Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A tale of two strudels

When will I finally learn not to wait until the last minute to make my monthly Daring Bakers recipe?  Once again I found myself in the kitchen on the day before the post is due, finishing baking so I could take pictures and put a post together.  But hey, at least I'm not doing it on posting day this month! =)  I had originally planned to make this month's recipe while Jamie's parents were here, but that didn't happen.  Then I was going to do it on my day off last week, but I got sick.  And this past weekend got away from me, between bagels and brownies.  Fortunately I had this afternoon off, so there was one last chance.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.  

My first thought on reading the selection at the beginning of the month was "Wow, now that will definitely be a challenge!  Strudel kind of scares me."  But that's why I joined this group, right?  Once I read the recipe, it didn't seem as scary, and it promised not to be too time-consuming.  Which turned out to be a really good thing, since I waited so long!  There really weren't any special ingredients needed.  In fact, the only requirement was that we had to make the strudel dough--the filling was completely flexible, sweet or savory.

As I was driving home after working this morning, I was still trying to decide what to make.  I've had some apples sitting in the bottom of my fridge for a while, and I figured I'd just use them.  But then I started trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and it hit me.  Why not make two strudels--one savory and one sweet?  I could divide the dough in half.  I was kind of worried about having too much strudel anyway, and I didn't think it would keep well.  

I mixed up the dough, which didn't take all that long.  It was very easy to work with, and quite nice to knead.  Since I knew it had to rest for a while, I left it covered on the counter while I went to pick the girls up from schools.  (It rested for about 2 hours.)  I was kind of afraid of trying to stretch out the dough successfully with the two of them underfoot, but I was running out of time.  And it actually worked out a lot better than I expected.  Before I started playing with the dough, though, I prepared my filling ingredients.

For the savory version, I sauteed some leeks.  Then I diced some red potatoes (skin on) and sauteed them as well.  I didn't cook either of them completely, but wanted to give them a head start to make sure they would cook through in the oven.  I also chopped some fresh thyme leaves and shredded some fontina cheese.

I got out my rolling pin, but didn't even use it.  As soon as I divided the dough in half, it started stretching.  I transported it over to my kitchen table, which I'd prepared with a floured tablecloth.  I stretched the dough a lot like I stretch pizza dough, working around the edges, and stretching it over the backs of my hands.  It got really thin really quickly, but I managed to keep it from developing a lot of holes.  I was pretty impressed that I could see the pattern of the tablecloth so clearly through it!

Once it was big enough, I drizzled the dough with some melted butter which I smeared around (carefully) with my fingers.  Then I scattered crisped bread crumbs over the whole thing.  I layered my filling ingredients across one end of the dough and trimmed the thick edges from all sides of the dough. (Brianna had fun playing with the scraps.)  

Then, as instructed, I used the tablecloth to help roll the strudel over on itself until it was all rolled up.  

I carefully transferred the roll to a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzled a bit more melted butter on top.  Then it went into a 400 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

While that one was baking, I mixed up ingredients for the sweet version.  I diced a bunch of fresh peaches and put them in a bowl.  Then I added some sugar, a bit of freshly ground nutmeg, some ground ginger and a teaspoon or two of cornstarch.  I didn't really measure anything, sorry. =)  I repeated the assembly process and soon had the second one ready for the oven.  Brianna tried some right after dinner when it was still pretty warm, while Jamie and I waited until after the girls were in bed (our reward for surviving the bedtime shenanigans).

The verdict?  My mom is surely looking down on me and laughing.  This is probably revenge for all the dinners I complained about as a child.  Even though she tasted and claimed to like all the components that went into the savory strudel, Brianna refused to eat the finished product.  She picked some of the peaches out of the fruit version, but left most of that on the plate, too.  Gillian wasn't much better.  Jamie and I really enjoyed both.  The combination of flavors in the savory version was similar to other dishes I've made, so it wasn't surprising that we liked it.  The texture was very nice as well.  The fruit version was a bit softer, probably from the excess juice, but still very tasty.  

If you want to give this one a try, head over to Linda's blog for the recipe and instructions.  It really was much easier than I expected.  And be sure to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for lots of other great strudel creations.

Dough scraps make great playdough. =)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The best of both worlds

If I had to pick a favorite dessert, it would definitely be brownies.  The fudgy kind, not the cakey kind.  I don't like them to be too gooey, but they should be dense, moist and chocolatey.  (Blogger's spell-checker thinks I'm making up lots of words for this post. =)  )  I also have a recipe for blondies that I really like, which are kind of like a chocolate chip cookie version of brownies--lots of brown sugar and butter, with chocolate chips thrown in, and the same fudgy texture.  I made that blondie recipe many, many times while I was in high school.  They were a hit everywhere I took them, and everyone always wanted the recipe.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is the best of both worlds.  Beth of Supplicious chose Chipster-Topped Brownies for us to make this week.  They're essentially brownies with a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough on top.  Sounds good to me!  The original recipe makes a 13"x9" pan, and I knew it wouldn't be safe to have that large a quantity of brownies in the house, especially over a holiday weekend.  I'd be way too tempted to eat way too much--it's just so easy to carve off a little sliver here, and a little sliver there.  And before you know it, half the pan is gone! =)

I cut both the brownie batter and cookie dough in half.  I also did everything by hand, although Dorie's instructions call for lots of mixing in a stand mixer.  For the bittersweet chocolate, I used El Rey 61%, and for the unsweetened chocolate I used these--very handy to measure, no chopping necessary.  I left the walnuts out, too, since I prefer my brownies without nuts.  For the cookie batter, the original recipe calls for 1 egg plus one yolk; I just used the one egg when I cut it in half.  I thought about chopping chocolate for the chips, but ended up going with some Guittard semisweet chips that I had on hand.

I used an 8" square pyrex pan to bake the brownies.  To make it easier to get them out of the pan, I lined it with non-stick foil.  There were lots of concerns on the P&Q this week about the doneness of the brownies.  Most people seemed to report them being underdone.  So I watched the time carefully, and ended up baking mine for 40 minutes.  When I took them out of the oven, the cookie layer had puffed up around the edges, separating from the brownie layer.  I gently pushed it back down with a spatula so the top layer was even.  I let the brownies cool completely before sampling them.

The verdict?  I really enjoyed these.  And they were a big hit with both Brianna and Gillian, which I expected.  I probably could have baked the brownies just a little bit longer, but they still had a good texture.  I liked the contrasting flavors and textures between the two layers.  And the brownies are also quite good cold.  =)  I definitely think I'll be making these again.

To see how the other TWD bakers fared this week, head on over and check out the blogroll.  And if you'd like to try them yourself, you can find the recipe on Beth's blog.  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Time to celebrate

We're only on week two of the BBA Challenge, and I'm already two for two on breads that I probably wouldn't have made any time soon if not for this group.  Last week, we had Anadama Bread.  This week, continuing with A, we have Artos, also know as Greek Celebration Breads.  This was actually a master recipe for a spiced bread with a couple of variations for different holidays (Christmas and Easter).  It's an enriched bread, with some eggs and oil, but not over the top like the brioche we'll be making in a couple weeks.

The recipe gives the option of using an existing starter or making a poolish the day before.  Since I haven't worked up the courage to try making a starter yet, I went with the poolish.  I only needed 7 ounces, so I made a third of the poolish recipe in the book.  I wasn't sure if my girls would eat one of the variations with fruit and nuts, so I went with the basic dough.  In addition to the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.  It wasn't on purpose--I was on a roll from making the mango bread, and it ended up in the bowl before I realized there wasn't any in the recipe. =)  I used lemon zest, since that's what I had on  hand.  I'm not a big fan of almond, so I reduced the extract to about 1/4 teaspoon.  And I'm still out of honey, so I substituted golden syrup.  

The afternoon I was making this, I knew I wanted time for a nap during while the dough was rising.  So instead of lukewarm milk, I used it cold from the fridge.  One of the things I've learned from all my recent bread baking is that there are lots of ways to make the process fit your schedule.  It used to scare me to deviate at all from a bread recipe, but I've gotten much more bold about making changes. =)  Once the dough was finished with the first rise it was time to shape.

The basic shape in the recipe is a large boule.  But one of the variations was for a braid, and that's what I decided to go with.  I've had lots of practice braiding hair (my own and the girls'), but I need more practice with bread dough.  This one turned out pretty good, though.  I find that for the standard three-strand braid, it's easiest to start in the middle and braid to both ends.  This dough was very nice to work with.  I was a bit surprised at the size of the braid when I was done, though.  I use half-sheet pans for baking (love my restaurant supply store), and this loaf took up the entire diagonal of one.  Wow. 

I baked the loaf for 20 minutes (at 350), then rotated the pan and baked it for another 15 minutes.  It smelled wonderful as it neared the end of the baking time.  The recipe includes an optional glaze, but I decided not to use it, since I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all of the bread.

The verdict?  Mmm.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in, but I liked this one a lot.  I ate quite a bit of it with butter for breakfast.  It's excellent toasted--and smells fantastic coming out of the toaster.  I also made a few slices into French toast, which also worked very well.  There's still a bit in the freezer.  (along with some Anadama; at this rate I'm going to end up with a freezer full of different partial loaves of bread)  I would really like to try this dough as the base for cinnamon rolls.  

To see what the other BBA bakers have done, check out the blogroll, as well as the revised BBA Challenge page with lots of other great info.  Next week, bagels!  I'm also submitting this to Yeastspotting.  Head over there for lots of other wonderful bread creations.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's all Gillian's fault...and Pamela's =)

Sometimes I really hate getting older.  For instance, it's very frustrating when I get sick.  The same cold that barely slows my kiddos down knocks me on my butt.  Ugh.  I really didn't mean to take this long to post my Tuesdays with Dorie recipe this week.  I actually made the recipe on Sunday.  But my in-laws were here until Tuesday morning, so I didn't get a chance to write up the post.  And then Gillian was kind enough to share her cold with me, so by Tuesday evening I didn't want to do anything but go to bed.  Fortunately, I had the day off today (Wednesday), so I figured that even if I didn't feel that great, I'd at least have plenty of time to get some writing done (and maybe even clear out some of my Google Reader!).  

I figured I'd better finish my Anadama Bread post first, since I already had that started.  And I thought I'd check my email and read some stuff on Facebook while I was waiting for my brain to wake up all the way (stupid cold).  When I was reading stuff last night, I discovered that Pamela had signed up for Twitter.  Now I've been thinking about it for a while, since a bunch of the other TWD/BBA folks are on there.  Like the BBA Challenge, I figured it was another activity that I didn't need.  But for some reason, Pamela joining was the push I needed. =)  So it's her fault that I'm just writing this now.  Because I spent the morning sitting around in my pajamas, drinking tea (and coughing and sneezing), trying to figure out Twitter.  =)

But now to get to the Mango Bread.  (not yeasted bread; think banana or zucchini bread)  This week's recipe was chosen by Kelly of Baking with the Boys.  I don't read Kelly's blog as often as I should--when I do, it's quite entertaining.  And thanks to Kelly, I did something new--bought a fresh mango.  I've bought frozen mango chunks before (mango peach daquiri...mmm...), but for some reason, I don't think I've ever bought a whole one.  (Jamie just said he thinks we've bought one before, I but don't remember it.)  Fortunately, I've watched enough cooking shows that it didn't give me too much trouble.  Actually, I bought two, since a lot of people reported needing more than one to get two cups of diced mango.

I pretty much followed the recipe on this one.  I did have to use lemon zest instead of lime.  I could have sworn I had another lime in the fridge, but no such luck.  I used golden raisins since I had them on hand and because some little bitty ants had managed to get into the regular raisins.  (argh)  And rather than use a loaf pan, I made muffins, mostly because they wouldn't take as long to bake.  As usual, I managed to overfill the cups, but it didn't make too big a mess.  I did realize that I had too much batter, and put the last of it in a ramekin to bake.  The muffins took about 30 minutes to bake.

The verdict?  Mmm.  This one's a keeper.  Very moist, since the recipe uses oil rather than butter.  A bunch of people commented on the P&Q that these were better the second day, and I agree.  As usual, Brianna ate one and claimed to like it, but then changed her mind.  Gillian really liked them.  And our house guests seemed to like them too.  

For the recipe, head over to Kelly's blog.  And now that I've managed to get this done, maybe I really will catch up on my Google Reader and comment on some of the other mango breads out there.  But first I'm going to see if more tea will help my stuffy head feel better. *sigh*

A is for Anadama

I've gone and done it.  I joined another baking group.  It's all Cathy's fault. =)  A couple weeks ago I saw a post about a group that was planning to bake their way through Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I have the book, and I've made a few recipes from it, including a couple of Daring Bakers challenges.  But my initial thought was "I have enough to do already, and I don't know if I want to commit to another group."  So I decided not to participate.  Then Cathy sent me a message on Facebook and asked if I was going to join the group.  And Nancy emailed me, as well.  So here I am.  =)  Yes, Mom, if all my friends jump off the bridge, I'll be right behind them... =)    

The group was started by Nicole of Pinch My Salt.  You can read the whole story here.  I'm sure I'll write more about the group later, but it's already taken me three days to get this post done, and I'm not sure how much more I can do before the coughing and sneezing do me in... =)  (gotta love 2 1/2 year olds who bring home germs from daycare...)  

The premise of the group is simple.  Start at the beginning of the book, and bake each recipe in order.  So we start with A, and Anadama Bread.  It's a sandwich loaf sort of bread, made with cornmeal and molasses.  I didn't have coarse grind cornmeal, like polenta, so I just went with the cornmeal I had on hand.  (it's from the bulk bin at Central Market, so not sure what brand)  And I used Brer Rabbit mild flavor molasses.  For the flour I used King Arthur bread flour.

You have to start the day before, but the first day is very quick--mix some cornmeal with water, cover it and leave it overnight.  Mine sat on the counter for almost 24 hours.  For most of the time, it looked like cornmeal sitting in water.  But toward the end of the time, it started to get bubbly.  My best guess is it was from random yeast floating around in my kitchen, since I bake a lot of bread these days.  It smelled okay, so I kept going.

Next you make a sponge by mixing the cornmeal soaker with part of the flour, the yeast and more water.  That sits for an hour or so until it's bubbly.  Then you add the rest of the flour, salt, molasses and a bit of butter.  I used my stand mixer for the mixing and kneading.  I did have to add a bit more flour while it was kneading to get the tacky but not sticky dough called for in the recipe.  When the dough was done kneading, I decided that I wasn't going to manage to finish that night, so I put the dough in one of my rising buckets and tucked it in the fridge to rise overnight.

The next morning, I took the dough out and let it warm back up.  The recipe says it makes two large (24 ounce) or 3 small (16 ounce) loaves.  I only have the smaller loaf pans (8 1/2" by 4 1/2" Pyrex pans), and only two of those.  Plus, I knew that I would probably give some of the bread away.  So I shaped two 16-ounce loaves.  With the remaining dough, I made 8 2-ounce rolls and placed them in an 8-inch round cake pan.  

I didn't have any problem with the dough rising.  Once it came up to the tops of the pans, I put everything in the oven for 40 minutes (rotating after 20 minutes), at which point it registered 190 degrees F on my instant read thermometer.  I removed the bread from the pans and let it cool.  (Oh, and I had sprinkled cornmeal on top before baking.)

The verdict?  Jamie and I liked this, but Brianna wasn't a fan.  Gillian didn't seem to have a strong opinion either way.  The bread is very good toasted, and made a nice tuna sandwich. =)  I took the rolls to the daycare (easy to portion!) along with some flavored butter (it would have been honey butter, but I was out of honey, so I used golden syrup).  I figured they'd appreciate me bringing something that wasn't loaded with sugar and fat for a change... =)  

Next up is Artos - Greek Celebration Bread.  And to see how others fared with the Anadama Bread, check out Nicole's post, here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Please stand by...

...for the baked goods. =)  I've made both Anadama Bread and the Mango Bread (muffins).  But between house guests and feeling a bit under the weather, I haven't had a chance to finish writing the posts.  I'll have them both up either this evening or early tomorrow.  Please come back to check them out!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New arrivals (and giveaway winner!)

I mentioned in my post last weekend that one of the things my mom taught me was to love reading and books.  She also taught me about the wonder of the library.  It's great for figuring out if I want to buy a particular book, especially cookbooks.  Plus, there are lots of books that I want to read but don't feel like I really have to own them.  The ones that I buy are the ones that I know I will want to read over and over again.  But even though I don't buy tons of books, I still have a pretty large number of them (and I'm not even counting Jamie's).  Every time I've moved, I always underestimate the number of boxes it's going to take to pack up all of them...

I'm still reading and buying regular books, but the fastest growing section of my personal library has to be the cookbook section.  I like to cook and bake from them, but I also like to just read them.  I always have something to read with me--I think the people at work are amused by the fact that I often read cookbooks while eating my lunch.  =)  I tend not to buy cookbooks that are just collections of recipes.  I want more--stories about the recipes and how they came about.  Or information about techniques or ingredients.  The books above are a couple of the ones that I've purchased for myself recently.

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman is a book about a neat idea.  It talks about the relationship between ingredients in a lot of classic preparations, and how you don't really need a recipe if you understand those ratios.  You can read more about it here.  One thing that I most definitely agree with--if you don't own a scale, buy one! =)

The other book I picked up recently was sort of an impulse buy.  I've seen a lot of reviews lately of Gale Gand's Brunch!  I stopped by Borders to look at it.  I decided it wasn't one that I wanted to buy, but while I was there, I happened to find another breakfast and brunch book that looked interesting.  It's Breakfasts & Brunches, put out by the Culinary Institute of America.  I had a coupon that I was dying to use, so it came home with me.  I already have Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America, which I really need to bake from more often...  (Check out Sandy from At the Baker's Bench, who is baking her way through it.)  Breakfast is a very popular meal around here, so I think this one will definitely come in handy.

Then came Mother's Day last weekend, and my wonderful husband got me not one, but two new cookbooks!  The first is portable, so it's the one that I've been taking it to work to read during lunch. =)  It's Baking Artisan Bread, by Ciril Hinz:

And the second is one that I've seen on a lot of blogs.  Plus I've talked lots about how much I love Sur la Table.  It is however, probably too heavy to lug to work with me on a daily basis.  I'm the proud owner of a copy of The Art and Soul of Baking:

Hopefully I'll have a chance to try some new recipes soon and share the results here.

Okay, it's taken me way too long to get to this, but now let's find out who was the winner of my giveaway!  My lovely helper Brianna wrote all the names on pieces of paper for me: 

There were ten people who left comments (before the deadline) about their favorite cookbooks:

Once they were written out, we folded them up and put them in a hat:

Gillian mixed them up:

And then picked one out:

And the winner is:

Congratulations to Cathy of The Tortefeasor!  She said that the next cookbook on her list is How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.  

Thanks again to everyone who participated and left me comments about the cookbooks they have and want.  Now I can add to my wishlist! =)  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pucker up

Most readers of my blog have figured out by now that I'm a chocoholic.  So the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes of the past month were great, especially since my children love chocolate as much as I do.  But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, so I was happy to see more variety in the recipes for May.  When the selections were announced, I knew immediately which one was likely to be my favorite.   Besides chocolate, my other favorite flavor is lemon, the more the better.  

When I cook with lemon, I invariably add more lemon juice than the recipe calls for, since a lot of the time the lemon flavor doesn't seem that strong.  I don't play around as much when baking, since that can cause problems, so I try to start off with a recipe that seems like it will be very lemony.  I'm sure we've all had that experience of seeing lemon bars on a plate at a potluck or bake sale and been bitterly disappointed to find that they taste more like sugar than lemon.  I actually have a lemon bar recipe that I love--I've played around with the crust over time, but the filling is great.  I'll have to share it soon.  

When I make chocolate desserts, I don't usually have too much trouble getting people to help me eat them.  But when I bring certain non-chocolate desserts, like oatmeal cookies and lemon bars, they seem to fly off the plate.  When I was trying to come up with ideas for this post, I remembered something amusing from a time that I did take my favorite lemon bars to a potluck.  It was very close to Halloween, so to be festive, I colored the filling orange.  I lost track of how many people absolutely swore that the bars were orange flavored, not lemon, because of the color.  I had a really hard time convincing them that they were in fact lemon.  It's funny how our perceptions can color our reactions.

Now with this week's TWD recipe, there's no doubt that the flavor is lemon.   Babette of Babette Feasts picked the Tartest Lemon Tart for us to make this week.  It starts off with one of Dorie's shortbread tart crusts.  The recipe calls for the one with nuts, but I chose to use the plain sweet tart dough.  It was easy to mix together in the food processor, as always.  For the filling, you puree together lemons, sugar, eggs, melted butter, cream, and a bit of cornstarch.  Yes, the whole lemons, not just the juice or zest.  

I had a bit of a hard time getting the lemons and sugar to puree together in my blender.  It's rather old, and not the most powerful appliance to begin with.  But eventually it started to come together.  I added the rest of the ingredients, making one small change.  I was lazy and didn't want to separate eggs (or figure out what to do with leftover egg white--my freezer is already full of them).  So I just used 2 whole eggs instead of the 1 egg and 2 yolks called for in the recipe.  Once everything was blended together, I decided to strain the mixture as I put it in the tart crust.  I couldn't get it all the way smooth, and I'm one of those people who hates pulp in my lemonade or orange juice. =)

After my oven got fixed last week, I found that it seemed to be running hot.  I bought an inexpensive oven thermometer, and according to that, my oven was running about 25 degrees high.  Armed with that knowledge, I was able to adjust the dial accordingly so I didn't overbake the tart.  I baked it at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes, and then for another 23 minutes at 350, at which point it seemed to be set but just a little jiggly in the center.  It puffed up and developed the sugar crust that Dorie mentions, but did not bubble over at all.  And as it cooled, the filling settled back down in the crust.  I let it cool to room temperature overnight (I finished it about 10:30 Sunday night) and then put it in the fridge the next morning.

The verdict?  Wow.  I loved it.  It's definitely a grown-up dessert.  The texture is lovely, with a nice contrast between the sandy crust and smooth filling.  Incredibly puckery, and a bit bitter.   But I'm okay with that.  I was trying to figure out what the flavor reminded me of, and finally figured it out.  One of my favorite lemonade recipes is from Cooks Illustrated.  You slice lemons, put them in a pitcher with some sugar, and muddle them together.  Then you add lots of cold water and ice.  It's fabulous, and since you use the whole lemon slices, it has that same slightly bitter edge.  (For CI members, you can find the recipe here.)  Jamie really liked the tart as well--he said the full impact of it sort of snuck up on him. =)  I didn't give any to the girls, since I know Brianna doesn't like really tart things.  Hmm, maybe I should let Gillian try it.  

For the recipe, head on over to Babette's blog.  And be sure to check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll for lots of other tart tarts. 

p.s.  I haven't forgotten about the giveaway winner.  I hope to get that post done tonight, with pictures of my lovely assistants.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Breakfast for mom

Mother's Day is a difficult one for me right now. I'm still coming to terms with my mom's death a little over a year ago. I miss her a lot. Since we live so far away from the rest of my family, I was used to not seeing her all the time. We talked often, but not every day or anything. But it still hurts that I can't just pick up the phone and call her whenever I want. I hate the fact that Gillian can't remember her at all (she was only about a year and a half old when Mom died). Brianna doesn't have that many memories either, and none of her before she was ill. So I'm trying to find ways to keep the memories alive and share them with my girls.

Mom with my sister Merri and me; I was probably about 3 (1974)

My mom was one of the most stubborn people on the face of the planet. =)  She hated having her picture taken, so I don't have that many of her.  She didn't hesitate to say what she thought, but she wasn't very demonstrative when it came to emotions.  We all knew that she loved us and was proud of us, though.  We seldom heard it directly--I'd tell her something and she wouldn't say much, but then I'd talk to one of my sisters and they'd say that Mom told them about what I'd said or done.  That was typical.  

Both my girls have a ton of blankets and afghans--many given as baby gifts.  Last weekend, Brianna pulled out one of the afghans and asked where she got it.  It was the one my mom crocheted for her.  Then of course we had to look for Gillian's.  =)  My mom loved to crochet and do other needle crafts.  It was a lot harder for her to do by the time my girls were born, but she still made sure that Brianna and Gillian would have something that she made.  I have no idea how many others she made as gifts over the years, but it was a lot.  

It's the little things that I want to remember.  Like the other day, when I remembered that Mom knew how much I disliked red jelly beans.  So there were never any in my Easter basket.  She was constantly reading, and always had a ton of books around--which in turn taught me to love reading and do the same.  (Though I'm pretty sure my cookbook collection far exceeds what she had... =)  ) And now I'm forever tripping over the books that Brianna and Gillian leave everywhere.  When I'd ask her if I could do something or go somewhere, she didn't say yes or no, but asked me how I was going to make it happen. She taught me to think for myself.  I was laughing with my Aunt Alice recently about one of Gramma's favorite sayings--"So if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"  Yep, I know where Mom learned that one. =) 

Mom with Brianna and Gillian, April 2007

Someone suggested to me recently that one good way to remember my mom would be to make one of her favorite foods for Mother's Day.  So we had chicken parmesan for dinner (her favorite was with veal, but she liked the chicken version, too), and I told Brianna and Gillian why I made it.  As for breakfast, I mainly remember Mom eating eggs--she liked them just about any way you could cook them.  That love of eggs is one thing I definitely did not get from her, though, so I made crumb cake for breakfast instead. =)  I'm pretty sure she would have eaten that, too. =)  

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there reading this.    

Allspice Crumb Cake
(adapted from recipes from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours)

Streusel topping
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch kosher salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cake batter
3 large eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) plain whole milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 ounces canola oil
powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray the inside of a 9-inch springform pan with baking spray.  (I also wrap the bottom of the pan with non-stick foil before attaching the ring.)

For the streusel topping, mix the flour, sugar, allspice and salt together in a small bowl.  Add the cold butter cubes and use your fingers to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbs form.  Place the streusel in the fridge while making the cake batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Then fold in the oil, using a large rubber spatula.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Take the streusel out of the fridge and crumble it evenly over the top of the cake.  Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Place the cake on a rack to cool.  After about 10 minutes, remove the outside ring from the springform pan, then let the cake cool until just warm or room temperature.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired.  Serves 8-10.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A pick me up - pay it forward

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Megan over at My Baking Adventures.  She picked Tiramisu Cake for us to make this week.  I was kind of looking forward to it, because I've never made tiramisu in cake form or otherwise.  Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, at least this weekend...  Last Thursday, I had the day off.  I spent part of my morning making a batch of Dorie's Chocolate Chunkers to share with a friend.  I'd forgotten how much chocolate goes into those things!  That evening, I turned the oven on to preheat--I was just going to throw in some frozen chicken strips for Jamie and me to eat for dinner (it was a long day...).  After a while, I realized I should check on the oven.  It had been more than long enough for it to be preheated.  Imagine my dismay when I opened the oven door and discovered that the oven was still completely cold!  

The scientist/engineer in me demanded that I try to figure out what the heck was wrong.  I have a gas oven & stovetop.  The burners worked just fine.  The broiler (mine is in the top of my oven) also worked.  There was definitely gas flowing.  Jamie and I figured it was most likely something with the igniter for the oven.  I called my friendly neighborhood appliance repair people Friday morning from work.  But they don't work weekends at all, and there was no way for one of us to be home Friday afternoon.  So the earliest I was able to schedule an appointment was Monday morning.  That left me with an entire weekend to cook with no oven.  It temporarily threw a wrench in my usual BYOB plans.  I eventually got the idea to try making flatbread on my griddle.  But that's a story for another post...

Anyway, the oven got fixed Monday morning.  As we suspected, the igniter was at fault.  It has now been replaced.  But not soon enough for me to have time to bake cake.  I did bake bread Monday evening (the dough was already in the fridge) and it seems like the oven is working much more efficiently than before.  I'm going to have to watch that until I get used to how it's different.  Since I don't have the same sort of pick-me-up as you'll find on the blogs of the other TWD bakers this week, I thought I'd go in a different direction...

Quite some time ago, I was the lucky winner of a giveaway from Margaret at Tea and Scones.  She offered the winner a choice of gift cards, and I had a hard time deciding between Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table.  I ended up choosing Sur la Table, and had a great time shopping.  I swear, I can spend hours in that store, even if it's just window-shopping.  I finally came home with the items pictured above--a new 8" springform pan, two sturdy 8" regular cake pans, and a cool new spatula.  I had some old 8" pans, but they were all pretty cheap (in construction).  I've had lots of fun using all of my new toys.  Thanks, Margaret!

One of the only conditions of the giveaway was that at some point in the future I would "pay it forward" by offering a giveaway of my own.  Well, I'm finally getting around to doing that.  But in the process, I want to pick your brains a bit.  So here's how it's going to work...  To enter, leave a comment on this post, and tell me a couple of things:  First, what cookbook do you have that you absolutely love?  (like I need an excuse to add to my collection...)  And second, what cookbook are you just dying to own?  One lucky winner will receive a $25 gift card or gift certificate for the book seller of their choice (as long as I can reasonably manage to get my hands on one--otherwise, there's always Amazon).  You just have to agree to pay it forward in turn.  The deadline is 11:59pm CDT on Friday 5/8.  The winner will be chosen at random by my lovely assistants, Brianna and Gillian.  I look forward to hearing about your cookbook choices!