Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Crème Brûlée

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was crème brûlée, selected by Mevrouw Cupcake. I've only had this dessert once before, but I wasn't really impressed by it. Looking back on it, the reason is probably that they had the crème brûlée on display (burnt top and all), and then before serving they added more sugar and re-burnt the top. I'm sure that somehow affected things, having old burnt soggy sugar covered with a new crisp layer. This recipe definitely changed my opinion, and I loved the simplicity of the flavors.

Plus, this gave me an excuse to buy an awesome butane torch. While I was buying the ramekins at a cooking store, I saw a culinary torch...for $50. It didn't even come filled, I'd have had to take it to another store to get the butane. I knew I could get a better deal, and Moowie had bought a torch a few days before, so I gave her a call and ended up going to Home Depot. Quadruple the awesomeness, ten times the fuel, and still cheaper.

I was a little worried about how these would turn out the first time around. Burning the sugar on top, I didn't know if I was getting it done evenly or if the sugar on the bottom was melting. After cracking into the crème brûlée, all those worries disappeared. The top was perfectly hard, and cracked nicely.

The taste of the lightly burnt sugar mixed with a very simple vanilla custard came together perfectly. When I bought the blowtorch, I figured I'd end up using it for other reasons eventually, but now that I've made this, I know I'll be repeating this dessert anytime I need a simple but impressive ending to a meal.

Recipe - Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 393

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lavash Crackers and Guacamole

This month, Daring Bakers went towards a savory route. It also went fairly simple, with a recipe of lavash crackers and a vegan dip of our choice. For those that don't know, veganism is having a diet using no animal-produced products whatsoever. It excludes butter, gelatin, honey, that sort of thing. The lavash was very simple to make, and the fastest dip I could think of was guacamole.

I actually made a few batches of this dough. The first time I rolled out the dough, I rolled it too thin and it ended up being a hard cracker. I wanted something softer, more bread-like, so I tried a second time to great success. The third was just last night - I needed something to eat some leftover hummus with. Because it's quick to throw together and bake, it's perfect for that sort of situation.

Recipe -

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water
Toppings of choice

In a stand mixer bowl, combine flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and olive oil, and add 1/2 cup of water. Knead with a hook attachment until the dough comes together. If necessary, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until the dough forms a ball. If it feels a bit too wet, you can add some extra flour. Knead for 10 minutes, or until you can pinch a bit of dough, stretch it, and see light coming through before it breaks (shows that enough gluten has formed). Place into a bowl and cover with a tea towel, and allow it to proof for 90 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a piece of parchment paper, roll the halves into 8-inch (21-cm) circles. Add the toppings of your choice (I kept it simple, using a heavy pinch of kosher salt). While still on the parchment paper, place onto a baking sheet and move into the preheated oven. Bake for 6 minutes, then using a spatula, flip the lavash over (if your toppings aren't pressed into the dough, skip this step). Bake an additional 6 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Slice into shapes of your choice (I made pie slices, resulting in 12 wedges). Serve at room temperature with dip of your choice.

Simple Guacamole

3 medium avocados
2 bell peppers (yellow, orange, or red for extra color), sliced
1/2 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 handful cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and spoon out fruit into a medium bowl. Mash with a potato masher, or a large fork. Add the bell peppers, onion, garlic, lime juice. Stir until it's mixed together well. Add cilantro to taste, then salt and pepper. Mix together and cover with a piece of plastic wrap - press right against the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation and discoloration. Place into the refrigerator and let sit for at least 1 hour so the flavors have a chance to meld. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve with crackers.

I tried a pinch of the raw dough to get an idea of its taste, and noticed it was on the sweet side. I decided to make a quick dessert lavash out of the remaining half of the dough, so rolled it out and baked it plain. Following a simple dessert my brother and I used to do with flour tortillas as kids, I ran a stick of butter over the top of the hot lavash (NO, not the whole stick went in...it's just easier to hold a whole stick), then topped with a 50-50 mix of cinnamon and sugar. Cut into 12 wedges again, and served warm. It would be great with a simple ice cream.

Variations on this one are endless. There are several toppings you can place onto the savory lavash - poppy seeds, cumin, oregano, anything that won't burn too easily in the oven. You could even bake one and make a mini-pizza out of it. Serve with mango salsa, hummus, any sort of dip you think will match your topping well. Similarly with the sweet version, there are various toppings you can add and side-dishes to serve with. The overall premise of this recipe is simple, and can be adapted to your liking.

Soft Lavash Crackers

These lavash wedges are simple to make, and only take ...

See Soft Lavash Crackers on Key Ingredient.

Simple Guacamole

An easy guacamole to put together and store in the ...

See Simple Guacamole on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dimply Plum Cake

This was my first experience cooking with plums. It's also been a full week since I've updated. After my last computer malfunction, I've been trying to restore all my old problems, but some are giving me more problems than others (er...photoshop, namely) so I can't get the coloring right on most of my pictures. Fortunately the pictures taken this week were at my brother and sister-in-law's house where they have plenty of sunlight. Curse the designer of my townhouse and the north-only windows. This week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe was picked by Bake-en.

My mom was visiting in town the same day I made this, and she brought with her an ice cream maker and some chocolate almond ice cream batter (recipe to follow...eventually). We tasted this cake after enjoying some of the chocolaty goodness, and I really think it took away from the flavor of the cake. It just ended up tasting dry and plain. I had some leftovers the next day and it tasted moist and flavorful - I didn't know plums could be so good until I tried those leftovers. It could be the fact that it was able to sit for a full day and move the juices through the cake, but I'm betting it's just the overpowering ice cream.

This is one of those recipes that's very open to variation depending on what sort of fruits you have lying around the house. Oh, and I learned from this experience - when sinking fruit into a cake, make sure you put all the fruit into place first and press them all down at the same time. I ended up with a lopsided cake because my first row pushed extra batter to one side, and it kept moving over more as I added rows.

Recipe - Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 41

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate Chunks

First to start things off - my computer recently suffered from a massive malware/virus attack, so I haven't had a chance to go to other peoples' pages for a while. I gave up yesterday and did a system recovery after seeing nothing else would fix it, so it's like starting from scratch again - lost some of my programs in the process. Hopefully I'll get to reading some other blogs within the next couple days. Anyways, that didn't stop me from baking some good chocolate cookies. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was picked by Fool for Food.

Chocolate. Lots. of. chocolate. I'm attaching the recipe, so you can see yourself how much is packed into these, and it wasn't helped by the fact that I did a double batch because a friend of mine wanted to help and take a full recipe's amount with her. It actually filled my stand mixer bowl to the brim with a nutty chocolate mix...it looks like death, but the cookies are delicious.

Recipe - adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan p. 70

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 12 pieces
17 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
1 ounce dark chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and place parchment paper on top of a baking sheet. Combine the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and stir with a fork. Using a double broiler, melt the butter, 6 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate, and the dark chocolate together. Stir until combined - don't overheat or the ingredients will separate. Once melted, move to the counter to cool.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs and sugar and beat until light and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, and then slowly pour in the melted chocolate mixture with the stirring speed on low. Mix until combined, and then scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all the ingredients are mixed. Stop the stand mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for several seconds, until all dry ingredients have been consumed. Add the rest of the chocolates, nuts, and raisins, then mix together until evenly spread.

Using a table spoon, scoop heaping piles of the dough onto the parchment paper. Don't worry about separating them - they don't expand much while cooking. Bake each sheet for 10 - 12 minutes, shorter if you're using a dark baking sheet. Remove the baking sheet and allow the cookies a minute or so to cool. Once the edges are hard enough, use a metal spatula to move them from baking sheet to cooling rack. Yields 24 cookies.

I took these into work and people started complaining - not because they were bad, but because they were too good to pass up every time someone walked by them. Dorie definitely got a great recipe here.

Chocolate chocolate chunks

Chocolate packed cookies, loaded with goodies.

See Chocolate chocolate chunks on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

It's been a busy week, so this is going to be a rather short post. This week's recipe choice for Tuesdays with Dorie was picked by Confessions of a Tangerine Tart. It uses whoppers and malted milk mix (like Olvaltine) along with a bunch of chocolate and all sorts of good stuff.

I never tried Ovaltine before - I've never had it growing up. With some of the extra, I decided to mix some up to give it a try...it reminded me of sweet potatoes for some reason. Now I love sweet potatoes, they're great to eat...but drinking and having that same flavor? Doesn't work. I'm a little confused by the whole thing.

So Tuesdays with Dorie - cookies last week, cookies this week, and cookies again next week (which I've already made) PLUS someone brought a giant tin of butter shortbread cookies into work. I never thought it could happen, but I'm a bit cookied out. I think my sweet tooth seppuku'd for the shame of getting tired of sweets.

Recipe - Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 85

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

Peanut Butter + Oatmeal + Chocolate...how could you possibly go wrong with that combination? This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was picked by Proceed with Caution, selecting these glorious cookies. The yield on the recipe is pretty large, making about 60 cookies, so I'm sure I'll have them stored around in the freezer for a long time.

I brought a batch of these to a Labor Day BBQ this weekend, and everyone loved them. Well, these and the malted cookies from next week's recipe (figured I'd just make both batches at once since it was a long weekend). They were gone a lot faster than the store-bought desserts - always a good sign.

Nothing fancy with presentation when it comes to these, though. Dorie herself admits that they're usually served by themselves, but if accompanied by some vanilla ice cream I'm sure nobody would complain.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 73