Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Crunched Caramel Tart

This weeks recipe was chosen by Carla of Chocolate Moosey. I think I love her! :D Chocolate, caramel and peanuts...when I read this recipe I fell in love. :) So, first of all, thank you Carla for choosing such a fabulous dessert.

This tart is rich. Donald Trump rich. No, Oprah rich! Silky smooth bittersweet chocolate covering a layer of homemade caramel studded with honey-roasted peanuts. All of this sitting on top of a buttery, tender, almost flaky (cookie? pie?) dough. So very rich. It's something I would expect to see on the menu of a very upscale restaurant. And, I would have paid big bucks to try it too! :) Now I can make and eat it whenever the mood strikes me. Which I hope isn't often because my waistline can't afford it. But, oh how good it is.

I thought this was a pretty easy tart to put together. I don't own a tart pan (will have to rectify that) so I made mine in the bottom of a 9" springform pan. The dough was very easy to do. Mine didn't seem crumbly. It was soft and pliable. I used cold butter, but maybe next time (oh, there will be a next time!) I will freeze it and see if the dough is more like described in the recipe.

I have made caramel in the past so I wasn't too concerned with making it for this tart. The only problem I had was some of my sugar became little lumps and were slow to dissolve. I'm not sure what I did to make that happen, but I just kept pushing on the lumps with my wooden spoon till they broke up and dissolved.

I had all the ingredients ready and had it put together in no time. Set it in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes. I was home from work yesterday (no houses 3 Mondays a month) and while I don't usually eat dessert in the middle of the afternoon, when the buzzer for the timer went off after 30 minutes I was ready. I had a plate, fork and cup of coffee all set out in anticipation of the first slice.

Oh My! The first bite was amazing. The chocolate is smooth, silky, creamy, not too sweet. The caramel is not overpowering, and mine was soft, not chewy like some caramels can be. And the peanuts, with  their salty-sweet flavor. Oh My! My crust was tender and buttery and the perfect accompaniment to the rest of the ingredients. As delicious as this was, I ate it slowly, savoring each and every bite. It's a very grown-up dessert I think. One I would serve at a dinner party if I were trying to impress someone. (Not that I am that kind of person, but this would be the recipe to do just such a thing). Rich, decadent, fabulous!

So, thank you again, Carla. Great choice! Head over to  TWD to see what the other bakers thought about this weeks deliciousness!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking - "Paupiettes De Boeuf" (Braised Stuffed Beef Rolls)

Maybe I should start calling these blogs "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Mondays" because it seems like that is the day I have been making something out of my cookbook. Guess that is because I am off three Mondays a month from my housecleaning business and usually spend my Mondays in the kitchen baking or cooking.

I went camping this weekend and brought along "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and a stack of posted notes. Looked through the book and stuck a note on each recipe I want to try. I think I marked off over half of the recipes. :) This was one of the beef recipes that I thought sounded interesting. Decided to try it today.

It's a very long recipe, several different steps, but nothing too difficult. I think the hardest part for me was cutting the top round into cross-grain slices and then pounding them out so they could be stuffed. I think I made my slices a bit small. When I rolled the slices around the stuffing they didn't quite close when tied. But, other than that, everything else was pretty simple.

You mix veal and pork with egg, onion, garlic, thyme, allspice, pepper, salt and parsley. That is the stuffing that you roll up in your top round that you have sliced into 3" pieces and then whacked with a mallet into nice thin slices. After you roll the stuffing in the beef you tie two strings around the meat to hold the stuffing in.

Lightly brown the rolls in some olive oil in a oven-safe casserole pot. Take the meat out and then brown some onions and carrots in the same pot. Cook some flour in the veggies.  Pour in some white wine and beef stock, toss in an herb bouquet made with garlic, parsley, bay leaf, and thyme, put the meat back in the pot, and simmer in the oven in the covered pot for about 1 1/2 hours. Take it out, take out the meat, add some Dijon mustard and cream and you are pretty much done.

I thought the dish was delicious. The beef was melt in your mouth fork tender, the stuffing moist and flavorful. The sauce had a hint of the mustard flavor, but complimented the beef perfectly. My hubby didn't like this dish. Said he could taste the white wine (I didn't notice it) and he's not big on wine in his food. (Had this problem with a Bolognese I made too). In fact, his favorite part was the broiled tomatoes I served with this. I thought they were just okay, and he loved them. Oh well, can't please him all the time. :) I also served green peas, brown rice, and toasted french bread, along with this recipe. The green peas I cooked with butter, shallots and chicken stock (a recipe in the book). The tomatoes I drizzled olive oil on, salt and peppered them and then mixed some bread crumbs with Parmesan cheese and butter and sprinkled that over the tomatoes before putting them under the broiler.

The recipe for the Paupiettes De Boeuf is on pages 318 -321 of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", if you have the book. You can probably find some version of this recipe on line, or if all else fails, send me a comment and I will email you the recipe. With two and a half pages of instructions, I'd rather not type it all here. :}

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays - Caramelized Onion, Sage and Cheddar Muffins

This week's recipe was Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins. It was chosen by Hanaa of Hanaa's Kitchen.

I have to admit I wasn't going to do this one. I am not much on savory muffins. I like my muffins sweet and fruity. Onions? Sage? Cheese?? In a muffin? But, I decided to pull some chili out of the freezer for dinner tonight and figured I might as well try the muffins. Thought they might go well with the chili. I cut the recipe in half, because I didn't want to have a dozen muffins I didn't like sitting around the kitchen. Silly me!

These muffins were delicious!! And, they were so easy to put together. I think I had them in the oven in under 30 minutes, and that included frying up the onions. I followed the recipe just about word for word, omitting only the cayenne pepper. My hubby isn't big on pepper of any kind. I left in the black pepper, but cut it back a bit.  I fried up one white onion in some olive oil until the peices were nice and brown and caramelized. Love the smell of onions cooking. Should have know these would be good just because of the onion. I chopped up some fresh sage and tossed that in with the onions and 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese. (Didin't have any sharp on hand). Filled my muffin papers up with the batter and tossed them in the oven to bake for the 30 minutes.

The smell of them baking was wonderful! After 30 mintues I took them out of the oven and put them on a rack to cool. They puffed up and you could see little pieces of onion and cheese peeking out through the crusty top. I let them cool for about 30 mintues or so and then tried one.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, they were delicious! I think I would kick up the sage a tiny bit and also the cheese. I cut the recipe in half, but think while the onions were about perfect as far as flavor went, the other two flavors were almost overpowered by the onions. But, still, the texture was perfect, nice crusty top and moist and tender inside. The flavor combination was great and I think they will go wonderfully with the chili later. I am thinking about trying the Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut ones next. I have to say this recipe certainly changed my opinion about savory muffins.

Head on over to SWS to see what the other bakers thought.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cottage Cheese Pufflets

This week's recipe, chosen by Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes was Cottage Cheese Pufflets. I must admit when I first saw the name of the recipe I thought they were going to be some kind of dinner roll. I never would have imagined cookies made with cottage cheese. I read through the recipe and thought "Why not".
So, I gathered all my ingredients together and got started. I read the forum about all the problems with the dough being soft and requiring a lot of chill time. I actually made my dough the night before I was to make the cookies. I even split it into three small portions to be sure each chilled sufficiently before trying to roll it out. Thought that might help out and maybe I wouldn't have any of the issues others seems to be having. Hah!

I had nothing but problems. The dough stuck to my rolling pin, stuck to the piece of  marble I use for rolling out pastry dough, stuck to my fingers, stuck to everything! I tried flour, I tried putting it in the freezer, thinking that would help. It did, for about 2 minutes. Then it was soft and unmanageable again. I stuck everything back in the freezer and reread the forum. Found a tip about using a ziplock bag.
That actually worked like a charm. The dough rolled out beautifully and after I cut the bag away from the dough I was ready to begin filling my little squares of goodness.I still had to work quickly because the dough softens up so fast. I decided to fill my pufflets with a combination of blackberry jam, Nutella, and chopped toasted hazelnuts. The combination of the three was delicious. The flavors meshed  together perfectly. The cookies, once they were put together and baked were really good. Soft, tender, a slight tang to the cookie to offset the sweetness of the jam and Nutella. I really liked them, as did my hubby. But, would I make them again? I don't think so. They were just so frustrating to work with. It took a lot of the fun out of baking them for me. They were good, I'll give them that. But, just too much trouble. Maybe the other TWD folks had an easier time with them than I did.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking - "Gnocchi Gratines au Fromage"

Or "Gnocchi Baked with Cheese". This is only my second recipe out of MtAoFC. I have never eaten gnocchi, let alone made them. But, a friend of mine tweeted last week about a gnocchi dish (her's was different but sounded delicious!) and I decided to flip through my copy of MtAoFC and see if there was a recipe in there for gnocchi, and sure enough, there was. There were several in fact. After reading through them, I decided on the "Gnocchi Gratines au Fromage". Wish making it had been as easy as typing this. While none of the steps were really difficult, there were many steps to the final presentation. You have to make two other recipes before you can make the final one. Let me elaborate.

In order to make Gnocchi baked with cheese, you must first make "Gnocchi De Pommes De Terre", which is Potato Gnocchi. However, in order to make the potato gnocchi, you must first make "Pate A Choux", which is Cream Puff Paste. Did I mention there were a lot of steps to this recipe. Just checking. :)

Here is the recipe for "Pate a Choux"...     

For about 2 cups
A 1 1/2 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan
1 cup water
3 ounces (6 Tbls.) butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
4 large eggs

Bring water to boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile measure out the flour.
Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigourously with a wooden spatula or spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and the spoon, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.
Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the center of the paste with your spoon. Immediately break an egg into the center of the well. Beat it into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. The thrid and fourth eggs will be absorbed more slowly. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth.

Okay, so now you have your cream puff paste made. In the meantime you need to be working on getting the potato portion of the recipe made. Here is the  recipe for Gnocchi De Pommes De Terre...

These make a good luncheon dish, or may be used as a starchy vegetable to accompany a roast.
     For about 12 gnocchi, 3 by 11/2 inches when cooked

3 to 4 meduim-sized baking potatoes
1 cup warm pate a choux (see above recipe)
1/3 cup grated Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan, cheese
A 12" skillet of simmering salted water

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and put through a ricer. You should have 2 cups.
Dry out the potatoes by stirring them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over moderate heat for a minute or two until they film the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
Beat the pate a choux and the cheese into the potatoes. Correct seasoning.
Take the mixture by dessert-spoonfuls and roll it with the palms of your hands on a lightly floured board to form cylinders about 21/2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.
Slip the gnocchi into the simmering water and poach, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Water should remain almost but not quite at the simmer throughout the cooking. If it boils, the gnocchi may disintegrate. When they have swelled almost double, and roll over easily in the water, they are done. Drain on a rack or a towel. 

There was a small note between recipes that read...
"Additions to the Potato Gnocchi Paste -
     Any of the following may be mixed into the gnocchi paste along with the cheese, and are especially good if your gnocchi are to be served as a main course.
     3 to 4 TB minced fresh herbs, such as chives & parsley.
     1/4 to 1/2 cup minced cooked ham or bacon
     1/4 to 1/2 cup sauteed diced mushrooms or chicken livers.

I am serving mine for dinner tonight so I chose to add some cooked bacon to the paste.

Once you have made your pate a choux, and your potato gnocchi, there were a couple of ways to finish off the dish. One was with a cheese sauce which meant more pots and more cooking to create the sauce you would pour over the gnocchi before baking. I decided to pass on that recipe. The final recipe, the Gnocchi Gratines au Fromage, was simple and is as follows...
Gnocchi Gratines au Fromage (Gnocchi Baked with Cheese) 
The preceding gnocchi
1/2 cup grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
2 TBL. butter cut into peasized dots

Arrange the drained gnocchi in a shallow, buttered, baking dish. Spread the cheese over them and dot with butter. Set aside uncovered.
Ten minutes before serving time, reheat and brown them slowly under a moderately hot broiler.
This is the finished product. I made a small dish to try. It was delicious! Creamy, smooth, mild flavors.This definitely falls into the category of comfort food. I used both Swiss and Parmesan cheese and the blend was perfect. I could just taste the potatoes and the bacon was a nice background taste in addition to the cheese. I am going to serve these with some steamed broccoli (a favorite in my house) and some crusty french bread rolls.  The only other note I will add, if you don't like to wash dishes, don't make this recipe. Here is what my kitchen looked like when I finished. :) In all fairness a couple of those items were from baking Cottage Cheese Pufflets, but most of what you see came from making the Gnocchi baked with Cheese. I wouldn't make this every week, but, in my opinion, it was worth the mess. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Orange Scented Scones

This week's recipe, chosen by Robin of Lady Craddock's Bakery, is Orange Scented Scones. You can find the recipe posted on her site.

I love scones. I am the only one in my family who does. So, I didn't have to worry about sharing any of these with anyone else. :) Actually the husband tried one, but I think it's just because I was raving about them and he wanted to see what he was missing. He thinks they are too much like a biscuit and to him the only good biscuit is one with sausage and egg on it.

I read a lot of the posts from those of you who had already made these. One of the biggest things I kept seeing was most used more zest than was called for in the recipe. So, I did the same. I used the zest from one whole orange, and added about 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract to the dough. I wanted the orange to really come though on these.  This was a really simple recipe to make. I did use my food processor and it made quick work of putting the dough together. I loved how you could see tiny pieces of the zest and the butter in the dough.

I traveled to Ireland a couple of years ago and one of the high points for me was a stop at a farm house where we were served fresh baked scones with jam. The scones were round shaped instead of triangle shaped and that is how I chose to make mine. Before putting them in the oven, I brushed them with the heavy cream as suggested in the recipe. When it came time for the sugar I decided to try something a bit different and I added a few drops of orange extract to some raw sugar I have and then sprinkled that over the scones. I thought it might kick up the orange flavor a bit more.

I thought these were wonderful. You could smell the orange as they baked and the aroma was mouthwatering. I barely let them cool before biting into one. They were tender, buttery, melt in your mouth goodness. The raw sugar on top added the little bit of crunch I like in my baked goodies. They were great plain, nothing on them at all.  I ate two of them before they had been out of the oven 10 minutes! I loved the texture of them. I am planning on trying this recipe again, only next time I think I will play around with the "scented" part...thinking blueberry with lemon. Maybe apple with cinnamon. The combinations  are endless.

Thanks again to Robin for choosing this recipe!   Hop on over to SWS to see what the other bakers thought.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Guess this falls under random stuff...completed a triathlon today!

Yup, you read that right. I completed a triathlon today. I have a feeling it was probably my last triathlon, but, I did complete it. My official time...2:26:25. I hoped for under 3 hours and I made it in under 2 1/2. Yeah me!
(Added this picture after I got home)

No pictures. Not only did I forget to grab a towel before I left my house yesterday, I also forgot to bring my camera. There will be some on the website, though I am not sure when. And, I made some friends there and they took some pictures and promised to email them to me. So, perhaps later I will edit this post and add some pictures, however unflattering they may be.

This was a toughy. I trained hard for the swim part. Swam twice a week every week from June till the pools closed. Thought I was a pretty good swimmer by Labor Day. Hahahaha. Let me tell you, swimming in Chesapeake Bay is WAY different than swimming in the apartment complex pool where I did all my training. It was windy today and there were waves (albeit little waves they were still waves) and the water is salty. Guess I should have realized that, but until I swallowed my first (of many) mouthfuls, I hadn't thought about that. And, I swam in a wetsuit for the first time. It was suggested as protection from the jelly fish. Well, it hindered my movements and I wasn't the sleek, smooth, otter like creature I had been in the pool all summer. In fact, it got down right ugly before I staggered out of the water after the 1/2 mile I flailed around for.

Now, I have to peel this wet, wetsuit off me, get my socks and shoes (and my ankle brace-sprained my ankle in April and now have to wear a brace when I run) on and run 1/4 mile down to where the bikes are waiting. Get my gloves and helmet on and take off. I wasn't the last one out of the water, which made me feel a little better. There were two others still in when I staggered out.

So, I jump on my bike and I'm off. Feeling pretty confident about the bike part. I had put in a couple of long road rides and with a flat course I was feeling pretty good. What I didn't count on were two small details that almost did me in. One was a head wind that like to have killed me. Pedaled and pedaled and seemed like I was getting no where fast! The other thing, something so simple I never thought about it, was that though the course was flat, no hills at all, flat meant I had to pedal constantly. There were no hills to coast down. While I complained about climbing hills, at least you got to rest your legs while you coasted down them. No hills meant I never got to stop pedaling. That was the longest 15 miles I have ever biked. Oh, wait, it's the first 15 miles I ever biked! :D

By the time I got back to where the run was to start, I knew I was in trouble. I was breathing really hard and my legs were tired. I didn't know how tired till I got off the bike. I could hardly walk, and that is no exaggeration. My hands were shaking so bad that I couldn't get my helmet off. In fact, I forgot I had it on my head until someone asked me if I was going to run in it! They helped me get it off after a couple of failed attempts on my part. Oh and water! I had no water with me. So, I swam in salty water, drinking a fair amount of it, then biked 15 miles with nothing to drink. When I dropped my bike off I asked one of the volunteers for water and they were kind enough to hand me a bottle of ice cold water. Necture of the Gods I tell you!

So, all summer long while I have been swimming and biking I have been telling myself "The run in ONLY 31/2 miles, you can do that in your sleep". Another hahahahaha! I can go out and run 3 1/2 miles or run/walk it on any day, that's true. Any day that I haven't just swum 1/2 mile and biked 15 miles. I ran, no slowly jogged a couple of times during the 3 1/2 miles, but the majority of it I walked. I had a terrible stitch in my side that stayed with me for over a mile. My breathing was harsh, short, gasping sometimes. It was pretty ugly indeed. But, I hung in there, kept pushing and I jogged the final 2 tenths of a mile to the finish. Finish. Was there ever a more wonderful word in the world? I must admit here that I was crying like a baby for those final steps. There were people there cheering for me, Angel and Kelly, Tim, Melissa and Lynn. It was wonderful to finish up with their cheers in my ears. Hard to hear over my sobbing, but I did hear them and it was wonderful.

So, here I sit now, back at the hotel. I have a hot cup of coffee by my left hand, and a package of Tylenol by my right. I am going to get up, go turn on the shower and stand under it till it runs out of hot water. Then, I am going to go grab something to eat next door at the little restaurant, come back here to the hotel, take two of those Tylenols and go to sleep. Don't think that will be a problem tonight. Hey, I'm a triathlete!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mastering the art of French Cooking - Recipe One

I guess I am late jumping on the bandwagon. I still haven't seen the movie,but I decided to start a journey into french cooking.  I probably never would have, had it not been for Susan and the 4 recipes she has posted on her blog. The last one, this one, did it for me and I decided I had to go and get the cookbook and give it a go. Tonight I decided to try "Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme", or "Casserole-roasted Chicken with Bacon, Onions, and Potatoes". Mine also had steamed broccoli though Julia suggests serving broiled tomatoes for the color. I didn't have any tomatoes so I decided on broccoli, for the color.  :)

There were several steps for this recipe, but none of them were difficult. Besides the herbs, there were only 4 other ingredients. Chicken, small white onions, bacon and potatoes. (Not counting the broccoli because it wasn't in the recipe!) You fry up the bacon, then brown the chicken in the same pot you cooked the bacon in. Boil the onions, bring potatoes to a boil then drain them and add them to the pot.Put the chicken back in the pot, add the onions to the pot, put some herbs in, cover the whole pot with a lid and bake it in the oven for about an hour and a half, or less. Pretty simple stuff, at least for me.

The aroma of this dish baking was incredible. My husband came into the house and commented that something smelled really good. I told him it was a french dish, and he looked a bit apprehensive, but he's the kind of guy who will at least try anything I put on the table. He may suggest I never put it on the table again, but he will at least try it. Good man.

The only thing I did different, besides add broccoli, was the last 5 minutes of baking I cranked the heat up to 375 degrees, took the lid off and took the foil off the chicken and let it bake like that. I honestly don't think it did much, but that's what I did.
The chicken was moist, tender, fall off the bone delicious. The potatoes were tender and full of flavor from the bacon and onions. I had my doubts about the potatoes because you don't cook them before adding them to the pot. You just bring the water to a boil and drain them, roll them around in some hot butter and push them to the side of the pot to make room for the chicken. But, they turned out fabulous. Even the pearl onions were delicious. My husband's comment, after pushing away from the table, fat and sassy, was "That was really good, Babe, but I don't know how french it was". Men! Gotta' love 'em!
If you would like to try this dish yourself, Susan has it posted on her blog. I would post it here too, but since she already has it up on her blog I am taking the easy way out and just linking to it here. :)

Tuesdays with Dorie - Flaky Apple Turnovers

I would really  love to thank Jules for choosing this recipe! I love anything with apple. Apple pie, apple cookies, apple cake, apples with porkchops (which is what I did with the leftover apples that didn't go in my tarts, but that's another story), apples all by themselves. If it has apples in it,  its a winner with me. So, when I saw this weeks recipe I was thrilled!

I have never used sour cream in a dough for tarts or pies. But, I may never make it any other way after this. It came together so easily. I divided the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap, flattened it out and stuck it in the fridge for two days. I will say it was a bit hard to roll out. In fact, my abs were sore the next day and the only thing I could think of that I had done strenuous was roll out the dough.:D  Kind of chuckled at that. Rolled the dough out, folded it up and stuck it back in the fridge, until the next day when I was ready to put the tarts together. Rolled out the dough again, though I don't think I got it to 1/8 of an inch thick. I think my arms (and abs) gave out around 1/4 of an inch thick, but that was okay with me. 

About the only other change I made in the recipe was that I added about 3/4 of a teaspoon of cinnamon instead of the 1/4 teaspoon that Dorie calls for. I like a lot of cinnamon with my apples. 
I don't have a 4 1/2 inch cutter so I used the largest cutter in a set that I have and it was only 3 3/4 inch. That meant that the tarts were small and I could only put a small amount of the apple mixture in each tart. I think next time I will not only get a bigger cutter, but will chop the apples smaller. I mentioned earlier in this post that I had pork chops with the leftover apples. I  tossed some butter in a small frying pan and added the apple mixture to the pan. Cooked it until the apples were soft and served it with my pork chops. Oh my goodness, that was sooo good! I may have to make the apple mixture again just for that. 
I decided to freeze my tarts until I was ready to bake them. So, I put them all together and placed them in the freezer on a cookie sheet until they were firm enough to wrap and then I  placed them  in a container.
Last night I baked some of the frozen tarts for my hubby and I to have for dessert. I brushed the tops with some egg white, sprinkled some raw sugar on top and tossed them in the oven for about 22 minutes. The smell of the cinnamon in the apples baking was heavenly. I think that's one of my favorite scents.

The tarts were delicious!! The crust was flaky, tender, the apples cooked perfectly. The raw sugar on top added just a tiny bit of crunch. My hubby had his with whipped cream on top and I opted for plain. So good. I took one in my lunch today and ate it this afternoon. It was cold, but just as delicious. Maybe not as flaky, but still tender and oh so good. Did I mention that these were sooo good? Really. Really. Good. Trust me. :)
You can find the recipe on Jules's blog. Thanks again Jules for choosing this one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - rewind - Peanut Butter Torte

I was looking through my copy of "Baking, from my home to yours", trying to decide what recipe I would choose when it is my turn to pick. There are so many wonderful choices. The one that caught my eye right away was the Peanut Butter Torte. Chocolate, peanut butter, oreo cookie crust...I was sold. Then I looked through the completed recipes and much to my dismay I saw that "my" choice had already been done. :(

However I soon realized that was a good thing because now, I could make it whenever I wanted. And, I wanted to make it today. Right now!

I had most of the ingredients on hand, all but the peanuts and oreos. That meant a quick trip to the local grocery store, and then I was ready to get busy.

This was a pretty easy dessert to put together. There are a few steps, but nothing too complicated. The only thing I considered hard was waiting 4 hours for the mousse to set up. Couldn't do it! :P I waited about 3 hours then put the ganache on top and let it set for another 20 minutes before cutting into it.

Oh my! The picture doesn't do it justice. Even though the mousse was still a bit soft, it was silky, peanut buttery, rich, creamy, heavenly! The chocolate chips and peanuts were a nice contrast, floating in the fluffy goodness of peanut butter, whipped cream and cream cheese, a bit of crunch here and there, along with the crunch from the oreo cookie crust was perfection.  My hubby is not a big peanut butter/chocolate fan, but I noticed he just about licked his plate clean. I did! Well, not really, but I was sure tempted. Can't wait to see how it is tomorrow after it has a full 24 hours to set up.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Souffle

I am so excited!! This is my first official post since joining and being accepted into TWD.  Last week, though I hadn't heard from Laurie, I baked the Espresso Cheesecake Brownies. Of course I broke one of the rules right off the bat by posting on Sunday night instead of Tuesday. But, Susan  was kind enough to put a bug in my ear about posting on Tuesday only (of course if I had paid attention to the simple rules I would have noticed that)and, I wasn't really a member yet, so hopefully no harm done. 

I made this recipe twice. Was not happy with the way the first batch turned out. I baked some in a shallow baking dish I had that seemed to have the right capacity (6-7 cups) but I am not sure if I used too much butter on the dish, or it was too shallow or what, but the souffle did not rise, there were no cracks on top, it was just a flat dark brown circle in the bottom of the dish. No pictures of that mess!) The funny thing was though, that I also baked a little of the batter in a coffee cup, and it baked up fine. Puffed, looked great...until I tried to take it out of the silly cup to put on a plate to take a picture.

Not as pretty as it was in the cup, but the taste was fabulous. A slight crunch around the edges, while the center was soft, almost pudding like. And, the chocolate was so intense. I served it with the Cream Anglaise and it was delicious. Of course my hubby said it looked fine, just like the ones you see on the Three Stooges. Thanks honey. :}

I tried the recipe a second time. This time I baked it in small ramekins I bought just for the job. The recipe itself is not that hard. Melt chocolate and sugar, mix in milk and egg yolks, fold in egg whites and bake. I am not sure why all these years I have stayed away from trying souffles. Guess I heard too many horror stories. The second time they turned out perfect. The batter rose above the rims of all the dishes. It was cracked and tall and just beautiful. Of course, you don't have a lot of time to take photos with souffles. By the time I got them out, dusted them with powdered sugar, placed them on the plate and began to snap pictures, they were already sinking. But, I think I got a couple of good shots, and lord, were they delicious!

So, thank you Susan for choosing this recipe. I love chocolate and was so tickled to try something I had never baked before, and see it turn out so beautifully! Oh, and I am very happy to now be an official TWD baker!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Creme Anglaise

Next week's TWD is Chocolate Souffle. I was reading over the recipe and in the side bar where Dorie puts serving suggestions is this little blip "...but it's awfully good with Creme Anglaise". Since I plan on making the souffle I thought I would make the custard sauce, so, when I got home tonight, I gathered all the ingredients and gave it a go.

To say that I was a bit nervous about making this was an understatement.  I have never made anything custard like before. But, it was really easy to throw together. Bring some cream and milk to a boil. Add it to some beaten egg yolks and sugar. Cook to between 170 and 180 degrees. Add vanilla and chill.  I don't think it took 10 minutes (maybe 15) to finish. I think it got to the correct temperature pretty quick, and I may have heated it a tad over the 180 degree max, but it tasted great. 
I can't wait to try it over the souffle, once I work up the courage to bake it. :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dark Chocolate Macarons with Bittersweet Ganache and Toasted Almonds

With encouragement from Susan I decided to attempt macarons tonight. I have seen several different types that Susan made and they all looked great. I have to admit that the whole idea of macarons worried me. I, too, have heard the horror stories about how hard they are to make, how tempermental. But, I told myself that worse case senerio I waste a couple of eggs and a little bit of sugar. But, on the positive side, maybe I will learn a little something along the way. :)

I followed a recipe by David Lebovitz that Susan had posted on her blog, adapting it slightly to make up for not having powdered almonds. I did as Susan did and used slivered almonds that I ground in my food processor with the powdered sugar.  I used the full three tbls. of dutch cocoa called for in the recipe and regular sugar as I don't have superfine.

The egg whites whipped up beautifully. I mixed the dry ingredients into the egg whites, folding gently as the recipe said. Put it all in a pastry bag and started piping little circles onto parchment paper. When I tapped (several times, each time progressively harder than the previous) the pan on the counter to flatten the circles, they didn't flatten. I baked the first batch and they not only came out tall and pointed (my hubby said they looked like acorns)(I can always count on him for constructive criticism)  they also scorched on the bottom. (I forgot to put the empty pan underneath the pan with the cookies). The next batch I used wet fingers to flatten the cookies and placed an empty cookie sheet under the one with cookies on it.
They turned out perfect, with little "feet" as mentioned in Susan's description of hers. They were crisp when first bitten into and then light and chewy. The chocolate flavor was intense, using dutch cocoa instead of regular cocoa was perfect for what I was looking for, which was a dark chocolate flavored cookie. I decided to take them a step farther and I made a chocolate ganache with heavy whipping cream and Ghiradelli's bittersweet chocolate chips. I tried putting two cookies together with the chocolate between them, but thought they were a bit too big for my taste, so I spread the ganache on top of each cookie and then sprinkled chopped toasted almonds on top. 

 Divine! The ganache and toasted almonds on top not only looked good, it really added a little extra to  the cookie. The bittersweet chocolate compliments the dark cocoa flavor, and the toasted almonds intensify the ground almond. Being a BIG chocolate person, these really hit the spot with me. And, they really weren't that hard to make. I think my batter was a bit too thick, and next time I might add a little less cocoa to see if that helps, but all and all I think they turned out super.Wonder if I can incorporate peanut butter in the next ones.
If you are reading this Susan, I think you may have created a monster! :D