Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers January: Tuiles!

I'm officially a Daring Baker!! I've been meaning to join for awhile, and I thought January (new year, etc etc) was the perfect time.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

I was excited when I saw that it was tuiles, as I'd always meant to try making those and never got around to it. Plus, I loved the idea of pairing it with something. I have to say January was a busy month, so I eased myself into the challenges and just kept it simple.

I made an "Escape from Winter" theme dessert. Once the holidays are over, I pretty much have no use for winter. January-March just drags on, and already all I can think about is summer. It doesn't help that I work right near the beach, but it's too cold to sit on the boardwalk during lunch! So I transferred my longing for summer onto a dessert. I made classic tuiles in the tuile shape, using the cocoa powder to stripe where the bend is (not sure if you can tell from that picture though). I paired the tuiles with Strawberry Margarita sorbet, a recipe I got from The Man, aka Mark Bittman from the New York Times. I love Mark Bittman, and like many of the recipes he provides, this one was foolproof.

The recipe for the sorbet as I made it is as follows:
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar (more or less)
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
2 tbsp tequila (you can definitely taste the tequila, so make sure it's halfway decent- that's a mistake I made!)

Combine first four ingredients in a food processor. If necessary, add a little water to loosen it up. Blend until sorbet textur is reached. That's it. Seriously. It's the easiest thing ever. If you have a food processor you have no excuse not to try making this, I really think boiling water might take longer and be more effort!!
And just think of all the delicious variations to try- I plan on mixing up a blackberry lime, champagne, and mango margarita.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

WOW. These are SO good. In my last post I said the lemon poppy muffins were the best breakfast ever, but I have to take that back. This is better.

This is a lesson to me on not to make snap judgments. This recipe is one I passed over many times when flipping through my Dorie book. I tend to skip recipes without pictures, as I have a weird theory that if the publisher didn't take a picture, it's not a good recipe and they don't want to draw your attention to it. That was not the case with this! I tried it regardless of my theory because I had some leftover pecans and sour cream from other recipes, and boy am I glad I made it! The biscuits were light, flaky, and delicious, with a hint of sweetness and a delicious crunch and flavor from the toasted pecans.

The secret here is to just barely mix the dough. You cut the butter up into small pieces and use your hands to just work it into the dough quickly. You stir quickly with a fork when adding the liquid ingredients, and just flatten it out with your hands instead of rolling it. Since the ingredients don't really get homogenously mixed together, the chunks of butter melting create flakes and pockets of air in your biscuits. (And if you eat them straight from the oven, you'll bite into layers with delicious, warm, melty butter- omg its amazing).

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits, adapted from Dorie Greenspan Baking.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup finely chopped, toasted pecans

Ccenter a rack in the oven and preheat to 425 F.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar. Toss in the butter, and using your fingers rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a pebbly mixture. The pieces will all look different, this is good.

Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Using a fork, stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Give the dough a quick kneading with your hands to make sure it's all combined. Don't overwork it. Toss in pecans and knead another 2 or 3 times, quickly.

Dust a work surface with flour (I always tape wax paper to the counter for easy cleanup). Pat the dough out with your hands. Size and shape doesn't matter, just try to mess with the dough as little as possible.

Use a biscuit cutter (or in my glass, a glass) to cut as many as you can out. Then gather the scraps, reroll, and cut again.

Bake the biscuits for 14 to 18 minutes, until tall and golden brown.

These freeze decently. I wouldn't freeze and serve to guests, as the quality is definitely lessened if not eaten immediately. But they're okay for just you, or if your fam is not exceptionally picky. Defrost over night and pop back in the oven to warm up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lemon Poppy Muffins

I have to be at work at 8 am every morning. I live close to the Army base where I work, but every morning I'm still cutting it short. I don't think I've actually ever been on time to work. Anyway, I clearly have little time for breakfast. I usually throw an English muffin in the toaster while I speed-apply my makeup, leaving said muffin burned or undertoasted, or just generally unappealing. Needless to say, I've grown to dislike English muffins. Nothing makes them taste good- putting cream cheese on them makes me nauseous, putting cheese on them makes me wish there were eggs, and plain butter is just gross to me. So, clearly, it was time for a new breakfast option.
Enter Dorie Greenspan, saving my mornings with her Lemon Poppy Seed muffins. These are really, really delicious. They're not too sweet, they're moist, and the flecks of poppy seeds give the muffins a nice occasional crunch. Plus, they freeze well, so I can defrost one overnight and grab and go in the morning- no more messing with the temperamental toaster.
I used some raspberry jam in the center, going for a kind of jelly donut/muffin idea. It was AWESOME. I ate two immediately out of the oven, and really had to hold myself back from a third (I reasoned that if I ate them all the first day I'd still be out of luck for breakfast).

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, adapated from Dorie Greenspan Baking.
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled.
1 and 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 c raspberry jam or preserves (not jelly)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line muffin pan with baking cups (I used super fun Valentine's day ones!)
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest, rubbing together with your fingers until fragrant (this is the best smell ever). Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
In another bowl, combine the melted butter, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice together (this may look curdled).
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to blend together, being careful not to overmix, or you'll wind up with tough muffins. Stir in the poppy seeds.
Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 or 1/2 of the way with batter. Use a teaspoon to scoop in some raspberry jam. Fill the rest of the cup with batter. These don't rise that much, so you can fill up to the top.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
To freeze, wait until fully cooled, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and foil, and store in a Ziploc bag in freezer. To defrost, just pull out overnight and enjoy in the morning!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Swedish Visiting Cake

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for a theme or a name. I love holidays, all things seasonal, and theme parties. My last birthday party was poker themed and my cube at work is decorated with different nautical accessories.

So when I came across Dorie's Swedish Visiting Cake, a cake apparently traditionally made for Swedish women when their friends were visiting, I really wanted to make it. It looked delicious. And this weekend was perfect, because I was going to visit my best friend who lives in Union Square! Could a title ever be more appropriate! I planned to make the cake and bring it to her.

Making the cake was so easy. Honestly, figuring out what to wear in the morning takes more effort (well at least for me it does!) You don't even need to pull out the mixer. Since the recipe calls for melted butter, a simple whisk will do.

And the results show that sometimes the simplest things are the best! The cake was plain, sweet, with a hint of almond flavor and lemon, and a moist texture. I'd recommend going easy on the almond extract, as too much can make it taste chemically (or maybe that's just the grocery-store brand extract I'm using...whoops). Anyway the cake wound up being so good I may not have actually shared it with my friend...oops...but I bought her a bottle of wine when I was in the city! Soo let's just say that substitutes...

Swedish Visiting Cake, from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours
1 cup sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract*
1/2 pure almond extract*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 9-inch round cake pan or pie pan (I used a cake pan).

Pour the sugar into a medium bowl, and sprinkle the lemon zest over. Rub the zest into the sugar until sugar is aromatic. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Whisk in the salt and extracts.

Using a spatula, stir in the flour, then fold in the melted butter.
Scrape the batter into the cake pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with sugar and scatter with almonds.

Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, until it's golden and a little crisp on the outside. The inside will be moist. Remove from oven, let cool five minutes, and then use a thin knife to loosen the cake. Serve. Can be kept for about 5 days if stored airtight.

*You can use any flavor extract you want, or leave extracts out altogether.

Note: I tested my cake with a toothpick and it was done at 27 minutes, but not golden on top. I preferred that rustic, browned look, so I broiled it for just a minute. But if you do that, watch carefully! It browns very quickly!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009


This a no-fail cookie recipe. Like you literally can' t go wrong with these (provided you follow the recipe!). They're sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, forming a slight crust that gives way to a soft interior. They are my friends' favorite, hands down- normally they find some way to complain about anything I make (ohh, boys), but these they just eat. I remember I took them to Brad at school once, and as we sat in his dorm talking I watched our friend Phil quietly eat almost every single Snickerdoodle I'd made (Brad was not pleased, but I was!)

If you're having a casual gathering, want to bring something into the office, or just have a craving for something sweet, I highly recommend these! They also freeze well, so they are good to keep on hand.

Bear in mind that the dough needs to chill for 8 hours, so it's wise to spread the baking over 2 days. Additionally, just so you know, the recipe makes a lot of cookies (like 50).

Snickerdoodles (From Carole Walter's Great Cookies)
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (don't substitute)
1 and 3/4 sugar, divided into 1 and 1/2 and 1/4 c
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Strain together flour, cream of tartar, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and shortening on medium speed until lightened in color. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar in a steady stream, and mix another two minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing until just blended. Scrape dough into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let chill for 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, position the shelves in the upper half of the oven, or in the middle and bake only one sheet at a time (that's what I do. In my oven, anything on the bottom rack tends to burn so I just do it one cookie sheet at a time, despite the fact that I have double ovens). Heat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with foil.

Combine the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Scoop pieces of dough about the size of walnuts and roll into a ball, then roll in the cinnamon and sugar. Place 3 inches apart on baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven when they are golden brown around edges (they'll look a bit puffy, but will deflate as they cool, creating perfect, homemade looking cracks). Let cool for 5 minutes and then remove from foil and set on cooling racks.

These cookies will last 3 weeks if stored airtight. And trust me, everyone will love them!! Make these!

Chocolate Biscotti

Happy New Year!! While this may be, for many, a time to reflect on the past year or to make resolutions for the new year, it's not really looking that way for me. Usually I'm big on resolutions; one year I did the Ross on Friends try something new every day (until it got to be really stupid things like "wear gold lip gloss" by January 5). This year I'm not making any particular resolutions, but I do want to put more focus into my baking. So that means more recipes and definitely some better pictures! (see above, Nikon D60 vs a cheapo Canon Powershot- what a difference!)

So in keeping with that, I thought I'd try to invent a recipe. Since biscotti are one of my favorite types of cookies, I went with that idea. I've got a no-fail recipe for Almond Biscotti, which I'll share one day, but have had some trouble finding a good chocolate biscotti recipe. I find that with many recipes the cookies tend to be a little too cakey, and to me, a biscotti should be completely crisp, and not at all soft. That's just a personal preference- if you like yours a little on the softer side, this may not be the recipe for you. I think this recipe could be considered an original. It's culled from studying multiple biscotti recipes, as well as the scientific properties of butter, baking soda, and eggs to determine how to develop the ultimate crispness (move over Alton Brown!) I noticed recipes varied mostly on butter. A Carole Walter recipe used an entire melted stick of butter, a recipe from the Rao's cookbook used minimal amounts of butter, and a Martha Stewart used none. What I decided to do was use was four tbsp of melted butter. I also used less eggs than many recipes called for, to cut down on the cakiness. Baking powder was also used to add to the crispness. Next time, I'd like to try the addition of 1 tsp of vanilla extract, though I'll say the cookies were delicious without.

The recipe I used is as follows:
Chocolate Biscotti
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup walnuts, toasted
3 eggs
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, coca powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of my electric mixer, I beat the eggs and sugar until pale and slightly foamy. I poured in the melted butter, along the side of the bowl, and mixed until blended.

I then added the flour mixture in 2 additions, stirring just to combine. The dough was very sticky, soft, and thick.

I used a spatula to drop spoonfuls of dough onto parchment, forming 2 logs, each maybe like 16" long, then baked for about 20 minutes, until firm on top. I let the cookies and cool about 20 minutes and sliced them into logs. I put them on their sides and baked for 10 minutes, then flipped them over, and baked another ten minutes. Then I shut the oven off and let the cookies cool in oven with the door cracked open a little for about an hour. They will be very crisp, just the way I like them!

(Side note: if you like them less crisp, don't let them cool in the hot oven. Just remove, and let cool on a wire rack).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pinwheel Cookies

Honestly, I can't think of many foods that are more fun to bake than this cookie! It reminds me of being a little kid and playing with clay- I had this book that taught u how to layer colored clay, roll it into a log, and slice it into little pieces with a design inside- just like you do with these cookies.

The dough itself is pretty straightforward, as it's a simple icebox cookie dough. It's also very versatile, lending itself to countless variations in flavoring, shape, or additions (nuts, chips, etc). It freezes extremely well and can hang out in the fridge for a few days (in fact, it kind of has to) before you're ready to bake. Additionally, the two colored dough can take tons of different shapes- checkerboards, chevrons, striped cookies, marbled, whatever you think up.
I split my dough in half and tinted it with red food coloring (use paste), but you could also use melted chocolate or, obviously, any other food color (I plan on making a Superbowl version soon with team colors). You then split each half in half and roll them out in a square shape. You'll have two squares of red, two squares of plain. Place one plain on top of the colored, and roll them tightly together. This step is important, as you don't want a gap in the center of your cookie when you slice it! The roll chills overnight- another very important step, as it won't cut properly if the temperature isn't right.

Pinwheel Cookies, adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cookies.
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unslated butter, slightly firm
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Red food coloring (I used Wilton paste variety)

Strain together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar in four additions, and mix for two minutes longer. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, mixing again for one minute.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, blending until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.

Using a kitchen scale, divide the dough in half. (Each half will weight about 1 lb, or measure out to 1 and 1/3 cups of dough). Blend the red food coloring into one half of the dough, mixing thoroughly but trying not to overwork. Shape each half into a 4 x 5 in rectangle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or until firm enough to roll).

Divide each half into quarters. You'll have 4 pieces of red dough, 4 pieces plain. Shape each piece into a cylinder about 4 in long and 1 1/4 in wide. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days in fridge or 3 months in freezer).

When ready to roll, place each red cylinder in between two lightly floured sheets of wax paper and roll into a 6x7 rectangle. Do the same for the plain cylinders, rolling into a 6x6 square. Chill each piece in fridge for 10 minutes.

Remove the top sheet of wax paper from each piece of dough, and invert the plain dough onto the red dough. Line it up so that a bit of red dough peeks out at the top and bottom. Press lightly to seal the layers together. Peel off the top layer of wax paper.

Starting at the side closest to you, curl the edge of the dough, careful not to leave any space where the pinwheel's center will be. Use the wax paper to help you lift and turn the dough, rolling tightly. Repeat this process for each of the sheets of rolled out dough. You'll wind up with four cylinders. Wrap them in plastic, refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Turn each cylinder periodically during the first hour just to ensure that you don't wind up with one flat side.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350, and arrange racks to separate oven into thirds. Line cookie sheets with nonstick foil. Slice cookies into 3/16 inch slices and bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Let stand one minute then allow to cool on cooling racks.

These cookies will last for 3 weeks stored airtight.