Sunday, November 30, 2008

TWD: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

This week's assignment for "Tuesdays with Dorie" was the Thanksgiving Twofer Pie. Many thanks to Vibi of La Casserole Carrée for choosing it, and to our founder Laurie for extending the usual posting deadline so we could make it for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is an important holiday in our household, even though it's just the two of us. I'm generally able to get off work that day (by agreeing to work Christmas Eve and New Year's Day). It's a day to cook, eat, and enjoy life before returning to work. Since I work for a large mail-order company (in the Internet division), work at this time of year means all the craziness of Cyber Monday and pre-holiday shopping. It's good to celebrate beforehand!

The thing is, we always have some sort of fruit pie for Thanksgiving. Neither of us likes pumpkin pie (it's just so...pumpkin-ey). Pecan pie is not bad, but generally much too sweet. I was pleased to discover that I like Dorie's pie better than either one. The creamy, spicy pumpkin filling on the bottom helps to balance out the sweet, gooey, nutty, crunchy pecan pie topping. Jim, however, was not as impressed. He's still complaining that he didn't get a fruit pie this Thanksgiving. (I'll bake him one for Christmas instead.)

I made some changes to Dorie's recipe. First, I used a Sweet Pastry Tart Dough crust rather than a Flaky Pie Dough crust. (It wasn't Dorie's recipe.) There were two reasons for this: 1) the pastry crust had been in the deep-freeze for almost a year, and it was time to use it up and 2) pastry crusts tend to get soggy more slowly than flaky crusts, and since there would be only two of us eating the pie, it would have to be stored for several days.

The other changes were: I reduced the light brown sugar in the pumpkin filling to 6 Tablespoons, used half heavy cream and half milk, and used half a whole egg in place of an egg yolk. (I used the other half egg in place of the egg yolk in the pecan portion.) I increased the spices in the pumpkin filling slightly and cooked the pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, and spices together (a hint from Rose Levy Beranbaum's pumpkin pie recipe from The Pie and Pastry Bible.) I had to make an unplanned substitution as well -- I had scooped the pumpkin, sugar, etc into a pan when I suddenly suspected I'd been scooping from the salt container, not the sugar container. A quick taste confirmed it -- yuck! So that batch had to be tossed. I didn't have quite enough pumpkin puree left in the can, so I had to improvise. I pulled out some unsweetened, unflavored home-made apple butter from the fridge and used that to "top off" the pumpkin puree. It worked out just fine. In fact, I am considering making this pie just with apple butter next time! (I'd have to reduce the sugar, I suppose.)

For the pecan pie topping, I used Lyle's Golden Syrup instead of corn syrup (another idea from Rose), and reduced syrup to 6 Tablespoons and sugar to 3 Tablespoons. I managed to forget to add the melted butter, but remembered after I'd poured the filling on the pie -- so I quickly melted some butter in the microwave, poured it over the top, and did my best to mix it into just the pecan part of the pie. It seemed to work out in the end.

I prebaked the pie crust as Dorie directed, keeping the edges covered with foil the whole time. A number of folks had mentioned in the "Problems and Questions" area that they were having trouble with burning crusts and slow baking times for the filling, so I decided to adjust Dorie's baking instructions a bit. I started the filled pie off at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then turned the oven down to 325. I kept the edges covered with a pie shield the whole time. It took about 50 minutes, total, for the pie to bake that way.

Oh, one other thing I always do with pies -- I set a rack to one of the lower positions in the oven and put a round pizza stone on it before I preheat the oven. I set the pie right on the stone to bake (covering the stone with a sheet of aluminum foil if the pie is likely to bubble over). This helps to set the bottom crust and prevent soggy crust. Yet another Rose suggestion!

I really liked this pie! But since Jim wasn't a big fan, I'm not sure it will be returning to our household all that often. I may try a version with apple butter instead of pumpkin puree and see if he likes that any better. Meantime, see what the other TWD bakers did!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Bit of Foodie Heaven

Last week we found a bit of "foodie heaven" in Madison, Wisconsin. And as two of the three places we visited sell on the Web, too, I thought I'd post about it.

The Shorewood Hills Shopping Center on West University Avenue has become quite a foodie hot-spot. We stopped off to buy some spice jars at Penzeys Spices. Just walking into the place and smelling the smells is wonderful. And there are samples of everything in jars and bottles -- just open up and sniff. It's amazing to smell the different kinds of cinnamon or vanilla -- such a range of aromas!

While we were there, we walked down a few doors to Wisconsin Cutlery and Cooking Supply. A small place with a surprising array of cooking equipment and a wide array of wonderful chef's knives. Not to mention the impressive array of knife-sharpening equipment behind the counter. If you have a good knife that's been badly treated, this is plainly the place to bring it. (He'll sharpen it while you wait.)

A few more doors down and you come to Vom Fass. This translates more or less as "from the cask." Apparently there are quite a few Vom Fass stores in Europe, but this is the very first one in the USA. They sell all sorts of unusual and high-quality oils and vinegars -- all in bulk, decanted straight from gorgeous glass, pottery and wood containers into a bottle of your choosing. And once again, you can taste everything. We each tried a tiny drop of the most expensive balsamic vinegar. Wow! Amazingly complex, concentrated flavor! Next year, when our home-grown tomatoes are ripe, we're coming back for some of that stuff. For now, we settled for some excellent olive oil and a small bottle of unfiltered hazelnut oil.

Vom Fass plans to sell various wines and spirits from the cask as soon as they can arrange the import and sellers permits. Apparently it's complicated because wine is just not sold this way in the USA, and they're breaking new bureaucratic ground. (We all know how fast bureaucracies move.) In the meantime, they sell a selection of bottled wines. The cool part is that they have a open bottle of each type, so you can sample!

Also in the same shopping center are Lee's Oriental Grocery and Atlanta Bread Company. Whole Foods is right across the street. We didn't stop at any of those places on this trip -- although we did head off to other parts of town to shop at the Willy Street Co-op and Orange Tree Imports.

We feel very fortunate to live near a city where we can buy such a great variety of foods!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was Kugelhopf, chosen by Yolanda of The All-Purpose Girl. Definitely a challenge, especially since I was mixing it by hand! There were times I wanted to give up, but the final result was very tasty. For the recipe, see "Baking: From My Home to Yours," by Dorie Greenspan, or check out this link.

I'm not quite sure what Kugelhopf means -- or even how to pronounce it -- but it turns out I already had the pans to bake it. (I picked them up on sale at T. J. Maxx some time ago, thinking they would be good for smaller Bundt cakes. This was their first use!)

One of the reasons this recipe was a challenge for me was that I don't have a stand mixer. Dorie does say the recipe can be made by hand, so I went ahead and tried it. Stirring the eggs into the stiff, dry flour/milk/yeast mixture turned out to be difficult, to say the least. I ended up with a something that was more like a sticky batter than a dough. Then I had an idea -- what if I put on some disposable gloves and tried mixing/kneading the dough with my hands? All I can say is, "DON'T DO THIS!" Most of the dough stuck to my hands. Picture me looking upset and frustrated, holding out my strange-looking hands to my husband while he patiently scraped off most of the sticky, sticky dough and plopped it back in the bowl. It was quite a relief to pull off the sticky gloves and toss them in the trash.

I went back to mixing the dough with a silicone "spoonula." It was a lot of work. I wasn't sure I'd mixed it enough, but the dough did develop a texture that Caitlin of Engineer Baker aptly described as being "stringy like melted mozzarella." At that point I said, "I give up." My butter was well-softened, so stirring it in was not that hard. I mixed in my dried fruit, covered the whole thing with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place (the back of the stovetop) to rise. Then I went upstairs--I had to lie down for a while to recover from the stress of it all!

Oh, as far as changes to the recipe -- I used instant yeast but did not change the amount of yeast. I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract to the measuring cup, then added enough milk to make 1/3 cup total. I weighed my eggs since I buy medium rather than large eggs. (This recipe calls for 100 grams of whole egg and 19 grams of egg yolk.)

For fruit, I used 1/3 cup of dried blueberries, and 1/3 cup of dried cranberries. I heated them with 3 tablespoons of water, then flambéed them with 3 tablespoons of brandy, following the directions for flambéing raisins in Dorie's French Chocolate Brownies. Wow! That part was fun! (My husband was very nervous, but I managed to do it without burning anything. And what a spectacular show of blue flames!)

The dough rose very nicely in about the time Dorie specified. There was no way I could "slap" it down, though. It was still way too sticky for that. So I stirred/poked/squooshed it down with my trusty spoonula, and popped it into the refrigerator. I squooshed it down again after about half-an-hour, but then it was time to go to bed. I left the dough in the fridge for about two days, then took it out to bake it up.

The cold dough was easier to work with. I could actually handle it with lightly oiled bare hands without it sticking to me very much. I spooned out spoonfuls and squooshed them down into the bottom of my two half-size Kugelhopf pans. They only filled the pans about one-quarter full. Hope this works... By this point I had discovered that my electric oven has a "bread proofing" setting, so they went into the oven to proof. (Our new stove is wonderful, but sometimes I have trouble keeping track of everything it can do!) That really sped up the rise -- by 1 hour and 15 minutes, the dough had risen to at least twice its original volume and was looking quite bubbly. (On consulting my oven's manual -- yes, I actually kept the manual and even know where to find it! -- I discovered that the proofing temperature can be adjusted. I had left it at the default of 100 degrees F. Next time I'm setting it lower, to 85 degrees F.)

OK, preheat the oven and bake them. Tent with foil after 10 minutes. After about 12 minutes more they looked nice and brown. They rose a little bit more. I pulled one out and tested the center with a thermometer--190 degrees, yes, that's what Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends in her brioche recipe in The Bread Bible.

Pull the other loaf out, unmold it -- no problem! Go back to the first loaf to unmold it -- yikes, it's sticking to the pan. I had to run a small knife around the edges, which certainly did not improve the looks of the bread. Could the extra couple of minutes in the oven have made that difference? I guess so. Oh well, the crumbs were very tasty.

The verdict after cooling and slicing? Yum! Very light and fluffy. (Perhaps I should have used a little less yeast, since it was instant rather than dry yeast.) The dough came out oddly brown-colored, considering it was made with all white flour. I think the juices from the blueberries and cranberries bled into the dough. (And using twice the amount of berries turned out just fine.) The orange extract seemed a little strong -- next time I'd cut down on it or use orange zest. There were a few odd little white lumps in the bread which I think were remnants of the original flour/milk mixture that had never quite been incorporated, due to hand mixing.

I'm glad I persevered with this recipe! I'm not sure I'm going to make it again until I get a stand mixer, though. If I hand mix again, I think I will use a mixing method from Bernard Clayton's "New Complete Book of Bread" (brioche recipe) -- I'll start by mixing just half the flour with the milk, then beating in the eggs, then gradually beating in the rest of the flour, and then the butter. I think that might work better.

For more Kugelhopf, check out the rest of the adventurous Tuesdays with Dorie bakers!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

YWP: Shaker Lemon Tart, or "Pie is its own statement"

Some clever pie-baking bloggers have come up with the "You Want Pies With That?" blog event. For this month, the theme was "Pies as a Fashion Statement." When I read this to my husband, he frowned in disapproval and said, "Pie is its own statement." (This is the man who always asks for a pie on his birthday. He knows good pie!)

In keeping with that idea, I present the Shaker Meyer Lemon Tart. The simple, beautiful lines of Shaker furniture have "been their own statement" for many years. Shaker lemon pie is also very simple, uses every bit of the lemon, and is intensely and wonderfully lemon-flavored. My twist is to make it as an open-faced tart using Meyer lemons.

I first came across a Shaker lemon pie recipe in Bernard Clayton's "Complete Book of Pastry," then again in Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Pie and Pastry Bible." (Two wonderful books, by the way.) Then I discovered Meyer lemons. Oh my, what a wonderful flavor! But here in Wisconsin, they are expensive, and available only during a limited season. I hated to waste even a bit of them -- aha! Shaker lemon pie! It uses the entire lemon, only the seeds are discarded.

I decided to make it as an open-faced tart instead, because the filling is very intense and is best in a thin layer. I was thrilled with myself for creating a new recipe! Imagine my chagrin when I discovered Martha Stewart and her crew had gotten there first. (Sigh.) Still, it's a great recipe and I have made it many times since.

Recipe for a 13 by 4-inch tart pan:

Filling (must be started at least 24 hours in advance):

In advance:
1 1/4 cups / 190 grams Meyer lemon slices
15 tablespoons / 188 grams granulated sugar (increase to 1 1/4 cup / 250 grams for regular lemons)
1/4 tsp salt
When ready to bake:
1 1/4 teaspoons potato starch or cornstarch
2 1/2 large eggs (125 grams)

For a 9-inch round tart pan, use 1 1/2 cups lemon slices (228 gm), 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar (225 gm), 3/8 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. potato starch, 3 eggs (150 gm).

Start with two Meyer lemons, preferably organic, well washed to remove all wax coating. (Note, you may also use regular lemons, but be sure they are thin-skinned. The kinds with really thick skins will be too bitter.) Slice them in half from stem end to blossom end. With cut side down, cut off the stem end to reveal the flesh inside, then cut into extremely thin half-round slices until you reach the other end. Save the two end pieces that only have the rind and pith on them -- you can grate the peel off them to flavor your tart dough. Pick out all seeds from the slices with the tip of a knife and discard seeds. Place slices in measuring cup. Continue until you have the amount needed for the recipe.

In a non-reactive bowl, combine the lemon slices, sugar, and salt. Share or stir gently to distribute the sugar evenly over the slices. Cover and let macerate for 12 hours at cool room temperature, or in the refrigerator. After 12 hours at room temperature, refrigerate -- they will keep for at least a week. At this point, you may freeze the mixture for later use. (That's what I did for this tart.) The sugar will keep the lemons from getting too mushy when they thaw.

When you are ready to fill your crust (see below), scoop the lemon slices out with a slotted spoon and place in another bowl. Stir the lemon juice/sugar mixture until all sugar is dissolved. Pick out any seeds you may have missed (they will show up as you stir). Spoon out a tablespoon or so of the liquid and use it to dissolve the potato starch or corn starch, then stir the starch mixture back into the filling. Beat eggs until well mixed, then gently stir into filling. Leave lemon slices and filling in separate bowls.

The pastry crust is Rose Levy Beranbaum's Sweet Pastry Dough from "The Pie and Pastry Bible," or available here. I made only 3/4 of the recipe and flavored it with vanilla and grated Meyer Lemon peel.

Crust (for a 13x4 inch rectangular tart pan)
3 Tablespoons sugar (38 gm)
1/2 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon zest
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cool, cut into cubes (3 oz / 85 gm)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (75 gm)
1/2 cup unbleached pastry flour (75 gm)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk (18.6 gm)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons heavy cream

Place sugar and lemon zest in food processor and process until sugar is very fine. Add butter and pulse until sugar disappears. Add flour and salt and pulse until mixture resembles crumbs. Turn into a bowl. Mix together egg yolk, vanilla and cream. Using fork, stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until it begins to come together. Bring mixture together with hands. Place on plastic wrap, pat into rectangle (or disk if you are using a round pan) and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Lightly grease the tart pan. Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to slightly larger than pan. Place in pan and ease down into pan (don't stretch). Trim edges of dough to about 1/4 inch beyond edges of pan, then fold them down inside to make a doubled edge. Press edges smooth with fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes to set dough and help prevent shrinking. (I froze mine for several weeks.)

When ready to bake, set rack to middle of oven and set a heavy baking pan or baking stone on the rack. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place buttered foil, or parchment paper on top of the tart dough. Leave edges of foil or paper hanging over the edge so you can use them to lift out the weights. Fill tart with pie weights or dry uncooked rice or beans. Set on top of preheated stone or pan, and turn oven down to 375 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes, until it begins to turn slightly brown at the edges. Remove from oven and gently lift out the foil and weights. (If the dough sticks to the foil, it probably isn't baked enough. Put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.) Place empty tart shell back in oven for about 5 minutes, until bottom is slightly golden. Take out of the oven and brush very lightly with a mixture of 1 egg white whisked together with 1 tablespoon of water, to seal the dough.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Finish preparing the lemon filling, as above. Arrange the lemon slices over the bottom of the tart, neatly or randomly as you prefer. Pour the liquid over them. (If there is any extra liquid, place it in a small custard cup and bake it along with the tart.) Place in oven (still on top of stone) and cover loosely with a tent of foil.

Bake tart at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the filling has just set.

Let cool completely. Serve, perhaps with whipped cream and a twist of candied lemon peel -- or let it stand on its own!

By the way, here is a picture of my very first Shaker Lemon Pie. I made it about 5 years ago, -- regular lemons, filling recipe from Bernard Clayton's Shaker Lemon Pie, crust from Bernard Clayton's Half-and-Half Pie Crust. I reserved a bit of the egg/lemon juice/sugar from the filling to glaze the top crust and cut-outs.

TWD: Rugelach!

Drat. Once again I'm a member of the "Thursdays" with Dorie group.

So, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie project was Rugelach, chosen by Grace of Piggy’s Cooking Journal. For the recipe, check out the book or see this post. You can also find more information here, here, and here.

I love rugelach! They are one of the treats that destroy my self control. I can't stop eating them! I ate half-a-dozen pinwheels right out of the oven and the rest have vanished within a few days. These are dangerous cookies -- I have to ration how often I make them.

A confession -- I did not make Dorie's rugelach dough recipe because I already had dough stashed in the freezer down in the basement. I can't quite remember which recipe I used -- probably either Cooks' Illustrated or Rose Levy Beranbaum's from "Roses's Christmas Cookies." At any rate, both recipes are quite similar to Dorie's, although they make twice as much.

I'd formed the dough into small rectangles before freezing it, because I wanted to try "pinwheels" instead of crescents. So, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle about 9 by 12 inches, or a little smaller. I started with Dorie's filling proportions, using apricot preserves, walnuts, golden raisins, and no chocolate. I like Dorie's amount of jam, but ended up doubling the amounts of the nuts, raisins, and cinnamon sugar. Let's hear it for more filling!

One roll got rolled up along the long, 12-inch edge for a longer, thinner roll, and the other along the shorter, 9-inch edge for a shorter, fatter roll. I froze the rolled-up dough overnight, then sliced it to various thicknesses, rolled in Demerara sugar, and laid down on one of the cut sides to bake.

My conclusions -- I preferred the longer thinner rolls cut to 3/8 inch slices (they flatten out and spread as they bake). The half inch slices were too thick for my taste. The 1/4 inch slices of the fatter rolls would be my second choice -- they came out quite thin and wide, which was pretty. However, they tended to split around the outer edges.

I like the pinwheel shape for two reasons: first, you can store the filled roll of dough in the freezer easily, and bake up as needed. Shaped crescents take a lot more room in the freezer. Second, they avoid the "underbaked dough in the center" problem you sometimes get with crescents.

With the remaining dough I made a batch of crescents and another roll. Into the freezer they go, ready for my next rugelach binge!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD: Chocolate "Vampire and Vampire's Victim" Cupcakes

This week for Tuesdays with Dorie, we made "Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes," from pages 215-217 of "Baking: From My Home to Yours." Clara of I Heart Food4Thought chose the recipe and challenged us to decorate them for Halloween!

I can't remember the last time I made cupcakes. (Of course, my memory has never been the greatest and it hasn't improved any with age...) I'm pretty sure I've never decorated them before. So please forgive my amateur efforts -- I did have lots of fun!

Since my husband and I were (and are) huge fans of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," a vampire theme came immediately to mind. Of course, that meant changing the chocolate icing to something more pale...drained of blood, so to speak. So I went for a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible." And for the blood? Cherry jelly -- I love the combination of cherry and chocolate! A cherry jam filling completes the taste combination.

For the recipe for the cupcakes, please check out Clara's blog. I added a little bit of almond extract (1/2 teaspoon), but otherwise stayed with the recipe. There was much discussion on the P&Q section on flour types & weights, baking times and so forth. I decided to use bleached all-purpose flour and use a weight of 4.8 ounces per cup of flour. I used paper cupcake liners and put my cupcake pan on an insulated baking sheet to bake. It took about 22 minutes. By that time the corner cupcakes were done, and the center ones were very slightly underdone. They were good, and not dry at all.

Rose has not published the frosting recipe on the Web, and so I recommend you take a look at her book -- see page 237-238. I made half of the recipe, added 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and reduced the lemon juice slightly. It made more than I needed, but that's OK.

For the filling, I used a home-made sour cherry jam. You could also use Morello cherry jam or canned sour cherry pie filling. For the jam:
20 ounces frozen unsweetened sour cherries
1 teaspoon Pomona's pectin (amount needed to thicken 2 cups of fruit puree)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons home-made maraschino cherry liquid (a mixture of cherry juice, brandy, sugar and almond extract)
Thaw cherries, at least partially, so you can puree them. Pulse in the food processor until they are in coarse chunks. In a small bowl, whisk together pectin and sugar. Place cherries in saucepan and bring to boil. Slowly stir in pectin and sugar. Bring to boil, then simmer for about a minute until mixture thickens. Stir in maraschino cherry liquid. (You could use brandy and almond extract instead.) Pour into a storage container, cool, and store in refrigerator until needed.

For cherry jelly:
3/4 cup frozen sour cherry juice concentrate (I used Old Orchard 100% tart cherry juice)
10 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sure-Jell no-sugar-needed pectin mixture
2 Tablespoons home-made maraschino cherry liquid (or some brandy & almond extract)
Place juice concentrate and water in saucepan and bring to boil. Place sugar and pectin in small bowl and whisk together. When juice boils, slowly stir in sugar/pectin mixture. Bring back to boil, then simmer for about a minute, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in maraschino cherry liquid. Place in storage container, cool, and refrigerate until needed.

I ended up not being happy with the consistency of my cherry jam. Pomona's pectin does make a rather stiff jam. I may stay go with Sure-Jell or Ball in the future, even though they have more additives. I stirred about half of the cherry jelly into the jam, reserving the rest for decorating. That improved the jam a lot.

To assemble: Use your favorite method to fill the cupcakes with cherry jam. (I've never filled cupcakes before, so don't have a favorite yet! I used the "cut a cone" method.) Put on a light crumb coat of frosting. Chill to set crumb coat, then add final coat of frosting. Chill to set.

For vampire victims, poke two holes in the frosting with the end of a chopstick, for fang marks. Warm the cherry jelly slightly, and place in squeeze bottle. Squeeze jelly "blood" into the "fang marks," dribbling it down artistically.

For vampires, squeeze a line for a mouth, with lines of blood dripping down, and two dots for eyes. Add two slivered almond pieces for fangs.

Bite in and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pink Apple and Cranberry Galette

Here's the latest Bungalow creation -- an Apple-Cranberry Galette, made with Pink Pearl apples (they're pink on the inside, too)!

A quick description: a flaky cream-cheese pie crust is spread with a thin layer of easy home-made apple-cranberry jam (from frozen juice concentrate), then topped with thinly sliced pink apples and dried cranberries moistened with more apple-cranberry juice and the remaining jam. This was inspired by the Heavenly Peach Galette posted on Rose Levy Beranbaum's blog, with some ideas from Dorie Greenspan's Summer Fruit Galette as well.

For the pastry dough, I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cream Cheese Pie Crust, from her "Pie and Pastry Bible." (Her latest version of this crust can be found here.) However, instead of bleached flour or Wondra, I used 122 grams of unbleached pastry flour and 62 grams of unbleached all-purpose flour. I mixed the dry ingredients, cream cheese, and butter in the food processor, then dumped the mixture into a bowl and stirred in the vinegar and cream with a fork. I needed about an extra tablespoon of cream to bring the dough together -- perhaps because I was using different flour. I turned the dough out onto a clean surface and did a quick "fraisage" -- this really helps keep the galette dough from cracking. Thanks to Cooks' Illustrated for the idea.

I love this crust! It is very flaky and easy to work with. Be sure to use a "soft" (low-protein) flour to make it, though, or it will be tough. (I speak from experience.) The water in the cream cheese develops the gluten more than in regular pie crust.

I refrigerated the dough overnight, then froze it until I was ready to bake.

5 medium-size organic Pink Pearl apples (they have pink flesh)
about 2 teaspoons lemon juice
about 3 Tablespoons cranberry-apple juice frozen concentrate (not diluted)
about 3 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
about 1 Tablespoon potato starch
about 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries

about 3 tablespoons water
about 8 tablespoons cranberry-apple juice frozen concentrate
cores and trimmings from apples
about 2 Tablespoons sugar

I used 2 teaspoons of semolina, but would have preferred to use a couple of tablespoons of crushed Amaretti or vanilla wafers. I just didn't have any on hand.

Place water and juice for jam into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Put the cranberries in a bowl and pour enough of the hot mixture over to cover. Let sit while you prepare the apples.

Wash the apples well, but do not peel. Cut in half, then remove stem & blossom ends with a paring knife and core with melon baller (thanks to Nick Malgieri for this tip). Discard any dirty or nasty-looking bits and place the rest of the cores and ends into the saucepan with the remaining juice. (Seeds are O.K. -- you will be straining it later.) Rub the cut areas of the apple halves with a bit of lemon juice.

Mix the lemon juice and cranberry juice for the filling and place in large bowl. Lay each apple half cut side down and trim off a little bit from stem and blossom ends. (These also go into the jam saucepan.) Cut apple into thin slices, cutting parallel to the "equator" of the apple. As you slice each half, place slices into bowl and toss gently to coat with lemon/cranberry juice. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and potato starch and mix gently just to combine. Cover and set aside.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and set a pizza stone or heavy metal pan on the rack. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Have ready a round pizza pan at least 10 inches in diameter, or a baking pan large enough to hold the galette.

Drain the excess juice from the dried cranberries and add that juice to the jam saucepan. Bring the jam mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until apple flesh is very soft. Strain through medium sieve, pressing so that pulp goes through and only peels, seeds and the hard bits from the core remain. Return strained jam to saucepan and continue simmering until thick and "jammy." Put into metal bowl and set in freezer for 10 minutes or so to cool.

Roll out pie dough on a sheet of parchment paper to about 14 inches in diameter. Trim any edges that extend too far and use them to patch the parts that don't go far enough. Continue rolling out the outer edges of the dough, but leave the center 11 inches or so alone. You want the outer 2 or 3 inches of the dough to be extremely thin. The dough should be about 18 inches in diameter when you are done.

Spread some of the cooled jam in a circle in the center of dough, about 10 inches in diameter. (I tried using a pastry brush for this, but it didn't work all that well. What worked was spooning the jam on, then smoothing it with the back of the spoon.) Sprinkle the crumbs in a thin layer on top of the jam. Arrange the some of the apple slices in a layer over the jam & crumbs, strew some of the cranberries over them, and repeat until all the apples and cranberries are used up.

Bring the edges of the dough up over the filling, pleat and smooth down. Pour more jam on top of the center of the galette -- as much as will go in. Brush pastry lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar or superfine sugar. (I didn't do this -- but it's what I would do next time.)

Use parchment to transfer galette onto pizza pan or baking pan. Place onto pizza stone or hot baking pan in oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 400, then turn heat down to 350 and bake until crust is brown and filling is bubbling in center. It will take about an hour to bake.

I tried brushing the galette with diluted cranberry juice about 15 minutes before it was ready. I hoped this would make the crust pink, but instead it turned really brown. I didn't like the effect. So much for that idea. I suppose I could sprinkle it with red or pink decorating sugar, but...that sounds like too much work. And I don't like to use artificial colors. So, no pink crust -- it was still delicious!

TWD: No Pumpkin Muffins this week

Sorry, folks, I've been doing other baking this week and did not make the Pumpkin Muffins. I did try an adaptation of the Caramel-Nut-Topped Brownie Cake, and made a Pink Apple and Cranberry Galette that is just about to come out of the oven. See you next week for the Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes. Meanwhile, please head over to Tuesdays with Dorie and check out all the fabulous pumpkin muffins!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

TWD Adaptation: Brownie Cake Revised

Like some of the other TWD-ers, I wasn't completely happy with the recipe for the Caramel-Nut-Topped Brownie Cake. I thought it was too dry and not dense or chocolate-y enough. So, I decided to experiment with modifying the recipe.

My Baking Adventures had posted a brownie recipe from Marcel Desaulniers, used to make "Death by Chocolate." More chocolate -- less flour -- sour cream -- yum! I decided to more or less "take the average" of this recipe and Dorie's recipe and see what came out.

Here was my first try at a revised recipe:

Place oven rack in center position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line bottom with greased wax paper, and dust with flour. Set pan on a baking sheet and place a silicone cake protector strip around it.

For the cake:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (3 oz / 85 gm), cut up
6 ounces bittersweet (70%) chocolate (170 gm), cut up
a tiny pinch of hot chili powder
2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (93 gm)
2 Tablespoons cocoa (16 gm), sifted after measuring
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large eggs (150 gm)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (59 gm)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 gm)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sour cream (20% butterfat) (61 gm)

In double boiler, melt butter, chocolate and chili powder. Set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Whisk together eggs and sugars until well mixed. Whisk in vanilla and sour cream. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Whisk in flour mixture just until combined.

Pour into pan and smooth top. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until edges are done and center is set but slightly underdone. Let cool. Remove from pan and peel off waxed paper. Top or frost as desired.

I made a half-recipe in a 6-inch pan and baked it for just 22 minutes -- that's all it needed. The cake was domed when it came out of the oven, but fell slightly in the center. I topped it with leftover caramel and toasted pecans, as per Dorie's recipe.

The verdict? This was a much better chocolate cake -- rich, tender and full of chocolate flavor. It still was more like a cake than a brownie, though. I guess I'll have to try cutting down the flour some more. Also, for a more flat and even top, I will increase the baking powder slightly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

House Upkeep: Front Porch Painted!

Success!! The bottom section of the front porch is repainted! It looks so much better!

If you take a closer look, though, you see that some parts are not in good shape.

Jim, working on the windows to one side of the porch. (They are now done.) He did most of the scraping and painting work on the porch, and all of it on the windows.

Still a lot to be done -- next year!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TWD: Lenox Almond Biscotti

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was Lenox Almond Biscotti. Thank you Gretchen of Canela & Comino for choosing this recipe!

When I think, "I'm going to bake cookies--what shall I make?" biscotti are not usually at the top of the list. But as soon as I saw these biscotti had cornmeal in them, I knew I'd like them. Maybe it's the Southern heritage on my Dad's side. I love baked goods with cornmeal!

Now, should I stay with the basic recipe or do one of the many variations? In the end, I made lemon-flavored almond biscotti, using the zest from two very small lemons plus 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. I added about 1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries to one-half of the dough, and 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger to the other half.

As I was doing my usual late-night baking, I wrapped up the dough logs and put them into the refrigerator until the next day. This turned out to be a great idea, as it also made the dough much easier to handle. The next evening, I finished shaping the logs and let them warm up a bit while preheating the oven. The first baking took longer than the 15 minutes in the book -- more like 25 minutes. They spread out a fair amount. After cooling the dough for half an hour, I sliced it diagonally. Three-quarters of an inch seemed just too thick, so I went for a half-inch instead. Jim and I shared the ends of each log and agreed they were really good. (Perhaps some day I will try these as "uni-scotti." It might work to freeze the dough in a roll or log and cut into slices before baking once.)

For the first baking, I used 350 degrees on a plain bake setting. For the second one I used 325 degrees on convection bake. I came back exactly 15 minutes later and wished I'd checked on them a little earlier -- the ones from the smaller (cranberry) log were a bit too brown. The ginger ones were perfect.

They were good right out of the oven, but even better after aging for a day or two. The flavors melded and became more balanced. The lemon-ginger ones were our favorite. We could barely taste the cranberry in the other ones.

Conclusion: home-made biscotti are yummy! They will be on the cookie baking list in the future. What I'd do differently next time: reduce the sugar to 2/3 or 3/4 of the original amount. These were too sweet for our tastes. And if I'm going to divide the dough in half, I'd divide it more evenly next time. I'd definitely make the lemon-ginger again. I'd like to try cranberry-orange next time, too, using more cranberries and not chopping them up.

If you want the recipe, you can find it on page 141 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: from My Home to Yours." Or hop on over to Gretchen's blog. While you're there, check out some of her pictures and stories about Peru. And check out all the other wonderful variations from the other TWDers, too!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: "Turtle" Cake

This week's adventure for Tuesdays with Dorie was the Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake, chosen by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy. What a delicious choice!

First, I have to say that I don't share Dorie's fondness for chocolate and peanuts together. Separately, great! Together, not so much. I used pecans instead. Chocolate, caramel, pecans -- it's a Turtle cake!

For those who've never seen one, a Turtle candy is made of a disk of caramel coated with chocolate, with pecan halves sticking out at the edges. They really do look like a turtle. I loved Turtle candies in my youth and later fell head-over-heels for Turtle sundaes at Michael's Frozen Custard. No doubt they have contributed to my "well-padded" figure.

I made half the recipe for the brownie cake and baked it in a 6-inch round springform pan. Unfortunately, I didn't check on it soon enough. After 35 minutes in the oven, it was well-done in the center and ended up rather dry.

The edges of the cake rose enthusiastically, but the center hardly rose at all. I ended up with a "crater cake." If it had just been a little bit of a crater, I might have gone ahead with it, but with this deep crater I decided to cut off the top of the cake. (The top got crumbled into bits and mixed with extra caramel and pecans. It's now waiting to get mixed into some vanilla ice cream. No wasting of chocolate in this house!)

I toasted the pecans on a pan in the oven and sprinkled on some salt. Drat! The salt didn't stick, so I tossed the warm pecans with just a little bit of softened butter. Hey, that worked! The melted butter coated the pecans and the salt stuck just fine! I made a full 1 cup of pecans because, hey, we can always find a use for some extra pecans around here! Good thing I did, because I ended up putting 3/4 of a cup of them onto my half-sized cake. Let's hear it for more pecans!

On to the scary part -- making caramel. I've never made caramel before. I've made a sugar syrup for an Italian meringue and it didn't turn out so well -- all grainy and crystallized. I decided to make the whole caramel recipe, since Dorie said it was easier that way. I had everything ready in advance -- including a bowl of cold water and an ice pack from the freezer in case of burns. (Very handy things, those flexible ice packs. I always keep a few standing by in the freezer, just in case...and the little plastic "ice cube" thingies are great for very small burns. I don't ever put them in my drinks, though -- something about having little plastic thingies in my iced drink just freaks me out.)

My caramel took a while to turn color. I didn't time it, but it must have been at least 15 minutes, maybe 20. Next time I think I will turn the heat up more at the beginning, then reduce it when the caramel is starting to turn color. The "white plate" test was very helpful -- without it, I would have pulled the caramel off the heat long before it was really done. I think I let it go just a bit too long -- it was pretty dark. I followed Dorie's advice to wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water and then to NOT STIR. It worked! No crystallized, grainy sugar this time!

Oh, what a lovely cake it turned out to be! Small pieces were more than enough. Rich, chocolatey, gooey, sweet, crunchy -- wow.

Conclusion: the topping was heavenly. Gooey-but-not-too-gooey caramel, toasted pecans, salt (it really does go well with caramel). The cake could have been better. Part of that was my fault for overbaking it. Even allowing for that, we both agreed we wanted a denser, fudgier, more brownie-like cake. Not completely fudgy -- that would be too much -- but more. Oh, and we wanted more chocolate. OK, we're chocolate fiends. We admit it.

I can see myself making this cake again, but with a different recipe for the bottom layer. (In fact, maybe I'd better. I need to use up the extra caramel.) I'm so happy about my first caramel-making!

If you want the recipe for this cake, hop on over to Tammy's blog, or better yet, go out and buy the book! And if you want to join in on our weekly baking adventures, better hurry! Membership in TWD is closing at the end of October.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Double Rewind for Creme Brulee week

I've been baking this week! First I made the Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake for the Apple Treat day at work, and then I tried adapting last week's Dimply Plum Cake recipe to see if I could solve the "dryness" problem.

But first, thanks to Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake for choosing Crême Brulée for this week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. Great choice, Mari, and after reading some of the reviews, I see I'm going to have to try it! And thanks to our leader Laurie for allowing us to opt for a rewind instead. I don't have a torch (kitchen or shop type), didn't want to buy one just now, and was nervous about the broiler method.

First, the Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake, first chosen by Natalie of Burned Bits for the week of March 11, 2008. I made this recipe pretty much as written. I used 11 apples of varying sizes and 1 bruised pear that had to be used up, and cut them into chunks. This gave me about 9 cups of apple/pear pieces. You definitely don't want much more than that, because they wouldn't fit into the pan! I did add the zest of one small lemon to the "crust," but I couldn't taste it. Next time I'd leave it out or add it to the apples instead. I added a bit of salt to the apple filling -- I think it brings out the flavor of the fruit. And the top of the crust got a nice sprinkle of Demerara sugar.

This isn't exactly like a pie or a cake. In fact I think it's most like a double-crust cobbler. Whatever it is, it's good! I made it late in the evening, and we both had some for breakfast. Jim said it wasn't bad, but he thought he'd prefer a pie. I wrapped the rest up and took into work for our Apple Treat Day. When I came back with nothing left but crumbs, he complained that I hadn't saved any more for him. My reply, "I thought you didn't like it that much!" Ah, the difficulties of spousal communication...

I wish I had taken my camera to work -- we had a lovely array of apple treats spread out along the window ledge. Most of them were very good, but too sweet for my taste, which runs decidedly to the "less sweet" side. I did enjoy a version of "Teddie's Apple Cake" from the New York Times (recipe here). Here are some comments from my co-worker Livija, who made it: "The thing that originally attracted me to Teddie's Cake is that there is no butter…only oil. Usually those recipes are very forgiving. I used 1c flour, 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour and 1/2c flaxseed meal for the 3c flour part. Also, used 1c white and 1c brown sugar for the 2c sugar part. Made it again this weekend and substituted apple sauce for part of the oil, also, and it was still delicious!"

Apple Treat day was on Wednesday, so by Sunday I was "aching to bake" again. After reading lots of posts about the Dimply Plum Cake, and thinking about what I didn't like about mine, it was time to fiddle with the recipe a bit. Here's what I did:

For the cake, my major change was to add some sour cream for moisture and tenderness. I had just about 6 tablespoons left in an open container, so that's what I used. I cut the sugar down to 10 tablespoons and increased the cardamom to a rounded 1/4 teaspoon because we both like it! I mixed the batter exactly the same, up to the point where you add the dry ingredients. At that point I added half the dry ingredients, mixed briefly, added the sour cream, mixed briefly, and then finished with the remaining dry ingredients. (Standard procedure for a butter cake.) This time I went for a 7 by 11 inch Pyrex pan, to spread the batter out a little more.

The batter was not quite so thick in consistency, but the fruit didn't sink deep into it, so that was good. As the plums were mostly gone, I dove into the refrigerator and came up with some seedless red grapes (not enough for the whole cake) and a couple of large Ginger Gold apples. OK, the grapes go on one half of the cake. The apples were sliced (without peeling, as I thought the peels were rather pretty), and briefly cooked with a little butter and a spoonful of apple juice. Unfortunately, they turned out to be the kind of apples that begin to fall apart when cooked. Yikes, pull 'em off the heat! They were layered nicely on top of the other half of the cake. The extra apple bits got put on here and there, covering up some of the grapes. I finished with a good sprinkle of Demerara sugar, and into the oven it went.

To start with I had the oven temperature between 350 and 325. After 20 minutes I rotated the cake. Gosh, lots of juice coming out of the apples! I got nervous and turned the oven back up to 350. The edges were getting brown by 40 minutes in, but center was clearly not done. After 50 minutes, the center looked better and the edges were getting mighty brown. Time to stop. I let it cook completely in the pan, not unmolding it at all.

an hour after baking -- moist and delicious! The crumb is wonderful. This is much better!
Next morning: the cake near the fruit is beginning to get soggy. Still good, but I see why Dorie went for a rather "dry" cake recipe to start with. I guess I overcompensated for the "dry cake" part.

This recipe is beginning to look like a keeper. What I'd do differently next time:
1) use an even bigger pan, probably a 9x9 square one. I think this cake is best with a thinner layer of cake and lots of fruit.
2) use sour cream, Greek yogurt, or drained yogurt, but reduce it just a bit to 4 tablespoons. Or perhaps use 1/3 cup of sour cream and leave out the oil altogether?
3) use lots of fruit, but let a little bit of cake show in between pieces.
4) possibly reduce the sugar a bit more, to about 8 tablespoons.
5) be brave and bake at 325 the whole time.