Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yo ho ho

Little known fact about me...I've never been drunk.  No, not even in college.  Not because I don't drink at all; I'll have a glass of wine (very rarely two), pint of cider (the alcoholic version) or the occasional mixed drink, but that's it.  (Just not a beer drinker--I keep sampling, but none of them appeal to me.)  It's a control thing with me, as in, I'm just not willing to give it up.  And nowadays, more than one glass of anything just puts me to sleep. =)  Funny thing is, thanks to all the cooking and baking I do, I actually have a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet.  Vodka, rum, bourbon, scotch, port, sherry, apple and raspberry brandies...  all purchased in the name of food.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it. =)  

I'd have to say, though, that my favorite is rum.  I have two bottles of that--one light and one dark.  The light one mostly makes its way into fruity drinks.  (Handy tip--if you take some of this tasty berry sorbet I made a few weeks ago, and add some light rum and a little lime juice, you have yourself a very tasty frozen drink.)  The dark rum mostly makes its way into desserts, often those involving chocolate.  This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe actually caused me to buy a new bottle of dark rum, since the old one was pretty much empty.  So thank you to this week's hostess, Wendy of Pink Stripes, who picked Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes for us to make.  Now what's not to like about a recipe with a title like that? =)  

This was a pretty easy cake to make.  I didn't realize until I pulled out my book to make it that it actually uses melted butter.  So no creaming, and no having to remember to take butter out to soften.  There are several variations, but I went with the original, which uses vanilla beans for flavor.  I couldn't decide between my Bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans, so I used one of each.  I love Dorie's method of rubbing aromatic ingredients into granulated sugar to maximize flavor (and now have done it with many recipes, not just hers).  The mixing method for this recipe is interesting.  First you whisk together the vanilla sugar and eggs, then mix in some rum and heavy cream.  Next up are the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder), and the melted butter gets whisked in at the end.  Then the batter goes into a couple of loaf pans to be baked.  For a change, I actually remembered to lower the oven temperature to 325F (from 350F) since I was using Pyrex pans.  My loaves baked for 55 minutes and were a lovely golden brown when I took them out.  I did make a small change with the syrup that I brushed on the warm cakes--I used turbinado sugar rather than regular granulated.  I figured it would pair nicely with the molasses notes in the dark rum.

The verdict?  I absolutely loved this cake!  And I will be making it again, soon.  The rum and vanilla really work well together.  You can certainly taste the rum from the syrup, but it's not overpowering.  I took most of one loaf to G's daycare teachers, and I understand that it didn't last very long at all. =)  It certainly didn't take us long to finish off the other loaf (though I did share a few pieces at work).  I'm thinking of making it again this weekend for a 4th of July party that we're going to.  I'd like to try it as a bundt cake, rather than two loaves.  

If you'd like to make it for yourself, head over to Wendy's blog for the recipe.  And be sure to check out this week's Leave Your Links page to see what everyone else thought.  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shaping up

It's been a while since I posted anything for the BBA Challenge.  Wow, in fact, it's been three months since I wrote about the Light Wheat Bread.  Why?  Well, it's not because I haven't been baking bread.  It's because I got stuck.  Kind of like my friend Kayte did with the Focaccia.  The next bread up (alphabetically) is the Marbled Rye Bread, which this obviously is not. =)  For some reason, I just haven't been in the mood to make it.  I like rye bread, so that's not the problem.  One issue is that I can't find white rye flour here, so I'm going to have to try to sift my whole rye flour to lighten it, and I just don't feel like it.  And I prefer hearth breads over sandwich loaves.  So to get past my block, I'm cheating a bit.  I just skipped over that recipe and the next one (the multigrain sandwich bread) to get to something I would like.  I did make the Pain a l'Ancienne a while back with some of the other Slow and Steady Bakers.  It was okay, but I wasn't that excited by it, and actually neglected to take pictures of it.  So next up after that is Pain de Campagne.

This bread is a close cousin of the French Bread that I made earlier this year.  The difference is that Pain de Campagne has a bit of whole grain, rather than just white flour.  For mine, I used white whole wheat flour.  Like the French bread, this one starts the day before, with a firm preferment, pâte fermentée.  Since the next bread on the list (Pane Siciliano) also uses pâte fermentée, I made a double batch of it.  On day 2, I mixed up the dough.  To avoid the mess I had when mixing the French bread, I first mixed the preferment with the water, to soften it.  To that I added the yeast, flours and salt.  Once the dough is kneaded, it gets a 2-hour bulk fermentation.  My dough was quite active, and doubled in size in about an hour, so I gently deflated it and let it rise for another hour.  

As for the shaping, Pain de Campagne is often formed into interesting shapes, not just baguettes.  I only tried out one of them, an epi, which is shaped like a stalk of wheat.  First you form the dough into a baguette, then cut the dough as shown in this handy shaping document from Jeffrey Hamelman.  I used about a third of the dough for the epi, and baked it on a sheet pan so I didn't disturb the shape once I made it.  The rest of my dough was simply shaped into a bâtard.  I'm actually getting pretty good at shaping those, again thanks to Hamelman and the great shaping instructions in his book, Bread.  My loaves baked for about 25 minutes.

The verdict?  Not bad.  Tasty, but like the French bread, the bread is a little dry for my taste.  I need to work on my epi shaping--I think my main problem is that I used my kitchen shears, which are a bit too short to do the job right.  And my loaves didn't brown as well as I would have liked.  I did like the addition of the whole wheat flour.  I'll probably make this recipe again at some point, especially since I want to try some of the other shapes.  But for now, there are lots of other recipes to make!

Next up is Pane Siciliano.  And never fear, I will go back to the Marbled Rye Bread and Multigrain Extraordinaire at some point.  To see what the other BBA bakers have been up to, you can check out the blogroll.  And for updates on the Slow and Steady subgroup of bakers, watch Nancy's blog for round-ups.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Playing dress-up

Some days, I think one of Gillian's most treasured possessions is a $5 pair of plastic purple dress-up shoes.  We have a collection of fancy princess dresses, but it's the shoes and the cheap plastic jewelry that get the most use.  And just about any bag gets turned into a purse, filled with a collection of Fisher Price Little People, play kitchen utensils, baby doll clothes, cell phones (toys or my old ones) and empty makeup containers (also begged from me).  There's no question this is a house of girls.  =)

And who doesn't like to play dress-up sometimes?  As I've progressed as a food blogger, one of the things I hope I've improved at is dressing up my baked goods and making them look good for their glamour shots.  This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is perfect for that--it's even in the recipe title, Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake.  This fun selection comes from Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes.

The cake was pretty straightforward to mix up--it's basically a chocolate pound cake, mixed using the creaming method.  I deviated from the recipe only in the assembly.  For one thing, I prefer the look of the cake in its original orientation, rather than turned upside-down as Dorie suggests.  (I'm the same way with angel food cake.)  When I sliced through the cake to make the first layer, I realized that I'd only cut about a quarter of the cake, rather than a third.  So my cake ended up with four layers rather than three to keep things even.  For the filling, I used my favorite raspberry fruit butter. And as for frosting, I like chocolate and sour cream, but was feeling lazy.  So I topped my cake with some leftover ganache that I had in the fridge.  Easy, and fun to drizzle. =)

The verdict?  I thought the cake was pretty good, and it seemed to be well received when I shared some of it at work.  It had a dense, moist texture. Not overly chocolatey, but nice, especially with the raspberry to add a tart contrast.  Brianna and Gillian really liked it.  They kept asking for it for dessert every night until it was all gone.  

If you'd like to give this cake a try, head over to Amy's blog for the recipe.  And check out the Leave Your Links post for this week to see how everyone else did with this recipe!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Time to make the doughnuts...again

Besides Sunday mornings when I was a kid, the other time in my life that I most associate with doughnuts is college.  I didn't eat them that often then, but it was always a bit of an event.  There was a great place that we went to, usually very late at night when we were stick of studying and doing homework.  It was an event because it was a bit of a drive, and usually a whole bunch of us would pile into a car or two and go together.  As far as I know, the place was open during the day, too, but I only ever went there once in daylight, and that was at 7am. =)   They had just about any sort of doughnut you could want.  One of the most popular was doughnuts (no hole) split in half and filled with glazed fresh fruit, that varied with the season.  They often had strawberry, which was a favorite with a lot of people.  Just once or twice, I remember them having peach, which was fantastic.  But my usual picks were cinnamon sugar doughnut holes (granulated sugar, not powdered) and a tiger tail--I love twisty doughnuts of all kinds.  But I have to admit, doughnuts are one of the things that I've been kind of scared to attempt at home.

The last time (the only time) I made doughnuts, they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped they would.  That's probably why it's taken me two years to try again. =)  They were reasonably tasty when just made, but ended up rather greasy as they cooled. I tried to get away with a smaller amount of oil and a regular pan, and it was just too hard to keep the temperature steady. This time I did things the way I should have before. I used my enameled cast iron Dutch oven (about 6 quarts in volume; 5 inches deep), so I knew once it got hot, it would retain the heat pretty well. I also used the whole bottle of oil (48 ounces/1.5 quarts), figuring I could strain it and reuse it if this worked out. I got out my digital thermometer that connects to a display that sits on the counter and is easy to read. I was set.

The other thing I needed to figure out was the dough. Last time, I probably should have stayed away from a brioche-type dough that was sticky and difficult to work with unless it was very cold. Fortunately, I had a good idea for what to try this time around. One of my favorite cookbooks right now is Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. And within that book, one of my favorite recipes is the All-Purpose Sweet Dough that he uses for all sorts of sweet breakfast treats--cinnamon buns, sticky buns, fruit-filled rolls and a delicious crumb cake. It was one of the doughs he demonstrated for us at the class I went to back in January. It’s quite versatile, and it makes a lot of dough, so you can use part of it for one thing and the rest for another if you want.  (I used the rest of mine to make a cinnamon swirl loaf--no raisins--that B would actually eat.)

The dough is easy to make, though you do have to plan ahead just a little bit since it gets an overnight rise. First, you mix instant yeast with warm milk and let it sit for a couple minutes to get the yeast going. You don’t absolutely need to do that with instant yeast the way you do with active dry, but it’s nice to give the yeast a bit of a head start when dealing with an enriched dough. Meanwhile, you can mix together the dry ingredients--all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt. I do this directly in the bowl of my stand mixer. Then you add the yeast/milk mixture to the flour mixture along with some melted butter (or oil, if you prefer) and stir to combine. At this point, I attach the bowl to the mixer and let the dough rest for a few minutes. Then I knead the dough with the dough hook. The dough should eventually come together in a smooth ball; the sides of the bowl should be clean, but the dough may stick a bit at the bottom.  Once kneaded, the dough goes into an oiled container (I use a 4-liter food storage container) and goes into the fridge for the night.

The morning after I mixed up the dough, I took the dough out of the fridge and cut off a piece that was about 500g.  I rolled it out on a lightly floured counter until it was about half an inch thick.  Then I cut out doughnut shapes.  I used a 2-1/2 inch round cutter for the outside and a 3/4 inch one for the middle.  I got 8 or 9 on the first pass.  I gathered the scrapes, rerolled, and got several more, ending up with a dozen all together.  I put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan, sprayed them with oil, and covered them with plastic wrap.  Then I let them rise until they warmed up and got quite puffy, about an hour.

Once the doughnuts looked like they were almost risen enough, I started heating the oil.  I was aiming to keep the temperature at about 360F.  I fried the doughnuts 3 or 4 at a time (and did a batch of holes, too).  I adjusted the gas to keep the temp from going below 350F (it dropped when the doughnuts went in) and from getting above 370F.  It worked out pretty well.  When the doughnuts were golden brown on one side, I flipped them and did the other side.  I didn't really keep track of the time, but it was 1-2 minutes per side.  The finished doughnuts went onto a cooling rack set over a paper bag topped with paper towels to drain.  Once they cooled a bit, I dipped one side in glaze (some chocolate, some vanilla) and topped some with sprinkles (since B and G love sprinkles).  =)

I love how the blue sprinkles coordinate with B's blue nail polish. =)

The verdict? These were a huge hit with my girls. And I can’t lie, I really enjoyed them as well. The dough was tasty but not too sweet. The chocolate glaze turned out really good, especially considering that I was making it up as I went along. =) We will definitely be making these again. Not too often, since I hate having to clean up after frying stuff, but these were worth it.

Want to try these for yourself? For starters, make a batch of the All-purpose Sweet Dough (found in the recipe for Cinnamon Buns).  The glaze was pretty simple.  I mixed a couple cups of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of corn syrup and enough water to make a thick glaze.  Then I divided it in half.  One half got about half a teaspoon of vanilla.  The other half got an ounce of melted bittersweet chocolate.  I had to add a bit of extra water to the chocolate one to get a glaze that was fluid enough for dipping.

Next time I really want to try twisted doughnuts.  And I need to find a good cake doughnut recipe to make cinnamon sugar ones.  Any suggestions?  And what's your favorite type of doughnut?

Oh, and these doughnuts have been Yeastspotted!

Oh, no, G doesn't like chocolate, not at all. =)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Simply surprising

I like to play around with recipes. I don’t usually make drastic changes, but I also seldom follow a recipe exactly to the letter. And it’s not just a case of substituting for or eliminating things that I don’t like--though I do that sometimes, especially if there’s coconut involved. =) I take things I learn from making one thing and apply it to others. The TWD raisin bread is a good example--I mostly followed the recipe, but I chose to incorporate the raisins into the dough instead of just putting them in the swirl. It didn’t work exactly the way I wanted--I think they contributed to the crumb being a bit dry (dried fruit tends to suck moisture from the dough). I did soak them beforehand, but I probably should have done it farther ahead and let them absorb more moisture before adding them to the dough.

Okay, by now you’re probably wondering why I’m going on about raisin bread when this is obviously a post about something else... My point is, I like to learn new things, and I like to tweak recipes.  It doesn't always work out the way I expect or hope, but it's fun to experiment.  But sometimes you have a recipe that’s really simple and straightforward, and there isn’t much to play with. A lot of the recipes in Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert are like that. The cover says it well--"true flavors, inspiring ingredients, and simple recipes."  Each chapter focuses on an ingredient flavor (e.g. milk or fruit or chocolate) and consists of recipes that really highlight that one thing. Several of us have baked together via Twitter to make a number of the recipes, including Kamut Poundcake, Lemon Bars and Cocoa Wafers. Recently, Nancy, Wendy and I decided to try the Lebni Tart. The recipe has intrigued me ever since I got the book--the picture is lovely, and I’d never heard of lebni before reading this recipe. It’s made from yogurt, and is kind of like thick sour cream. I know Nancy made her own by draining yogurt to remove moisture and thicken it. But don’t get it confused with most of the Greek yogurts that are popular right now--this isn’t non-fat or even lowfat, by any means!

Nancy, Wendy and I made plans to bake the tart on Sunday afternoon, but I ended up getting a later start than I hoped. Fortunately, when I reread the recipe, I was encouraged to go ahead and do it even though it was getting late. Unlike a lot of tart crust recipes I’ve made, this one doesn’t require any advanced planning. It uses melted butter. You whisk sugar, salt and vanilla into the butter, then stir in the flour and you’re done. You simply press the dough into a tart pan and put it in the oven. While the crust is baking, you mix up the filling. Alice does strongly recommend doing it in order without changes to get the best texture--start by whisking the eggs (mine were from my local farmers market), then whisk in sugar, salt, vanilla, and the lebni. The filling is poured into the hot crust and baked. You just need to check early and often, because you don’t want to overbake the filling--it should be set around the edges but still jiggly in the middle, since it will continue to set once it’s out of the oven. I did goof a bit--the crust is baked at 350F, then you’re supposed to turn the temp down to 300F to bake the filling. I missed that direction. Fortunately, I checked on my tart after 15 minutes (it was supposed to bake 20-25) and it was just right. Whew. =) I let my tart cool to room temperature, then stuck it in the fridge because it was bedtime.

The verdict? I love this tart. It looks so unassuming.  I started to dress it up with some raspberry sauce for pictures, but I actually prefer the tart plain.  The pictures could be better, but I really wanted to share my thoughts on this recipe, so I'm using them anyway. =)  I can’t even tell you exactly why I love it so much.  One reason is the crust. Browned butter is such a great flavor, and the bit of vanilla in the crust is perfect. And the filling is smooth and tangy and delicious.  I'll definite be stealing ideas from this recipe to use in others.  I'm sure this crust will be great as a base other things, and I’m already trying to think of other uses for lebni.

All of the recipes I’ve tried so far from Pure Dessert are very good, and I’m sure I’ll be baking more.  I highly recommend this cookbook.  But for now, if you'd like to try this tart for yourself, you can find the recipe on Google Books.  And watch for more reviews of this recipe on Nancy's blog and Wendy's blog.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

There's 104 days of summer vacation...

I was trying to figure out earlier why I've been in a better mood lately.  I feel like I'm getting my blogging mojo back.  I've been baking all sorts of great stuff, and actually want to write about it!  I finally decided that the reason is that it's summer vacation.  Sure, I still have to work, but life is definitely less stressful.  My kids are in one place (well, across the parking lot from each other) rather than two, so there's less travel time.  If I'm going into work later, I don't have to get us all up early anyway so we can get Brianna to school on time. Which means it's less critical to get the girls to bed early, since they can sleep in some.  And then we can have breakfast together without having to rush out the door... 

Which brings me to this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.  Susan of Food.Baby picked Raisin Swirl bread for us to make this week.  She says in her post that she picked the recipe because baking bread is comforting.  I have to agree with that.  I know yeast is scary for some people, but the more I bake bread, the more I love it.  One nice thing about this sort of enriched bread is that it's pretty easy to make, since you don't have to do a lot of advanced planning (unlike with breads that have preferments).  

I made the recipe more or less as written, but I did tweak a few things.  First off, I used instant yeast rather than active dry, since that's what I keep on hand.  I adjusted the quantity to 1 1/2 teaspoons, but still mixed it with the warm milk to give it a bit of a head start, since I knew it would have to work harder in a dough with fat and sugar.  The only flavoring I included was the vanilla.  Rather than put the raisins in the swirl, I kneaded them into the dough before the first rise so they would be distributed throughout the dough.  For the swirl, I left out the cocoa (I don't like chocolate and cinnamon together) and skipped the butter that was to be spread over the dough before adding the cinnamon sugar.  I did the latter because I was afraid that the butter would prevent the dough from sticking together well, causing it to unravel when cut.  I ended up baking my loaf for 55 minutes, at which point it registered about 195F on my instant-read thermometer.  

The verdict?  This raisin bread is pretty good, though I have to admit that it's not my favorite.  That honor still belongs to the BBA raisin bread.  I can't quite put my finger on what wasn't quite as good with this bread, but I think part of it is that it was a bit dry.  And the long bake time resulted in a tough crust.  In retrospect, I think I should have brushed the crust with melted butter when it came out of the oven, to soften it somewhat.  That said, the bread makes very good toast for breakfast, which is my favorite way to eat raisin bread anyway.  And hey, it's still homemade bread, and that's always a good thing.  =)  Most of the loaf got sliced and stashed in the freezer, and Gillian is happily helping me finish it off.  Brianna, of course, wanted nothing to do with it, since she doesn't like raisins baked into things.  (I'm working on some non-raisin cinnamon swirl bread for her.)  

If you'd like to give this one a try for yourself, you can find the recipe on Susan's blog.  And to see how everyone else did with this week's recipe, head over to the Leave Your Links page!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When life hands you berries...

I take my lunch to work most days.  It generally consists of some sort of leftovers and fresh fruit on the side.  What sort of fruit is definitely a seasonal thing.  In the fall, it's usually apples.  (I don't like pears, or I'd take those sometimes, too.)  In the winter, it's some sort of orange citrus, usually satsumas or tangelos.  Then as we get into spring, I switch to berries--mostly strawberries, but with some raspberries or blackberries thrown in as well.  Next up will be peaches, then plums/plumcots/pluots.  And then back to apples...  What other sorts of fruit do you like to eat that would be lunchbox friendly?  It occurs to me that my rotation could use a little more variety. =)

For now, though, I'll keep eating the berries.  I've been buying tons because they all look so good right now.  (Plus I discovered that I can buy really good ones in large quantities relatively inexpensively at Costco.)  For lunch I just sprinkle a little sugar on top, but at home I've been trying other things as well.  The shortcakes were a bit hit, and Brianna and Gillian both like berries with vanilla yogurt (especially stirring it to make the yogurt pink).  But sometime we don't eat them quickly enough, and they start to go south.  So what to do with a whole bunch of fruit that's a bit past its prime?  Mash it up and freeze it!  With a few additions that is--you definitely need sugar for a scoopable sorbet.  The process was relatively easy.  I can't really say quick, because I chose to strain the fruit puree to remove the seeds--so I wouldn't have to listen to complaints from B&G, and also because I prefer it that way.  I also made some popsicles in addition to the sorbet.

The verdict?  Very yummy!  I doubt I could exactly duplicate the flavor, since I don't know exactly how much of each berry I had, but I think any combination of berries would be tasty (including adding blueberries; I didn't because I don't like them).  And I just love the purple color contributed by the blackberries, even though it does stain.  (It's a good idea to have kids wear some sort of bib with the popsicles.)  One other thing I'd like to try is lime juice instead of lemon.  I'm sure there will be more sorbet coming out of our kitchen this summer. =)

I pretty much made things up as I went along (and consulted The Perfect Scoop to get an idea of how much sugar to use), but here's more or less what I did.  Enjoy.

Mixed Berry Sorbet
  • 900 grams (about 2 pounds) mixed berries (any combination of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.)   (I'm guessing a bit here; once pureed and strained, I ended up with 730 grams)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar  (can be adjusted to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice   (I think lime would also be good)

Wash and hull the strawberries, then trim any bad spots and cut them into pieces.  Pick through the other berries and discard any that are not good; rinse them with water and drain.  Place the fruit in a deep bowl and puree with an immersion blender.  (Alternatively, puree in a blender, in batches if necessary.)  Strain the puree to remove seeds.  (You don't have to, but I prefer it, especially when using blackberries.)  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  You can adjust the sugar to taste, but I recommend using at least 150g (3/4 cup); if you use too little, the sorbet will be icy and harder.  Stir in the lemon juice and vodka.  You don't have to add the vodka, but it helps keep the sorbet from freezing too hard.

Place the fruit puree in a container (after adding the sugar I had about 4 cups) and refrigerate until very cold.  Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  The sorbet will still be soft; pack it into a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm.  

You can also leave out the vodka and pour the fruit puree into popsicle molds, then freeze until firm.  I did both--after adding the sugar, I filled the molds, then I added the vodka and lemon juice to the remaining puree and made the sorbet.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I'm probably dating myself, but who else had a Strawberry Shortcake doll (when they were first popular)?  I had Strawberry and Apple Dumplin'.  My sisters had various other dolls.  Brianna doesn't have any of the dolls, but she has a number of Strawberry Shortcake books.  They're a parent's worst nightmare.  Don't believe me?  Then you try reading one aloud some time! =)  Here's a sample:

"When Strawberry Shortcake visits Seaberry Beach, she daydreams about a little mermaid named Pearlberry who wants to live on land more than anything in the world.  A Berry Fairy offers to make Pearlberry's wish come true--but only if Pearlberry promises to leave her home in the ocean forever."

Lots of berry this and berry that, and crazy character names.  And these things are long!  It makes me tired just thinking about it.  All I have to say is, thank goodness Brianna can now read them for herself.  And she actually enjoys reading to Gillian, too, which is good for both of them.  Not to mention it gets me off the hook at least some of the time. =)

Now one strawberry shortcake I don't have any trouble talking about is the one we made for Tuesdays with Dorie this week.  My awesome and funny blogging friend, Cathy of The Tortefeasor, picked Tender Shortcakes for us this week.  It's a wonderful choice for this time of year, with lots of fresh berries in the stores.

Several people noted on the P and Q that Dorie’s shortcakes must have been rather large, and that they reduced the recipe. I decided to cut it in half. One thing I’ve been doing recently is converting all my measurements to grams; it’s easier when measuring and adjusting recipe yields, since I don’t have to bother with fractions. I realized last weekend that I’ve finally gotten reasonably comfortable with metric measurements--I was watching a baking show on the Cooking Channel that used grams, and the measurements actually made sense to me. So what I ended up with was:

270g (2 cups) all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspooon table salt
42g (3 tablespoons) vanilla sugar
85g (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
170g (6oz) cold heavy cream

Shortcakes are basically biscuits, so they were quick to make. You whisk together the dry ingredients, then rub in the butter (I did it by hand; you could also do the whole thing in the food processor if you want), then add the cream and stir with a fork until the dough starts to come together. Then you knead it just a bit to bring it together the rest of the way. I used my #16 scoop (1/4 cup) to divide up the dough and ended up with 9 shortcakes.  I baked them for 14 minutes.

The only change I really made to the recipe (other than reducing it) was to substitute vanilla sugar for the granulated sugar. I love Dorie’s direction to rub citrus zest into sugar and have taken to doing that with vanilla beans as well. A few weeks back I did that with some sugar and then realized that I didn’t need it for a recipe. So I had a bunch of vanilla sugar on hand. I put some in the shortcakes, sprinkled some over the cut up strawberries, and used some to sweeten the whipped cream.

The verdict? Wow. This was a fabulous dessert. The shortcakes ended up being the perfect size. As several people commented, the biscuits are tasty enough to eat on their own, though the fruit and cream didn’t hurt. =) Mine didn’t taste strongly of vanilla, but it was a subtle presence in the dessert that was quite good. Everyone’s plates were quickly cleaned.

For the full recipe, head over to Cathy’s blog (plus she writes the most entertaining posts!). And be sure to check out the Leave Your Links page to see what everyone else thought of this week’s recipe.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

From brownies to biscuits

No, your eyes do not deceive you--that is not a picture of White Chocolate Brownies.  I haven't been having much luck with Tuesdays with Dorie recipe selections for the past few weeks.  A couple weeks ago was Apple-Apple Bread Pudding.  I'm not a big fan of custardy things, and didn't get a chance to try it anyway, with all the illness around here.  Last week I skipped the Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie.  Coconut is evil and is generally banned from entering this house, and I'm not that excited about banana desserts, either.  So going into this week, I knew I should really participate so I wouldn't miss three weeks in a row.  But I wasn't exactly thrilled about the latest recipe, either, since I don't really like white chocolate.  That's too bad, because I've recently gotten to know this week's host, Marthe of Culinary Delights, via Twitter, and I wanted to make the recipe because of that.  So I decided to try to overcome my dislike of white chocolate and try them anyway.

Sadly, that try wasn't very successful.  Now, I admit, I did play around with the recipe just a bit.  I had white chocolate, but after tasting it, I realized that it had been in my pantry way too long.  So I tossed it, and tried milk chocolate instead (similar sweetness, I figured).  I skipped the meringue topping.  And I tried making individual brownies in my muffin tin, to avoid the problem that many people reported of their brownies being under-done in the middle.  The taste wasn't that bad, but the texture was very unappealing.  Soggy from the raspberries, and as my friend Nancy put it, rather spongy.  Not good.  And not even photogenic:

So what to do?  Well, I decided to do a rewind as well.  One of the recipes that I missed recently was the Sweet Cream Biscuits that were picked by Melissa of Love at First Bite back in April.  Hard to believe I missed them, since the recipe is a quick one to make.  But we had a chance to try them for breakfast on Monday morning.

Only five ingredients--flour, baking powder, a bit of sugar and salt and a bunch of heavy cream--go into these biscuits.  That means they only dirty one bowl, which is always nice.  You whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the cream and mix it with a fork.  The dough gets lightly kneaded to bring it together, then rolled out to a thickness of about half an inch.  I used a cutter that was just a bit over two inches in diameter, and got 16 biscuits (11 or 12 on the first pass, and the rest after rerolling the scraps).  I put the biscuits close together on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked them at 425F for about 15 minutes, I think.  By the time they were done, I was tired of hearing from the girls about how they were starving, so we didn't really let them cool at all before digging in. =)

The verdict?  Well, Brianna and Gillian each ate three, so I guess they liked them. =)  (They really weren't very big, so that isn't as impressive as it sounds.)  It gave them a chance to sample the various jams in the fridge, too.  No one wanted the cherry (I must have bought that for Jamie), but blueberry, blackberry and raspberry all made it to the table.  Even just with butter (the way I ate one of mine), these were very good.  I definitely think they'll make future appearances around here, especially since they're so easy to make.

If you'd like to give the brownie recipe a try, head on over to Marthe's blog.  Hopefully you'll have better luck than I did.  You can see what the other TWD bakers did with this recipe on this week's Leave Your Links post.  And be sure to check out Clara's blog--she's been waiting a very long time for this day to come. =)  For the biscuits, Melissa has the recipe on her TWD post.