Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Tiramisu

I'm back! A day late (and a dollar short!) but I have a legitimate excuse for not posting yesterday. I was at Richmond International Raceway with my Mother-in-law, attending the NASCAR race. She and I attend both Richmond races and the May race in Charlotte. We have been doing it since 1994. No hubbies. Just her and me. We make a full day of it, tailgating, people watching, hanging out. I think she enjoys it more than I do, and that's just fine with me. So, that explains why I didn't post yesterday. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

So, the April pick for CFW was Chocolate Tiramisu and Seattle Pastry Girl made it her pick. I don't know if I ever would have made it if she hadn't chosen it for April. I like Tiramisu. I made a Tiramisu cheesecake a while back. Just tried to find the post for it in my blog, but I guess I never blogged about it. :] I wish I had, and maybe I will one day. It's a great recipe and the cheesecake it made was fabulous. But, would I have chosen to make this recipe? I am not sure I would have. But, boy am I glad I did.

This was (is) a slightly complicated recipe. You have to make a ganache, a cake and a mousse. Then you have to put those three components together.

The ganache was pretty easy. Chop up some bitter-sweet chocolate, add some mascarpone cheese, and pour some boiled cream over and stir till the chocolate melts. I reread the recipe to see if it said "finely" chopped, when the chocolate that I just "chopped" didn't melt. But, no, I read it right. I ended up setting my bowl of clumpy, lumpy chocolate/cream/mascarpone on my burner which I set at low and stirred the mixture until it melted. Once it cooled down I tried it and found it to be most excellent!

I started on the cake next. After tasting the ganache again to make sure it was still okay. I am lucky enough to have two mixers so I was able to have the yolks and sugar mixing in one bowl while I whipped the whites in another bowl. The cake baked up in the 10 minutes recommended and was set aside to cool.

Making the mousse was a real test of muscle power for my arms. It took all of the 5 minutes, if not more, to first get the mixture of egg yolks and sugar hot and thick and then to get it cooled off, all while whisking it constantly, except when I stopped to check the ganache.

After tasting the ganache again I gathered all the components for the tiramisu to begin putting it together. Francois called for using a 1 or 1 1/2 quart bowl to assemble the tiramisu. I looked at my 1 1/2 quart bowl then tasted the ganache the amount of mousse, cake and ganache that I tasted again that I had on hand and decided to go with the largest bowl I had. Good thing too because more ganache it would have been far too much for a smaller bowl. More ganache Once I had ganache everything ready it took no time at all to assemble it.

I brew my coffee on the strong side but still added some Via to the coffee. I wanted to be sure that the coffee flavor was strong and didn't get lost in the cake and mousse and mmmm ganache. Once the tiramisu was assembled licked the bowl the ganache was in I covered it in plastic and put it in the fridge to cool.

I was pretty sure that I would like it. I wasn't sure about the hubby. He isn't a big coffee person and sometimes textures are an issue with him. I thought he might find the coffee soaked cake a turn-off. However, I worried for nothing. He said it was really, really good. In fact, he went so far as to say he thought it was one of the best recipes I have made from Chocolate Epiphany. The bowl I used, the large size of the Pyrex mixing bowl set I have, to assemble the tiramisu in? It was empty by the third day. Gone! All of it! I work most nights and without me here to portion control the serving sizes the hubby fixed much larger servings than I do and each night I got home, more and more of the tiramisu was gone. I think I might have gotten 1/4 of the amount there was, with the hubby eating all the rest. He asked me yesterday when I was going to make that Chocolate cake/pudding thing I made a couple of weeks ago. Men!

So, my advice to you is make this recipe. Seattle Pastry Girl has it posted on her blog. It the ganache is well worth the effort and dirty dishes it takes to make it. Fabulous dessert. Impressive dessert. Ganache filled dessert. Need I say more. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A day off - Vegetarian Lasagna - Orange Scented Chocolate Cheesecake

Hey there. Hi there. Ho there. It's me. Thought I would drop in and say hi to any followers who might still be following me. :)

I had a day off today. A day off  from my house cleaning business and a day off from Starbucks. That meant I could sleep in and play in my kitchen. Playing in my kitchen makes me happy. In fact, playing in my kitchen makes me very happy. I knew ahead of time that I would have today off and had chosen a couple of recipes I wanted to try. One was for my Chocolate with Francois group and the other one was a practice run of an all vegetable lasagna. My beautiful daughter-in-law, who is pregnant with my first grand-child, is a Vegetarian. I am getting together next week with her and my son, my daughter and her hubby and we are going to have dinner together and play Quelf, a really fun board game. It will probably be the last time we can all get together before Baby Gulla is born. I plan on baking a pan of the vegetable lasagna and putting it in the freezer so that Sean and Katey have something they can just heat up and eat when they come home from the hospital with the baby. At least one night they won't have to worry about cooking dinner. :)

So, today I decided I would make a vegetable lasagna that I had come across a recipe for. It's from Italian Food Forever and it sounded easy and yummy. I even made the home-made sauce she links to. I used my submersible blender so that there wouldn't be chunks of tomatoes but kept to the basic sauce recipe.

I also bought my lasagna noodles. I do have a pasta roller, but I use it for my cake decorating business. Besides, I was more interested in what was going between the noodles rather than the noodles themselves. The recipe suggests using eggplant, roasted red peppers, fennel, and onions. I could not find fennel anywhere (and should confess here that I wouldn't know fennel if I bumped into it) so I decided to go with zucchini, eggplant, red peppers and onion. Knowing my hubby and his "it has to have meat or it isn't dinner" attitude, I bought some "Gimme Lean" sausage style veggie protein. I know, it isn't meat, but, I wanted to see if he would even notice.

I also cheated by buying roasted red peppers in a jar. I could have roasted some, but, I don't have a gas stove, it's electric. I do have a gas grill, but hated to crank it up to roast three red peppers. Thus, the jar of already roasted peppers.

I made the sauce first. It was super easy. Heat up some oil, drop in some minced garlic, pour in diced Italian style tomatoes, bring to a boil, lower heat, add salt and pepper and fresh chopped basil. And, any other spices or seasoning you would like. Super easy and really good.

I worked on the veggies next. Sliced the eggplant, brushed it with olive oil and grilled it under the broiler. Sauteed the onions till they were soft and light brown. Sliced the zucchini and sauteed that up. Fried the "sausage". Drained the roasted red peppers. Once I had all the ingredients cooked and on separate plates I began to assemble the lasagna.

A little sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. A layer of noodles. A little more sauce. Some "sausage", cheese and eggplant. Cover with noodles. Sauce. "Sausage". Cheese. Roasted red peppers. Noodles. Sauce. "Sausage". Cheese. Onion. Final layer noodles, sauce, "sausage", cheese, zucchini. Last layer of noodles, a little more sauce and a good amount of cheese. Covered the whole thing with foil and put it in a 375 degree oven and baked it for 45 minutes. The recipe on Italian Food Forever doesn't call for covering the dish with foil and it bakes for a shorter time, but I think that's because the noodles are fresh made rather than boxed.

The lasagna smelled fabulous while it was baking and looked wonderful when I took it out of the oven. I let it set for about 20 minutes before cutting and plating it.

I loved it!! So many flavors blending together. It was not greasy or overly heavy like some lasagnas can be. The vegetables were soft but not mushy. There was just enough sauce, not overpowering the dish or drowning the noodles, but just enough to enhance the flavors of the veggies and bind the noodles, cheese and veggies together. What was even better was that the hubby also loved it! At one point he asked about the ingredients, wanted to know if it was all veggies, besides the sausage. It was then that I told him the truth about the "sausage". He shrugged and kept eating. Success!!

Even if you aren't a Vegetarian, you should try this lasagna. Trust me when I say you won't miss the meat that's not in it. Or the ricotta cheese that's not in it. Or the eggs. Just roast or grill some veggies. Layer them with some shredded Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. A little sauce and you are good to go. :)

In the title of this post I mention an Orange Scented Chocolate Cheesecake. That recipe is from my CWF group and it is my pick for the month of June. According to the rules of our group, I am afraid I can't post my review until the 30th of June. But, trust me (again) when I say you need to come back at the end of June and get the recipe for it. Wonderful! Light yet rich. Orange and chocolate flavors blending together. A tender, sandy, sable' crust. The cheesecake baked up tall and beautiful. I really liked it. The hubby thought it was okay. He said I have made better cheesecakes before. However, he is not a big orange/chocolate combination fan. Guess you will have the try the recipe and decide for yourself.

I will be back on the 30th of this month, if not before, to post the latest CWF review...Chocolate Tiramisu. This was unbelievably delicious! I kid you not when I say that the 11/2 quart bowl I made lasted just over two days. And, there were only two of us here to eat it. :] You can find that recipe at Seattle Pastry Girl's blog. It's worth the effort. Trust me. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rewind - Tuesdays with Dorie - "Tarte Noire"

I recently posted a picture of this tart on Tumblr and as of now, only 8 hours later, it has been re-blogged over 100 times. So, I thought I would re-post the original post, with the recipe, for anyone who might have missed it the first time. This is a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, from her book "Baking, from my home to yours". If you could only have one baking cookbook, this is the one to have.
Hello again! I hope that this finds everyone well and rested after a big holiday weekend. Did you have a cookout? Did you watch a fireworks show? Did you spend time with friends and family? I did all of that and also played in the pool, slept late, and, made one of the best desserts I have made in a long time. What dessert would that be you ask? It was this weeks TWD choice, Tarte Noire, that Dharmagirl of bliss: towards a delicious life picked.  If she lived closer I would visit her so I could kiss her for choosing such a fabulous recipe. Well, I probably wouldn't kiss her, but I would definitely hug her or shake her hand or something. This may be my favorite recipe so far. I kid you not. Please drop by Dharmagirl's blog and get the recipe. You won't be sorry.

We had my hubby's best friend come and stay with us for the weekend. He arrived on Saturday and settled in for the festivities. We cooked steaks on the grill...nice juicy rib-eyes. Some corn and some baked fries rounded out the meal. We went out in the field after dinner and had our own little fireworks show. My hubby set off the fireworks while I snapped photos and the hubby's best friend shot video.

The guys hopped in the pool after the fireworks show and floated around for a while. I was a bit too cool for me to get in the water. Then, before bed, I served the two of them a slice of the Tarte Noire. They loved it! They both scarfed it down in what seemed like seconds, and all but licked the plates clean. I like it when something I make brings such a satisfied expression to my hubby's face, not to mention his friend's face(who, after all these years, is also my friend).

I put this recipe together in no time early Saturday morning. I decided to make the chocolate shortbread crust and it came together quickly and perfectly in my food processor. I baked it after letting it sit in the freezer for 30 minutes. When I pulled it from the oven, to cool before adding the ganache, I got the brilliant idea to cover the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of caramel! I thought about nuts, but decided to just go with the caramel.

The ganache came together as easily as the crust, becoming this dark, shiny, smooth bowl of deliciousness. :) I used a combination of bitter-sweet and semi-sweet chocolate and poured it over the caramel in the crust. Put the tarte in the fridge for 30 minutes to set up and then sliced a piece for myself  a picture. Yeah, that's it. For a picture. :)

I also tasted it, just to see if it was okay before serving it to the guys later that night. Couldn't serve them something I hadn't checked was edible, right? The ganache was silky smooth and  so creamy. Not too sweet. Rich and delicious! The caramel underneath was a perfect touch, adding just a little sweetness and texture to the chocolate. And, the crust? Crunchy, tender, buttery, chocolate-y, and perfect against the creamy chocolate and chewy caramel. With as easy as this was to put together, I can see making it again and again. I wonder if you could do a white chocolate version. Almonds would be wonderful in this too. Maybe in the crust. Of course, it was fabulous just as I did it, and I would certainly make it the same again.

So, a really big, BIG thanks to Dharmagirl for this weeks pick. Just awesome! And, check out what the others thought of it by clicking here. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing

Oh my! Two posts in less than a month! This could be the start of something beautiful! :D

I had a rare Sunday off today (or I guess yesterday since it is past midnight) and I was looking for things to do that would keep me from cleaning my house. I will probably clean it tomorrow, but just didn't want to deal with it today. I was good and did two loads of laundry and put away and reloaded the dishes in the dishwasher. But, beyond that, I wanted to do something fun. And different. Sooo...

I had never attempted to bake "from scratch" cinnamon rolls. I have always had that little dough boy help me out whenever I felt the urge. I know it's crazy to think I had never made cinnamon rolls from scratch, but it's true. I have always been a bit intimidated by the whole yeast proofing and rolling out the dough and then rolling it up and the other complicated steps that I thought went into making them. Silly me! These couldn't have been easier and they are probably the best cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten, hands down! I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but that goes to Ree aka The Pioneer Woman.

I have Ree's cookbook (see my post about meeting her here) and knew her recipe for these rolls was in it. And, I had all the ingredients on hand, so I got everything together and got started.

These really were easy to put together. I think the hardest, or scariest part for me was scalding the milk. It was not supposed to boil and I stood over it watching like a hawk eyeballing a mouse in the field. Once your milk, oil and sugar cools back down to lukewarm you add your yeast and let it set for 1 minute. Then you stir in almost all of the flour and let it rest, covered with a clean towel, for an hour.

After that, you add the last cup of flour, along with salt, baking powder, and baking soda. It's a bit hard to stir these last things into the dough, but hang in there until you get all those dry ingredients incorporated into the dough.

Then you roll out the dough into a rectangle, cover it with butter, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over it (I also added chopped pecans) and then roll it towards you in a tight tube. Slice the tube into 1" slices and place them into buttered pans. Cover again with those clean towels and let rise for 20 minutes while your oven preheats.

Ree says to bake these 13 to 17 minutes, but I found I had to bake mine for closer to 20 minutes before they were done. While they were baking I made the Maple icing. Powdered sugar, butter, milk, coffee (yes, coffee) and maple flavoring. Whisk it up and while the rolls are still in the pan, hot and fresh from the oven, pour the icing over them, getting it around the sides. Ree says not to be afraid of really dumping the icing on as the rolls will soak up much of that yummy-ness.

I hardly let the first batch cool before I cut out one roll and cut a piece to try. It was so good it "made me want to slap my granma" as my mother-in-law is fond of saying. Tender, sweet, maple-y, oooy, goooy, deliciousness!! I am ashamed to admit that I have eaten a total of three of them since taking them out of the oven around 5:30 this evening. I will be eating bread and water tomorrow to offset the calories I had today. But, oh, it was so very worth it. You really need to give these a try. Now that I know how easy they are to make, there's no stopping me now! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catching up on my Chocolate with Francois group

Wow! Has it really been almost two months since I posted on my blog? I am ashamed to admit that. But, when you work two jobs, bake on the side (though not as much as I wish) and keep up (somewhat) with a household, I guess the time can get away from you. Or me. Which is what happened. That's my story and I am sticking to it! :)

Though you can't tell it because of the lack of posts, I have been baking. I had a bridal shower cake last month. The woman who ordered it gave me a copy of the invitation and there was a tree with many branches on it. She wanted the cake to reflect that. Here's what I came up with.

 I later heard back from the woman who ordered the cake that "the cake was wonderful...everyone was blown away". Pretty high compliments I thought.

  I also had a baby shower cake. That cake was for my daughter-in-law, Katey. Yup! I am going to be a Grandma! My first grandbaby! Baby Gulla is due in May, the 20th, and my son and daughter-in-law couldn't be happier. I called her aunt, who was hosting the party and told her I would supply the cake for the party. This is what I made...

 It was such fun!! All of the characters are made of either fondant or chocolate, covered in fondant. Humpty Dumpty, three blind mice, the dish and the spoon, the cow and the moon. Oh, and twinkle stars. :) The "books" are cakes. The cake was a White Almond Sour Cream cake and I filled one layer with caramel icing, one layer with orange buttercream, and the last layer with almond/vanilla buttercream. When I came in with the cake no one could believe it was cake! I think it was one of my best so far. Maybe that's because it was made with so much love. :)

  Back in December I baked a birthday cake for a little girl who was having a pool party and the Mom wanted a "Summer in December" theme. I had fun with this one and thought I would share it with you here...

Fondant characters, blankets, ball, flip flops and life preserver. The "water" was blue icing. This was another fun cake to make.

But, this was supposed to be a catch up post for my CWF group. I have made the last two recipes...Cracaos and Chocolate Pudding Cake. I just hadn't gotten around to posting my reviews and pictures. So, here goes...

First off? The February pick, which was Cracaos. This is a traditional European cookie, with walnuts and pistachio nuts. Chocolate, as are all the recipes in CWF. With a touch of cinnamon.

These were pretty simple to put together. I read over the recipe and seeing that it made 80 cookies decided to cut the recipe down to better suit my family size (the hubby and me). I ended up making 1/4 of the recipe, which took a calculator and a scale that weighed grams to figure out.

I also used almonds instead of pistachios. I looked around and couldn't find pistachios anywhere. I thought about using hazelnuts, but couldn't find them either. (Of course, the other day while shopping, because I didn't need them, I found hazelnuts, lots and lots of hazelnuts). Other than that, I kept to the recipe.

I liked these. Chocolate? Good. Nuts? Good. Cinnamon? Good. All of those together, in one cookie? Good, good, good! Mine baked just a tad too long. I think next time I would check them after 9 minutes. But, all and all, they were great! I believe that Astheroshe-accro picked this recipe and I say she deserves a big "Thank You" for her pick.

March's choice? That would be Charlie's Chocolate Pudding Cake which Pantry Revisited picked. All I can say to Peggy is... "Oh My Goodness!! What an amazing cake!!"

I almost didn't make this one. I have been working hard at watching what I eat and I started  Body By Vi shakes back in January. Since then I have lost 20 pounds. I feel great and have lots more energy than I used to. So, when I read the recipe and saw that there was a total of 15 tablespoons of butter, 19 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 2 1/4 cups of heavy whipping cream, well, you can imagine my reaction. But I really like our group and decided to bite the bullet and make the cake. Boy am I glad I did. Well, I will probably hate that I did in the next day or so, because the cake is so good that I probably won't be able to leave it alone and will probably gain 10 pounds eating it, but, hey, for the group? It's the least I can do. :D

I thought this was a fairly easy cake to put together. The cake is just a few simple ingredients...flour, butter, chocolate, sugar, eggs and heavy cream. Mix it all together and bake it. There was a bit of confusion for me and for several other bakers. In the opening paragraph Francois mentions the cake being baked in a water bath. However, in the actual directions? There is no mention of placing the pan in a water bath. I decided to use a water bath, since he mentions it. I baked the cake according to the directions. I think I could have baked it another minute or two during the beginning baking as I thought the center was a bit soft. I know it's called "Pudding Cake", but I still think it was a touch under-baked. I will confess though, it in no way impacted the flavor of this cake.

This cake is so rich, so smooth, so creamy, so chocolate-y. My hubby practically licked his plate clean when he finished his slice. I cut myself a small slice and think I actually moaned out loud when I first tasted it. Incredible! If you want to impress someone, make this cake! You can find the recipe at Pantry Revisited's site.

Now, as Porky Pig used to say... "Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Operation Baking Gals - Round 27 - Team Country Cookies Wrap Up

While cleaning for one of my customers back in December I mentioned that I was affiliated with Operation Baking Gals. For those of you who might not know about OBG it is a group of people who bake for soldiers stationed overseas. (If you need more info, go to our website, bakinggals) I joined two or three years ago and have baked almost every round.

Back to my customer...when I mentioned the group, she told me that her son-in-law, Ian, was stationed overseas in Afghanistan. She said it was his 4th!! tour. I asked for his address and some info about him and told her I would personally lead a team to bake for him.

My team was called Country Cookies. Team Country Cookies was one of twenty teams this month. In addition to me there were 8 other members on my team. Now that the round is over (shipping dates were February 1-12) I wanted to take the time to acknowledge my fellow bakers by posting what they baked or bought for Ian.

The first baker I heard from was Maggi. She sent me the following email:

Just a note to tell you I mailed my package to Ian on Wednesday, February 2nd.
It included: homemade Snicker Doodle cookies
                 a bag of Tootsie Roll Pop suckers
                  can of almonds
                  3 packages of gum
                  box of Valentine Dots candies
                  heart-shaped chocolate cakes - 8
                  2 bags of nut snack mix
                  a bag of Hershey chocolate drops
                  bottle of hot sauce
                  1 left, right, center game - it's a lot of fun to play :)
                   5 cigars - from my husband - to share with his buddies  :)
Thanks for taking the time to be a leader!  This has been a lot of fun!  Ian is the 4th soldier I have baked for, so you can see I have only been doing this for 4 rounds!

The next baker I heard from was Debbie. I wish I could include the picture she attached to the pdf file she sent me, but I couldn't figure out how to attach it. I was able to copy and paste the words, just not the picture. And, that's a shame because it looked like a picture of three generations of women baking for our soldier. Debbie wrote...

February 5, 2011
Howdy from Houston, Texas! I sure hope you enjoy this little care package. It’s only a small token of my appreciation, but the cookies were baked and the package was assembled with much love and thoughts of gratitude for our mighty warriors. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service.
Ms. Debbie
Packing List for Ian
2 dozen peanut butter cookies 1 ½ dozen oatmeal cinnamon chip raisin cookies 8 large Valentine heart sugar cookies 10-count pkg. individual Nestle hot chocolate drink mixes 8 2-oz. pkg. nuts 10 lens cleaning wipes 1 travel size Gold Bond lotion 1 travel size Dial bodywash 1 shower loofah 2 1-oz. beef jerkies 6 2-oz. trail mix
6 5-stick packs of Wrigley’s spearmint gum 1 Texas Fish & Game magazine

I had two Debbie's baking for me this round. Debbie #2 sent me this email after she shipped her box to Ian.
Just wanted to let you know that I sent Ian's package yesterday.  I have a great 
cookie recipe that starts with a brownie mix so I made those.  Sent some pringles,
gum, Valentines candy, p-nuts and sunflower seeds too.  Thanks again for your hard

Christine was the next baker I heard from. She sent a picture of the things she baked and included in 
her box along with a quick note. 

Happy Valentines Day!  Attached is a picture of the box I sent to Ian .  Thank you for hosting Round 27 of Operation Baking Gals!
AKA: Betty Crocker

My daughter Beth joined me this round. She baked with me the last time I headed a team and jumped on board this time when she found out about it. She has become quite the baker ( a chip off the ole' block!) and sent this wrap-up email:
I completely forgot to take pictures this time but I still wanted to send you an email to let you know my box was sent off on Friday.  I sent a batch of Rick Katz's brownies, a batch of pebernødder (peppernuts), several GameInformer magazines, two packages of Iced Via, and two bags of Wurther's caramels: the regular and coffee-caramel flavor.  I definitely got my money's worth in shipping for that box. :D

Laura was another of my bakers. She is a friend of mine on Facebook and saw my post about
 this round. Here is the email she sent to me:

Hi, Susan!  I got my box sent off to Ian and included a handmade card 
with my thanks to him for his sacrifice.
Because you mentioned that Ian favors brownies, I tried out a couple 
of new recipes I've been holding onto.  All in all, my box included:
 - 1.5 doz. Butterscotch blondie brownies
 - 1.5 doz. Cherry chip chocolate brownies
 - 3 doz. Traditional fudgy brownies
 - 8 mini loaves of friendship bread
 - 3 doz. Snickerdoodles
I hope he enjoys his treats and I appreciate you putting together a 
team to get us all baking.  Thanks for your efforts - I had a great 
time baking for Ian!
Laura S

Vicki was another generous soul who took the time to do something nice for a complete stranger.
 Her email reads as follows:

Hi, Susan-
I was able to send out a package last Tuesday to Ian, however, I cannot 
say for sure what ended up in Ian's box!  I travel for my job, and bake 
on weekends.  I also joined more than one team this round, and my daughter
packed and shipped the items for me, not realizing she should break down 
the different bags!  So, I know each box got a lemon cake, a peanut 
butterpound cake, and an assortment of cookies, but I don't know what 
kind of cookies!
Hope that helps.
Thank you for hosting this round.
I also sent a box to Ian. Normally I would bake several different kinds of cookies and load the box with 
anywhere from 10 - 20 dozen cookies. This time I did things a little different. I baked cookies...a
Toffee Chocolate Chip cookie which is like a brownie in cookie form, but I also packed the box with
some useful(and not so useful) goodies. Three different kinds of peanuts, sunflower seeds, Wet Wipes, 
hand sanitizer, Mentos gum, disposable toothbrushes, cereal bars and two different kinds of Slim Jims.
I included a letter from me and a couple of pictures of my family and pets. 
And, that wraps up Round 27 for Team Country Cookies. I would like to give all my teammates a
heart-felt thank you for taking the time to do this with me. It is wonderful to share in doing something 
so simple that means so much to someone.  If anyone reading this would like to share in the fun...check 
out We can always use another baker or two. :) 


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Nut Loaf

So, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I did bake the Chocolate Nut Loaf that Leslie of Lethally Delicious picked for January. The bad news is I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Better late than never as they say. :) My apologizes to my fellow CWF bakers for not posting on time. As always, my crazy schedule keeps me pretty busy. Some weeks I don't see my hubby for days on end. He goes to bed before I get home from Starbucks and I get up after he has left for work. Depending on my mood that can be a good or bad thing. :)

But, back to the recipe.

I looked over the recipe to see what if any ingredients I needed to buy. I keep a pretty well stocked pantry, but occasionally need one or two items. For this recipe I needed the pistachio nuts, almond paste, and hazelnuts. No problem I thought. I will just pop into Kroger because they always have the odd ingredients I need. Yeah, right! Not this time. No hazelnuts, no almond paste, no pistachios. Okay, let's try Food Lion. Nope, not there either. Okay, how about Walmart? Ah, pistachios, but no paste or hazelnuts. By now I am tired, grumpy and running out of gasoline! I decided I would try and be creative with what I had on hand at home.

The first thing I did was make my own almond paste. Or at least I think I did. :) I took some blanched almonds, powdered sugar, corn syrup, water and processed it in my food processor. Since the recipe called for such a small amount I figured my homemade stuff wouldn't affect it much.

The next thing I did was use pecans in place of the hazelnuts. Having all three nuts for the loaf I proceeded with the recipe.

Like Leslie, I have one of those beater blades that scrapes the side of the bowl for you while it is mixing the ingredients. If you don't have one you should really invest in one. They are wonderful and I wouldn't be without one. (I sure used "one" a lot in those two sentences!) :D

I really hesitated when I read the part about 20!!! tablespoons of butter. 20?!? Sure seemed like an awful lot of butter (Paula Deen I am not!) but I trusted Francois knew what he was doing and went ahead and did as the recipe stated.

My loaf baked for about 55 minutes. It smelled wonderful while it baked. Of course, anything chocolate smells wonderful while baking. I found waiting for the loaf to cool in the pan until room temperature and then cool completely before trying it a bit taxing, but being made to be patient is good for me from time to time.

Once sliced I decided it was worth waiting for. I zapped it in the microwave just to warm it up a tad, and the hubby had his with whipped cream on it. It was moist, chocolate-y, nutty and very satisfying. I love nuts in my baked goods and having three different ones, each with it's own texture was great. Along with the chocolate chips with was one rich and yummy loaf. I am not sure how much better it would have been with hazelnuts. Maybe, if I ever find any, I will try this again. But, it was just fine like I made it this time.

Thanks again, Leslie for a great pick. The hubby and I both enjoyed it.