Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TWD-Finnish Pulla

This will be short and sweet as I am in the midst of baking Christmas cookies.  I was anxious to try this recipe because it looked so pretty in the picture and I have never made braided bread before.  I made this in a hurry and found it fairly simple.  I would have liked to have had more time to do a tighter and more precise braid, but overall I really liked it.  I liked the sweet flavor of the bread and I thought that the book gave a good recipe tip not to over bake it because I could see this becoming dry quickly.  I did not spring for the cardamon as the night before I made this my car was towed costing me $218 to retrieve it.  So cardamon was part of the budget cuts so as not to fall off a Christmas fiscal cliff.

Happy Holidays to all and here's to baking in 2013!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TWD-Gingerbread Baby Cakes

On Saturday I am hosting our neighborhood ladies' Christmas brunch.  So it is crunch time to get the house clean and the decorations out and the food ready and the silver polished.  I almost didn't make this because I thought I should be doing brunch preparations and we had a repairman in the kitchen fixing our disposal.  But I looked at the recipe and had all the ingredients including some fresh ginger my husband had bought to make some ancient-Chinese-secret cold remedy. So I made them on a whim and boy am I glad I did.  My husband and I have been married for over 21 years and I have baked consistently for those 21 years.  So when my husband said "Wow, this is the best thing you have ever made," you know you have a winner.  I thought the fresh ginger would give it an unpleasant bite, but I was wrong.  It had a nice grownup taste, but even my daughter enjoyed it. Since "this is the best thing I ever made" I can see this becoming a holiday tradition.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Whenever a recipe claims to be the "best ever," I think it sets itself up for failure.  So I didn't set my expectations too high for this recipe.  I always prefer a brownie made with cocoa powder (because I always have cocoa powder on hand and it's more economical) and I just like the more rounded taste of a brownie made with cocoa powder.  So this recipe had 2 strikes against it before I even started baking.  Then throw in bad recipe reading on my part (forgot to add the butter until the end) and this recipe seemed doomed.  But despite all that, these turned out good.  I probably wouldn't make them again because I already have a favorite brownie recipe and I rarely have both bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the pantry at the same time.  If I were to make them again, I would bake them longer than the 27 minutes that I baked them.  I thought the center was a little too ooey-gooey, but my family liked that part.  So if this were a movie rating, I would give this recipe 3 stars out of 4.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TWD- Bagels

This week was one of those "Yes! I made that" moments.  Bagels are something I had never attempted prior to this week and really thought it was over my skill level.  That's what's great about Tuesdays with Dorie; trying things you might never try otherwise.

I thought the instructions for this recipe were great.  I used all bread flour because that's what I had on hand and I wouldn't change it.  For the boiling part, I did 90 seconds first and then 60 seconds after the flip and again I thought that worked out great.  My topping was coarse sea salt and it gave the bagels a taste almost like a soft pretzel. 

Boiling them - 90 seconds, then 60 seconds

I finished these up around 5:30 pm.  I had no intention of using them for dinner, but when I saw how great they turned out, I called my husband and told him to stop at the store and get some roast beef and Havarti cheese.  We had bagel sandwiches for dinner and everyone loved them.

I can't wait to make these again, but try flavors like cinnamon raisin or asiago cheese.  You know all the flavors that are tempting at Panera and Einstein Bagels.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

TWD - Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Loaf

Today was a high of 82 degrees in Sugar Land, Texas.  Even after 21 years in Texas, my internal clock is ready for  some cooler weather than 82 on October 1st.  So it was nice that at least the house smelled like fall with this bread. 

I was surprised like many others that this was not a quick bread and wondered if all the time invested would be worth it for a pumpkin bread.  But this is no ordinary pumpkin bread.  This is a whole other level of pumpkin bread.  I started this bread on Sunday afternoon and was not prepared for the overnight rise, but luckily I work from home on Mondays, so I could accommodate the three risings.  And what a great workday treat to have fresh autumn-smelling bread coming out of the oven at 3 pm.  On most days at 3 pm I am reaching for the 94% fat free popcorn, so my taste buds were in a real treat when this bread came out of the oven.  I let it cool for about 30 minutes, slathered it with butter and inhaled it. And then I had another piece.  And maybe another. It was that good.

I can't wait to make this again.  But if I do, I will use craisins if cranberries are not at their peak of ripeness. My only regret was using fresh cranberries that weren't ripe enough and they gave a tart bite to the bread. 

After the third rising

Ready to eat (after I pick out all the overly tart cranberries)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TWD - Whole Wheat Loaves

I made this bread while I also made some cookies to send to my sister in Upper Sandusky, Ohio.  She is running for prosecutor (vote for Molly!) Since I can't join in the campaign efforts from over 1000 miles away, I thought I could help feed the efforts.  The focus of my afternoon was the cookies and not the bread, so I was glad the bread was as easy as it was.  I had no issues making it and it was a nice addition for our Sunday supper.  And my husband said it was good without me even baiting him to say it was good.

I do think 35 minutes was a little too long of a baking time and probably it was done at 30 minutes.  Since it so easy, I could see myself making it again, but this bread recipe from allrecipes.com is still my favorite honey wheat bread.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

TWD- The Sinking Nectarine Cake

 If anyone has ever taken a 4-H baking project, let me start by saying that I would be lucky to eek out a participation ribbon at the county fair if this was being judged by 4-H judges.  A couple bonehead moves on my part turned what should have been a lovely cake into an ugly cake.
My first mistake was I melted an entire stick of butter in the pan.  I didn't realize the mistake until I had already fanned out all the nectarine slices.  So I had to sop up extra butter with paper towels.  My second mistake was I only bought 1 lemon.  I don't know if I thought a loaves and fishes moment would happen upon me and produce 1/2 cup of lemon juice out of one hard tiny lemon, but that didn't happen.  So I had to fake lemon juice with lemon juice+lemon zest+water+vinegar.  Maybe this works fine for making a vinaigrette, but it didn't work out so well for making a chiffon cake.
At 45 minutes the cake was puffed up like a proud peacock, but the center was still liquid.  At 50 minutes I thought it was done.  Then the crack happened.  And the crack revealed that the center was still a mess of liquid.  So I put it back in the over for an additional 15 minutes.  I never could get the center to bake properly (probably all that excess butter was bubbling up).  So after 25 minutes, I turned it over and hoped for the best.  Well the best was a tasty cake but with the Louisiana style sinkhole.   In the picture below I covered up the sinkhole with the leftover crumb topping.

I think if this cake was executed properly, it would be swoon worthy.  But I think I would decrease the ginger to 1/4 tsp.  I noticed a somewhat bitter aftertaste that I thought was from too much ginger.  But if only too much ginger had been my biggest problem...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TWD - Popovers (and the missing Galette)

I've always wanted to make popovers but thought you needed the popover pan to do so.  I don't need yet another pan to fall out of my cupboard when I open it, so I never bought a popover pan.  I was encouraged by this recipe that made it seem that a muffin tin would work just fine.  And it did.  The whole popover concept was neat and I thought they were fun to eat.  I do think my initial oven temp was too high, so if I were to make them again, I might do them at 400 for the first cycle.   I felt like mine were too brown.  My family was less than crazy about these.  My husband said "what's with the fake rolls?"  I think the airy center threw him.  So I'm glad I made them because I have always wanted to, but probably won't make them again since I would have to eat them alone.

On a separate note, I got thrown off by the schedule and missed the week of the galette.  I was going to skip it, but my mom made it and encouraged me to try the tomato and cheese galette.  Boy am I glad I did.  I loved it.  Loved the crust, loved the filling, loved it with a glass of wine.  Loved it. End of story.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TWD - Blueberry Nectarine Pie

There's something about pie, that no matter how bad the day, pie makes it better. This pie was no exception.  I was having a bad case of the "Mondays" at work, but I made this pie after work and it turned things right around. 
The pie crust is very similar to the one I always use so I knew I would like the dough. I haven't seen my mom's post yet, but I guarantee that she rolled her dough in a perfect circle (unlike mine that looks like I got it at the second-hand store).  She is really a whiz at rolling perfect pie dough.  Every.single.time.
Filling added - ready for top crust
Ready to bake.  I love using an egg wash - I know it will yield a pretty pie.
Mom had warned me this pie had a runny consistency and she suggested doubling the flour.  I did that, but it still was pretty runny.
But no worries, we all loved this pie, even if it was runny.  I liked the addition of the nectarines.  It almost added a floral and fragrant note to the pie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TWD - Semolina Bread

I made this bread early as my family, along with my mom and dad, will be in Spain on the Tuesday this will post.  We are all pretty excited about the trip, so I didn't give this bread much thought.  But it turned out to be a great bread.  In fact it was my son's favorite TWD endeavor so far.
I made the sponge first as directed, but did not find it to double in size.  I called Mom about this and she said not to worry as long as it was bubbling.  It was, so I proceeded.
The first rise did double in size, so I moved on to the next step.
The second rising went well, until I deflated it try to make the slashes in the bread described in the book.  But it all worked out in the end and we all loved the bread.  I didn't find it to be too salty as some commented until the second day.
This recipe is a keeper.  Although it took most of the day to make this bread, I think it's a perfect bread to make when hanging out at home all day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TWD- Hazelnut Biscotti

I love hazelnuts and I love biscotti, so this was a win win week for me.  I was a little fearful of the recipe because I usually find biscotti recipes with no fat make biscotti better used for a game of boules than eating, but this recipe turned out wonderful.

I was curious how the preparation of the hazelnuts would go because I had always used the towel method in the past.  This boiling method in baking soda water worked really well, but, what a mess it made of my pot.

The preparation of the biscotti itself went lickety split and was very straight forward. I did find the loaves to be skinnier than I was used to, but this yielded small biscotti which I think are perfect for eating with coffee. I only baked them 10 minutes the second time so they wouldn't get too hard.

My favorite part of the recipe was baking them right on the cooling rack.  Woo hoo for that idea! What a time saver - you don't have to flip the biscotti AND you don't have to transfer them again for cooling.

Well actually my favorite part was eating them!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TWD - French Strawberry Cake

I have always been intrigued by genoise cakes, but never made one.  But I think this might be a cake where practice makes perfect and I need to revisit this recipe and try it again because my cake did not rise enough.
I beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes and found I had to go about 90 seconds more to pass the 10 second ribbon rule.

Things were going well until I added the third batch of flour.  I could not get it all to fold in and with each stroke I could see my batter deflating.  I since learned from the comments on the TWD site that perhaps it was the bump in the Kitchen Aid bowl.  The next time I try this I am going to put the batter in another bowl to fold in the flour.

Finally all the flour was in and I baked the cake.  It was not very tall and I knew there was no way I was going to successfully slice it into 3 layers even though I have a nifty saw type cutter for cutting cakes.  I could not set the setting low enough to slice the layers that thin.  So I made do with 2 layers.
I sliced it and decorated it with the whipped cream.  One thing I loved about this recipe was the addition of the sour cream to the whipped cream.  I think it helped stablize the whip cream so it didn't droop when decorating.  I used the wrong size pastry tip to decorate it, so I had to improvise and just piled strawberries on top for the finished look.
(See the pretty table runner?  My daughter spent a week with my mom and dad and they made this together!

My husband and I really liked the taste of this cake.  It seemed very French.  I like how sturdy the cake was to hold all the juicy strawberries.  I will try this cake again and see if I can get it to rise more so I can cut three layers.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TWD - Oasis Naan

The other day on the radio I heard an interesting study.  They polled women and asked what they thought men wanted for Father's Day.  Women said they thought men wanted tickets to a sporting event and power tools.  But when they polled men, what they really wanted was a smart phone/ipad type device.  And the second thing they wanted was A HOME COOKED MEAL!  I am guessing if you are participating in TWD, a home cooked meal for the father in your life is not a big deal. But I think that says a lot about today's society that a home cooked meal ranks above sporting tickets and power tools for men.  I would venture to say that study shows not many men are getting a home cooked meal.  So what does all that have to do with Oasis Naan?  I think it's a shame how many people are missing out on something so easy, yet satisfying like this bread.  This bread was so easy and with so few ingredients, yet when I finished with it I felt like a rock star baker.  It was so good, especially with some hummus.  So I am so grateful for this group that keeps my love of baking and cooking alive and shows me new recipes like Oasis Naan that I probably would have never tried without this group.

The Persian Naan dough, fully risen

The dough rolled out and with seasoning.  I don't own a pizza stone and used the back side of a jelly roll pan to bake them on.  What a slick trick!  I didn't know you could do that.

Ready to eat with some hummus!  My whole family loved it.  What an easy party food this would make!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD - Pecan Sticky Buns

You've heard of the five stages of grief?  Well, at the risk of sounding a tad bit like a baking drama queen, that's what I went through with these sticky buns.

Denial - "I did not just use 5 sticks of butter to make these sticky buns.  I did not just spend 12 hours making these sticky buns."

Anger - "I used 5 sticks of butter and spent 12 hours making these sticky buns and they are no better than this?!  They have so much butter, it's running down my childrens' faces as they eat the sticky buns.  This is not buttered corn on the cob, these are sticky buns!"

Bargaining - "If I could somehow just suck some of the butter out of these rolls, they would be good. If only I had trusted my instinct that 3-1/2 cups of flour cannot support 5 sticks of butter..."

Depression - "I thought I was a better baker than this; but these aren't any good.  They have an oily taste with all that butter.  I gave some of these buns to my neighbors.  They will think I have jumped the shark with these sticky buns.  My baking life is over."

Acceptance - (next morning when I was really hungry and the butter had soaked into much of the brioche).  "These sticky buns are not that bad. I do love the layers that are reminiscent of puff pastry. I did learn something about laminating and making a sponge.  I bet if I were to try these again and cut out about half of the butter, these would be good. That's why I joined TWD, to learn new stuff and challenge myself."

So far so good.  This was a wonderful brioche dough and I found it easy to work with.

In hindsight (and after watching the BWJ video), this is where my trouble started.  My pieces of butter are too big which caused big chunks of butter to melt into the buns as they baked.

Can you hear the menacing music?  Trouble ahead!  The butter pieces are too big!

Out of the oven.  Little do I know of the trouble that lies in the bottom of the pan - the butter bath!
Ready to eat.  For me these were better the next day, when the butter had a chance to seep into the brioche dough and wasn't as overwhelming.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD- Hungarian Shortbread

Those Hungarians.  So clever.  Who would have thought to use a cheese grater to make a dessert?  Makes you wonder if there was once a shortage of cheese in Hungary and a housewife felt bad about the cheese grater her kids had given her for Christmas that never got used, so she decided to grate some shortbread dough into a pan? Whatever the reason, I loved this recipe.  I mean really, really loved it, can't wait to make it again, loved it.

I was excited from the beginning when I saw the recipe had rhubarb.  Growing up in Ohio, rhubarb was a rite of spring.  But living in Texas, I never see it.  Luckily a fancy super market sells it frozen in one pound bags.  I was skeptical of how thick the shortbread looked in the picture, but once I tasted it, thickness was not an issue.  It just meant more of the yummy buttery flavor to sandwich the tart rhubarb.