Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Melissa's Butterscotch Pudding

I just noticed that this will be my 66th post! Won't be long and I will hit 100. And, just a few short months ago, I didn't know anything about having a blog. Excuse me while I wipe away a tear. :)

Pudding. My usual experience with pudding is to open one of those boxes and pour some milk into a pan with the contents of the box, stir, heat and eat. I don't usually make pudding from scratch. The last time I made a pudding, I had to put it in the freezer so I could eat it with something other than a straw. (I went back and tried the same recipe a second time with better results). So, I was a bit nervous about trying this week's recipe, which Jennifer of Maple n' Cornbread (such a great name for a blog and such a pretty blog!) picked for us. You can find the recipe on her blog.  I thought about passing, but I did have everything on hand I needed to try it and decided to give it a go.

I halved the recipe. I happen to like butterscotch and pudding, but the hubby is a fan of neither. He's a cake/cookie/brownie kind of guy. Pudding? He would use it on top of a piece of cake or brownie in place of whipped cream, but never eat just pudding on it's own. So, knowing all of this, I figured half the recipe would be more than enough. Thought about making a quarter of the recipe, but it made my brain hurt trying to cut it in half and then cut it in half again. :D

Followed the recipe to a "T". I was a bit startled and concerned with I added the amber colored sugar to the cream mixture and it (the sugar) became this mass of solid rock in my cream! I didn't panic (too much). I just kept stirring and stirring and finally the rock melted into the cream and all was well again.

Filled the bowls I was using for the pudding, placed them in an 9x9 inch baking pan and filled the pan half way up the bowls with hot water. Covered with foil and into the oven it went.

I checked after 45 minutes and my pudding was still very liquid-y. I recovered the pan and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Checked again and it seemed more solid, but I decided to check the temperature as Melissa suggests in the recipe. I got 157 degrees and pulled the puddings from the oven. Set them on the counter, still in the pan and let them cool to room temperature. The very centers still seemed a bit jiggle-y, but I figured it would firm up in the fridge.

Well, the outer edges of each pudding firmed up, but the very center, about a 1/2 circle stayed liquid. The flavor is wonderful. It's warm, rich, not too sweet. Silky on the tongue. It's a delicious pudding and I could see making it again. What a wonderful pie filling it would make. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I am sure the problem with the still liquid center is my fault. Either I under-baked them, or didn't have the thermometer placed in the center, or who knows. I won't call this a true "Fail" because some of the pudding is, well, pudding. Had the center thickened up, it would have been perfect.

If you would like to see what the other SMS bakers (or pudding makers!) thought, please head over and check them out! Can you believe next week's recipe will the be first one in February?!?!

One last thing I would like to leave you with. We received about 9-10 inches of snow yesterday. Living in the country, we see a lot of deer and turkey in our back yard. This morning, while at the kitchen sink looking out into the yard, I spotted this small button buck foraging for something to eat. I ran, grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures. After he wandered off, I cut up some apples and put them out there for when he returns.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Pets De Nonne

This month's recipe was Chocolate Pets De Nonne and it was chosen by Maggie of The Other Side of 50.  The name literally means "nun's fart". Not exactly a name that would make you want to rush out and make them. :) But, rush out and make them I did.

I decided to halve the recipe. I have been trying to not only cut back on expenses to help the budget, but I have been trying to cut back on the amount of dessert items in the house. My hubby and I are trying to re-lose the weight that tracked us down and found us, after we lost it last year. Darn weight! Anyway, I thought half of the recipe was okay. Figured I'd end up with about 10 of the "nun's farts" and that would be fine.

I am not sure where I went wrong. But, something went horribly wrong that day. The recipe came together easily. I ended up with a nice smooth dough. But, my dough was a bit more like batter. Not runny, but I would not have been able to pick it up and make balls out of it.

I heated my oil up in a pan, being sure to watch the temperature. When all was ready I used a small scoop I have to drop small balls of the dough into the oil. Things got really ugly at that point. The balls of dough that are supposed to fry up into beautiful doughnut hole shapes (see Maggie's pictures; her's are perfection!) spread out in the oil like those snakes you get around the fourth of July. You know the ones I mean. You light it and this black thing starts slithering out from nowhere onto the sidewalk. Well, picture one of those snakes in a pan of oil. Let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. Oh, but what was even less pretty? When I took those Pet De Nonne out of the pan. I am going to attach a picture just so you can understand my horror at what I created. No "nun's farts" here. I created "nun's poopies"! Excuse my mouth, but that is what I thought the things cooling on my paper towels looks like.I think I got one or two small round balls, then it all went to h*** in a hand basket.  Not good. Not pretty. Fail! :(

After looking at a couple of the other bakers finished products, I may try this again. It sounded so good...chocolate doughnut holes, fried and then dusted with powdered sugar. If you would like to see how the other bakers fared with this one, check out CWF! I sure hope I have better luck next month when it's my turn to host!!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits & A Beachy Cake

Remember the other day when I posted the crazy Chocolate Avocado cake with Avocado Buttercream? I mentioned that I had lifted the recipe from Joy the Baker's blog. Well, that same day as I was perusing Joy's blog, I came across a recipe for the tastiest biscuits I have seen in a while. I am a sucker for anything with "pepper" in the title. I don't use salt, unless a recipe calls for it. I don't add it to anything I put on a plate to eat. I figure there is enough salt in most everything we eat and I don't need to add any more. (Wish my husband felt the same, but that is another story). But pepper? I add pepper to almost everything. I keep a pepper mill on the table in front of where I sit so I can add fresh ground pepper to my food. When I saw this recipe, Cheddar Black Pepper Biscuits, I knew I had to try it. Joy's photos of the recipe being put together are great. Looks like you could reach right through your computer screen and snatch a biscuit.

Tonight I didn't have anything in particular planned for dinner and was sitting on the couch watching the weather forecast (10-14 inches of snow!) when I remembered I had printed the recipe for the biscuits and thought how yummy breakfast would be for dinner, with those biscuits on the side. Now, my hubby, while a hard core salt man, does not care for pepper. Too hot for his taste buds (wussy!) and normally when I cook I try to avoid adding pepper to things. But, tonight I wanted to try this recipe like it was intended. I figured I would apologize to my hubby later. :)

It took no time at all to whip these up. Took longer for the shortening to get cold in the freezer than it took to mix everything up and have the biscuits cut and on a baking sheet. I brushed the tops with heavy cream and then, being the loving wife I am, I only added fresh ground pepper to the tops of half of the biscuits. There is pepper in the dough, but I went a tad lighter then the recipe called for. But, I decided I could load up the tops of my biscuits.

15 minutes later I had the most wonderful looking biscuits cooling on my counter. They baked up tall and flaky looking. I scrambled some eggs for my hubby, heated up some sausage (I precook a couple of pounds of deer sausage and keep it in the freezer. Then when I need some, I only have to zap it a minute in the microwave) for him and put two of the biscuits on his plate. He ate his with butter.

For mine, I took Joy's advice and fried up a couple of eggs, cooked a couple of slices of bacon and made biscuit sandwiches.

Oh. My. Goodness. Hubby and I both loved, loved, loved these. They tasted every bit as good as they looked. Tender, buttery, flaky without crumbling apart in your hands (like a certain doughboy's do when baked). The cheddar cheese was subtle. The pepper? My hubby didn't really notice it in his. I could tell mine were peppery but I think it was more from the tops than from inside the biscuit. These were so good. And, because they were so quick to make I think I will stop buying the bags of frozen biscuits at the store and make my own.  Try these. You won't be disappointed! You can find the recipe here...

One last thing. I was contacted this week to do a small anniversary cake for one of my daughter's co-workers. The young lady told me that her and her hubby were married on a beach and that while on their honeymoon they saw starfish. She asked if I could do something that would incorporate those things. This is what I came up with. The chairs are wood and from a little kit I bought at a dollar store, knowing they would come in handy one day. The shells and starfish are melted chocolate. The towels and umbrella and flip flops are fondant. Everything else is buttercream. When I delivered it, the young lady was thrilled!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cocoa-Nana Bread

Bananas?  Love 'em. Banana bread? Not so much so. In fact, I abhor bananas in anything baked. So, it was with much trepidation that I approached this week's recipe, Cocoa-Nana Bread, which Steph of Obsessed with Baking picked as her choice for TWD. You can visit her blog for the recipe and to check out all the other yummy things she has baked. Great photos too!

I can honestly say that if I hadn't seen a review for this bread last week, when one of our bakers mixed up the order of the Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy bars with this recipe (sorry, I forgot who), I would have skipped it. See my opening paragraph. :)

But, that baker said she wasn't too sure about the combination but forged ahead anyway and was pleasantly surprised. So, on that recommendation I decided to try it.

I had two bananas and I have to say letting them get brown and spotty was so hard! I eat my bananas while the skin is still pristine and yellow, not a brown spot to be seen. To me the bananas got uglier and uglier as the week went on. But, I stilled my doubts and soldiered on.

As easy as this recipe was to put together, it was also hard for me. Peeling overripe bananas, smelling the overripe smell, mashing them (mushy slimy things!) was difficult. I am sorry if I am upsetting any really ripe banana lovers out there. Everyone has their likes and dislikes and really ripe bananas are one of my dislikes. :P

Whipped everything up, tossed it in the oven and let it bake. I checked it after about 60-65 minutes and the knife came out with what I thought was wet batter on it. So, I left it in the oven for another 5 or so minutes and I think I ended up overbaking it. I think the wet batter might have been melted chocolate. The bread was a little on the dry side.

My hubby really liked this bread, aside from it being a tad dry. But, with a little whipped cream, or a scoop of homemade chocolate-almond ice cream, he said he didn't notice the dryness. I am still wavering about this one. The bread is beautiful. Dense, tender, full of chocolate flavor. The banana flavor is not pronounced, but it is there. So is the aroma of bananas. When I lift the top off of my cake stand, where the bread is sitting, the first thing I smell is banana. In my opinion (and we all know what they say about opinions!) it just okay. The fact that I dislike bananas in any baked good strongly influences my feelings about this bread. I may try it again with pumpkin. Now, that's a combination I love! Don't take my word about whether this is a yummy bread or not. Head over to TWD and see what everyone else thought.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Black Bottom Brownies

This weeks recipe , which was chosen by Cynthia of Bakingtherapist's blog, was Black Bottom Brownies. I am sure she will have the recipe up on her blog soon, just in case you don't own The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. And, if you are reading this and you don't own the book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It's full of wonderful, yummy recipes.

I am going to keep this short and sweet. A very wonderful, kind, funny, caring woman I knew, who was in fact a neighbor of mine, passed away this morning from lung cancer. I was fortunate enough to have spent some time with her last Sunday and was able to tell her how grateful I was to have known her. A friend of the family just called here a little bit ago to relay the news. I am going to miss Corinne very much. She was spunky and a fighter and never let the terrible disease she had get her down. She was smiling the last time I saw her and that is how I will always remember her.

Anyway, back to this weeks recipe. These brownies were pretty easy to put together. I had really high hope for them as I have a favorite brownie cheesecake I make and I thought that these would be like that.

I may have over baked them a tad. My top looked more brown than golden. I cut them into small bars and hubby and I gave them a try.

The first night we had them, we weren't impressed. The brownie part was kind of dry and the cheesecake part kind of blah. The best part was the middle where the chocolate chips had settled and melted. But, the next night we tried these, we couldn't believe they were the same bars. The brownie part was chewy and chocolate-y, the cheesecake moist and creamy and the combination of all three layers was rich and satisfying. Go figure. I found that the bars kept getting better as more time passed. I am glad we gave them a second try because it changed my opinion of these completely. I still think my brownie cheesecake is better, but, these bars are a good "eat with your hands" substitution.

Want to know what the other bakers thought? Head over to SMS and see.

Calling all bakers!!- Please join me in baking for "my" soldier!

I am sending out an invitation to all the bakers who read my blog to join me by baking cookies for a soldier this month.

I am leading a team for the first time for Operation Baking Gals. I have been baking with this group for 15 of the last 16 rounds. I missed the first round because I didn't know about the group. After all this time I thought I should step up and lead my own team.

The soldier I am baking for is Dan McNally, a 1st Lieutenant serving in Iraq. I clean house for his girlfriend's grandmother. They gave me his name because they know I bake for at least one soldier every month. I also advertise that I bake for soldiers and am always asking people to give me the names of guys and gals that are serving overseas.

If you are interested in joining me, head over to Bakinggals and (after you register) join my team, Team Country Cookies, and bake Dan some cookies or brownies or whatever moves you, to show him we appreciate his sacrifices. It's a wonderful group, and receiving homemade goodies means a lot to the men and women who are so far away from home. It would also mean a lot to me to have you on my team. Thanks!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Avocado Buttercream

Don't run away and don't be scared! This is really a wonderful cake. It really is. Even with vegan, chocolate and avocado in the same sentence. Trust me on this one.

I was wandering around the web the other day and from one blog I clicked on a link to another blog and clicked on a link to yet another blog, and found myself on Joy the Baker's blog. While there, reading one delicious sounding recipe after another, I came across this recipe. The pictures Joy took made it look divine. As I read through the recipe I noticed that the buttercream recipe was from my celebrity chef and the only man I would leave my hubby for, (besides Johnny Depp. Oh and George Clooney. Oh and...sorry, where was I? Oh yeah...) Mr. Alton Brown. When I saw that I decided to give the recipe a go. The other reason is that my daughter's best friend is coming for a visit this weekend and she is a Vegan. (Do you capitalize Vegan?) So, I figured she will end up with most of the cake and be pleasantly surprised that I made it for her. And, I felt adventurous that day.

Now, I have never made any recipe with avocado. All I know about it is it's green and used in guacamole. I didn't even know how to tell when an avocado was ripe. So, I googled "how to tell an avocado is ripe" and read a couple of how to's (when you press it, if its' ripe, it should feel like when you press your nose) and off to the store I went. I bought three avocados and came home to give this cake and buttercream a try.

Really a simple recipe to put together. Flour, cocoa powder, sugar, oil, a few other ingredients. No eggs, no butter. Of course, that's what makes it vegan. Comes together using just two bowls. Bakes about 40 minutes. My cakes sunk a little in the middle, but otherwise they baked up nice and tall and smelled wonderful.

The buttercream is made with avocado, lemon juice, powdered sugar and vanilla. It's not like most buttercreams I have made in the past. This was thick but not stiff. And, of course, it's green! Too fun!!

So, I tried the cake a little while ago. Can't very well have people trying something I baked without knowing what it tastes like myself. It's really good. I think I was a little surprised by that. The cake part is delicious...dark, moist, dense, everything you want in a chocolate cake. I loved it and can see myself making it again. It will also be good to have in my recipe rotation for people who call me for birthday, wedding, and/or anniversary cakes.

The icing? It's interesting. It's not too sweet. I had the word "earthy" come to mind as I ate it. But when I was telling my hubby that he said,  "you mean like dirt?!" Men! No, it doesn't taste like dirt. It's a complex flavor, much different than most buttercreams which are full of butter and much more sugar. This is mild, mellow, earthy. It goes well with the cake, the flavors blending with each other. And, it looks so pretty against the dark brown of the cake. I only iced the middle and top. I think it looks pretty that way and I didn't think the icing would hold up well on the sides. I can't wait to share it with Leslie and see what she thinks. The recipe is posted below. Go on, try it! You might be pleasantly surprised.

       Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Avocado Buttercream.
 Recipe from A Vegetarian in the Middle East

3 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed, about 1 medium avocado
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch rounds. Set aside.
Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside too.
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.
Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.
Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
Pour batter into greased cake pans. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting with avocado buttercream.

     Avocado Buttercream Frosting 
 from Alton Brown 

8 ounces of avocado meat, about 2 small to medium, very ripe avocados
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and pit the soft avocados. It's important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on. If the avocados have brown spots in the meat, avoid those spots when you scoop the meat into the bowl.
Place the avocado meat into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment. Add lemon juice and whisk the avocado on medium speed, until slightly lightened in color and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and beat. Add vanilla extract until combined. If not using right away, store in the refrigerator. Don't worry. It won't turn brown!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars

Lillian of Confectiona’s Realm picked Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars for this weeks recipe. Thanks, Lillian, for a great pick! I read the P&Q on TWD and saw that a lot of people dropped the raisins or skipped the peanuts, or left out both and put other things in instead. I made these just the way the recipe called for them to be made. But, then, I am boring like that. :) I usually make a recipe just the way it's written the first time around. I like to see how the author intended it to be before I change it to make it my own.

These were really a breeze to put together. Make a crust that is also a topping. Melt some chocolate chips with some butter and sweetened condensed milk, mix in some plumped raisins and some peanuts. Pour it over the crust. Crumble some of the crust over the chocolate mixture, bake it, cool it, eat it!! That is the best part!

There was nothing in this I don't like. em'. Peanuts...yum! Oatmeal...chewy goodness! Chocolate...oh yeah! Put all together in a bar you can just pick up and eat...delicious! Dangerous, but delicious! The hubby wasn't too happy with the raisins. I told him no one was forcing him to eat the bars. (For all his comments about not liking raisins, he ate one bar last night and another one today with his lunch!) Besides, he can eat the Black Bottom Brownies (a future post for SMS) and leave the bars to me. I won't mind!

I'm keeping my bars out on the counter. I missed the part about cooling them in the fridge before cutting them into bars. When I tried to cut them, they were a bit soft in the middle, but I got them cut. I took Dorie's suggestion and tried one before putting them in the fridge. Liked them so well at room temperature I decided to leave them out of the refrigerator.

I think it's funny that I would never add chocolate chips to my oatmeal raisin cookies, yet in these bars the combination of chocolate, oatmeal and raisins tastes wonderful. Maybe next time I make my cookies I will toss in a few chocolate chips. Oh the things TWD has opened my mind to!  See what the rest of the gang at TWD thought about this weeks choice.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake

This weeks recipe, chosen by Raeann of Basically, Baby Boots, is Lemon Walnut Sour Cream Pound Cake. I had this one marked as a possible choice for my pick in March, but wasn't at all unhappy to make it ahead of time. :) While the hubby isn't a big fan of lemon, I love it in all kinds of baked goods...muffins, breads, pies, cookies. It always lends such a crisp, fresh flavor to everything. I don't normally bake anything lemon flavored because he won't eat it, but since it was for the group... :}

I have a pretty yellow bundt cake pan that is usually too small for most bundt cake recipes. I decided to bake this pound cake in it instead of using a loaf pan.

In no time I had the batter mixed up and in the oven baking. It's pretty basic; flour, butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice, along with a few other simple ingredients.

I baked mine in the bundt pan for the full hour and 15 minutes. It smelled wonderful as it was baking, and I couldn't wait to try it.

I skipped the glaze listed in the recipe and instead made a simple powdered sugar and lemon juice glaze that I drizzled over the top after the pound cake cooled.

I found this cake to be fabulous! Moist, with a nice crust on the outside. The lemon flavor was strong, but not too strong, and delicious. The walnuts added just the right amount of texture to the crumb of the cake. I would definitely make this one again. I noticed one of the SMS bakers used orange and pecans. That also sounds delicious and I may have to try that combination in the future. If you would like to see what the rest of the gang thought, head over to SMS and check it out! 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings - the easy way

When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals my Mom made was Chicken, biscuits and gravy. Kind of like chicken and dumplings, but she made biscuits instead of dumplings and after they baked she broke some up and tossed them into the chicken and gravy. The ones that didn't go into the dish she served warm with butter and sugar. It took a large part of the afternoon for her to put that meal together. Boil the chicken and then peel it off the bones. Cut up veggies to put in the chicken stock. Make homemade biscuits. (I remember "helping" her once by patting down all the biscuits after she had cut them and placed them on a baking sheet...none of them rose and she couldn't figure out why she had "hockey pucks" instead of biscuits!) I make her version of that dish from time to time, but tonight I wanted the dish without all the work.

I used a recipe from Southern Living magazine for Easy Chicken and Dumpling and made some changes to it to make it my own. The end results were delicious. My hubby all but licked the bowl clean. It smelled delicious cooking on the stove and was easy as can be to put together.

 Easy Chicken and Dumplings

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices  
1 yellow onion, diced
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 cloves of garlic, minced                                    
1 (32 ounce) container of chicken stock
The meat from 1 whole rotisserie chicken,  picked from the bones and broken into bite-sized pieces
1 (10 3/4  ounce) can of reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon Bouquet Garni (a blend of savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage and tarragon)
1 (10.2 ounce) can of refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits (I used whole wheat biscuits)

In a hot dutch oven, over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a little bit of olive oil, until onions are soft and translucent.
Add chicken stock, soup, chicken and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for 20 minutes. (I left this on the stove for almost an hour to be sure carrots and celery were soft and tender)
Before adding biscuits, bring mixture to a low boil over a medium-high heat.
Roll the biscuits out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 of an inch thickness.(I only used 4 of the 8 biscuits, baking the other 4 to serve on the side) Cut each biscuit into strips about 1/2 inch wide. (I cut the strips into pieces about 1 inch wide by 1/2 inch wide.)
Drop the cut up biscuits into the boiling mixture, one at a time. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer another 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking. I served it in bowls with baked biscuits on the side. Delicious!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Should have been...

Mrs. Vogel's Scherben which Teanna of Spork or Foon chose as this weeks recipe. While it sounded great (I mean it's fried dough! What's not to like!) I had to pass. I was out of town from Friday night until last night. Made a quick, but long trip to the far side of Kansas (Liberal) to pick up a 1970 Monte Carlo with my hubby. Said trip was done in 75 hours. Just over 3,000 miles. (That included a quick hop into Oklahoma, just to say we've been there!) I was too tired to play with dough, no matter how much I like fried dough. So, my apologies to Teanna and the rest of the group. I will be back next week raring to go! In the meantime, head over to TWD to see what the rest of the gang thought of this one.  Oh, and here's a couple of pictures of the car...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Going to miss this one

I apologize to everyone at Sweet Melissa Sunday. I will not be making this week's recipe, Chocolate Pie Crust (and what ever yummy filling I could have filled it with), which was chosen by Donna of L'Amour de Tarte. I actually have two reasons. Reason 1 is I have to cut back on all the extra things I have been buying to participate each week, (not to mention all I have been eating by participating every week!) and Reason 2 is I am halfway across the country (just the other side of Wichita tonight) on a adventure with my hubby. We are heading to Liberal, Kansas to pick up a 1970 Monte Carlo my hubby is buying. Being in Kansas kind of puts a crimp on any baking I could have done. Please be sure to check out SMS to see who did bake and what they filled their pie crusts with!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Cocoa-buttermilk Birthday Cake

Let me first say thank you, Laurie, for all your hard work and effort over the last two years! You do an amazing job keeping up with all the bakers who are part of this great group. Happy Anniversary to us!! While I have only been with the group on an official basis since September, I have had the book and been hanging around for almost a year. To think you all have been baking together two years now is just amazing! Laurie let us vote for a recipe to bake for this week and it was decided we could choose between two...Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake or Tarte Tatin.

I chose the Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake. I am definitely more of a cake (chocolate cake!) person than a fruity dessert person, though I do love apple desserts. But, when having to choose between chocolate and apples, chocolate will always win.

I gathered all my ingredients together and got busy. The cake came together easily. I had it in the oven in no time. Baked it for 25 minutes to start with. The recipe calls for 26-30 minutes. After 25 minutes I checked it for doneness, according to Dorie's recipe..."cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pan". My cakes were not doing any of that, so I baked them for another 3 minutes. Did a toothpick test for doneness and pulled them from the oven. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of rise in the cakes. Each layer was only an inch tall. Not at all like other cakes I have baked.

While the cake cooled, I worked on the frosting. I was looking forward to that. Chocolate Malt flavored buttercream. How yummy sounding! Again, I followed the instructions and things seemed to be going well until I added the hot malt-cocoa mixture to the melted chocolate. As I added the liquid and stirred gently with a whisk, the mixture seized up and attached itself to the whisk, refusing to let loose. What the heck!?! I kept moving the whisk around in the bowl and eventually the mixture loosened up and became smooth. Never did get glossy, but at least when I pulled the whisk out, the chocolate mixture stayed in the bowl.

Added the chocolate mixture to the butter/brown sugar in my mixer bowl and began to beat it. Recipe says it will be light and thick enough to use. Well, mine was light, but way too thin to spread on a cake. It was also very grainy looking. I added more powdered sugar and beat it longer, much longer, and while it became a bit thicker, it never lost the graininess. :( It was thick enough to frost the top and sides, but I decided to use some cream cheese filling I had for the center. I was afraid the chocolate-malt buttercream would just ooze out between the layers, it was that soft and thin.

So, I filled and iced the cake and stuck it in the fridge to firm up the icing. We tried it later that night for dessert. It was a big disappointment for both of us. The cake was dry, almost tasteless. The icing wasn't as good as we thought it would be with the addition of brown sugar and malted milk powder. It sat in the fridge for two nights, untouched. That doesn't happen in this house. My hubby is a "cake for dessert" nut. Ten minutes after dinner he is asking for dessert and I almost always have a cake on the counter. He asked for ice cream one night and for cookies another night, store bought cookies! Nuff said!

Next time I make this cake...scratch time I will make the Tarte Tatin. Maybe some of the other bakers had better luck with this one than I did. Be sure to head over to TWD and see.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baking for my dog

This is my mutt. Well, she's really not a "mutt". She is a pure-bred Australian Cattle Dog, also called a Blue Heeler. She is 8 years old, and the apple of her "daddy's" eye. I often tell people I would worry if someone asked my hubby to choose between me and his dog. Most of the time I think I would get picked, but sometimes I wonder.

For Christmas this year my sister-in-law gave me a kit for making your dog homemade dog treats. The kit included a recipe book, a treat tin, and a couple of cookie cutters.  Today I decided to give one of the recipes a go. While out running errands I picked up a bag of Spelt flour which the recipe I picked needed.  I had the rest of the ingredients I needed here at the house.

Everything got mixed up in a food processor,,,flour, walnuts, eggs, oil, molasses, yeast. You are supposed to spread the dough out over the pan and bake it in one large piece, cutting it into bite-sized pieces later. I thought it would be more fun to cut out dog bones and bake them like that.

They baked for about 35 minutes and then cooled for an hour. They smelled interesting baking. Not bad, but nothing like a batch of cookies or a cake would smell while baking. And, not good enough to draw the dog (her name is Patches, btw) into the kitchen to see what I was up to. I tasted the dough before baking it and found it kind of bland. I hope no one is suddenly freaking out because I tasted OMG! DOG BISCUIT DOUGH!! None of the ingredients really screamed DOG to me while I was putting them together. :) I would not eat a Milk bone, btw, in case anyone is wondering.

When my hubby came home he checked out the biscuits himself, before giving one to Patches. (OMG! My husband ate a dog biscuit! Hahaha!) Said they were kind of plain tasting to him. And, what did Patches think? She really liked them. She ate two and would have eaten more but I said that was enough. She needs to go on a diet, just like her "Mommy" and "Daddy"!

I was really glad to see she liked them. I would have hated to have gone to all the trouble of cutting out all those little dog biscuits only to have her turn her nose up to them. And, she is a finicky eater. She won't eat just anything put in front of her.

I don't know if the rest of you are as crazy about your dogs as my hubby and me are about ours, but if you are, and you would like to show your love by baking some homemade treats for the furry friend in your life, the recipe is below. :)

Bobby's Brownies

7 oz. (200g) wholewheat flour
7 oz. (200g) spelt flour
3 1/2 oz. (100g) chopped walnuts
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons sunflower oil
2 Tablespoons molasses
1/2 package of yeast
water and flour as required

In a food processor, mix all the ingredients to form a firm dough. If necessary, add a little extra flour or water. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rise in a warm spot for 1 hour. (I didn't see any "rise" in this after an hour; it was a very dense dough)

Preheat the oven to 320 degrees F (160 degrees C). Line a shallow rectangular baking pan with baking parchment.

Spread the dough over the baking pan until about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) thick. Bake for 35 minutes, then let it cool for 1 hour, still in the baking pan.

Turn out the baked cake, with the baking parchment, onto a board. Remove the parchment and cut the cake into dog bite-sized pieces. Store in a paper or linen bag (I put mine in the tin that came with the recipe  book). The brownies will keep for about 4 weeks.

I hope your dog likes them as much as Patches did!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sorry, no SMS today.

I hate to disappoint, but I did not do this weeks yummy Chocolate Creme Caramels, which was chosen by Jeanette of The Whimsical Cupcake. Like another of our group, Cristine, I am going to chose two recipes from SMS and TWD, just enough to fulfill my commitment to each group. Baking two different recipes every week was taking a toll not only on my wallet, buying all the ingredients, but on my waistline (and the hubby's). We don't need all those yummy treats and I really don't have anyone close by to give them to. So, I will be reading the month's recipes and choosing two.  So, my apologizes to you Jeanette. I am sure the caramels were wonderful and I will drop by your blog to see what you thought. I will also drop by SMS to see what all the other bakers who tried this one thought. Until we meet again....

New Year - New Look - New Recipe!

As the title of this post implies, I decided to change the way my blog looks. I found this wonderful site that has the cutest backgrounds for you to use. It's called Simply Blog It Backgrounds. There are several darling backgrounds to choose from, and instructions on how to place them in your blog. I chose the Winter Moon for my new look.

The photo behind my blog title is one I took myself at the end of our driveway, looking away from the main road. It was early morning and the sun shining through the trees looked so pretty. I ran back to the house, grabbed my camera and took the shot. I like the combination of the new background with my photo. What do you think?

The new recipe is for a cookie/bar. I was given one of these, or one very much like it, at a  friend of mines house when I dropped by to visit just before Christmas. She told me what they were, Butterscotch Cheesecake Bars. I didn't think to ask her for the recipe until after I had left. No problem. I came home and googled butterscotch cheesecake bars and was rewarded with dozens of recipes to choose from.
This is the one I chose. Made these today and sent them to my hubby's end of the year hunt club party. One thing I do not need around here is more sweets. He said they were a big hit and confessed to eating 5 of them himself! Granted, I cut them into small bars, but 5?!?! If I am not around to portion out dessert for him, he always goes overboard. Gotta' love him! :)

This is a simple recipe. Takes no time at all to put it together. It's yummy (I ate one bar myself...have to be sure I am sending good things out of my kitchen!), and good enough to share. I am sure that you could use peanut butter chips or chocolate chips and still have a great bar. Give it a try next time you are looking for something different.

                                    Butterscotch Cheesecake Bars

1 12oz. package of butterscotch chips
1/3 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 8oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Melt chips and butter together. Stir in crumbs and nuts. Press half of mixture in a greased 9x13 pan.
Beat cream cheese till fluffy. Beat in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and egg. Pour over crust. Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake 25-30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Chill in refrigerator before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chocolate with Francois - Pine Nut Turron Cake

First of all, I want to offer my most humble apology to Joanne of Apple Crumbles for not posting this on Wednesday! I had every intention of posting it on time. I really did. That was on Monday the 28th when I thought about what day it was and said to myself, "Self, don't forget to post your CWF results on Wednesday."  Then, the rest of the week and all the craziness that after Christmas and pre-New Year is washed over me like a rouge wave in the ocean, knocking me down and tossing me around, until I came up gasping and coughing and realized it was the 1st of January and I should have posted this two days ago. So, I throw myself upon Joanne's mercy (and the rest of the Chocolate with Francois gang)  and ask for forgiveness. And, do you know what the worst part is? I baked this cake the 6th of December! Almost a month ago. And, then totally forgot to post on the posting day. I promise, no I resolve to do better in 2010 and post on time. :}

Ok, so enough groveling...on to the cake.

This is a many step cake. There are three layers to the cake, and each one needs to be made in advance and then all brought together to be combined into one cake. The picture in the book shows this creamy, dreamy looking slice of cake. Looked to me to be about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches tall. Not true. Mine was about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch tall. And, my middle layer, the pine nut filling? It was not at all creamy.

I did not find any one step really difficult. Some may have, but with all the baking I have done, it was pretty basic stuff. I baked the bottom cake layer up ahead of time and had that chilling in the freezer. The top layer came together pretty well. I meleted the chocolate and cocoa butter and spread it over the acetate. Into the fridge for a chill. Then on to the filling.

I don't think I like pine nuts. I toasted them and put them in the processor. Followed the rest of the filling directions (melting more chocolate with more cocoa butter) mixed everything together and let it cool. Tasted it with really high expectations, and found the flavor to be kind of blah. The more I think about this cake, the more I think it would have been much better with almonds, or maybe hazelnuts. I just didn't care for the pine nut and chocolate combination. My hubby didn't much care for it either. In fact, after his initial piece (he's my quality control guy :D) he didn't eat any more of it. Not that there was much to eat. I had the cake on a cake board and took it from the fridge and before I could put it on the counter the board bent or buckled, and most of the cake ended up on the floor, upside down. Guess I could have taken a picture of that, but I was so upset I didn't think about it then.

My bottom line on this one...I didn't feel it worth all the effort. Too many steps for too little reward in my humble opinion. Maybe I would feel different if I made it with different nuts, but don't see me trying it again any time soon. Pop over to Chocolate with Francois and see what the other bakers thought of this one.