Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mmm, toasty

Next up for me in the BBA Challenge was Light Wheat Bread.

This is a perfect bread for Brianna and Gillian--a nice sandwich loaf, but with some white whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour to make it healthier (plus it tastes better).

The verdict?  It makes wonderful toast.  I think almost the entire loaf was consumed toasted.  Though some, as Tracey reminded me, made it into grilled cheese, where it was also excellent. 

If you'd like to give this one a try, you can find the recipe here.  Next up, Marbled Rye Bread!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A la peanut butter sandwiches!

The first time I tried dulce de leche was when we made the Snickery Squares for TWD.  And to be honest, I really didn't like it all that much.  While I do like caramel flavors, it was just too sweet for my tastes.  Maybe it was just the kind I bought, but I wasn't excited to try it again any time soon.  So I wasn't quite sure what to think when I saw that Jodie had picked Dulce de Leche Duos for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  They are sandwich cookies that have dulce de leche used both in the dough and for the filling.  Hmm.

I decided to give them a try despite my misgivings.  First thing was to come up with some dulce de leche (which I'm going to abbreviate DDL from now on =)  ).  Since I had a hard time finding it the last time, I was quite happy to see Julie's Tricks for Treats post with some ideas on how to make your own.  While the idea of making it in my crockpot was appealing, I decided to go with David Lebovitz's oven method.  Part of what swayed me was the fact that he says to add a bit of sea salt to the sweetened condensed milk before putting it in the oven.  I love salt added to caramel, so I figured it might be a good addition to the DDL.  That idea was further reinforced by the fact that I recently watched this Good Eats episode about adding salt to desserts.

The verdict?  Oh. My. Goodness.  I may not have liked DDL before, but I certainly do now!!  With the added salt, the stuff is fantastic.  It was all I could do not to just sit there and eat it with a spoon.  But I made it for the cookies, so into the cookies it would go.  =)  So next up, cookie dough.

The cookie dough is pretty straightforward to make.  You cream butter with granulated sugar, brown sugar, and the DDL.  Then you beat in eggs.  (And maybe vanilla? I can't remember right now.)  Then you mix in flour, baking soda and salt.  I did add a bit more salt than the recipe called for.  The cookies are simple drop cookies (no chilling or rolling or anything like that).  I used my #100 disher and was quite happy with the size of the cookies that I got.  However, I probably should have cut the recipe in a half, since I got a few more cookies than the recipe was supposed to yield.  It said 30 sandwiches, but I got enough individual cookies to make 45 sandwiches.  Oh, well, more to give away. =)  Next up, the filling.

Dorie recommends filling the cookies with more of the DDL.  Only problem with that was that I'd used up almost all of my DDL in the dough.  I should have done more than one can, I guess.  Actually, at the time I made it, I only had the one can.  But I picked up another one when I was grocery shopping, and decided to go ahead make more DDL.  I figured it wouldn't go to waste.  Once I was done making more, I used it to make a couple sandwich cookies.  Hmm.  I thought at first the DDL was thick enough, but after the cookies sat for a few minutes, it started to drip out the sides.  And while the taste was nice, the combination of cookie and filling was a bit sweet for my taste.  Then I was inspired--peanut butter!  By itself, it might be a bit much, but what if I mixed it with some of the DDL?  I played around with the amounts of peanut butter and DDL to see what I liked best.  You can certainly try your own mixture, but I found that I liked mixing 100g of peanut butter with 125g of dulce de leche, which gave me enough filling for about 20 cookies.

The final verdict?  Wow.  These cookies were awesome!  I took a bunch to work on Monday and got the most enthusiastic response I've had in a while.  They absolutely loved them.  I was told that I could give the Girl Scouts a run for their money.  And when I offered to take the leftovers home when I left for the day (to remove temptation), I was informed that I should just put the cookies down and move away. =P  They were a big hit at my house, as well, so I think it's safe to say that I'll be making them again.

If you'd like to try them for yourself, you can find the recipe at Jodie's blog.  And be sure to check out the TWD blogroll to see what everyone else thought of these!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On a roll

Okay, show of hands.  How many of you put stuff off and aren't even really sure why you're doing it?  Then, when you finally get around to doing whatever you should have done a long time ago, you wonder why the heck you waited so long.  Because whatever it was wasn't as bad as you thought it would be, and you feel so much better for having done it.  Lots of things leap to mind for me.  Taxes, for instance.  I knew we were going to get a refund.  I had all the paperwork I needed.  And yet, I only got it done a week and a half ago!  Check-ups for the girls is another thing.  I just need to pick up the phone and schedule the appointments.  This would have been the perfect week for it.  But have I done it?  No.  Why?  I don't know.  It's not like either of them need shots or anything that would make it unpleasant.  *sigh*

Where am I going with this?  I've really got to get better about posting stuff.  As I looked at my notes for this recipe, I realized that I made these rolls all the way back at the end of January!  Thank goodness I did take notes, or this would be an extremely short post. =)  I uploaded the pictures earlier today.  And when I realized it was getting late in the evening, I thought about leaving the rest of the post until tomorrow.  But I'm not going to do it.  I'm going to get it done!

I'm getting ahead of myself.  "This recipe" is the next bread in the BBA Challenge, which for me is Kaiser Rolls.  I was really looking forward to making these.  I love kaiser rolls.  But it's near impossible to get authentic ones around here (here being the middle of Texas).  Sure, you can find rolls that are the right shape.  But they're soft, and kaiser rolls are supposed to be hard rolls.  Nothing here comes close.

By now, I'm quite comfortable making breads with preferments.  For these rolls, you use some pâte fermentée, which is like a bit of regular dough that you ferment overnight to add flavor.  I snuck a little white whole wheat into mine, subbing 2 ounces www flour for 2 ounces of the AP flour.  I ended up using 7 ounces of water due to the addition of the whole grain flour.  I should mention that I decided that if I was going to the trouble of making my own kaiser rolls, I might as well make a whole bunch.  So I doubled the recipe.  That worked out quite well, since the original recipe calls for 8 ounces of preferment, but the formula for the pâte fermentée makes about 16 ounces.  The only unusual ingredient in the final dough is barley malt.  I still had most of a jar of barley malt syrup in the fridge from when I made bagels, so I was all set.  I ended up making rolls in two sizes.  I did 8 4-ounce rolls and 7 3-ounce rolls.  I formed the rolls by knotting them, a technique I've done before for these (includes a link to photos).  

The verdict?  I loved these rolls!  They have a great texture, with a crisp outside and soft inside.  And the flavor was perfect.  I think it was the malt that made the difference--it's really not detectable as a flavor, but it just adds that little something...  I will absolutely be making these again.  And soon, since I recently finished off the last of my freezer stash.  I can't really offer a lots of other opinions on these, since I might have...kind of...sort of eaten most of them myelf...  Brianna did have a couple of the smaller ones in her lunch, and as far as I know, she liked them.  See, another reason why I should make them again soon, so someone else will get to try them.  =)

Next up is supposed to be Lavash.  I've actually made that one before, for the September 2008 Daring Bakers challenge.  You can check out the results here.  I haven't been motivated to make it again, so I'm going to jump ahead to the Light Wheat Bread.  And hey, I might even get the post written this week!  To see where everyone else is at with the BBA Challenge, check out the blogroll.  Some people have finished the whole book!  And for lots more yeasty goodness, head on over to the Yeastspotting page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A hit and a miss

I'm sitting here at my dining room table, and all I can think is how great this chocolate raspberry tart smells now that we've cut into it.  I don't really smell the raspberry, but the chocolate filling and browned crust smell fantastic. =)  Brianna and Gillian were more than happy to help me sample it after I took some pictures.  Anything that bears a passing resemblance to chocolate pudding is a good thing in their book. =)  I'm happy that it was well received, which is more than I can say for dinner.

Are any other parents out there a bit tired of the negative reactions you get when you dare to put something new on the table?  For dinner tonight, I decided to make a recipe from my new issue of Fine Cooking.  It was this, for those who might be interested (I did add some cooked shredded chicken to the dish).  (And I have to say, it's a good thing that I don't blog savory dishes, because as tasty as it was, the dish was far from photogenic--mmm, tan. =) )  I have to give Brianna credit for eating some and not complaining about it too much.  She mostly said that it was okay, but that she prefers regular spaghetti and meatballs.  Gillian, on the other hand, didn't like it at all and was quite vocal about it.  I managed to coax her to eat a few bites of chicken and pasta after removing the offending leeks.  I'm pretty sure the only reason she ate as much as she did is because she really wanted more tart for dessert. =)

I should probably mention that the tart is this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. (But you already guessed that, I'm sure.)  It was chosen by Rachelle of Mommy? I'm Hungry!.  I was excited to see this one come up, since I love the combination of raspberries with chocolate.  It also gave me another chance to make Dorie's delicious Sweet Tart Crust.  This recipe calls for the variation with nuts, which I haven't tried before.  I dug through my freezer and came up with some almond meal, so that's what I used.  I have to agree with Dorie's suggestion to bake the tart crust a bit longer to make sure that it's nicely browned.  For the filling, I used 3 ounces of El Rey 70% chocolate and 2 ounces of their milk chocolate, which is 41%.  I was happy to find some really nice raspberries that weren't too expensive.  I did end up baking the filled tart for a bit longer than the recipe suggests--35 minutes all together.  At that point it was fully set and just barely puffing around the edge.  

The verdict?  This one is a keeper. =)  I love the contrasts in this tart.  The soft filling contrasts nicely with the crisp crust.  And the flavors work well with each other well--the tart raspberries are a nice foil for the rich chocolate filling, and I love the nutty browned butter flavor of the crust.  Jamie's comment was that the tart is well-balanced.  Brianna and Gillian both loved it, too, especially with some whipped cream on top.  I don't think they even noticed the nuts in the crust (or they would have complained about it). =)

If you'd like to try this one for yourself, head on over to Rachelle's blog for the recipe.  And don't forget to check out the TWD blogroll to see how everyone else did this week!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tea and memories

It's a little hard to know where to start, coming back after a two-week blogging hiatus.  Some of you already know that the reason for my absence is that my grandmother died (on February 23rd).  Gillian and I made a trip to upstate New York for the funeral.  We almost didn't make it, due to a huge snowstorm that hit the area on the 25th as we were trying to fly into Syracuse (the closest major airport; we were headed for the Utica area).  The trip would have been the first time that 3-year-old Gillian had seen snow, except that we had a bit of snow here in the Austin area that Tuesday.  We actually got a couple inches here in Georgetown, and some of it didn't melt until the next day.  To be honest, though, this:

doesn't look nearly so impressive when compared to this:

It's still really hard to believe that my grandmother is gone.  She was my mom's mom, and definitely the grandparent that I was closest to growing up.  (And the last one I had left.)  Many of my memories of her (and the rest of my mom's family) involve food.  We'd hang out in the kitchen, helping with cooking, or just talking.  Then we'd sit around the dining room table, eating and talking some more.  We did lots of that over the weekend that I was there.  It was really nice to spend time with all of my family, both in and out of the kitchen.  My grandmother taught all of her kids to cook (including my two uncles) and all still cook a lot.  And bake.  I know that many of the recipes I learned from my mom, she learned from hers.  It's neat to see how we've all put our individual spin on things, but it all started from the same place.  It was nice to compare notes a bit.  For instance, I found out that my uncle Donald has also has some of Peter Reinhart's books and has been trying out some of the recipes.

I'm lucky that I had my grandparents for as long as I did.  My parents were pretty young when they had me, so I had relatively young grandparents on both sides.  As a result, I was able to spend time with my grandmother as an adult as well as a child.  She even came with my mom to visit me here in Texas after Brianna was born.  I got to cook for them for a change, and we got to sit around my kitchen table late at night and talk or read while drinking tea before bedtime.  A week or two after that visit, I came home to find a package on my doorstep.  It was a tea kettle.  I didn't have one, and while Gramma and my mom were visiting, we kept having to boil water in the microwave.  I still use the kettle on a daily basis.  It's a twin to the one that was sitting on the stove in my grandmother's kitchen.  I used hers quite a bit while I was in New York.  And I got to use some of her tea cups as well.  Well, mugs, actually.  My aunt Maureen got her some pretty butterfly ones.  And she had the great idea to get saucers for them as well.  I love using a cup and saucer, but I often want more tea that will fit in some of the teacups.  I came home and went shopping and now have a couple of my own to enjoy.  I'll think of family every time I use them.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is perfect with tea.  Mike of Ugly Food for an Ugly Dude picked Thumbprints for Us Big Guys.  I guess everything is relative, because these still came across as pretty dainty cookies to me. =)  Just the right size for the side of a saucer.  I'm thinking the combination of hazelnuts and raspberry jam is what is supposed to make them "adult" cookies.  They were pretty simple to make, especially since I can buy hazelnut meal in bulk. =)  The only change I made to the recipe was to add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients.  Oh, and I only made a half batch.  The cookies remind me of the nut balls that we always make at Christmas (aka Mexican wedding cookies or Russian teacakes).  I used my #100 disher to portion the dough, which gave me just the right yield.  I used the handle of a wooden spoon to poke the holes, and baked my cookies for 14 minutes.  They were starting to get golden brown on the bottom, but not really browned on top.  I heated raspberry preserves in the microwave until bubbling, and used a small spoon to fill the cookies.

The verdict?  I really love these cookies.  Hazelnuts aren't my favorite, but they worked well in these cookies.  I had toyed with the idea of filling the cookies with ganache instead of jam, but I'm glad I didn't.  The fruitiness of the raspberry was perfect.  I think it's important not to overbake these so they don't end up dry.  Mine had good texture, and I thought they were even better the second day.  I took some to work, and got several enthusiastic positive comments.  I'll definitely be making them again.

If you'd like to give them a try for yourself, head over to Mike's blog for the recipe.  And be sure to head over to the TWD blogroll to see how everyone else did this week.