Saturday, October 31, 2009

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Cremes Brulees

Oh my! I am so glad I joined this group. If this month's recipe, Chocolate Cremes Brulees, chosen by our group leader, Julie, of Little Bit of Everything, is any indication of what we have to look forward to, I can't wait to dig deeper into this cookbook. You can find this month's recipe posted on Julie's blog.

The cookbook is "Chocolate Epiphany", by Francois Payard. Our group is Chocolate with Francois. If you are interested in joining us, click the link above and check us out. We bake once a month, posting on the 30th of each month.

This month's recipe, as I already mentioned earlier, was Chocolate Cremes Brulees. Up until this month, I had never attempted any type of Cremes Brulees. The whole blow torch, custard making, sugar crust  thing kind of scared me off, and I thought that they were very difficult to prepare.

Quite the contrary. This was such an easy dessert to pull together. You chop some quality chocolate (I used Lindt 70% caoco) add some boiled heavy cream, add that to some egg yolks and sugar, pour into ramekins and bake. Once those cool you sprinkle some sugar over the top and either place them under a broiler, or, in my case, have your hubby bring in his blow torch and caramelize the sugar for you. :)

I loved these!! I am now sorry that I only made half the recipe. I was afraid I wouldn't like them, or that they wouldn't turn out and I figured I would play it safe and only whip up half the recipe. The pudding or custard, (I guess it's more a custard than pudding) was creamy, smooth and oh so rich and chocolaty. The caramelized sugar crust on the top was crisp and that crispness was a wonderful compliment to the creamy custard. The recipe suggests using dried brown sugar, but I just used white sugar. My husband enjoyed using his blow torch to help me with this recipe. It's always good to get the hubby involved if you can. :)

Head on over to Chocolate with Francois to see what the rest of the gang thought of this one. This is definitely one I will make over and over again.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a Day

My good friend Susan, of She's Becoming DoughMessTic, just received a copy of "Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day". She is a friend of the co-author and was lucky enough to receive a copy to review. According to Susan she is a bread killer, but she was able to make some Pumpkin Pie Brioche, and from that recipe she made some amazing looking and sounding Pumpkin & Chocolate Toffee Cinnamon Buns with Caramel Cream Cheese Icing. While I think that everything that girl touches turns to gold, or at least something truly amazing to not only look at but to eat, these look to die for!  I have to get my hands on a copy of this book! If you would like a chance at winning a copy, head over to Susan's blog and leave her a comment telling her you want to win. It's that easy. And, who knows, you might just win! (Unless I am lucky enough to win!  :D)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte

Hi All! I am back from my trip to Germany and Ireland and I had a wonderful time. It's good to be baking again! :)

This weeks recipe was chosen by April of Short + rose, and it's a combination of chocolate and cherries. I love chocolate, but not so much cherries. However, my hubby loves cherries so I decided to bake this recipe for him. I seriously thought about skipping it when I started looking over the ingredients...I had no kirsch, no mascarpone cheese, no cherries, no cherry preserves. What pushed me into making it anyway was that I have missed two TWD's this month and didn't want to miss another one. :}

My local grocery store had the cherries and preserves, but no kirsch and no mascarpone cheese. So, I decided to use white wine instead and went with whipped cream cheese instead of the regular cream cheese and the mascarpone.

The brownie part gave me some trouble. I baked it for an hour and 5 minutes, and when I flipped it out of the pan, the very middle was still very soft. Not totally unbaked, but mushy. Then of course, there was the problems with the topping. I think it was supposed to have been runny to later firm up? Well, mine was soft and fluffy; it didn't pour onto the brownie, I spread it on. SinceI had done  everything else different than the recipe up to this point, I also added some cherry filling I had on hand (kind of like jam) to the whipped cream cheese, and spread a thin layer of it on the brownie before I spread on the topping.

The verdict?  I wasn't crazy about this one and probably won't make it again. My hubby said the cherries were too tart for his liking, though I noticed he ate the whole slice I gave him. I liked the topping I came up with the best. Well, I also liked the brownie, but only the parts without cherries, and there aren't too many of them.

If you want to see what the other bakers thought, head over to TWD, As for me, I always like trying new recipes, but I think this one will be a one time only for me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Devil's Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

I'm back! And, just in time to bake this wonderful dessert. This week's choice is Devil's Food Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and it was chosen by Holly of Phe/Mom/enon. Thank you Holly!  I love peanut butter and chocolate and this one did not disappoint.

The cake was very easy to put together and smelled delicious while baking. I was a bit taken back by the 6 sticks of butter in the frosting recipe, but stuck to the recipe as stated. I think in the future I will cut back on the butter a bit. The peanut butter taste came through, even though there is only a 1/2 cup of peanut butter in the frosting, but I found the frosting too rich, too buttery. Even my hubby, who seldom finds anything "too much" said the frosting was extremely rich.

The cake is fudge-like, almost like a brownie. The chocolate flavor is deep and intense. It was moist and delicious! I will use this devil's food cake recipe the next time I need a chocolate cake to impress.

So, thanks again Holly! I loved it, and would definitely make it again.Head over to Sweet Melissa Sunday's if you would like to see what the other SMS bakers thought

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some sights from Germany and Ireland

As some of you know, I came to Germany for a short vacation. I  also traveled to Ireland while on this side of the world.  I have taken over 300 pictures while traveling around (and I still have three days here) and I thought I would share these with anyone who reads my blog. Just a small taste of the sights and sounds I have experienced while here in Germany and Ireland.

This first picture is the skyline of Frankfurt. Also called Mainhatten because it is the only city in Germany with skyscrapers. This view is from Flößerbrücke, a bridge the crosses the Main river.

This area is know as Römerplatz. It is the oldest  part of Frankfurt. Most of Frankfurt was destroyed during the war, but this area survived. What was damaged was restored to it's original state.

This is the Dom, in Köln. What an amazing place. Breathtakingly beautiful, both inside and out. It took over 600 years to build it! There are 509 steps up a spiral staircase to the top and a view some 321 feet above the ground. 



Here we have the Blarney Castle, in County Cork, Ireland. This is where the famous Blarney Stone is kept. Another ascent up a spiral staircase. Not as high, only about 90 or so feet above ground, but much narrower. Then, you sit with your back towards the stone and someone firmly holds your feet. You lean far back and downward into the abyss while grasping the iron rails Then you lower yourself until your head is even with the stone, give it a quick kiss and you receive the gift of Eloquence, or so the story goes.  It can be quite scary, but something you should do if ever you get to Ireland. 

This is the Cathedral of St. Colman, in Cobh, Ireland. The cross at the very top is some 295ft. above ground. It is a beautiful church and stands overlooking Cork Harbor.

The rest of these are just fun pictures I took along the way...the fence at an old church we stopped at while on the way to Cobh. A half pint of Murphy's stout I enjoyed while on the Blarney Castle grounds, and some lovely flowers I found blooming along a path I wandered on. I hope you enjoyed this little trip to Germany and Ireland with me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Missing this one - still in Germany! :)

This weeks recipe, Allspice Crumb Muffins, chosen by Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table, was one I had marked in my book as a "must try" and was so excited to see it on the rotation, until I realized I would be in Germany the week it was to be baked. So, I will have to add it to my "future must try" list. In the meantime, head over to TWD to see what the other bakers thought.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Going to miss this one

I won't be making the yummy Sticky buns with toasted almonds that Jen of Not Microwave Safe picked. I am in Germany for the next 9 days and will be sitting this week and next week out. But, I thought I would share a picture of a delicious treat I had this afternoon while wandering around Romerberg.

If you would like to see how the other bakers did, be sure to stop by SMS. I will rejoin the group the 25th of October.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Split-Level Pudding - Take Two

I am a stubborn person. Could be the German in me or perhaps the Irish. I hate to give up on something. I am also very competitive. Hate to lose at anything. So, when my attempt at this weeks recipe, Split-Level Pudding ended up in the freezer because it didn't thicken, I was very upset.

I wasn't going to try to make the pudding until after my trip. I have a ton of things to do before I leave Friday morning. Packing is one of them. But, all day long I thought about the pudding. I read several posts yesterday that said they didn't use the food processor, just used a whisk. So, when I got home today I decided to give it another try.

I am very pleased to report that it turned out beautifully! I added one teaspoon of almond extract instead of vanilla, and used a whisk instead of the food processor, but that was the only change. I put it in a clear pudding dish and put it in the fridge and several hours later pulled one out and it was perfect! Yeah!!! I knew I could do it!!

While my pudding was cooling in the fridge, I worked on a cake for an 89 year old's birthday. I bake and decorate cakes. This one was ordered by my daughter's boss. He has ordered several cakes from me in the past. He thinks he's getting a simple sheet cake, but since he is a repeat customer and it's for someone who's going to be 89, I thought it should be a bit more special. Since it's October, and someone 89 is in the "autumn of their life", I went with a fall theme for decoration. I think he will like it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Split-Level Pudding

This weeks recipe was Split-Level Pudding and it was chosen by Garrett of The Flavor of Vanilla. This looked like such a yummy recipe and I was really excited to try it.

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. I had to have a "fail" on one of these recipes. This was it. A great big Fail! I will say in my defense that I am a baker, not a pudding maker. :)

I had such high hopes for this recipe. I decided to add espresso powder to the cornstarch and salt and make my split-level chocolate and coffee. It was going to be sooo good.

The ganache gave me no trouble. I brought the cream to a boil, poured it over the chopped chocolate, waited 30 seconds, slowly stirred and Wah Lah! Perfect! Poured that into the four ramekins I had set out.

I didn't start worrying about the second half until I added the hot milk to the processor and processed it. I had a very large amount of foam. Foam? But, I gallantly went on. I cooked the foam over medium heat, waiting for it to thicken. Had to keep lowering the heat as it was getting too hot too quick but not thickening. Finally it began to get thick, but was a strange texture, thick but full of holes. Again I continued on. Put it in my food processor, added the butter and vanilla and hit the pulse a few times...and ended up with a very thin liquid in my processor. Not at all pudding like. But, I put it into the ramekins and covered it with plastic and put them in the fridge. Checked them this morning and they were just as thin and watery as they were when I put them in the fridge. So, I did the only thing I could do. I stuck them in the freezer.

So, no pudding for my house. We had frozen icy milky stuff. It tastes great! However it is nothing like what it is supposed to be. I don't know where I went wrong. Not sure what step doomed the pudding, but I did something wrong. :( Someday I will try again, but not this week. I am heading to Germany on Friday and will be missing the next two Tuesdays. In the meantime, head over to TWD and see what everyone else thought.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays - Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

This weeks recipe, chosen by Cristine of Cooking with Cristine, is Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble. Thank you so much for choosing this recipe Cristine!

I knew when I saw the name of this one that it would be a winner. Apple-Pecan-Crumble. Winner-winner-winner! I am a nut for apples. If I see a recipe with apples it goes into my "have to try" pile. In fact, I had marked this recipe as a "have to" when I first got my cookbook and flipped though it. This and several others that have apples in them. And, at this time of year, what could be better? (Well, maybe something with pumpkin, my other love, but I digress!)

I had some Granny Smith apples leftover from another apple dish I did recently, so I only had to buy the other apples. McIntosh and Golden Delicious. I didn't see any Macouns around. I don't think I have ever seen those in any of the stores around here. My Golden Delicious were actually Golden Ginger apples. Never had them but hoped they would be close enough.

I think I sliced my apples a bit on the thin side. The recipe calls for 1/4" slices, but I think mine ended up being about 1/8" or even thinner. Because of that, they cooked down quite a bit. I didn't have a problem with that, but others might. You could still see that there were slices in the dish, but they were very soft.There was also a lot of juice, but not sure if that was from thin slices or just plain juicy apples. :)

Another thing I did was kick up the cinnamon. Recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon, but I love cinnamon in apples and I used close to a full teaspoon in my dish. I didn't have any ground allspice on hand either, but did have some whole allspice that I grated on a micro-grater.

I baked mine in my 2 3/4 quart Le Creuset casserole pan. It was the only dish that was close to the right size without being way too big or way too small. Sliced the apples, mixed in the spices, spread it in the Le Creuset., I then  mixed up the pecan crumble, which was incredibly easy to put together. I love the fact that you melt the butter and make a dough-like topping with the flour, sugar and pecans. I spead that on top of the apples, and stuck the dish in the oven.

For the next hour and 20 minutes I had to wear a bib to keep the drool off my clothes! That's a bit of an exaggeration, but the aroma of this dish baking was maddening. For me, the sense of smell is very important in cooking. Smelling good while being prepared is the first hurdle a recipe must pass in order to be good. This one passed with flying colors!

I took it out of the oven and it was just beautiful to look at. The crust was a nice golden brown, with bits of pecans peaking out here and there. You could see the juice from the apples bubbling up around the edges of the crumble topping. I gave it about 5 minutes and then cut into it with a big spoon. I put some in a dish and added a dollop of whipped topping to it and dug in.

Oh! My! Goodness! I loved it! There was just the right tartness to the apples and the extra cinnamon I added blended with the sugar and apples perfectly. I think, for me anyway, that less cinnamon wouldn't have been as good. The crumble was crunchy, sweet, nutty all at once, It was the perfect foil to the soft, tart apples that were underneath. I loved it warm from the oven (ate it twice that night) and it was just about as good cold from the fridge the next afternoon. This is definitly a keeper in my book. I am already thinking about different fruit and nut combinations that I can try...apples, pears, peaches, berries...walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds...I could go on and on. Why don't you go on to SMS and see what the other bakers thought. :)