Monday, November 30, 2009

Chocolate with Francois - Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Month two of Chocolate with Francois and this month's recipe is Flourless Chocolate cookies. You can find the recipe on page 56 of "Chocolate Epiphany" by Francois Payard. It was chosen by Karen of Karen's Cookies, Cakes and more. If you  would like the recipe,but don't have the book, be sure to drop by Karen's blog and check it out. This was a great choice and I want to thank Karen for picking it. With all the other baking I have been doing for the holidays, this was a nice, quick, simple recipe to pull together with fabulous results.

These were easy to put together and even easier to eat! Six basic ingredients that most bakers will already have in their cupboards... cocoa, confectioners sugar, salt, walnuts, egg whites and vanilla. The Dutch-processed cocoa powder give the cookies an intense chocolate flavor. The walnuts added a nice nuttiness to each bite. Francois warns about mixing the dough too much once you add the eggs whites and I guess I must have done just that, though I only beat the dough for the three minutes instructed in the recipe.  My cookies did not spread out like the ones pictured in the book and I have to guess it's because the dough was thicker than it should have been.  My cookies were puffy and rounded on top, not flat and thin. Still delicious, but they didn't look like the ones in the book. Of course, I am the only one who knew what they looked like in the book. The people I shared the cookies with had no idea what they were supposed to look like. They only knew how yummy the cookies tasted.

The cookies bake up shiny and cracked all over. Biting into one is like biting into a brownie with walnuts. I really liked these cookies!  A lot! Chewy, chocolate-y, nutty, delicious! If you need a quick cookie sure to please the chocolate lover in your family, these are for you.

Drop by Chocolate with Francois to see what the other bakers thought of these wonderful cookies. Next month...Pine Nut Turron Cake. I must say, it looks like a decadent cake. I have already purchased the pine nuts and all the different chocolates used in the recipe. You will have to come back next month to see how it turns out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Operation Baking Gals - Cookies for my soldiers!

If you came looking for my Sweet Melissa Sunday post, sorry to disappoint. I do not do fruitcake in any way, shape or form, not even for Sweet Melissa! :P But, be sure to check out Karin's blog, Sugar and Spice and everything nice. The Golden Almond Fruitcake was her choice this week, and her pictures make me wish I did like fruitcake!  Also, be sure to check out SMS's bakers page to see which bakers did join her in making the fruit cake.

What I did do this weekend was bake cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. About 47 dozen to be exact!

Operation Baking Gals, or Baking Gals as it is now known,  is a group I have been involved with for over a year now. I joined up in Round 2. The first round was when Susan of She's becoming DoughMessTic asked some fellow bloggers to join her in baking for a cousin who was stationed overseas. The outpouring was overwhelming. The rest as they say is history. I have baked in 13 of the 15 rounds since it's beginnings. I missed the first round because I didn't know about it at the time, and I missed a round this October because I was in Germany. I know, lame excuse, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it! :D

This round was a bit more special than most as I was baking for the nephews of two ladies I clean house for. I have been cleaning for them for a long time now and I had told both women about the organization when they mentioned having family members that were serving overseas. I asked them for the names and addresses of the boys (though it is just as often a girl we bake for) and I passed the info onto Lyndsay, who is our fearless (and tireless) leader now. She got both boys assigned to teams for this round and I joined both teams so I could bake for these two boys.

Did I mentioned I baked a lot of cookies. Here's a breakdown on what I baked...

6 Dozen Oatmeal Raisin (would have baked more but ran out of oatmeal!)
13 Dozen Walnut Chocolate Chip
15 Dozen Peanut Butter with Peanut Butter chips
13 Dozen Molasses cookies (the same molasses cookies we baked with TWD this month!)

I started Saturday morning by making the dough for all the cookies. I made double batches of every kind except the Oatmeal Raisin and that is because I didn't realize I only had enough oatmeal on hand for one batch. Once I had all the doughs made I cleaned up the kitchen and began baking. I started baking the first batch of cookies around 11 Saturday morning and finished the last batch about 9:30 that evening. I took a break long enough to heat up leftover Thanksgiving for dinner, eat it, and then get back to baking cookies. It's a labor of love people. :) When I was done I had about 564 cookies all waiting to be packaged for their trip overseas.

I divided the cookies between the two soldiers and vacuum sealed them for travel. I also enclosed boxes and boxes of Starbucks new VIA instant coffee. It's really good for instant; I drink it and took it to Germany with me so I could have coffee whenever I wanted, no coffee pot needed! I think I had 13 boxes of the 12 packs and about 26 packs of the three packs for each soldier. So, what's that, about 234 "cups" of coffee I am sending.  Much easier than sending pounds of ground coffee and worrying about whether or not the guys or girls have a coffeepot handy to brew it in. And, my local Starbucks collects the packages of VIA from customers and gives it to me to send to "my" soldiers! They are the best!

I packed all the cookies and coffee into 4 separate boxes. Couldn't get it all to fit in just one box per soldier. Thank goodness for flat rate shipping as the boxes are heavy. I also enclosed a letter from me and a few pictures of my family, pets and the local wildlife (deer). The guys who get the boxes like knowing a little about who shipped them. 

Tomorrow I will head to the local post office and mail these boxes out. Official shipping dates are December 1-16, but I am shipping tomorrow. One of the reasons is I already have the addresses of the boys since I know the aunts and I figure one day early won't be a bad thing.

If you ever want to do something to let a soldier know that what they do is appreciated, please stop by BakingGals and join a team. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you do. :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cran-Apple Crisps

This week's recipe is actually the All in One Holiday Bundt cake, chosen by Britin of The Nitty Britty. I made this recipe last week and it was fabulous! So rich and hearty and full of wonderful fall ingredients.

This week I baked the Cran-Apple Crisps, which was the recipe for the week of November 10. It was chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef.  Be sure to check out both of their blogs to see what they thought of their choices, and to get the recipes to try for yourself.

So, back to the crisps. So easy and so delicious. Not much more to say. I didn't have any dried cranberries so I added raisins to mine. I love apples and raisins anyway so it was a good switch. I also used two different kinds of apples...Granny Smith and Gala. Figured the Gala would offset the tartness of the Granny Smiths and the tartness of the cranberries.

I made the topping just as Dorie wrote the recipe. I like coconut and wanted to see what it added to the topping. I honestly can't say I even noticed it. Something added a nice crunch to the final product and I guess it could have been the coconut, but I really didn't taste coconut. And, I was almost disappointed by that. Almost.

The finished dish was amazing. Tart and sweet. Soft and crunchy. I didn't add anything else to mine, though I did put a dollop of whipped cream on the hubby's. (He eats whipped cream on just about everything!) As with any dish with cranberries, he commented on the tartness. But, he finished the bowl. (He left all the wonderful raisins in the dish though...can't get him to eat those!)  I did have one complaint and that was that the apples cooked down, so that heaping ramekins I put in the oven came out slightly over half full. :(  Next time (Oh yes, I will make this again!) I will pack the fruit in the bowl, rather than just spoon it in as I did.

So, thumbs up to Em for picking this one. It was a big winner with me. Please stop by TWD to see what everyone else baked this week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas

Sorry gang, no SMS for me today. I don't own a waffle iron and while I like a banana every now and then, I don't care for them cooked in any way, shape or form. So, I will sit this one out.

But, I would like to thank Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream for chosing this weeks recipe. I do like waffles and may get an iron one day, but couldn't see buying one just for this recipe. Please stop by Lauren's blog to see how yummy the waffles look. And, check out what the other SMS bakers thought of this one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - All in one Holiday Bundt Cake

This weeks recipe is actually supposed to be Sugar-topped Molasses Spice cookies, which Pamela of Cookies with Boys picked. Pamela did bake that recipe this week and has posted it. Be sure to check it out on her blog. (I baked the cookies last week and they are delicious!) But, since Laurie said we could bake November's recipes in any order we liked, I made the All in one Holiday Bundt cake, which is next weeks recipe and was chosen by Britin of The Nitty Britty. Be sure to drop by Britin's blog next week to catch the recipe.

I loved this cake! And, in my case, what's not to love...pumpkin, apples, cranberries, many of my favorite, yummy goodies all rolled up in one delicious cake. I considered making changes, using walnuts in place of pecans. I also considered omitting the cranberries as my hubby is not a big fan of them (too tart for his tastes), but in the end I stayed true to the recipe. And, I am glad I did.

This was another easy recipe to pull together. I love that about Dorie's recipes. None have been really difficult to make, or at least as long as I have been with the group that holds true. In no time at all I had this cake mixed up and in the oven.

The aroma as it baked was divine. Holiday aromas to be sure. Smelling it as it baked made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Well, not really, but it did smell great. I could hardly wait for it to finish baking and become cool enough to cut.

I made the maple syrup glaze for the top of it. I also saved a few chopped pecans to sprinkle on top after pouring the glaze over the cake. It was almost too pretty to cut...almost! :)

Delicious!! While my hubby commented on the cranberries ("Boy, these are tart!"), the only other things out of his mouth were mmmmm noises. I didn't waste anytime talking. I just ate.

Please drop by TWD to see what all of the other bakers baked this week.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chocolate with Francois - Charlie's Afternoon Chocolate Cake

Normally, we in Chocolate with Francois, only bake one recipe a month. However, our fearless leader decided we could have a bonus round  this month (so to speak) and chose Charlie's Afternoon Chocolate Cake as that recipe.

What a great choice! This cake was so easy to pull together. I used a springform pan for mine. I was worried about getting it out of a regular cake pan. In less than 30 minutes you can have a cake cooling on the counter.

From the picture I was expecting a dense, rich, brownie, almost pudding-like cake. It also looks a bit tall in the picture. My cake was not so tall...maybe an inch if that. And, the texture, while moist, was not at all like the texture of the one in the book.

First bite and the dense brownie-like cake I was expecting was instead a light, almost airy cake. It almost dissolved in my mouth. Not at all what I was expecting. Then the rich bittersweet chocolate taste flooded my mouth and it was heavenly. I served mine with a dusting of confectioners sugar and a dollop of whip cream. It was delicious and the fact that it was so easy to pull together places it high on my list of favorites. You must try this cake!

Head over to Chocolate with Francois to see what some of the other bakers thought of this one.

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Butter Toffee Crunch

This week's SMS recipe was chosen by Kaitlin  of Kait's Plate, and it's a great choice for this time of year. I personally make or bake something for all 27 of my cleaning customers. Sometimes its mini pumpkin chocolate chip loaves, sometimes I make cake truffles. Last year I made peanut butter balls. It usually takes some time and I spread it out over the month of December, baking or making something almost every night for the next day's customers. But, it's a labor of love and my way of saying thank you for their continued business. I can see using this recipe for Christmas gifts this year.

This was not too difficult to put together. You do need a thermometer for checking the temperature of the toffee as it cooks, but other than that it was pretty simple. I cut the recipe in half, and a good thing I did as I was almost a 1/2 of a cup short of light brown sugar. I subbed dark brown for that little bit, and it may have made a difference. The toffee seemed very dark, even though so little dark brown sugar was used.

But, it turned out great. I have only tried a tiny piece but it was crunchy and chocolaty and delicious. Oh, I also used bitter sweet chocolate chips as that is all I had on hand (need to make a run to the store to restock) but I think the bitter sweet is actually a nice contrast to the sweetness of the toffee. And, the chopped almond give just the right nuttiness to the candy.

So, thanks Kaitlin for choosing such a great recipe. This will not only make great gifts, but I can see using it in recipes (thinking cakes) to add a little something extra, a little something special. If you would like to see what the other bakers thought, head over to SMS.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie- Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice

This weeks recipe is supposed to be Cran-Apple Crisps and it was chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef. Head over to her blog to see a beautiful picture of how it is supposed to look when finished. However, since we have been given the leeway to bake November's recipes in any order we'd like, I chose to make the Sugar-topped Molasses Spice cookies instead. I will make the Cran-Apple crisps Thanksgiving week. Next week, stop by Pamela of Cookies with Boys blog to see her choice, which I made this week.

I decided to bake these cookies to kill three birds with one stone. Bird number one was, of course, one of the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes. Bird number two, I needed gingersnap cookies to make a crumble for the top of some muffins I baked with SMS, and knew these cookies would fit the bill (though as my son pointed out, there is a difference between gingersnap cookies and molasses cookies, but I digress!). The third bird I wished to kill was having something yummy to bake for my Operation Baking Gals team, Team Oven Loving for the Recovering - East Coast. So, this recipe worked out great for me. I love it when a plan comes together! :)

These were no real trouble to put together. The dough was very soft when I wrapped it in plastic and placed it in the freezer to cool for 30 minutes. It was still a bit soft when I began to use it; my palms were coated in cookies dough after rolling just a couple of balls. I just cut smaller portions to work with and kept the rest in the fridge.

I did not make big cookies, mine were maybe two inches across. I wanted enough to ship to my soldiers and enough to crush for the crumble. I ended up with about 5 dozen, give or take a couple. (Like the couple two or three I ate)

I rolled the first batch in raw sugar, liking the look of the big granules of sugar. Unfortunately, I ran out of the raw sugar and the remainder cookies were rolled in granulated white sugar instead. My house smelled wonderful as these cookies were baking.

The cookies tasted as wonderful as they smelled while baking. These were soooooo very good. I am glad I shipped all of them off. They were dangerous.  The couple I ate was actually more like 4 or 5...I lost count! They were crispy around the edges when you first bit into them and then the center was soft and chewy. The flavor was delicious. I added a good sized pinch of black pepper to mine, and didn't think it made them too hot at all. In fact, I think I would add a touch more in the future. My son's favorite cookie is Molasses, and when he heard I gave them all away he was crushed. That's okay. Just gives me a reason to bake another batch.

So, be sure to stop by Cookies with Boys  next week to get the recipe. You won't be sorry. And, if you would like to see who baked what this week, head over to TWD.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Pear Cranberry Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble

I almost forgot to post this! Been a busy weekend and a busy day and now, at 9:30 Sunday night I just realized I hadn't posted for SMS yet. Nothing like getting in under the wire! :D

This week's recipe, chosen by Jennifer of Maple N' Cornbread was Pear Cranberry Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble. I love muffins and was excited to try these. I baked a lot of different things this weekend and one of the things I baked was Molasses spice cookies and I decided to use them for the gingersnap crumble.

These were quick and easy to pull together. I didn't make any changes in the recipe. I just read the posts on the P&Q and saw that a lot of people made changes to keep the muffins from being too dense, but I missed that, and, after trying these, didn't think they were too dense for my tastes.

The gingersnap crumble was also easy to pull together. I only wished I had known how much the muffins would spread as they baked. I put on what seemed like a "ton" of crumble only to have it separate and spread out over the top of the muffins so it seemed like there wasn't much at all. I am sure the muffins would be even better with the crumble covering the muffin tops rather than just here and there.

These tasted delicious. I could detect the orange from the zest , not overpowering, just a nice undernote. The tart cranberries were a nice compliment to the pears' sweetness. And, the occasional crunch from the gingersnap crumble contrasted nicely with the moist crumb of the muffin. My hubby and I ate two of them, each, for breakfast this morning.

I loved this batter and am already thinking of the different ingredients I could add to it. Of course, apples and raisins were the first ones I thought of, but the variations are endless. This is a good recipe to keep handy. I am planning on making these again tomorrow morning, to take to my son and daughter-in-law's house for breakfast.

So, thanks again Jennifer. Great choice! And, if you would like to see what the other bakers thought, click here!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day - Crusty White Sandwich Loaf

Whenever I get one of those surveys that asks you "What's your favorite..." and it asks for my favorite smells, one of them is always the smell of bread baking in the oven (fresh ground coffee is another in case you are interested). Before I got a bread machine for Christmas one year I used to make bread. Not often, but every once in a while the mood would strike me and I would get all my ingredients out and spend the afternoon working with dough. I don't think there is much else as satisfying as mixing flour, salt, sugar, water and yeast and ending up with a loaf of crusty bread. But, it's a bit of work. All that kneading and rising and punching and kneading. I am not against work...I clean houses for a living and believe me, that is work. But, I stopped making fresh bread by hand and only used the bread machine. Then, even that fell by the way side. Maybe it was because you don't get your hands on the bread, don't get to play with it so to speak. Don't get me wrong, bread in a bread machine is still fresh baked, but not quite the same as when I made it the "old fashion" way.

Then I came across a post from a friend of mine who had made fresh baked Pumpkin Pie Brioche, using a recipe from "Healthy Bread in 5 minutes a day". (That almost seems like an oxymoron, healthy and pumpkin pie in the same sentence!) I made the bread (see my earlier post about Sweet Melissa Sundays and bread pudding) and decided I had to have the cookbook. Turned out there was an earlier cookbook, "Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a Day". I bought them both.

Yesterday one of my cleaning customers canceled and I decided to take the "free" time (like there is any such thing) and try a recipe from "Artisan Bread...".  Figured I would keep it simple. I was planning on grilled pork chops, scallop potatoes and broccoli for dinner and thought some fresh baked bread would be a perfect addition to everything else.

I kept it simple, choosing a white bread recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand. Being a baker means there is always flour, salt and yeast in the house. The only other ingredient needed was warm water. I had the dough mixed up and resting on the counter in no time. No kneading required with this bread. Just cut a hunk of the rested dough from the container it is in, shape into a ball, and then an oval. Drop in a loaf pan (that is how I chose to bake mine, though you can bake it as a round if you like), let it rest a bit longer then pop in the oven.

The bread was ready in 35 minutes. The crust was brown, cracked, crusty. The interior was soft, but not spongy. Rustic looking, with lots of small holes throughout. When you bit into the bread, you were first rewarded with a crisp, chewy crust and then an almost creamy texture from the bread itself. It was more substantial than the breads I have made in the bread machine. It held up to slicing much better, not flattening out when you tried to cut a slice and not crumbling apart. It actually took me back to Germany and the wonderful breads I ate while there on a recent trip. If this simple white bread recipe is any indication of what's to come as I delve deeper into each of the books, I can not wait! And, the best part? It really is simple, quick and easy to have fresh baked bread in no time at all.

I have posted the recipe below. The first part is the "Master Recipe". You will need that to make the Crusty White Sandwich Loaf.

The Master Recipe : Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)
Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. 

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop and sweep method
Cornmeal for pizza peel

Mixing and Storing the Dough
1. Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100*F. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. You can use cold tap water and get an identical final result; then the first rising will take 3 or even 4 hours. That won't be too great a difference, as you will only be doing this once per stored batch.

2. Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl, or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in the flour - kneading is unnecessary: Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula;don't press down into the flour as you scoop or you'll throw off the measurement by compressing. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cup or larger) fitted with a dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. If you're hand-mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don't knead! It isn't necessary. You're finished when everything is uniformly moist without dry patches. This step is done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

4. Allow to rise: Cover with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you're using. Do not use screw-topped bottles or Mason jars, which could explode from the trapped gases. Lidded plastic buckets designed for dough storage are readily available. Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature approximately 2 hours, depending on the room's temperature and the initial water temperature. Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the result. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. So, the first time you try our method, it's best to refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours), before shaping a loaf.

Crusty White Sandwich Loaf
      This variation will give you some experience baking high-moisture dough in a loaf pan. You must use a nonstick pan; they work well but still require a light greasing. Wet dough usually sticks miserably to traditional pans no matter how much you grease them.
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Boule dough
Neutral-tasting oil for greasing the pan

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan with a neutral-flavored oil.

2. Elongate the ball into an oval and drop it into the prepared pan. You want to fill the pan slightly more than half full. (I ended up putting two balls end to end in the prepared pan and they baked together to form one loaf)

3. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes; (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Dust with flour and slash the top crust with the tip of a serrated bread knife.

4. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450*F, with an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread. A baking stone is not essential when using a loaf pan; if you omit it, you can shorten the preheat by 5 minutes.

5. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 35 mnutes, or until brown and firm.

6. Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing or eating.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

It's the most wonderful time of the year! :) Fall. Colorful leaves. Apple cider. Pumpkin pie. Crisp, cool nights. I love this time of year. I think all of the recipes this month for Tuesdays with Dorie make me think of Fall. We were given the choice of making any of the November recipes in any order this month, because they are all good for fall/holiday gatherings. I chose to make the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake, the recipe that Katya of Second Dinner picked.

There were a lot of steps to this one, though none of them hard. First, you make a chocolate caramel ganache. I almost quit after making that. Not because it was hard or because the rest of the recipe intimidated me. It was because the ganache was so delicious, just as it was, all by itself. I was tempted to just put some in a bowl and eat it as a pudding. It's rich, and smooth and the caramel flavor blends perfectly with the combination of milk and bittersweet chocolates. But, hard as it was, I showed some self-control and put the ganache in the fridge to cool overnight.

Next I baked the cake. I searched high and low for chestnut spread. I was able to find chestnuts (I think it was in the 4th store I tried) but no spread anywhere. I finally decided to try and make my own. I took all but 10 of my chestnuts and placed them in a pan with water and sugar. I simmered this on the stove until it reduced. Added a touch of vanilla, poured it into my small food processor and processed away! I ended up with a something that was smooth and spreadable and made of chestnuts, so I called it chestnut spread and continued with the recipe. :D Once the cake was baked  and cooled I wrapped it in plastic and set it on the counter to rest overnight.

I next made the brandy syrup. That was easy. Brandy and brown sugar. Done.

I did all the above on Sunday (while also working on my Bread Pudding for SMS and making biscotti for my Secret Baker) and when I got home Monday night I started the glaze for the cake. Another simple step. Chocolate melted with boiled cream that has water and sugar added. Let it set on the counter till it thickens.

In addition to my cleaning business, I bake and decorate, birthday, anniversary, most any occasion. So, I have a supply of edible dusts on hand and, gold was one of the colors I had. I dusted my chestnuts and then got ready to put all the steps together to complete the cake.

Pretty simple and straightforward. Cut the cake into thirds. Put a layer down, brush syrup over it, cover it with ganache, place next layer on that, repeat, place third layer on top, cover with glaze, place chestnuts on top.

It's very pretty when it's all done, smooth ganache with the gold chestnuts marching across diagonally. But, the proof is in the pudding and I wondered if it would taste as pretty as it looked.

It did not disappoint. There are so many different flavors going on with each bite. I was able to taste the bittersweet of the glaze, then there was just the tiniest bit of heat from the brandy syrup. Next the subtle flavor of the chocolate caramel ganache, both the chocolate and caramel blending with the other tastes. And, the cake! While I think I may have over baked it a bit, it was still moist and soft and delicious. There are so many complex blendings going on with this cake, yet each one compliments and works with the others. I liked it! It is definitely something I would bake again. It would be great for a holiday gathering. I might even sprinkle a little gold dust over the glaze to add more pizazz to it.

So, thank you Katya for choosing this one. If you would like the recipe, head over to her blog to check it out. And, if you want to see what the other bakers thought, you know the drill...Me? I am going to go cut another slice of this cake. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Sweet Almond Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce

This week's recipe, Sweet Almond Bread Pudding with Raspberry Sauce was chosen by Candace of Candy Girl. This was one that I was very happy to try.

I love bread pudding. I have never passed up a chance to order it when I see it on a  menu, or try it at a party. However, I have never made it myself. My hubby doesn't care for it (he doesn't think bread and dessert belong in the same sentence) and I could never justify making it just for myself. Until now. :)

Though the recipe sounded fabulous just like it was, I made some changes. First of all, earlier this week I baked some Pumpkin Pie Brioche. The recipe is posted on a friend's blog. When I made the brioche I didn't realize I needed brioche for this recipe. When I read this recipe and saw brioche listed in the ingredients, I decided to make my bread pudding with that Pumpkin Pie Brioche.

Using Pumpkin Pie brioche steered me to another change. Instead of using almonds, I decided pecans would be better with the flavor of the brioche. I also decided to cut the recipe in half. Figured I didn't need to eat the full recipe all by myself. :) My hubby may decide to try it, but odds are he won't care for it and I will have to eat it all. Oh the sacrifices we bakers must make.

I love how simple this was to put together. I may be in trouble now. I always thought bread pudding was difficult to make, but this was pretty easy. I made one more small change...I added some granulated brown sugar to the top rather than use white sugar. I thought the brown sugar and pecans would work better with the Pumpkin Pie brioche.

It smelled wonderful while baking. The pecans toasted up beautifully and the brown sugar added a nice color to the bread cubes on top.

I did not have any raspberries in the house, but I did have some seedless raspberry jam and I melted a little of that and drizzled it over the finished pudding.

The verdict? Fabulous! I loved the flavor of the pumpkin and the raspberry. The crunch of the pecans and bread cubes on top contrasted with the creamy, almost pudding like consistancy of the bread pudding. This is definitely what comes to mind when you think "comfort food".  I am hoping the hubby hates this so I can have all of it for myself!

Please go to SMS to see what the other members thought. I will be making this recipe again and will try it the way it is in the book next time. Thanks Candace! Loved this one!