of the picture.  I've tried different things, like taking pictures as I make a recipe (to show some of the process), but I think what I like best is taking interesting pictures of the final result. 

On to the recipe that inspired the photographs of my interrupted dessert...  La Palette's Strawberry Tart was selected by Marie of A Year From Oak Cottage for this week's installment of Tuesdays with Dorie.  This seemed to be a pretty popular choice with most people, since in many areas it's a good time of year for strawberries. I hit the jackpot for good fruit at the end of last week--juicy peaches, fragrant raspberries and some good-looking strawberries.  It turned out that the strawberries weren't quite as ripe as they looked, but they were still pretty tasty.  I didn't have quite as many as I needed, so some of the raspberries ended up in my tart as well.

This tart uses the same dough as we used for the French Lemon Cream Tart back in April. When I made the dough before, I went with mini tarts, so this was the first time I baked a full-sized shell with it.  I found the dough pretty easy to work with, and freezing the dough in the pan before baking worked quite well.

Next, the recipe calls for strawberry jam to be spread on the crust.  I actually have a jar of strawberry jam in my fridge, but I really don't care for it--for one thing, it's way too sweet for my taste.  So I ended up going with my favorite raspberry fruit butter, which was nice with the raspberries that I added to the tart.  I tossed the berries with a bit of sugar, and once they'd had a chance to produce some juice, I spooned them over the crust.  

The verdict?  Yum.  This is definitely one to make again, as long as we have really good fruit.  I wouldn't recommend it otherwise.  Next time I may try some sort of topping, such as the creme fraiche that Dorie suggests, but simple is good too.  If you want to make your own delicious strawberry tart, the recipe can be found in Baking From My Home to Yours.  Don't have a copy?  Enter here to see if you can win one and join the fun at Tuesdays with Dorie. While you're there, don't forget to check out the blogroll for more beautiful tarts.  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Who, me?

First off, my apologies to Caitlin over at Engineer Baker.  She tagged me for this well over a week ago, and I'm just now getting around to it.  Life has been busy.  

The rules: Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?
I was living in Boulder, CO.  We had just gotten back from a crazy weekend trip to Austin to try to figure out if we wanted to move to Texas.  Obviously we did end up here.  We moved in August, which was insane due to the heat and humidity.  

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:
1. laundry - started
2. clean as much of my house as I can manage before my in-laws get here tonight - pending
3. go to Target for cleaning supplies (see #2) & diapers - ended up being HEB (grocery store) instead
4. try to convince my children to take naps so I can work on #2 - pending
5. grocery shopping at Central Market - scheduled for this evening

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. chocolate
2. salami
3. potato chips (if I'm in the right mood)
4. cheese
5. cheezits (see #3)

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. travel to see my family and friends more often--we don't live close to anyone
2. spend money on myself for a change
3. buy whatever books I want whenever I want
4. buy a bigger house to hold all the books (and with a fabulous kitchen, of course)
5. donate money to charity, especially medical research

Places I have lived:
somewhere on Long Island, NY
Westerville, OH
Erie, PA
Lexington, KY
Bradford, PA
Curwensville, PA
Scranton, PA
Pasadena, CA
Seattle, WA
Bellevue, WA
Boulder, CO
Austin, TX
Georgetown, TX

Jobs I have had:
Library page
Office drone (college work-study)
Dorm waiter
Lab temp
Catalog rep (took orders by phone)
Retail salesperson (one holiday season was more than enough)
Bank call center rep, various levels
Bank call center manager
Bank sales & service associate
Asst. branch manager - traditional bank branch
Asst. branch manager - in-store branch

Because of my tardiness in completing this, I'm not going to tag anyone.  It looks like a lot of people have already done this one.  I promise I'll do better next time!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The raisin lovers meet the chocoholics (TWD)

So this was my week to pick!  I had no idea it would be so hard to make up my mind.  I had some different things that I've been considering over the past few months since I got the book.  But when it came down to actually deciding, it was tough.  I had a couple criteria in mind.  I wanted something not too complicated.  And a recipe that didn't make a huge quantity of something.  In other words, no big cakes or pies.  I seriously considered something from the breakfast/quick bread section of the book.  Then I started thinking about the fact that we haven't had very many recipes that were chocolate-intensive.  I'm a diehard chocoholic--as you can see from my pantry.  So I turned to the brownies.  

Dorie has quite a few brownie recipes in there--more than I realized until I started looking closely at them.  As I went through them, I kept turning back to the French Chocolate Brownies.  I love raisins.  I put them in my chocolate chip cookies.  I love them in cinnamon rolls.  And in anything with apples.  But in brownies?  That seemed like it might be a bit weird. So I decided to get my husband's input.  I ran through the different brownie options for him and when I was done, he immediately said that the French Chocolate Brownies sounded the most intriguing to him because of the rum raisins.  So that's what I went with!

When I sent my selection in to Laurie, she cautioned me not to be upset if people didn't seem to like the raisins in there.  But I was already expecting that, after all the posts I read about the Brioche Raisin Snails and the Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake.  I was hoping that most people would try substituting some other dried fruit.  I imagine that dried cherries would be good, if I liked cherries.  =)  

The brownies were pretty easy to make.  I did the raisins the evening before, since I like to give them lots of time to soak up the rum.  I had some trouble flaming them this time.  I checked the recipe for the snails (where I didn't have any problems), and it has twice as much rum.  I'll have to try that next time.  I want more raisins anyway.  I went with my usual bittersweet chocolate, El Rey Gran Saman 70%.  My baking time was at the shorter end of what the recipe indicated (50 min).  

A number of people mentioned that the brownies have an odd thick crust on top, and I did get that.  But the taste was still terrific.  The raisins were a fantastic addition, except that there weren't enough of them.  I'm not sure if this particular brownie recipe will make it into my regular rotation, but I definitely want to try adding the rum raisins to some of my other favorite versions.  The brownies are good on their own, but I couldn't resist trying one of Dorie's recommended garnishes, to dress up the photos.  Plus I got to add a bit more rum to the whipped cream.  =)

Don't forget to head over to the Tuesdays with Dorie page to check out the blogroll and see what everyone else did to put their own stamps on this week's recipe.  

French Chocolate Brownies
(adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pages 92-93)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt (I used 1/4 tsp--guess I can't read instructions)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used El Rey Gran Saman 70%)
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.  (I lined the pan with non-stick foil and skipped the butter.)

Whisk the flour, salt and cinnamon together.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum and let it warm for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum with a long match. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside.  (I had trouble with flaming the raisins--not enough rum?  Also, I like to do this quite a while before I make the rest of the recipe to give the raisins lots of time to soak up the rum.)

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring until it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole.  (I used the microwave.)

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. (I used the hand mixer.)  Reduce the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated—you’ll have a thick, creamy batter.  (I just used a whisk, not the mixer.)  Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won’t be completely incorporated. Then finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. (I used the spatula for all the mixing of the dry ingredients.)  Fold in the raisins, along with any liquid remaining in the pan. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they’re even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good accompaniments are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or, dare I suggest, all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept a room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.