Saturday, June 27, 2009

A History Lesson

History was NOT my favorite subject in school; in fact, I don't really like it that much...but my favorite teacher was my AP US History teacher. This month's challenge came with a history lesson, and I must admit that I didn't read it all! However, I will give you a little of the background.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England. This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow. Regardless of which story you believe, the diners loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting. I always like when I can share my Daring Baker challenges with my family. For the second month in a row I got to do that as I went home, probably for the last time until Thanksgiving, for Father's Day. Since it was Father's Day I wanted to use flavors my dad chose...of course, he said he'd eat whatever I made, so I just made good suggestions! ;-) At first I was going to do half Nutella and half raspberry but we decided to do both on the whole pie (NOTE: I did Nutella to please my brother...who ended up not eating it because he "doesn't eat" nuts. Oh well.). I love the way the chocolate and raspberry looks in the crust...I could have just eaten the pie like that without the frangipane. I put the pie in the oven while we watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (which is SO sad!). When my timer went off I immediately took the pie out and didn't even think to check it because the crust and top was SO brown. WELL, fastforward to Sunday after lunch. I cut into the pie and it's quite soupy. Ugh! So, I put it back into the oven for probably 10-15 minutes. It did firm up and cook but I still don't think it was quite like it should have been. My dad really enjoyed it. His comment was that it was rich but really good. He loved the raspberries. I liked the raspberries but was a little disappointed with the texture of the frangipane. I ground my own almonds and didn't have a food processor...I was using my mom's "Oscar." It just didn't quite get as fine as I would have liked and left more of a nut texture that I thought it should have had. Overall this was a yummy dessert. I had never heard of it before and am glad that I've tried it. If you want to see more challenge results go here.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional - I didn't use)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.

Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (I didn't use this)
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Muffins

My favorite flowers, unfortunately, are tulips! I say unfortunately because I can't seem to get fresh tulips to last longer than two days, which makes me sad. Anyway, when I was in Hobby Lobby several months back I found a tulip cookie cutter that I thought was too I bought it! I haven't made any cookies with it, but a few weeks after that I found this muffin recipe at Jenny's site. It sounded good to me but I wanted to do something different. instead to making muffins, I cooked this in two 8X8 pans and cut them out with my tulip cookie cutter. They turned out cute and VERY tasty! They are nice and moist without being mushy. They are the perfect summer muffins because of the berries...which are pretty inexpensive (at least in MS) right now. Jenny put a glaze on hers, which I know would be delicious...what isn't good with a glaze!? Peanut Butter and Berry Flowers adapted from Picky Palate
1/2 Cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 Cup oatmeal
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 Cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 mashed banana
1/2 Cup peanut butter
1 Cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoons melted butter
6 oz berries - I used blackberries and strawberries (be careful with strawberries because they will add extra moisture)

Glaze (optional)
1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place both flours, oatmeal, sugars, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix the banana, peanut butter, buttermilk and butter until smooth. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Slowly stir in berries. Spoon batter into greased 8X8 pans (2) or muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from center (be sure to check...I'm unsure of the actual time I cooked these). Let cool completely. Remove from pans and use whatever cookie cutter you want to use (or just cut into squares) to cut into individual pieces. If making glaze, whisk powdered sugar and heavy cream until smooth. Dip each piece into glaze and let dry.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

April Fools!

Oh's not April, it's June! Oh, well! Before we start....WARNING: This is NOT a cookie post!! I seem to find that my comments (not that there are that many to start with) drop off when I post a "real food" recipe. Well, I still must do it. In fact, I have some yummy "real food" things coming up, so just get ready! Now, I'm not a big fan of mashed potatoes. Just not what I would choose. I think they taste a little dry to me. I don't know! Anyway...sometimes, though, you just need that little mound of white, soft goodness. So, what to do? Make mashed cauliflower! Yep! It really works. I have seen this in several different places and was a little skeptical about it but decided to try it anyway. SO good! The key to this is pureeing ("mashing") the cauliflower for long enough and seasoning it well. I've made this three times and this last time was the best! I used sea salt and vegetable broth this time. I don't know which made the difference but it was delicious! It even tastes like mashed potatoes...though there is a bit of a different flavor, it's not overwhelmingly cauliflower. Try it sometime! Mashed Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, steamed until soft
seasonings: I used sea salt
broth (I used could use cream if you wanted to)

When the cauliflower is steamed, place it in a food processor. Turn the processor on. When the cauliflower "gets stuck," open the food processor and move the pieces around so that the blades can reach the big pieces. Once it starts to appear "mashed" add the seasonings and start adding the broth (or liquid of your choice). Keep adding until it reaches the desired consistency. You may have to open and reposition the cauliflower several times. Serve alongside anything you'd serve with mashed potatoes. You can even top with cheese. Mmmm!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Toffee Taste without the Toffee Tug

This past weekend my mom's family had our reunion. It's always fun and we are currently adding new members just about every year. My cousin's little boy has autism as well as some food allergies, so his diet is limited. Friday night she decided to make a meal for all of us that he could it. It was pretty good...taquitos, guacamole, and salad. On Saturday we usually grill out. However, everyone is responsible to bring a sweet and salty snack to share. I took hummus for my salty along with carrots and broccoli. I actually took two sweet snacks...puppy chow, just like Cate made last week, and a yummy new recipe from Peabody. When I saw the recipe I wondered why she had called them toffee bars. There wasn't any toffee in there. Nope...none of that crunchy, tooth tugging, cavity forming goodness. Hmmm...WELL! When I tasted it, I knew why. It TASTED like toffee. So good. I thought it tasted better cold (as I tasted it after pulling it out of the freezer). So, if you love toffee but have braces or TMJ issues or don't want to damage your dental work...or if you just love toffee, give these a try! So good!
Brown Sugar Toffee Bars adapted from Peabody

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup semiweet chocolate chips
3 ounces almonds, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray baking spray in a 9-x-13-inch pan. Beat 1 cup butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar and beat on medium high until fully incorporated. Turn mixer to low speed and mix in flours and salt. Press dough into prepared pan. It is a bit thin but will cover the pan easily. Bake until shortbread is brown, firm at edges and slightly soft in center, about 30 minutes.

Take shortbread out of oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the shortbread. Place back in oven for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and using a spatula, spread the chocolate out evenly over the shortbread. Sprinkle the almond pieces on top of the chocolate. Let cool. Place in freezer for 10 minutes (helps with the cutting). Cut into rectangles about the size of graham cracker rectangles (the smallest size of the graham cracker).

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Get This Outa My House!

Sometimes, I just get where I want to bake something. I have no reason to bake and I don't have family nearby, so I'm not baking for my husband or children (or parents). But when the baking bug hits, sometimes you just have to do it! So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try a new recipe from Baking Blonde. For some reason, I think that recipes that use sweetened condensed milk are fun. So, when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try, it has peanut butter and oatmeal! I used crunchy peanut butter and LOVED the way the nuts felt and added to the flavor, it was really toasty tasting. Also, I ran out of oatmeal, so I added some wheat bran to cover for that. This also added to the nutty taste. These bars were REALLY good! That's why I had to "get this outa my house." I ended up taking the bars to a pediatric department picnic. They were all eaten except for one bar...good job everyone! Apparently, I have been deemed the cooking resident! I'll take it. :-)
Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Dream Bars adapted from Bakingblonde
1 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups Quick Cooking oatmeal (NOT instant)
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup peanut butter (calls for 1/2 cup but 1/3 is what I had)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup peanut butter chips
2/3 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil (or wax paper) and spray lighlty with PAM.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar, soda, oatmeal, flour & salt until it’s crumbly (mine wasn't crumbly...maybe the lack of oatmeal had something to do with that). Set aside about 1 cup or a little more. Press the rest of the crust into prepared pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes.

While crust is cooking, in a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk. Once crust has baked, evenly pour and spread peanut butter filling over the baked crust. Be gentle so you don’t pull up the warm crust while you spread the filling. Evenly sprinkle the reserved crumbs on top of the peanut butter and sweetened condensed milk mixture. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the chips evenly over the top. Return to oven to bake for another 5-10 minutes or until topping is light golden brown and candy bars/chips are melting. Cool. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

So Corny!

They say you learn everything from your parents. In general, you usually look like your parents. You probably talk a lot like your parents. Your my case, unfortunately...from your parents! You see, my dad's sense of humor is quite, shall we say, corny! Lots of puns, which can go on for many, many minutes! And because I got this sense of humor, my jokes are often corny or not understood. For instance, though you might get this because it involves a knowledge of food: What happened when the nurse accidentally gave the little boy a borscht infusion? Wait for it, wait for it....I said wait for it! Anyway, you also tend to get eating habits from your parents. When I was growing up, we had a typical Saturday lunch...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fritos and salsa. Sometimes we'd have banana, sometimes carrot sticks (okay, rarely carrot stick). My dad's favorite chip is the frito. So, when I saw these cookies, I really wanted to try them. I had seen them on Oatmeal Cookie Guy's site and then, the recipe I actually used, on Anna's site. They have lots of stuff in them and you can really customize them for what you want or have on hand. Unfortunately, I don't keep any of the chips on hand, so I had to purchase them specifically for this. I used fritos and pretzel sticks. (You can see both in this picture) These were good though I think it would have been better to use regular pretzels or the potato chips. My dad liked them but said he couldn't taste the fritos much. I think it was kind of fun to be eating the cookie and then all of a sudden get the "essence" of frito. Kind of made you stop and think...and I don't think much when I'm eating a cookie...unless I'm in a meeting, like I was today. But that's beside the point, mine got a bit dry more quickly than I like...but were still a good and fun cookie. Try them out sometime. Oh, and the answer to my joke..."his heart skipped a BEET!" :-) (That came from last one of our chief residents from last year, Maggie.) Compost Cookies adapted from Oatmeal Cookie Guy

1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup oatmeal

1 cup flour

1 cup roughly crushed pretzels

1 cup roughly crushed Fritos

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350º. Cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and mix until well incorporate. In a large mixing bowl, stir the dry ingredients (including baking chips) together. Slowly mix the dry ingredients in with the creamed mixture. Mix until evenly combined. Shape dough into ball or use a cookie scoop to scoop onto a pan. Place dough balls about 2 inches apart on baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake at 350º for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes. Then place cookies on wire racks to cool.