Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Filbert Gâteau with Praline Buttercream

Since I sent in my request to join the Daring Bakers back in February, I've eagerly awaited the start of each new month.  It's so much fun to see what interesting new challenge will be presented.  This month was no different.  In fact, I had the day off from work on July 1st, so I was able to check out the new recipe and see some of the early responses to it.  This month's selection came from Chris of Mele Cotte--Filbert Gâteau with Praline Buttercream.  It's a long recipe, but mostly because you have to make a bunch of different components before assembling the finished cake.  A bit intimidating at first, but I survived the Opera Cake, so I didn't think this would be too bad. =)

One thing I did notice was that this recipe was for a pretty large cake, so I knew I'd need to find some people to help eat it.  My first thought was that I could take it to an annual 4th of July party that we attend.  So I headed right out to the store (yes, on 7/1) to buy hazelnuts and apricot preserves, the two ingredients that weren't already in my pantry.  But as I thought about it more, I realized that this might not work well--the party was outdoors in the Texas heat, probably not the best place for a cake like this.  And I was going to have a hard time finding the time to get everything done.  

So the hazelnuts and preserves languished in my pantry for another three weeks.  Last week I had another day off during the week, so I decide to tackle the praline paste while my kids were at daycare and not underfoot.  Super hot caramel and small children just seems like a really bad idea...  First I had to skin the hazelnuts.  Easier said than done.  First I tried roasting them and rubbing the skins off.  That didn't really work very well.  Bits of the skins came off, but not enough.  So then I tried boiling them in water with baking soda, as someone suggested on the DB boards.  That worked quite well for loosening the skins, but it still took longer than I would have liked to separate the nuts from the skins.  Not something I want to make a habit of.  Once I was done, I put the nuts back into the oven to dry them out some.  

Next was the caramel.  I've never actually made a dry caramel before, so I was a bit nervous about this step.  It turned out not to be too bad, though I'm still more comfortable with the wet method.  I got the nuts more or less coated with the caramel, and turned them out onto a pan lined with non-stick foil (love that stuff) to cool.  Once the brittle was cool enough to handle, I broke it up some and put it in my food processor.  Then I processed the heck out of it.  Eventually, it turned into a paste, but it took some patience.  My finished paste wasn't completely smooth, but it was close.  The texture of it actually reminded me a lot of the inside of Reese's peanut butter cups.  

Since I was on a roll, that same evening I made the Swiss buttercream.  I've made buttercream before, but the method for this one was a bit different.  Instead of adding butter to the meringue, you add the meringue to the softened butter.  But it worked fine for me.  I used rum for my flavoring.  And once the praline paste was added...  Wow!  I don't usually go for caramel-y sweet things, but boy was that stuff good!  And it kept well in the fridge until the weekend when I could finish the cake.  Once I was ready to use it, I let it sit at room temperature to warm up, then put it back in my stand mixer and beat it with the paddle attachment until it came back together. 

I made the full recipe of the buttercream so I would be sure to have enough for decorating, but I decided to make a small cake with only half the genoise recipe.  Since the original cake was to be baked in a 10-inch pan, I did the math and determined that my 7-inch springform would be the right size for half.  The genoise was pretty straightforward to make, though it took longer to bake than I expected (about 33 minutes).  I let it cool overnight, and on Sunday I finally got down to assembling the cake.  First I divided the cake into three layers with my serrated bread knife.  I brushed each layer with rum syrup (I made half the recipe of that, too) and layered it with the buttercream.  I brushed the top and sides of the assembled cake with apricot glaze.  While the cake chilled, I prepared the ganache glaze.  I used one of my favorite chocolates, Scharffen Berger 62%, as well as some more rum.  Pouring the glaze over the cake went pretty smoothly (pun intended).  Once the glaze set, I had fun piping stars around the bottom and on the top of my cake.  I added some hazelnuts for decoration as well.

The verdict?  I'm not sure if I'd ever had hazelnuts before I made this cake.  I'm still not sure how much I like them by themselves.  But the praline buttercream is absolutely fantastic.  I had to put the leftovers of that in the freezer so I wouldn't just stand here in my kitchen and eat it with a spoon.  The ganache glaze was fun to do, and looked really neat when I was done.  I'm not the biggest fan of nutty cakes, but I did like the whole thing put together.  And I tried some neat new things, which is part of the fun of the Daring Bakers.  

Wow, it's taken me longer than I expected to type all that out.  Not as long as the full recipe, though.  =)  For that, head over to Chris's blog, and don't forget to check out the creations of all the other Daring Bakers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tart galette

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Summer Fruit Galette, was chosen by Michelle of Michelle in Colorado Springs.  There are several things I like about this one.  For one thing, it's versatile--you can go with whatever fruit is available and looks good.  Also, it gives me a chance to try out Dorie's "good for almost everything" pie crust, which I missed out on by skipping the blueberry pie a couple weeks ago.  And hey, it's like pie!  I love pie!

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn't find any local Texas peaches at my grocery store this week.  I ended up with some nice ones from Georgia, though.  They turned out to be freestone peaches, as well, which made my life easier.  I couldn't resist the chance to pair them with some raspberries--have you picked up yet on the fact that I like raspberries? =).  I had graham crackers, which I pounded into crumbs (fun with the rolling pin!), and some of my favorite raspberry butter to go underneath everything.  And I had some pretty sparkling sugar for the crust.  

The only thing I didn't have much of was time.  I worked a really long day on Friday and then Saturday as well.  I intended to get an earlier start on Sunday than I did, and had other things that needed my attention (two of them are named Brianna and Gillian).  I did get as far as making the dough for the crust, though.  My favorite crust is all butter, but I was more than willing to give this one a try.  It seemed like the shortening made the dough softer.  So off to the fridge it went to chill.  I checked it later in the evening, but it still seemed too soft, so I ended up leaving it overnight.  

I got up just a little bit earlier so I could make the galette Monday morning.  That seemed preferable to trying to bake it and blog about it Monday night, plus I figured I'd get better pictures earlier in the day.  =)  The dough was pretty easy to roll out, but seemed a little on the fragile side.  I transferred it to a piece of parchment on my baking pan and added the jam, crumbs and fruit.  Since I knew I wasn't going to manage to eat all of the galette in one day, I decided to omit the custard, since I wasn't sure how well it would keep.  I'll have to give it a try another time.  I did add a little sugar to my fruit, since it wasn't going to be topped with the sweet custard mixture.  Into the oven everything went while I finished helping Jamie get the girls out the door and finished getting myself ready for work.  Boy, did my house smell good!  

The verdict?  The peaches and raspberries made for a more tart combination than I was expecting.  I suspect the custard would have helped with that.  Fortunately, I like tart things.  The galette was also a bit on the soggy side.  If I'd had time to preheat my oven and baking stone longer, I would have put the baking pan directly on the stone, which might have made for a crisper crust.  Maybe next time.  The crust was flaky, but I think it would have been better if it was a little sturdier.  Definitely worth trying, though.

For the recipe, head on over to Melissa's blog.  And don't forget to check out all the other wonderful creations from the Tuesdays with Dorie crew! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


A few days ago Pamela over at Cookies with Boys tagged me for a meme.  Today I finally have a few minutes to post about it.  That is, assuming Brianna and Gillian decide to play quietly (or at least without needing my intervention) for a few minutes.  =)

So, here are the Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Here goes...

1.  I started going by the nickname Di when I went to college.  My full name is Diana, and I decided that I was sick of people calling me Diane.  It's not a bad name, it's just not my name. Now if I just had a nickel for everyone who says, "Oh, you mean like Princess Di?" =)

2.  I have a BS in Chemistry from Caltech.  Aside from a brief stint of lab temp work right after college, I've never had a job in a science field.  Instead, baking is my way of satisfying my scientific side--"Hmm, I wonder what would happen if I change this..."  The name of my blog comes from the "lab notebook" that I used to keep records of my experiments.

3.  My husband and I first met 20 years ago this summer.  It's still kind of disturbing that I can refer to something "20 years ago" and have it mean when I was in high school...

4.  I've been to 36 states, and lived in 8 of them.  The ones I'm missing are: Alaska, Hawaii, all of New England (6 states; crazy, since I grew up in PA), most of the Southeast (LA, MS, AL), and a few oddball ones--North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

5.  If I had to pick a favorite food, it would be pizza.  Plain cheese, thin crust pizza.  Why is it okay to eat plain cheese pizza as a kid but not as an adult?  It seems like anytime I'm with a group of people ordering pizza, they give me a hard time for wanting just cheese.  But you know, it always gets eaten... =)

6.  I read all the time.  Fiction, cookbooks, magazines, now blogs...  I always have to have something to read with me.  I have no idea how many books I own, and I only buy the ones I want to read repeatedly.  Any time I move, one of the first things I do is find the library and get a new library card.

So those are a few random things about me.  I'm not sure who to tag, since I'm not sure who hasn't done this one already.  I'll have to do some checking and add that later.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cobbled together

I'm often looking for ways to get more fruits and vegetables into our diet.  Like tonight, when I added broccoli to my girls' "shell noodles" (Annie's mac & cheese).  I didn't know that Gillian could identify "bwoccolies," much less say the word pretty much correctly.  When we had Dorie's Mixed Berry Cobbler a few weeks ago, I was a bit surprised by how well it went over with everyone.  We made it a couple times, with a variety of berries, and had no trouble eating enough fruit that week.  =)

So I was happy to see that this week's recipe was for Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler.  However, I knew right away that I'd be making some changes, since I don't like cherries.  And while I'd like to try rhubarb, I haven't seen it around here lately.  So when I went shopping this week, I was on the lookout for other tart, red fruits to substitute.  A lot of fruit has been kind of expensive this season--the very dry spring and early summer haven't been good for the local stuff.  But I managed to find some nice-looking pluots on sale.  The raspberries also looked pretty good, so a pint of them jumped into the cart, too.  And I remembered to pick up some whole wheat flour for the topping (what I had in the pantry was rather old).

I left the skins on the pluots, since it's a pain to peel them.  Plus, the tartness of the skin balances out the sweetness of the flesh, and it gave the cooked filling a lovely red color.  I reduced the sugar just a bit, to 1/4 cup, since I didn't think my fruit was quite as tart as rhubarb would be, but left the amount of ginger at 1 teaspooon.  I didn't make any changes to the topping.

The verdict?  I really like the whole wheat in the topping, especially in combination with the brown sugar.  I definitely want to make it again.  I don't know if it was my changes to the fruit, but I should have cut back on the amount of ginger in the filling.  I liked it with the other flavors; it was just too much for my taste.  However, there was a simple solution in my freezer - some homemade vanilla ice cream tamed the spice of the ginger nicely.  And as usual, I ate my cobbler for breakfast.  The whole wheat offsets the ice cream, right?  =)

This week's selection comes from Amanda of Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake.  Head over to her blog for the recipe, or get yourself a copy of Baking From My Home to Yours!  And don't forget to check out the blogroll at Tuesdays with Dorie for lots of other wonderful cobblers.  

Sunday, July 20, 2008

So long, farewell

As a child, one of my favorite birthday cakes was angel food cake.  There was a period where you could buy different flavors of angel food cake mix, and my favorite was raspberry swirl.  My mom would make a delicious raspberry glaze to go with it (this was before I appreciated the combination of chocolate and raspberry).  I have no idea how I would go about replicating that cake.  Another one I liked was "Confetti Cake."  That one is a bit easier to reproduce--just quickly fold about a tablespoon of multicolor nonpariel sprinkles into the cake batter right before you put it into the pan.  The sprinkles melt into little bursts of color in the finished cake.  
While I make lots of other cakes from scratch, it was a long time before I attempted angel food cake.  Who has that many egg whites just laying around?  Well, I do, now and then.  My favorite cheesecake and ice cream recipes use only yolks.  So whenever I have extra egg whites, I put them in the freezer.  I know I should freeze them in ice cube trays or something, so I know exactly how many I have, but I tend to just freeze then in batches of 4 or 6.  When I have several containers in the freezer, I know it's time to make cake.

Now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever made plain angel food cake from scratch.  That's because the first time I went looking for a recipe, I pulled out my copy of Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible.  The only recipe in there is for chocolate angel food cake.  Mmm.   That sounded fantastic, and I've never tried another recipe.  It's not super-chocolatey like a regular chocolate cake, of course, but it's got a nice flavor and best of all, it's not too sweet.

One of the things I love to do is make birthday cakes for my co-workers.  I take requests or try to find something that I think the person will like.  One of the ones I'm really enjoyed was the cheesecake with a brown sugar-pecan crust that I made for a co-worker who was on a gluten-free diet.  (Rose Levy Beranbaum's cheesecake, actually; it doesn't have any flour in it.) Anyway, last year, I made this chocolate angel food cake for K's birthday.  She said it might be her all-time favorite cake.  (Until I brought in pieces of Dorie's Peanut Butter Torte--she said that might have changed her mind.)  Well, sadly, K is leaving us to go to another position with the company, so I wanted to make her a farewell cake.  And of course I immediately thought of this one, since I know she loves it.  She's a reader of my blog, so this way she can try making it herself if she wants to.  =)

Chocolate Lover's Angel Food Cake
(adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

1 ounce (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) unsweetened cocoa powder (Rose calls for dutch-processed cocoa, but I used Scharffen Berger natural cocoa)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 1/4 ounces (1 3/4 cups) granulated sugar
3 1/2 ounces (1 cup) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
17 ounces (2 liquid cups; about 16) large eggs whites (I only had a bit over 15 ounces)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa and boiling water and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, combine 5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup) of the sugar, the flour, and the salt and whisk until blended.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in the remaining 7 ounces (1 cup) of sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.  Remove 1 heaping cup of the egg whites and place it onto the cocoa mixture.

Dust the flour mixture over the remaining whites, 1/4 cup at a time, and fold it in quickly but gently.  A large balloon whisk works well for this step.  

Whisk together the egg white and cocoa mixture and fold into the batter until uniform.  Pour the batter into a 10-inch tube pan and run a small metal spatula or knife through the batter to prevent air pockets.  Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. (The center will rise above the pan while baking and sink slightly when done.  The surface will have deep cracks like a soufflé.)

Invert the pan, placing the tube opening over the neck of a wine (or other long-neck) bottle to suspend it well above the counter, and cool the cake completely in the pan.  

Chocolate Glaze
(adapted from Baking Illustrated)

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used El Rey 58.5%)
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Place the cream, corn syrup, chocolate and salt in a microwave safe bowl.  (I use my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup for ease in pouring later.)  Heat on 50% power for 2 minutes.  Whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.  Stir in the vanilla.  If the glaze is very thin, let it cool at room temperature until it is slightly thickened.  Pour over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to run down the sides.  Decorate with sprinkles if desired.  

Saturday, July 19, 2008

And the award goes to...

Okay, so this is what I get for procrastinating...  A few days ago, Jayne over at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch passed the Yum-Yum blog award to me.  I'm very honored that she did so--this is the first time I've received a food blog award.  If you haven't checked out her blog, you should.  Her writing is wonderful and often hilarious (especially when it's about her kids), and her process photos are awesome.  

So next I had to think of five blogs to pass this along to...  One of the first ones to come to mind was Dianne's Dishes.  I love reading her posts on a daily basis, and the recent "Ice Cream Week" was wonderful.  When I started looking through my feed reader this morning (421 posts right now!  Can you tell I had a long week with no time to read much after I got home from work?) I discovered that she has sent me this award as well!  Well, right back at you, Dianne!

And the rest:

Madam Chow's Kitchen - I've bookmarked quite a few recipes to make from her blog.  Now I just need to find the time. =)

Mevrouw Cupcake - Mari takes the most wonderful pictures of everything she makes. Yum.

Brown Eyed Baker - I love that Chelle seems to be as much of Cook's Illustrated fan as I am.

The Sour Dough - One of these days I am going to finally make sourdough bread. I've got Mary's starter instructions bookmarked for when I do.

Thanks for the inspiration, ladies!  Now pass it on!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shawkit zert

Gillian's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds.  Pretty much every day she surprises me with new words, things that I didn't realize she knows.  The new one from this weekend was "band-aid."  That one was a direct result of her exerting her independence and trying to pull out one of the kitchen chairs without any help...  I'm also quickly discovering that the second child experiences some things much earlier than the first.  I'm sure some of that is because I'm not as cautious with Gillian as I was with Brianna.  Or maybe it's just because I'm too tired to put up a fight a lot of the time... =)  

The intersection of these two things is that the word "shawkit" was a very early addition to Gillian's vocabulary.  Brianna is a fan of all things chocolate, and Gillian seems to be following in her footsteps.  More recently, I had to decipher "zert" which when put into context turned out to be "dessert."  If Brianna asks for dessert, Gillian wants some too.  Now.  The funny thing is that once she's had some "zert" she'll quite happily go back and finish the rest of her dinner if she wasn't done with it.  

I'm sure you can all guess that this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was very popular around here.  While I seldom make anything out of a box, there is often instant chocolate pudding mix in my pantry because Brianna gets such a kick out of "making" it.  So she was absolutely thrilled that I was making chocolate pudding this week.  

The actually making of it was...interesting.  I can't remember the last time a seemingly simple dessert dirtied so many dishes in my kitchen.  =)  Dorie recommends using the food processor for a lot of the steps in this recipe.  Next time, I'm going to pass on that.  All was well as I pulsed the eggs and sugar and added the dry ingredients.  But when it came to adding the hot milk, things got messy.  While I was carefully watching to make sure I didn't exceed the quantity of liquid that my processor can handle, I didn't count on there being a ton of foam.  And things sloshed around enough that I was really afraid that the liquid was going to leak out the middle.  

Once I poured the whole mess back into my saucepan, I cooked it until it thickened and the foam subsided.  I dirtied a few more dishes by pouring the thickened mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl (it may not have needed it, but I like to make sure there aren't any lumps or bits of egg).  Then I whisked in the melted chocolate, butter and vanilla.  I ladled the finished pudding into ramekins--four 4-ounce and four 3-ounce.  Brianna was quite disappointed that the smaller ones were for her and Gillian.  =)  

The verdict?  Jamie said that the first thing he thought of was "creamy."  Gillian and Brianna quickly polished off their portions.  I thought it was pretty tasty, but I think the chocolate pots de creme from Cook's Illustrated are still my favorite (a post for another time).  I can definitely see myself making this again, though without the food processor.

Thanks to Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen for a great selection this week.  Check out her blog for the recipe, or look here on Dorie's blog.  And don't forget to check out the other TWD blogs! 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Melting Pot

For the past six years, we have spent every 4th of July with some friends of ours in Round Rock.  They live very close to a big park there, and we can easily see the fireworks from their back yard.  The first time they hosted this party was just a couple weeks after they moved into their house.  Each year, they invite just about everyone they know, from all sorts of different activities that they are involved in.  This makes for a very eclectic group.  They usually provide the meats and some drinks, and everyone else brings side dishes and desserts--there are lots of interesting contributions.

We know these friends from our local Italian genealogy group.  Genealogy is one of Jamie's hobbies that he doesn't get to spend much time on since the girls were born.  As far as I know, I don't have any Italian ancestors, but the genealogists let me hang out and eat their food.  =)  I usually bring desserts to potlucks, and this one was no exception.  Since I decided to pass on the blueberry pie this week, I thought it might be nice to go back and try a TWD recipe that I missed due to lack of time.  A lot of the Italians usually make it to the 4th of July party, so I knew there would be lots of people who would appreciate Dorie's Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake.  

This cake was the selection of Caitlin over at Engineer Baker, back at the end of April.  It incorporates a number of interesting ingredients--cornmeal, ricotta, honey, figs and lemon.  Part of why I wanted to make this recipe is that I had about a cup of leftover ricotta in my fridge that I needed to use.  Ricotta that I made myself!  How cool is that?  Thank you to Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch for opening my eyes to the fact that ricotta is really easy to make.  Check out her post here if you'd like to try it yourself.

I got some pictures of my kitchen helpers on this one.  Brianna's favorite thing is to crack eggs.  So she banged them on the counter a bit to get things started, then I broke the eggs into a measuring cup so she could pour them into the mixer.  She also did a good job of adding sugar and melted butter.  And she really enjoyed putting the figs on top of the batter.  Gillian wanted to help, too.  =)  Both of the girls liked eating the plain figs--I was kind of surprised.  

And the final verdict?  More than three-quarters of the cake disappeared very quickly once the desserts were brought out.  I did get a piece, which I shared with Gillian (Brianna decided she didn't really like it).  For me, the cake was a little too sweet, even though I reduced the amount of sugar.  I'm not that big a fan of honey.  I liked the texture that the cornmeal gave the cake, though.  I'm not sure if I'll make this again (maybe with some changes), but I'm glad I gave it a try!

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
(adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission figs, stemmed
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/3 cup tepid water (I increased this to about 1/2 cup because my ricotta was rather dry)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (I used Pam for Baking) and put it on a baking sheet.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth.  (I accidentally added the eggs first, and then the butter.)  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter. (Mine was a bit loose, but thickened after a minute or two.)

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Blueberry blues

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Double-Crusted Blueberry Pie, chosen by Amy of South in Your Mouth.  This was a great selection for Fourth of July weekend.  Unfortunately, I really don't like blueberries.  I thought about making the pie with another fruit, but it didn't seem right, since the blueberries are the focus of this recipe.  So I'm sitting out this week.  But I'm sure there were lots of fabulous pies made by the other TWD members.  Head on over to the Tuesdays with Dorie page to check them out.  And check back in the next day or two for a TWD rewind recipe from me.  

Monday, July 7, 2008

Overnight sensation

I think breakfast is our favorite meal of the day around here. At least it's the one that gets eaten with no (okay, very few) complaints. Both of my girls love all breakfast foods with the exception of eggs. I've tried a number of times to feed them scrambled eggs, but neither of them will eat them. I can't really blame them; I don't like eggs myself (scrambled or otherwise).

If you ask Brianna, she'll tell you that her favorite breakfast food is French toast. She can easily eat as many pieces of French toast as I do. Gillian isn't far behind. But we don't always have the right bread on hand (in the freezer) to make that. One of her other favorites is waffles. I've told her that if she wants waffles, all she has to do is remind me to make the batter the night before.

Okay, so that may make you wonder, since when do you have to mix up waffle batter the night before? Well, the only kind of waffles I make anymore is yeasted waffles, and the batter rises overnight in the fridge. I first discovered yeasted waffles in one of my issues of Cook's Illustrated several years ago. And after the first time I made them, I was hooked. I don't think I can ever go back to regular waffles. Why? Both the taste and the texture. These waffles taste buttery and have just a bit of tang from the overnight rise, yet the texture is light and crisp. The crisp part is what really got me. I hate soggy waffles.

I've made this recipe many, many times without playing around with it. But when I made the batter Saturday night, I thought of something new to try--I added some nutmeg. A lot of doughnut recipes have nutmeg, so why not waffles? The addition made for a subtle background note, but it was quite good. I could actually taste it more when the waffles cooled off a bit.

I definitely encourage anyone who's never had a waffle made with yeast to give these a try. Yes, you have to mix the batter the night before, but it only takes a few minutes. And the leftovers (yes, even we have leftovers--the recipe makes a lot) can be stored in the fridge for a couple days (or frozen for longer) and toasted for a quick weekday breakfast.

Yeasted Waffles
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 3/4 cups milk (I use 1%, but it doesn't really matter which you use)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into pieces
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup (I use a 2-cup Pyrex measure) and microwave until the milk is warm and the butter is almost melted (about 2 minutes on high). Stir until the butter is completely melted. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine. Whisk the milk/butter mixture into the flour mixture; continue to whisk until the batter is smooth. In a small bowl (I just use the measuring cup from the milk and butter), whisk the eggs and vanilla until combined, then add the egg mixture to the batter and whisk until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight (10-12 hours). (I usually transfer the batter to my 4-liter Cambro container with a lid.)

Heat your waffle iron, then take the waffle batter out of the refrigerator (the batter will be foamy and doubled in size). Whisk the batter to recombine (it will deflate). Use about ½ cup batter for a 7-inch round iron (the size I have--if yours is bigger, adjust as necessary). Yields 8-9 7-inch round waffles.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

TWD: Apple Cheddar Scones

This week's recipe is Apple Cheddar Scones, chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron.  I'm not usually this down to the wire with my TWD recipes.  But last week was kind of crazy, and I worked Saturday.  Well, and the main problem was that I didn't get a chance to buy the dried apples until we went to Central Market on Sunday.  A number of people were saying that they had trouble finding dried apples, but I'm lucky enough to have a store with a fantastic bulk department.  

Anyway, I ended up making the scones this morning.  I love it when I have the time to bake something fresh for breakfast.  I usually end up doing that on Sundays (which occasionally means that we end up eating closer to lunch time...), and Brianna likes to help.  She loves to crack eggs; not sure why exactly.  But it's also nice to be able to bake when I have a day off during the week and I have the house to myself.  

Unlike some scone recipes I've tried, this dough was pretty sticky.  That seemed to make it a bit easier to incorporate the dried apples and the cheese.  I think I'm getting better at rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients without overdoing it.  Rather than introduce more flour by trying to pat out the dough and cut it, I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet.  I used my handy #16 disher for that.  (Besides good places to buy ingredients, I also have access to good places to buy kitchen tools, including a great restaurant supply store.)  I ended up with 11 scones instead of 12, but that's okay.

The verdict?  I really liked these, but that's not really surprising, since  I love anything with cheese.  I used sharp cheddar, but I also bought some gouda last weekend, and I think that might be good with the apples as well.  The apples add some bits of sweetness, and I like the bit of crunch on the outsides from the cornmeal.  I'll have to see what Brianna and Gillian think, but if they don't like them, I'll just have to suffer through eating them all myself... =)

Want to give them a try?  Then get a copy of Baking From My Home to Yours or head on over to Karina's blog.