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Gingerbread Buche de Noel

26 Dec

A little preface to the baking post this time…To a baker, what could be worse than your stand mixer (in this case a Kitchenaid mixer) developing problems less than a week before Christmas? Oh, perhaps the oven dying, but that’s probably it! And, yep, halfway through the beating of the eggs and brown sugar for this beauty, the balloon whisk began hitting the side of the bowl. Then it hung up completely! I tried adjusting that little screw they tell you to adjust, to no avail. Luckily for me, I have two Kitchenaid mixers, but this larger 6-quart professional is really my go-to anytime I need to beat eggs. So, into the smaller one the nearly beaten eggs went and I really do think I watched them deflate. So began my Buche de Noel adventure.

I’m really not one to be deterred (I once “workshopped” angel food cake recipes six times in one day in order to bake the perfect angel food cake), so I decided to complete the cake part with these eggs. (I could always make another one, if the cake didn’t turn out, right?) And, I think the cake part turned out “OK,” if a bit flat – but it’s going to be rolled, right? Thank goodness Dorie mentioned that on the initial rolling not to be concerned if the cake cracked, because mine did!

I was a little concerned about the filling not having any sugar, but I also believe in “trusting the recipe”. The only change I’d make the next time is to perhaps make a little more filling. I managed to spread filling over the entire cake part, albeit a thin coating – not exactly what I would refer to as “filling”.

And then the frosting. Let me begin by saying I love Dorie Greenspan. And, Dorie seems to love Italian meringue – particularly for frostings. I, on the other hand, have a love/hate relationship with these frostings. I love how beautiful they are, that they are light and don’t take away from flavor of the cake, and how much they make! However, I have an almost irrational fear of the whole hot sugar syrup aspect of them. Somewhere in the primitive part of my brain is a little voice that says, “You’re going to burn yourself….” Thus, the hate.

And, to finalize my “love affair” with Dorie Greenspan, never have I had recipes that so consistently turn out looking  just like Dorie’s pictures!
IMG_1045

 

An afterthought: I did watch the video that was posted in julessomeone’s last post. And, it seems that the mixer fiasco I wrote about at the beginning of this post had no bearing on the cake’s outcome. My cake looked remarkably like the one that Dorie and Melissa flipped out of the baking sheet – for some reason, I thought it was supposed to be a puffier cake!

The Rugelach That Won Over France

7 Dec

A couple of rules I should let everyone know that I have regarding recipes and baking:

  • The first time baking a recipe, follow it to the letter.  Can you really evaluate a recipe maker’s recipe if you make changes? (Well, there is the caveat that if you know your oven runs hot or cold to adjust for that, but that’s not what I mean here.)
  • I force my husband (or other outside party) to sample the finish product. Just like a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is better if you haven’t made it yourself, eating your own baked goods right after you’ve spent the time to prep and bake them is, for me, something of a let down. I’ve been known to throw out batches of baked goods because I didn’t like them only to have friends say, “Really? You didn’t think to have an unbiased person give you feedback?”

With those rules in mind, I’ll probably make this recipe again. I loved working with the dough and I loved the flavor of the dough. Since I’m not a big fan of dried IMG_1038fruit, next time I’ll skip the dried fruit. I’m sure that on some level this is heresy for rugelach, but I really get no pleasure from it. I’ll double the melted butter and cinnamon sugar mixture or, better yet, substitute a nice jam or marmalade. Hey, that could be the fruit part, right? Loved the nuts, coconut and chocolate. I did have a few mini-chocolate chips that I used as part of the chopped chocolate and those worked very well. They may not be the highest quality chocolate, but they were pretty darned tasty in these. I froze them overnight (full disclosure – I was going to bake them after dinner last night but shared a bottle of wine with the husband referenced above and lost all ambition!). I did have a tough time slicing them – the roll kept falling apart. But, I only baked half the recipe – I still have two rolls in the freezer. I’ll try them later and see if I have more success. Oh, and the pesky little things kept falling over in the oven – but that’s not a deal breaker.

Hmmm…it just occurs to me that a spread of orange marmalade sprinkled with nuts and chocolate chips could be a Christmas Eve delight!

Cranberry Crackle Tart, part deux

25 Nov

I promised a second post to talk about how it tasted. Delicious! The entire family was expecting something very tart or bitter, and we were all pleasantly surprised. (I wasn’t entirely certain those firm, bouncy little fruits would actually cook – again, pleasantly surprised!)

I would definitely make this again – relatively easy to make (and, yep, I’ll add one additional egg white next time) with an impressive presentation.

Cranberry Crackle Tart

23 Nov

Yeah, I know this was supposed to be up last Tuesday, but since I need a dessert for Sunday dinner, it had to wait for today.

I must say this was much easier than the picture led me to believe it would be. I’ll be using the Sweet Tart Dough recipe again and again (this was one of the easiest rolling doughs I have EVER made!) And I think Dorie is right on – rolling it rather than pressing it into a tart pan looks so much nicer and gives a much more consistent thickness. I loved the idea of cutting the dough using a ravioli cutter – what a nice edge!

Now, I’ve told friends about this book (and recommended they buy it as their go-to book for French style desserts that real people can actually make!) and Dorie again demonstrated why: “…keep beating until the whites are shiny…droopy tips….they will look like marshmallow.” The perfect description of what this meringue looked like when ready! No need to guess – one more minute?…one minute too long?

I did think the 60-minute baking left the meringue looking pale, so I put it under the broiler – and, if you haven’t made this yet, beware! The meringue can go from pale to nearly burnt in seconds – a word to the wise!

We’ll be eating this tonight at dinner, so I’ll post a second time to let you know how it tastes – I’m really curious! My only experience with cranberries has been either sauce or relish, or Craisins in my oatmeal. I can hardly wait!

Cranberry Crackle Tart

Palets de Dames, Lille Style

11 Nov

If you haven’t made these yet, please be warned: do not taste them before you glaze them. You won’t have any left to glaze! These puffy little cookies really are more like little cakes – and yes, I did eat about half of them before they were cool enough to glaze. I’ll be making more, to be sure! I think my next batch will be made a tad bit larger – my scoop made for cookies just about the size of a Nilla Vanilla Wafer – and while that was fine, it’s far too easy to eat a dozen of them using the excuse, “Oh, well, they’re really small!” The smaller size also did cause me to adjust the baking time down to between 5 and 7 minutes rather than the 7 to 9.

Orange sanding sugar showed up better than the white. (In a shout out to Oregon State University, I tried to also do a few with black sanding sugar, but the black sugar really didn’t look appetizing!)

Palets de Dames, Lille Style

Baking Chez Moi? Mai Oui!

1 Nov

I just got my copy of Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking Chez Moi,” and find myself reading it like one would read a novel! And that would be a novel one can’t put down – Gone Girl has nothing on this! I’ve decided to work my way through it, one recipe at a time, so go out an buy your fat pants if you must, but it’s going to be a long and glorious ride!

First up – Limoncello Cupcakes. Yes, you read that right – cupcakes (and I don’t even particularly like cupcakes).

Who knew a burly, 6-foot-4-inch, 225 lb. fitness trainer would know what these are?

16 Apr
Madeleines, ala Proust

Madeleines, ala Proust

Well, I did it again. I decided I’d ‘workshop’ these cookies. And, it’s a good thing! My initial attempt at these made me learn that baking them at 400 degrees at ten minutes was at least two minutes too long. Attempt two (in a different oven) reinforced that 400 degrees was too hot (even at eight minutes they came out black!).

So, it was time to consult the oracle: Google. I found a you-tube video that explained making madeleines perfectly! And, according to the chef in the video, the batter isn’t necessarily as fragile as our recipe made it out to be. His recipe was baked at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes. Rather than piping the batter into the pans, he scooped it, using a #40 ice cream scoop. Oh, and the chef in the video said for more ‘fluffy’ madeleines, use more butter (up to 1/2 cup) but that the madeleines made famous by Marcel Proust were dryer using less butter (better for dunking in tea). I’m thinking these are the ones we made.

Armed with this information, I decided to back off on the temperature (375 degrees), used an ice cream scoop and watched them like a hawk for 8-1/2 minutes! Perfectly done! And, when sampled by my fitness trainer, he deemed them exactly right. And now that I have this information, I will absolutely make them again.

“Can you make a Chocolate Mud Cake?…”

13 Apr

so asked our Australian “son,” the other evening. My husband responded with, “I’ve heard of chocolate mud pie;” I merely asked him to describe what he thought of as a chocolate mud cake. And then, I thought of the oracle of Google…

I found two different recipes and since I don’t know what I’m supposed to be baking at all, decided to bake them both. Turns out, they’re made with self-rising flour – that’s something different and both have coffee of some kind in them (not surprising for a very deep chocolate cake).  I’ve told the boy it’s his job to let me know which of the two are closer to what he gets at home!

Versions "A" and "B"

Versions “A” and “B”

 

“Have faith and keep beating.”

2 Apr

Five of my favorite words!

Rustic Potato Bread, pre-baking

 

 

This was one of the easiest breads I’ve ever made. Favorite thing? All done with a stand mixer. Least favorite thing? Can’t think of a one – oh, well, maybe the loaves were too immense. But, is that really a bad thing?

Rustic Potato Bread, after baking

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

19 Mar
Mocha Chip Cookies

Mocha Chip Cookies

So, I really think I have the perfect, most delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe: Jacques Torres Chocolate Chunk Cookies. And, this Mocha Chocolate Chip recipe is interestingly similar to that one. I really think the addition of instant coffee is a nice touch! Now, my caveats…I’ve never liked fruit in cookies – nope, no raisins in oatmeal cookies(well, to be honest, raisins don’t belong in anything…) – so no apricots are in mine. However, I do believe that chocolate chip cookies of any kind scream for nuts! So, I added 1/2-pound of walnuts to mine. (Yeah, yeah, broke my cardinal rule of not changing a recipe the first time preparing it!)

As for the chocolate – I have the good fortune of living two doors down from a professional pastry chef! As a result, she hooks me up with the most delicious chocolate pistoles: Cacao Barry American Dark Chocolate and Extra Bitter Dark Chocolate. (I buy it in 11-pound boxes at a time. My family eats a lot of chocolate chip cookies!)

I used Starbuck’s Italian Roast Via powder (four packets – measured to a little more than one tablespoon).

Finally, drop by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet? Really? I used a #40 scoop, weighed each out to 2-ounces and rolled them into balls slightly larger than a ping pong ball. I think a cookie should be big enough that one is enough, and that last bite is the one that makes you say “UGH!”

Baked these cookies just as directed, and I found them doughy. (OK, in full disclosure: I prefer cookies on the ‘crispy’ side – keeps with my “You’re either a chewy or a crunchy person?” – I’m crunchy!) My family, however found them fine.

Now, will they replace my Jacques Torres recipe – nope! But, I did  make a batch of the Jacques and added the instant coffee, and they were an instant hit! So, I will make that change.