Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nothing to see here

I'm sorry to say that I'm missing this week's Tuesdays with Dorie.  I'm particularly disappointed that I didn't get it done since this week's recipe was chosen by one of my favorite bloggers, Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch.  She picked Coconut Butter Thins.  Part of my reason for missing this one is that I don't like coconut.  I did originally intend to make these cookies, just without the coconut.  However life has been rather crazy and I just didn't get as far as making much of anything this past weekend.  (I missed the March Daring Bakers challenge, too.  *sigh*)  

I'm sure there are lots of great versions of this week's cookies, though, so head over to Tuesdays with Dorie and check out the blogroll.  And I'm sure you can find the recipe on Jayne's blog.  

p.s.  Okay, now that I've been to Jayne's blog and seen how good these look, I'm even sadder that I didn't make them.  Maybe this weekend... (no work, yay!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mellow yellow

So far, I've been doing quite well with my goal of baking all my own bread.  Unfortunately, I haven't been doing as good a job of blogging about it.  One thing I may try for April is an idea that I love from Sandy of At the Baker's Bench (our lovely BYOB moderator).  She keeps a running baking log for the month on the sidebar of her blog, complete with links to blog entries about some of the items.  

The thing that has been keeping me going is still Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  It really helps with the daily bread need.  I've tried a number of the dough recipes in the book (a couple of which are still sitting as drafts that I haven't finished...) and have started playing around a bit as well.  One of the more recent recipes I tried was for bagel dough.  It's similar to the basic dough, but made with bread flour and a little sugar.  It was a bit stickier and harder to handle than my usual bagel dough.  I'm still not sure how I like it, but it is certainly convenient.  What I really liked, though was the loaf of bread I made from that dough.  It was fantastic--wonderful crust (the sugar in the dough helped with the browning, I'm sure) and really tasty.  I have to admit, much as I've been trying to be good and add whole wheat to my bread, the bread made with just white flour was so darn good! =)  (I know, all things in moderation.)

Because of the bread flour, the dough was a bit stiffer and easier to work with than the basic dough.  It didn't result in really big holes in the crumb of the loaves, but it still had a really nice texture.  For the next batch, I decided to play around a bit more.  I keep some semolina on hand because I like it in pizza dough, so I used it in place of some of the bread flour.  There is a recipe in the book for a semolina dough that uses about half semolina flour and half all-purpose.  I didn't think I should add that much, though, since all I have easy access to is coarse semolina, not the really fine durum semolina.  (I really have to do that order from King Arthur one of these days...)  So I went with about a cup of the semolina.  

When I first started making ABin5 bread, I went with the 16 ounce boules recommended at the beginning of the book.  For our needs, though, I find that a batard works well.  And we go through the small loaves very quickly, so my standard loaf is now made from 24 ounces of dough.  I preheat the oven and my baking stone (on the bottom rack) for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees F.  Then I bake with steam (often using this cool idea from Zoe, using a disposable pan to cover) for 10 minutes, then bake the loaf for an additional 25 minutes.  

The verdict?  I really liked the way this variation turned out.  The semolina was enough to give the crumb of the loaf a very pale yellow color and a nice flavor.  The crust was excellent.  Fresh bread is a hit with everyone in this house. =)  And Brianna and Gillian were happy to eat some of the older bread as French toast. 

Be sure to check out lots of other wonderful bread creations at Yeastspotting

Semolina Dough

26 ounces room temperature water (I use bottled spring water since my tap water is very hard)
5 ounces semolina
27 ounces bread flour (King Arthur)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons kosher salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast

Place the water in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl.  Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the dough starts to come together into a ball.  Switch to the dough hook and mix at low speed about one minute.  Transfer the dough to a 6-quart container and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about two hours.  Place the container in the refrigerator and store until needed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Signs of spring

It's hard to believe it's spring already.  The days on the calendar seem to be going way too quickly.  As far as the weather, well, it's felt like spring for a while around here in central Texas.  Most of the people I talk to are quite happy that it's getting warm.  Personally, I think March is too early for it to be in the high 80s like we had a week or two ago.  Right now it's a more temperate 66 degrees, and it's actually overcast and drizzly.  We need more days like this (and not just because we're in a drought).  It's a great day to be off from work and here at home, drinking tea and reading and baking and generally being lazy.  Of course there are things I should be doing (aren't there always?).  Maybe this afternoon.

First, though, I need to writing about this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  For this week, we have Blueberry Crumb Cake, chosen by Sihan of Walking in the Rain.  I mentioned last week that I've been craving coffeecake.  So I was happy to make one two weekends in a row.  

I obviously was so happy with the yogurt in last week's cake that I just had to use it again this week.  Or maybe I forgot to read the recipe thoroughly before grocery shopping and didn't buy buttermilk... =)  And then there's the fact that I don't like blueberries.  Every so often I'll try them again, but I still don't like them.  I really wanted to try cranberries instead, since I knew I had some in the freezer.  Except I didn't.  Apparently I should check to see what ingredients I have on hand before shopping in addition to reading the recipe. =)  Fortunately, I did have a bunch of blackberries--Brianna likes them in her lunch and they were on sale this week, so Jamie suggested I should get extra.  Next, I thought that lime zest would be good with the blackberries, since I've seen a number of delicious-looking recipes that use that combo.  Yep, you guessed it--no limes in the produce drawer.  (Again, could have sworn I had some...)  But I did have lemons.  And for one final change, I left the nuts out of the topping.  That one was on purpose, since Brianna doesn't like nuts in her baked goods and I didn't want to hear any complaints from her about the cake.

Since Dorie mentioned in the recipe that a Pyrex pan would work well, that's what I went with.  I coated it with baking spray.  I mixed together the crumb ingredients in the small bowl of my food processor and put the crumbs in the fridge to chill.  Then I mixed up the batter (pretty straightforward creaming method).  The batter was quite thick, and I had a hard time folding the blackberries in evenly.  Once I got that done, I spread the batter in the pan, put the crumbs on top (sans nuts) and popped the cake in the oven.  I ended up baking it for 50 minutes (the recipe suggests 55-60) at 350 degrees F, at which point the middle seemed done.  We let it cool in the pan for a bit, then dug in.

The verdict?  Mixed.  It seemed rather dry to me.  I think I should have added more fruit.  I didn't really measure, but the blackberries were pretty big and there just didn't seem to be enough of them in the cake.  I think I should have cut them in half or just added more.  And even though I've heard that you should lower the baking temperature when using Pyrex pans, I didn't, since Dorie said that sort of pan would work well.  The taste of the cake was pretty good, but I liked last week's better.  The one part I really did like was the topping.  It was crisp and browned and buttery.  I can see myself using it on another coffeecake or on muffins.  But I think I'd adjust the quantity.  My cake rose a lot, and it seemed like there was way more cake than topping.  I'm definitely in the as-much-crumbs-as-cake camp. =)  Everyone else around here thought the cake was okay.  Brianna ate all of hers.  Jamie agreed that it was a bit dry.  Gillian picked the topping off and pulled the blackberries out and ate both of those, leaving most of the remaining cake on the plate.  Girl after my own heart... =)

If you'd like to try this for yourself, head over to Sihan's blog for the recipe.  And check out the creations of the other TWD bakers over at Tuesdays with Dorie.  And one last thing...  It only seems fair to share a picture of Brianna this week, since we had chef Gillian a couple weeks ago.  Last week was Spring Break, and they had facepainting one day at day care.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The other chocolate cake

I'm playing catch-up.  I've been baking (and taking pictures!), but I just can't seem to get my act together enough to blog about some of the stuff.  Bread, in particular, seems to like to sit in my drafts folder (there are 2 or 3 posts in progress).  So of course I'm here, writing about cake instead... =)

For the first Tuesday in March, the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was for Chocolate Armagnac Cake.  It was chosen by LyB of And then I do the dishes.  When I said here that my cake would be a bit late, I didn't mean by almost three weeks!  And actually, I did make the cake about a week later, but it just didn't make it to the blog until now...

The reason why I didn't make the cake on time was that I had just barely finished my cake for the February Daring Bakers challenge.  So I was interested to see how the two would compare.  The DB cake only had three ingredients--chocolate, butter and eggs.  Dorie's cake had a few others in addition to those three--pecans, flour, salt, water, Armagnac (or  Scotch), sugar and prunes.  Yes, prunes.  Not what you might expect to find in your chocolate cake.  

You start by cutting the prunes into bits.  Then you cook them with some water to plump them, add the alcohol, and set them on fire.  That was fun. =)  Since I didn't have any Armagnac or other brandy, I went with Scotch (on hand from the Butterscotch Pudding).  It burned nicely--quite the show.  The chocolate was melted with the butter and a few tablespoons of water.  The egg yolks was whisked together with the sugar, then the chocolate and prune mixtures were stirred in.  Finally, the egg whites were beaten and folded into the chocolate batter.  The whole things went into an 8-inch springform pan to bake at 375 degrees F for 28 to 32 minutes.  I pulled mine out at 31.  It was pretty much done, but I probably could have let it go a couple minutes longer.  

Once the cake was cooled, it got topped with a glaze made from more chocolate and butter as well as some powdered sugar.  It reminded me a lot of the glaze from the Chocolate Cupcakes, though the proportions are slightly different.  I chose to spread mine just on the top of the cake, and had fun swirling it around.  

The verdict?  I would definitely make this again!  I actually liked it a lot more than the DB cake.  It was a lot more interesting.  I love fruity chocolate (not with fruit in it, just with a fruity character to it), so I really enjoyed the combination of the prunes with the chocolate.  My cake was a bit too soft in the center, but I chilled it and it was fine.  Jamie polished off quite a bit of the cake, and Brianna even liked it!  I didn't tell her about the prunes, but I know she likes them anyway. =)  

For those who still haven't tried this one, the recipe can be found here on LyB's blog.  And I should be more on time for this week's TWD!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cake for breakfast

I've been craving coffee cake.  Or, more accurately, crumb cake.  But I keep getting overruled by Brianna and Gillian.  Brianna wanted bagels.  I made them two weekends running (and there are sure to be more in my future).  And with Gillian, it's all about muffins (and Brianna is usually happy to go along).  Don't get me wrong--I like both of those.  But I seem to be having trouble with new muffin recipes (some partial and total disasters that haven't made it all the way to the blog yet), and I'm getting a bit tired of the making the same two tried-and-true recipes over and over.  What I really wanted was coffee cake.  Cinnamony.  Buttery.  Crumby.  Cake for breakfast. =)

I have to plan my weekend baking carefully.  I want to be sure to fit in the things that I need to make (like my weekly TWD recipes) along with the things that we need to get through the week (bread) and the things I just want (cookies... brownies... coffee cake!)  And this past weekend I got lucky.  First, I had Saturday off, so I actually had two days to get all my baking done.  And second, I figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone...

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection comes from Liliana over at My Cookbook Addiction.  (I have that problem, too...  Hi, my name is Di.  I have more cookbooks than I have room for and I keep buying more...)  Her recipe choice was French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze.  This versatile cake can be baked as a loaf or as a round cake that can be glazed or layered with marmalade or jam.  I'm sure many bakers were delighted that this recipe could be made in a single bowl.  =)  I made a few changes, added some streusel on top, and had my coffee cake!!

I went for the round version.  Since I planned to add the streusel, I knew I wouldn't want to flip the cake over to get it out of the pan.  So I used my 9-inch springform pan.  I wrapped the bottom part in non-stick foil, put the pan together, and then sprayed the inside with baking spray (Pam for Baking).  While the oven preheated, I made the streusel (recipe below).  I mixed up the cake batter pretty much as the recipe directed.  I did leave out the ground almonds, using 1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) of all-purpose flour instead.  I used whole milk plain yogurt and canola oil.  For flavoring, I omitted the lemon zest and instead added about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg with the dry ingredients.  I spread the batter in the pan and scattered the crumbs on top.  I baked the cake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F.  That was a bit longer than the 35-40 minutes listed for the round layer variation in the book, but I figured it would take longer with the topping.  Once the center of the cake tested as done, I removed the pan from the oven and let the cake rest in the pan on a rack for ten minutes.  Then I removed the outer ring of the pan and let the cake cool a bit more (but not too long--we were hungry!) and sifted some powdered sugar on top.

The verdict?  Oh, I will be making this one again.  Everyone around here really enjoyed it.  The texture of the cake was great--not too dense, not too light.  It keeps well, staying moist because of the oil, no doubt.  The streusel contrasted nicely with the soft crumb of the cake.  Definitely a winner!

If you want to try either the original cake or my variation, start by heading over to Liliana's blog to get the cake recipe.  And be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see what everyone else did this week!  

Edited to add:  Okay, maybe I should read ahead once in a while...  I just realized that next week's TWD recipe is a crumb cake. *laugh*  That's okay; I can eat crumb cake two weeks in a row.

Streusel Topping for Coffeecake

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup (3 1/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, softened

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugars, salt, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the dry ingredients until you have crumbs of different sizes (you can squeeze the mixture into larger crumbs if you like).  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Notebook on the road...at Dianne's

The last time I had a "notebook on the road" post was in September when we were in Pennsylvania for my sister Kate's wedding.  Today, my notebook is taking another trip--a virtual one this time.  A couple weeks ago my blogging friend Dianne of Dianne's Dishes was looking for some guests to feature on her blog this week.  Today is my turn!  So head on over to her blog to check out my post there.  And while you're there, be sure to check out all the other guest bloggers from this week as well as all the wonderful regular features of Dianne's Dishes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not in a box, not with a fox

My mom used to tell me that when I was little, I really loved to eat eggs, and she couldn't understand why that changed.  But it definitely did.  Every so often, I'll try scrambling an egg to see if I've changed my mind.  I haven't so far.  And scrambled is the only way I'll even try them.  No omelets.  No fried, poached, or hard-cooked eggs.  The taste, the texture--I do not like them, Sam I Am.  

Now, if you beat them with some milk and dip bread in them, I'm there.  Or if you use them to make cakes.  Or ice cream.  Or cheesecake.  Or buttercream.  Or angel food cake.  This week I realized that I really like the parts better than the whole eggs.  Or, as long as you can't really identify them as eggs, I like them just fine. =)  Unfortunately, that didn't bode well for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  

This week's selection was made by Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles.  She chose Lemon Cup Custard.  I like lemon just fine.  But cup custard is another story.  It tastes like eggs.  And I can't get past the texture.  It was when I was trying to figure out why I like crème anglaise (or ice cream custard) but not baked custard that I hit on my theory about only liking the parts of eggs.  At first I thought I just didn't like egg whites, but then I realized that I do like them as long as they're whipped with sugar. =)  So it seems to be something about whole eggs that aren't completely disguised inside something else that I don't like.

No disguises with this recipe.  I actually went with the vanilla variation, which consists of milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla.  I added a pinch of salt.  I accidentally put the sugar in the saucepan with the milk instead of beating it with the eggs.  But I've made ice cream custard both ways without any problems, so I just went ahead and tempered the eggs with the milk/sugar mixture.  I only made half the recipe, which was enough for 3 dishes.  I baked them in their water bath for 45 minutes, at which point they were set but jiggled a bit in the middle.  After letting the custards cool to room temperature, I refrigerated them until cold.

The verdict?  I only made this because I knew my husband Jamie would really enjoy it--and he did.  =)  I did try a small bit, which confirmed that I still don't like baked custard.  Brianna tried some.  At first she claimed to like it, but then said that it tasted like scrambled eggs and wouldn't eat any more.  (Guess she gets that from me...)  Gillian didn't actually get to try any, but she doesn't really like eggs either.  

I might make this again if Jamie wants to have it again or try another flavor.  It was easy, and has a simple ingredient list of things we always have.  If you like eggs and want to give it a try, head over to Bridget's blog.  And since I only got a couple pictures of this week's recipe, here's a picture of my not-quite-big-enough-yet sous chef (Gillian), borrowing her big sister's gear.  (Shhh, don't tell Brianna...)

Edited to add...  For someone who claims to not like eggs, I go through an awful lot of them.  I save the cartons to take to the daycare for projects.  Right now I have 18 empty cartons that I've collected over the past six months or so (based on the dates on them).  Wow.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In the bag

We're a brown-bag lunch sort of family. Okay, technically mine and Jamie's are blue, and Brianna's is pink. =) I've pretty much always taken my lunch to school or work, since I was little. Early on, my mom would make my lunch. That apparently lasted until I started to complain about what was in it (I don't like PB&J sandwiches), at which point I was told that if I didn't like it I could do it myself. =) Nowadays I take lunch to work most of the time because I know I'll like what I have, and it definitely saves money.

It was a bit of a shock this past fall when I realized that I would need to do something for Brianna's lunch when she started kindergarten. Up until that point, she got fed at day care (as Gillian still does). I had a feeling she wouldn't be that interested in buying lunch at school--she can be kind of picky. I asked her, and she wanted to bring lunch from home. And she has, every day but one so far--when I went and ate Thanksgiving lunch with her at school. (Mmm, cafeteria turkey and mashed potatoes. =) )

Brianna's lunch is usually a mix of different small things to eat, since I'm never sure how hungry she's going to be at lunch time. Today's, for example, included: a small yogurt drink, a small juicebox, a handful of blackberries, a small bag of Cheezits (probably for afternoon snack), and a little bagel with garlic cream cheese. The fruit varies (applesauce, blueberries, grapes, even cherry tomatoes). The snack varies (pretzels, goldfish). And the bready bit varies. Sometimes it's an actual sandwich. Sometimes it's bread with the meat and cheese on the side. Sometimes it's a wrap (tortilla in place of bread). This weekend, though, Brianna asked if she could have bagels in her lunch this week.

In the past, I've bought mini bagels at the grocery store. They're convenient and not that expensive. But frankly, they have about as much taste as cardboard. So in keeping with my BYOB goal, I decided to make my own mini bagels this past weekend. I've made big ones before, so I just had to adjust my shaping and timing a bit. I thought about trying a recipe that I saw on Baker's Banter, but I'm used to boiling rather than steaming the bagels before baking them. I'm sure I'll try their method eventually.   I usually form my bagels by making ropes of dough and joining the ends. But this time I tried the poke a hole in the middle approach shown in the article. It worked quite well with the smaller (about 2-ounce) pieces of dough. After shaping, I boiled the bagels for about 90 seconds on each side. I topped a handful of them with salt and left the rest plain--the salt ones need to be eaten right away or the salt dissolves and makes the bagels soggy on top. I baked them for about 5 minutes less than I do the big ones.

The verdict? Quite tasty, as expected. These are the perfect size for Brianna and Gillian. We ate some for breakfast on Sunday. I sliced the rest in half and put them in the freezer for B's lunches. Every day so far this week, she's actually eaten everything in her lunch. =)

If you want to BYOB, here's the recipe.  And I'm also submitting this to Yeastspotting.  

Mini Bagels

1 cup (5 ounces) white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) bread flour (King Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) room temperature water (I used bottled since my tap water is extremely hard)

canola oil (for dough bucket)

2 quarts water
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

toppings, if desired

Place the flours, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Mix with the paddle on low speed until the dry ingredients are well blended.  Add the water and continue to mix with the paddle until a shaggy ball of dough forms.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead the dough on low speed (between 2 and 4) about 7 minutes.  The dough will be much smoother, but will still be tacky.  Transfer the dough to a rising container that has been greased with canola oil.  Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours, I think).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the two quarts of water in a wide pot and bring it to a boil.  When it boils, add the brown sugar and turn the heat down so the water just simmers.  

Meanwhile, remove the dough from the container and portion it into 15 equal pieces (2 ounces by weight).  Form each piece of dough into a smooth ball (like you're making rolls) and allow it to rest for a few minutes.  Poke a hole in the center of each dough ball with your finger and thumb and then twirl the bagel on your finger to widen the hole.  (see great pictures here--just scroll down)

Add the bagels to the water 3 or 4 at a time.  Simmer them for 90 seconds on each side, then remove them from the water and place them on a clean lint-free kitchen towel to drain.  After a few minutes, transfer them to a large baking sheet (13 x 18) lined with parchment paper.  Once all the bagels are on the baking sheet, place the pan in the oven (I usually put it directly on top of my baking stone).  Bake for about 20 minutes, then flip the bagels over and bake for about 5 minutes longer so that both sides brown well.  Let cool until just warm before slicing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Too much chocolate cake

My Tuesdays with Dorie post is going to be late this week.  My last week of February was spent tending to sick children, which meant that I finished my Daring Bakers recipe at the absolute last minute.  It was a lovely flourless chocolate cake that we still haven't finished eating.   Meaning that this week's TWD chocolate cake is going to have to wait another day or two.  Besides I'm still pondering my choices...  raisins or prunes?  Scotch or bourbon (or rum)?  Decisions, decisions... =)