Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lemons are...


Sooo yummy! 

Last weekend I made the innocent decision to go to our local restaurant supply store. No harm in just looking around, right? eh hem... well I ended up with 50 pounds of cake flour, 5 dozen eggs, and a 5 pound bag of lemons. Really I don't know how this happened. The cake flour was just such a good deal I couldn't pass it up even though I tried to talk myself out of the purchase several times. I walked around the store trying to refocus but 15 bucks for 50 pounds of flour... soon I found myself loading up a cart and the rest of the ingredients naturally jumped right in! 

With such a surplus of lemons I had to act quickly. Lemon cream seemed like it could be good and versatile. And boy is it! It is great as a tart filling (note picture!), cake filling, or just on a spoon right out of the jar.  

I then decided to do a test.. curd vs cream.. hey I told you I have a lot of lemons!

I think I prefer the light creamy ness of the lemon cream. Texturally the cream gets my vote. The curd had the better up front bright lemony flavor but the texture just did not do it for me. Both recipes are from Dorie Greenspan. Both were really delicious and easily used in a variety of ways. I may try the curd again... I did not strain the mixture before bottling and got some little egg bits in my curd... yuck. Both are worth making and keep well refrigerated.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BYOB



Thanks goes out to sandy At the Baker's Bench  for coming up with the idea for BYOB ( bake your own bread). I recently got a copy of  "Artisan Bread in five minutes a day" and made my first batch of dough for the refrigerator. There is no kneading involved yet the results are a light, airy, chewy loaf of bread. It goes against everything I know not to knead this dough! So with out further delay here is my first attempt using this new technique.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The thief in my midst!


OK... So this is a pretty crummy (hee hee ... I just cant help the puns!) photo of the brownies I made... but notice my pupperoo, Scout, in the back! Perhaps this photo is foreshadowing his k-9 intention to stealthily gobble up my brownies when my attention is elsewhere! 

Chocolate Nut Brownies with Candied Orange Peels AKA Vegan Brownies


It has been awhile since I have attempted a vegan dessert but, there was a time when butter, eggs, and cows milk were not a part of my life. So I decided to revisit a vegan recipe I used to love for brownies. The original recipe is from The New Farm Cookbook.
I highly recommend this cookbook for vegetarian or vegan cooking. My copy is so well worn and written in that I have replaced it twice. Most of the recipes tend to be on the bland side so use them as a starting point. With that in mind here is my updated Vegan Brownie recipe based on the New Farm's recipe:
Chocolate Nut Brownies with Candied Orange Peels
Mix 1/3 cup flour with 1 cup strong coffee (or water).                                                                         Cook until thick and let cool completely.
Heat 1/2 cup coconut cream (not milk because this is a substitute for the margarine). Add 2/3 cup cocoa and stir until smooth. Cool.
Beat 2 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1teaspoon vanilla into the cooled flour mixture, then add the cocoa mixture.
Mix together 1 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and add to the mixture.
Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts. I used walnuts                                                                                                 1/8 cup diced candied orange peel                                                                                                  1/2 cup bitter sweet chocolate bar chopped or chips.
Oil a pan. The original recipe calls for a 9x13 at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. I used a smaller baking pan and cant really give reliable baking temps because my oven has a mind of its own and constantly changes the temperature during bake times! Arrgh!
These come out moist and fudgey. The coffee deepens the chocolate flavor and the coconut adds a german chocolate taste. You can leave the orange candy out or add zest. The orange taste is very subtle and only really hits your taste buds after the chocolate flavor has drifted away. I don't really think you can tell these are vegan... you decide! Just don't forget that white granulated sugar is not considered vegan. I used sugar in the raw and pulsed it in the food processor to make it more easily dissolved like bakers sugar.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Food masquerading as other food!


This week I enlisted the help of some friends to decorate mocha flavored meringues. I have to say I am super impressed with just how much these little candies resemble button mushrooms! I found the recipe here 

One word of warning... be very careful about humidity when making these. I made the meringues the night before and they were crispy and lite. The next day I melted the chocolate "glue" over boiling water and the merigues got sticky. They are still really tasty just way chewier. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shortbread


Shortbread is one of my fAAvorite cookies.

The simplicity of the recipe makes them easy to prepare anytime. My recent acquisition of a fancy shortbread pan has given my shortbread an elegant design and was well worth the money. I think the key to really great shortbread is to use the best butter you can find. I splurged on Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's cultured butter. I accidentally bought the salted variety but, I think it added some depth to the shortbread so I recommend using a lightly salted butter or just add a pinch into the recipe.  I also used the best vanilla I could find.  And here is where I digress...

Recently I got a temporary transfer to the R&D department where I work. I work for a Vegan ice cream company as a Quality Control Technician. Well, I had no idea there were so many variations on vanilla! At the food lab we have your standard vanilla like you can get at the grocery store, we have your higher end bourbon vanilla which you can find at specialty shops, and then... well then it gets really interesting! Caramelized vanilla, upfront notes vanilla, vanilla creme, vanilla bean etc etc. The variations go on and on. You can check out Mission flavors they even have a cheesecake flavor. Food Science is so much fun!

So here is my recipe for shortbread;

3/4 cup really good butter at room temp (salted or add pinch of salt)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

preheat oven to 325 f. Grease your pan.

Cream butter until it is light in color. Cream in the powdered sugar then the vanilla. lightly work in the flour until incorporated. Knead on a floured board until you have a smooth dough. Firmly press the dough into your pan or cut into shapes. Prick surface with a fork, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned ( I go for a golden color) let cool in pan for 10 minutes and carefully remove. Cut while still warm.  ENJOY!

The texture of these cookies is light and flakey with a melt in your mouth feel leaving the buttery flavor and vanilla notes of flavor at the end. It seems to be a really forgiving recipe due to the powdered sugar, which also gives that melt in your mouth feel. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Madeleine Mania


OOh madeleines! I have been obsessing about these scalloped shaped cookies since I noticed the photos in Baking from My Home To Yours. It started innocently enough... some calls around town to locate an actual living madeleine. Nothing. Next I decided " What the hell, I'll just bake them myself." Which brought me to the next obstacle in my pursuit of madeleines, the pan. Another couple of weeks, Christmas list hints, internet browsing, and calling stores and I finally found and purchased a madeleine pan. Now nothing could stop me! Hah! As I was strolling around the mall where I purchased my pan, with pan in hand, a sales girl at another shop said, "Are you going to make madeleines? Cool!" With that kind of encouragement, from a total stranger, I was sure madeleins must be my new calling in life. Maybe a madeleine only bake shop!Yes, madeleine mania was setting in.

I still needed a real life cookie for comparison. I found some packaged cookies by blah blah blah and bought them.  

The next morning I woke up and got out my cookbooks, reviewed my bookmarked madeleine websites, and studied the store bought samples. I had to try a few just to get the idea! Eventually I made the choice of earl gray madeleines by Dorie Greenspan.

Everything seemed to be going well. I put on some old episodes of art bell coast to coast and got ready to make the madeleines. I infused the butter with the earl gray tea, prepped the madeleine pan, put the completed batter in the prepped pan, and put it into the refrigerator for 3 or 4 hours. I forced myself out of the house so as not to tempt earlier baking. I preheated the oven to 400 which seemed kind of high... I held my breath and shut the oven door. Gosh I wish I had a little window in my oven!

Still a little suspicious of the 400 degree oven setting I checked after 9 minutes. The madeleines were very dark around the edges and there were no humps. boo. They released from the pan, no problem. But, the little cakes looked horrible! Nothing like my sample madeleine, all golden and shapley, mocking me with it's little hump! The signature shell shape... the whole reason I had to buy a new pan.. was lost in the bubbly, crusty, brown texture. And even worse than how they looked was how they tasted. These were not even close. 

So what did I do wrong?

I have since located several madeleine 911 websites where you can get tips, recipes, and lots of sympathy. Well Im not giving up. Heck I now own a madeleine pan. So I gotta try again. This time I WILL go the purist route, no baking powder! One day I hope to create the perfect madeleine with a beautiful little hump. Then I will open the Madeleine only bake shop!

Till next week!!!